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Saturday, 29 April 2017

Bishop Von Galen, the 'Lion' of Munster' 1933-46

                           High Mass in Munster Cathedral, 1946. (photo - New Liturgical Movement)

I have recently been reading an interesting book, 'Hitler, Mussolini, and the Vatican' by Emma Fattorini,  dealing broadly with the pontificate of Pope Pius XI, especially the last few years of his life. His long pontificate from 1922 – 1939 saw the rise and establishment of Bolshevism and Fascism, with revolutionary uprisings in Russia, civil war in Spain, a tyrannical masonic and anti-clerical persecution in Mexico, violent nationalism in Germany and Italy leading to the start of the Second World War a few months after his death. 
This pontificate also included the signing of the Lateran Pact (1928) between Italy and the Vatican, whereby the State of Vatican City was formerly acknowledged and agreed, with its own boundaries and laws. In 1935 Italy invaded Abyssinia to unite the Italian colonies in Eritrea and Somaliland, provoking world-wide condemnation, from which the Pope himself was not immune.
Economically, the world was dangerously unstable, with high levels of unemployment throughout Europe and the USA, crippling inflation and an ever- increasing divide between rich and poor. A culture of materialism and rationalism became ever more influential, to the detriment of religious faith and practice, which the Pope endeavoured to counter with numerous Encyclicals over many years.
In the early years of his pontificate, the relationship between Pope Pius XI and Mussolini, the head of the Italian republic, was cool but necessarily complementary, but by the end of the pontificate, this had changed completely. Mussolini’s increasing support and collaboration with Hitler, and his open contempt for the Pope and the Catholic Church, led to total estrangement from the Church, leading the Pope to compose a final  'discourse'  in which  he unequivocally condemned  Fascism with the same passion as he had consistently  
condemned Communism.
This was intended to be read in all the churches in Italy, but the Pope’s death intervened before this could be done, and all copies were destroyed on the authority of Cardinal Pacelli, in his role as 'Camerlengo',  prior to  his election as Pope Pius XII.  It may have been that the Cardinal, schooled in Vatican diplomacy, believed that the 'discourse' was too forthright in its condemnation of fascism, and as such would cause more harm than good. Whatever the reason, such a forthright condemnation of fascism by Pope Pius XI, albeit at the end of his life, clearly puts the lie to any suggestion of sympathy for the fascist cause.

          In the longer term it may be that Pope Pius XII came to regret his decision to destroy the 'discourse', for as the fascist regimes of Italy and Germany became more united they became more powerful, and opportunities for the Church to exercise its influence became less and less.
In 1941 however, the German Bishop of Munster, Bishop von Galen, preached in his Cathedral against the evil of Nazi policies, particularly the increasing practice of ‘euthanasia’, used by the regime to eliminate those considered useless by the State.
In my efforts to find out more about Bishop von Galen, I came across an excellent post on this courageous German Bishop, written by Joanna Bogle in October 2011, on the blogsite ‘Catholic Answers’. This post is quite long, but informative and compelling, and because it deals at length on Bishop von Galen's condemnation  of ‘euthanasia’, is as relevant today as it was in the 1940s, if not more so.  With the permission of ‘Catholic Answers’, much of this article is reproduced below.  
Due to its length it has not been practical to reproduce it in its entirety. Nevertheless I strongly recommend the whole of the original post to you, with the link shown at the end of this article.


Bishop Clemens August von Galen, Bishop of Munster

‘Count Clemens August von Galen, Bishop of Munster in the Rhineland, came from one of Germany’s most well-known aristocratic families. His opposition to the Nazi regime, and in particular his stance against its horrific euthanasia program, made him into an emblematic hero. He was known in his lifetime as the "Lion of Munster." Recently beatified by the Church, he is a figure whose life and message deserve to be better known, especially as the Second World War recedes into history.

"Neither Praise nor Fear"
Born in March 1878, Clemens August was the 11th of 13 children. He grew up in the castle of Dinklage, and in later life loved to recall his childhood and the pattern of its days. It was an old-fashioned, structured life: Each day began with early morning Mass, and it was a family rule that any child who turned up late got no butter on his bread at breakfast—and anyone who failed to turn up for Mass got no breakfast at all. But it was also a carefree existence, with the children encouraged to play freely out of doors and to enjoy country pursuits. It was a warm and affectionate family, all the children remaining close throughout their lives.

The von Galens were one of the leading noble families of Westphalia, and Count Heribert, the father of Clemens August, was a member of Germany’s Imperial Parliament. The tradition of the family was both staunchly Catholic and staunchly patriotic. It was also suffused with a sense of duty ….
From such a family, it was natural that vocations to the priesthood would be born. After a period at boarding school and at university, Clemens August announced his decision, trained as a priest, and was ordained in 1904.

