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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 protected] and it will be considered for inclusion in the blog.
Recent days have rightly seen blanket coverage of the shooting of seven people including four at a Jewish school in France and the subsequent death of the man responsible. However, the tone of the coverage was in marked contrast to the reporting of the horrific incident of mass murder which took place last year in Norway. There, the international media were all too ready to suggest that the killer, Anders Breivik, was a “fundamentalist Christian”, even though that was something of a stretch.
Jon Hamm is the actor who plays Don Draper, the central character in the cult TV series, Madmen, which is about a Manhattan advertising firm in the 1960s. Hamm has been living with his partner for the last fifteen years and is in no mood to marry. It turns out a big reason for this is that his parents divorced when he was only two. Explaining why he isn’t married and doesn’t have any plans to marry, he said in an interview: “I don’t have a particularly defined example of marriage in my life.”
Denominational schools have a right to protect their ethos, and require legislative provisions to enable them to do so, Fr Michael Drumm (pictured), chairman of the Catholic Schools Partnership, told an Iona Institute conference on denominational schools yesterday. Fr Drumm told the conference, entitled "Denominational Education in a Pluralist Society" that proposals to amend rules which allow denominational schools to permeate the day with their own ethos would “undermine the characteristic spirit” of such schools.
How did same-sex marriage become such a major issue so quickly? Only a decade ago, almost no-one thought it was an important topic. Now, to hear certain people tell it, it is a civil right as vital as the right to free speech or the right to vote. How did this happen? Brendan O'Neill (pictured), who gave a talk to the Iona Institute last year on anti-Catholicism, suggests an intriguing answer in a provocative blog for the Telegraph website.
Representatives from The Iona Institute, or speakers at our events, have featured on a number of high profile TV and radio shows in the last few weeks, including Frontline, to discuss issues ranging from surrogate motherhood, to the gender pay gap to anti-Catholicism. Here is a selection of them.
Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly addressed the annual Accord conference in Belfast last weekend. O’Reilly, one of Ireland’s best known journalists in a previous life is probably best described as a conflicted liberal. She has supported most of the liberal causes down the years, but she’s smart enough to know that the liberal reforms have a downside as well as an upside, especially in the area of family life.
New figures from the European Commission show that the gender pay gap in Ireland is 17 percent. This is in line with the EU average. Yesterday on Morning Ireland Orla O’Connor of the National Women’s Council said one of the major factors contributing to this is a lack of affordable daycare in Ireland. However, proof that a major factor is not a lack of affordable daycare places is provided by the example of Sweden.
Two Catholic midwives in Scotland have been told by a court that they must supervise and support staff in the labour ward of their hospital who perform abortions irrespective of their religious convictions. As reported by Catholic News Agency, Scotland’s highest civil court ruled that the women’s religious liberties were not being infringed because “the nature of their duties does not in fact require them to provide treatment to terminate pregnancies directly”. However, as senior staff, they are also expected to be on standby to help in abortion procedures in certain medical situations. In other words, their duties might include assisting directly in abortions after all.
The finding of an ESRI study that most cohabiting couples get married shortly after they have their first child confirms what we in the Iona Institute have repeated many times: marriage is mainly about children and even today most people believe this as the actions of cohabiting couples with children testify. The study showed that, while “childless couples under 45 are now more likely to cohabit than be married “ couples with children “are much more likely to be married and the likelihood that a cohabiting couple gets married increases sharply after the birth of a first child”.
The guidelines published earlier this week by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter (pictured) on surrogacy utterly failed to flag the fact that the whole area is an ethical minefield. Surrogacy is problematic, involving as it does gestating one woman’s baby in another woman’s womb. There are some very serious concerns connected with it, but Minister Shatter's document alluded to none of these, preferring to treat the issue as a series of legal hurdles to be overcome.
Last weekend The Irish Times ran an editorial which essentially denied the existence of militant secularism and criticised people like UK Cabinet Minister, Baroness Warsi who say it is trying to push religion to the margins of society. The editorial was fantastical in the extreme, a complete and total denial of reality
The head of the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Philips', has compared Christians who want to protect their conscience rights with Muslims who want to impose Sharia law This is gravely offensive to British Christians, and borderline disgraceful, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Christians in question are merely trying to reach an accomodation with a legislative regime which violates their deeply held beliefs. They are manifestly not trying to impose those beliefs upon anyone else.
A leader in The Irish Times last Saturday took to task those, including British Cabinet Minister Baroness Warsi, who are concerned about the growth of a militant secularism that seeks to push religion to the margins of society. The Irish Times believes there is nothing to worry about, that such concerns are grossly exaggerated.
One of the biggest con jobs ever foisted upon us is the notion that secularism is neutral and therefore a secular public square is a fair public square. In fact, a secular public square operates by wiping itself clean of virtually all traces of religion. This is predicated for the most part on the less-than-neutral view that religion is inherently irrational and divisive. In fact, a fair public square allows a religious viewpoint the same opportunity as any other viewpoint to have its say and to try and influence public opinion.
Richard Dawkins' outfit, the Foundation for Reason and Science (UK), published the results of a poll into the attitudes of British Christians towards politics, science and morality as well as their knowledge of their own faith. Professor Dawkins (pictured) reckons the result buttress his secular agenda, showing as they do the waning influence of religion on British public life. But there is a sense in which the results undercut one of his main theses, namely that religion is something dangerous to society.
With his back to the wall over his proposal to force religious organisations to cover abortifacients, contraception and sterilisation in their insurance plans, President Barack Obama offered a compromise last Friday that wasn’t really a compromise. He told religious organisations, primarily though not exclusively Catholic, that while their insurance plans would still have to cover such services, they will not have to pay for them. Instead, the insurance company will provide them for ‘free’.
The story about 13 year old girls being given contraceptive implants without their parents' knowledge drew the usual justifications from the usual suspects. Natika Halil of the Family Planning Association said the provision of contraception to young people was “a vital part of the Government’s strategy to reduce teenage pregnancy rates in the UK which are amongst the highest in Europe”. There is only one problem with that argument: the British Government's strategy of making contraception more widely available to teenagers has been a colossal failure.
For the last few weeks we have been following the developing row between the Obama Administration and Catholic bishops there over Administration proposals to force Catholic and other religious organisations to extend their insurance cover to contraception, the Morning-After-Pill (an abortifacient) and sterilisation. This is a very big religious freedom issue and even liberal Catholics opposed to their Church’s teaching on contraception are angry at Obama over it.
A case has come to light in Britain that is eerily reminiscent of an Irish case a few years back called McD v L in which a sperm donor father took a legal case against the two women raising his child for more access rights. It illustrates the perils of sperm and egg donation.
Last month,a study was published purporting to show that the health and welfare benefits of marriage have been oversold. However, Dr. Scott Yenor says there are serious flaws in the study. not least the fact that it uses the "self-assessment of individual happiness" as the standard by which to judge the value of a social institution that is more about children than adults and their feelings of wellbeing.
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