A victory for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience

 

The National Catholic Register today reports on an important victory for all those swimming against the current in the fight for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. The victory came with Canada’s Supreme Court finding in favour of a Jesuit school which challenged a law which would require Catholics to ignore the principles of their faith in what they teach in schools.

 

OTTAWA, Canada — Canada’s Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that Catholic schools in Quebec must be allowed to teach from a Catholic viewpoint during a state-mandated religion and ethics class.

“To tell a Catholic school how to explain its faith undermines the liberty of the members of its community, who have chosen to give effect to the collective dimension of their religious beliefs by participating in a denominational school,” the Canadian Supreme Court wrote in its 7-0 March 19 decision.

The province of Quebec, in July 2008, introduced a mandatory religion and ethics class and required it to be taught without regard to any religion. Even in Catholic schools, teachers were barred from voicing a preference for any faith.

The rules would mean that if a student in the class asked about a Catholic perspective on a religion, a teacher would not be allowed to answer.

Additionally, the course must be taught regardless of whether a school receives state funds.

Jesuit-run Loyola High School in Montreal challenged the law.

“This ruling makes clear that the government is on dangerous ground if it seeks to force a private organization to act in a manner completely contrary to its deepest faith convictions,” Canadian attorney Gerald Chipeur, who represented the school, said March 19.

The court’s decision means that “faith-based schools are free to operate according to the faith they teach and espouse.”

Chipeur’s law firm, Miller Thompson LLP, is allied with Alliance Defending Freedom International, the global organization of the U.S.-based religious-freedom-defense legal group.

ADF International’s executive director, Benjamin Bull, said the government “cannot require a private religious school to tell its students that their faith is no more valid than a myriad of other, conflicting faith traditions. All faith-based organizations must be free to speak and act consistently with their faith or religious freedom is not at all free.”

The court ruling noted that the requirement interferes with parents’ right to transmit their Catholic faith to their children, “not because it requires neutral discussion of other faiths and ethical systems, but because it prevents a Catholic discussion of Catholicism.” Transmission of religious faith is “an essential ingredient of the vitality of a religious community.”

Undermining lawful religious institutions’ character and disrupting religious communities’ vitality represents “a profound interference with religious freedom,” the court said.

While the court’s ruling against the province requirement was unanimous, the justices were split 4-3 on how to resolve the situation. The majority ruled that the matter should be sent back to Quebec’s minister of education, meaning that Loyola High School may now reapply to the Education Ministry for an exemption to teach the program. The ministry’s decision must be guided by the court ruling, CBC News reported.

Benoît Boucher, who represented Quebec’s attorney general, said the ruling shows that it is should be mandatory for all students in the province to have a thorough understanding of diversity.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/canada-supreme-court-catholic-schools-have-a-right-to-teach-church-views/#ixzz3VDwKpCfJ

Another,  less optimistic, view on this decision from a writer with Canada’s National Post.

Loyola, a private Catholic secondary school, seems to be well pleased with the decision, which recognizes the unreasonableness, if not outright absurdity, of requiring the religious school to teach Catholicism and Catholic ethics “from a neutral perspective,” as the ERC would have done. One of the school’s lawyers, Mark Phillips, said enthusiastically of the ruling, “Every single judge is entirely behind the idea that Loyola as a Catholic school should be allowed to teach its religion and its ethical system without ceasing to be who they are….”

And he is almost correct about that. While the majority decision does not actually recognize or delineate what religious freedom Loyola might enjoy in its own right as an institution, it does make it clear that Loyola’s teachers and students are entitled to religious freedom — freedom that it deems to have been unnecessarily limited by the ERC.

What’s the problem then? Why should proponents of religious liberty, who have had much to worry about in Canada lately, not be breaking out the confetti at this bit of good news?

