News Roundup

President Trump revokes transgender toilet rule

US President Donald Trump has revoked an order issued by his predecessor requiring schools to permit students to use the toilets and changing room of the sex they self-identify as. The contentious requirement was already the subject of a court injunction following a backlash by authorities in 13 states, but the move by the Trump administration now puts an end to the federal order. It is now up to individual states or schools to decide their rules. Opponents of the original guidelines have welcomed Mr Trump’s move. A member of the Students and Parents for Privacy group, Vicki Wilson said: “Our daughters should never be forced to share private, intimate spaces with male classmates, even if those young men are struggling with these issues. It violates their right to privacy and harms their dignity.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton – on behalf of one of the 13 states taking legal action on the guidelines – said: “Our fight over the bathroom directive has always been about former President Obama’s attempt to bypass Congress and rewrite the laws to fit his political agenda for radical social change.”


Islamic State calls for slaughter of Egyptian Christians

The terror group Islamic State (ISIS) has issued a video in which it calls for the slaughter of Christians in Egypt. In a video entitled ‘Kill all the Kuffar’ (unbelievers), the group urges militants and supporters to target the Christian minority across the country. The video also featured the testimony of Abu Abdallah al-Masri, the suicide bomber who killed 28 Coptic Christians in an attack on Cairo’s St Mark’s cathedral in December. Since the start of 2017 there has be a rise in the number of murders of Christians in Egypt, mainly random attacks on individual members of the community. Five died in knife attacks in January, while three were shot to death in separate attacks in Sinai in February.


Northern Ireland Bishops issue reflection ahead of Assembly elections

The Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland have issued an updated pastoral reflection in advance of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections, set for March 2. In releasing the new version of A Better Future: Towards a Culture of Life, Care and Hope for All, the prelates address politicians and voters, urging them “to work towards creating a society that values all of its people”. Describing the “premature collapse of our political institutions is a serious matter for all of us”, the bishops warn that “the bitter language and tone of conflict have to some extent returned to the political discourse. We ask you to reject – and to leave behind – divisive language and actions which will make negotiations more difficult after the election.” Offered 10 questions derived from Catholic Social Teaching, politicians are urged “to recommit to working for the common good, especially for the vulnerable, the disadvantaged and all who struggle daily to bring up their families”, while voters are called on “to take seriously the responsibility of voting in the forthcoming Assembly Election.  As Catholics, we have a duty to be hopeful and, despite the challenges, to work towards creating a society that values all of its people.


Woman with no link to surrogate twins granted guardianship

The Family Law Court in Co. Clare has appointed a woman who brought surrogate twins from India as their legal guardian. The unnamed woman was granted the right despite being neither the birth nor biological mother to the twins. The children were born as part of a surrogacy arrangement involving the woman’s husband whose sperm was used to fertilise the eggs of a donor woman who was not the surrogate mother. In obtaining guardianship, the woman will legally have a duty to maintain and properly care for the children. She will also have the right to make decisions about the children’s religious and secular education, health requirements and general welfare. After the case, a spokeswoman at the Department of Health said: “Officials in the Department of Health are currently drafting the General Scheme of legislative provisions on assisted human reproduction (AHR) and associated research, which will include provisions relating to surrogacy.”


Washington DC passes assisted suicide law

Washington DC has become the 7th jurisdiction in the United States to permit assisted suicide after a last-minute challenge to legislation failed. Despite a 22-14 vote by members of the House Oversight Committee to overturn the Death with Dignity Act under existing legislation allowing for such action within a specified time period, Congress did not subsequently call a vote on the measure – the final necessary step – meaning that assisted suicide passed into law. Washington DC now joins the states of California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Montana in legislating for assisted suicide. Pro-life groups have lamented the Act’s passage despite control of Congress by the Republican party, normally more well disposed to life issues.


