News Roundup

Major research project to study unbelief

The John Templeton Foundation is to fund a £2.3 million project to study non-religious belief worldwide. The ‘Understanding Unbelief’ project is to be led by a British-based research team comprising members of a number of universities in England and Northern Ireland, and includes Dr Stephen Bullivant, director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, a group involved in research and engagement activities in the area of religion and the social sciences. In examining the diversity of non-belief, ‘Understanding Unbelief’ aims to build on an earlier 15-month scientific study of non-religious belief. The project will culminate in 2019, with an international conference in Rome, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Vatican’s landmark ‘Culture of Unbelief’ conference.

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Nearly one thousand vulnerable children without social worker – TUSLA

Nearly 1,000 at-risk children in Ireland were awaiting the allocation of a social worker at the end of 2015, latest figures show. According to the annual report of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, 999 “high priority” cases were waiting to be assigned a social worker at the close of the year. While Tusla points out that his represents a 65% reduction for that category of case its report also concedes that, overall, 6,718 children were awaiting a social worker at the end of 2015. Acknowledging the high figure, Chief executive Fred McBride said the number of vulnerable children waiting for a social worker remained unacceptably high and said Tusla is working towards a zero rate.

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Women earn less once they have children – study

Mothers who return to work earn one third less than men over time, a new study in Britain has found. According to research undertaken by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the disparity arises mainly from mothers tending to work fewer hours than colleagues. However, the study also showed that before having a child the average female worker earns 10-15% less per hour than a male employee. After childbirth that steadily increases to 33% after around 12 years. The IFS showed also that there has been a slight improvement in the gender pay gap, with the overall hourly gender pay gap of 18% representing a narrowing of the gap from 23% in 2003 and 28% in 1993.

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Constitutional protection for women at home ‘out of date’ – task force

The Irish Constitution’s protection for women in the home has been described as “out of date” and in need of change by officials of the Department of Justice. According to briefing notes submitted to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald by a task force established by the department to examine recommendations made by the United Nations Human Rights Council and various advocacy groups on Article 41.2, amendment of the article is “favoured”, be that through making it gender-neutral or by repeal. The task force concedes that any change may prove controversial. Article 41.2 says the State “recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved…“The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

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Football coach fired for praying at games

A football coach in the United States has launched a legal action against a school which fired him for praying after games. Joe Kennedy was formerly the coach for the Bremerton High School junior varsity American Football team in Washington State. A committed Christian, he would pray after games, “giving thanks for what the players just did and the opportunity to be part of it”. His example led players from his own and other teams to also pray, but – after eight years – the school district suddenly asked him to stop praying or kneeling at games. He was subsequently dismissed from his coaching role. Kennedy is now taking a case to regain his job to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. His legal team has pointed out that a Buddhist coach who routinely prays during games has not faced similar sanction.

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Church needs to re-examine its methods on marriage preparation – Bishop Doran

Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin has said the Church in Ireland needs to “seriously review” the practical, emotional, and spiritual supports it offers to those preparing for marriage.
Addressing pilgrims at Knock basilica, Dr Doran referred to the universal Church’s two recent synods on marriage and the family and reiterated the Pope’s message that marriage is “a responsibility of the whole Christian community and it is not just about formal courses. It is also about sharing experience and sharing a vision”. This, he said, gave impetus to present marriage in a more positive light. “Too often we have focused on rules and regulations and we have found it difficult ‘to present marriage as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment’,” he said.
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Family of deceased boy demand official inquiry into HSE care

 The family of a boy who died in the care of Health Service Executive (HSE) has called for an independent commission of inquiry to young deaths in care, accusing the body of numerous breaches of international and children’s rights law. The family of ‘Adam’ has said that the latest report by the National Review Panel (NRP) into the boy’s death and 12 others in care is a “whitewash” and it questioned the NRP’s independence. ‘Adam’, who had a learning disability, was placed into care when he was 13 and took his own life at 14 after an alleged catalogue of failings by HSE social workers linked to his case.
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Abortion advocates ‘close ranks’ after Marie Stopes crisis – Pro-Life Campaign

The Pro-Life Campaign (PLC) has accused pro-abortion groups of closing ranks and keeping women “in the dark” after the exposure of poor standards of care at Marie Stopes abortion clinics in Britain. Reacting to news that Marie Stopes clinics have suspended some abortion procedures after concerns from the Care Quality Commission, PLC spokesperson Cora Sherlock pointed to the 2012 death of a woman following her termination at a Marie Stopes clinic and said nothing had been done at that time. “Avoiding ‘bad press’ appears more important to some than informing women about the very real threats to their health and lives,” Ms Sherlock said. “At last a spotlight is being put on the problem but I have little confidence much will change given the deep-seated reluctance to challenge the abortion industry in any meaningful way.”
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Nigerian Bishops reject moves towards abortion

The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria have criticised proposals to legislate for abortion in the country. Responding to plans by Minister of Health Isaac Adewole to offer contraception and abortion to citizens, the Bishops issued a statement in which they “condemned the recent move by the Minister of Health, Prof Adewole in collaboration with the foreign agencies to commit the federal government to increasing the culture of contraception and subsequently, abortion among our people”. Issuing the statement, Bishop Felix Ajakaye added: “Our youth and women need better power supply, potable water, good roads, better health and educational institutions more than these contraceptives. Our country must reject this relentless offer of anti-life incentives under the guise of foreign aid in order not to destroy our beautiful culture.”
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New pregnancy screening ‘will lead to more Down Syndrome abortions’

Campaigners against a new screening process for Down Syndrome in Britain have said their warnings of increased abortions are being ignored by the government. The group, Don’t Screen Us Out, says that Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) will see ever more abortions as parents receive a diagnosis for Down Syndrome. Already in England and Wales, at least 92% of babies receiving this diagnosis are aborted. Don’t Screen Us Out want to delay the introduction of the test until there is a full ethical review to ensure that NIPT complies with human rights obligations. The British government is reportedly on the cusp of approving the new screening.

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