Saturday, 31 March 2012

Running for Mary’s Meals!

Tomorrow, Sunday 1st of April, Ed West will run a half-marathon in Paddock Wood, Kent – to raise funds for Mary’s Meals.  Mary’s Meals was founded by Scottish Catholics during the Bosnia conflict, but now works mainly in Southern and Eastern Africa, providing meals and schooling to children. 

One of their finest hours was recently during the East Africa crisis.
If you would like to contribute to Ed’s fundraising for Mary’s Meals, then you may do so at this Just Giving page.
Any amount, no matter how tiny, is appreciated and will help fill the bowls of African children.
Ed is the features editor of The Catholic Herald.  Until recently, Ed was a heavy smoker, but has been training hard for the marathon.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Your life might be saved by a Catholic doctor

Trust in doctors has been shaken recently because of a sting operation by the Daily Telegraph. Recorded footage shows doctors who were willing to hastily sign abortion papers for pregnant women who wanted abortions because the baby was a girl. 
The general public is starting to ask if these are just isolated examples or if this has become the norm. The investigation also throws into sharp relief the modern clinical setting where many Catholic medical professionals train and work. Do Catholic med students have to compromise their ethics and perhaps even absorb the culture of arranging illicit abortions?
Over the past few months, I have interviewed Catholic med students and newly qualified doctors about their non-academic trials.
Richard is in his 30s and is a final-year med student at University College London.
He says that he benefitted from going into medicine a little later than teenagers and twenty-somethings: “I was more mature in my faith, had a better understanding of the Church’s teachings and have been better able to hold my ground.
“My experience is that med school is designed to scotch opposition to abortion and conscientious objection. As students we were given a lot of misinformation. We were instructed that if we didn’t want to be involved in an abortion that we ‘must’ refer a woman. The 1967 Abortion Act does not state that doctors ‘must’ refer, and neither does the General Medical Council. But we should tell a patient looking for an abortion that they are entitled to a second opinion. My professors have always referred to ‘a woman’s right to choose’.  During one tutorial a consultant gynaecologist talked about the bad times “when you couldn’t get an abortion for a pregnant girl who was in a dreadful situation” and then the consultant  joyously exclaimed: “Isn’t it wonderful that women now have the right to do with their bodies what they wish... isn’t that wonderful?”
Catholic med-students doing medical research can also find themselves in tight spots. Francesca took a year out of her medical degree at York, to do research at Manchester University, where she was studying heart failure by testing adult human tissue. A predicament arose when on two occasions; she was presented with foetal tissue to test which made her feel “very intimidated”.
She said: “Using the human life that had been destroyed as a means to an end was a repulsive idea. To work so closely with aborted tissue could also create scandal. We owe it to our patients and colleagues to be as straightforward as possible about our ethical stance. However, some argue that you could justify using foetal tissue taken from an aborted baby, because you haven’t done anything to cause the death of the body from which the tissue was taken.
“But before the abortions, women are asked if they would like their aborted foetus to be used for medical research. The women are glad that ‘some good can come of this dreadful situation.’ So, if you agree to testing aborted foetal tissue, you can be indirectly sanctioning the procedure by which you got the foetal tissue.”
On both occasions, Francesca explained to her professors that she would not test the foetal tissue. She said that she wasn’t happy about the process where the tissue had been gathered.
“They were very respectful of my decision. But it can be hard because you know that if you did test the foetal tissue, then you could get more research done, more papers written, and get on more easily with your colleagues.”
Andrew is 25 and a newly qualified doctor. He attended Barts and believes that “medicine is a vocation first and foremost; you are there to serve and grave responsibilities come with the job”. One challenge that he faced was that he was called “an extremist because I don’t agree with abortion in the case of rape or with emergency contraception or IVF”. Nonetheless, he earned the respect of senior doctors when he reminded them: “Pregnant women are not presented with all the options that would help them keep the pregnancy. And there is not nearly enough coordination between the medical profession and groups like Life Pregnancy Care. If there was, we would see a drop in the number of abortions carried out.”
During his time at med school Andrew was told that it was illegal to send a woman for an abortion for reasons of gender or race. But Andrew suggests that there is a lack of clarity in the way med students are taught to find reasons for abortions, because “as medical students we were taught that abortions must be always allowed for unwanted pregnancies”.  Do not “unwanted” baby girls fall into this category?
But Andrew thinks that doctors who arrange terminations for baby girls are “especially dishonourable, they are complicit in direct eugenics”. He found his obstetrics and gynaecology placement “the absolute hardest time” and when I ask him if he would become an obstetrician he says “no way”. Andrew is more interested in other specialities, but concedes that “obstetrics is a minefield for a Catholic”. 

