Dear Members,
Catholic Union Head of Public Affairs James Somerville-Meikle writes:
The choice of Amy Coney Barrett for the US Supreme Court has generated a lot of media coverage this week, both in America and around the world. The timing of the appointment, so close to the US Presidential elections, has raised eyebrows and will no doubt be hotly contested during the confirmation hearings in the Senate later this month. But it’s the media focus in this country on her Catholic faith, which is particularly striking. The Times ran a piece before her nomination, describing her as a “Catholic rightwinger”. It’s hard to imagine a similar description being used for someone from another faith. But this is not just a problem in the media. Last month, the Scottish Bishops Conference raised concerns with the SNP about Catholic candidates being discriminated against during the selection process for the Holyrood elections next year. Wariness of Catholics who take their faith seriously remains a concern for people seeking public office. Discrimination in any form should not be tolerated.
Applications open for a fellowship in the history of Catholicism. The Centre for Catholic Studies (CCS), in partnership with the Capuchin Franciscans of Great Britain, are inviting applications for a 3-year Fellowship in the History of Catholicism (c.1525–present day) at Durham University.  The closing date for completed applications is midnight on 28 October 2020.  More information can be found here.
Fears for Christians in Yemen. Speaking at a Parliamentary debate, DUP Spokesperson for Human Rights, Jim Shannon MP, raised concerns about persecuted Christians in Yemen.
Religious nominated for EU prize. The European Parliament has shortlisted the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul for the Sakharov Prize (the European Parliament’s prize for freedom of thought and human rights) for his work to preserve historic manuscripts from destruction by ISIS.
Bill to ban prayers outside of abortion clinics defeated. A Bill to introduce public spaces protection orders around abortion clinics in England and Wales was defeated in Parliament. Labour MP, Rupa Huq, introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament on 24 September, but it was objected to a fellow MP, meaning the Bill will not go any further. While welcoming the outcome, Catherine Robinson, from Right to Life UK said: “Many babies are alive today because their mothers were able to receive the help they needed outside of an abortion clinic.”
Less referrals for modern slavery during lockdown. The number of potential victims of modern slavery referred to the National Referral Mechanism between April and June this year dropped by a third since the last quarter of 2019, down to 2,209 cases. Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) said that exploitation didn’t end during the lockdown, but that there were fewer face-to-face inspections to detect these cases.
Refugee Resettlement scheme still on hold. Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts Chris Philp has confirmed that the resettlement scheme, which was paused during the pandemic, hasn’t resumed; and he didn’t say when it will resume. Yet, he also said the Government allowed more people to remain in their asylum accommodation even after their asylum decision was made.
Government cracking down on human trafficking. Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has reported that the Government have arrested 179 individuals, resulting in 24 convictions relating to people smuggling so far in 2020. They disrupted 296 organised criminal gangs and individuals who are responsible for the organisation of immigration crime.
Oral question on child trafficking. Lords Minister, Baroness Williams, has replied to oral questions on the Government action against child trafficking during the pandemic. However, she stressed that children are a matter devolved to local authorities.
An off-shore detention centre for the UK? There were reports this week that Home Secretary, Priti Patel, had asked officials to explore the construction of an immigration centre on Ascension Island, over 4,000 miles away from Britain in the south Atlantic. Downing Street said that the Government is drawing up plans to strengthen its illegal migration and asylum policies. “As part of this work we’ve been looking at what a whole host of other countries do to inform a plan for the United Kingdom,” a spokesperson said.
‘Unacceptable’ level of natural deaths in custody. The Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody has reported “a growing number of natural deaths in custody” in England and Wales, which “has now reached an unacceptably high level”. In a letter to Prisons Minister, Lucy Frazer MP, and Minister for Patient Safety, Nadine Dorries MP, they recommended improving access to appointments for people in prison and improving the transfer of information when someone enters and leaves custody to ensure their care continues.
Female Offender Strategy. In the House of Lords, Baroness Scott said that the Government has put aside £2.5 million for community sentences in 2020, adding that “for female offenders, community sentences often can be far better than sentencing them to prison.” At the debate, Baroness Sater (Con) stressed that 60% of women entering prison had experienced domestic abuse.
Preventing reoffending. Luke Stanley, Policy Adviser to Lord Hague and Parliamentary Researcher to Anthony Mangnall MP, has published an article on how to prevent reoffending.
Reaction to President Trump’s pick for Supreme Court Justice. Catholic leaders and academics in America have voiced their support following President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Judge Barrett received a scholarship to Notre Dame Law School. Speaking after the nomination was announced, Notre Dame University President, Fr. John Jenkins, paid tribute to Barrett, saying that “the same impressive intellect, character and temperament that made Judge Barrett a successful nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals will serve her and the nation equally well as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Secretary of State presses Vatican on China relations. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and the Holy See’s top diplomats had a “respectful” exchange of views on China, the Vatican said on Thursday. The visit came as the Vatican prepared to renew its provisional agreement with China over the appointment of bishops. The deal, signed in 2018, will expire on 22 October this year.

Catholics in the Public Square US Legislative Seminar.  TODAY at 4.30pm (?) UK time (8.30am locally in Arizona) organised by the Diocese of Phoenix, starting with Mass. See here for full details.  There are some excellent speakers.
Concerns about opening of churches. Jeremy Farrar, member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, has said in the media that the Government should again close places of worship. Separately 700 faith leaders, although no high-ranking Catholic leader, are calling on the Government to keep places of worship open.


In case you missed the excellent event on "Rethinking Accompaniment at the End of Life" organised by the Art of Dying Well and St Mary's University, Twickenham, a summary of the key points which arose during the event can be found here on the Art of Dying Well website. You can also view a recording of the discussion via the Art of Dying Well channel on YouTube. 

Saturday 10 October is Aid to the Church in Need's annual Westminster event with Mass at Westminster Cathedral at 10.30 am and online events to follow: see here for more details.
The Catholic Union News is compiled by Lisa Fraser with additional contributions from James Somerville-Meikle and Nigel Parker.

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