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Many battles won but the war continues...

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jul 18th, 2018 at 12:43:31 AM EST

The last fifty years in Ireland have been one long battle against the domination of many aspects of life by religious institutions, principally the Roman Catholic Church, whose "Special Position" in Irish life was formally recognised in the Irish Constitution until 1973.

Only this year has the ban on abortion inserted into our Constitution in 1983 been overturned. Before that, in 2015, the marriage equality referendum finally ended official discrimination against the LGBTQI community. Divorce only became legal in 1996 and contraception only became legal in very restricted circumstances in 1980 although access to contraceptives has been liberalised since.

The tide has turned and many religious now claim they are being oppressed by a new liberal secular orthodoxy. What they conveniently forget is the the Church still controls many Hospitals and nearly all schools in the Republic and demands that they implement "a Catholic Ethos". This can include a ban on medical procedures disapproved by the church and an insistence that only the baptised may attend Church run (but state funded) schools.

The latest outrage is an attempt by the Bishops to ensure that children who opt out of religious education should continue be made to sit at the back of their class and not be timetabled for other more useful subjects. Hence my letter to the Editor published by the Irish Times today:

Religious instruction in schools

Sir, - I read with interest that "Catholics bishops have called on the Minister for Education to withdraw a directive which allows students who opt out of religious instruction in State-run secondary schools to be timetabled for other subjects" (Education, July 17th).

Apparently it is far preferable that students who opt out of religious classes should continue to be made to sit at the back of the class to emphasise their secondary status. Heaven forbid they should be enabled to spend their time usefully being taught another subject like science or a European language!

Not content to have their schools funded by general taxpayers, the bishops seem to feel that those who refuse Catholic religious instruction should be made to feel as unwelcome and uncared for as possible.

It is high time that religious instruction be taken out of the State-funded school curriculum entirely, to be conducted after regular class hours for those who really want it.

It is not the function of our democratic, pluralistic and secular republic to fund and provide for the religious instruction of the adherents of any particular religious grouping. - Yours, etc,


Right wing religious activists like Breda O'Brien of the Iona Institute has used her Irish Times column to cast "pro-life" supporters as an oppressed minority and to warn that they have not given up the fight to re-introduce a ban on abortion in Ireland. I responded to that column by writing:

Breda - I have news for you... this is only the beginning. The next step is to wrest control of our schools and hospitals from the Catholic Church and your ilk so that women can have proper healthcare and children can have a proper education. None of your magical thinking and pious sanctimonious moral superiority. You've called two thirds of the nation baby killers. They will not forgive you lightly. Calling Varadker patronising takes the biscuit. You have been condescending to us for your adult lifetime. Perhaps you should move to Northern Ireland while there is still a home for bigots there. You have nothing to offer a compassionate, caring, progressive society except more bile and bitterness.

We really shouldn't be having this conversation in a modern European society in 2018, but regrettably it is still necessary. We still have quite a long way to go to overcome the attempt by religious fanatics to impose their views on everyone else while claiming to be an oppressed minority. I have nothing against a religious education for those who truly want it but I am not going to be party to an attempt (through my taxes) to impose it on all regardless of their wishes. When Pope Francis visits Ireland next month he is going to experience an Ireland very different to that which greeted Pope John Paul II in 1979.

I responded to the story by Fr Gerard Moloney
Beware the new Ireland does not become as oppressive as the old... There is a sense that we have replaced one form of intolerance with another
, as follows:

A good confession, by the good Father, followed by a plea that the "victors in the culture wars" not do to the Catholic Church what the Catholic Church has been doing to all others for many, many centuries. Somehow the new liberal elite are the new intolerant oppressors. It wasn't the yes side which called two thirds of the country baby murderers.

And let's not gloss over the Catholic Church's continued control over state funded schools and hospitals. We still have a long way to go before Ireland can be said to be free of control by an ever declining and ageing religious elite who consistently claimed to be morally superior to those they contemptuously dismissed as amoral secularists.

