Catholic church advises Belfast school to disband Amnesty branch

The rift between the Catholic church and Amnesty International over the organisation’s new policy on sexual and reproductive rights appears to be growing, and it’s taking on a local dimension too. Henry McDonald reports in the Guardian, and Patsy McGarry confirms in the Irish Times [subs req], that a Belfast grammar school in the Down and Connor diocese has been advised by the church to disband its Amnesty group. The issue appears to be due for discussion at next month’s general meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. From the Guardian report

In relation to the banning of school Amnesty groups, a church spokesman told the Guardian: “An inquiry did come from a school principal, on behalf of the teacher who is in charge of the school Amnesty group, asking for guidance on the future of the Amnesty group in the school. The advice to the school is that it would be inappropriate for the school branch to continue in existence in the context of Amnesty International’s new position regarding abortion.”

Adds While there’s no confirmation of which school is referred to in the reports, here’s an example of a well established and active Amnesty International Group within a voluntary grammar school in the diocese, in the Catholic Maintained Schools sector, which could be affected by any general directive from the Irish Bishops’ Conference.

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  • This is typical of the ongoing dictatorial attitude of the Catholic Church that is repulsing young people in their droves. What of all the good work that Amnesty does? As the founder member of an Amnesty group in a ‘Catholic’ grammar school some years ago, I can certainly say that more benefit was brought to people’s lives through involvement in said group than through any involvement in religious charades at the school.

    The Church in Ireland isn’t exactly in any position to be lecturing anyone on human rights.

  • gram

    Hopefully head teachers will have the gonads to simply ignore this pathetic guidance as they must already do on issues such as contraception.

    It was a stupid decision of the church to withdraw funding from Amnesty with which it is mostly in agreement.

  • Jamie Gargoyle

    They’d need some serious stones to go against an order from on high, particularly as many of the heads in question have a dog collar or habit… I suspect their positions would become untenable pretty quickly.
    Any idea which school it is…?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    To provide another side to this discussion, just for the sake of argument, allow me to ask a question…

    Are all the larger human rights problems in the world so well in hand that Amnesty had to enter into this arena, knowing it would alienate a not-insignificant ally? Has Amnesty solved so many larger problems they had to go looking for something new to get into?

    As for the Church’s advice, so long as it is their money and their facility, they are well within their rights to give this guidance, consistant with their larger position.

  • gram

    >>Are all the larger human rights problems in the world so well in hand that Amnesty had to enter into this arena, knowing it would alienate a not-insignificant ally? Has Amnesty solved so many larger problems they had to go looking for something new to get into?<< So if asked a question about their policy on abortion following a rape Amnesty should just have kept quiet? To reverse your question. Has the catholic church decided that the important work that amnesty does in defending human rights now been taken care of. Agree that the church have a right to spend their money as they see fit. I hope head teachers also exercise their right to ignore their guidance.

  • Jamie Gargoyle
  • Dread Cthulhu

    Blowing smoke provides only minimal heat and no light, gram. Besides, it is rude to respond to a question with a question.

    That said, I gather, by your response, the answer you are striving to avoid is “no, Amnesty has not solved other, larger human rights issues.” Now, knowing that this change in policy would not be well received in Catholic circles, what was the utility, the benefit of this policy change? What is accomplished with this policy? All that is done is some American liberals get to spin the wheel of the organization to the left, potential allies are alienated and nothing concrete is accomplished.

    gram: “To reverse your question. Has the catholic church decided that the important work that amnesty does in defending human rights now been taken care of.”

    I am sure they don’t. That said, I am certain that only the most ignorant of individuals would have thought that this change in policy wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for the Catholic Church. The Church will soldier on, but I suspect this unnecessary fracture was avoidable.

    AI chose an action and, perforce, the consequences arising from that action.

  • heck

    Which school is it?

  • Heck-

    See Jamie’s link. I can see where the Church is coming from- those campaigns they are running at that school are clearly the work of the devil. Not.

    Surely the Church has bigger fish to fry. It’s about time they grew up.

  • Just to point something out. The Catholic Church has not stopped funding Amnesty International because the Catholic Church never provided any funding to the organisation. Individual Catholics did, do and will continue to do, but the Church as an organisation never did.

    Amnesty has changed its position not because of liberals going out of control, but because of the use of mass rape as a weapon in Darfur and the Congo, leading to the abuse, murder, intimidation and violence against women.

    It’s remarkably easy for the Catholic Church, whose history in Ireland is full more of carrying out human rights abuses than opposing them, to complain about this from its ivory tower in the Vatican. Bit more difficult in refugee camps in warzones.

    Amnesty and the Catholic Church can continue to work together on the 99.99% of things they agree on, or the Catholic Church can work against the world’s biggest human rights organisation and try to undermine it.

  • Splurge

    A small feminist clique in Amnesty in UK instigated this policy change. The sort of people who regard the Church as the enemy, rather than a support. It was difficult enough for Catholics to support Amnesty when they were “neutral” on abortion – i.e. they had no opinion on the rights of an unborn child. Now it is impossible to support them. Personally I resigned last month and I think all Catholics (and anyone who believes in the human rights of unborn children) should do so also. And no way can official Catholic bodies such as schools have anything to do with them anymore. They should do what some Australian schools are doing and form their own human rights group.

    Anyone for “Amnesty for Life”?

