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Couples who attend church together are happier than those who do not, new research has found. According to the research, undertaken by the US-based Institute for Family Studies, fully 78% of couples who state they attend church as a couple described themselves as “extremely happy” compared with 67% of couples who do not attend religious services either as a couple or on an individual basis. Conducted among 1,600 people aged 18-59, the study, when broken down, offers key findings in relation to church activity among couples. For example, where only the man in a given relationship attends church, the respective relationship also garnered a 78% “extremely happy” result. However, where only the woman in the relationship attends, the response dropped to 59%.
Both the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leaders refused to back the Constitutional protection for unborn children during the first televised debate of the general election campaign. Questioned on their own stance and their parties’ stances on the current debate around repealing the 8th Amendment in response to life-limiting foetal abnormalities, Taoiseach Enda Kenny reiterated his belief that the best way forward on the issue is to “depoliticise” it and to “to have a citizens’ assembly so that we can tease it out fully…so that we can get to a point where if we consider an adjustment to the 8th Amendment, or inserting something or taking something out, we do so with the values of our society which has changed over the last number of years”.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has rejected legislative changes aimed at easing the region’s abortion restrictions. In a vote at Stormont on an amendment to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945, Members of the Local Assembly (MLAs) rejected, by 59 to 40, a proposal to allow for terminations up to birth based on foetal abnormality. The amendment had been tabled by Alliance Party MLAs Stewart Dickson and Trevor Lunn. The latest rejection comes despite a ruling late last year by Justice Mark Horner at Belfast’s High Court that the North’s lack of exceptions in its abortion ban for babies who will die at or not long after birth, represented “a gross interference with [a woman’s] personal autonomy”.
Far fewer Catholic primary schools in Ireland are oversubscribed than we previously estimated, The Irish Catholic reports. Despite routine claims by politicians and commentators that one in five primary schools are oversubscribed in an ongoing debate around Catholic schools prioritising the children of Catholic parents in the event of over-enrollment, an exclusive report in The Irish Catholic newspaper has revealed that 46 schools nationwide – just 1.6% - are in fact, oversubscribed. There are 2,900 primary schools under the patronage of the Catholic Church.
Social media are having a detrimental effect on married couples, new research has found. As he released the annual report of the Church’s marriage preparation and counselling service, ACCORD, the body’s president, Bishop Denis Nulty, also unveiled the results of a broad-ranging study of ACCORD’s own records between 2007 and 2015, which reveals a steady increase in calls for help from couples whose relationships are suffering as a result of time spent on modern social media devices. According to ‘Counselling Trends in Ireland North and South, An Amárach Analysis of ACCORD Data 2007 to 2015’, the greatest percentage of counselling calls to ACCORD fall into the category of Ignoring/Not Listening. Such calls have increased from 48% in 2007 to 58% in 2015.
Northern Ireland’s Catholic Bishops have called on legislators to protect unborn children as they prepare to vote on allowing abortion in the region under certain circumstances. Ahead of a vote on an amendment to the Northern Ireland Justice Bill which would allow terminations based on a diagnosis of a life-limiting condition in a foetus, the Bishops appealed to Members of the Assembly “to defend the dignity, humanity and right to life of unborn children with life-limiting conditions and to ensure mothers facing such traumatic situations in pregnancy receive the best possible support and care that a life-affirming society can provide”.
The Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) has welcomed the European Parliament resolution describing Islamic State violence against Christians and other religious minorities as ‘genocide’. In a statement on behalf of the group, COMECE’s general secretary Fr Patrick Daly said the move was “as remarkable as it was welcome”. “We warmly welcome this resolution of the European Parliament as a significant step forward in facilitating measures to prevent the on-going incipient genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minorities and communities across the Middle East,” Fr Daly said, adding: “It represents a growing appreciation among MEP’s of the gravity of what persecuted minorities, including Christians, are enduring in the Middle East and a greater sense of urgency about addressing their fate.”
