Friday, 15 July 2011

Papal visit in doubt as relations worsen

THE prospects of a visit by the Pope to Ireland next summer have receded , as the Government's relations with the Vatican sharply deteriorated.
In his first comment on the Cloyne Report, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was "disgraceful" that the Vatican ignored child protection safeguards agreed by the Irish bishops.
Mr Kenny's criticism was a prelude to the Papal Nuncio being summoned to Iveagh House, where Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore demanded an explanation for Rome's "inappropriate" intervention in Irish affairs.
An apologetic Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza undertook to deliver the report to the Vatican.
Unlike ex-Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his then Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, who last year sided with the Vatican's rights to diplomatic immunity in the wake of the Murphy Report, Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore went on the offensive.
Their focus on the Congregation of Clergy's dismissal of the Irish bishops' 1996 Groundwork Document as "a mere study document" at loggerheads with canon law has put the Vatican in an indefensible position.
Vatican watchers said that the stridency of the Irish protest has put a dent in its strategy of regaining control of church renewal in Ireland via this year's probe by a number of senior foreign prelates.
Sources suggested that Pope Benedict XVI postponed his response to the investigators' recommendations until early next year, when it was expected he would announce his intention to attend next June's Eucharistic Congress in Ireland.
But the renewal of a second wave of anti-Vatican anger in Ireland could upset this schedule, the sources added.
The mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the disgraced ex-Bishop of Cloyne John Magee has compounded anger.
A spokesman for Cashel Archbishop Dermot Clifford said: "Bishop Magee is a retired bishop and is accountable only to the Pope."
The buck must stop with Pope Benedict. His official copy of the Cloyne Report is about to land on his desk.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Church braces for Cloyne Report findings

The Catholic Church is bracing itself for this afternoon's publication of the report of the Commission of Investigation into the Diocese of Cloyne.
The report scrutinises how both Catholic Church and State authorities handled allegations of abuse against 19 clerics in the Co Cork diocese.
The inquiry by Judge Yvonne Murphy and two fellow commissioners was ordered by the government in 2009, following revelations that child protection practices in the diocese were inadequate and in some respects dangerous.
The long-awaited Cloyne Report extends to over 400 pages and took almost two years to prepare.
It examines a representative sample of complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse made against 19 priests working under Bishop John Magee and his predecessors in the diocese between 1996 and 2009.
It reports on the adequacy and appropriateness of the response by the Church and State authorities.
When the commission was beginning its work, Bishop Magee announced he was stepping aside to devote himself to assisting it.
But 11 months later he resigned, leading to speculation that the findings would be extremely damaging to him.
It is over six months since the outgoing cabinet was given the commission's 26-chapter volume.
In April, the High Court asked counsel for the State and for a priest, who is before the courts and who is mentioned in the report, to agree on the deletion of excerpts that might prejudice the priest's trial.
Bishop not at home
There was no answer when RTÉ News called this morning at the parochial house in Mitchelstown in north Cork where Bishop Magee has been living.
Staff at the adjoining parish office confirmed that Dr Magee lives at the house, but said he was not at home.
The former bishop moved from Cobh to Mitchelstown following his retirement in March of last year, but local people say he has not been seen in the area for a number of weeks.

The Health Service Executive will operate a confidential freephone helpdesk for people who have suffered sexual abuse anywhere at the hands of clergy.
The initiative coincides with the publication of the Cloyne Report.
The helpdesk, which can be contacted on 1800-742800 from 8am until midnight, will open at 3pm this afternoon.
It will work in collaboration with eight counselling and advocacy agencies to ensure that people who make contact with the helpdesk can access a service appropriate to their needs.