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Good one splurge. Imagine for a moment that you have been gang raped and discover shortly afterwards that you’re pregnant. You then discover that your right to an abortion is being denied by a bunch of bachelors who presided over the rape and abuse of children amid subsequent serial denials and cover-up.
    You and I can only imagine the suffering such women endure in places like Darfur. The very least this sorry church can do is facilitate freedom of consience.

    And if they’re so touchy about associating with organisations like Amnesty, exactly why are they accepting school funding from the UK govt, who facilitate on-demand abortion on a daily basis? Something stinks.

  • gram

    >>That said, I gather, by your response, the answer you are striving to avoid is “no, Amnesty has not solved other, larger human rights issues.” Now, knowing that this change in policy would not be well received in Catholic circles, what was the utility, the benefit of this policy change?<< Dread maybe I need to be a bit less subtle in future. AI's policy is fully consistent with their human rights agenda. Your initial question was stupid because the abortion issue is a human rights issue. Do you suggest AI goes forward with the statement "Working to protect SOME human rights worldwide"?

  • nmc

    What’s the problem with feminists then Spurge? Are you male or female?

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    NMC — you have to understand — feminism = equality. RC cheerleaders like splurge find such a concept terrifying.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Frank Little: “Amnesty has changed its position not because of liberals going out of control, but because of the use of mass rape as a weapon in Darfur and the Congo, leading to the abuse, murder, intimidation and violence against women. ”

    And what, pray tell, does this change, in concrete terms, accomplish. The janjaweed have already made clear they are apathetic regarding the disapproval of the UN and western nations. Does AI imagine that their disapproval will be the straw that turns aside the flood?

  • gram

    Splurge:A small feminist clique in Amnesty in UK instigated this policy change. << Jesus wept. It seems that Dread and Splurge would rather Amnesty act as hopocrites and just ignored this obvious human rights issue.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    gram: “AI’s policy is fully consistent with their human rights agenda. Your initial question was stupid because the abortion issue is a human rights issue. Do you suggest AI goes forward with the statement “Working to protect SOME human rights worldwide”?”

    First of all, the lack of abortion facilities in Darfur is not the problem. The janjaweed are the problem. Mass rapes follow the janjaweed the way pestilence follows a flood. Eliminate the janjaweed, you eliminate the problem. Rape, under the Islamic beliefs, is a right of a conqueorer, which given the women-folk of the conquored to the victors.

    On a lesser note, the perpetrators and the victims in Darfur are both Muslim. Abortion as a solution to these populations is a hard sell.

    Besides, in times of crisis, triage in the appropriate response. Stop the killing first, worry about pushing western liberal values and choices on the native population later.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    gram: “Jesus wept. It seems that Dread and Splurge would rather Amnesty act as hopocrites and just ignored this obvious human rights issue. ”

    No, but I think that the notion that the lack of Planned Parenthood facilities in Sudan is a low priority item, compared to the ethnic cleansing, is muddled thinking at best.

    Crocodiles first, then worry about draining the swamp.

  • Dawkins

    I caught the tail end of a discussion on this on today’s Talk Back. A female guest was arguing that Amnesty International should be like Alcoholics Anonymous and confine itself to one issue. I believe she meant human rights abuses.

    I wonder if she also felt it was a good idea for the Catholic Church to confine itself to a single issue, namely piloting souls to heaven.

    It seems to me that when Churches meddle in temporal affairs they get it all arseways, AIDS in subSaharan Africa being a good example, now rape in Darfur.

    Frank Little made excellent points in his 3.47pm post

  • observer

    its worth pointing out that the majority of abortions are a means of contraception rather than dealing with rape or incest.

  • Dawkins

    In Darfur?

  • Splurge

    Gerry Lvs Castro (the clue is in the name) wrote “Imagine for a moment that you have been gang raped and discover shortly afterwards that you’re pregnant. You then discover that your right to an abortion is being denied by a bunch of bachelors who presided over the rape and abuse of children amid subsequent serial denials and cover-up.”

    Imagine for a moment you have been conceived in Darfur, your mother a victim of rape, your father a monster. Is there anyone will care for you? Ah, but here comes Amnesty International and Medicins sans Frontiers, surely they’ll protect me. Fraid not buddy – sharp knife for you.

    The problem I have with most feminists (not all, for there are Feminists for Life) is they begin by talking about equality and a short skip and a jump later they want the right to kill unborn children, the great irony of course, being that most victims of abortion are girls!

    So drag out all your usual old crap about child abuse, celibacy, etc – why not throw in some rubbish about Vatican finances when you’re at it and a bit of the Inquisition. In fact lets just call it Popery for short – same anti-Catholic rant we always get when any Catholic issue is discussed and none of it relevant to the issue in question.

  • Dawkins

    And since when is abortion “contraception”?

  • nmc

    SPURGE

    It’s not a catholic issue. It’s a human issue, and in Sudan it’s an Islamic issue. What Vatican
    finances have to do with things I’m not so sure, although I do know of a number of priests that have anally raped young boys, which is obviously ok because boys can’t get up the pole. However if they did get pregnant I reckon a few priests would have dragged their victims away to Scotland for a termination.

    none of it relevant to the issue in question.

    WTF has the Spanish inquisition got to do with abortion in Darfur, in light of your respect for relevance?

  • Gum

    “Eliminate the janjaweed, you eliminate the problem.”

    Wish it was that simple. As well as this, the situation in southern Sudan looks like it might dwarf the horrors in Darfur should the peace treaty between north and south fail.

