News Roundup

Poll predicts post-Covid Mass attendance will drop by 12%

New research reveals that more than one-in-ten Catholics who regularly attended Mass before the pandemic say they will not return when all restrictions are lifted.

Commissioned by the Iona Institute, and carried out by Amárach Research, the survey found that a slim majority (53%) of pre-coronavirus Mass-goers have not come back yet, while 47% say they are now back regularly attending Mass.

Parishioners cite a number of reasons for not yet returning including ongoing concerns about Covid-19, a dislike of wearing masks and a weakening of faith.

Of those who attended pre-pandemic, but no longer do now, 31% of them said they will return to Mass when all pandemic restrictions are lifted. However, 23% (almost one in four) said that they had no intention of returning to Mass while 46% of former regulars said they did not know whether or not they would ever return to Mass.

If the figure for those who are adamant that they will not return comes to pass, it would represent an overall fall in regular Mass attendance of 12% in just two years.


Catholic Bishops repeat call for ‘ethical vaccines’

All Catholics should advocate for the availability of ethically developed vaccines, according to the Catholic Bishops of Ireland.

They gathered remotely this week for their Winter 2021 General Meeting via video-link, instead of the usual location at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

In a statement released after the meeting, they urged everyone to continue to support the Covid19 vaccination programmes.

However, they also called for pressure to be applied that vaccines be developed in an ethical way.

“In that way they bear witness that biomedical research should always be conducted in a manner which is consistent with respect for life and for human dignity.  We ask that the Departments of Health, North and South, would actively promote the development, sourcing, and supply of vaccines which do not have a historical link with abortion”.

They added: “Anyone who, for reasons of conscience, chooses not to be vaccinated must, nevertheless, do their utmost to avoid, by other means and by appropriate behaviour, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infection”.


Almost no complaints to the Dept of Ed about schools’ ethos

There is no evidence of a largescale desire by parents for the ethos of schools to change, even as it impacts the teaching of sex education.

In a reply to a parliamentary question from TD, Carol Nolan, the Minister for Education said that his Department had received only 60 communications in ten years, featuring complaints involving a perceived restriction on the teaching of Relationships and Sexuality Education [RSE] as a result of the ethos (or characteristic spirit) of schools.

The Laois-Offaly TD had asked Minister Norma Foley the details of the number of complaints made to her Department from 2011 to date involving the issue of school ethos, including the way in which it had shaped the teaching of RSE.


US Supreme Court Justices question abortion regime

The US Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday into the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which could overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade case which imposed a radical abortion regime on all fifty American states.

While questions and comments during oral argument are no sure guarantee of how a judge will rule, editors at the conservative National Review, said it was “hard to see how the argument could have gone much better for the pro-life cause. Now, we wait to see if the Justices have the fortitude to do the right thing, end 48 years of judicial usurpation, and restore the primacy of the Constitution”.

They noted Justice Kavanaugh, regarded as the potential swing vote, stressed how often the Court has jettisoned prior precedents, and returned again and again to the theme that getting the Court out of abortion is the “scrupulously neutral,” small-d democratic middle ground. Chief Justice John Roberts “correctly compared Roe to the abortion regimes of China and North Korea and noted that it should be concerning for the USA to find themselves in that company.” Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who has given birth to five children and adopted two more, pushed back against the notion that women are forced to be parents, given the option to give up a child for adoption. None of those justices seemed particularly impressed by the answers to their questions.

“A majority of the Court appears to understand that Roe is bad law. What remains to be seen is whether they have the courage to act on that,” the editors concluded.


Liveline callers attack An Post’s “Holidays” stamps

Callers phoned RTE’s Joe Duffy on Tuesday to share their “disappointment” and “anger” after discovering this year’s An Post Christmas stamps did not depict any nativity scenes.

The selection of Christmas stamps includes Peace & Joy, Naughty or Nice?, Nollaig Shona, Ho Ho Ho, Sending Hugs and Love.

One caller told Joe he was “disappointed”, “angry” and and felt “betrayed” that the stamp selection did not have any relation to Christianity.

Another listener phoned in to say she was “embarrassed” by what they implied:

She said: “When I opened them I said oh my gosh what am I going to put on this envelope, and then I saw Naughty or Nice, and I thought could you just imagine the poor men getting an envelope like that coming through the post.”

A third listener said she felt the naughty or nice stamp was too sexual to put on a postcard.

She told Joe: “Well, just about naughty but nice on a post-it stamp. I think is just plain crass… I mean, it’s sex basically, isn’t it, you know, which is fine it makes the world go round and all the rest of it, but on a postcard? No.


