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Dear Members,
 
Catholic Union Director, Nigel Parker, writes: All countries in the world declare themselves to be in favour of human rights, but what are human rights and who defines them? In terms of international law, the answer is that the "International Bill of Human Rights" consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the two Covenants on Human Rights (legally binding treaties) adopted in 1966. These and subsequent treaties provide a kind of canon of fundamental human rights recognised by most nations. But the concept of human rights has been such a success that some States, NGOs and other actors have tried to argue that other policies or ideas that they support should also be regarded as human rights even though they enjoy no international consensus.  This dilution of the concept of human rights is corrosive and damages legitimate political debate by disguising genuine policy choices as a debate about human rights.  This was evident in the UK in the debate about extending abortion law to Northern Ireland.  There is in fact no "human right to abortion" ( see the https://sanjosearticles.com/) and this, plus other unwarranted claims to rights, risks shutting down debate and undermining the religious and philosophical foundations of human rights which have the potential to do so much to promote the common good and human flourishing.

The Catholic Union has made these and other points in a submission to the Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy in which the Catholic Union calls for a focus on upholding fundamental human rights at home and abroad. To read the submission and press release please click here.
 
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
 
10th anniversary of the papal visit. Catholic Union Vice President, Mike Kane MP, has tabled an Early Day Motion to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the papal visit to the UK.  Our friends at Catholic Voices also celebrated their Tenth Anniversary with a webinar including messages of support from Cardinal Vincent Nichols (referring to Pope Benedict's address in Westminster Hall, attended by all previous British Prime Ministers) and from Lord Brennan, former President of the Catholic Union.  There is also a suggestion that Pope Benedict's address be commemorated by a plaque in Westminster Hall.
 
Special Envoy’s Resignation. Rehman Chishti has resigned from his role as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion, to express his opposition to the Internal Market Bill. His replacement has not been announced.
 
Claims of discrimination by SNP. Anthony Horan, Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office in Scotland, has claimed that Catholic and other candidates are being discriminated against by the SNP because of their stance on abortion.  The issue is also reported by the Catholic Herald here.
 
Polarisation on free speech in Scotland. The Scottish Conservatives reported that the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Hate Crime Bill attracted more submissions than any other proposed law since the Scottish Parliament opened in 1999.
 
HOMELESSNESS
 
More support to rough sleepers. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP has announced further measures to support homelessness people. £91.5 million has been allocated to 274 councils in England, which comprises a £13.5 million fund “to tackle new and emerging challenges”; and £161 million to secure 3,300 longer-term homes.
 
Plea to freeze rents after lockdown. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has asked the Government for new powers to freeze rents for two years, to prevent a wave of evictions because of arrears accrued during lockdown.
 
New Minister for Homelessness. Kelly Tolhurst MP has been appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing). She takes over from Luke Hall MP.
 
 
IMMIGRATION
 
MPs criticises Home Office’s handling of immigration cases. The Public Accounts Committee has published a highly critical report on how the Home Office manages immigration cases. MPs on the Committee concluded that policy decisions may not be based “on facts and evidence”, and that the Home Office has any “no idea” of the impact of their immigration policies. MPs also found “little inclination to learn” from mistakes.
 
Latest Anti-Slavery Annual Report. The UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Dame Sara Thornton has published her Annual Report 2019-2020. Former Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, committed to make the UK a worldwide champion against modern slavery. The Catholic Church and Cardinal Vincent Nichols have been at the forefront of the fight.
 
Scheme for Vulnerable Persons must restart. Labour MP Kate Osamor, Chair of the No Recourse to Public Funds APPG, has urged the Government to restart the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, arguing that they cannot use coronavirus as an excuse to pause the scheme any longer.
 
Bishop supporting those who support migrants. Bishop Paul McAleenan, Lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees for the Catholic Bishops, went to Dover this week to meet volunteers supporting refugees.
 
LIFE
 
Legal case on what ‘consent’ means for IVF procedures. A Scottish Court of Appeal has heard the case of a woman wishing to use her late husband’s frozen sperm to conceive a child through IVF. The court will decide whether the process is lawful – as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act requires specific consent for IVF.
 
PRISONS
 
Catholic Bishops comment on the planned reform. Commenting on the planned sentencing reforms announced by the Lord Chancellor, Bishop Richard Moth, Catholic Bishop Lead for prisons, said it “includes some very welcome steps such as piloting problem-solving courts, improving pre-sentence reports and reforming criminal records”. However, he stressed that “it is important that the Government continues every effort to persevere with other areas of sentencing reform, availability of restorative justice, and alternatives to custodial sentencing where appropriate.” More details on the Bishops’ views on prison reform.

WEBINAR

Gresham College lecture by Alec Ryrie on "England's Catholic Reformation (the reformation that sixteenth-century England nearly had)". See https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/catholic-reformation.
 
AND FINALLY….some good news: 
 
Green light for Christian artwork. The North Warwickshire Borough Council has unanimously endorsed the plan for monument called ‘The Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer’, twice as big as the Angel of the North, to be built near Birmingham.....and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had his son Wilfred baptised last week (though the press reports do not indicate who administered the sacrament).

 
The Catholic Union News is compiled by Lisa Fraser with additional contributions from James Somerville-Meikle and Nigel Parker.

If you’re a Catholic charity, or if you work in parliamentary/public affairs, and you would like us to flag specific items in this newsletter, please send the information to: lisa.ingrid.fraser@gmail.com.
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