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Pope Francis told the 20 couples that he married last week in St Peter's Basilica that “the reciprocity of difference” between men and women was an essential part of marriage. Marriage, he said, is about “man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. “Here we see the reciprocity of differences,” he said.
One of America's largest Christian student organisations has been banned from operating as a recognised student body in California State Universities because it wants its leaders to be Christian. Intervarsity Christian Fellowship has chapters in over 600 American universities, but were “derecognised” by the California State University system (CSU) after a new anti-discrimination policy required that organisations allow people of all faiths and none to stand for leadership positions. Intervarsity said that while anyone was welcome anyone to participate in their activities, including nonbelievers, seekers and adherents of other faiths, the status of their organisation as a Christian ministry required their leaders to profess the Christian faith.
A pro-life healthcare provider is planning to open a centre in Belfast, in close proximity to the Marie Stopes abortion clinic, the BBC reports. Stanton Healthcare, which describes itself as "a revolutionary organisation that seeks to replace abortion businesses around the world" aims to open a clinic in Belfast's Victoria Street by 2015.
The fact that nine staff members who treated Savita Halappanavar before her death at Galway University Hospital have been disciplined shows that the case “was misused, massively and continuously, by major players in politics and media who were more concerned with getting abortion legislation over the line than accurate reporting”, the Pro-Life Campaign has said. Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life Campaign said the news “confirms that this tragic case was never about the non-availability of abortion in Ireland at the time but the mismanagement surrounding Savita’s care.” The Health Service Executive confirmed today that nine members of staff had been disciplined because of failures in their treatment of Mrs Halappanavar.
The United States is increasingly enforcing a “state religion” based on socially liberal values, the Catholic Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, said this week. He added that Catholics would end up “limiting (their) access to positions of prestige and power in society” if they held to their values. Writing in his regular column, Cardinal George wrote that American Catholics now faced a “crisis of belief” between loyalty to their country on the one hand and their faith on the other.
Plans by the Scottish government to assign a state guardian to every child in the country have been criticised by a number of prominent figures, including sociologists, Members of the Scottish Parliament and charities. An editorial in the Scottish Daily Express said that the plans constitute a “gross interference” in family life. Scotland's SNP government is attempting to introduce what it calls the “Named Person initiative” which will see a state guardian assigned to every child between birth and 18-years-old. They will be able to share information with a wide range of public authorities and in some cases may intervene without parental consent.
A new study from the UK's Department for Education shows that growing up with married parents tends to make children more confident, kind and responsible while showing lower levels of anti-social attitudes and hyperactivity. The analysis of 3,000 children from the early years to the age of 16, found a “small but significant tendency” towards poorer behaviour management among children from single-parent families and those brought up by unmarried mothers and fathers.
Ireland's two biggest organisations representing Muslims have said that that they “see no need for neither an ‘Upheaval’ nor a ‘Revolution’ in the Irish education system”, and that Catholic schools were “very accommodating” to Muslim students, the Irish Times reports. In a statement, the Islamic Foundation of Ireland (IFI) and the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI) singled out Catholic schools for praise, saying that “Catholic school managements have made wonderful efforts to make their schools as inclusive as possible without losing their own ethos.”
An Australian man who fathered twin girls with a Thai surrogate mother has been charged with sexually abusing the children. The Irish Independent reports that the man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was charged in an Australian court last year with indecent dealings of a sexual nature with the children. The case puts further pressure on Thailand's surrogacy regime, which the government is currently in the process of drastically tightening.
A prominent spokesperson for the Muslim community in Ireland has called for radical changes to be made to the education system. The Irish Times reports that Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre (affliated with the Clonskeagh Mosque) has called in a new book for reform of school admissions policies, as well as latitude for Muslim values to be reflected in the teaching of PE, relationship and sexuality education, and music classes.
A marriage registrar in the UK who was sacked for refusing to conduct same-sex weddings has been reinstated after a successful appeal. Margaret Jones, 54, who had been dismissed for “bringing the council into disrepute”, was offered her job back after an appeal hearing ruled that her employer had failed to take a “balanced view” of her religious beliefs.
