News Roundup

65,000 people watched RTE’s daily mass broadcast on Tuesday

Over 65,000 people watched the broadcast of daily mass on the RTE News Now channel last Tuesday, March 31st, according to Roger Childs, head of religious programming at RTE using figures compiled by Nielsen’s ratings. There was also big audience for mass the previous Sunday with 130,000 tuning in. It is unknown how many people have been watching Mass or other church services streamed online by parishes all over the country.

RTE started broadcasting the daily liturgy after the cancellation of public masses due to the coronavirus.

The mass is followed by a short religious message from representatives of other churches and faith communities.

Roger Childs told Spirit Radio that the figures show the desire among people for faith-based programming at this time.

“Just at a time when many people are feeling most isolated, anxious and in need of some encouragement and community, they are least able to get those things because their own churches, and not just churches, but synagogues, temples, gudwaras, and mosques, are prevented from physical gathering”. He said they started the daily mass and multi-faith reflective slot to meet that need.

“65,000 people is an awful lot of people, so clearly it is fulfilling a need and I am delighted if people are finding something of value and succour and sustenance in that”, he added.


Funerals, confessions continue in many dioceses

Many dioceses are continuing to hold funeral masses while individual priests are hearing confessions in person.

Last week, the diocese of Down and Connor, and Clogher, both cancelled funeral masses, with the latter also cancelling weddings, baptisms and individual confession.

On Tuesday, however, the Irish Government said up to 10 members of the immediate family of a deceased person can attend funerals, burials and cremations, once social distancing protocols are followed. This applies to all funerals, including those who have died with Covid-19 symptoms.

The six West of Ireland Catholic bishops decided that funeral Masses can continue but in accordance with the Government guidelines, and with younger priests designated to take over the duties of clerics over the age of 70.

Meanwhile, many individual priests are continuing to hear confessions. In Dublin, the Carmelites in Clarendon street and Whitefriar Street, and the Domincans in St Saviours are hearing confession by appointment. The latter have also advertised three hours of confession on Saturday afternoon.


Church Leaders join together to issue call to prayer

The leaders of Ireland’s main Churches, together with other denominations and Christian organisations, have issued a call to prayer on Palm Sunday, 5 April from 3pm-4pm.

In a joint statement today, following a video conference, the leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches, also paid tribute to everyone in the health and social care services and those in the frontline, for their courage in the battle against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“As Christians, we believe that prayer sustains our life as followers of Christ. In the midst of this global pandemic, we turn to Jesus in our time of need. As Church leaders, we join together in calling all our people to pray. As we begin the journey through Holy Week towards Good Friday and Easter, we invite all Christians from across the whole Church to join in prayer on Palm Sunday, 5 April, from 3pm to 4pm – remembering that we should only gather to pray within our own households, in line with government advice,” they said.


Ronan Mullen wins re-election to Seanad with highest vote yet

Pro-life Senator Rónán Mullen won re-election to the National University of Ireland panel of Seanad Éireann after topping the poll and exceeding the quota on the first count. He received twice the number of votes compared with the first time he ran in 2007.
The Galway-based independent senator secured 9,642 first preference votes from a total valid poll of 38,118 giving him a little over 25% of the total vote. Having exceeded the quota of 9,530 on the first count he was deemed elected shortly before lunchtime Wednesday. It was Mullen’s fourth consecutive Seanad election win, his largest ever share of the first preference vote on the largest ever turnout on the NUI panel. Mullen is also the first candidate since 1989 to be elected on the first count in the NUI constituency.
All 15 TDs who voted against the abortion bill in December 2018 also won re-election in February’s election to the new Dail.

“I’m honoured to be re-elected in this way,” Mullen said at his home in Galway after the result was declared.

“These are tough times for everybody. While it is good to have something to celebrate, I am mindful of the current health crisis we are all experiencing. Like everyone else, I am concerned for the safety and wellbeing of family and friends. I commend those who took time to vote in these days, and especially those who supported my campaign. I look forward to playing my part in developing good laws for the country at a time of tremendous challenge. I will continue to speak up and act in defence of human dignity in every way I can.”

Charities warn against denying elderly access to Covid intensive care

Denying the elderly access to intensive care units simply because of their age would be “discriminatory, ageist and morally wrong”, a coalition of UK charities for older people has warned.

Decisions over which coronavirus patients receive priority treatment, they say, cannot “be blanket ones, based on age alone or with a person’s age given undue weight as against other factors, such as their usual state of health and capacity to benefit from treatment”.

Governments across the world are developing ethical guidelines and decision tools to help their doctors to prioritise patients for hospital admission and treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.

The signatories of the open letter said that assessments should continue to be made on a case-by-case basis through honest discussion with the patient, their family and relevant professionals.

The open letter comes days after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued an “algorithm” to help doctors decide who should be admitted to critical care and who should not. It does not categorise potential patients by age but instead asks doctors to score patients on a nine-point “clinical frailty scale” [CFS].

The scale ranks patients from one [very fit] to nine [terminally ill] and divides patients at a score of five, [mildly frail].