The reason, I’d suggest, for holding off on the party is that what the court has delivered is really a very limited bit of happy tidings. It’s nice that all the justices have allowed that forcing a Catholic school to teach Catholicism from a secular perspective is not on. But it would have been far nicer if the majority had recognized that legally imposing on a Catholic school in this way is not merely an unnecessary limit given the particular statutory goals at issue in this case, but before that a full-on defeat of the very purpose of a religious institution and thereby an explicit and eternal violation of constitutionally protected religious freedom.

Betrayal comes for the Archbishop

Saint Thomas Becket died defending the freedom of the Church

He gave a clear and very accurate account of the Catholic Church’s understanding of, and teaching on, the institution of marriage – both in its natural and supernatural dimensions. He set it in the context of the choice now facing the Irish people – whether or not to radically change the definition of marriage enshrined in their republic’s constitution. He clearly indicated that such a change was against all that he had described and could not be supported by the pastors of the Catholic Church.

That was the story.

The speaker was the Archbishop of Dublin, the Primate of Ireland, Dr. Diarmuid Martin. He was a guest of the Iona Institute addressing an audience on “The Church’s Teaching on Marriage Today”.

In the Q&A which followed his lecture Ireland’s liberally-biased media again became to focus of frustration – even of anger – in the audience. Archbishop Martin did not take sides on that one. He said that in his experience he had nothing to complain about. He had always been fairly treated by the media.

He had to wait only a few hours to have that trust and confidence grossly betrayed.

In his lecture on marriage, in no more than an aside, he had mentioned that some letters he had received about the current issue of the constitutional referendum on marriage – proposing to open it up to same-sex couples – people had betrayed a very unchristian attitude to homosexuals. He reproached them for it. However, there was no impression that these came from anything more than an unrepresentative handful.

No journalist with respect for the speaker, or respect for themselves, would manipulate the event to turn this remark into the story of the night.

What happened? In one media outlet the following morning – recycled in online and broadcast media – the story ran under the following headline: “Archbishop Martin hits out at ‘obnoxious jibes’ at gay community from ‘No’ camp”. This was the headline and this was the story. The truth is that it was not the story. That the reception of a handful of letters from a few unrepresentative individuals with appalling judgement and poorer taste should overshadow the serious substance of everything else the Archbishop had said was nothing short of a betrayal of the man, a disregard for his office and for the public who should have expected an honest and balanced report of what he said. What they got – something they are pretty used to getting now – was a media establishment’s dishonest trick of turning the lecture event into an instrument of its own moral agenda, undermining the message of the Archbishop and his effort to explain the teaching of his Church.

Betrayal by those whom he though were his friends came swiftly on the heels of his honest expression of trust and confidence in their integrity. Sad story.

Watching a nightmare unfold before our eyes.

“WHO AM I? WHO AM I?”

In a superb column in today’s Daily Telegraph Charles Moore lays bare the callous and selfish motivation at play in our culture’s narcissism. Children are the victims and if the narcissism of our generation is not arrested the number of victims is going to increase exponentially.

The fallacy at the heart of the narcissists pursuit of self is rights-related, rights untethered to any reasonable anthropology, tethered only to what you feel like when you get up in the morning. This is the fruit of the new Age we live in, the Age of Feeling. In this Age compassion is all. But compassion without reason is corrupting and it is this very corruption which is now producing the intolerance, the ugliness and the unhappiness beginning to unfold in the lives of countless of our kind in the generations which will follow us.

Moore writes:

If you follow this rights-based way of thinking, children are an afterthought. You identify your sexuality. You assert your rights. You decide that your rights include children. As with abortion, you are not encouraged to ask, “What about the child herself?” And if someone else asks that question of you, you start shaking with rage.

These strange ideas have now been around just long enough for the children raised in such a culture to be finding their voice. There is a growing online community of people brought up by gay couples who describe how difficult it was for them. In particular, they talk of their innate desire, which their situation could not satisfy, for the real parent – father or mother, known or unknown – who was not there. We shall hear a lot more of this, and we shall learn that the era of liberation was not always so good for those who never asked to be liberated.

