News Roundup

Bishops call for focus on families in Budget

The Irish Bishops have called on the Government to support families in next week’s Budget. In a statement released after the Bishops had gathered for their Autumn 2016 General Meeting, they said:  “In terms of families and specifically childcare, recent cuts to one parent family payment have reduced incomes of many lone parents in employment; and have made it more difficult for others to take up work, education or training.” They added that, in addition to the 6,525 people who are homeless, “a further stark reality is facing thousands of families, including children, who are fighting court orders for the repossession of their family home due to mortgage arrears.  Many of these mortgages are now held by investment companies with little sympathy for the plight of the families involved.” The Bishops called on Government to target resources towards social housing and the homeless in response.
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Unwed gay partner has parental rights to non-biological children – US court

A court in the US state of Massachusetts has ruled that a non-married lesbian whose former partner conceived two children through artificial insemination has equal parental rights as the biological mother. The Supreme Judicial Court had been asked to rule on the case of Karen Partanen who had helped to raise the children, now 4 and 8, born to Julie Gallagher. Partanen sought to be declared a full legal parent after the couple split up in 2013. A lower court dismissed that request previously, but now the Supreme Judicial Court has found that a gay person may establish themselves as a child’s presumptive parent under state law, even without a biological relationship with the child. Gallagher’s lawyer had sought to argue that Partanen was trying to obtain legal rights she would be entitled to only if she had married Gallagher, adopted the children or filed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, but these arguments were overruled.
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Boys born through IVF technique have low sperm counts – study

Baby boys born through IVF have been found to have low sperm counts and may not be able to conceive children of their own naturally, according to a new study. Belgian doctors who pioneered the intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) form of IVF in the 1990s have been tracking 54 children born through the method since. They found that the 54 men now aged between 18 and 22, had almost half the sperm concentration of naturally conceived men as well as a 62 per cent lower sperm count, and 66 per cent lower sperm motility – which measures how well a sperm can move. In addition, they were discovered to be nearly four times more likely to have sperm counts below the level deemed ‘normal’ by the World Health Organisation.
 
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Churches cannot be forced to employ teachers of religion who disagree with teaching

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has defended Church autonomy in the area of employing teachers of religion. In a case stemming from Croatia, where the Catholic Church required a teacher of religion to hold and practice the same beliefs he was supposed to be teaching,  the ECHR ruled that Churches have the freedom to select, hire and replace their teaching personnel in keeping with Church teaching and without undue state interference. The teacher in question had divorced and remarried in violation of Church teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

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UK Bill aims to outlaw abortion on grounds of disability

A Bill aimed at protecting disabled children in the womb from abortion will have its second reading in Britain’s Houses of Parliament this month. The Abortion (Disability Equality) Act 2016 would make it an offence to procure a termination solely on the basis of a disability diagnosis in the womb. Britain currently allows for abortion up to 24 weeks for a foetus diagnosed with a disability. The Bill is sponsored by Conservative Peer Lord Shinkwin, a sufferer of brittle bone disease who has previously pointed out that disability discrimination has been outlawed for years “but for disability diagnosed before birth, discrimination remains enshrined in 2016 in the law of our land”.

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Australian firm becomes first to offer third gender category on forms

An insurance company in Australia has become the first in the country to recognise customers who do not wish to be listed as male or female. HIF insurance of Perth has stated that it is to allow for customers to tick a box for ‘other’ on official forms and will offer the title ‘Mx’ in addition to traditional titles. “HIF members may select the ‘other’ gender option if they choose to identify as neither male nor female, including (but not limited to) those who are agender, androgyne, bi-gender, gender fluid, intersex, neutrois, non-binary, pangender or transgender,” said HIF director Grame Gibson. In altering its forms, HIF is following the example set by the Australian government which has already allowed for M, F, X on passports and this year changed the census form to offer a third gender category.

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Cabinet to consider legislation against forced marriages

Proposed legislation to outlaw forced marriage has been presented to the Cabinet. In bringing the proposal, the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald hopes to gain approval for inclusion of the legislation in the draft of the Domestic Violence Bill. If passed, the new law will criminalise any act which causes others into a forced marriage. This will include where the marriage subsequently takes place outside the State. Government sources have reportedly stated that forced marriage is a “very hidden” practice for Ireland but a real one. The new legislative proposal is the result of a strategy begun earlier in 2016 against sexual and gender-based violence, which will allow Ireland to ratify the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.

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Russian Patriarch backs massive anti-abortion petition

The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill has backed a massive petition aimed at outlawing abortion in the country. From a position of unrestricted abortion, a legacy of communist-era rule, a growing number of Russian citizens are voicing pro-life sentiments. One result of this is a 300,000-strong petition urging the government to enact legislation to combat the rate of terminations, together with a ban on morning-after pills. Supporters of the petition argue that abortion harms both women and the demographics of the nation. Signing the petition, Patriarch Kirill called abortion “a national catastrophe”.

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‘World at war’ on marriage – Pope

“Today the whole world is at war trying to destroy marriage,” Pope Francis has said. Speaking during his official visit to Georgia on October 1, the Pontiff departed from his prepared speech to speak once again on marriage and to again warn that there are “certain ideologies that destroy marriage”. “So we need to defend ourselves from ideological colonisation,” he said. He added: “Matrimony is the most beautiful thing God created,” he said, explaining that since man and woman have been created in God’s image, “it is when the two become one that his image is reflected.”
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Primate issues rallying call to pro-life supporters

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Primate of All Ireland has issued a rallying call to supporters of the pro-life movement. With the campaign against constitutional protection for the unborn growing, the Primate used his Day for Life message at the weekend to “call on all those who believe in a better future for humanity to preserve the dignity and sanctity of human life in all its stages and conditions, as an affirmation of our human capacity for tenderness and love”. On the abortion campaign, he said: “The Eighth Amendment is fundamentally a declaration of tenderness and love for the equal right to life of both a mother and her unborn child.  It is an undertaking to respect, defend and vindicate that right here in Ireland.  This amendment is precious and wonderful – it places as the very foundations and substructure of our laws a clear conviction that all human life is worth cherishing.”
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