The "both sides are doing it" defence would be laughable if it weren't so seriously wrong. Those used to being in power may be acutely conscious of losing their power and how it now feels to be ruled by others. But those "others" have been feeling the lash of their leather straps for a very long time. A little schadenfreude is understandable if not very edifying.

Come back in a thousand years, Father, and you may get a fairer hearing. You will be due it then.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 18th, 2018 at 11:33:43 AM EST
Same crap as here in the US: Help, help, we're being oppressed!  We're no longer being allowed to oppress everyone else!
by rifek on Wed Jul 18th, 2018 at 04:36:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, "modern" europe still inlcudes Poland which seems to be on a legal and cultural journey back to the sclerotic embrace of 14th century catholicism. The problem of course being that nybody with a progressive viewpoint is leaving or has already left; those who remain consist of a rump of the old conservative catholics who welcome the commandments that follow bells and smells.

Also Bayern and Austria are also on an increasingly  protestant conservative arc. I should imagine Orban will be leveraging religion at some point as well.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jul 18th, 2018 at 08:16:49 PM EST
I wouldn't include Poland as a modern European state. It has a conservative catholic reaction to an authoritarian communist state. Modernity is some way off yet. Also, I think you mean Catholic conservative arc. Bavaria is 50% Catholic, 19% Protestant while Austria is  89% Roman Catholic, 6% Protestant.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 18th, 2018 at 09:16:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Recent "populist" protests in Poland suggest otherwise. That is the priorities of "catholic conservatives," manifest in the body politic, are not inviolate.

Polish Nationalist Youth March Draws Thousands in Capital Nov 2017
When Polish Women Revolted Mar 2018
Thousands join 'Black Friday' marches against Polish abortion restrictions Mar
Like the "Black Friday" demonstrations held in Poland June

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Jul 19th, 2018 at 09:31:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems as if the struggle against religious supremacism in Poland is at a similar stage to Ireland in the 1980's and 1990's.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jul 19th, 2018 at 10:39:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Catholicism became a mechanism of Polish resistance to Soviet occupation.  Going to take at least 50 years for that to start to fade.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Jul 19th, 2018 at 10:49:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We shall see. Few people would have anticipated the degree and rapidity of change in Ireland - admittedly much accelerated by the child sexual and physical abuse scandals. I would also not underestimate the effect of EU enabled economic and social developments, however.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jul 19th, 2018 at 11:28:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Conversely, diverging abortion laws across the latin Americas indicate where religious conviction and political ambition are incompatible. Permission granted is a sop for the masses of poor on whom secular authority relies for its legitimacy.

Uruguay's Pepe Mujica Backs Legal Abortion Bill In Argentina

A bill that would decriminalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and in cases where the infant would not survive after birth was passed by the lower house Chamber of Deputies in June.

The upper house Senate began debating it early July, and a final debate on the bill in the staunchly Catholic homeland of Pope Francis is due to be held on August 8.

In most of Latin America, abortion is permitted in cases of rape, a threat to the life of the mother or if the fetus is disabled. Only in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua - all in Central America - does abortion remain totally illegal.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Thu Jul 19th, 2018 at 10:10:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Abortion "without restriction as to reason". See legend for restrictions by nation-state. (Nations labeled (Y) permit"unrestricted" abortion.)

data sources: reproductiverights.org, worldpopulationreview.com, catholic-hierarchy.org

Clearly there's no strong correlation between religious observance and "restriction as to reason". The rationale for prohibiting females unrestricted access to abortion lies elsewhere.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Jul 19th, 2018 at 01:30:53 AM EST
Protestants can be as conservative as Catholics on the abortion question and the figures for adherence given above are largely notional. The degree to which those adherents actually practice their faith or believe in its social and political teachings is highly variable. For instance, the UK is listed as comprising just 7% Catholics, and yet their church attendance figures are higher than for the established (Anglican) Church of England.

Abortion only really became a mainstream (and hugely divisive) political issue in many countries when the Catholic Church (particularly John Paul II) put it front and centre of their social teaching - later to be followed by many Protestant denominations, although these tend to treat it as more of a matter for individual conscience. Before that it was often treated as a private medical matter between a doctor and his/her patients, although attitudes with medical establishments also varied.