  • Dawkins

    Gum,

    I fear you’re correct about Darfur. The way I see it, if the UN or another international force won’t protect the women from the horror of gang rape then the least we can do is to spare them the added humiliation of bearing their rapists’ children.

  • overhere

    I may be coming at this from completely the wrong angle and not with the same knee jerk responses I have seen here above.

    But if the Church teaches that abortion is wrong and then an organisation that it has had close involvement with for many year decided that actually abortion is ok, does the Church have any other option but to distance itself and let it’s members know that it is doing so and advising them to do likewise.

    If tomorrow morning Peter Robinson stood up in Stormount and give his option that actually a United Ireland would be a good thing and he would be working towards that would Ian Paisley be correct in saying he did not agree with Peter’s stance and would advise his party members not to rally behind Peter.

    I have I must admit lost my good feeling with Amnesty a few years ago, here in the UK when ever there was any trial involving alledged terrorists we would get the UK rep who would simply whine on and on about alledged abuse of the legal system ad-nausium and not really much on those who commit acts of terror. So really the abortion card simply nailed the lid on it

    But as to the threads above just goes to show same old punch up same old suspects

  • Dawkins

    overhere,

    Know what you mean about the terrorists but let’s not forget that Amnesty doesn’t (and can’t afford to) take sides. I wasn’t aware its representative whined.

    Lastly, are you saying that the British legal system is perfect and above criticism?

  • Dawkins

    overhere,

    Before I forget, Amnesty never said “abortion is ok”.

  • Garibaldy

    Catholic church acts in accordance with its doctrine shock.

    A lot of false outrage here on this thread, and using this as an excuse to ride hobby horses. I’d be more outraged at the hypocrisy if Amnesty – an incredibly flawed and often misguided organisation – was still facilitated in Catholic schools after this.

  • Dawkins

    Garibaldy,

    “Amnesty – an incredibly flawed and often misguided organisation…”

    Perhaps you could explain this instead of simply throwing it about. Tell us why you believe they’re hypocrites.

  • Garibaldy

    Dawkins,

    I’ll give an example. During the NATO bombing of Kosovo, and the cleansing of the area of Serbs by the KLA – who the Americans had only recently themselves described as drug dealing, women-trafficking terrorists – what was the main Amnesty campaign in Ireland? Wife beating in Russia.

    Then of course there is the UN Declaration on Human Rights which discusses the right to housing, subsistence etc – don’t recall seeing Amnesty jumping up and down too much about homelessness and unemployment.

    Amnesty lets lots of the liberal middle classes feel like they are doing something to address the issue of human rights without ever stopping to think seriously about the issue.

    I could go on. But I couldn’t be bothered.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Splurge: ‘So drag out all your usual old crap about child abuse, celibacy, etc – why not throw in some rubbish about Vatican finances when you’re at it and a bit of the Inquisition.’

    Well I’m sure the tens of thousands of victims of clerical abuse will concur with your notion that their ordeals were ‘old crap’ splurge. Nice one.

    I was alluding to the rank hypocrisy of an organisation overseen entirely by men who seek to dictate to women how they should behave in the wake of multiple rape. An organisation who seek to distance themselves from Amnesty over this issue, yet willingly accept funding from a govt who facilitate abortion on demand. An organisation who as nmc stated are happy to cover up the rape of children by their own priests yet offer no hope to women in desperate situations.

    You’re attempting to defend the indefensible in your support for this hopelessly corrupt, homophobic, sexist edifice, and frankly you’re not making much of a job of it.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Dawkins: “It seems to me that when Churches meddle in temporal affairs they get it all arseways, AIDS in subSaharan Africa being a good example, now rape in Darfur. ”

    Gee, Dawkins, its not as if the African governments haven’t made a hash of it as well — the President of South Africa proclaiming that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, another claiming to have the cure for AIDS.

    And, frankly, the only “church” involved with rape in Darfur is the Muslim faith.

    Dawkins: “And since when is abortion “contraception”?”

    The overwhelming majority of abortions do not relate to incest or rape. Nor do they relate to the “health of the mother” in any real physical sense. What is left that is not elective, ex post facto contraception?

  • heck

    sorry for asking again but I am not in belfast and don’t know the details. Which grammar school is it.

    st Malachys?
    fortwilliam?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Dawkins: “I fear you’re correct about Darfur. The way I see it, if the UN or another international force won’t protect the women from the horror of gang rape then the least we can do is to spare them the added humiliation of bearing their rapists’ children. ”

    Come to think of it, if some past investigatons are any indication, a UN presence might just expand the number of rapes.

    That said, the odds of opening a busy abortion clinic in Islamic Sudan is about the same of the proverbial snowball in hell.

  • Rubicon

    This issue was always going to be emotive – not least because of the RC Church’s reaction. I’m finding myself at odds with some of the commentators here I’ve largely agreed with over the years on a wide variety of issues.

    Let’s set the issue of the rights and wrongs of abortion aside for a moment – but acknowledge it as a reality relevant to life (and death – if you like) in our society here. There’s no need to travel as far as Dafur – though those issues are very relevant to debate on abortion.

    Take a step back and think of the issue, the RC Church’s early response to it and whether it is something that should be banned or discussed.

    I went to a Jesuit school and there was nothing the Jesuits liked better than engaging with social controversy. Though I often disagreed with them I rarely left such a debate without grounds for serious reflection.