Fine Gael call for mandatory reporting
A Fine Gael backbencher has urged the Government to introduce mandatory reporting of abuse or suspected abuse.
Derek Keating, who represents Dublin Mid-West along with the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, said the Cloyne Report highlights again how children have been failed by institutions with responibiilty for protecting them.
Deputy Keating said the guidelines to be published by Minister Fitzgerald on Friday should include a legal obligation for professionals, including bishops, to report abuse.
He added that he was disappointed at indications that such a provision may not be included.
He raised the issue in the Dáil yesterday with Minister Fitzgerald.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

At last, equality police decide Christians DO have right to follow beliefs

Christians who disagree with gay equality rules should have the freedom to follow their conscience, a watchdog ruled yesterday.
In a major U-turn, the Equality and Human Rights Commission declared that judges should not have backed employers who pursued Christians for wearing crosses or for refusing to give sex therapy to gay couples.
‘The way existing human rights and equality law has been interpreted by judges is insufficient to protect freedom of religion or belief,’ the commission said.

Test case: Martyn Hall, right, and his civil partner Steven Preddy who claimed sexual orientation discrimination after being refused a double room at a guesthouse.
Test case: Martyn Hall, right, and his civil partner Steven Preddy who claimed sexual orientation discrimination after being refused a double room at a guesthouse.

Just seven months ago it had championed the cause of civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy in their successful bid to sue Christian hoteliers who had refused them a double room.
But yesterday the commission, which is led by former Labour politician Trevor Phillips, said the law was confusing.
The intervention by the equality quango follows protests at the weekend from Church of England leaders, who said judges had encouraged a legal ‘chill factor’ against Christianity.

It also comes at a time when the EHRC is facing action from Home Secretary Theresa May to curb its £60million a year spending. Mrs May has accused it of wasting money and failing to do its job.
Yesterday the commission said judges had interpreted equality laws too narrowly.
Its lawyers have intervened to call for more leeway for Christians to express their beliefs and live by their consciences in four human rights test cases shortly to come before the judges of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

New stance: Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission
New stance: Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The cases are those of Nadia Eweida, the BA check-in clerk who was told she could not wear a cross with her airline uniform, and of Shirley Chaplin, a nurse removed from the wards of her Exeter hospital because she refused to stop wearing her crucifix.
The commission also wants to raise the case of Lilian Ladele, a registrar removed from her job after she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies, and Gary McFarlane, a Relate counsellor who declined to give sex therapy to gay couples.
Miss Ladele was refused permission to take her case to the Supreme Court because judges said no important legal principles were at stake.
Mr McFarlane’s case was brushed aside by Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Laws, who said: ‘Law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational … it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.’
Yesterday the commission said: ‘Judges have interpreted the law too narrowly in religion or belief discrimination claims.The way existing human rights and equality law has been interpreted by judges is insufficient to protect freedom of religion or belief.
‘The courts have set the bar too high for someone to prove that they have been discriminated against because of their religion or belief; it is possible to accommodate expression of religion alongside the rights of people who are not religious and the needs of businesses.’
The commission said it wanted to see a new legal principle of ‘reasonable accommodations’ to allow a religious believer and their employer to reach a compromise. It said that under this principle, a Jew who did not wish to work on Saturdays could be given his or her wish simply by a change to work rotas.

Nadia Eweida, who was suspended from work by BA for wearing a cross
Shirley Chaplin, 54, a Christian nurse from Exeter refused to remove a necklace bearing a cross
Christian duty: Nadia Eweida, who was suspended from work by BA for wearing a cross, and Shirley Chaplin, 54, a Christian nurse from Exeter who was transferred to an office role for also refusing to remove a necklace bearing a cross

This would give religious believers similar legal status to disabled people.
Commission legal director John Wadham said: ‘Our intervention in these cases would encourage judges to interpret the law more broadly and more clearly to the benefit of people who are religious and those who are not.
‘The idea of making reasonable adjustments to accommodate a person’s needs has served disability discrimination law well for decades.
‘It seems reasonable that a similar concept could be adopted to allow someone to manifest their religious beliefs.’
The commission said there should be an end to legal confusion which has stopped some people from wearing crosses while others are allowed to do so, and which has led some employers into ‘unnecessarily restricting people’s rights’.
It added that because of the confusion in the law, ‘it is difficult for employers or service providers to know what they should be doing to protect people from religion or belief-based discrimination’.
When backing Mr Hall and Mr Preddy against the hotel, Mr Wadham had said: ‘The right of an individual to practise their religion and live out their beliefs is one of the most fundamental rights a person can have, but so is the right not to be turned away by a hotel just because you are gay.’

