News Roundup

Catholic school guidelines show how to be inclusive and respect school’s ethos

A new document from the Joint Managerial Body gives guidance to Catholic secondary schools on how to show respect for children from diverse backgrounds while at the same time abiding by the schools’ own religious ethos.

Joint Managerial Body (JMB), representing almost 400 Catholic second-level schools, to reflect the growing religious and cultural diversity in schools.

At the same time, they stress that “it should always be made clear to parents that students will be experiencing the values and ethos of the school in the day-to-day running of the school, not just in RE class”.

The guidelines support the prominent display of Catholic religious imagery in schools, but also suggest that pupils from different faiths could be invited to display art/icons around the time of their own major religious feasts.

In the area of clothing, they state that no one should be prevented from wearing a religious symbol or garment in accordance with their tradition, such as the hijab for Muslim girls or the turban for Sikh boys.

The guidelines point to the practice by Hindu females particularly, and Muslims from India, to paint their hands and feet around the time of a religious festival, which “should be regarded with understanding”.

Where Muslims are concerned about sex education, schools are urged to provide an opportunity for parents to discuss the moral framework before discussing whether to withdraw their child. PE can also be problematic for Muslims, on modesty grounds, and among the solutions proffered are for girls to wear a burkini, a short wet suit.

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UK Catholic bishops put right to life at centre of General Election message

Catholic bishops in the UK have made the right to life a priority in the upcoming Westminster election.

The bishops of England and Wales put the protection of life at the top of a list of key issues, while the bishops of Scotland also made abortion and euthanasia their primary concerns.

Their statements came as the UK’s Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats pledged to further liberalise the UKs already permissive abortion regime.

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Christian refugees discriminated against by UK and UN, says former Archbishop of Canterbury

A former Archbishop of Canterbury is suing the UK Home Office alleging discrimination against Christian refugees.

Lord George Carey alleges that “politically correct” officials in London have been “institutionally biased” against Christian asylum seekers.

He also wants to find out why out of 60-thousand Syrian war refugees accepted into the US and Britain in 2014, almost none were Christians.

Separately, he has alleged that United Nations officials in the Middle East have blocked Syrian Christians from getting help from the UN’s Refugee Agency.

Lord Carey’s attorney, Paul Diamond, related the allegations to CBN News:

“You have this absurd situation where the scheme is set up to help Syrian refugees and the people most in need, Christians who have been “genocided,” they can’t even get into the U.N. camps to get the food. If you enter and say I am a Christian or convert, the Muslim U.N. guards will block you [from] getting in and laugh at you and mock you and even threaten you.

“Sunni Muslim officials have blocked the way. They’ve laughed at them, threatened them, said ‘You shouldn’t have converted. You’re an idiot for converting. You get what you get,’ words to that effect.”

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State must seize hospital land from nuns – call

The State must seize the land on which the new national maternity hospital (NMH) is to be built to ‘ensure provision’ of all women’s ‘health services’, including abortion, a new group has said.

The Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare said it was a “disgrace” two Catholic institutions were “still in the driving seat” on the future of the new hospital.

The NMH is to be built on the St Vincent’s hospital campus in Donnybrook, Dublin, on land leased to the State by the religious Sisters of Charity.

Spokesperson, Marie O’Connor, said even this would mean a “grossly inadequate” arrangement.

“The State needs to own the land on which it plans to build this hospital. Women’s healthcare is at risk. To expect a hospital [on land] owned by the nuns’ company to provide a full range of healthcare, including contraception, sterilisation, abortion, IVF and so on, is unrealistic.

“Only public ownership of the company can guarantee the healthcare will be secular.”

Bríd Smith TD (People Before Profit) said every candidate in the forthcoming general election should sign a pledge demanding that the new national maternity hospital be publicly-owned, publicly-run and secular.

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U.S. Catholics less likely than Protestants to be confident of advice from clergy

While most U.S. adults who attend religious services express confidence in their clergy’s advice, a recent Pew Research Center survey finds that Catholics have considerably less confidence than Protestants. They are also less likely to claim a close relationship with their clergy.

Among U.S. adults who attend religious services at least a few times a year, six-in-ten Catholics (61%) say they have a “very” or “somewhat” close relationship with their clergy, compared with about eight-in-ten Protestants (78%). Just 8% of Catholics say they are very close with their clergy, compared with a quarter of Protestants. And while only 22% of Protestants say they are not close with the clergy at their church, the share among Catholics is nearly twice as high (39%).

