Today we publish a review of the issues by Fr Sylvester Mann who is a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Due to the importance of the issues raised the article is reprinted here in full.
Is CURA Really a Positive Option for Catholics?
Interview by: GARETH PEOPLES
Commentary by: FR SYLVESTER MARY MANN, C.F.R.
In 1977, CURA was founded by the Catholic Church in Ireland to offer pro life crisis pregnancy counselling services. In recent years, however, CURA has become involved with the government sponsored Positive Options campaign whose sponsors have doled out millions of euro to CURA. This raises an uneasy question:
Does CURA’s close affiliation with Positive Options in any way compromise CURA’s presumably Catholic mission?
The CURA Controversey
One of the stated goals of the Positive Options campaign is to reduce the number of women who travel out of state to procure an abortion. Ironically, however, the pro abortion HSE, under the auspices of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA) runs the campaign which, despite its deceptive claims, actually facilitates abortions.
CURA, however, defends its decision to join the Positive Options coalition on the grounds that the Positive Options brochure helps people to find out about CURA. CURA is also clearly identified as not giving referrals for abortion. Certainly, the funding does not hurt.
But the CURA-Positive Options alliance has not been without difficulty. Readers may recall the controversy surrounding the dismissal of ‘the Letterkenny four.’ These four CURA volunteers had been let go by CURA for their refusal to distribute Positive Options brochures which lists CURA and all the other government approved crisis pregnancy services, most of who refer for abortions. Although the four were later reinstated, the controversy certainly highlights the conflict in interests which has emerged.
CURA’s Recent Conference
CURA recently hosted a conference in Athlone from 26th – 27th of March. The purpose of the conference was to train its more than 160 delegates in two main areas: adoption and counselling men. Catholic Voice correspondent, Gareth Peoples, spoke with keynote speaker Mr Fergus Hogan. CURA’s Press Representative, Charlotte Kerry, was also interviewed. The responses to Mr Peoples’ questions raise some inconvenient questions concerning CURA’s ability to balance Catholicism and professionalism as will become self-evident.
Ms Kerry said that men, feeling excluded from the woman’s decision, are coming to them in increasing numbers. ‘They often say that I want to be part of this, but everyone is angry and no one is listening to me.’
Mr Hogan, from the Centre for Social and Family Research and who said that he works closely with CURA, continued saying: ‘Often it was much later in the pregnancy decision or sometimes after an abortion that men started to feel inside new feelings about loss or grief. . . .Through services like CURA, we find that men are capable of caring, loving, nurturing, of being kind to families, and that’s the message we want to get out there.’
Troubling Issues within CURA
Whilst Ms Kerry’s and Mr Hogan’s initial observations are well taken, their further input raises serious issues concerning how CURA counsellors are being trained. Mr Hogan stated that, ‘What we’ve found in our research is that sexuality has changed for Irish men. It seems we’re having sex younger and younger. We’re having sex more often, and we have more regular partners. One of the pieces in the research was how can men act responsibly? How can they be in good, healthy relationships, but also how can they act procreatively responsibly around contraception?’
Mr Hogan believes that parents must talk more openly about sex with their teenage boys so that fathering a child becomes ‘a positive achievement, something you can choose to do.’ He added, ‘Now we [parents] won’t always do that. Many of us can’t and don’t and life is messy. But to change the conversation away from the type of a deficit around a crisis and a problem. And it often is a crisis, but to help young guys realise that “every sperm is sacred.”’ (Note: Hogan’s terminology hearkens back to Monty Python’s film The Meaning of Life which mocked the Church’s teaching against contraception. Pro abortion people and Richard Dawkins also use the term to mock the Church.) ‘The possibilities and responsibilities go right back to sex education, sex and sexuality, and I think we have had a problem where we’ve simply had to close up and say “That’s only for marriage, that only happens within marriages.” That’s not the way of the world now, whatever our morality around that.’
