News Roundup

Less than half of Britons want a funeral

Less than half of respondents to a survey on attitudes to death say they want a funeral, according to research just published in the UK.

The researchers say it confirms that society today “keeps death at arm’s length and out of sight”.

Madeleine Pennington and Nathan Mladin of the Theos think tank say people are increasingly likely to grieve for others behind closed doors: “religious or not, we think a funeral should celebrate the life of the deceased and hold space for mourning together, but less than half of us (47%) now say we want a funeral at all”.

They add that while financial pressures play a part in these decisions, religious and spiritual perspectives are even stronger determinants of whether people want a funeral or not.

“In this sense, reducing religious affiliation has made greater room for market forces to shape how we grieve. The result is a significant realignment in British grieving practices. And further changes to the ways we grieve may come, given higher levels of openness to emerging ‘grief technologies’ among the young”.


Catholic cathedral complex bombed, bishop flees with refugees in Myanmar

The pastoral center of Christ the King Cathedral in Loikaw, Myanmar, was bombed on Nov. 26 and occupied by the Burmese military the next day, according to reporting by Agenzia Fides, the news arm of Pontifical Mission Societies.

Though no one was killed in the bombing, the pastoral center’s ceiling collapsed and Bishop Celso Ba Shwe and the 80 refugees taking shelter in the church were forced to flee, per the Hong Kong Catholic news service UCA News.

Shwe said in a statement published by Agenzia Fides that “the Burmese army tried to take the Christ the King Cathedral complex three times” before finally occupying it on Nov. 27.

“As a local bishop,” Shwe said, “I, together with the priests, tried to convince the military generals of the importance of the religious sites and asked them to leave the place to spare, where displaced people are also welcomed.”


EU states can ban religious symbols in public workplaces

The top European Union court has ruled that member states can prohibit their employees from wearing signs of religious belief. However, it added that another public administration would be justified if it decided to authorise the wearing of visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling came after a Belgian woman alleged the local municipality where she worked had infringed her religious freedom by telling her she couldn’t wear a hijab.

The municipality’s terms of employment required employees to observe strict neutrality, which means any form of proselytising is prohibited and the wearing of overt signs of ideological or religious affiliation is not allowed for any worker.

Hearing the case, the Labour Court in Liège said it was uncertain whether the condition of strict neutrality imposed by the municipality gave rise to discrimination contrary to EU law.

The ECJ answered that the authorities in member states had a margin of discretion to designate the degree of neutrality they want to promote.


‘Assisted dying’ ban challenged at Europe’s top human rights court

A Hungarian national with a progressive degenerative condition has brought a challenge to his nation’s ban on assisted suicide before the European Court of Human Rights.

Defending the ban, ADF International has argued that the prohibition must be upheld in line with the European Convention on Human Rights’ (Article 2) protection of the right to life.

In its submission to the Court, the legal advocacy organization highlights the inevitable abuses that ensue when legal protections for the right to life are eradicated: “Removing such provisions from law creates a dangerous scenario where pressure is placed on vulnerable people to end their lives in fear (whether or not justified) of being a burden upon relatives, carers, or a state that is short of resources.”

“We cannot abandon our essential human rights protections.”

“While Mr. Karsai’s condition demands our greatest compassion, we cannot abandon our essential human rights protections. Hungary is bound under European and international human rights law to safeguard human life,” stated Jean-Paul Van De Walle, Legal Counsel for ADF International, present at the Court’s oral hearing in Strasbourg yesterday.


Nigerian Bishop blasts blasphemy laws

A leading Catholic prelate in Nigeria has denounced so-called “blasphemy laws” as a violation of basic freedoms after one woman was killed by a mob and another is set to stand trial for allegedly blaspheming Islam.

Twelve states in the Muslim-dominated northern part of Nigeria have implemented some form of Islamic sharia law, under which blasphemy is a crime which can be punished by death. Critics object that such laws are often used to target and harass religious minorities.

“No person should be silenced or imprisoned for peacefully sharing their views,” said Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of the national capital of Abuja.

The comments came in the wake of the lynching of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a university student, who had been accused of blaspheming Islam, and the arrest of 45-year-old Rhoda Ya’u Jatau for sharing a WhatsApp message that condemned Yakubu’s death.

“What has happened to Rhoda should never have happened,” Kaigama told Crux.

“Freeing her from incarceration now will help greatly in moving our country to a direction where the rights and lives of its people are truly valued and this will be an important first step to restoring that hope,” he said.