“They f— you up, your mum and dad”, the poet Philip Larkin famously wrote. Alas, it is too often true. But as we abandon Mum and Dad’s primacy, we shall find out, too late, that every other way f—s children up a great deal more.

The unintended consequence of the selfish attitudes and acts of the ascendent establishment of this Age will be the creation of a nightmare society in the future where thousands of young people will grow into adulthood not knowing some of the most fundamental things about their identity nor about the motivations which brought them into the world.

Islamic persecution of Christians going mainstream?

The opposite is more likely

News from The Tablet

Grand mufti calls for destruction of churches
19 March 2015, by James Macintyre

The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia has called for the destruction of all churches in the Arabian Peninsula, claiming that the move is in line with Islamic law.

The call comes days after Islamic State militants published images on Twitter showing jihadists attacking an ancient church and cemetery in Mosul, northern Iraq, and weeks after an MP in the Gulf state of Kuwait announced plans to introduce a bill forbidding the construction of new churches.

The senior Sunni cleric, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, told a delegation from Kuwait on Tuesday that it was “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region,” according to the Arabian Businesses news website.

The sheikh is head of the Supreme Council of Ulema [Islamic scholars] and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas. He is seen as the highest official of religious law in the Sunni Muslim kingdom.

Last month, Kuwaiti MP Osama Al-Munawer announced plans to submit a bill calling for the removal of all churches in the countr. Mr Al-Munawer later clarified that the law would only apply to new churches, while old ones would be allowed to stay erect.

The Gulf is home to around 2 million Christian migrant workers, and new churches have been built to accommodate them. Around 1.5 million Catholics live in Saudi Arabia, but church-building is strictly forbidden there.

Dublin’s Archbishop reaffirms Catholic teaching on marriage

Last night Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin addressed a meeting of Ireland’s Iona Institute attended by over 200 people.  His topic was ‘The Teaching of the Church on Marriage Today’. In the course of the talk he addressed the topic of the nature of marriage. 

Among his main points were the following: 

  • There is something “irreplaceable in that relationship between a man and a woman who commit to one another in love and who remain open to the transmission and the nurturing of human life”
     
  • “We are all the children of a male and a female and this must have relevance to our understanding of the way children should be nurtured and educated”
     
  • “An ethics of equality does not require uniformity”
     
  • “In the current debate [on marriage and the family] normal parliamentary procedures seem rushed”
     
  • “The debate [on marriage] must be carried out respectfully without the use of intemperate language”

In question time afterwards Archbishop Martin was asked about the conscience rights of Christians  such as photographers, printers and bakers who do not believe in same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Martin described freedom of conscience and religion as one of the most “fundamental” of all human rights. He said politics must respect freedom of conscience.

Archbishop Martin’s speech in full can be found here.

Pass Me on the Street

Originally posted on Beautiful Life with Cancer:

Hello friend of this great blogosphere. Let’s both sip coffee and have a chat here.

I love to read, the land of the possible. Here, in this world, we learn and grow and achieve the impossible.

I’ll give you a hug, we will like and share and smile. But our spirits have secrets hidden all the while.

My mind may not know, but my soul will stop and laugh and greet. As we both go about our business, as you pass me on the street.

View original

Jean Calvin, John Knox, spinning in their graves?

Jean Calvin

Jean Calvin

The New York Times reports today that after three decades of debate over its stance on homosexuality, members of one of the largest Presbyterian  denominations in the United States voted on Tuesday to change the definition of marriage in the church’s constitution to include same-sex marriage.

The vote amends the church’s constitution to broaden marriage from being between “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

John Henry Newman reflected once on the way in which Churches hold on to – or fail to hold on to – the doctrines which marked out the interpretations of the teaching of Christ on which they made their stand:

Forms, subscriptions, or Articles of religion are indispensable when the principle of life is weakly. Thus Presbyterianism has maintained its original theology in Scotland where legal subscriptions are enforced, while it has run into Arianism or Unitarianism where that protection is away. We have yet to see whether the Free Kirk can keep its present theological ground.