Britain’s national broadcaster, the BBC, has been accused of bias after the emergence of a document instructing reporters to use pro-abortion language. According to The Christian Institute, the BBC’s official ‘News style guide’ requires that staff should never use the term ‘pro-abortion’, but instead use ‘pro-choice’. This is recommended by the guide as “campaigners favour a woman’s right to choose, rather than abortion itself”. Conversely, however, the guide instructs reporters to avoid the term ‘pro-life’ in favour of ‘anti-abortion’, despite campaigners on that side of the debate routinely describing themselves and their organisations as pro-life.
A leading American academic has issued a rallying call to Christians in a country where “the love affair with Jesus and his Gospel and his Church is over”. In a major speech to delegates at the annual Legatus Summit of Catholic business leaders in Florida, and reported by Lifesite News, Professor Robert George of Princeton University, a high profile defender of life and traditional marriage said “it is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel” in a society where “the guardians of those norms of cultural orthodoxy that we have come to call ‘political correctness’” will tolerate Catholics as long as they don’t believe, or will at least be completely silent about, “what the Church teaches on issues such as marriage and sexual morality and the sanctity of human life.” However, simultaneously, Prof. George added, Catholics themselves, “having become comfortable, had forgotten, or ignored, [the] timeless Gospel truth”.
A Catholic Cardinal in Canada has urged lawmakers to respect the conscience rights of medical professionals as they debate allowing physician-assisted suicide. In an intervention before the parliamentary committee considering the legal change, Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, reiterated the Church’s stance on assisted suicide and euthanasia, but, acknowledging the possibility that the legislation may pass, he urged those drafting the law to recognise the moral objections of many healthcare workers and to grant them the right to refuse to participate in killing patients on conscience grounds. "It is clear that reasonable people, with or without religious faith, can have a well-founded moral conviction in their conscience that prevents them from becoming engaged in any way in the provision of assisted suicide and euthanasia," Cardinal Collins said. "They deserve to be respected.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that if re-elected, he would commit to a referendum on abortion if there were consensus on the issue. Speaking on RTÉ Radio as the election campaign gears up, Mr Kenny acknowledged that Ireland is “changed” since the issue of abortion first began to divide people “33 years ago”, but, despite allowing for a free vote by party members in any referendum, he insisted that his plans for a ‘citizens’ assembly’ on the abortion issue must come first. Referencing the “brave women” who have come forward with stories of having aborted babies who would otherwise die at or shortly after birth, Mr Kenny said he was eager to “depoliticise this [issue] first of all, so I’m committing to setting up a citizens’ assembly within six months if returned to government”.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in its ‘concluding observations’ following Ireland’s appearance before the committee last month, has called on Ireland to remove the right of religious schools to prioritise student applicants on the basis of faith. It also calls for more non-denominational schools. The report expresses concern that Irish schools "continue to practise discriminatory admissions policies on the basis of the child's religion" and calls on the government to address this situation.
The European Parliament (EP) has declared the activities of Islamic State (ISIS) against Christians and other minorities ‘genocide’, In a Resolution adopted today, MEPs for the first time categorised the targeting and mass slaughter of religious and ethnic minorities as genocide, and called on the international community to act towards ending the killings. The move by the EP helps clears the way for crimes committed by Islamic State members as crimes against humanity which can be dealt with at the International Criminal Court. The resolution urged “the members of the UN Security Council to support a referral by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court in order to investigate violations committed in Iraq and Syria by the so-called ‘ISIS/Daesh’ against Christians, Yazidis and religious and ethnic minorities”.
Just 5% of Catholic primary schools in the Dublin area are over-enrolled, it has been revealed. This is far less than the figure of 20 percent which is often quoted. Dublin archdiocese has the highest percentage of over-enrolled schools in the country. Writing in The Irish Times newspaper, Bishop Brendan Kelly of Achonry, who is chairman of the Council for Education of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, became the latest prelate to defend Catholic schools. The issue of Catholic primary schools giving priority to children who are baptised Catholics in the event of over-enrolment has become a political issue.
The Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has announced plans for State funding of IVF and other fertility treatments. According to The Irish Times, the Minister stated his intention to provide funding for such treatments together with legislation to regulate this area of medical practice. “The ability to conceive a child naturally is a normal human expectation and a diagnosis of infertility can be a source of emotional distress, physical discomfort and financial hardship,” Mr Varadkar said.
Archbishop Eamon Martin has said Catholics should ask politicians about their policies towards the family, the right to life, schools and freedom of conscience in the coming election campaign. Speaking at a conference organised by the Iona Institute and The Irish Catholic newspaper, the Primate of All Ireland called on those who wish to be “advocates for the family and for the Catholic understanding of marriage” to actively press election candidates on a range of issues relevant to families in Ireland today.
The Christian Institute has launched a petition to support the owners of Ashers Bakery in Northern Ireland ahead of the bakery’s appeal against a decision that they were guilty of discrimination for not baking a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan on it. Ashers Bakery had faced legal censure in May of 2015 when a judge ruled that a refusal by the Christian owners of the business had discriminated against a gay rights activist in refusing to back a cake bearing the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’. While the case was brought by the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, Ashers’ owners, the McArthur family, were supported in its defence of free speech and freedom of conscience by The Christian Institute, which continues that backing with the appeal beginning on Wednesday.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said he no longer agrees with the protection afforded to the unborn under the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. Speaking to The Irish Times, Minister Varadkar said that his once held conservative views have now been altered by “life experience and growing up a bit”. “What we have at the moment,” he said, “is this kind of absolute right to life where the unborn’s life is equal to that of a pregnant mother, I don’t agree with that. I think that is too restrictive.” Arguing for a liberalising of the law the minister said: “The current line really is that a termination is possible if there’s a risk to the life of the mother, but what about the risk to [her] long-term health? “I think there should be a mechanism where decisions like that are a matter for the woman and her doctor, not the law.”
According to The Irish Independent, the Department of Education has issued the ‘Being LGBT in School’ guidance for all schools under which schools will have to operate to better accommodate the gender preference of a given pupil. This includes allowing students to access the toilets and changing rooms of their choice, in addition to sports activities, and addressing a student by a preferred gender pronoun. In addition, schools are advised that a student should be allowed to wear the clothing of their preferred gender. While the new guidance seeks to offer a compromise by also advising that access to facilities could be on a unisex – gender neutral - basis, the new guidelines note: “While some transgender students will want this arrangement, others will not be comfortable with it and consequently these students should be provided with a safe and adequate alternative, such as a single ‘unisex’ toilet facility where this is possible. This should not be a staff toilet facility.”
Ireland’s Catholic Bishops have said that moves to water down the place of religion in schools will have no effect on Church-run schools. In a statement from the Bishops’ Council for Education, responding to Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan abolition of Rule 68 of the Rules for National Schools, the Bishops stressed: “The Minister’s announcement concerning rule 68 does not change the teaching of religious education in Catholic schools.” Under Rule 68, the status of religion in primary schools is afforded a protected position, but, as the Bishops point out, “the Catholic ethos of primary schools in Ireland is not based on the Rules for National Schools”. Referencing a recent Department of Education paper - Advancing School Autonomy in the Irish School System – which was issued in December, the Bishops quote: “In all primary and post-primary schools, the school’s stated ethos (that is, the values and principles it promotes) is decided by the owners or patrons/trustees of the school and not by central government.”
Eight out of 10 primary school principals who took part in an online survey would like to see less time devoted to religious education in schools, a new poll has shown. According to The Irish Times, the poll, which was conducted by the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN), reveals that of 600 principals who took part in the survey – a fifth of all primary schools principals in the country - 90% believe that more time should be given over to subjects such English, maths and physical education, while 85% nominated religion as the subject to be sacrificed to make this possible.