Wording for mother’s work in the home vote delayed further

It is likely to be another week before the wording for the referendum to delete the protection afforded mothers in the home in the Constitution will go to Government for approval. The Government wants to replace it with gender-neutral wording.

Despite some indications over the last week that the wording for the referendum would be considered at today’s Cabinet meeting, it is now expected to go before Minsters next week.

The original intention of holding the referendum this month was abandoned some time ago and March 8th – International Women’s Day – is now likely to be the polling day.

The plans are also set to include inserting recognition of family carers and also an aspiration that the State should “strive to support the provision of care” in the home into the Constitution.

A second referendum may be held that could end the special protection the Constitution gives to marriage. In practice, this has been strongly watered down over the years.

‘Staggering’ increase in abortions in Britain

The number of abortions in England and Wales for 2023 could reach an unprecedented high of 325,000, according to an independent public health consultant.

Kevin Duffy says official government data for January to June 2022 reported a staggering 17% increase over the same period in 2021.

On 22 November 2023, Parliament published written evidence submitted by MSI Reproductive Choices to the inquiry ‘Impact of the rising cost of living on women’. Citing the 17% rise in 2022 MSI-RC says: “As a leading abortion provider [we have] seen an even bigger rise. For example, the first period in 2023 saw an increase of 32% compared with the same time period in 2022…”

Duffy says the official 2022 full-year data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) has not yet been published, but “based on the OHID data for the first six months of 2022 and making an estimate for 2023 based on MSI’s written evidence, we can project a total of 325,000 abortions in 2023”.

This would mean that 1-in-3 pregnancies now end in abortion, up from 1-in-4 in the past.


Abortion complication rates likely much higher than reported, says review

A UK Government review has revealed that abortion complication rates are likely much higher than has been previously reported.

The review, undertaken by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), analysed Hospital Emissions Statistics (HES) for England from the years 2017 to 2021. They compared the complication rate derived from this analysis to the currently reported complications rate derived from the Abortion Notification System (ANS) based on data provided by abortion providers, which are reported in the annual abortion statistics.

From 2017-2021, the review found the average abortion complication rate was 1.52 per 1,000 abortions using data derived from the ANS as used in the annual abortion statistics.  However, the review also found the average abortion complication rate over the same time period using data from HES was 4.06 , over 2.6 times higher. When the HES data analysis also includes incomplete abortions, the complication rate over the same period is 18.16 per 1,000 abortions. This is over 11.9 times higher than the ANS-derived complication rate used in the annual abortion statistics which does not include incomplete abortions.


Lecturer threatened by theological college for tackling church’s views on homosexuality

A theology lecturer is to sue over allegations that a Methodist theological college threatened him with a counterterrorism referral after he criticised the church’s stance on homosexuality.

Aaron Edwards has claimed that he was sacked from his position at Cliff College in Derbyshire after commenting on Twitter/X that senior church officials were obsessed with “apologising for their apparently barbaric homophobia, whether or not it’s true”.

The 37-year-old father of five has also alleged that college officials threatened to refer him to the government’s Prevent scheme, which is designed to crack down on radicalisation.

At the centre of the legal row is a post on Twitter/X from February in which Edwards commented: “Homosexuality is invading the Church. Evangelicals no longer see the severity of this [because] they’re busy apologising for their apparently barbaric homophobia, whether or not it’s true.”

The lecturer went on to say: “This *is* a ‘Gospel issue’, by the way. If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour.”


New SPHE curriculum ‘ignores’ spiritual wellbeing

Catholic schools’ bodies have warned that a draft for a new SPHE curriculum for Senior Cycle “ignores” and “underplays” spiritual wellbeing.

The Association of Patrons and Trustees of Catholic Schools (APTCS) broadly welcomed the curriculum’s revision, but said it is “imperative” that schools can exercise their right to “approach the curriculum from the perspective of their own characteristic spirit”. This right is upheld by the Education Act.

The APTCS expressed “great concern” that “religion, spirituality and values seem to be ignored when all of them play a very important role in the development of young people,” the body said in their submission.

Concerns regarding the absence of spirituality from the new course were also raised by the Joint Managerial Body/Association of Management of Catholic Secondary Schools (JMB/AMCSS).

“Education cannot be deemed to be holistic in any sense if it ignores either our actions or the spiritual or moral basis of the values that inform such actions,” the body said in their submission.

They stressed the importance of proper engagement with parents when schools introduced the revised curriculum, to ensure a “trusting relationship” between schools and parents.

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