It’s not an accident that there was a spectacular decline in the number of Catholic obstetricians following the 1967 Abortion Act. Catholic obstetricians and gynaecologists are now a rare breed. Their absence poses problems for ordinary Catholic women who want to be treated by doctors who understand the decisions that they make about women’s health and childbirth. It also means that our faith, which has a very strong voice on the sanctity of life and the dignity of each human person, is not being heard in a vital area of medicine. But the question in 2012 is: do the moral dilemmas continue to deter Catholic med students from becoming obstetricians?

Richard would “think strongly about becoming an obstetrician” but won’t because “it’s effectively closed to Catholics. I’m already nervous when I have to see a female patient of child-bearing age. I couldn’t take this 30 times a day. For I thought of becoming an obstetrician, but now it has to be bottom of the list.”

It is forbidden, by law, to discriminate against a student who wishes to specialise in an area of medicine on the basis of their religion. But it is not illegal to discriminate against someone because of their pro-life stance. One obstetrician told Richard that pressure was put on junior doctors to participate in abortion “with the implicit understanding that participate or you won’t be progressing”. In the February edition of the Catholic Medical Quarterly an article mentions that one trainee doctor in obstetrics and gynaecology was denied a post because of her refusal to do abortions.
Richard met intolerance from some of his peers for people with religious views. A former friend said that she thought people with strong religious views should be banned from becoming doctors. Richard responded: “Would you prevent people of talent from coming into medicine – to help save lives – because your secular views are at odds with their religious ones?” This silenced her, but the friendship soured.
Richard’s experience highlights a shared theme for all the med students that I spoke to. They pointed out that their fellow med students found it strange that someone would be religious and faithful to teachings such as not having sex before marriage.
Francesca notes: “It’s always best to be very courteous. No one has ever been rude to me about my views, but it’s important to have an answer ready. When I’m explaining why I don’t agree with sex before marriage, I point out that young people can be used for sexual pleasure as opposed to being valued for themselves.”
 While there are unexpected challenges, the majority of the medics that I interviewed would wholeheartedly encourage other Catholics to become healthcare professionals. Richard says: “We need as many staunch Catholics as we can get! We need less of a heartless and cold approach to illness, and far more genuine compassion and a love of humanity shown by clinicians. True Catholics will be prepared to go the extra mile for their patients, and not see patients as a ‘case’, but as a human person behind the hospital lists.”
Francesca points out that a lot of debate focuses on the friction between Catholic teaching and modern obstetrics, but says: “You have to make many sacrifices to be compassionate and diligent. It’s all very well standing up as the Catholic doctor who doesn’t prescribe contraception, but you have to develop the virtue of charity and perseverance to get mundane things done.”
Richard corroborates Francesca’s point about diligence: “It’s hard work. But the reality of being a Catholic doctor is never as bad as you fear it will be. It’s also an honour that patients tell you stories from their lives that no one else knows.”

