News Roundup

RSE ‘should not be ethos-based’, says Taoiseach

The teaching of relationships and sexuality should not be ethos-based, even in faith schools, according to an Taoiseach, Michael Martin. This would override parental choice and perhaps the Constitution as well.

He was responding to a question from TD Brid Smith in the aftermath of the killing of Ashling Murphy.

Ms Smith said it would be very important that the Taoiseach gives a commitment to changing the sex education regime for young boys and girls, and the key issue is that it has to be “non-ethos based”.

“Some 92% of our schools are run by the Catholic Church and that church, we believe, is incapable of delivering the non-ethos-based sex education that is required,” she said.

The Taoiseach agreed: “On relationships and sexuality education, I believe and agree that it should not be ethos-based – that is without question – and that a national curriculum should be implemented irrespective of the patronage of a school”.


Senator accuses Health Minister of misleading public over abortion law review 

Independent Senator Rónán Mullen has claimed that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly “misled” the public last year when he gave a commitment to hold an open tender process for appointing an independent chairperson for the three-year review of the 2018 abortion legislation.

The Senator said what actually happened – established by TD Michael Collins via parliamentary question – was that the Department approached “a small number of candidates, identified as having suitable experience, were contacted and invited to apply for the role of independent Chair.”

He added that Minister Donnelly must: “… now account to the Oireachtas for the discrepancy between his statements and his actions. We need to know whether, at the time of claiming that a request for tender had taken place, the minister knew that had not happened and that it was not going to happen.”

Mr Mullen also called on the minister to honour his original commitment to tender openly.


Emmanuel Macron calls for abortion to be added to EU rights charter

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Wednesday for abortion to be added to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Pro-life groups reacted with dismay.

Speaking to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Macron said that the rights charter, ratified in the year 2000, needed to be revised.

“Twenty years after the proclamation of our Charter of Fundamental Rights, which notably enshrined the abolition of the death penalty throughout the Union, I hope that we can update this charter, notably to be more explicit on environmental protection and the recognition of the right to abortion,” he said.

The French news channel BFM TV reported that Macron’s reference to abortion was applauded by lawmakers.

The EU charter recognises the right to life but does not mention abortion. It states that “Everyone has the right to life” and “No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.”

The European Parliament voted in June 2021 in favour of a report describing abortion as “essential healthcare” and seeking to redefine conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

The report also declared that violations of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” are “a form of violence against women and girls.”


Govt will not oppose motion to buy site of new Maternity Hospital

The Government will not oppose a Dáil motion to be debated tonight calling for the compulsory purchase of the site for the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH).

However, the Government has not changed its position and does not intend to purchase the site. Instead, it is seeking to conclude a long-term lease – expected to be 299 years – with the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, owners of the site adjacent to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin 4.

Critics of the Government plan allege, without direct evidence, that unless the State owns the site outright, the relocated hospital could be prevented from carrying out procedures such as abortion which are contrary to Catholic teaching. This is because the owners of the site are the successors to the order of nuns who founded and originally ran St Vincent’s Hospital.

However, this has been denied by both the Government, and the board of directors of the St Vincent’s Hospital Group, who have repeatedly affirmed that all medical procedures legal in the State, including abortion, will be available in the hospital.

The motion, promoted by far-left TDs Joan Collins and Thomas Pringle, will not be binding on the Government.


Swiss Supreme Court says Geneva ‘laicité’ law clashes with religious freedom

The Federal Court of Switzerland has said a law promoting an extreme form of ‘laicité’ in the Canton of Geneva is unconstitutional.

Aspects of the law are “contrary to religious freedom”, the country’s highest court said.

Back in 2018, when the norm was passed, the Reséau Evangelique Suisse (RES, the Swiss Evangelical Alliance in the French-speaking area) said aspects of the law were worrying: civil servants would not be allowed to show their faith affiliation “through words or external symbols”, and outdoor religious activities which had not received special authorisation, such as baptisms in rivers or lakes, a common practice among evangelical Christians in Switzerland, would be banned.

“Far from welcoming pluralism as something enriching for society”, the RES said in June 2018, the law “risks the creation of a climate of suspicion and exclusion towards religious communities”.

Now, the Evangelical Alliance welcomed a decision that is “a strong message of tolerance and respect for religious diversity”. It also underlined that it opposed a “militant and dogmatic secularism that wants to confine the religious reality to the private space”.


Parents prefer minding children themselves over day care

More day care is not what most American parents actually want for their children, according to a leading researcher.

Jenet Erickson of the Institute for Family Studies says a recent survey of American adults conducted by YouGov confirmed what other surveys have consistently found. Of the full-time working mothers in the sample, only 11% said using centre-based child care full time is the best arrangement for families with children under age 5.

The most preferred model for care was flexible work where both parents share care (37%), followed by a model where one parent stays home full-time (27%), relatives provide child care full time (14%), or one parent staying at home part time (12%).