Those with a score of less than five who would like critical care are considered well enough to benefit, subject to a review of any underlying conditions and the severity of their illness.

Those scoring over five are put through a process where doctors must decide if critical care is “considered appropriate” before proceeding.


Royal College of Physicians confirms opposition to euthanasia after legal challenge

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has confirmed that it is against the legalisation of euthanasia. The RCP has long opposed the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the UK but changed its position to “neutral” after conducting a poll in 2019. That has now changed again following a legal challenge brought by four doctors, the RCP has clarified that “it does not support a change in the law to permit assisted dying,” and stated that “the majority of doctors would be unwilling to participate actively in assisted dying if the law were changed to permit it.”

Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of ADF International, welcomed the clarification and said the RCP had “taken a step in the right direction and pushed back against those who have sought to misrepresent and instrumentalise the 2019 vote to push for a change in UK law”.

“The detrimental effects of euthanasia on individuals and society have become very clear in countries that have already gone down this path. There is nothing progressive about a society that refuses to care for its most vulnerable members. Given what the RCP represents, it would have been disappointing to see the organisation abandon its established opposition to euthanasia – especially when the change is promoted by a small minority with political motives,” he said.


Bishops rue implementation of radical abortion legislation in NI

The Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland are “saddened and dismayed” at the implementation of a radical abortion regime in the North, the regulations for which came into effect on Tuesday. It is even more far-reaching than the law in the rest of the UK where there is one abortion for every three births.

In a statement released yesterday, they say the regulations “go far beyond what is legally required by the Northern Ireland Act (2019), (‘the Act’), and utterly ignore the views of many citizens – women and men – who responded to the consultation exercise last December”.

They add that their “implementation will facilitate one of the most liberal abortion regimes anywhere in the world”.

“During the pandemic when so much is being done to protect lives, these regulations do not reflect the overwhelming will of most people in Northern Ireland to protect the life of every human being.”


Porn industry exploits crisis to increase market share

The Porn industry’s leading website have given users in Italy, Spain and France free access to its premium service for a limited time in response to those countries strict national lockdowns. Pornhub’s premium service includes high-speed downloads, no ads, faster streaming, increased video quality and “discreet billing,” plus anytime cancellation.

Pornhub also announced that they would be donating a portion of their profits in March to help Italy during the coronavirus outbreak. According to the company, their numbers spiked after the offer of free premium content, and as of March 17 were up 11.6 percent.

Regarding Ireland specifically, figures obtained by the Sunday Independent show Pornhub reported an almost 20pc spike in searches from Irish people during the emergency, peaking on St Patrick’s Day. Searches containing the word ‘coronavirus’ and ‘porn’ on the site have also become 80pc more popular in the last 30 days, with Ireland being in the top three countries worldwide where those terms were searched.

One Sinn Fein Senator also encouraged the use of porn as an alternative to casual sexual encounters. “Social distancing applies to hook ups and sex. So explore other ways to satisfy your needs. Phone sex, cam-sex, reading erotica, watching porn or just plain old masturbation”, Senator Fintan Warfield wrote on twitter.

He also recommended advice from HIV Ireland whose patron is President Higgins and is funded by various State agencies and private bodies. While first recommending porn, they add: “If you continue to hook-up, consider reducing the number of guys you have sex with.” While underlining that the best thing to do would be “to consider a break from hooking-up”, they add: “we acknowledge that not all of us will be able or want to do so. In that situation consider all of the harm reduction tips above.”


UK Government puts women at risk with abortion U-turn

The UK Government has amended abortion regulations to allow women to take abortion pills at home after a telephone consultation with a doctor. A similar move has taken place in Ireland. This came after the government had initially said just last week that it would not allow the change due to safety and safeguarding concerns. The changes are the most significant change to abortion in England since the Abortion Act was passed in 1967. The amendment, controversially, comes without public consultation or parliamentary debate or scrutiny.

Ryan Christopher, Senior Policy Officer for ADF International in London said the move puts women at risk: “As a society we should support all pregnant women, especially those in difficult circumstances. No mother should ever be made to feel that she is alone and without hope. Allowing unsupervised home abortions puts women across the UK at risk of going through a difficult experience without much needed care, support, and medical expertise.”

“Additionally, the risk of abortions being forced rises significantly if allowed at home. Rather than permitting this, especially in this time of crisis, the government should be using its resources to support both mother and child. We all want a society in which parents feel able to welcome their children into the world,” he said.


No weddings, baptisms, or confession, says Irish diocese

Baptisms, marriages and individual confession will not be held in the diocese of Clogher, it was announced on Saturday, becoming the first Irish diocese to institute such a ban.

Bishop Larry Duffy said he was “saddened to have to take this course of action, but in the prevailing circumstances”, he had no other option. Funeral masses were also banned.

The stricture stands in contrast to the measures ordered by the Italian State on Saturday which said that weddings and baptisms are permitted for tightly limited groups. On weddings, the note from the country’s Interior Ministry said, “Where the rite takes place just in the presence of the celebrants, the couple and their witnesses, and prescriptions regarding distance among participants are respected, it’s not to be considered among the prohibited cases.”

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