Richard has a heart-warming example of how one Catholic on the wards might prevent someone’s early death. On a ward round, Richard met an elderly male patient who had been put on the Liverpool Care Pathway, which is described by its supporters as “slowly withdrawing life-prolonging treatment at the very end of life, to allow the patient to die with dignity”.  But in hard clinical terms, it involves having food and fluids withdrawn. Richard noticed that this 98-year-old patient’s blood results were improving and he suggested that the old man be taken off the Pathway. The consultant gave this some thought, and the man was taken off. The elderly man continued to improve and in days was stretching out his hand for a drink of water…

I wrote this for the 30th March Catholic Herald

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Kate Middleton shone wearing a gold Cartier shamrock

On St Patrick’s Day, Kate Middleton carried out her first unaccompanied military engagement when she visited the Irish guards on St Patrick’s Day. She gave sprays of shamrocks to the guards and even placed a shamrock on the collar of the Regimental mascot, an Irish wolfhound called, ‘Clonmell’*.  

Her coat-dress was a deep mossy green that was cinched in at the waist with a black patent belt. The outfit was topped off by a dark brown pillbox hat. The only glimmering object of adornment was the gold shamrock. Courtesy of Hello, I learned that her gold shamrock is from Cartier. In the same way jewellers place gold jewellery on black velvet so that they stand out, so too did Kate’s dark colour scheme of green and brown allow the shamrock to glimmer.  Kate’s outfit performed two functions simultaneously; it allowed the chief symbol of the day to take centre stage and it made her look like a sophisticated, in-control modern royal. 
 I’ve read that three of the guards fainted when she was there.
St Patrick’s Day glamour is very hard to achieve: green suits few people and jewellery inspired by the shamrock can look mawkish and even frivolous, such as earrings and necklaces that have shamrocks hanging off them.
There’s never anything vulgar in the way Kate dresses and she is fast becoming both a fashion icon and an ambassador for good taste.
My one fear for Kate would be that she does appear to be getting even thinner. Her pre-wedding slim-down meant she got a tiny Scarlet-O’Hara-like-waist, but it wasn’t as kind to her face and neck. Perhaps Barbara Cartland was right when she said that woman must choose between ‘figure or face’.
*Clonmel is a town in Tipperary, and the origin of the town’s name means ‘vale of honey.’

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Celtic Tiger may be dead, but the cubs roam the world, and will leave a very different legacy to the older generations of Irish

I left Ireland nearly three years ago and settled in central London, where I’m surrounded by familiar Irish faces, some who grew up with me in Cork. Young people are once again Ireland’s biggest export. Australia and Canada are the top destinations. But England, Ireland’s nearest neighbour and one-time-foe, is getting its share of Irish immigrants. In 2011, there was a fifty-six percent rise in the number of Irish people seeking UK national insurance numbers. Queuing up in Camden town for an insurance number is worth it; the number allows you to draw an income and be part of the tax system.

The Celtic Tiger breed isn’t extinct – it’s just moved to places like Sydney and Notting Hill. Here in London, the young Celtic Tiger cubs work in English banks, in financial services, in PR and in law practices.  They are Coco Chanel perfumed, well-heeled twenty-somethings who go to the same nightclubs in Marble Arch that Prince Harry frequents. They shop for rings in Harrods and buy shirts in Harvey Nichols and drink champagne at lunch time. Did the Irish ever dream that they would send overseas such sophisticated young people, sometimes characterised by arrogance, but who have, in a short time, reached a high place in English society?

People remark to me that they can’t understand why the ‘new’ Irish coming to London are getting such good jobs so quickly. But the ‘new’ Irish have an advantage: their education is often superior. There are great failings in the British education system where so many leave school without being able to read or write. In 2012, the Irish lads and lassies coming to London have a ‘traditional’ education, but one that equips them for the demands of the work place. The youngest Celtic Tiger cubs working in London’s financial district are reminded by their bosses that their education gives them an advantage. One young Irish banker that I know was told by his boss that it was great he could spell and write letters to the bank’s customers.
The majority of ‘new Irish’ remark that few of their co-workers know what an apostrophe is for. This is a typical conversation;
Colleague at work: You have a mark in your name.
Mark O’Connor: What mark?
Colleague:  The small thing between the O and the C.
Mark O’Connor: The apostrophe?
Colleague: Is it an Irish thing? We don’t have apostrophes in English.
Mark O’Connor: I think apostrophes are part of the English language.
Colleague: Are you sure?  