    The RC Church is entitled to its view – but it has a responsibility to explain that view, engage in debate and not stifle It – particularly when it comes to engaging with children and formative minds. It’s an opportunity for the RC Church to explain its understanding of life – and answer questions.

    Banning and excluding are the failed policies of the church (churches!) past. It smacks of DeValera’s Ireland – long since consigned as the failed wet-dream of a retrograde politician.

    This issue isn’t about abortion – it’s about discussion and taboos. The RC Church is entitled to its view and obligated to explain it. Banning Amnesty from RC schools is not an issue of whether they’re entitled to or not. It most certainly isn’t a right arising from “so long as it is their money and their facility, they are well within their rights to give this guidance, consistent with their larger position”.

    Dread C. – this issue obligates the RC Church to engage and explain. Banning is no way forward. If a religious belief means anything at all it is to be found in the quality of the believer’s conscience.

  • Pounder

    Typical Catholic Church in my opinion. How dare young people actually think for themselves and have a social conscience. If the teachers in this school had any collective balls they’ll tell the church to stuck their “advice” up their arses.

    The fact is AI produced a lot of the banners and materials for Belfast Pride, not the Jesus Is a Fag Banner I stress to point out, and the RCC is sore about that. From my point of view, as a bisexual man, gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered people are the last minority it’s still ok for society to be biggoted towards. AI where simply following their mandate of supporting human rights for all humans.

    As for comments about abortion as far as i know they don’t have a published view on it and posters threw it up as a massive red herring. I guess that unless you’re out with the pointy hat and pitch fork protesting against something you’re suporting it.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Rubicon: ” this issue obligates the RC Church to engage and explain. Banning is no way forward. If a religious belief means anything at all it is to be found in the quality of the believer’s conscience. ”

    Mayhap, but the RC church is in no way obligated to support or aid organizations whose beliefs are not in agreement with their own. The Church is under no obligation to share it’s resources — its member’s time or its physical plant — to support AI. Likewise, just as the decision to move away from an abortion neutral to a pro-abortion stance was largely autocratic and without much in the way of introspection or debate within AI, per the previous thread on the matter, why would the RC Church be under an obligation not to be equally autocratic, particularly as it, unlike AI, is an expressly hierarchical organization?

  • gram

    >Eliminate the janjaweed, you eliminate the problem. < So what do the women do while they wait for liberation? Lie down and think of Darfur?

  • Pounder

    “#

    Rubicon: “ this issue obligates the RC Church to engage and explain. Banning is no way forward. If a religious belief means anything at all it is to be found in the quality of the believer’s conscience. “

    Mayhap, but the RC church is in no way obligated to support or aid organizations whose beliefs are not in agreement with their own. The Church is under no obligation to share it’s resources—its member’s time or its physical plant—to support AI. Likewise, just as the decision to move away from an abortion neutral to a pro-abortion stance was largely autocratic and without much in the way of introspection or debate within AI, per the previous thread on the matter, why would the RC Church be under an obligation not to be equally autocratic, particularly as it, unlike AI, is an expressly hierarchical organization?
    Posted by Dread Cthulhu on Sep 18, 2007 @ 08:36 PM”

    There is a difference between support and actively trying to harm them. The RCC in this case is encouraging the school not to allow the club to exist on the schools grounds.

  • gram

    >Mayhap, but the RC church is in no way obligated to support or aid organizations whose beliefs are not in agreement with their own. << I don't think anyone thinks the church should be forced to support anything it doesn't want to. We on the otherhand are free to highlight it's glaring hipocracy namely its intolerance of all forms of abortion with it's tolerance of paedophilia.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    gram: “So what do the women do while they wait for liberation? Lie down and think of Darfur? ”

    And do you honestly think that opening a “Planned Parenthood” clinic in the refugee camps is going to help the scenario?

    The procedure is against the beliefs of both the aggressors and the victims. Assuming the Darfurians don’t run them out of town on a rail, all you will accomplish is give the Janjaweed’s backers a propaganda victory they can exploit to excite the thugs for more raids, since the presence of the abortion clinic will be a clear demonstration of the corrupt and non-Islamic nature of the Darfurians.

    On a simply practical note, do you imagine that such a clinic could be established without the presence of a sufficiently capable force to prevent the janjaweed from destroying it? Like I said, if this is a crisis, treat it like a crisis — triage — solve the most crucial problems first. The lack of abortion clinics is not one of the most crucial problems in Darfur.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Rubicon: “There is a difference between support and actively trying to harm them. The RCC in this case is encouraging the school not to allow the club to exist on the schools grounds. ”

    Their physical plant, Pounder, ergo, their rules.

    The Church has chosen a position against abortion. As such, they should not be obligated, directly or indirectly, to support groups that approve or promulgate abortion.

  • Pounder

    Once again I point out that the abortion thing is a red herring. I reitterate that AI have no defined opinion on abortion. They chose not to comment on this, are you saying that unless you are against something you are supporting it, you don’t believe in abstaining a point? I’m not asking the RCC to support AI, thats their choice, but they are advising their school not to allow their students to support AI, thats very different and hippocritical.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    gram: ” don’t think anyone thinks the church should be forced to support anything it doesn’t want to. We on the otherhand are free to highlight it’s glaring hipocracy namely its intolerance of all forms of abortion with it’s tolerance of paedophilia. ”

    Hypocrisy: The practice of professing beliefs, feelins or virtues that ones does not hold or possess.