Only three-in-ten Catholics say they have “a lot” of confidence in their clergy’s guidance about marriage and relationships. Larger shares of evangelical Protestants (66%), Protestants in the historically black tradition (54%) and mainline Protestants (45%) say the same. And Catholics are much less likely than Protestants overall to trust their religious leaders to give useful advice on parenting (23% vs. 49%, respectively).

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More sacramental preparation to be done in parishes

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has announced “significant” reforms aimed at put more responsibility for sacramental preparation of children on parishes and less on schools. Other dioceses such as Kildare & Leighlin have already gone down this road.

Diarmuid Martin said training for the reform campaign, which will be implemented on a phased basis, should begin immediately.

Dr Martin wrote to priests and parishes this week informing them that the Priests Council had endorsed a new approach to the sacraments which would be centred on “supporting parents in sharing faith with their children and that in time will see parishes assume responsibility for the preparation and celebration of all four sacraments”.

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Little change to employment of 3rd level chaplains, despite major review

The number of lay chaplaincy appointments in the higher education sector has remained static and the overall spend has increased despite recommendations in a 2015 review.

In 2015 then Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan asked the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to conduct a review of higher education institutions to determine existing chaplaincy arrangements across the sector. This was as a result of a campaign by Atheist Ireland.

The review, which was completed in the summer 2016, made a number of recommendations including ensuring value for money, making support services available to students of all faiths (and none) and compliance with public sector appointment criteria.

Several institutions had no public appointment or tendering procedure for the employment of chaplains.

To address the availability of services to students of all faiths, the HEA had suggested at the time that the use of lay chaplains be considered. A lay chaplain is a representative of a religious institution who is not a cleric of that faith.

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New divorce law has come into effect

The new law to significantly reduce divorce waiting times and further weaken the bonds of marriage, legally speaking, has come into effect this week. The legislation that followed upon the Divorce referendum cuts in half the required waiting period for divorce from four years to two years and removes any need for a waiting time from the Constitution altogether meaning the waiting time can be further reduced in the future. Minister for Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, who shepherded the Government’s campaign in favour of the change in law, celebrated the enactment of the legislation on Newstalk. Speaking to Mark Cagney, she called it a “significant achievement” by all those who campaigned for it and said it reflects “a kindness and understanding” that people have about other people’s situations.

The law took effect on Sunday.

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Large rally against Westminster’s extreme abortion law for the North

Thousands took part in a Belfast rally against the imposition of an extremely permissive abortion law on the North by Westminster. Abortion will be decriminalised up to the point of foetal viability which is more liberal than the British law.

The NI Voiceless initiative was set up by citizens who object to the people of Northern Ireland not being consulted on the new law.

One of the organisers, Sarah Crutchley, said: “We are heartbroken over the change in Northern Ireland and we want to express our sorrow, because the right to life of unborn children has been totally disregarded.

“We are also here to stand for unity, to shine a light for life.

“We want a life-affirming society here, where every life is valued and no death is chosen.

“We want to stand, speak and serve for the lives of unborn children and for women in need.”

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New advocacy group for ‘detransitioners’ launched in UK

A new group, the Detransition Advocacy Network, founded by Charlie Evans, has just been launched in the UK to support people who have stopped or reversed gender reassignment.

To celebrate its launch, Make More Noise, an ‘independent feminist collective’, hosted a conference discussing the ethics of the social and medical transition of gender non-conforming women and girls. Social media commentary was tagged #ManchesterDetrans.

Professionals working in the field gave talks, while a panel of detransitioned spoke about their experiences.

Among the speakers were Susan Evans, a mental health nurse and psychotherapist, who resigned her position at the Tavistock clinic over concerns that hormones were being prescribed to vulnerable children without due care; Dr Anna Hutchinson a chartered Clinical Psychologist who held senior positions at a number of internationally renowned London hospitals, including Great Ormond Street Hospital and The Tavistock Centre; and Stella O Malley an Irish psychotherapist, best selling author and public speaker whose documentary ‘Trans Kids – it’s time to talk’ was one of the first films to investigate the treatment of transgender children.

In a follow up interview with the Sunday Independent, Ms O’Malley said ‘Born in the wrong body’ is a great description of a feeling, “but it’s not a diagnosis”.

“And psychologically, that is a very dangerous thing to say to somebody. Can you be born in the wrong body? Can you be born in the wrong head? Are people who are born in very challenging bodies, through disability, are they born in the ‘wrong’ body? I reject the concept”, she added.

Meanwhile, the Government here is pushing ahead with plans to make it far easier for under 18s to change their legally recognised gender.

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