The well-educated, glossy, Jimmy Choo heeled young Irish are melting very easily into London society. The new Irish snobbishly dismiss the old Irish as peasants.  

But it may surprise them that the older generation of ‘poor’ Irish made a bigger mark on British society than they realize. They had to work, amid a lot of racism, and had a slower climb up the social ladder, but they showed the way for this current generation. Or should I write, they paved the way by every pavestone they laid?

I don’t deny that there are still signs of anti-Irishness. Once someone tried to taunt me with the line, "the irish gave everyone else the faith and kept none for themselves." 

The difference for an Irish professional in 2012 is that anti-Irishness need not stand in our way. The Irish labourers working on building sites in the 50s had to pass offices and boarding houses where the sign, ‘no dogs, no blacks and no Irish’ was posted. Brick by brick, these men from working class areas such as Mayfield in Cork, constructed and built London’s edifices and The Tube. 

It took decades but they proved that the racist stereotypes about Irish people being like apes and monkeys were untrue. Over time, Irish-natives accounted for a third of the British civil service. They also built Catholic communities and shamelessly sought converts to the faith. The Legion of Mary was founded in Dublin, but was brought to London and the world by Irish immigrants.
In contrast, modern Irish immigrants feel that they are independent of the Catholic Church. They need not gather together in church halls to make friends or to feel at home. The nurses who came from Tipperary to London in the 1950s had rosary beads and holy water in their handbags. In 2012, a young Irish asset manager will have a scarf from Harrods and a joint. The new Irish view the Church with poisoned eyes. Invariably, they know of someone from their home county who was a victim of clerical abuse. Many of them argue that they have abandoned Catholicism because they would feel ‘complicit’ in the sex scandals if they still belonged to the institution that ‘allowed’ it.
Stripped of the ‘fear of sin’ and without heed to ‘being a good Catholic’, the young Micks and Mick-chicks are of a secular mindset, which is very similar to that of their British peers.
Today, English and Irish young people even scoff at the way the two island nations argued for centuries about religion. They laugh about the fact that Irish people were so loyal to priests and popes. Neither side wants to convert the other. Nowadays a shamrock means a good luck charm and it's meaning as representing the Trinity is trampled on. It’s not considered fashionable conversation to say that St Patrick was a bishop, instead I hear a lot of young Irish refer to him as ‘a magic man’ or ‘that magician’. If previously, Irishness meant Catholicism, then today there is less to identify as traditionally Irish. Nowadays, the only superficial, noticeable difference between a group of Irish and English people working in the same office is their accents.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The speakers in favour of immigration lost the Spectator debate because they didn’t answer the gritty questions about such heart-wrenching afflictions like gender mutilation