Theresa May, the UK's Home Secretary, has said the government will begin an investigation into “institutionalised political correctness” after the Rotherham child abuse scandal. The Daily Telegraph reports that Mrs May was responding to the publication of a report last week by Prof. Alexis Jay which found that more than 1,400 children in the northern English town were abused across a period of 16 years by gangs of predominantly Pakistani men.
A Dutch euthanasia clinic is being investigated for ending a woman's life because she did not want to live in a nursing home, with the euthanasia monitoring committee saying that the clinic did not observe the formal guidelines. Prosecutors in the Netherlands are currently deciding whether to proceed with a case against the Levenseindekliniek (End of Life Clinic). There have as yet been no prosecutions for violating the guidelines on euthanasia since it was legalised in 2002.
Ultra-militants from the group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) have launched “a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing” in Northern Iraq, according to a new report from Amnesty International. The report, collating evidence gathered over the last few months as IS expanded its influence in the region, says that the militants have been carrying out war crimes including mass killings and abductions against religious minorities including Christians and Yezidis.
A British surrogate mother of twins is raising one of them after the comissioning mother rejected her for being disabled. The mother, also British, took the healthy boy but refused to accept his twin sister because of her severe muscular condition Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy, the Sun reported. The surrogate mother, referred to as “Jenny” alleges that the comissioning mother referred to the baby as a “dribbling cabbage.”
A senior academic and member of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has criticised a National Union of Journalists statement on balance in coverage of current affairs. Colum Kenny, Professor of Communications at DCU, said that the NUJ's criticism of the BAI over their decision to uphold a complaint over an unbalanced discussion of same-sex marriage on RTE Radio 1's 'Mooney' show was “misleading.” “The union went wild on Mooney” he said.
All UK schools should give children sex education lessons from the age of seven, the Liberal Democrats have said. David Laws, an MP for the junior coalition party and Minister of State for schools, said that both primary and secondary schools should be required to provide sex and relationship education.
Christians and other religious minorities continue to suffer in Northern Iraq, as the United Nations reports that over 1.2 million people have become internally displaced since the start of 2014, many of them by Islamic State (IS) militants. All non-Sunnis within IS's sphere of influence have faced persecution, with Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims often being offered a choice between conversion, exile and death.
Pro-life groups are holding events this weekend in support of the mother and child at the centre of the latest abortion controversy, and in protest at the government's abortion legislation. The Pro Life Campaign has organised a vigil to take place outside Dáil Éireann this evening, Friday 22nd August from 7.30 – 8.15pm, while Youth Defence will hold a rally tomorrow (Saturday) at 4pm meeting at the Spire on O’Connell Street, Dublin.
Five hundred sperm donors in the UK have been confirmed to have fathered over 6,200 children between them – an average of 12.4 children per man. Fifteen of these men are now the fathers to 20 or more children each. The Daily Telegraph reports that records released by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which cover donor insemination figures from clinics across Britain, have identified the “top 500” donors.
World famous atheist Richard Dawkins has said on Twitter that it would be “immoral” for a woman to carry a child with Down’s Syndrome to term, and advised a friend wondering what she would do in that situation to “abort it and try again.” Dawkins has been roundly condemned by groups who campaign for the rights of the disabled.
An edition of RTE’s Derek Mooney show breached the broadcasting regulations by airing an item in January of this year that favoured same-sex marriage, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has found.
A two-day international conference on adoption law is to be held in UCC next month. Entitled ‘Redefining adoption in a new era: Opportunities and challenges for law and practice’, the conference will hear from a number of international experts. Philomena Lee, whose story of the search for her son (who was adopted by a family in the US) inspired the recent movie ‘Philomena’, will contribute to the conference on 4-5 September 2014.