A Catholic education is about “people, not ideas”, the head of the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association has said at the launch of Catholic schools week. Fr Tom Deenihan said, a Catholic school “is fundamentally not about ideas, or courses or even subjects or syllabi but, rather, it is about people. People are not clones, are not stereotypical and so, it follows, that people and students - especially students some might say - are not ideal, not perfect, and, dare I say it, sometimes not even holy. Students come from different backgrounds, with different personalities and have different experiences but, like everyone else, are made in God’s image.” This approach to education, described by Fr Deenihan as “seeing the face of God in others” is what makes Catholic schools in Ireland truly inclusive, despite recent arguments over access and ethos.
Pope Francis has defended marriage between one man and one woman over all other living arrangements. As he addressed members of the Roman Rota, the Holy See’s tribunal which judges on marriage cases, the Pontiff stressed that “there can be no confusion between the family willed by God and any other type of union”. He said the Church must show mercy to all families but “at the same time, proclaim the inalienable truth of marriage according to God’s plan. This service is entrusted primarily to the Pope and to the Bishops.” Such a clear understanding of marriage, Pope Francis explained, was at the heart of the Church’s ongoing mission to promote the marriage of a man and a woman as the form as best for society.
Northern Ireland’s Attorney General has announced his intention to challenge a Court of Appeal ruling which declared the region’s abortion laws too restrictive. According to The Irish Times, the office of John Larkin QC has confirmed that an appeal to the ruling has been lodged. Last December, Mr Justice Mark Horner heard a case brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) against the Department of Justice contending that the lack of access to abortion breaches women’s human rights. He ruled in favour of abortion in cases of rape, incest and those involving babies who will likely die at or soon after birth.
A senior member of the Fine Gael party has dismissed as “legal fiction” the contention that it may be possible to simultaneously retain the constitutional protection for the unborn and allow for abortion in cases of children with life-limiting conditions. In so doing, he has given his backing to the retention of Ireland’s pro-life amendment also known as the ‘Eighth Amendment’. Writing in The Irish Catholic, Barry Walsh, the Vice Chair of the Fine Gael Executive Council wrote: “On one level, this proposal [to allow abortions when a baby will die soon after birth] is a legal fiction, since it will be impossible to formulate a constitutional definition for something for which medical science cannot diagnose with any certainty.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has said it is wrong for parents to baptise their children only to gain access to Catholic schools. Speaking to The Irish Times, Dr Martin said canon law was clear that people “should only be baptised if there’s a reasonable probability that they will be brought up as Catholics”. The Archbishop added that the end result of baptism was not the baptismal certificate. “It’s a religious rite of entry to the life of the speculates that “some of the strong correlation between baptisms and birth rates” could be attributed to the admission policies of Catholic schools.
The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, Richard Clarke has defended the role of faith-based schools in this country and also warned against the introduction of a form of ‘eugenic abortion’ Archbishop Clarke says in an interview with The Irish Catholic that faith-based schools play an important role, warning that the “notion that denominational education is no longer fit for purpose is more a political notion than actually something that will stand up”. He added his firm belief that there remains in Ireland today ““a legitimate place for schools that are of a denominational hue”. Archbishop Clarke also warned of a potential “eugenics culture” in Ireland should current abortion laws be liberalised. On the current drive to force a referendum towards repealing the constitutional protection for the unborn, the Archbishop warned that it could “begin a process where if there is any risk that a child may be disabled in any way, then a mother will be under pressure to have an abortion”.
The United Nations has revealed that Christians are being targeted in a “systematic and widespread” attempt by Islamic State to destroy their presence in the Middle East. According to a newly released report, based on Iraqi government records of civilian deaths and casualties together with eyewitness accounts of Islamic State atrocities, Christians, together with Yazidis, continue to be despised minorities open to summary execution and other abuses as Islamic State seeks to drive all ‘non-believers’ from its envisioned caliphate. Importantly, the report suggests that such actions may amount to genocide. Cataloguing a raft of atrocities being committed by Islamic State, the UN report states that the level of violence being endured by civilians in areas controlled by Islamic State is “staggering”.