Last night I went to a debate hosted by The Spectator; ‘Immigration; enough is enough’.  
As I’m an Irish immigrant, I wanted the debate to convince me that mass immigration is good for Britain. The auditorium in the National Geographic Society building was filled with about 350 people. The contentiousness of the topic showed; in the audience there were lots of furrowed brows and tensely crossed arms.
Proposing that immigration should be restrained was Frank Field MP. He was sincere that immigrants make a very valuable contribution and that he had married an immigrant from Brazil. He made it clear that he wasn’t anti-immigration, but that he didn’t think ‘the current scale of immigration’ was sustainable. He also pointed out that as a politician who wanted to lessen immigration; he had found it difficult to be a member of the Labour party.
Jenni Russell of The Evening Standard was in favour of high immigration and gave a very entertaining speech. She opened with an anecdote about how she was nearly late because her taxi-driver was an immigrant who didn’t know the way to Kensington Gore. This made her re-think her pro-immigration stance. But just for a moment.
Russell gave a very heartfelt description about the days in the early 90s when she couldn’t find people to mind her children or builders to fit her bathroom.  ‘Because I’m a soft leftie,’ she said smilingly, ‘I was willing to pay well over the going rate, but it was so difficult to find anyone.’ Russell spoke glowingly about ‘the wonderful Polish builders’ who’ve made her life much easier.
David Aaronovitch tried to paint the other speakers as hypocrites because they were either the daughter of an immigrant (Kiran Bali) or the husband of an immigrant (MP Raab and MP Field).
When they opened the debate to the floor, I rose to my feet and said, “well I’m an immigrant…from County Cork…” This got a titter or two. “But I’d like to say something about charities who only help illegal immigrants, refuse to help people who aren’t immigrants, but don’t advertise this fact. Let me furnish this with an example. Some time ago, I brought a girl who was in extreme danger to a women’s charity that advertised that they helped women like her find safe accommodation.  I brought the girl to see them. They let her sit in a room. But did nothing to help her. I hung around their offices and kept asking. Nothing. Finally, I had a meeting with the manager, who bore an unfortunate resemblance to a lifer in a maximum security female prison. She tartly told me; ‘if you want us to help her, I’ll be looking to you to pay.’ She told me that her priority was illegal immigrants and that she wouldn’t help the girl – because she was an EU citizen.  The charity in question might do good work with illegal immigrants, but it does not advertise that they don’t give the same assistance to EU citizens.  Surely it is dishonest that they take money from donors, without telling them of this bias.”
I never got an answer from the panel as to what should be done about charities that discriminate against native Brits and EU citizens.
Other people speaking from the floor mentioned that they were worried about the reported signs (and crimes) of witchcraft – and questioned if they would increase with increasing levels of immigration?
Then the moment came when the side in favour of high levels of immigration well and truly lost the debate. A very calm midwife spoke from the floor and said, ‘there is an excessive demand on medical services for women who have suffered genital mutilation…It’s already desperately hard to provide healthcare for these large numbers of women. How would the panel answer the question of how we will cope with more women coming, when we have not cared for the women already living here, who need so much medical attention in order to hopefully repair something like genital mutilation?’ The midwife was asked, in her experience, where the women were coming from and she said, ‘Ethiopia…Somalia…a good measure of African countries.’
David Aaronovitch tried to answer her question – but was clearly rattled. He lost the respect of the crowd when he began roaring and finger pointing, ‘I’m against female gender mutilation! And it’s illegal!!’
You see, David Aaronovitch must surely realise that it’s not enough to be against genital mutilation and it’s not enough to state that it’s illegal. Everyone knows that already, Dave, so give your vocal cords a rest. If David Aaronovitch wanted to reassure people about immigration – he would have illustrated how the rising levels of immigrants from all countries and not just African ones - will not mean that more pressure will be put on overstretched medical services. But does he even know if that’s possible?  
Something that Jenni Russell said earlier came back to me; ‘immigrants have made my life much more pleasurable.’ It had sounded cheery when she said it, but now it just sounded subjective.  The objective fact of the matter is this; is it really fair to the Ethiopian and Somalian women who are, in 2012, barely getting the medical attention they need in the NHS, to further overcrowd the healthcare system with new immigrants?
My mind was made up. I agreed with the motion and it was passed. Until such time that we can passably/adequately provide healthcare for the women already in the system, then it’s time to say enough is enough.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Muppets: Danny Boy

Competition: who can recognise which muppet is using a Cork accent? Prize:  you can stop listening to The Muppets' droning.

"Some bold one you are! Who gave you leave to be kissing me?!"

Forgive the poor quality of this video and the fact that the audio comes in late and isn't quite in time with the scenes. I post it for the benefit of everyone who doesn't own The Quiet Man on DVD or didn't catch it on TV. 

There are better clips available, but embedding has been disabled. One such clip is 'the part in Irish' where Mary-Kate tells the priest that 'last night my husband did not sleep with me, but in a sleeping bag! Yes, a sleeping bag...with buttons!....Is it a sin?'
To which the priest replies; "Ireland may be a poor country, but here a married man sleeps in a bed and not a bag!"
Hope you are all enjoying St Patrick's feast festivities.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Cooking and Eating an Irish Flag

First the ingredients! Eggs, rice and broccoli are the essentials. Only the yummiest eggs for St Patrick's day; from Columbian blacktail hens.