His new life took him into a very different part of Germany—the industrialized and modern city of Berlin, where he worked as a curate in a working-class area. The harsh years of World War I and Germany’s eventual defeat saw him working as a pastor among people who were both poor and hungry. His own way of life, which he would continue as bishop, was based on hard work and personal austerity. The discipline instilled in childhood had become a habit.

Called back to the diocese of Munster in 1929, he was consecrated as its bishop in 1933. As his motto, he chose
  "Nec laudimus nec timere", indicating that he would be influenced by "neither praise nor fear." He was called to put these ideas into practice almost straight away.

                                                              Pope Pius XI  (1930)

'Hammer on Anvil'
When the new National Socialist government started to confiscate Church property, turning religious orders out of their houses and arresting priests, Bishop von Galen denounced this from the pulpit. When the Nazis published material accusing the Church of being anti-science and anti-human progress, he replied with vigorous pamphlets of his own setting out the Church’s record.  …..He referred openly to the Nazis as pagan and urged people not to allow great Catholic traditions to be usurped in the name of progress.

When war broke out in 1939,
  because of his opposition to the Nazis, Bishop von Galen became a popular figure in the British press, and his stance was frequently mentioned with warm approval—a fact that infuriated the Nazis more. But he continued to denounce the regime, listing each new restriction on Christian life: "Religion has been banned from the schools, our organizations have been suppressed, and now the Catholic kindergartens are about to be closed," he said from the pulpit in July 1941, urging Catholics to remain firm in their loyalty to the Church and likening them to an anvil on which a blacksmith was striking a heavy hammer.

'Animals Past Their Usefulness'

When the Nazi euthanasia program began, it was semi-secret. People began to suspect that something was happening: Those with handicapped relatives were informed of sudden deaths with no explanation, and there were whispers of evil things taking place.
It was Bishop von Galen who revealed the truth. Having collected evidence from many sources, he announced in a sermon that defenseless human beings were being rounded up and killed "because in the judgement of some official body, on the decision of some committee, they are judged as "unworthy to live"; they are judged as "unproductive members of the national community"

(sermon at St. Lambert’s Church, August 3, 1941).

His sermon caused a sensation. What had been happening in the dark was now thrown into the spotlight. People knew that the bishop was speaking the truth, for it was corroborated by what had been learned by people with relatives in hospitals and asylums. Duplicated secretly, the sermon found its way across Germany with great speed despite official censorship. It was reported in the foreign press, reprinted in secret newsletters, hand-copied, and passed around by word of mouth.
The first sermon denouncing the euthanasia program was followed by two more, which went into greater detail, citing specific cases .
Bishop von Galen pointed out that no one would be safe: men wounded in war, the gravely ill, the vulnerable. Human beings were being treated as if they were animals that had passed their usefulness: "Were these people to be treated "like a cow that no longer gives milk, or like an old lame horse"? No! We are concerned with men and women, our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters! Poor human beings, ill human beings, they are unproductive if you will. But does that mean they have lost the right to live? Have you, have I , the right to live only so long as we are productive, so long as we are regarded by others as productive?" (August 3, 1941)

He went on to spell out the implications of what was going on. No patient could trust a doctor, the courts and the police were to be implicated in murder, and the whole concept of justice perverted. He thundered, in powerful language,
"Woe to mankind—woe to our German people—if the Divine Commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ which God our Creator wrote into man’s conscience from the beginning, if this Commandment is not merely violated, but this violation is tolerated and remains unpunished!"
Blunt, forthright language—backed by facts—meant that the bishop was a formidable opponent for the Nazis. It is a measure of his status that the euthanasia program was halted for a considerable period in Westphalia, and many lives saved. It was not easy for the Nazis to know what to do: To arrest the bishop would be to plunge the whole of that area, which had the closest of links with his family, going back through history, into passionate and probably open rebellion.

Bishop von Galen preaching in the rubble of Cathedral   Square, Munster.

The huge and unrelenting Allied air raids made it easier for the government to quell von Galen’s influence. Munster was reduced to ruins, its cathedral destroyed, the bishop himself made homeless and forced into temporary shelter on the outskirts along with many other refugees.
The invading Allied armies finally reached Munster. Seeking a public figure untainted by the Nazi regime with whom they could establish formal contact, they turned to the bishop. They found that his passionate anti-Nazism did not mean that he had ceased to care about his country, and although courteous to the incoming troops, he made clear that he did not relish having foreign rulers in charge of Germany.

As the months went by, he spoke out, at a time when it was very difficult for any German to do so, about the horrific plight of Germans forcibly expelled from their homes in eastern parts of the country which were now being handed over to a new, Soviet-dominated Poland.
In 1946 ,
 Pope Pius XII made von Galen a Cardinal, but worsening ill-health led to his death  on March 22 1946, shortly after his return from Rome.  He was buried in the ruins of his cathedral, where many of his ancestors had been buried over the centuries.