France curbs ability of pro-life websites to dissuade women from abortion

Pro-life advocates in France who seek to influence pregnant women on the issue of abortion could face two years in prison under a new law. Passed by the National Assembly, the new legislation bans pro-life websites which seek to dissuade women from termination if the sites do not proclaim themselves to be pro-life. Sanctions for breaching the law include prison time or a fine of €30,000. According to Minister for women’s rights, Laurence Rossignol, pro-life individuals and groups may still voice opposition to abortion but this is “under the condition they openly state who they are, what they do and what they want”. The law had drawn fierce opposition from pro-lifers, who took to the streets for a mass demonstration at the end of January as the law was being discussed. On behalf of France’s Catholic bishops, Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, president of the French bishops’ conference, had written to President Francois Hollande to call for a halt to the law, describing it as a “serious infringement of democratic principles”.


Iona Institute to address the Citizens’ Assembly

The Iona Institute has received an invitation to address the Citizens’ Assembly. Director David Quinn has confirmed that the institute has been invited to attend the Assembly on March 5, the penultimate sitting of the body, and to present the case for retaining Ireland’s constitutional protection for the unborn. Iona member Maria Steen is expected to make the 10-minute presentation. Iona’s oral submission will be based around its written submission, which asks questions such as: Do we have a right to take the life of other human beings? Would we even consider holding a referendum to remove the right to life of any other category of human being? If we tried, we might first strive to convince ourselves that they are not human or that it is a matter of opinion whether they are human.

Broadcaster denies Eucharist slur was ‘sacrilegious’

RTÉ has argued that a talk show guest’s description of the Eucharist as “haunted bread” was not sacrilegious. In a response to a complaint made to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland by Kerry-based Fr Kevin McNamara in relation to an edition of The Late Late Show, RTÉ stated that the description of the Eucharist offered by comedian Blindboy Boatclub was “provocative” but not “sacrilegious”. Late Late producer Larry Masterson, in an email sent to Fr McNamara said: “The phrase ‘haunted bread’ was certainly provocative. [Blindboy] used it to get a reaction, and indeed it did. I do not believe, however, that it was sacrilegious. It was, in my view, a linguistic phrase that encapsulates the Holy Ghost and Holy Communion.” For his part, Fr McNamara rejected the statement and said: “From my viewing of our national channels the Catholic faith is not afforded sufficient respect or fair play. After all, RTÉ is funded by all licence payers.”

Government should voice the ‘positive side of the Eighth Amendment’

The Pro Life Campaign (PLC) has urged the Government to present the “positive side of the Eighth Amendment” to the United Nations. As Government representatives in Geneva faced the UN’s Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – the PLC stressed the necessity of a voice to balance those of the National Women’s Council and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHRC), both of which have argued from a pro-abortion stance against Ireland’s constitutional protection for the unborn. Speaking in Geneva, the PLC’s Sinead Slattery said, “It is imperative that the Government present this very positive side of the Eighth Amendment, and that they highlight the families who say that their children are alive as a direct result of our life-saving laws… “Abortion is, by its very nature, discriminatory as it allows some human beings to be given lesser protection under the law. The practice of sex-selection abortions has also led to widespread discrimination against baby girls in particular and efforts to outlaw this practice have been opposed by abortion providers such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.”


US religious communities viewed more positively

A new study has found that people in the United States have more positive feelings today towards religious groups than four years ago. In a survey undertaken by the Pew Research Centre, people were asked to rate groups on a ‘feeling thermometer’ ranging from 0 to 100. The results showed nearly all religious communities receiving better feedback than in 2014. Catholics and Jews received the most positive ratings, at 66 and 67 respectively, both showing a 4-point increase. Buddhists gained a rating of 60, followed by Mormons and Hindus, at 54 and 58. Only the rating for Evangelical Christians, at 61, remained unchanged since 2014. Significant increase in positivity was shown for both Muslim and atheist communities, with Muslims moving from 40 to 48, and atheists growing from 41 to 50. The survey also found wide variation in the ratings that U.S. religious groups give one another. While for the most part Jews and Christians tend to rate each other warmly, atheists and Evangelicals continue to view each other in a negative light.

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