While ordinary white rice and broccoli are boiling, mix two eggs. In a separate bowl, separate two eggs. Put the two yolks into the two eggs that are already mixed. Don't be scrupolous about the exta yolks, it's probably a sin to save on the cholesterol during this great feast. With a whisk or a fork, beat the eggs and the two yolks. Observe nice frothy, goldy bubbles on the top.

Heat a medium sized frying pan with olive oil. Pour the mixed eggs onto the pan. Turn down the heat - the flag has no brown streaks.
While the golden omlette is cooking... Puré the broccoli. Add mixed Italian herbs.

Allow the broccoli paste to cool. Whisk the two egg white until they are stiff and a soft white colour.
Fold in the egg whites onto the broccoli and add a tiny pinch more of Italian herbs.

Now you have a green goo that will be a broccoli omlette.
Prepare the frying pan again, and slowly cook a broccoli omlette in the same way you would cook a regular omlette. The albumin in the egg white will keep it springy.

Turn your attention to the rice. In the middle of a plate, arrange the rice in a rectangular shape.
Cut the golden omlette into a rectangle and place it to the right of the rice.

Fold over the green omlette and cut off the edges. Arrange it to the left of the rice. Sprinkle with salt. Ta-dah!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The redhead shattering Belgium's taboo

Katy Robinson may only be 22, but she is one of our more self-sacrificing and pioneering pro-life activists. She was born in Oxford to an Irish dad and an English mum and is the eldest of six children. She has Celtic good looks and is living up to the reputation that redheads have for being determined. Having done pro-life work in Ireland for three and a half years, she was invited to Brussels to spearhead and run Génération Pour La Vie. This is the first pro-life group of its kind in Belgium.
Since September 2011, Katy and her group of young collaborators have been taking to the streets of Brussels with display tables and huge posters of growing babies in the womb. They have the full support of the police to set up their exhibitions on the main thoroughfare. There, they hand out leaflets and engage in hot-topic conversations about abortion with the passers-by, the locals and the tourists. 

What makes Katy’s undertaking so revolutionary is that, as she puts it, “before we came, no one did  pro-life work like this here”.
“Until now, no one has gone out on to the streets of Brussels to speak to the public about the humanity of the unborn,” she explains.
It all started when 23- year-old Anthony Burckhardt met Katy in Dublin. On discovering that Katy had an excellent command of French, he asked her to join him and his collaborator, the 23-year-old Michel du Keukelaere, in setting up Génération Pour La Vie.
Their first priority has been to break down the wall of silence surrounding the issues. “Abortion is a completely taboo subject in Belgium,” she says, even though one in seven pregnancies ends in abortion there. Abortion is allowed up to birth if the baby has a disability.
“Abortion is a very hush-hush subject in Belgium, nobody speaks about the unborn,” Katy says: “It’s very different to Ireland where everyone has an opinion and where there is open debate on abortion”.
To remedy this dire need in Belgium society for pro-life dialogue, Katy left her life and her many friends in Dublin. She does pine for Dublin, but wants to give her youthful energy to building a culture of life in Belgium and informing the public. She says: “the abortion lobby works on the basis that people are uninformed,” she explains, “the work of informing people can be life-saving”.
Katy has a busy schedule; alongside doing full time pro-life work she is pursuing a degree in French from the Open University by correspondence. Both Katy’s parents are French teachers and, Katy says, “being in Brussels is a great opportunity to speak French all the time”. Katy supports herself by working part-time in a café. Hearing a description of her busy days of activism is enough to tire me, and I ask her what drives her to make so many sacrifices.
“My parents were absolutely brilliant. And when I was about 12, they showed me books about pro-life matters as well as the Catechism. But pro-life work had never been at the forefront of my mind until I was an older teenager and began activism on the streets of Dublin. I knew abortion was completely wrong, but out on the streets when I was confronted with questions, that’s when I decided to become fully informed so that I could speak convincingly to young men and women.”
The experience that Katy got in Dublin is being put to good use in Brussels.  There are usually eight pro-lifers running a street session and inviting the general public to have discussions on why abortion is wrong. On an average day, Katy can speak to up to 50 people and has found that members of the public are very receptive and have a thirst for pro-life knowledge. Before Génération Pour La Vie’s inception there was exceedingly little pro-life material written in French and Katy concludes that “a lot of it was out-of-date”. So, Katy’s group have busied themselves by translating the best of pro-life texts into French, and making it freely available to everyone in Brussels.
A great surge of encouragement came early on, when a woman approached Katy and said: “Please continue your fantastic work. Please. I had an abortion and I regret it every day of my life. If you tell other people that a pregnancy means a real baby, you will spare someone from abortion.”
Katy has also been approached by a woman who works full-time in an abortion clinic. She said: “The clinic worker said that she had never in her life thought of a pregnancy as being a baby and certainly not human. And she was shocked that young people would come out on to the street and advocate the rights of an unborn baby. But she was really open and interested. I pray every day that this clinic worker will have a change of heart and quit her job.”