    Ergo, the Church, while perhaps reprehensible, is not hypocritical in their rejection of abortion, gram, even in light of their other sins, including the protection and reassignment of paedophilic priests.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Pounder: “Once again I point out that the abortion thing is a red herring. I reitterate that AI have no defined opinion on abortion. They chose not to comment on this, are you saying that unless you are against something you are supporting it,”

    Actually, if you read my first post on the list, I posited a question, primarily to keep this thread from becoming the rather pedestrian and predictable Catholic bashing it was shaping up to be.

    That said, to quote the original post of the thread…

    “The rift between the Catholic church and Amnesty International over the organisation’s new policy on sexual and reproductive rights appears to be growing, and it’s taking on a local dimension too.”

    Likewise, to quote the AI press release in the previous thread on this matter:

    “Amnesty International committed itself to strengthening the organization’s work on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and other factors contributing to women’s recourse to abortion and affirmed the organization’s policy on selected aspects on abortion (to support the decriminalisation of abortion, to ensure women have access to health care when complications arise from abortion and to defend women’s access to abortion, within reasonable gestational limits, when their health or human rights are in danger), emphasizing that women and men must exercise their sexual and reproductive rights free from coercion, discrimination and violence.” “

  • Pete Baker

    Just to point out that I’ve updated the original post.

    Dread.

    While there is some merit in the “Their physical plant, ergo, their rules” argument.

    There is also a Board of Governors. And the administration of public funds through the CCMS.

    Additionally, in the example Jamie provided earlier, there’s an Amnesty International group in a school in that diocese which had been set up by the students themselves.

    And if I can just make a general point to commenters.. could we try to keep to the actual topic? AI’s policy was dealt with in a previous post – linked above.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Pete Baker: “Additionally, in the example Jamie provided earlier, there’s an Amnesty International group in a school in that diocese which had been set up by the students themselves. ”

    Assuming they do not allow the inmates to run the asylum, all student groups would require a teacher-advisor and the approval of some higher authority, would they not?

    I’m not saying its right, I’m not saying its fair. What I am saying is that its the Church’s perogative. Likewise, as I have noted on other occasions, the Church, when thwarted in its perogative where it has some hand in personnel decisions, will see their will donel for good or for ill.

    Pete Baker: “And if I can just make a general point to commenters.. could we try to keep to the actual topic? AI’s policy was dealt with in a previous post – linked above. ”

    I would humbly suggest (since I wouldn’t dare argue with the mods…) that the two are linked, after a fashion — or do you imagine the Church would be feeling cranky re: AI without the change in policy. The policy change at AI, to my mind, is the cause, the policy “guidance” provided by the RC church is the effect.

  • Pete Baker

    Dread

    Likewise I’m neither saying that it is right nor fair but I am pointing to other areas of the topic that are being ignored for an all too predictable argument that is full of heat, but brings little light.

    The two are linked, which is why my initial post refers backwards to the earlier thread.

    But we’d get more light if the cause, and its ripples, was debated there and the effect, and its ripples, here.

  • Metacom

    Frank Little: “It’s remarkably easy for the Catholic Church, whose history in Ireland is full more of carrying out human rights abuses than opposing them, to complain about this from its ivory tower in the Vatican.”

    A gross exaggeration and a slur to the tens of thousands of Irish catholics who were and still can be found providing aid and comfort wherever in the world there is suffering and despair.

  • Garibaldy

    Pounder,

    You don’t think this has more to do with a policy decision taken by the Catholic church at the very top, rather than some annoyance over a few Belfast pride banners. Seems to me that’s a case of paranoia.

  • Rubicon

    Update to your post noted Pete – it seems to emphasize my original point. The RC Church is using doctrine as a basis for exclusion. It does this while in receipt of public funds to perform a public good; i.e., the education of the young.

    The young have the bad habit of growing up. Once free from the institutional ‘protection’ of the RC Church they’ll encounter reality and the choices humans find they have to make. It is in this environment that true morality is tested and it is in this environment that the public funds provided the RC Church will have failed their pupils.

    Why? Well simple – because they can. If the RC Church chooses to use its capacity to poorly educate, to prohibit rather than engage and ignore rather than equip its pupils to understand the challenges life will throw up simply because it can – it will have articulated a more persuasive argument for secular education than any of its opponents.

  • Dawkins

    I’ve returned here to find the debate has moved on to a third page, so a little late for me to catch up. Two responses then to my critics:

    Garibaldy,

    “During the NATO bombing of Kosovo, and the cleansing of the area of Serbs by the KLA – who the Americans had only recently themselves described as drug dealing, women-trafficking “terrorists – what was the main Amnesty campaign in Ireland? Wife beating in Russia.”

    If you say so. I wasn’t in Ireland at the time. But are you saying that Amnesty should have been campaigning for everything, everywhere in the world, all at once? No one else to share the burden?

    “Then of course there is the UN Declaration on Human Rights which discusses the right to housing, subsistence etc – don’t recall seeing Amnesty jumping up and down too much about homelessness and unemployment.”

    Again, you believe Amnesty ought to be doing more? Care to join them in that case, help out?

    “Amnesty lets lots of the liberal middle classes feel like they are doing something to address the issue of human rights without ever stopping to think seriously about the issue.”

    This is why they have think tanks worldwide and frequent conferences to seriously discuss, er, human rights? Here’s one in Birmingham you can attend on 13 October: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/events_details.asp?ID=467

    “I could go on. But I couldn’t be bothered.”