'A Voice for the Other Germany'
In 1956 von Galen’s cause for canonization was opened and in October 2005, Cardinal von Galen was formally declared blessed by the Church, the first step towards full canonization.

The Church now had a German Pope, Benedict XVI, a Bavarian. As a boy in an anti-Nazi family, the pope knew of Bishop von Galen and regarded him as a hero and a voice for the "other Germany" of non-Nazis, who longed for National Socialism to be consigned to history.

Cardinal von Galen is, of course, a figure of whom German Catholics feel they can be proud, from an era of their history of which they are all terribly ashamed, so this is of importance to them. But the message of his life is larger than that. All Catholics need to know that there was a bishop who was staunchly anti-Nazi. They need to know about his opposition and the way he stood firm and spoke out when others remained silent. It is important that we remind people of this when we hear about the Church’s "failure" to respond adequately to the Nazi’s evil actions.

And there is more: What about today, when legalized euthanasia is again firmly on the agenda, and when pagan ideology is regarded as the norm and Christianity marginalized as something old-fashioned and opposed to national community life? Where do we all stand? What approach should we take? In this hero-bishop from a different era, we can hear a message and a warning, a call to honour the faith we share with him, and a pattern to follow. Born in a castle, dying in a bombed-out city with his country devastated around him and its moral reputation in ruins, Bishop von Galen held fast to what was right, and his message lives on, while that of the pagan culture he opposed has been revealed for the evil it always was. We must ask him to pray for us.
                                  Portrait of Pope Pius XII (ack. Eman Bonnici)

                  From Bishop Von Galen’s Sermon against Euthanasia (Aug. 3rd, 1941)

"Thou shalt not kill." God engraved this commandment on the souls of men long before any penal code laid down punishment for murder, long before any court prosecuted and avenged homicide. Cain, who killed his brother Abel, was a murderer long before courts or states came into existence, and plagued by his conscience he confessed, "Guilt like mine is too great to find forgiveness . . . and I shall wander over the earth, a fugitive; anyone I meet will slay me." Because of his love for us God has engraved these commandments in our hearts and has made them manifest to us. They express the need of our nature created by God. They are the unchangeable and fundamental truths of our social life grounded on reason, well pleasing to God, healthful and sacred. God, our Father, wishes by these precepts to gather us, his children, about him as a hen shelters her brood under her wings. If we are obedient to his commands, then we are protected and preserved against the destruction with which we are menaced, just as the chicks beneath the wings of the mother. "Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often have I been ready to gather thy children together, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings; and thou didst refuse it!" Does history again repeat itself here in Germany, in our land of Westphalia, in our city of Munster? Where in Germany and where, here, is obedience to the precepts of God? The eighth commandment requires "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." How often do we see this commandment publicly and shamelessly broken? In the seventh commandment we read, "Thou shalt not steal." But who can say that property is safe when our brethren, monks and nuns, are forcibly and violently despoiled of their convents, and who now protects property if it is illegally sequestered and not given back? . . . The first three commandments have long counted for nothing in the public life of Germany and here also in Munster . . . The Sabbath is desecrated; holy days of obligation are secularized and no longer observed in the service of God. His name is made fun of, dishonoured, and all too frequently blasphemed. As for the first commandment, "Thou shalt not have strange gods before me," instead of the One, True, Eternal God, men have created at the dictates of their whim, their own gods to adore: Nature, the State, the Nation, or the Race. In the words of St. Paul, for many their god is their belly, their ease, to which all is sacrificed down to conscience and honour for the gratification of the carnal senses, for wealth and ambition. Then we are not surprised that they should claim divine privileges and seek to make themselves overlords of life and death.

Delivered August 3, 1941 at the Church of St. Lambert in Munster

                                          The Nazis’ Euthanasia Solution (T4)
He who is bodily and mentally not sound and deserving may not perpetuate this misfortune in the bodies of his children. —Hitler, Mein Kampf

Beginning in 1939, the National Socialist regime begin systematically killing disabled children in "specially designated pediatric clinics" via starvation and overdose. By the end of World War II, an estimated 5,000 infants and children had been murdered by the Nazis. The program, code-named T4, was extended to adults beginning in 1940. Physicians working for the T4 program examined medical files (seldom the institutionalized patients themselves) and marked for death disabled and mentally ill adults, in most cases without the knowledge or consent of family members. Those selected for extermination were rounded up, processed, and directed into a facility for a "disinfecting shower." Instead, the victims were gassed to death via carbon monoxide. Their bodies were cremated and the ashes sent to families with an official death certificate listing a fictitious cause of death.

