News Roundup

Pakistan challenged on persecution of Christians and other minorities

The Foreign Minister of Pakistan has been criticised in the UK’s House of Lords after he suggested last week that persecution of Christians and other minorities were merely “individual incidents” being “whipped up” by “western interests”.

Lord David Alton of Liverpool took him to task by saying not only were those incidents real, but they contradicted the promise of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, that minorities of all religions, castes and creeds would be safeguarded.

Lord Alton challenged the foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, to address the victims of those incidents:

“Try telling that to the two children forced to watch a lynch mob of 1,200 burn their parents alive. Pakistan fails the Jinnah test, not western interests, when no one is brought to justice for the murder of the Christian Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti. It fails the Jinnah test when 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls are forcibly married and converted. It fails when, in Punjab, Sadaf Masih, a 13 year-old girl, is kidnapped, forcibly converted and married and when, in Sindh, the same thing happened to two Hindu girls”.


Church-State covenant to be raised at dialogue meeting

Religious leaders are expected to ask Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to elaborate today on what he meant when calling for a new ‘covenant’ between Church and State during last year’s papal visit.

The latest structured dialogue meeting involving the Taoiseach, members of the Government and representatives of the churches, of other faiths and of non-confessional bodies will take place at Dublin Castle.

The Catholic Church, which will be represented at the meeting by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Siobhán Hanley, head of Trócaire Northern Ireland, will call on the Government to support parents “who wish for a faith-based education for their children”.

The Church of Ireland is to discuss the primary school forum, which it said was “extremely constructive as a means of critical engagement with the formation and implementation of Government policy in the sector”.


Denmark launches new restrictions on parental divorce

Parents seeking a divorce in Denmark are now required to take a mandatory course and wait three months before they can separate.

The Danish Parliament agreed in March to implement a mandatory “reflection period” of three months and require parents who have children 18 years old and younger to take an online course before a divorce can be finalized.

The course is called ‘Co-operation After Divorce’ and enables parents to consider the ramifications of a relationship split, particularly through the eyes of their children, and explains how to communicate after divorce.

“The digital course answers some of the most fundamental questions that you are left with during a divorce,” Mai Mercado, Denmark’s Ministry of Children and Social Security, told the Paris-based news agency Agence France-Presse.

Approximately 30pc of children do not live with both of their parents, compared to just 15pc in 1980, according to Statistics Denmark. Until the adoption of this new policy, Danes have been able to obtain what is called a “mutually consensual” divorce speedily, by simply filling out an online form and requiring no judge nor waiting period.


Tory leadership candidates promise respect NI’s pro-life law

A pro-life group in Northern Ireland has welcomed statements made yesterday by the two candidates for Prime Minister that they would not impose abortion law change on the North.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt both said that it is for the people of Northern Ireland to decide upon this devolved issue, not Westminster. There have been suggested that Westminster should impose a liberal abortion law on Northern Ireland with Stormont currently suspended.

Spokesperson for Both Lives Matter, Dawn McEvoy, welcomed the statement saying the law in the North already strikes a delicate balance that has resulted in over 100,000 people being alive today because the 1967 UK Abortion Act was not extended to the North.


High court judge: sex crimes by children are starting with porn exposure on smart phones

A High Court judge has said he is concerned about the number of cases of young children committing serious offences as a result of exposure to pornography on “smart” phones.

Mr Justice Micheal White made his comments while dealing with a case involving a boy who sexually exploited his two younger cousins, one male and one female, including engaging in anal rape of both. The boy’s lawyer told the Central Criminal Court that his client, now aged 17, had access to porn from a very young age.

The boy, who cannot be identified because he is still a minor, told gardai he became obsessed with sex.

Mr Justice White adjourned the case to later this month for sentencing. He said this was the fourth case he has dealt with himself “where young children have committed the most serious offences…where the start was exposure to pornography on smart phones”.

“It is very serious and a matter of great concern.” he said. He said the offending the court is seeing “goes way beyond consensual sexual experimentation”.


Bill for Citizens Assembly on gender inequality given Cabinet approval

At a curtailed cabinet meeting yesterday, the Government gave its approval of a bill to establish citizens assemblies on gender equality and local government.

The planned full cabinet meeting was delayed due to the Taoiseach having to attend the EU Council meetings in Brussels.


Archbishop of Armagh to join rally for life in Dublin

The Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, is to join thousands of pro-life supporters at the annual Rally for Life in Dublin this Saturday, July 6th.

Also taking part will be Carol Nolan TD, who resigned from Sinn Féin in June of last year over its stance on abortion, and Trevor Hayes, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at St Luke’s Hospital Kilkenny.

Prior to the rally, Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran will celebrate Mass at St Saviour’s Church on Dominic Street in Dublin.

Niamh Uí Bhriain, one of the organisers of the event, said the rally was intended to show that, despite the removal of the right to life of the unborn from the Constitution last year, “no law, no legislation can make it right to take the life of a child”.


Vatican criticises bid to break privacy of Confession

The Vatican has hit back at growing pressure from secular authorities in the U.S., Australia and elsewhere to force Catholic priests report evidence of child sex abuse they hear in Confession, saying the seal of confidentiality cannot be violated and there is no scope for compromise or exemptions.

“Every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him,” the Vatican said Monday, quoting the Catechism, a compendium of Catholic doctrine.

The document also stated that a priest could truthfully deny, even under oath, knowing the contents of a confession given to him “because he did not listen to (the penitent) as a man but, precisely, in the name of God.”


Statue of former Archbishop decapitated

The marble statue of Archbishop Patrick Leahy, a former Catholic archbishop of Cashel and Emly, was decapitated and the head stolen last week. There have been a series of attacks recently on churches and religious objects.

The marble statue stands just metres from the main entrance to Thurles Cathedral. The head appears to have been knocked off violently spreading fragments of stone around the base.

Gardaí have described the incident as a wanton act of violence. Superintendent Pat Murphy said locals are shocked. “They are horrified that something which has been there for so long has been damaged in such a fashion”.


Record 32 ‘terminations of pregnancy’ in 2018 under old law

A record number of pregnancies were terminated in Irish hospitals last year. One was an abortion on the grounds of risk of suicide. The numbers are revealed every year in an annual report to the Minister for Health since the Abortion Act of 2013 which legislated for the X case, but the termination figures include both pregnancies that are induced early because of a threat to the life of the mother – which was permitted under the 8th amendment – and also killing of the unborn child prior to birth.

The latest report showed 32 pregnancies were terminated in 2018. Thirteen involved an emergency where the mother’s life was at immediate risk. Another 18 terminations arose due to a risk to the mother’s life as a result of a physical illness. The total more than doubled the 15 terminations in 2017. There were 26 of these procedures carried out in both 2016 and 2015.

In the case of one of the women the termination was initially turned down and it went to review. The termination was granted by the review committee.