    No doubt. But Amnesty does bother. That’s the crucial difference.

    Dread Cthulhu,

    “Gee, Dawkins, its not as if the African governments haven’t made a hash of it as well—the President of South Africa proclaiming that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, another claiming to have the cure for AIDS.”

    And this is a reason for the RC Church to put its spoke in as well? What is the point of your straw man?

    “And, frankly, the only “church” involved with rape in Darfur is the Muslim faith.”

    Again, what’s your point? The issue is Amnesty’s involvement, which the RC Church objects to.

    >Dawkins: “And since when is abortion “contraception”?”< "The overwhelming majority of abortions do not relate to incest or rape. Nor do they relate to the “health of the mother” in any real physical sense. What is left that is not elective, ex post facto contraception?"

    Now you’ve gone and lost me completely. The one imagines that abortion is a form of contraception. Are you agreeing with this idiocy? What the fuck is “ex post facto contraception?” Either a woman conceives or she doesn’t. If she does, contraception can’t take place, not unless you’ve a time machine handy.

  • Pete Baker

    It does emphasise your original point, Rubicon.

    But, if you don’t mind, I’ll pick that point to be this advice to commenters

    “Take a step back and think of the issue..”

    ..rather than jump up upon the nearest hobby-horse, that is. And, yes, I’m looking at you Dawkins.

    To repeat a point which you failed to catch up with

    And if I can just make a general point to commenters.. could we try to keep to the actual topic? AI’s policy was dealt with in a previous post – linked above.

  • gram

    >And do you honestly think that opening a “Planned Parenthood” clinic in the refugee camps is going to help the scenario?< Dread as you pointed out earlier it's not good manners to respond to a question with another question? Can you please answer? What are the women of Darfur supposed to do? Lie back and take it? Regarding your repeated use of the word triage, obviously a term you've recently come across and are keen to use at every opportunity, one would have thought that a pregnancy brought about by rape would have been the problem that had to be sorted out first. Thanks for the hypocrisy definition. I would have thought a church that preaches about the sanctity of the human body would find abortion and paedophilia equally distasteful. Obviously not. I call that hipocrisy.

  • Garibaldy

    Dawkins,

    I was suggesting that Amnesty often has its priorities all wrong, the Kosovo case being the best example. There were people being killed in large numbers by the dominant power in the world and its allies, and huge numbers of refugees being created by the bombing, and Amnesty ignored this. Wife beating in Russia is a violation of rights, but I suggest that it was not the most important one at the time.

    As I see it, Amnesty buys constantly into the dominant neo-liberal vision of politics; a vision that all but ignores social rights. This is a highly circumscribed vision that ignores many of the most crucial violations of human rights as defined in the UN Declaration. People are encouraged to see Amnesty as the NGO equivalent of Mother Theresea, and so in supporting it they neglect to think beyond, to the social elements of rights.

    I won’t be joining Amnesty as it quite often acts as a prop to neo-liberal, neo-colonial policies and actions. I’d rather solve the problem of human rights by addressing the system that deprives billions of the full range of their rights.

  • Dawkins

    Garibaldy,

    I respectfully suggest you visit an Amnesty site. Seems to me you’re a little unclear about the true extent of their work.

    And you should also know they’re apolitical. They have to be, so they can agitate against rightwing and leftwing abuses. If you or any other critic have a better idea about how to tackle human rights abuses, please don’t keep it to yourself.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Dawkins: “And you should also know they’re apolitical. They have to be, so they can agitate against rightwing and leftwing abuses. If you or any other critic have a better idea about how to tackle human rights abuses, please don’t keep it to yourself. ”

    And if you believe *THAT*, I have a collection of rolex watches, slightly irregular, to sell you.

    Dawkins: “Now you’ve gone and lost me completely. The one imagines that abortion is a form of contraception. Are you agreeing with this idiocy? What the fuck is “ex post facto contraception?” Either a woman conceives or she doesn’t. If she does, contraception can’t take place, not unless you’ve a time machine handy. ”

    ex post facto = after the fact.

    Gram: “Dread as you pointed out earlier it’s not good manners to respond to a question with another question?”

    Ah, but courtesy is a two way street. You have set the mark, I merely meet the standard you set.

    Gram: “Regarding your repeated use of the word triage, obviously a term you’ve recently come across and are keen to use at every opportunity, one would have thought that a pregnancy brought about by rape would have been the problem that had to be sorted out first. ”

    Hardly. The central problem are the janjaweed. The rapes are simply a symptom of the disease. The more resources you waste accomdating the symptoms with palliative responses, the less resources are available for dealing with the disease.

    Likewise, your response, as noted elsewhere, is not going to be embraced by the culture you seek to provide it to. You may worry about raising social consciousness, but the Darfarian are far more concerned by the butchers on horseback.

  • Dawkins

    Dread Cthulhu,

    “And if you believe *THAT* [Amnesty are apolitical], I have a collection of rolex watches, slightly irregular, to sell you.”

    Believe what you wish. But when I see criticism of Amnesty coming from all political positions it suggests to me they don’t play favourites. This is good to know when you have to choose the regime that imprisons you unjustly.

    “ex post facto = after the fact.”

    Thanks for the Latin lesson. But it’s still nonsense to say that abortion is ex post facto contraception since that which one sought to prevent clearly has already taken place, hence the abortion. (This is also why it’s unusually difficult to make an omelette without first breaking eggs.)