By 1941 the program had become public knowledge, in part because of the opposition from German clergymen, including Bishop von Galen. Hitler officially halted the adult killings, but the child program continued. In 1942 the adult killings resumed in secret and continued until the end of the war, with an ever-expanding range of victims, including the elderly, hospitalized war victims, and foreign labourers. In all, an estimated 200,000 people were executed as part of the Nazi "mercy killing" agenda.
(Source: The United States National Holocaust Memorial Museum,

N.B.  Due to its length, it has not been practical to reproduce this article in its entirety. Nevertheless I strongly recommend the whole of the original post to you, with the link shown below:-

Ack to Joanna Bogle, Catholic Answers,  October 2011.                                      

Today, unbelievably, legalised euthanasia has become a reality in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Colombia; with assisted suicide legalised in Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, and certain States in the USA. When one considers the worldwide condemnation and horror that euthanasia evoked in the 1940s, it seems impossible to believe  that humanity has now reached the point when  human life is expendable from conception to old-age, on the say-so of doctors and medical 'experts', with no thought to the omnipotence of God and His laws, both supernatural and natural.
It is tempting to think that if today, we had outspoken Christian witnesses of the calibre of Bishop von Galen,  politicians and society may have not been so ready to promote abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, same-sex 'marriage', and other related evils, with total disregard for our Christian faith and heritage. This may or may not be the case, but the courage of Bishop von Galen is a light to us all in the darkness of a world without God. We pray for our Pope and our Bishops, that they may be fearless in proclaiming the teachings of Christ, so strengthening our faith in the ongoing battle against the forces of evil.
Blessed August Clemens von Galen - pray for us.

Munster Cathedral, 'Crucifixion', with figures of Bl. Anna Emmerick, Bl.Maria Euthymia, Bl. Clemens von Galen, at foot of cross, and separated from them the figure of the Anabaptist King Jan Van Leiden (1535)seated on step, with various death symbols at his feet.  Bronze sculpture by Bert Gerreshem, installed in 2004. Photo M B Dortmund (own work).

Friday, 31 March 2017

'Conscience, St Thomas More and 'Amoris Laetitia''


The  apostolic exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ by Pope Francis, published in April 2016, has received strong criticism from many quarters, ecclesiastical and lay, on the grounds that it legitimises the concept of  divorced/separated  Catholics who, while living active sex lives in a second relationship, avail themselves of Holy Communion. The exhortation has been described at best as ‘ambiguous’, and at worst contrary to Christ’s teaching, and the Pope has been asked publicly by four Cardinals, in the form of a Dubia, to clarify certain ambiguities inherent in the exhortation. 

It has been suggested that in ‘Amoris Laetitia’, the Pope places great emphasis on the inner workings of individual ‘conscience’, to the extent that a subjective viewpoint based on one’s own conscience, could in certain circumstances, effectively overturn the objective meaning and clarity of God’s commandments and the teaching of the Church, specifically  concerning  marriage and the Holy Eucharist.
           The teaching of the Church on marriage and receiving Holy Communion has always been clear and straightforward, yet now it appears that the Church might have been wrong – which in view of Christ’s promise is surely not possible? This post is not to discuss this particular matter at any length, but the question of ‘individual conscience’ over-riding God’s commandments, has existed since the fall of Adam.

 I have recently been reading a biography of Margaret Roper, the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More, in which the matters of King Henry VIII’s divorce from Queen Catherine and his marriage to Ann Boleyn, followed by his self-appointment as Supreme Head of the Catholic Church in England, play a pivotal role in the history of that period, and indeed thereafter to the present day. Every person in the land was obliged by law and under oath, to sign their agreement and acquiescence to the King’s actions, failing which they incurred severe financial and status penalties, imprisonment,  and even execution on the gallows. To be sure, the reality of signing did not necessarily reflect agreement, and undoubtedly many signed contrary to their beliefs, probably taking the pragmatic view that they had no choice. It may well be that in conscience they were not unduly troubled, perhaps  believing that matters would right themselves in the future. Thomas More, who in conscience refused to take the oath, declined to blame any person or organisation i.e. Parliament, for supporting the King, considering that, on this question, the decision of every individual was theirs alone, and that each person had  responsibility for their own eternal destiny.  Nevertheless history has shown that governments and leaders of nations who choose in their laws and actions to ignore  God’s Commandments, and force this unbelief on their people, will inevitably create an ungodly nation, which in the case of England under King Henry VIII, resulted in the persecution and almost total destruction of the Catholic Church in England, and the rise of Protestantism.