Calling to mind the high number of abortions in Belgium, there must be several women who pass Katy’s pro-life stand who have had an abortion(s) or are even planning one. Katy is upfront that, “I’ve never done any crisis pregnancy counselling. And I’ve never had a friend who has been in a crisis pregnancy.”
It is enlightening that Katy does get consistent support from young women. Others begrudge her work of educating the public. One day during the street session a motley group of thugs, calling themselves socialists, drew near and destroyed three of the huge ultrasound posters and started ripping up the leaflets. All the while, they shouted about the abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and ranted: “you are connected with the Church”. Katy responded calmly, and contacted the police, who stopped the militants in their tracks. The angry young men automatically bracketed pro-life work with Catholicism, even though Katy runs secular information sessions that aim to reach out to everyone of every colour and creed, religious pro-life information sessions often being counterproductive. Katy took the decision to keep Catholic evangelism separate because “there is a time and a place for everything. At this point in time, Belgium has a very bitter relationship with the Church. Trying to talk about the Church at the same time as doing pro-life street work would get a hostile reaction. But our goal is always to show the dignity of God’s precious innocents: that’s part of everything we do”.
Katy herself has a strong faith and often offers up prayer when she is handing out leaflets. At the beginning of each day she consecrates herself to Our Lady, and readily admits that “faith is the backbone” and “daily Mass is essential”. Katy goes to Mass in the Ordinary Form from Monday to Saturday and goes to Mass in the Extraordinary Form on Sunday.
All the founding members of Génération Pour La Vie share a small flat together in central Brussels. Each morning, they gather to say the Rosary because; “we all get along much better when we pray together”. In January they offered a novena to St Joseph for the success of their work.
Katy learned pro-life apologetics in Dublin and knows what it’s like to live in a country where abortion is illegal. Katy does, however, find the Belgium media a refreshing change to the Irish media.
“The Irish media has ignored all the Dublin marches for life. Pro-life success stories are overlooked. But there have been very positive stories about us in the Belgium media. The newspaper Le Soir carried a very supportive article and someone has started a documentary about our work.”
While it is based in Brussels, the group has a global remit. Katy represented Génération Pour La Vie on January 21 during the March for Life in Paris. Anthony travelled to Washington DC for the March for Life there. They have set up a Facebook page which allows a possible audience of millions around the world to follow their mission. 

Foremost among their supporters is Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard who has taken part in the two previous marches for life in Brussels. The Archbishop of Brussels has a great fondness for Génération Pour La Vie, and has even come for a dinner of pasta, red wine. The archbishop described their work in glowing terms, “The incredible activism of the young people involved in Génération Pour La Vie forces us to admire them. This is because they work to promote respect for the unborn child... They support the unborn child with a non-aggressive attitude, but in a positive and constructive way, not condemning anyone.” 

On March 25, Archbishop Léonard, along with Rabbi Albert Guigui and Iman Kastit will be speakers at the third Brussels March for Life. Katy extends an open invitation to every pro-lifer in Britain to join them there. 
I wrote this for The Catholic Herald. 

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