The table also only highlights those few countries who have no "restrictions as to reason" whereas the reality is that the restrictions as to reason can be highly variable ranging from the very restrictive - "only if the mother's life is in immediate danger without a termination" - to largely fictional psychiatric conditions which offer a purely formalistic barrier to its availability. There can also be a disparity between the availability of publicly funded and private abortions.

Many people have many different reasons for opposing "abortion on demand" but it has been largely conservative religious organisations which have weaponised the issue.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jul 19th, 2018 at 08:50:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
> The table also only highlights those few countries who have no "restrictions as to reason"

Well, yes. I highlighted those nations precisely because they are the only ones in the cohort of European ("western") nations that actually assure females unrestricted right to terminate pregnancy. There are additional nations listed that assure unrestricted freedom in this regard, but they are not "European," or understood to by "liberals" to epitomize "western" culture.

The green zone is not what it appears.

The class designation for permissible abortion "without restriction as to reason" is a malaprop compiled by reproductiverights.org researchers. Every state's qualifications, or "reasons," to prohibit termination of pregnancy is annotated in the map's legend. This sort of intellectual dishonesty is indicative of sanctimonious ideology promoted as exemplary by "modern" governments. And the details, propounding required qualifications to obtain medical assistance, are not interesting beside the conspicuous contradiction of civil liberty they evince: Each state reserves to itself an interest in the reproductive issue of every female body, regardless of age, and prerogatives to criminalize the termination of pregnancy.

That is one reason why I didn't publish a tabulation of the disclaimers by state. The other is, to do so would only invite rhetorical demonstrations of misplaced precision in measuring residual liberty ... regression porn.

Religion is pretext, Helen, for pursuit of mundane power and authority.

What the data validate are not religious dominion or inhibitions "emanating" from the populus, but states' interests in regulating the reproductive "output" (ostensibly, gestational development). I extracted the cohort of "western" nations from a class of 30 states total in order to explore the supposition: Conservative religious doctrine is the principal barrier between females and lawful termination of a pregnancy.

The data do not support that conclusion.

Variance of catholic population size within the sample is huge, 0-97%. Inversely, the imputed size of an unknown conservative religious population (stereotyped protestant) does not support the conclusion either. The assumption neither accommodates Turkey, "mostly muslim" modernity, nor religious dysphoria in the USA, for example, where half the nation claims to support "choice" yet restricts abortion. If the rule will not hold for either of these exemplary nations or "the outliers", it cannot hold all explanations for discriminatory legal treatment of pregnancy.

Sometimes I think I understand your fear of tyranny, epitomized by church as state in Ireland. But then I look beyond.

For me the interesting inference illustrated by this simple tabulation is not to what extent each state limits this "inalienable right" of human being. It is not which ecumenical authority has seized a state's bureaucratic apparatus or the dignity of its constituents to claim an ownership interest in the product of their sexual activities. It is, What moral imperative differentiates those five nations from the others?

The data do not say, piety.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri Jul 20th, 2018 at 02:01:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
State funded schooling for active church attenders only
A principal has resigned from a Church of Ireland primary school in protest over moves to prioritise the enrolment of children who are actively involved in the parish and attend church services.

Minority faith schools are legally permitted to discriminate on the basis of religion in their admission policies, which tends to involve the production of a child's baptism certificate.

However, principal Eileen Jackson has resigned from St Patrick's National School in Greystones, Co Wicklow, on the basis that it appears to be taking a "new direction" by making admission to State-funded education a "collateral benefit of parochial engagement".

The school's admissions policy states that priority access will be given to children who are "accustomed members" of the Church of Ireland parish of Greystones.

Admissions on this basis require the signature of the rector, who signs off whether the child is an active member of the parish.

Ms Jackson, who has been principal of St Patrick's National School in Greystones for more than 20 years, informed parents in an email that she felt the Church of Ireland ethos required it to embrace diversity given the church's "core values of freedom of conscience, tolerance and inclusivity".

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 23rd, 2018 at 02:49:54 AM EST

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