In his book ‘Margaret Roper’ by E.E.Reynolds, the author considers the relationship between Thomas More and his married daughter, Margaret Roper, with special emphasis on the period April 1534 to July 1535, when More was in prison awaiting trial on a charge of treason for failing to recognise the validity of King Henry VIII’s ‘marriage’ to Ann Boleyn, and for refusing to accept the King as Head of the Catholic Church in England. More was brought to trial on 1st July 1535, found guilty of 'treason', and executed on the scaffold on 6th July at Tower Hill in London.
         Whilst in prison, there was considerable correspondence by letter between  More and Margaret Roper, the eldest of his three daughters.  Some of this correspondence, reproduced in this biography, reveals the strong filial love and respect in which Margaret Roper held her father, even though at times, they appeared to have conflicting opinions, particularly relating to the ‘right’ response to the question of the King’s marriage to Ann Boleyn. Margaret Roper endeavoured to persuade her father to agree first on the Act of Succession (legitimising the right to the throne of any  offspring from the union of Henry and Ann Boleyn), and then the Act of Supremacy (the self-appointment of Henry as head of the Catholic Church in England), basing her arguments on the fact that, with the exception of Bishop John Fisher of Rochester, all the bishops and most of the clergy, and most of the nobility and persons of civic importance, many of whom were personal friends of her father, had signed these agreements, and surely her father should also sign.

          The argument was misguided, but it was presented by a loving daughter desperate to save her father’s life.  More understood this, but remained steadfast in  his loyalty to God and his opposition to the King’s course of action. After his trial at Westminster Hall and finding of guilt, he was taken back to the Tower. On his journey he was met by his daughter Margaret, who bid him an emotional and loving farewell. The account of this final meeting recorded by William Roper, Margaret’s husband, speaks for itself:-
‘When Sir Thomas More came from Westminster to the Towerward again, his daughter, my wife, desirous to see her father, whom she thought she should never see in this world after, and also to have his final blessing, gave attendance about the Tower Wharf, where she knew he should pass by before he could enter into the Tower, there tarrying for his coming. As soon as she saw him, after his blessing on her knees reverently received, she, hasting towards him, and, without consideration or care of herself, pressing in among the middest of the throng and company of the guard that with halberds and bills went round about him, hastily ran to him, and there openly in the sight of them all, embraced him, took him about the neck and kissed him.  Who, well liking her most natural and dear daughterly affection towards him, gave her his fatherly blessing and many godly words of comfort besides. From whom after she was departed, she, not satisfied with the former sight of him, and like one that had forgotten herself, being all ravished with the entire love of her dear father, having respect neither to herself, nor to the press of people and multitude that were there about him, suddenly turned back again, ran to him as before, took him about the neck and divers times together most lovingly kissed him, and at last, with a full heavy heart, was fain to depart from him, the beholding whereof was to many of them that were present thereat so lamentable, that it made them for very sorrow thereof, to mourn and weep.’

          Thomas More’s reported last words to Margaret, epitomise his love of God and the close empathy between father and daughter:-   ‘Have patience, Margaret.  Don’t torment yourself. It is the will of God. You have long known the secret of my heart.'

              Thomas More'  by Hans Holbein the Younger -1527

During his incarceration in the Tower and prior to his trial and conviction, More wrote numerous letters to his daughter who was persistent in her efforts to persuade him to change his mind. In one he writes:

“But whereas you think Margaret, that they be so many more than there are on the other side that think in this thing as I think, surely for your own comfort that you shall not take thought, thinking that your father casteth himself away like a fool, that he would jeopardy the loss of his substance, and peradventure his body, without any cause why he so should for the peril of his soul, but rather his soul in peril thereby too, to this shall I say to thee, Marget, that in some of my causes I nothing doubt at all, but that though not in this realm, yet in Christendom about, of those well learned men and virtuous that are yet alive, they be not the fewer part that are of my mind.  Besides that, that it were you wot well possible that some men in this realm too, think not so clear the contrary, as by the oath received they have sworn to say.

