Dear Members,
Catholic Union Head of Public Affairs James Somerville-Meikle writes:
Perhaps like me, you’ve enjoyed reading some of the commentary on the Pope’s latest encyclical – Fratelli Tutti –published last Saturday, on the feast of St Francis. Maybe you have even found time to read the whole thing! The Pope’s comments on a world “without borders” and his criticism of free market economists, have provoked a mixed response. Yet the central theme in his encyclical on the need for governments to promote the common good and human dignity, and his call for the protection of fundamental human rights, justice and the promotion of the rule of law, are surely things that most Catholics would agree with. It’s a reminder that the Gospels contain a deeply political message – of which peace and fraternity are central. Catholics in politics and public life may disagree on how that message should be turned into policy, but that does not mean we should shy away from these discussions. The Pope has given us a reminder of the political aspect of our faith and our task to help put this into practice.
Stay alert. In a letter sent to Scotland's parishes, Bishop John Keenan, Vice President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, has urged the faithful to maintain their "meticulous" infection control and safety measures, to keep people safe and help churches remain open. Bishop John’s letter came as the Scottish Government introduced new restrictions this week, which have largely affected the hospitality sector. The Scottish Bishops have made it clear that closing places of worship again would be a red line for them.
Covid-fund open to places of worship. Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, has highlighted that “alongside other charities, places of worship are able to apply to the £200 million coronavirus community support fund, which has helped organisations providing essential services for vulnerable people affected by the current crisis.”

Volunteers.  The NHS is actively looking for volunteers in certain areas to help respond to the Covid crisis: See here for details.
New fund to help domestic abuse victims. Local Government Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP, has announced a £6 million “domestic abuse capacity building fund” to help local authorities meet their new statutory duty on tier one local authorities to provide support to victims of domestic abuse in safe accommodation in England.


Two All Hallows Trust PhD scholarships at St Mary’s University in the area of Catholic education are available with each person receiving €20,000 per annum over four years.  Full details of the application can be found by clicking this link and the closing date is next Monday 12th October 2020. Prospective candidates with 
questions are welcome to contact 

Restricting marriage to those over 18. Conservative MP, Pauline Latham, has presented a bill to ban marriages of people under 18, without exception. The Bill will have its second reading on 13 November. The Bill has support for a group of Labour and Conservative MPs, but the Government has so far given no indication that it plans to back the proposals which are aimed at preventing 16-18 year old girls being forced into marriage.
Concerns over child food poverty. Following the Prime Minister’s speech at the virtual Conservative Party Conference, where he talked about social justice, Robert Halfon MP has said that “Delivering social justice means feeding children properly; we’re not doing so – and we must.” Robert Halfon is a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, and Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.
A new group for Catholics in the Conservative Party. A new group has started up for Catholic members, supporters, and voters of the Conservative Party. “Catholics in the Conservative Party” was launched last month, with the aim of strengthening links between Catholics and Conservatives working towards the common good.
Persecution of people in China. Speaking at a debate on “China: Labour Programme in Tibet”, Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP has stressed that other minorities are being persecuted in China, including Christians, some of them being subject to disciplinary procedures, arrest and detention. Fellow Conservative MP, Fiona Bruce, added that Governments should equally look at abuse of other minorities – not just Uighurs and Tibetan people.

Aid to the Church in Need Scotland event on Tuesday 13 October at 7pm.  Mass and a talk by Cardinal Coutts of Karachi. For more details see here.

Kristie Higgs.  An employment tribunal dismissed complaints of religious discrimination and harassment brought by Mrs Higgs after she was sacked from the school where she worked for Facebook posts relating to relationships and sex education at the school. The Tribunal's judgment is
here.  The decision is likely to be appealed.