    You’re probably confusing “contraception” with “birth control”, a somewhat different concept.

  • Harry Flashman

    As the great Gay Byrne used to say; “Folks, ya join the army ya wear the boots!”

    You want to partake in the excellent education provided by a Catholic grammar school? Fine, please join us, but be warned we are a Catholic institution and all members will be expected to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church as outlined by the Pope. If you feel you cannot comply with these rules then please feel free to join any of the other very many non-denomination, state or integrated schools which will be very happy to provide a non-Catholic education for you, otherwise get with the programe.

    The public funding element is a red herring, the government sees fit to help Catholic schools on the the clear understanding that Catholic teaching will be provided. Should the government decide in its wisdom to withdraw its funding then so be it, the Catholic church will still continue to promote Catholic teaching as it sees fit.

    It’s not really complicated you know.

    As an aside and somewhat relevant to the Catholic church and education can we be a bit clear about who the greatest offenders in paedophilia have been in the past decades, in statistical terms teachers far outweigh Catholic priests as sexual predators of children. For all of those who attack the Church for its failings with regard to this issue it is worth bearing in mind that those bastions of left wing ideology, the teachers’ unions, always protected, assisted and defended members who were accused of sexual abuse of children and unlike the Catholic church they still do.

  • abucs

    Yes, i think teachers are the largest offenders after farmers. That of course it not to deny the overwhelming number of both that are respectable contributing members to society, and do a lot of good and should of course be respected and thanked.
    But then that might be an all too obvious comment to make.

    Lets admit the obvious, there are lots of people here on slugger who don’t like the Catholic Church and will attack it any chance they get.

    That includes when it advises one of it’s own schools on the inappropriateness of a small group who now fall under an organisation that espouses a policy, of what it would call, murder.

    Of course if you really do agree with widespread abortion, or the more limited numbers in places like Dafur, you could make your case to the local Catholic Bishop.
    If you don’t like the church then you can work with Amnesty to lobby the church.

    Or you can instead, repeat your own bigoted comments yet again under the latest flag of the church commenting that such a group is “inappropriate” (shock horror) within the Catholic schools system.

    Pretty sad people.

  • lamh dearg

    It is short sighted of the church and is indeed redolent of the church of the 1950s, the church that was afraid of and stifled debate, the church that ultimately drove many of its members away and now seems intent in alienating a fresh generation of young minds with whom it should be engaging.

    We all make compromises in life, we vote for political parties some of whose policies we support, we work with people for shared aims but disagree with them on other things.

    The church is entitled to its view on abortion, Amnesty is entitled to its view, they both share enough other values and concerns to merit continued working together for these other important aims, and the young pupils of Northern Ireland deserve the chance to work for Social Justice and to debate both the “easy” shared aims and the controversial ones with their peers, their teachers and with Amnesty.

    When the church adopts this tone it makes itself seem dictatorial, proud and yet afraid to debate or justify its position and it ultimately suffers.

  • Splurge

    Can we get real about the notion of “stifling debate”. If the Church tried to ban a debate in a school, that would be stifling debate (and might still be justified cos to debate an issue suggests doubt and there is no doubt on the Catholic position on abortion). Forming a student Amnesty International group in a Catholic school isn’t a debate, it’s an institutional action. I was a member of Amnesty for years and I stuck with it even when I disagreed with some of its actions (like its then neutral stance on abortion and its increasingly anti-American stance and its general failure to address Islamic dictatorships and persecution of Christians) but campaigning for decriminalisation of abortion is a bridge to far. It may have started with Darfur and rape, but its policy is now for complete decriminalisation and that means AI thinks the Republic and Northern Ireland are in breach of international human rights law. It is impossible for the Catholic Church to be a partner or to continue to allow its facilities to be used by AI. The only scandal at the moment is the delay by the Irish Bishops in giving proper guidance on this matter.

  • gram

    >Lets admit the obvious, there are lots of people here on slugger who don’t like the Catholic Church and will attack it any chance they get.< < It's important to expose hipocrisy where it exists. >>You want to partake in the excellent education provided by a Catholic grammar school? Fine, please join us, but be warned we are a Catholic institution and all members will be expected to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church as outlined by the Pope. << Wrong. Catholic Schools teach about contraception. Is that not against the teachings of the Pope? They are also pretty quiet on the subject of creation. I remember getting lesson in Darwinism. They are also expected to encourage independent thought. This policy attempts to curb these freedoms.

  • Splurge

    Gram, please pass on the names of these supposed Catholic schools that are teaching about contraception, unless of course when you say “teaching about contraception” you mean teaching why it is wrong.

    We really need to root these teachers out of Catholic schools.

  • gram

    Gram, please pass on the names of these supposed Catholic schools that are teaching about contraception, unless of course when you say “teaching about contraception” you mean teaching why it is wrong.<< I think you'll find all Catholic Grammer schools now teach on the subject of contraception. Would you prefer that not to be the case?

  • kensei

    “Wrong. Catholic Schools teach about contraception. Is that not against the teachings of the Pope? They are also pretty quiet on the subject of creation. I remember getting lesson in Darwinism. They are also expected to encourage independent thought. This policy attempts to curb these freedoms.”

    Never had to go through any “How to use contraception” classes at a Catholic Grammar. Did debate with a priest why Church policy was stupid, though.

    Also, Darwinism is not incompatible with Catholicism. You merely have to believe that God had a hand in guiding the process.

