News Roundup

World Meeting of Families will focus on family, not papal visit, says organiser

The upcoming World Meeting of Families is firmly focused on the theme of family, rather than any potential papal visit, according to one of its lead organisers, Fr Timothy Bartlett.
Writing in the Irish Times, Fr Bartlett said the family has been fundamental to the ministry of Pope Francis and he often repeats the famous phrase of St John Paul II that “the future of humanity passes by way of the family”, adding, “and the future of the church”. The family is, according to Francis, “the nearest hospital, the first school for the young, and the best home for the elderly”.
“In a world easily given to violence, inhumanity and disposal of the other, he remains convinced that it is this messy but grace-filled reality of the family that so often holds our lives and the world itself together,” said Fr Bartlett.
The global nature of the gathering also meant it could not get mired down in specifically Irish issues. “It is important that the meeting in Ireland, as well as the commentary and analysis leading up to it, avoids the temptation of becoming self-referential, of approaching the event and its significance solely in terms of Irish issues and the Irish church,” said Fr Bartlett.
“The year ahead is an opportunity to change the conversation, to focus instead on the global issues, the common human values and mutual interest between Church and society that converge in working together for the wellbeing of the family.”


Transgender lesson in kindergarten class leaves parents feeling ‘betrayed’

A primary school in the US is facing tough questions from parents over a transgender lesson to a kindergarten class that concluded with one child exiting the class and then reappearing under a new gender identity. “These parents feel betrayed by the school district that they were not notified,” said Karen England with the Capitol Resource Institute. The incident happened earlier this summer during the last few days of the academic school year. The teacher read two children’s books about transgenderism including one titled “I am Jazz.” Parents say besides the books, the transgender student at some point during class also changed clothes and was revealed as her ‘true gender’.
“The kindergartners came home very confused, about whether or not you can pick your gender, whether or not they really were a boy or a girl,” said England.
Many parents say they feel betrayed and blindsided. “My daughter came home crying and shaking so afraid she could turn into a boy,” another parent said.
The school district defended the teacher’s actions saying the books were age-appropriate and fell within their literature selection policy. Unlike sex education, the topics of gender identity don’t require prior parental notice.


Married patients with heart disease have better survival rates

Marriage is a vital factor affecting the survival of patients who have had a heart attack, as well as those with the most important risk factors, according to research presented Monday at a Cardiology congress in Barcelona.
Researchers based at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, UK, used a database of almost one million patients hospitalised in England between 2000 and 2013 to study the effect of marital status on such patients.
Of those who had a heart attack, married patients were 14% more likely than single patients to survive after the event. Of those with the three biggest risk factors for heart disease, married patients with high cholesterol were 16% more likely to be alive at the end of the study while married people with diabetes or high blood pressure had a 14% and 10% higher survival, respectively, compared to those who were single.
Although the protective effect of marriage has been shown before, this is one of the largest studies of its kind.
Dr Paul Carter, lead author of the study, said: “Marriage, and having a spouse at home, is likely to offer emotional and physical support on a number of levels ranging from encouraging patients to live healthier lifestyles, helping them to cope with the condition and helping them to comply to their medical treatments. Our findings suggest that marriage is one way that patients can receive support to successfully control their risk factors for heart disease, and ultimately survive with them.”


Former Taoiseach John Bruton argues for human rights of the unborn

Former Taoiseach John Bruton has spoken out in favour of retaining the Eighth Amendment due to the recognition it gives to the human rights of the unborn child.
Speaking in Cahersiveen where he delivered the keynote address at the Daniel O’Connell Summer School, Mr Bruton said the debate on abortion should be seen primarily in terms of human rights. He said the Irish people have a choice to make as to whether human rights extend to the unborn or only to those who are born. It was his view that the unborn should have human rights and for this reason he favours retaining the existing constitutional position which protects the rights of the unborn.  
The former Fine Gael leader suggested that O’Connell’s belief in human dignity, which led him to oppose slavery, would have also led him to oppose abortion. “One of O’Connell’s great causes, the ending of slavery arose from his belief in the dignity of every defenceless human being ….. – as a society do we respect the dignity of people before they are born as well as respect it after they are born? At what age do human rights commence and end?” he asked. “These are not trivial questions or questions of convenience or questions of individual rights – they are questions about the obligations we have to other people that have not yet been born but who are already alive,” said Mr Bruton in his closing remarks at the end of a wide ranging address.

Proposal to jail people who address transgender persons with the wrong pronoun 

California legislators are set to vote this week on a bill that could criminalise use of the wrong pronoun to refer to a transgender individual. The new law would allow transgender individuals living in care facilities like nursing homes to use bathrooms in line with their preferred gender (so a man who identifies as a woman could use the women’s bathroom), and would punish any caregiver who “knowingly” uses the wrong gender pronoun to refer to one of their patients.
Using “he” instead of “she” could incur a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail for gender-based discrimination and harassment. The law, which says “knowingly,” does not seem to identify a specific standard, leaving interpretation of motive up to authorities.
According to law professor Eugene Volokh, the law itself seems too vague, and it’s likely California wouldn’t enforcement to nursing home caretakers only.  Writing in National Review, Eliott Kaufmann said the “focus on nursing homes, one suspects, was chosen not because there is an epidemic of elderly transgender people being ‘misgendered’ by their caretakers, but simply because the elderly make for a particularly sympathetic test case.”
The state senator who authored the bill, Scott Weiner, would not exempt religious organisations from the law. “Everyone is entitled to their religious view,” Weiner said. “But when you enter the public space, when you are running an institution, you are in a workplace, you are in a civil setting, and you have to follow the law.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin decries persecution of Christians and urges courageous witness