          “Now this far forth I say for them that are yet alive. But go we now to them that are dead before, and that are I trust in heaven, I am sure it is not the fewer part of them that all the time while they lived, thought in some of the things the way that I think now. I am also Margaret, of this thing sure enough, that of those holy doctors and saints, which to be with God in heaven long ago no Christian man doubteth, whose books yet in this day remain here in men’s hands, there thought in some such things, as I think now. I say not that they thought all so, but surely such and so many as will well appear by their writing, that I pray God give me grace that my soul may follow theirs. And yet I show you not all, Margaret, that have for myself in the sure discharge of my conscience. But for the conclusion daughter Margaret, of all this matter, as I have often told you, I take not upon me neither to define nor dispute in these matters, nor I rebuke not nor impugn other man’s deed, nor I never wrote, nor so much as spake in any company, any word of reproach in anything that the Parliament had passed, nor I meddled not with the conscience of any other man, that either thinketh or sayeth he thinketh, contrary unto mine.  But as concerning mine own self, for thy comfort shall I say, daughter, to thee, that mine own conscience in this matter (I damn none other man’s) is such, as may well stand with mine own salvation, thereof am I, Meg, so sure, as that is, God is in heaven. And therefore as for all the remnant, goods, lands, and life both (if the chance should so fortune) since this conscience is sure for me, I verily trust God he shall rather strengthen me to bear the loss, than against this conscience to swear and put my soul in peril, since all the causes that I perceive move other men to the contrary, seem not such unto me, as in my conscience make any change.”  
           In another letter, he writes, “Marry, Marget, for the part that you play, you play it not much amiss.  But Margaret first, as for the law of the land, though every man being born and inhabiting therein, is bound to the keeping in every case upon such temporal pain, and in many cases upon pain of God’s displeasure too, yet is there no man bound to swear that every law is well made, nor bound upon the pain of God’s displeasure, to perform any such point of the law as were indeed unleafal (unlawful).  Of which manner kind, that there may such hap to be made in any part of Christendom, I suppose no man doubteth, the General Council of the whole body of Christendom evermore to that point excepted; which, though it may make some things better than other, and some things may grow to that point, that by another law they may need to be reformed, yet to institute anything in such wise, to God’s displeasure, as at the making might not lawfully be performed, the spirit of God that governeth His Church never hath it suffered nor never hereafter shall, His whole Catholic Church lawfully gathered together in a General Council, as Christ hath made plain promises in Scripture.

          “Now if it so hap, that in any particular part of Christendom, there be any law made, that be such as for some part thereof some men think that the law of God cannot bear it, and some other think yes, the thing being in such manner in question that through diverse quarters of Christendom, some that are good men and cunning (learned), both of our own days and before our days, think some one way, and some other of like learning and goodness think the contrary, in this case he that thinketh against the law, neither may swear that law lawfully was made, standing his own conscience to the contrary, nor is bounden upon pain of God’s displeasure to change his own conscience therein, for any particular law made anywhere, other than by General Council or by a general faith grown by the working of God universally through all Christian nations, not other authority than one of these twain, except special revelation and express commandment of God, since the contrary opinions of good men and well learned, as I put you the case, made the understanding of the Scriptures doubtful, I can see none that lawfully may command and compel any man to change his own opinion, and to translate his conscience from the one side to the other.


    Margaret Roper - a copy (1593) of a lost work by Hans Holbein

In an account of a meeting with her father, Margaret Roper writes:-

“With this my father smiled upon me and said, “What, Mistress Eve (as I called you when you first came), hath my daughter Alington played the serpent with you, and with a letter set you a-work to come tempt your father again, and for the favour that you bear him labour to make him swear against his conscience, and so send him to the devil?”  And after that, he looked sadly again and earnestly said to me, “Daughter Margaret, we two have talked of this thing ofter than twice or thrice, and that same tale in effect that you now tell me therein, and the same fear too, have you twice told me before, and I have twice answered you too, that in this matter if it were possible for me to do the thing that might content the King’s Grace, and God therewith not offended, there hath no man taken this oath already more gladly than I would do, as he that reckoneth himself more deeply bounden unto the King’s Highness for his most singular bounty, many ways showed and declared, than any of them all beside. But since standing my conscience, I can in no wise do it, and that for the instruction of my conscience, in this matter, not slightly looked, but by many years studied and advisedly considered, and never could yet see or hear that thing, nor I think never shall, that could induce my own mind to think otherwise than I do, I have no manner remedy, but God hath given me to the straight, that either I must deadly displease Him, or abide any earthly harm that he shall for mine other sins, under name of this thing, suffer to fall upon me.  Whereof (as I before this have told you) I have ere I came here, not left unbethought nor unconsidered, the very worst and the uttermost that can by possibility fall.  And albeit that I know my own frailty full well and the natural faintness of my own heart, yet if I had not trusted that God should give me strength rather to endure all things, than offend him by swearing ungodly against my own conscience, you may be very sure I would not have come here. And since I look in this matter but only unto God, it maketh me little matter, though men call as it pleaseth them and say it is no conscience but a foolish scruple.”

            Thomas More was executed nearly five hundred years ago. His conscience was firmly attuned to God’s commandments and the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church. He was a humanist and a man of considerable learning and fame, with many friends in Court and the universities. His appointment as Chancellor by the King, laid on him many duties of State, at the same time and incumbent with his responsibilities, he must himself have adopted a certain pragmatism when dealing with the many matters on which he had to take decisions, and which did not involve contrariness  to God's laws. On a worldly basis his loyalty to God and His Church was disastrous, losing his freedom and ultimately his life. On a spiritual basis he gained a crown of inestimable glory, recognised by the Church by his canonisation by Pope Pius XI in 1935.