What might he think today with this news from America about that Church’s ‘evolution’?

 
He identified the Catholic Church as the one Church which had the ‘inherent vigour’ which enabled her to maintain her true identity while at the same time developing her doctrines.  This was derived in part from her faithfulnessto the  principle of tradition and to her rootedness in the living idea of her foundation. Is she now the only Christian Church left which holds to the teaching on the nature and pupose of human sexuality enshrined in the Judaeo-Christian vision of mankind?
The stronger and more living is an idea, that is, the more powerful hold it exercises on the minds of men, the more able is it to dispense with safeguards, and trust to itself against the danger of corruption. As strong frames exult in their agility, and healthy constitutions throw off ailments, so parties or schools that live can afford to be rash, and will sometimes be betrayed into extravagances, yet are brought right by their inherent vigour.
 
Sadly, for whatever reason, the Presbyterian Church – in America – has now moved well beyond Arianism and is now re-reading the Decalogue itself in ways which must surely have Jean Calvin and John Knox spinning in their graves.
 
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the Presbyterian Church (USA). It is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S.

The permissive society’s denial syndrome


Ross Douthat talks (more) common sense to the permissive society in today’s New York Times. Read it all there yourselves. As usual, of course, the mocking foot soldiers of the hedonism load on their stock responses to any common sense in their comments on the article. Why can these people not debate the substance of what he says?

After outlining the evidence for a deeper malaise behind the social dysfunction being experienced among the poor and relatively poor in the US, Douthat concludes:

So however much money matters, something else is clearly going on.


The post-1960s cultural revolution isn’t the only possible “something else.” But when you have a cultural earthquake that makes society dramatically more permissive and you subsequently get dramatic social fragmentation among vulnerable populations, denying that there is any connection looks a lot like denying the nose in front of your face.

But recognizing that culture shapes behavior and that moral frameworks matter doesn’t require thundering denunciations of the moral choices of the poor. Instead, our upper class should be judged first — for being too solipsistic to recognize that its present ideal of “safe” permissiveness works (sort of) only for the privileged, and for failing to take any moral responsibility (in the schools it runs, the mass entertainments it produces, the social agenda it favors) for the effects of permissiveness on the less-savvy, the less protected, the kids who don’t have helicopter parents turning off the television or firewalling the porn.

This judgment would echo Leonard Cohen:

Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter but of this you may be sure /
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.

 

And without dismissing money’s impact on the social fabric, it would raise the possibility that what’s on those channels sometimes matters more.

But, of course, nobody wants to believe this. It would be too threatening to their selfish and self-indulgent life-styles to do so. 


This, yes this, is the human and civil rights issue of our time

LifeSiteNews this morning reports (LifeSiteNews.com) on how a group of Irish families, backed by one of the country’s small band of fearless pro-life politicianshave joined with international medical experts and disability advocacy groups to launch the Geneva Declaration on Perinatal Care at the United Nations.

Last night in Dublin a crowd of thousands gathered outside the Irish parliament to protest against media bias on the issue of abortion in the country. The Irish Times this morning reported “several hiundred”. How about that for a sample of bias? The crowd listened with subdued anger for an hour as speaker after speaker told them stories about the saving of lives, stories exposing the culture of destruction of the unborn and stories of harm suffered by women which national media in the country have ignored. 

A section of the crowd at last night’s demonstration in Dublin

 Ireland’s Pro-Life campaign late last year analysed a sample of two weeks’ mainstream media coverage of health-related stories and found a ratio of 33:1 stories favouring the culture of abortion as opposed to a culture of life. While the demonstration – attended by people from all over the country – focussed on media bias related to the life issue it might equally have shone the light on a number of other social issues where slanted media coverage is angering that percentage of the Irish public which still places value on the common good over rampant individualism.