A Catholic Bishop in Canada has described plans for the introduction of new rules on transgender pupils in schools in Alberta as “the madness of relativism”. In a letter to parishes entitled ‘Totalitarianism is alive and well in Alberta’, Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary denounces moves by education chiefs in the province to enforce tailored policies on all schools, including religious-backed, to accommodate transgender pupils by allowing a boy identifying as a girl to use girls’ toilets, among other measures. “The Alberta Government ‘Guidelines’ issued on January 13th show no evidence of consultation with or sensitivity to the Catholic community. They breathe pure secularism,” Bishop Henry wrote.
Irish Vintners are once again calling on the Government to end the traditional Good Friday closing of pubs. With an eye to the Ireland soccer International against Switzerland which takes place in Dublin on that day, March 25, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) have joined in calling the Good Friday ban as “discriminatory”. Offering an image of “thousands of tourists wandering around the streets of our cities and towns asking why they can’t go into a pub for a drink”, the LVA chief executive Donall O’Keeffe argued that the figure would be greatly increased by the 2016 centenary celebrations while “we are also going to have up to 50,000 soccer fans in Dublin facing the same problem outside the stadium”.
Changes to official forms to remove the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ and giving children hormone blocking drugs to delay puberty if they voice doubts about their gender identity are among the suggestions of a group of British MPs in a new report. The report details ways in which it believes transgender people can be made to feel more included in British society, according to The Daily Telegraph. Among other recommendations, the committee is calling for a simplifying of the process by which a transgender person can be legally recognised as such. Under the current Gender Recognition Act, people in Britain must live under their preferred gender for two years before gaining an official certificate. The committee suggests this can be simplified to a ‘self-declaration’ without the need to wait.
A delegation of bishops visiting the Middle East has told persecuted Christians “you are not forgotten”. In a statement following the visit by the Bishops of the Holy Land Coordination, which included Ireland’s Bishop John McAreavey, the group addressed various communities across the region, stressing that “ongoing violence makes it all the more urgent that we remember and assist all, especially those on the margins, who seek to live in justice and peace”. Having met Christian refugees in Jordan, the Bishops said: “To the Christian refugees we met, you are not forgotten We heard about the trauma and difficulties in trying to rebuild their lives. For most, returning home is no longer an option. Jordan is struggling to cope with almost a quarter of its population now made up of refugees.”
The Minister for Children James Reilly has indicated the possibility of Ireland holding a referendum towards eroding the constitutional protection afforded to faith schools. He appeared yesterday before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was pressed repeatedly on religious patronage of schools in Ireland and admissions policies. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Minister Reilly said: “I don’t believe that it is appropriate that a child needs to be baptised to go to school.” Quoted by The Irish Times newspaper, the Minister went on to point out the constitutional protection afforded to religious-backed schools and said “the only way to get forward momentum on this might be in the next government,” adding when asked about the possibility of a referendum, “that is the advice we have”.
The Labour Party is promising to cut the cost of childcare to €2 per hour if returned to government at the next election. The policy offers nothing to stay-at-home parents. According to The Irish Independent, the party’s undertaking would see a cap of €4.25 per hour (the current national average) for childcare, with the Government providing 50c per child. Labour envisages the plan would see parents paying €80 a week or about €320 a month for one child. Parents would be entitled to access State-subsidised care for children from the age of nine months to 12 years, for 40 hours per week.
The persecution of Christians across the Middle East and in Africa is on the rise, a new report has revealed. According to World Watch List 2016, compiled by Open Doors, a Christian advocacy group which annually monitors rates of persecution around the world, 2015 saw a deteriorating position for many Christian communities. However, despite the prominence currently offered by the media for the activities of Islamic State in its drive to eradicate Christians from territory it has claimed for its ‘caliphate’, Open Doors reveals that the country where it is worst to live as a Christian is actually North Korea, which is top for overall persecution. In terms of actual numbers of Christians murdered for their faith, Nigeria lays claim to over half the 7,000 recorded Christian deaths by violence globally.
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