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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.
David Quinn and Moninne Griffith of Marriage Equality debate the issue of same-sex marriage on RTE's Prime Time.
Iona Institute director, David Quinn, and Senator Ivana Bacik debated the issue of same-sex marriage on Today with Pat Kenny yesterday. The debate quickly centred on whether or not children should ideally be raised by their own mother and father.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's (pictured) speech on Sunday, as well as distorting the true meaning of religious freedom also used another theme to advance his socially radical agenda. Issues like same-sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research and the rollback of religious education were part of a mission to complete “the separation of Church and State” he said. Mr Gilmore told us: “But it is my strong view that the best - and indeed the only - means of guaranteeing religious freedom for all, is the full separation of Church and State.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's speech on Sunday got many headlines for coming out in support of same-sex marriage. But his remarks about personal freedom also deserve some attention. Mr Gilmore said that his party parted company from the European liberal tradition “on matters of economics, and in particular on the freedom of markets but had “always been of similar mind on matters of personal freedom”. He cited famous liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill and said that it was this committment to “personal freedom” that led Labour “to take up the banners of the liberal agenda - for divorce, for contraception; for gay rights and for women's rights”.
The decision of a German court to attack circumcision is yet another example of state encroachment on religious liberty. The rationale of the court appears to be based on the notion that children should be allowed to choose religions and tradition for themselves, rather than having their parents choose their faith. Superficially, this seems to respect the freedom of the child. This is a mirage however.
A recent poll in the UK found that, while most homosexuals believe that the Government should redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to tie the knot, a significant number 25pc, don't think it's needed, and 39pc don't think it's a priority. Atheist historian David Starkey (pictured) seems to be part of that 25pc. In this piece for the Daily Telegraph, he laments the possibility that legalising same-sex marriage could lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England.
The news that David Blankenhorn, a leading defender of marriage, has decided to stop arguing against same-sex marriage, is very disappointing. In a column in the New York Times, he said he took the decision “in the interest of comity”, and with a view to creating alliances with people interested in building stronger families. He writes: “So my intention is to try something new. Instead of fighting gay marriage, I’d like to help build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same.
The Government has now announced that it will hold its long-awaited children's rights referendum in the autumn. We have yet to see the wording, but it is certain that the term “best interest of the child” will be included. A number of legal authorities have suggested that this term, unless express limitations are set down on it, could easily give the State too much power in respect of the family. Who decides what’s in a child’s ‘best interests'; parents or the State?
Last week, director of the Iona Institute David Quinn (pictured) gave a talk at the International Eucharistic Congress about the many changes that have affected the Irish family in the last three decades. You can listen to his talk here.
In 2009, the Iona Institute published a study by Professor Patricia Casey, “The Psycho-social Benefits of Religious Practice” on the positive impact of religion on people across a range of measures, including mental health. While the paper and the associated conference – the first of their kind in Ireland - received considerable media coverage, there was little sustained interest in the subject. But in today's Irish Times, Professor Des O'Neill says that there is a need for a better understanding of religion and spirituality in the medical world.
A very important new study that compares children raised in families headed by same-sex parents for part of their lives with children raised in other families was published this week. The study has been heavily criticised by advocates of same-sex marriage but the criticisms they are levelling at it apply with much more force to studies they quote in favour of same-sex marriage and parenting. In other words, by attacking this new study by sociologist Mark Regnerus they are sawing off the branch on which they are sitting.
It often seems puzzling, given the overwhelming evidence showing that marriage is the best family structure for children, that politicians are so unwilling to acknowledge this and make policy accordingly. This was one of the topics addressed in a very thoughtful speech made by Fianna Fáil Senator Jim Walsh (pictured) at the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan last month. Senator Walsh laid out the extent of the problem of family breakdown.
Kay Hymowitz is one of America’s most acute social observers. In an article in The Los Angeles Times last week she draws attention to the link between single motherhood and poverty. The figures are both devastating and tragic. She writes: “Poverty remains relatively rare among married couples with children; the U.S. census puts only 8.8% of them in that category, up from 6.7% since the start of the Great Recession. But more than 40% of single-mother families are poor, up from 37% before the downturn."
One of the arguments used by those who have insisted on maintaining the current definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman has been that redefining marriage would suddenly mean that anyone who thinks that a child needs a mother and a father would suddenly be defined as a bigot. Once the state says that marriage is no longer about ensuring that as many children as possible are raised by their biological mother and father, but about validating adult sexual relationships, then society will view the former attitude as simple prejudice.
The rise in the number of civil marriages in Ireland is a sure sign of the rise of secularism in Ireland as well. According to the latest CSO figures, in 2009 no less than 29pc of weddings conducted in the State were civil weddings. That was up 17pc on the year before. There was huge regional variation. In Dublin City for example, the total rose to 47pc and in Donegal it was just 10pc.
When it comes to public health, we have come a long way. Having improved hygiene and medical treatments, a whole series of infectious diseases which claimed millions of our forebears have been banished. This is often presented as just another victory for reason over ignorance, science over wrongheaded thinking. But when it comes to our sexual health policy, we seem to have moved backwards, and a peculiar modern form of superstition seems to be the cause.
This is a battle coming soon to a Catholic school near you, namely the clash between demands that school introduce anti-gay bullying programmes and the insistence by the Church that such programmes would contradict the identity and ethos of Catholic (and other denominational) schools. This clash is particularly intense in Ontario, Canada at present where a bill is being debated that would force all schools to introduce ‘gay/straight’ clubs. Obviously, the bishops of Ontario have a big problem with this with respect to their schools.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development published their “Better Life Index” this week, and it had some rather interesting things to say about Ireland. In particular, it showed that we have one of the highest levels of volunteerism in the developed world. According to the report, on average, “people in Ireland spend 8 minutes per day in volunteering activities, one of the highest figures in the OECD where the average is 4 minutes per day”.
The European Court of Human Rights issued another very important ruling last week. The decision upholds the right of the Spanish hierarchy to sack teachers of the Catholic religion who flout the teachings of that religion. If the ruling had gone the other way, the implications would have been far-reaching for obvious reasons
Last week, the Church of England Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir Ali (pictured), gave a talk to the Iona Institute on aggressive secularism. You can listen to him debate the topic here with secularist David Robert Grimes.
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