Catholic Bishops decry EU attempt to snuff out use of “Christmas”

Europe’s Catholic bishops said on Tuesday that a withdrawn document discouraging European Commission staff from using the word “Christmas” was marred by “anti-religious bias.”

The controversial document, titled “Union of Equality,” recommended the expression “holiday period” instead of “Christmas period,” and, in order to guarantee the right of “every person to be treated equally,” preferred that a more generic “Ms” be used in the place of “Miss or Mrs.” Not only that, the document proposed that names typical to a specific religion such as “Mary” and “John” not be used anymore.

The Vatican’s Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said the move represented a “cancellation of our roots, the Christian dimension of our Europe, especially with regard to Christian festivals”.

COMECE, (a commission of the Bishops of EU countries) said they “cannot help being concerned about the impression that an anti-religious bias characterized some passages of the draft document”.

The guide urged officials at the European Commission — the executive branch of the European Union, a political and economic bloc of 27 member states — to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian.”


Portugal’s president vetoes euthanasia bill

Portuguese President has vetoed a bill to legalise euthanasia, claiming the conditions for permitting the procedure were too vague and possibly too radical.

“The bill, in one clause, says permission for anticipated death requires a ‘fatal disease’ … but widens it elsewhere to ‘incurable disease’ even if this is not fatal, and only ‘serious disease’ in another clause,” Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa wrote on Monday.

If the criteria for legalised euthanasia has fallen below a fatal disease, the president asked if the draft law “represents a vision that is more radical and drastic than the dominant view in Portuguese society?”

Supporters of legalisation had been eager to vote through the bill in November as they fear the parliamentary arithmetic could tilt the other way after an early election, scheduled for January 30, called after the minority Socialist government suffered a defeat last month on a key budget vote.

Although pushed by the Socialist Party and the radical Left Bloc, the issue cut across the left-right divide.

The Portuguese Communist Party was firmly against decriminalising euthanasia, while the pro-business Liberal Initiative party voted in favour.

The two largest parties gave their lawmakers a free vote: A handful of Socialists voted against, while centre-right opposition leader Rui Rio voted in favour, against the vast majority of his Social Democratic Party.


German court to hear appeal on pro-life prayer vigil ban

A German court announced it will hear the appeal against a prohibition on silent prayer gatherings in the proximity of an abortion advisory centre.

This May, a lower court had dismissed the challenge of the leader of a prayer initiative to have restrictions on their prayer vigils lifted. Pavica Vojnović, the leader of the “40 Days for Life” group in Pforzheim, Germany, had challenged the ban on the grounds of the right to freedom of religion, assembly and speech. Her group is currently prohibited from gathering to peacefully pray in the proximity of a Pro Familia abortion advisory centre.

Experts welcomed the decision by the Administrative Court of Appeals in Mannheim, which called for the facts of the case to be established as required by the rule of law.


Few Americans blame God or lose faith amid pandemic

A new survey from the Pew Research Center revealed that many Americans held fast to their faith during the COVID-19 pandemic and don’t blame God for it or other disasters including floods, hurricanes and wildfires.

Pew researchers said they found that many Americans believe the tragedies and human suffering were happenstances — also attributable to people’s actions and the way society is structured. Researchers found that fewer Americans blamed God or questioned God’s existence because of tragedies.

Upon reading “Sometimes bad things just happen,” 44% of the survey respondents said the phrase described their views very well and 42% said it described their views somewhat well. Sixty-one percent of Americans think that suffering exists “to provide an opportunity for people to come out stronger.” In a separate questionnaire, 68% said that “everything in life happens for a reason.”


Couple awarded €38,000 after IVF clinic produced ‘wrong’ child

A Spanish couple has won a lawsuit in a Belgian court because an IVF clinic produced twins with the wrong genetic make-up. The parents were awarded €38,000 for “shock” and “impoverishment”.

It was the first time that a Belgian court had found that a healthy child can be the cause of loss to parents.

A previous child born to the parents had beta thalassaemia, a genetic disorder which can be corrected with a bone marrow transplant. They wanted another child who could supply healthy bone marrow – a so-called “saviour sibling”.

Doctors at the Universitair Ziekenhuis in Brussels promised to do IVF and “pre-implantation genetic diagnosis” to ensure that the second child was a suitable donor. To the parents’ dismay, however, the clinic selected an embryo which proved not to be a match. Worse still, the embryo twinned.

The parents repeated the procedure at a hospital in Madrid and the fourth child proved to be a match.

Then the parents successfully sued the Belgian hospital. The judge ruled that the Spanish couple had “wanted two or three children within their family project, but under no circumstances four”.

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