First assessment of pilot scheme to protect church buildings. It emerged that the £1.8m pilot scheme funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and run by Historic England has enabled almost 400 listed churches to do repair works to protect their buildings. The Government launched the scheme two years ago, as a follow up to the the Taylor Review: “Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals”.
Warning over cold weather and homelessness. The Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of General Practitioners, and charities working with homeless people, including Crisis, Shelter and St Mungo’s, have pressed the Government to renew measures to support rough sleepers. In a letter to the Government, they warn that “lives will most certainly be lost” if people are sent back to the streets during cold weather.
Government renews commitment to end rough sleeping by 2024. Local Government Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP, has confirmed that the Government is “committed to working hard to end rough sleeping by the end of the Parliament.”
Growing support for assisted suicide within BMA. A British Medical Association survey found that  in a survey of 29,000 doctors and students, 50% personally believed that doctors should be able to prescribe life-ending drugs for patients to take themselves. The BMA is currently opposed to assisted suicide but it will discuss these new results at the BMA’s next annual meeting in summer 2021.  Meanwhile, in 
"Samaritanus Bonus" published at the end of Sepetember, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reiterated the Church's opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Consultation on home abortion in Scotland. The Scottish Government has launched their consultation on making current home abortion regulations, introduced during the pandemic, permanent. A similar consultation in England is expected to be published shortly.  

Call for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh region. Pope Francis has appealed to conflicting parties in the Caucasus nations of Armenia and Azerbaijan to work towards a peaceful solution; but Shusha Cathedral was blasted this week and Lord Alton called the conflict “a continuation of the Armenian Genocide”. Armenia has brought inter-State complaints against Azerbaijan and Turkey in the European Court of Human Rights.  A humanitarian ceasefire was announced on 10 October.
Peers to protect family reunion for asylum-seeker. The House of Lords has voted by 317 against 223 an amendment to the Immigration Bill (EU Withdrawal) to protect family reunion rules for asylum-seekers after Brexit. In 2019, 714 people were transferred to the UK to be reunited with their families as they claim asylum. The amended Bill will return to the House of Commons, where the Government is likely to try to overturn the amendment.
Government to table new Migration Bill. Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP, has outlined the key points of a new Migration Bill she will introduce in 2021: ‘anti-asylum presumption’ for migrants arriving illegally in the UK (although each case will be considered individually); new legal routes for those who are “at genuine risk of harm”; curb on “endless” appeals; new facilities to “process asylum seekers”; Courts to send asylum seekers back to “safe countries” they had passed through on the way to the UK; and deportation of foreign criminals and asylum seekers who are not at risk.
Release of prisoners delayed due to lack of support against reoffending. The Prison Reform Trust has found that support to reduce the risk of reoffending, and rehabilitation activities required to leave prison, “has all but stopped”, and is delaying the release of “potentially thousands of prisoners”. The Guardian explains that “Nearly 11,000 prisoners serving indeterminate sentences, and about 5,815 inmates serving extended determinate sentences, need to be able to demonstrate to the Parole Board that they have taken part in certain activities to reduce their risk and allow their release.”
First ‘secure school’ to open in 2022. The Howard League for Penal Reform has commented on the Ministry of Justice’s proposal to open England's first “secure school” as an alternative to youth prisons. The facility is due to be built in Kent in 2022. MoJ said it should be “schools with security, rather than prisons with education”. The Howard League replied that they wanted the secure school to ‘turn the page on how young inmates are treated’.


Tuesday 29 October at 6.30 pm.  Newman: A Saint for the City.  Online lecture by Msgr Roderick Strange, Professor of Theology at St Mary's University.  Please email for Zoom details.  St Mary Moorfields is an associated parish of the Catholic Union.

Unconscious bias and Christianity. Journalist Peter Ormerod has commented on the refusal by some Conservative MPs to do the ‘unconscious bias’ training initiated by the Houses of Parliament. He argued that “Jesus spent much of his ministry decrying self-righteousness, attacking those who believed themselves to be untouched by sin.”
The Catholic Union News is compiled by Lisa Fraser with additional contributions from James Somerville-Meikle and Nigel Parker.

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