Ms Kerry stated that CURA has the support of the Catholic Bishops and ‘works with a Catholic ethos, but we are professional and non-judgemental,’ adding, ‘We live in a very real world.’ She also said that, ‘We talk about and listen to any option that comes up in counselling, and that could be abortion, adoption—which we are looking at today as part of the Positive Options campaign. For someone to make an informed decision, they have to be able to talk through all the options available to them, and then begin to untangle them.’ In the case of abortion, Ms Kerry said, ‘We aren’t going to tell her what to do. We work within her boundaries, that’s a given. Very often we have no idea what decision she makes. . . .ultimately, the decision is her decision, and we would respect that decision.’
When asked if CURA is equally concerned for the woman and her baby, Ms Kerry said that, ‘The needs of the woman always come first because the woman is the person who has come to us with the crisis pregnancy.’
Morally Relativistic Counselling Techniques
It is worth noting that CURA uses the counselling technique developed by Carl Rogers, the so-called non-judgemental, non-directive and client centred model. This is the same technique used by pro abortion pregnancy counselling services precisely because it holds all options as morally neutral and therefore as legitimate choices. In being non-directive, it is the client who ultimately determines what is right or wrong. Not only is this inconsistent with Catholic moral theology, it is also arguably in opposition to the pro life Irish Constitution and to the Regulation of Information Act of 1995 which specifically directs that abortion-minded women be given pro life information. Judge Girvan in Northern Ireland also questioned its legality in his decision against the medical guidelines being imposed in the North.
At the same time, Ms Kerry said that being non-judgemental means that God and religion are not mentioned unless the person brings is up. She said, ‘CURA is a professional counselling organization and has to respect the diversity in modern Ireland.’
Might one not expect—on the contrary—that CURA as a Catholic counselling organization might respect the integrity of Catholic teaching which applies always and everwhere?
The fundamental problem is that CURA has agreed not to direct an abortion-minded woman away from abortion as if such information somehow robs her of her free will. No one can rightly use force to impose a choice on another. That is typical pro abortion rhetoric. At the same time, ‘we are our sister’s keeper.’ When human lives—and souls—are at stake, one cannot escape the question: Is the HSE not paying CURA to remain silent in individual cases that come before their counsellors?
Sadly, CURA has seemingly accepted the notion that being professional and being Catholic is a dichotomy, as if one cannot possibly be both. I am reminded of the great Saint, Thomas More who declared, ‘I am the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first.’ He later laid down his life thus proving his allegiance to God.
The ‘White Elephant in the Room’
Gareth People’s troubling and telling interview is nevertheless timely in Ireland. The new ecclesial buzz words, in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s Pastoral Letter to the Church in Ireland are reform and renewal. Catholic institutions are no less needful.
No doubt the faithful who serve in CURA are good, well-meaning people. Having met a few myself, I know that to be the case. No doubt people have been helped and babies have been saved. The point, here, is not condemnation but deeper conversion. More good can be done by relying on the wisdom of God. ‘It is better for us to trust God than men.’
It is clear that Catholic institutions must ‘Render what is Caesar’s unto Caesar and to God what is God’s.’ Martyrs like Saint Thomas More remind us of what really matters, to be faithful not counting the cost. Jesus also exhorts the faithful to ‘cut off whatever causes one to sin.’ Might this not include tax exemptions and subsidies???
If we have learned nothing else from the scandals, we have learned that silence is not golden. ‘Let those who have eyes to see’ what is going on in ‘Catholic’ institutions have mouths to speak lest the proverbial ‘white elephant’ die whilst people continue to manoeuvre around it, and soon we will be unable to bear its foul stench. At the same time, ‘let those who have ears to hear, hear’ the prophetic call to reform and renewal.
Those who carry the burden of leadership in Catholic institutions, both clergy and laity, have a grave responsibility to ensure that not only the highest standards of professional services are offered, but that Catholicism is not martyred on the altar of professionalism. Let those who think this is all a bit too extreme, it was Jesus who said, ‘No one can follow me unless he takes up his cross.’ Yet is not the cross, but the Resurrection that has the final say!