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Opinions contained in The Iona Blog are not necessarily those of The Iona Institute. The Iona Blog is open to anyone who broadly shares the views of The Iona Institute. If you wish to post a comment on a relevant topic please email 200 – 400 words to email@example.com and it will be considered for inclusion in the blog.
The tragic case of Dhara Kivlehan, who died of organ failure several days after giving birth by Caesarian section, is the latest in a number of cases where Irish hospitals disastrously failed pregnant women, many of them non-nationals. But there's something strange about the degree to which the Irish media seem to cover each of these stories. None of the other women who died seem to have received anything like the same amount of coverage as did Savita Halappanavar.
The Synod on the Family, convened by Pope Francis, begins in Rome this coming weekend. The Synod will look at the totality of the Church's teaching on marriage and the family, the challenges facing the family in various parts of the world, and what the Church can do to help families and better communicate its teachings on this vital matter. An open letter on the state of the family, signed by marriage experts and marriage advocates all over the world, has been sent to the members of the Synod.
I was reminded of the Terry Schiavo case from a few years back when I read about a recent study from the University of Western Ontario. But more on her later. Patients in what doctors call a “persistent vegetative state” may be much more aware of their surroundings than previously believed. The researchers provided strong evidence for intact conscious experiences in a brain-injured patient who had remained behaviourally nonresponsive for 16 years. So, good news, right? Findings such as these help form a more powerful argument against euthanasia. But be careful. By engaging in a science-says argument, we can also fall into a trap.
Every so often, you'll hear about some kind of policy move so utterly ridiculous that it's a wonder its advocates don't burst out laughing. The recent decision by the Californian State University system (CSU) is such a move. What did they decide? To remove recognition from the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship because they required their leaders to be Christian. Yeah.
Developmental biologist Prof Lewis Wolpert, writing recently in the Daily Telegraph, describes how, from conception, genes affect our gender roles. It's not simply nurture at work. Wolpert’s principle examples are well worth a read. But the arguments around the issue are even moreso. Today, solid, objective research is not enough to merit publication. Good research might not get published because it violates the canons of political correctness. And Wolpert shows how this socio-political pressure is affecting some of the field’s biggest names.
Study after study shows that children benefit when their parents are married. Ah, say the sceptics, is that because they’re married, or it is because married couples usually have more money and better parenting skills? Share those same benefits with other family forms and all will be well. Sweden provides a sort of controlled experiment for this point of view. Sweden has pushed the welfare state to its outer limits and has done more than any other society to eradicate poverty and its effects. But there still remains a big difference in Sweden between child outcomes for children raised by single parents and married parents.
The entry of women into the workplace in ever-increasing numbers is usually hailed as a great progressive victory. And indeed, the lowering of the barriers that prevent women from choosing to work is a very good thing. But the fact that there has been no corresponding move of men towards spending more time childrearing has ended up placing huge pressures on families. And as Neil Gilbert blogs at the Institute for Family Studies, many women are responding by choosing to stay at home.
Writing about the legalisation around the world of “assisted suicide” in 2012, palliative care oncologist José Pereira explained that “laws and safeguards were put in place to prevent abuse and misuse of these practices. Prevention measures have included…explicit consent by the person requesting euthanasia, mandatory reporting of all cases, administration only by physicians (with the exception of Switzerland), and consultation by a second physician.” But now the bar has been set pathetically low: in the Netherlands, euthanasia for anyone over the age of 70 who is “tired of living” is now being considered.
Breda O'Brien, teacher, Irish Times columnist and Iona Institute patron, recently debated surrogacy with Deirdre Madden of UCC on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke programme. She talked about the recent surrogacy scandals, and emphasised the fact that similar things can and have happened regardless of whether surrogacy is commercial or altruistic. Madden argued that banning surrogacy in Ireland would just lead people to seek it out abroad, but O'Brien said that on the contrary, legalising altruistic surrogacy would normalise the practice and drive up demand for commercial surrogacy elsewhere.
Trying to facilitiate human flourishing and happiness should be among the first goals of any policymaker. In all the endless discussions we have about economic growth, social capital, labour productivity, and debt levels, what we often don't talk about is the reason we pursue all these policies. The answer is (or should be) very simple – we want to help people to live well. So what are the things that tend to make people happy? Dr Edel Walsh analysed data from the European Social Survery 2010, taken at the height of the recession – and the answers might surprise you.
Several terrible surrogacy scandals have come to light recently. The most high profile involved Gammy, a Down’s syndrome baby born to a Thai surrogate mother. The Australian commissioning couple did not want to raise Gammy, only his healthy twin. A very similar case has just come to light in Britain. And now we learn that an Australian man who had children via a surrogate mother (again a Thai woman) sexually abused those children.
The Rotherham child sex abuse scandal that has rocked Britain is the result of half a century of Multiculturalism, moral-relativism and national self-loathing by those driven to guide, protect and improve society. “Rotherham,” dear reader, will for a long time to come be synonymous with the utter, immoral collapse of Radical social engineering. Well, one can only hope.
Dawkins was at it again recently. He claimed that Ireland is civilised in all but one aspect: its abortion laws. He then added that it’s “moral” to abort a baby with Down’s Syndrome. As Dawkins has greyed, his pronouncements have gotten more off the wall. And I thought wisdom increased with age…
A new study from the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project analyses some of the ingredients that go into lasting, high-quality marriages. By starting with a sample of over 1000 people who were in a relationship but unmarried and tracking them (418 of the individuals got married), the study's authors were able to analyse how decisions made before marriage impacted the quality of the union. They drew three major conclusions:
The latest UK figures on sperm donation reveal that the “top 500” donors have fathered 6,200 children between them, with 15 of these having more than 20 each. The figures illustrate a simple truth – legalising sperm donation is not a good idea, even if you ban anonymous donation. Let's review the arguments against sperm donation. All else being equal, it's a good idea for children to have a relationship with their biological parents, where possible. The natural ties are important, should not be set aside lightly, and certainly not deliberately. This is a substantial part of the reason why civil marriage evolved as a social institution – to bind parents, and particularly fathers, to their children.
OK, this is a good one: a letter from the National Union of Journalists expressing concern about a possibly disastrous development in broadcast journalism. That development? Broadcasters might have to be balanced about everything. The NUJ's complaint was occasioned by the decision of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) to uphold a complaint about an item on the Derek Mooney show in which two panellists and the presenter himself expressed support for the passage of the same-sex marriage referendum without any dissenting voice being heard.
A poll published in The Sunday Times last weekend shows that more and more of us believe 'choice' is the most important value. Is this a sign of more 'open-mindedness' as the polling company itself claims, or something far more negative?
Terry Mattingly at GetReligion writes about the way in which the media is missing the truly vast scale of the religious persecution currently taking place in the Middle East. He argues that while the media has finally, finally caught up with reporting on the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS towards Christians and other minorities, it's largely ignoring the bigger picture.
Over at The Public Discourse, Mark Regnerus reports some of the findings from a forthcoming study, Relationships in America. Regernus was interested in finding out what Christians who support same-sex marriage believed about other issues of sexual morality – and what makes his study interesting is that he measured the attitudes of churchgoing Christians, rather than all those who identify as Christian but do not practise. His findings were quite striking.
One of the myths about marriage most badly in need of busting is the idea that cohabiting before marriage makes you less likely to divorce – a sort of “try before you buy” effect. But cohabitation before marriage either increases the rate of marital breakup or at best does nothing to reduce it. But tell this to most people and they'll just give you a weird look, and I don't really blame them – the evidence points to a conclusion that's quite counterintuitive.
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