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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.
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.
We're frequently told that the introduction of same-sex marriage is inevitable because young people overwhelmingly support it. As older, more traditional voters die, so the reasoning goes, younger, pro-gay marriage voters will take over. However, according to this blog by Daniel and Lazar Berman at the American Enterprise Institute there might be a wrinkle in this apparently straightforward thesis.
On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama came out in favour of same-sex marriage. Iona Institute director David Quinn and Brian Sheehan of GLEN discussed the subject on the Scott Williams show on Q102.
An article in yesterday’s Irish Times set out to disprove the existence of aggressive secularism but ended up going a long way towards doing the opposite. Entitled ‘Evil, militant anti-Christian secularism is simply a myth’, it was full of scorn and contempt towards religion. Its underlying message to religious believers was clear; know your place. This, of course, is the very essence of aggressive secularism. By definition, aggressive secularism is characterised by an aggressive attitude towards religion and by a desire to drive religion from the public arena.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn have both appeared before the Seanad this week to discuss issues to do with the rights of denominational schools. Both men showed an awareness of the need to not simply trample over religious freedom rights. Ruairi Quinn was commenting on the report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism. That report makes recommendations that would severely curtail the right of denominational schools to be meaningfully denominational.
Last week, one of Britain's most senior judges, Sir Paul Coleridge launched a new project to tackle what he called "the scourge of divorce". Maria Steen, barrister and a board member of the Iona Institute, appeared on Newstalk's Breakfast Show to discuss the impact of divorce on society. You can listen to the discussion here.
A recent case came before the European Court of Human Rights involving a German brother and sister in an incestuous relationship who have had several children together. The couple are in breach of German law and the couple brought Germany before the court saying their rights to a private and family life had been violated. The court upheld German law saying it is up to individual states to decide their own laws in this regard.
On Wednesday the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, in the course of reiterating the Government's committment to holding a children's rights referendum confirmed that the referendum wording would include a reference to a child’s ‘best interests’, and would ensure that children are treated as citizens. What she neglected to mention is that Irish law actually contains reference to the ‘best interest’ of children, or that the Constitution already treats children as citizens.
Religious freedom is one of the concepts which underpins most modern democracies. Most significant international human rights documents guarantee religious freedom. And most people when you ask them say they are in favour of religious freedom. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about “freedom of religion”? Increasingly, secularists are attempting (and succeeding) to redefine freedom of religion as simply “freedom of worship”.
A few days ago The New York Times carried a very insightful piece about cohabitation that should be read by every cohabiting couple in Ireland. The number one justification for cohabitation is that it is good preparation for marriage because it supposedly gives a couple a chance to decide whether they are compatible or not. Alas, the evidence indicates that couples who cohabit first are more likely to divorce than those who don’t cohabit first.
We are all Protestants now. Or at least that is the opinion of our Education Minister Ruairi Quinn (pictured) who was interviewed by The Sunday Independent last weekend. The Minister was commenting on the widely publicised opinion poll commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests which confirmed that lots of Catholics don’t go along with certain teachings of their Church. It showed, for example, that a big majority want married priests and women priests.
A poll commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests has found that the vast majority of people – three quarters – believe the Church’s teachings on sex are irrelevant both to them personally and to their families. But what do they actually mean by this? Do they mean it is totally irrelevant in every respect, or that just bits of it are irrelevant (meaning, one presumes, of no help whatever to them in their day-to-day lives?)
On Tuesday, the Advisory Group to the Government's Forum on Patronage and Pluralism published their recommendations. Some of their proposals poses a very significant threat to the distinctive ethos of denominational schools. John Murray of the Iona Institute and Paul Rowe of Educate Together debated the proposals on the RTE Radio's Today with Pat Kenny show.
A story has emerged from Holland that should make anyone’s toes curl . It involves a married couple in their early 30s who discovered they could not have a child because the husband produced no sperm. But instead of adopting they decided they wanted a child that was a close a match to them genetically speaking as possible. The wife could provide her own egg to an IVF clinic, so they went looking within the family for someone who could donate sperm. However, the husband had no brothers to make such a donation. Their solution? To use sperm from the man’s father.
Marcello Pera is an interesting chap. He is a pro-Catholic atheist. A book of his called ‘Why we should call ourselves Christians’ has just been published in English with a foreword by Pope Benedict. Pera basically believes that without an identity, Europe will dissolve into a multi-cultural mess and the best way to save ourselves from that fate is to re-embrace our Christian culture.
Ever feel like critics of religion who like to parade their ‘tolerance’ in front of everyone are actually less tolerant than their political opponents, and less willing to try to understand them? Well, it turns out that there is compelling evidence that you're right. Academic Jonathan Haidt has written a new book, "The Righteous Mind: why good people are divided by politics and religion" in which he asks how well conservatives and liberals understand their political opponents.
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