           Today the Church is suffering physically and spiritually throughout the world. Communism, violent and radical Islam, aggressive liberalism and anti-Catholicism, materialism and secularism, combine to attempt to destroy the Church and all it stands for. There have been scandals within the Church, particularly relating to sexual abuse of minors within the Church's care, also widespread evidence of active homosexuality within all levels of the Church, particularly in certain seminaries. Modernism and liturgical anarchy following Vatican II  have also taken a heavy toll, particularly evident in the western world by a serious shortage of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

                                                                       Pope Francis

Certain unclear and confusing pronouncements by the current Pope concerning matters of faith have created great unrest and dissension in the Church itself, this being particularly the case with the apostolic exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’, in which it seems that the individual conscience has been elevated in importance to a level higher than that of God’s commandments and the perennial teaching of the Church. Some would say that subjective opinion appears to have taken precedence over objective truth. The Pope may yet satisfactorily clarify matters, in which case I unreservedly and humbly withdraw any criticism made or implied.

"St Thomas More, discerner of truth, pray for our Church and our country."

Ack. ‘Margaret Roper’ by E.E.Reynolds.  Published by Burns & Oates, London. 1960.

Monday, 20 February 2017

50th anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967 - an appraisal.

This year sees the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967, which  legalised abortion in England, Wales, and Scotland.

Whilst writing this post I have become acutely aware of the coldness and inhumanity of statistics. We are asked to consider the abortion statistics over a period of fifty years, with numbers running into hundreds of thousands, even millions, of unborn children 'legally' killed.
The mind is numbed by these shameful and terrible figures, which can have the perverse effect of insensitizing us to the reality of the physical, emotional, and physiological suffering in every abortion.

 'Massacre of the Innocents' by Nicolas Poussin

From 1968 to 2015 a total of 7,928,057 unborn babies were  aborted under the sanction of this legislation.

A breakdown of the Abortion Statistics, England and Wales: 2015,  published by HM Government, Department of Health, 
 shows  rapid growth  between 1968 and 1988, with a gradual increase over the next two decades,  reducing slightly between 2008 and 2015.

  a)  In 1968 -  23,641 legal abortions, involving  22,332  UK residents,  and  1,309 non residents.

b)  In 1988 - 183,798 legal abortions,                168,298 UK residents,       15,500 non residents.

c)  In 2008 - 202,158 legal abortions,               195,296  UK residents,        6,862 non residents.

   d)   In 2015 - 191,014 legal abortions,                185,824  UK residents,      5,190 non residents.

  In 1968  NHS funded 14,492 abortions.
 In  2015 NHS funded 182,243 abortions.

                 a)  NHS funded      14,492 abortions   with 7,840 privately funded. 
d)              "              182,243 (98.07%)    "     3,581 (1.93%)

 Funded abortions performed in NHS hospitals and NHS Independent sector hospitals
 In 1968 there were no abortions carried out in NHS Independent Sector hospitals, but in 2015 a total of 125,884 abortions were performed. This represented 69.1% of all NHS abortions that year.

 a)  NHS hospitals  14,492 abortions.        NHS Independent Sector hospitals  NIL abortions

    d)                  "      56,359 (30.4%)   "                          "              125,884 (69.1%)              "


In 2011 it was estimated, that on average, every abortion cost the NHS £680.00

Costs have almost certainly increased since then, but using these old figures, the cost to the NHS in 2015 would have been approximately £124 million. Of this amount £85.68 million would have been paid to the NHS Independent Sector, such as Marie Stopes, BPAS, etc. who own the abortion clinics, and who inexplicably are authorised by the Government to counsel pregnant women as to the ‘best’ course of action for themselves and their unborn child. So much for independent advice! There seems to be one rule for financial services where money is involved and strict rules are in place to protect clients, and another for pregnancy advice centres where there is no independent advice available for clients, and where the currency is counted in human lives.

 LINK   -

Acknowledgement to the Daily Telegraph, 22 November, 2011, for the following information concerning the cost of abortions:-

Updated figures from the Department of Health  show that, contrary to earlier claims, much more public money goes to private clinics rather than NHS hospitals.

Campaigners say the new calculations provide more reason to stop the organisations that offer counselling to pregnant women also performing terminations, on the grounds that it represents a conflict of interest.
They are calling for spending watchdogs to investigate why Parliament was “misled” over the scale of the “abortion industry”.

In the words of Lord Alton, the cross-bench peer, “The millions of pounds generated by the private abortion industry, which have never been revealed to Parliament, demonstrate why Frank Field has been absolutely right in demanding that the multi- million pound link between the referral agencies and the abortion industry should be severed.”

 In September, 2011, the Conservative backbencher Nadine Dorries tabled an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill that would have meant all women considering ending a pregnancy were given advice independent of the abortion provider.
This eminently sensible proposal was defeated, but the Department of Health has said it will consult on the “best” form of counselling.

