News Roundup

Steps taken by nuns to relinquish St Vincent’s Hospital 

The Charities Regulator has received an application to facilitate the transfer of the ownership of the site designated for the €350m National Maternity Hospital.

Currently, the Religious sisters of Charity own St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) which includes St Vincent’s Hospital. They had announced that a new company limited by guarantee, with charitable status, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, would be set up and made the sole owner of the site upon which the new Maternity Hospital would be built. The Sisters additionally had promised that they would relinquish all ownership and interest in the new company which will have no beneficial owner. Current directors of SVHG will serve as the first directors of the new company.

“An application for charitable status has been made by this entity,” a spokeswoman for the regulator said last week.

A spokeswoman for SVHG said the group “commenced the application process for charitable status for the new St Vincent’s Holdings CLG in December 2018 and this is progressing”. She said the new hospital “will be managed and operated by a new company, the NMH DAC, under an operating licence from the state”.

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Ireland’s youngest Parish Priest appointed at 32 years of age

Ireland’s youngest parish priest has been appointed at the age of only 32 years.

Fr Conor McGrath was curate in Drumbo and Carryduff prior to his new appointment as parish priest of Glenravel in Ballymena.

Fr Conor studied history and philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast. As well as training at St Malachy’s Seminary, he read theology at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome and was ordained in July 2012 at St Bernard’s Church, Glengormley.

Of his new appointment, Fr Conor said: “It’s a lot of responsibility and it will be a big change but I am looking forward to it.”

He added that while “in some respects” his new position has placed a lot of weight on his shoulders, he is trusting in God’s providence to take care of him.

Fr Conor’s move to his new parish is part of the Down and Connor diocesan changes announced by Bishop Noel Treanor who was appealed for more men to consider the religious life given the continuing decline of clergy numbers throughout Ireland.

“Undoubtedly, the increasing age profile of clergy and declining numbers of available priests has created its own challenge in fulfilling the Church’s mission and ministry, a challenge which our clergy respond to on a daily basis with generosity and faith-filled dedication,” the bishop said.

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Call to eliminate tax individualisation and give parents childcare subsidy

There has been a call to eliminate tax individualisation and allow a childcare subsidy to all parents to be spent as they see fit.

Writing in the Irish Times on Saturday, Maria Steen criticised the Government’s policy preference for subsidising only one form of childcare and penalising single-income families. She wrote that for some children – such as those suffering separation anxiety – even a high-quality institutional care-setting may be unsuitable and so, the Government should support families who wish to choose another model of care for their children.

She added that parents opting to stay at home are at a major disadvantage financially, despite the valuable role they play in their children’s lives, in the life of the wider family and indeed society. “They are penalised by the tax system: a single-income household will pay more in tax than a double-income household with the same income. And they effectively subsidise other parents sending their children to centre-based care, while receiving no State aid for caring for their own children.”

Her proposed solution would be to eliminate tax individualisation, and offer a childcare subsidy to all parents regardless of the form of care they prefer for their children.

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‘Support Gay Marriage’ cake case to go to European Court of Human Rights

Lawyers representing a man from Northern Ireland who sued a bakery for refusing to make a cake with pro-gay marriage message are going to Europe to challenge a supreme court ruling that its evangelical Christian owners had a right to refuse to fulfill the order.

Belfast human rights law firm Phoenix Law confirmed on Thursday it had been instructed by Gareth Lee to take his case to the European court of human rights (ECHR).

Mr Lee was told by Ashers bakery in 2014 that it would not make a cake with the message “Support Gay Marriage” on it because it was contrary to the owners’ religious beliefs.

Five judges on the UK supreme court found that the bakery did not refuse Mr Lee’s order because of his sexual orientation. They ruled therefore that there was no discrimination on those grounds.

This time, Ashers will not be implicated as the case is being taken against the United Kingdom instead.

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Christian Women’s Shelter Doesn’t Have to Admit Trans Woman, Court Rules

A civil rights panel cannot force a battered women’s shelter to admit a trans woman, a federal court in Alaska has ruled.

“Downtown Hope Center serves everyone, but women deserve a safe place to stay overnight,” said lawyer Kate Anderson of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a public interest law practice that represents Hope Center. “No woman—particularly not an abuse survivor—should be forced to sleep or disrobe next to a man. The court’s order will allow the center to continue in its duty to protect the vulnerable women it serves while this lawsuit moves forward.”

U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, ruled for Hope Center, saying a civil rights ordinance banning discrimination in places of “public accommodation”, does not apply to homeless shelters because they are not places of “public accommodation.” The judge issued a preliminary injunction against the commission, barring it from bringing enforcement actions against Hope Center while the case continues.