Monday, 11 July 2011

Global survey shows there are more than twice as many non-religious people as Muslims in the world

A new international survey by Ispos/Mori conducted in 24 countries and involving 18,473 people sought to discover the attitudes to religion around the world. Needless to say, it found vast differences between Europeand the developing and Muslim worlds.
The survey asked: “What, if any, is your faith or religion even if you are not currently practising?” 47% said Christianity; 11% said Islam; 25% said no religion at all. In Britain 37% said they had no religion. Japanhas the largest number of non-religious at 67% followed by China at 62% and Swedenat 49%.
In answer to the question: “Does religion provide the common values and ethical foundations that diverse societies need to thrive in the 21st century?” Overall the number of people answering ‘yes’ was 48%, but there were huge differences in different areas of the world. InBritain, 29% did so, whereas it was 19% in Sweden and 92% in Saudi Arabia.
Worldwide, 30% of people agreed with the statement “My faith or religious belief is an important motivation in my giving time or money to people in need”; 14% of Britons agreed, whereas only 11% did in Sweden but 84% of people in Indonesia said yes.
52% thought “My faith or religious belief makes no difference to my giving time or money to people in need – I see this as important in any case”.
When asked to agree or disagree with “My faith or religion is the only true path to salvation, liberation or paradise” 9% of Britons agreed, 5% of Spaniards and 75% of Saudis agreed.
To the question: “How important, if at all, is your faith or your religion in your life?” 52% of Britons thought it important to some degree, whereas 41% of Swedes and French thought it was important – and all the Saudis.
The results for Saudi Arabia should be treated with caution, however, the authors of the survey say. Respondents there were given the opportunity to opt out of answering questions they found “sensitive” (and presumably because the wrong answer might get them into trouble).

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Unlike Catholic Charities, secular group helps everyone

Fueled by religious dogma, Catholic agencies across the country have shut down adoption and foster-care programs helping thousands of children because they refuse to extend services to legally married gay couples.
It started in Massachusetts, after that state became the first to legalize same-sex marriage. In 2006, Catholic Charities of Boston announced it would end its adoption program before it was forced to comply with state laws preventing discrimination against married gay couples. Then last year, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington followed suit, shutting down its 80-year-old adoption program in the nation’s capital rather than help place children with gay foster parents.
Now the trend has spread to Illinois, where the Chicago Tribune reports that Catholic Charities in five regions decided to end their state-funded foster-care programs once that state’s civil union law took effect in June. Thousands of families – including 330 children in the Rockford area alone – were suddenly without an organization to handle their casework.
How compassionate of those “charities”!
Luckily, a secular organization – which includes many individual religious members – has decided to step up and take responsibility for some of the families abandoned by Catholic Charities because of their anti-gay religious bias.
David McClure, executive director of Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley, believes Catholic Charities left his agency no choice but to take care of the 330 children affected by [Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford]’s decision. […]
McClure also had watched employees, children and parents disperse when Catholic Charities of Chicago ended its foster care services in 2007. He didn’t want to see the same turmoil in Rockford. “I took a very deep breath because it’s much bigger than what we’re doing now,” he said. ” … The children needed some fairly immediate help, and that had to get started.
McClure describes his organization as “secular and not faith-based,” but he adds that many social workers, including himself, draw on their personal faith to get their job done.
McClure said his church has helped him understand gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t be excluded from the pool of prospective foster parents. He has watched same-sex couples in the congregation excel at raising children. Through conversations with gay members, he has learned to empathize with the challenges of being gay.”We don’t have enough foster parents, period,” he said. “My friendships with people at that church helped me realize that these distinctions don’t need to be made.”
McClure believes his children’s generation will move other churches forward on the issue. “We’re going to grow out of this,” he said. “It’s too bad it happened to the (Catholic) Church in this way. If you can’t adapt your institution to it, it’s going to create problems.”
Here is another wonderful example of religious individuals rejecting dogma and embracing secular values and institutions as a way to help the greatest number of people.
Let’s hope more will follow.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Church of England faces being wiped out, report warns