Nadine Dorries - “If anything proves that the link between the abortion provider and the woman facing a crisis pregnancy should be broken, this is it - too much money changes hands for anyone to argue that the private abortion provider can remain objective during the decision-making process.”

With acknowledgement to a recent article in the ‘Catholic Herald’ written by a doctor, which highlighted the hypocrisy of certain members of the UK medical profession when assessing abortion requests. 

Whilst 98% of abortions in Britain are carried out on the grounds of reducing mental health risk, a lack of resources and willingness to judge genuine mental health risk has liberalised abortion policy to such an extent, that simply seeking a termination is now considered sufficient evidence.

The meaning  and intention of the clause limiting abortions to cases where continuing the pregnancy presented a risk to the mental health of the mother, has been abused and misused,  effectively leading to the present situation of ‘abortion on demand.’

There is now reliable evidence that abortion is not associated with any decreased risk of mental health disorders.  

Women with an unintended pregnancy should be informed that the evidence suggests that they are no more or less likely to suffer adverse psychological effects, whether they have an abortion or continue with the pregnancy (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists)

Ostensible mental health benefits of abortion are specious (Turnaway Study)
 This is important, since 98 per cent of abortions in Britain are carried out on the grounds of reducing mental health risk.  

If ‘mental health risk’ is a fallacy in the vast majority of these cases, then there is no legal justification for abortion in those cases, and those involved are guilty of serious criminal offences.

Why is the law openly defied and who is responsible for policing the law? Internal policing by the medical establishment is clearly not working, suggesting perhaps that an independent forum similar to the IPCC which  deals with complaints against the police, should be set up as a matter of urgency.

LINK -        

An on-line Petition deserving support, seeks government action to allow taxpayers to choose not to have their tax used to finance  NHS abortions. I have often wondered about this, but assumed that it would not be possible within the vast Inland Revenue tax system, to set up a suitable working model.  I now believe, that given the will, this  unethical obligation on all tax-payers to contribute to the NHS funding of abortions whether they like it or not, could be addressed. Sounds complicated, but is it?   I would not envisage a reduced tax bill, and in fact the system could stay exactly as it is, thus minimizing the extra work involved.  The Inland Revenue, through a suitably worded extra tick-box in the tax return, would be aware of the numbers of those objecting to supporting abortion, which would be conveyed to the NHS, possibly as a percentage of the total, who would calculate the actual amount of money involved, deduct that percentage from the amount allocated to the abortion side of the NHS, which could then be used for other needy areas such as Mental Health. In this technological age, such a system would surely not present too many problems? This may be too simplistic a solution, and you may well have better ideas. If so, I would be pleased if you could share them in the comment box, thank you.



 Finally I cannot end this appraisal without mention of an excellent article by Mary Ann Kreitzer on 'lesfemmes-thetruth' blogsite; 

 'The March for Death versus the March for Life - Abortion has done nothing to advance women's freedom'

The article makes compulsive reading and includes an extensive bibliography. The author is an American citizen and writes primarily about the American scene, however I'm sure that the conclusions she draws applies equally to our society in the UK.  These include, among others, that:-
 The legalization of abortion has done nothing to advance women’s freedom.
Prior to the legalisation of abortion in the USA, the truth is that maternal deaths from abortion had already been declining, due to advances in medical care, and most illegal abortions were, in fact, performed by physicians.  All legalisation did was to allow more girls and women to be exploited, abused, traumatized, maimed, injured and killed before, during and after abortion.
Women and girls still die from abortion       
The legalisation of abortion has not ended child abuse (child abuse rates have increased since 1973) or violence against women. At least two studies of maternal death rates found that homicide was the leading cause of death among pregnant women.
 Other research  has linked abortion to increased rates of breast cancer, substance abuse, depression, suicide, subsequent pre-term birth, anxiety disorders, and other problems.
 Before abortion was legalised, a woman or girl who was being pressured or coerced to abort could resist on the grounds that it was illegal, unsafe and immoral. Legalisation has made it easier for those around her to insist that because abortion is legal, it must be “safe,” and because it is “socially approved,” it must be moral. It makes it easier for them to refuse to support her desire to continue the pregnancy and insist that she abort anyway.

         For a list of related articles and  resources to read and share (see original article)


                           Holy Family -  Paolo Veronese  (1528-88)

 To conclude, if you link to the sites below, and indeed many other sites dealing with abortion, it becomes clear that  the legalisation of  abortion has been a disaster. Prior to legalisation, advocates argued that such a step would have a positive effect on society. Fifty years down the road, this prediction has proved to be false. Far from empowering women, they have become the losers. The human race is destroying itself. God is mocked, but not for ever.