The Catholic Archbishop of Armagh has called attention to the persecution of Christians worldwide in a homily in Germany at the weekend. Speaking at a commemoration of the martyred St Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop Eamon Martin said: “It is shocking to think that in 2017 thousands of Christians are still being persecuted, displaced or expelled, tortured, discriminated and murdered simply because they are Christian. This is happening in many countries of the world – even though we seldom read or hear about it in the Western media.” He said that even Christians in the West need to witness courageously to their faith in public “and especially in a sometimes aggressively secular world which would seek to silence the public voice of believers”. In particular, he urged his coreligionists to speak boldly on “the sacredness and dignity of all human life; on the uniqueness of love and marriage between a man and a woman that is open to the gift of children as fruit of that love; the need for a fair distribution of the worlds goods; welcoming the stranger and those who are persecuted; and, the importance of respecting the environment and caring for the Earth – our common home.”

Stay at home parents offer searing critique of Minister Zappone’s childcare programme

A representative of stay-at-home parents has offered a blunt assessment of Government policy on childcare, criticising it for ignoring what the vast majority of parents and children want. Marshalling an array of figures from Government sources and opinion polling, Catherine Walsh, spokesperson for the Stay-at-Home Parents Association, showed that neither children, nor parents prefer the Government’s favoured childcare model, and that policy is not supported by the vast majority of the public either. Furthermore, a study from the ESRI showed almost no evidence of the supposed benefits of professional childcare for children. Writing in the Irish Daily Mail, she said, “Our members throughout this country , both mothers and fathers alike, many of whom have paused their careers to provide fulltime childcare to their families, have made it clear that they feel forgotten, invisible and whitewashed from society despite their valuable work.”
An editorial in the same paper pointed out that a mere 118 childminders are registered with Tusla under the new scheme which shows “how out-of-step Minister for Children Katherine Zappone’s childcare ideal is with the more local and intimate model preferred by most Irish families”.  
It called for the entire approach to be rethought as “it seems there is an enormous gulf between the State’s vision for a subsidised childcare industry, where large numbers of children are cared for by professionals, and parental choice for smaller, more personal arrangements”.

Courts dismisses atheist’s claim of discrimination after he vandalises religious statue

A new Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruling has found that an atheist teacher wasn’t discriminated against on the grounds of religion concerning the placing of a May altar with a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a school. The complainant had said the statue provoked deep unease and anxiety in him because of his deeply held beliefs. He claimed it was “unpalatable and offensive to him personally on the basis of his belief that the religious statue of the Virgin Mary is one associated with the repression of normal human sexuality”. The teacher also got involved in a scuffle with a caretaker while attempting to forcibly remove the statue that left the caretaker visibly shaken, bruised, and with a cut to the neck.
Dismissing the teacher’s claim for discrimination, harassment and victimisation, the Adjudication Officer, Enda Murphy said: “I am satisfied that the placement of the May altar is a passive symbol which is not intended for the purpose of imposing or manifesting Catholic or Christian beliefs upon the complainant personally.”
Mr Murphy also found that the presence of religious symbols such as the May altar is wholly legitimate, rational and proportionate to the object of the preservation of the Christian ethos within the school, described as a Central Technical Institute (CTI).
“I am satisfied that the actions of the complainant in attempting to remove the statute on the date in question served to undermine the religious ethos of the school,” Mr Murphy added.
He said he couldn’t accept that the teacher’s actions in attempting to remove the statue “were tantamount to an act of expression of his religious beliefs”.

Australian Government Minister says religious schools must have right to teach own definition of marriage

Religious schools, including Catholic and Anglican schools, should have a legislatively protected right to teach their conception of marriage, an Australian Government Minister has said.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, said the government’s position is there needs to be protection for religious freedom and freedom of speech and this might require new legislation to enshrine it in law.
“People need to be able to speak their mind,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “If they’re employed in an Anglican school or a Catholic school, whatever it might be, and they want to preach in accordance with their beliefs, that is a right in our country and needs to be protected. You don’t have to be a person of religious belief to support that.
“People don’t need to conform to one point of view. People need to have their freedom of speech. That needs to be enshrined. If legislation needs to be changed or people need to be alerted to the fact that there’s likely change required in legislation, they should be heard.”

New poll shows big majority believe stay-at-home parents should receive more support

A new poll has found that 65% of people think parents who give up work to raise their children should receive the same level of financial support, or more, as those who go out to work. The poll, conducted for the Irish Daily Mail, also found only 20% believe parents who go out to work should receive more taxpayers’ funding than their stay-at-home counterparts even though this is current Government policy as spearheaded by Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone. That policy offers tax subsidies to parents who put their children into Tusla-approved daycare facilities, but nothing for children who are cared for at home. This inequality of treatment has led to claims that parents who opt to stay at home with their children are financially supporting those who go out to work.
The poll asked “Should stay-at-home mothers get the same, more, or less financial support as those who go out to work?” 51% said they should receive the same; 14% they should get more; and 20% they should get less, while 16% of people did not know.
The report, said “Ms Zappone has claimed that putting babies into daycare or creches is benefical for them despite a growing raft of worldwide research showing that it can lead to a marked increase in behavioural problems later in life, compared to children brought up at home.” Research conducted by the ERSI indicates no substantial differences in outcomes between children in day-care and children minded at home. Supporters of day-care say day-care puts children at a big advantage.
It added: “Asked if the new childcare payments could be extended to stay-at-parents a spokesperson for Ms Zappone said it ‘should given to those child providers which meet the very highest standards and are registered. Stay-at-home parents can access those same providers as working parents and avail of the supports as outlined on’”