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Australian state set to force disclosure of abuse revealed in confession

The government of the Australian state of Victoria is introducing legislation aimed at forcing Catholic priests to break the seal of confession to report child abuse.

The Catholic church says that it supports mandatory reporting and encourages victims to report abuse to police, but will not break the seal of confession – regardless of the legislation or the threatened jail-time that would ensue for priests who disobeyed the law. The Catholic Church said that Catholics have an unconditional right to confess their sins to God using the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“I uphold the seal of confession but I uphold mandatory reporting as well,” Archbishop Peter Comensoli said in August last year, when the state government first flagged this legal change.

“The principle of the seal of confession is a different question. It has a different reality to it. The practicalities of winding back the seal of confession I think is something that can’t be easily done.”

“There’s been no change in our position,” a spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne said on Tuesday, adding that it would wait to see the legislation before commenting further.

Priests who refuse to report sexual abuse disclosed during confession will face up to three years in jail under the new laws. The laws will apply to religious and spiritual leaders of all denominations and religions, but will not be retrospective.

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Only five newly ordained priests in Belgium this year

Only five priests were ordained in Belgium this year. In the once predominantly Catholic country, the number of newly ordained priests has ranged between three and eight over the last few years.

A new study out of by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) found that Belgium has the worst ratio of newly-ordained priests per Catholic head of the population, ranking it 108th in the world.

CARA based the rankings on the most recent figures for priestly ordinations (for 2015, 2016 and 2017) and Catholic population data for 2017 from the Vatican’s Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae. In order to avoid skewed results, researchers only included countries that had at least 100,000 Catholics, at least nine ordinations in 2015-2017 and a minimum of one ordination in each of the three years studied.

It found that Belgium had just 19 ordinations from 2015 – 2017, giving a ratio of one ordination for every 431,158 people in its population of 8,192,000 Catholics.

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Almost 200 children lost one or both parents in Sri Lanka Easter bombings

At least 176 children lost either one or both of their parents in the Sri Lanka Easter Sunday bombings, according to the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.

Of the more than 250 people who died in the bombings in three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, 54 were from St. Anthony’s, announced the priest, Fr. Jude Fernando during the service, as armed military personnel guarded the church and frisked all visitors. At least 106 worshippers were wounded in the explosion, he added.

Islamist extremists bombed three churches, including St. Sebastian’s in Negombo (outside Colombo, close to the international airport) and the evangelical Zion Church in the city of Batticaloa in the Eastern Province, several hundred miles from the capital.

On July 21, St. Sebastian’s held their first service since the terror attacks.

In Batticaloa, some injured victims remain hospitalised, some still unaware that their children or spouses have succumbed to injuries, Raghu Balachandran from the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka said.

Helping victims and survivors deal with their emotional trauma is the biggest need at the moment, but there are few Christian counsellors available, he added.

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Christians fear greater persecution after Kashmir loses special status

After the revocation of Kashmir’s special status, Christians in the region are fearful that the change will lead to a wave of Hindu ultra-nationalism and with it, an increase in persecution.

Before the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution last week, the Muslim-majority region had enjoyed special autonomous status, with its own flag, separate constitution and internal administration.

Many Christians in Kashmir are former Muslims who face pressure within their communities because of their conversion.  Now they fear that they will see an increase in persecution under a Hindu ultra-nationalist agenda, Open Doors reports.

There are also concerns that the anti-conversion laws that have made life increasingly difficult for India’s Christians will now be applied to Kashmir.

The laws have been introduced to several Indian states and effectively make it a crime for individuals to convert from the Hindu faith to Christianity, or to seek to persuade Hindus to change their faith.

Hindu radicals are calling to impose the anti-conversion legislation at the national level.

Dr Matthew Rees from Open Doors said: “The tensions in Kashmir are very worrying for religious minorities across India and particularly for those living in Kashmir. This includes the local Christian population, many of whom are from a Muslim background and already experiencing severe pressure from their community. Sources in Kashmir have told Open Doors that they are concerned that this latest development will increase the already high levels of fear amongst the minority communities in the Kashmir. The events in the region make it very clear that no minority in India can expect any level of special protection.”

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Pharmacy Union calls for free contraception for all women

Women should be able to get the Pill free of charge from their local chemist, according to the Irish Pharmacy Union in order to reduce the number of abortions, despite the lack of evidence that it has this effect.

At present, women need a prescription from a family planning clinic or doctor to be able to buy the contraceptive pill, which costs between €5 and €14.50 per pack. They also have to pay €45 for a appointment every six months to renew their prescription. The initial consultation for the Pill is €60, according to the Irish Family Planning Association. Women who have a medical card can access free contraception.

Access to free contraception for all women was recommended by the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment in 2017.

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