Some wondered why the demonstration was held outside the Irish parliament. There are probably two answers to that. Firstly, media bias is so rampant across all national general newspapers and broadcasting organisations that selection of the offices of just one would have been invidious. Secondly, the elected represenatives are perceived by the frustrated Irish public as being cowed into submission to political correctness by the pundits who dominate the newpaper colums, the chat shows and current affairs programmes.

Currently a very flawed Children and Family Relationships Bill is being rushed through the Dåil (the Irish parliament’s lower house) with backing from all parties. The Bill is the darling of the media and has been allowed to get to this stage without the normal scrutiny given to proposed legislation. 

Over the past two months there was general media moaning because a proposal from pro-abortion deputy, Clare Daly for the abortion of children diagnosed with “fatal feotal abnormalities” was rejected – depuies had no choice but to reject it because it would have been unconstitutional. It would have passed easily had Ireland’s Constitution not given its protection to the unbond child’s right to life. No one is under any illusions about the real intentions of Ms. Daly –  the overturning of this right. 

This group of Irish families taking the issue to the UN is flying directly in he face of this contrary campaign. Last night’s meeting heard numerous stories of instances where unborn children were diagnosed with feotal abnormalities and yet were born, treated, and now live normal happy lives.

The Geneva Declaration, which is the centerpiece to a a global campaign to end disability discrimination caused by the  ‘incompatible with life’ label, has already been signed by more than 200 medical practitioners and researchers and 27 disability and advocacy NGOs.  It aims to improve care for mother and baby where a life-limiting condition has been diagnosed before or after birth.

 At the Geneva event, entitled ‘Achieving excellence in Perinatal care; Babies with a illness and disability deserve better than abortion’ families from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, Spain, and Switzerland said that the label ‘incompatible with life’ was not a medical diagnosis and was causing “lethal discrimination against children diagnosed with severe disabilities, both before and after birth”.

The conference was addressed by Dr Ana Martin Ance an expert in perinatal hospice care, who said that, in her experience, families benefited hugely from supportive care which allowed them to spend time with their children, whose short lives had meaning and value.

Barbara Farlow, whose ground-breaking research led to a new understanding of the experiences of families where children had a life-limiting condition, said that the label ‘incompatible with life’ had been shown to lead to sub-optimal care after birth and that the phrase dehumanised children.

In a moving presentation, Grace Sharp, Derbhille McGill, Sarah Nugent and Sarah Hynes from Ireland spoke about the love and joy their children had brought to them in their short lives.

“My daughter, Lilly Joy, was alive and kicking inside of me and then she fought so hard to have four hours with us after birth before slipping peacefully away. All she knew was love,” Grace Sharp told the conference.

They were joined by Spanish family Francisco Lancha & Macarena Mata who said the right to life of children with disabilities had been seriously eroded.

The Independent TD from Tipperary , Mattie Mc Grath, said that he was delighted to support the global campaign and welcomed news that politicians in Spain, the US and Northern Ireland had expressed support for the initiative.

Professor Giuseppe Benegiano , former director of special programmes for the UN, said that the UN should give support for this important initiative against disability discrimation.

Prof Bogdan Chazan, an eminent obstetrician from Poland said that babies with a challenging diagnosis deserved better care than abortion.

Tracy Harkin of ELC who launched the Declaration states that: ‘As medical practitioners and researchers, we declare that the term “incompatible with life” is not a medical diagnosis and should not be used when describing unborn children who may have a life-limiting condition’. It  also calls for better perinatal care for families.

Ms Harkin said that the families wanted to challenge the United Nations to recognise the dignity and value of all children with terminal illness and disability.

The UN Convention states that ‘States Parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children’. The Preamble to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also states that a child ‘needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth’.

“Yet studies show that up to 90% of children with disabilities are aborted before birth. In particular, children with life-limiting conditions are subject to discriminatory language and attitudes which deny them their humanity and their human rights. Families who are told that their baby may not live for long after birth need our full support and holistic perinatal care, but this can only be achieved if misleading and offensive language and attitudes are discontinued,” said Ms Harkin.