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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.
Two major reports on the family have been issued in the last few days, one on attitudes to the family in Ireland, one on family structure in Ireland. The first shows that there is a lot of wishful thinking going on about the changes to family life that are taking place, the other confirms that the traditional family is in decline in Ireland. The report on attitudes to the family is called ‘Attitudes to Family Formation in Ireland’ and is by Margret Fine-Davis of Trinity College Dublin. It is based on a survey of 1,400 people aged 20-49.
Earlier this year, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik and her colleague in the Dáil, Labour TD Aodhan O Riordán proposed ending the prayers said in the Oireachtas before each session, supposedly to promote greater “pluralism”. Both Senator Bacik and Mr O'Riordán placed this issue on the agenda of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) in both Houses of the Oireachtas.
Family law scholar Helen Alvare, an associate professor at George Mason University, has written a thoughtful two part series for the Witherspoon Institute's blog, Public Discourse, on how family law has evolved over the decades from being child and marriage-centred to being freedom and adult-centred. This trend is very much present in Irish law as well which increasingly sees the family, and especially marriage, as a potential obstacle to person freedom and therefore has made it easier and easier to break up the family unit.
Last month the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada rejected an attempt by breakaway Mormons to recognise polygamous marriage. Pressure is growing across the Western world to no longer restrict marriage to one man and one woman. Increasingly Muslims and certain religious sects are demanding that more than two people should be allowed to marry one another.
The Family Scholars' blog, which carries a range of stories and opinion items on contemporary family issues recently carried a post by an author calling himself Rnewman and bemoaning the attitude of his fellow countryfolk to marriage and the family. He points out the irony of a country where state supports for the family are strong, but where social attitudes towards family stability are lax.
During the riots that engulfed parts of Britain last summer, one figure stood out for the clarity of his analysis and the credibility of his witness, namely Labour MP, David Lammy (pictured). Lammy was raised in Tottenham, one of the worst hit areas, and from the age of 12 was raised by his mother alone, a hard-working woman and a devoted member of her church. At the time Lammy blamed the riots (if such they can be called) on a culture of mass consumerism brought about by untrammelled capitalism, and on the extremely widespread absence of fathers from the lives of the children in the affected areas.
The Irish Times has been running a series of articles focusing on some of the issues surrounding Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR). These include the issues of surrogacy, conception involving donor sperm or eggs and the treatment of embryos which result from IVF. One of the notable features of this series is that it has looked at these issues mainly from the point of view of adults, rather than children.
Americans see religion as more important, and more important for morality, than Western Europeans, according to a new poll carried out by the Pew Research Centre. The poll, published yesterday, 50pc of Americans deem religion very important in their lives. From the European side, the survey looked at Spain, Germany, France and the UK but not at more religious countries like Poland.
Since writing a blog earlier in the week about a recent episode of Glee someone has brought to my attention the musings of Ian Brennan, the co-creator of Glee on being a Catholic. Incredibly, Glee was given an award by a Catholic group in the US. The decision was so incredible that Brennan himself was surprised to receive it.
We are frequently told that, for Ireland to be truly “modern” and “pluralist”, it must remove the reference to God in the preamble to the Constitution. In fact, it is commonplace for European countries to include a reference to God in their constitutions or the preambles to their constitutions.
The Crisis Pregnancy Agency runs a campaign called B4udecide aimed at encouraging teenagers to delay having sex. But it is up against the massive cultural force called ‘Glee’ which essentially promotes the opposite message. Glee is the super-popular musical comedy set in an American High School, and centred on the school’s ‘glee’ or music club. It has a gigantic worldwide audience and has huge appeal among teens and even pre-teens.
The Amarach Research poll on attitudes to the Catholic Church in Ireland, commissioned by The Iona Institute following publication of the Cloyne Report contains some interesting figures as regards the views of the supporters of our various political parties. Overall, what emerges is that Fianna Fáil supporters tend to be the most sympathetic to the Church, Fine Gael supporters are next, and then the further left on the political spectrum a voter is, the less sympathetic they tend to be
In the Sunday Independent of last Sunday week, Eamon Delaney, the former editor of Magill wrote a column in which he argued that the gay rights agenda is overreaching by seeking, for example, a right to marry, to adopt children, and to intimidate opponents into silence. Admittedly he left himself open to accusations of stereotyping the gay lifestyle, but this aside the reaction to his article amply proved his last point in particular.
In the last year to 18 months the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR, pictured) had handed down several excellent decisions. The most famous is the Lautsi judgement in which it ruled that Italy could place crucifixes on the walls of state classrooms. In another, it ruled that a prohibition on same-sex marriage did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights, and this week it ruled that a ban on the use of donor sperm or eggs does not violate the Convention.
One of the sections of Bunreacht na hEireann that will almost surely be for the chop before too long is Article 41.2.1 and 41.2.2, which says that women should not be forced out of economic necessity to leave the home. Speaking for myself, I will shed no tears if and when it does go. Feminists in particular dislike this provision because it suggests a woman’s place is in the home, although arguably it doesn’t quite go that far.
Recent headlines highlighting the birth of the world's seven billionth person cannot obscure the fact that much of the developed world is in fact heading for demographic collapse. In a recent report, entitled the Sustainable Demographic Dividend, Phillip Longman and a number of other scholars track the patterns of demographic decline globally and their causes. One big cause is, of course, the decline of the family and of family-friendly policies.
The case of a young boy in the US who sought successfully to get into the Girl Scouts because he “feels” like a girl highlights yet again the corruption of language that comes in the wake of the transgender movement. The boy, Bobby Montoya (7), was initially told by one of the troop leaders for the Girl Scouts in the US state of Colorado that he could not be part of the group because he had “boy parts”. This would seem like a fairly sound basis for excluding somebody from a group that is, after all, called the Girl Scouts.
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:
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