Just months earlier, the American Compass Survey found that the majority of married mothers preferred to have one full-time earner, and one stay-at-home parent when children were young. Especially among lower-, working-, and middle-class respondents, a full-time, stay-at-home parent was the most popular arrangement.

In fact, for decades, a majority of mothers of young children have said they prefer part-time or no employment over full-time employment. Typical of other findings, a recent IFS report found that 65% of mothers with children under age five preferred part-time or no employment compared to 35% who said working full-time was ideal.


Greens in Germany call for law change to recognise four ‘parents’

Each child should be able to have up to four parents to reflect modern “rainbow” and “patchwork” families, Germany’s national LGBTQ officer has said.

The new coalition government in Germany under Olaf Scholz has come up with the idea of a “community of responsibility”, under which adults who are not related to or romantically involved with one another would be able to enter legally binding family-like relationships.

These could include rights traditionally afforded to spouses, such as access to another adult’s sensitive medical information.

“In the future, more than two parents should be able to share custody of a child,” Sven Lehmann, 42, a Green MP and Germany’s first “queer affairs commissioner”, told the Funke media group of local newspapers.

“It should be possible for a child to have up to four people with an entitlement to custody,” he said.

“Family is as diverse as life itself. We want to give more protection to these family constellations and make sure that they can get legal recognition.”

A ‘rainbow family’ is one in which at least one parent is gay, lesbian, trans, bisexual or queer. A ‘patchwork’ or stepfamily involves at least one parent with a child from a previous relationship.


Unvaccinated Italian Priests Banned from Distributing Holy Communion

Two Italian bishops have banned any unvaccinated priests from distributing Holy Communion at Mass in their respective dioceses in an effort to get all priests inoculated against the coronavirus.

Archbishop Andrea Bellandi of the Salerno archdiocese and Bishop Giacomo Cirulli of the diocese of Teano issued separate decrees this month imposing the policy.

“I expressly demand that the Eucharist not be distributed during Mass by unvaccinated priests, deacons, or extraordinary ministers,” Bellandi wrote. “In case of absolute necessity, I authorise that, for distribution, a trusted vaccinated person (religious or catechist) be chosen.”

The 70-year-old Bishop Cirulli issued similar directives for the priests of his diocese in a letter addressed to all the faithful.

“I forbid the distribution of the Eucharist by unvaccinated priests, deacons, religious and lay people,” he wrote, citing a “constantly and seriously worsening COVID-19 pandemic situation.”

The letter declared that during Mass “the hosts on the altar must be kept strictly covered in the their proper sacred vessels.”

Bishop Cirulli also ordered the suspension of “all in-person pastoral, catechetical, and formative activities” until further notice.

In December 2020, the Vatican’s doctrinal office (CDF) released a document affirming that vaccination is not, as a general rule, a moral obligation and therefore “must be voluntary.”


China’s population growth rate falls to 61-year low

China’s population growth rate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths in 2021 despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis.

The number of births also dropped for the fifth consecutive year in 2021, data released on Monday showed. Birth rates in many countries have fallen ever further since the pandemic began.

The birthrate is at its lowest since 1949, the year the Communists took power, while the rate of population growth is the lowest since 1960 when the country was in the midst of a devastating man-made famine.

China’s overall population increased by about 480,000 people – to 1.4126 billion in 2021, from 1.412 billion a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) confirmed. The population includes China’s 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, as well as servicemen, but excludes foreigners. It does not include Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan.

Chinese mothers gave birth to 10.62 million babies last year, an 11.5 per cent drop from 12 million in 2020, the NBS confirmed. The national birth rate fell to a record low of 7.52 births for every 1,000 people in 2021, from 8.52 in 2020.

The national death rate was 7.18 per thousand last year, putting the national growth rate at 0.34 per thousand.

“The most shocking part of the data release today is that the natural growth of the population has dropped to 0.34 per thousand, the first time below 1.0 since data become available,” said Zhang Zhiwei, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management. “The demographic challenge is well known, but the speed of population ageing is clearly faster than expected.

“This suggests China’s total population may have reached its peak in 2021. It also indicates China’s potential growth is likely slowing faster than expected.”


Fewer Catholic schools suggested after Ashling Murphy killing

There is a “void” of proper education around sex and consent in secondary school that needs to be addressed, according to one academic who spoke in the aftermath of the Ashling Murphy killing.

Elaine Healy Byrnes, an NUI Galway academic who has written a PhD on consent, says the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum needs to be brought into “the 21st century” and long-awaited RSE reform should include requirements to teach pupils about consent and respect in relationships.

Part of the problem, she told the Irish Times, lies with the slow pace of the Catholic Church divestment of school patronage, leaving religious ethos to often clash with more “modern” approaches to teaching students about sex and relationships.

Meanwhile, Colm O’Connor, principal of Cork Educate Together secondary school, says the majority of secondary schools should be mixed, rather than single-sex.

“I’ve worked in single-sex and co-ed schools for a decade each, and there is no comparison in terms of gender relations,” Mr O’Connor says. “In co-ed schools empathy is easier to build as male, female and trans students learn about each other’s lives and challenges together,” he says.

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