The Church of England faces being wiped out as a significant national force without an "urgent" campaign to recruit more believers, a report warns.

The Church of England faces being wiped out as a significant national force without an
In the last 40 years the number of adult churchgoers has fallen by half while the number of children regularly worshipping in public declined by 80 per cent, the study says.
The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, will present findings to the Church's national assembly, the General Synod, in York on Saturday.
Synod members will be urged to vote for a new national drive to recruit more members.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has acknowledged that the Church must devote more energy to increasing the number of regular worshippers over the next five years.
The report, Mission Action Planning in the Church of England, states that the "sharp" fall in churchgoing since 1970 poses a significant threat.
"This decline in membership, and the accompanying rise in average age, means that fewer people are becoming disciples of Jesus Christ, and that the Church is able to have less impact and influence in the public realm, both nationally and in the transformation of local communities," it says.
"We are faced with a stark and urgent choice: do we spend the next few years managing decline, or do we go for growth?
"In other words, do we accept the continual numerical decline of the Church of England as inevitable, or do we dare to believe a different future, that God might want his Church to grow, in holiness and in numbers?"
According to official figures, the number of worshippers attending church each week fell by 30,000 between 2007 and 2009, to 1.13 million.
Church of England officials argue that the decline partly reflects the nature of modern society, in which many kinds of membership organisation - including political parties - have lost supporters.
The House of Bishops is expected to oppose Bishop Butler's motion calling for a "national mission action plan" to help parishes grow. His critics argue that recruitment is most effective at a local level.
The General Synod will also hear a call for an emergency debate on homosexuality. Church officials will be accused of "woeful" failure to protect the institution of marriage from erosion by the rise of civil partnerships and Coalition plans to allow same-sex couples to register their partnerships in religious settings.
A lay member of Synod, Andrea Minichiello Williams, will urge the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to calls an "emergency" debate to discuss Church's stance on marriage reforms.

Friday, 8 July 2011

No discrimination by not releasing worker for Friday prayers

The Employment Appeals Tribunal has ruled that a Muslim man who wanted to leave work on Friday to go to prayers at a mosque was not discriminated against when his employer refused.
Balancing the employer’s operational needs with the discriminatory effect on the employee, the tribunal was entitled to find that the requirement for security guards to remain on site was objectively justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Mr Cherfi is a Muslim. G4S was required to have a specified number of security guards on site for the full duration of operating hours, i.e. to remain on site throughout their shifts, including their lunch breaks, for which they were paid. Mr Cherfi raised a grievance about not being allowed to attend lunchtime prayers on Fridays. The company proposed amending his contract so that he worked from Monday to Thursday, with an option to work Saturday or Sunday, but this was rejected.
The EAT upheld the tribunal’s decision that G4S had not indirectly discriminated against Mr Cherfi by requiring him to remain at work on Friday at lunchtime. While the provision, criterion or practice (PCP) put him at a disadvantage as a practising Muslim, the PCP was justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, namely the operational needs of the company’s business. The tribunal had properly carried out the balancing act required. The potential negative cost to the business far outweighed any discriminatory effect since there would be not only financial penalties for the company if the contract was broken, but a danger of it losing the contract altogether.