  • Dawkins

    Gram,

    I believe you’re right about the teaching of contraception. My Catholic teacher friends certainly do.

    What I sometimes wonder is: with all this information that their mothers never had access to, how come so many schoolgirls are getting pregnant? Maybe they share Splurge’s abhorrence of contraception.

  • gram

    Never had to go through any “How to use contraception” classes at a Catholic Grammar. Did debate with a priest why Church policy was stupid, though.<< Maybe you were sick that day. I had teaching on contraception. Post 20 confirms it takes place. Are we now agreed that the church are a bunch of hipocrites?

  • bollix

    Just wanted to challenge a point made earlier which makes such a sweeping generalisation that it can only incite religious ill-feeling.

    Dread cthulu said:
    “Rape, under the Islamic beliefs, is a right of a conqueorer, which given the women-folk of the conquored to the victors”

    No doubt you could find one crazy muslim who says this in the same way you could find one crazy christian who tortures children to chastise them.
    However, it is disingenuous in the extreme to characterise “rape is fine” as an islamic belief.

  • Splurge

    I think this merely confirms that Catholic schools have been infiltrated by by dissenting liberals. it doesn’t make the Church hypocritical, just weak at managing its own schools.

    As to why so many get pregnant – because they are told about contraception and that’s its okay to have sex before you’re married but because they’re only kids they remember part of the message, the having sex part. It’s like teaching joyriders to wear seat belts when they steal cars.

  • abucs

    “….. can we all agree the church is a bunch of hypocrites”.

    Not more than any other large organisation gram.

    Unfortunately it appears to be human nature.
    One of the powers of the church is that it is always a call to be non hypocritical.
    The being and the call are two different things.
    The call shouldn’t be discarded because the being is not always perfect.

    In fact they should intensify their call. In the same way that secular school teachers are one of the biggest perpetrators of sex crimes on the young, that doesn’t mean secular education should stop teaching sex education. Perhaps they have a moral responsibility to do more ?

    To change the topic a bit Dawkins (although you didn’t actually say it) i would say that the church is not so much abhorring contraception but calling people to treat eachother on a spiritual level, rather than on a material level for something so special and important as human relationships.

    Of course sexual relationships and families are an important part of societies. If it goes wrong on a massive scale you are talking about lots of sad lonely and bitter people, massive welfare intervention and argueably an increase in a more disfunctional (on average) next generation.

    The church also thinks it is bad for society for members to be under the delusion that they can treat eachother as objects of matter rather than spiritual beings.

    Of course you can argue there is no such thing as spirit, or alternatively you can argue that contraception doesn’t stop people from treating eachother well spiritually as the main focus of relationships.

    The churches teaching on contraception is simply that, in the end, it promotes a dangerous way of looking at our relationships, is bad for society and creates a society that makes it more difficult for people to experience the fullness of a loving, trusting and respectful marriage of two people.

    You can of course disagree with some or all of that, but they are free to make that case.
    The thinking behind it is not so simple as a quick soundbite of ‘abhorance to contraception’.

    As i mentioned above, i realise you didn’t actually accuse the church of that specifically.

  • Jon

    Just on a technical point on the first post – I’m not sure a school can be both a voluntary grammar AND in the Catholic Maintained sector, as stated – it’s one or the other.

    It’s a voluntary grammar school or it isn’t?

  • Barry Gilheany

    Regarding the Catholic Church’s threat to close down Amnesty support groups in its schools, why should these schools continue to be the recipient of public funding? Imagine the outcry if a state-supported Muslem school in Bradford or Luton was found to be encouraging violence against or ostracisation of the Kuffar (i.e. non-believer). Parent governors of these schools should resist the Bishops in this matter.

    Barry Gilheany

  • lamh dearg

    C’mon Barry, hardly the same thing

    “Imagine the outcry if a state-supported Muslem school in Bradford or Luton was found to be encouraging violence against or ostracisation of the Kuffar (i.e. non-believer)”
    not supporting a branch of an organization within a school and encouraging violence.

    But if the church persists in this form of extremism it will drive people away and end up as an extremist runt of what it could be.

    The church has always compromised, and yes catholic primary and secondary schools do have sex education, taught within the catholic ethos but at secondary level, covering the practicalities of contraception. The governors and the teachers knew that it was essential and the bishops either agreed or just chose not to object.

    This would appear to be another example of the legacy of JP2 and Benedict, the swing back to an older, less engaged more dogmatic and conservative church regardless of what its members (who are the church) think or do. A reaction to “a la carte catholicism”, I suppose.

    This will drive people away and if pursued could lead to legitimate questionning of state funding, but not on the basis of this sad little piece of petulance.

  • sean

    Amnesty International , is not the totally saintly impartial body it likes to portray itself as. Like any group or body of people it, has members who are of different political persuasion, from the extreme right wing, to the extreme left , all working quietly in the background to promote their agenda. Whilst some will highlight and give prominence to alleged human right abuses in China, or Cuba or other out of favour nation of the West, and ignore the same alleged violations in western states and their puppet states. There is now doubt that a groups like Amnesty with it huge media profile and influence has not been infiltrated at various levels, by the various western intelligence agencies, CIA, MI5, etc, and use it when it can to promote their agenda. We must not get carried away by what Amnesty think about this or that issue and always look at the bigger picture of who or what in Amnesty is really behind the various campaigns and agendas of this diverse body.