Religion news 28 September

Image credit: Diocese of Bath and Wells

Supreme Court nominee’s conservative Catholic beliefs “threaten abortion rights

President Donald Trump has nominated the conservative Catholic Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and immediately inflamed America’s bitter division over abortion and health care.  One day after her nomination, Trump said it was certainly possible that she would be involved in a ruling revisiting the landmark 1973 “Roe v Wade” decision that legalised abortion. Joe Biden warned that her appointment risks the end of Obamacare and appealed for the appointments process to be delayed.  Amy Coney Barrett is a staunch Roman Catholic and a member of the charismatic group “People of Praise”, which believes that husbands should have authority over their wives and named female leaders of women as “handmaidens”. In her nomination speech she said: “Judges are not policymakers and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold”.  Explainer, comment and contacts here.


In the UK, Christian Concern fails in bid to outlaw emergency laws allowing abortion at home

The conservative Christian Concern group has lost a legal challenge over changes to abortion regulations introduced by the government during the coronavirus pandemic. It objected to a measure which means women can self-administer medical abortions at home following a phone or video consultation with a doctor. It said DIY abortions are harmful to women and feared the measure would become permanent. But the Court of Appeal ruled that the decision was made in a public health emergency to address a specific and acute medical need. Christian Concern will take the case to the Supreme Court.

Vaccines using cells from foetuses a matter of conscience

The Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has published guidance on the use of Covid-19 vaccines which contain cells from foetuses. It concludes that if a vaccine cannot be sourced from ethically responsible means, “the Church recognises that there may be ‘grave reasons’ for using a vaccine which is developed from cell-lines associated with the unethical exploitation of the human remains of an aborted child in the past”. The document weighs moral principles involved and acknowledges many will accept the vaccine in good conscience, while others will not.

Cof E support scheme for survivors of sexual abuse

The Church of England is setting up a support scheme for survivors of sexual abuse and is pursuing a new independent structure for dealing with safeguarding issues. Its executive group, the Archbishops’ Council, decided to offer immediate practical support to survivors who have come forward, especially those who have been in distress because of the church’s response.  The Council also committed to “urgently pursue the principle of independent safeguarding recognising the need for greater independence and transparency of safeguarding”. 

Senior Vatican Cardinal resigns over luxury apartment deal

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, a senior official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, has resigned after involvement in a controversial deal to buy a luxury London property with church funds.  The £155m apartment block in Sloane Avenue, London, was bought as an investment but the source of the money was offshore funds and companies.

Yom Kippur services go online

Jewish communities have been observing Yom Kippur amidst the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus. Usually, synagogues are full for this important festival and there are large social gatherings. But this year, worship and community gatherings went online. Radlett Reform Synagogue in Hertfordshire live streamed its services including Kol Nidrei at sunset on the evening of Yom Kippur. The rabbi and cantor in the synagogue were filmed opening the ark, removing the scrolls and standing with the cantor as she sang the ancient declaration, absolving all vows made under duress in the previous year.  

Sikhs and Hindus flight from Afghanistan accelerates

The Associated Press is reporting on the continuing decline  of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan, whose numbers have dropped from 250,000 to 700. Reporter, Tameem Akhgar, spoke to individuals who had left with their families to escape the violence, hearing stories of family members killed, homes seized by war lords and businesses and places of worship illegally seized in attacks that go back decades. One said it was hard to leave their birthplace but they had no other option. Canadian politicians have asked the government to bring Afghan Sikh and Hindu refugees to safety.  

The ‘Badass’ squad of seventeen clergy

And finally .. the diocese of Bath and Wells has ordained 17 people as deacons this weekend. Due to the coronavirus, there were four separate services, but they were pictured together in front of Wells Cathedral, led by the Bishop of Bath and Wells Peter Hancock. The staged shot, with shades, masks and grid formation went viral. “Looks like a badass church squad”, “the final stage of Street Fighter II”.