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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 firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be considered for inclusion in the blog.
The Iona Institute has often argued that when assessing the strength of family life in a country it is mistake to focus solely on the rate of marital breakdown. Far more important is the number of children who are being raised by their two married parents, or not, as the case may be. The rate of marital breakdown obviously has an influence on this figure, but even more important is the number of children who are born outside marriage and are being raised either by cohabiting couples or by lone parents.
Two years ago I wrote a letter to the Irish Times in response to comments made by Senator Ivana Bacik in her letter to the same newspaper. In her letter, entitled ‘Creeping Fundamentalism’, Bacik set out what she described as fears of a growing ‘religious fundamentalism’ creeping into Irish Society. She based her observations on a Pro-Life rally that had just taken place in Dublin. She complained that we were in danger of sliding back into the Pro-life era of the 80’s. As a further example she cited the new Blasphemy Law as a potential tool to stifle freedom of speech.
The Witherspoon Institute in the US is opposed to new health insurance guidelines which will force almost all religious organisations who provide healthcare for their employees to fund contraceptive services, sterilisation and even aborifacients despite what the ethos of these organisations might have to say about the subject.. But Linda Greenhouse, the former Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times can't understand the opposition of the Witherspoon Institute to the use of government funds, or insurance funds of religious organisations, to fund or promote contraception:
A new report called ‘One parent or five?’ has just been published in America. The author is Elizabeth Marquardt, an expert on how Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) is causing a revolution in our view of parenthood. Elizabeth has previously been a guest of The Iona Institute. This revolution was on display in two ways in recent days. On Saturday, Marian Finucane interviewed a couple on her show who have been to India and brought home a child born to them via a surrogate mother.
Why did marriage evolve? There are two basic answers to this question. One is that down to very recent times it was mostly a response to economic necessity. The competing view is that it developed mainly as a way to encourage men and women to raise their children together.
On Prime Time last night the seven presidential candidates were asked whether presidents should have to make reference to God when taking their oath of office. The question was, of course, extremely leading. Why ask them this at all? It is a total non-issue in the election campaign. Is anyone at all bringing it up on the doorstep? Nonetheless, it is an interesting question.
So, Ireland, led by Justice Minister Alan Shatter (pictured) has appeared before the UN Human Rights Council to be advised on how to ‘improve’ our human rights record, and we have accepted some of what the Council members suggested to us, taken other recommendations under advisement, and rejected a number of others. .
David Quinn was interviewed by George Hook last Tuesday on Newstalk about plans by the UK government to put 'Parent A' and 'Parent B' on passport forms. David explains how this is part of a much wider assault on the special value of motherhood and fatherhood.
Elizabeth Scalia, who writes for US magazine First Things, has written a good piece on the dangers posed by the Obama Administration's move to force insurers to cover contraception, sterilisation and abortofaecient drugs. In the US, many, if not most, people have their health insurance covered by their employer. This policy will force Catholic organisations to pay for contraception and sterilisation in violation of the Church’s moral teaching, or to discontinue their employee and student health care plans.
Official figures from Britain published this week showed that, out of 3,660 babies under the age of one in care in the UK last year, only 60, or less than two per cent, were placed with adoptive parents. This feature in The Daily Telegraph shows that this is a remarkable fall even from 2007, when 150 such children were adopted. In the mid 1970s, 4,000 children were adopted.
US Census data on poverty was released a few days ago. The prestigious Brookings Institute in Washington held a press conference to analyse the data, and Ron Haskins, a Senior Fellow of the Institute, drew attention to something that is equally relevant to Ireland, namely the link between poverty and female-headed households. He told journalists: “Unless we can do something about poverty in female-headed families, we are not going to have major impacts on policy".
The proposed Irish law recognising the rights of transgendered persons looks set to be based on the law in the UK, which is one of the most radical in Europe. But for some Irish activists, it’s not radical enough. The law in the UK is so radical it allows a person with male genitals to be officially recognised as a woman and someone with female genitals to be officially designated a man. It appears our law is going to follow suit.
One of the big new findings from the latest report from the Government's longtitudinal study on children, 'Growing Up in Ireland', was that children feel less close to their parents if their parents work long hours. This is hardly surprising but it is a reason for worry, especially if, as we hear our politicians continuously assert, we have the best interests of children at heart, rather than simply the interests of the economy.
Anyone who has ever watched British comedian Frank Skinner would regard him as a very unlikely defender of religion. His humour, full of explicit sexual references, is usually euphemistically described as “laddish”.
The Daily Telegraph's website featured an article the other day about women who suddenly decide in middle age to divorce their “boring” husbands and “find themselves”. Call it the “Eat, Pray, Love” phenomenon, after the book of the same name. The story, based on real life, is about a woman who decides that her life with her husband is not fulfilling enough, and decides to leave to go on a journey of “self-discovery”.
Yet another report has been issued by the UN which paints Sweden as a paradise for children. The latest report, issued by UNICEF, is called ‘Children’s Well-being in UK, Sweden and Spain: The Role of Inequality and Materialism’. The study does have interesting things to say about materialism. For example, it contrasts the manner in which British parents endlessly buy toys for their children compared with the much more restrained attitude of Swedish and Spanish parents.
An item on the BBC the other day drew attention to the explosive growth of Christianity in China. The Government estimates that there are 25 million Chinese Christians, but a much bigger though still conservative estimate puts it at 60 million. According to the BBC: “There are already more Chinese at church on a Sunday than in the whole of Europe”.
Elizabeth Marquardt, writing on the Family Scholars Blog, mentions an article in the Wall Street entitled “The Child Focused Divorce” in which a couple agree that they “wanted to minimize the damage the split would do to their daughters”. This all sounds very fine, but as Elizabeth (whose mother divorced twice when Elizabeth was young) points out, it is very hard for a divorce to be genuinely child-focused in any inherent sense.
The Minister for Justice Alan Shatter (pictured) yesterday said the row over proposals to break the seal of confession is “an entirely bogus issue”. With respect to the Minister, it is not.
In my column this week in The Irish Independent I write about the seal of confession issue and the proposal by the Government to require by law that it be breached when a confession of child abuse is heard.
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