The number of children calling Childline in Scotland worrying about their parents' divorce or separation increased dramatically last year. The Christian Institute reports that NSPCC Scotland received over 600 calls about the issues to their ChildLine service in 2012-2013, a rise of 171%.
Divorcing couples could be forced to engage in mandatory counselling before seeking the intervention of the courts, under plans from Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. According to the Irish Independent, the proposed move comes as part of a radical overhaul of Ireland's family law system, through a series of reforms orginally proposed by former Minister Alan Shatter but now being overseen by Fitzgerald.
Pope Francis is dispatching Cardinal Fernando Filoni as his personal envoy to northern Iraq today, the Vatican press office has said. Islamist militias have sent thousands of Christians and other religious minorities fleeing for their lives in the region. The Boston Globe's John L Allen Jr writes that “Filoni is the pope’s top Iraq expert, having served as the papal nuncio, or ambassador, to Baghdad from 2001 to 2006. That put Filoni in the thick of things during the 2003 US-led invasion, when he was the lone Western diplomat who didn’t abandon his post as the bombs fell.”
The UK is to set up a publicly-funded sperm bank in response to increasing demand and a shortage of donors. For around £300 – considerably cheaper than the cost of the service at a private clinic – women who make use of the sperm bank will be able to search an online database and choose an anonymous donor on the basis of his ethnicity, height, profession and even hobbies.
Christians and other religious minorities in Northern Iraq are facing “genocide” at the hands of Islamic State fighters, one of Iraq's leading Catholic Bishops has warned. “They are facing a human catastrophe and risk a real genocide. They need water, food, shelter,” Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Babylon said in an open letter.
The Australian parliament is set to hold a vote on same-sex marriage, in which all MPs will be free to vote with their consciences. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Liberal party, the senior partner in the ruling Liberal-National Coalition under Prime Minister Tony Abbot, is likely to suspend its binding position against gay marriage and allow MPs to vote freely, paving the way for parliament to take up the issue in its spring session. One Liberal MP said that it was “almost certain” that the whip will be lifted.
Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman who faced the death penalty in Sudan for alleged ‘apostasy’ from Islam, has arrived safely in the United States after a prolonged struggle with Sudanese authorities. Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is a US citizen and has relatives in New Hampshire where the family hope to settle.
Church of England Bishops have called on the British government to offer asylum to Christians fleeing Islamist extremists in northern Iraq, saying that from the UK has a "moral duty" to take them in, because of its role in the 2003 invasion which was followed by years of instability in the country leading up to the current Islamist insurgency. The bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev David Walker, told the Observer: "We would be failing to fulfil our obligations were we not to offer sanctuary. Having intervened so recently and extensively in Iraq, we have, even more than other countries, a moral duty in the UK.
A Thai surrogate mother raising a Down syndrome baby who was abandoned by his Australian genetic parents said Tuesday she would be happy to have the baby's twin returned. The Thai woman, Pattaramon Chanbua, carried the twins for the commissioning Australian couple who have denied they knew about the Down syndrome baby and are currently raising his twin sister. Ms Pattaramon was paid £6,400 to carry a child for the couple. She is especially concerned for the baby girl’s welfare because of reports that the father is a convicted sex offender.
The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, has called on Christians to pray for the Christians of Mosul and northern Iraq who are being attacked and driven from their homes by radical Islamists.
More terminally ill patients should be able to die naturally and with dignity in hospices and their own home, Lord Michael Howard, the former leader of the Conservative Party in Britain, has said. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Lord Howard, chair of the charity Help for Hospices, warned that hospitals were increasingly becoming the “default option” for elderly people rather than the “last resort.” He will today announce a new drive to reduce the number of terminally ill people who die in hospitals by a fifth.
Babies born through mitochondrial DNA transfer, a process which uses donor DNA to fix genetic flaws in an embryo and effectively gives a child three genetic parents, will not be allowed to find out the identity of their “second mother” under UK government guidelines. According to the Daily Telegraph, under the new guidelines children would never know the idenity of the DNA donor and would only able to find out “non-identifiable” information at the age of 16.
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