Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Irish losing their religion fastest among western countries: global survey

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, August 9, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A massive global study on religiosity, covering 57 countries and five continents, has found that of the western nations, the Irish are losing their faith faster than anyone. The Global Index of Religion and Atheism, a survey conducted by the Gallup International Association, showed that of all countries studied, only Vietnam is losing interest in religion faster than the Republic of Ireland.

“Globally, those claiming to be religious, drops by 9 per cent, while atheism rises by 3 per cent. This compares to a drop of 22 per cent among the Irish population claiming to be religious,” the report said. It added that 44 percent of Irish surveyed said they are not religious and 10 percent said they are “convinced atheists,” a dramatic rise from three percent in 2005.

“Most of the shift is not drifting from their faith, but claiming to be ‘not religious’ while remaining within the faith,” the report said.

While most media outlets are citing the recent revelations of clerical abuse of young people in Ireland as the reason for the shift, others have placed the source further back with the long-term failure of religious authorities to adequately teach and uphold the Catholic Church’s tenets.

Liam Gibson, the Northern Ireland spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and a long-time observer of the religious situation of Ireland, told LifeSiteNews.com that the religious downturn in Ireland is not a surprise, given the falling away from religious faith in the rest of the western world.

Since the 1960s, “the activity of the Irish Church has been focused on social justice issues to the detriment of the spiritual and eternal aspects of the Gospel.”

Moreover, the findings of the survey, he said, are a crucial factor in getting the pro-life message out. “Globally speaking the Catholic Church is the pro-life movement so social trends which alienate people from the Church will have an impact on how the pro-life message is received,” Gibson said.

“This atheism,” he added, “isn’t an intellectual one but arises from the fact that there is so little truth, beauty and goodness visible in contemporary culture. The coming years in Ireland will be decisive but the pro-life movement cannot prosper long if the Christian life continues to decline.”

Patrick Buckley, SPUC’s representative in Dublin and at the EU, told LSN, that there is no one factor that can be pointed to, but the causes include a combination of sudden increase in wealth during the country’s “Celtic Tiger period” and “poor catechetical formation” by the Church itself.  Buckley also listed the “child abuse scandals” and a hostile media as contributing factors.

“Add to the foregoing the almost constant denigration of traditional values and the celebration of immorality and depravity on TV, which is also readily accessible online.” Buckley noted, however, that with the economic downturn, “some are returning to the fold.”

The survey found that 59 percent of the 51, 927 people surveyed around the world described themselves as religious; 23 percent said they are “not religious” and 13 percent said they are “convinced atheists”. But Ireland, whose people still overwhelmingly identify themselves as Catholic, stands out in contrast with only 47 percent considering themselves “religious,” placing the country at 43 out of 57 countries.

Ireland is now among the top ten nations with the largest number of convinced atheists, following China, Japan, the Czech Republic, France, South Korea, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Iceland and Australia.

At the time of the 2006 census, 87.4 per cent of Irish registered themselves as Catholic, which number had dropped to 84.2 per cent by 2011. A study undertaken by Georgetown University found that in 1980 Ireland’s Catholics had one of the highest rates of weekly Mass attendance in the world. This rate, however, has dropped precipitously from 81 percent in 1990 to 48 percent in 2006.

According to archdiocese of Dublin’s figures, weekly Mass attendance in the diocese, the area with the lowest rates of adherence in the country, had fallen to 18 percent by 2011. In May last year, the Irish Times reported that among younger people, the number attending weekly Mass in Dublin was around 2 percent, according to the archdiocese’s own records. 

A 2012 survey, conducted by the Association of Catholic Priests, a dissident group seeking to change Catholic teaching on sexuality and women’s ordination, found that weekly mass attendance for the whole country stood at about 35 percent with previously common daily attendance being about 3 percent.

The same survey also indicated that acceptance or understanding of Catholic teaching on key cultural issues was low, with 87 percent feeling the Church should abolish mandatory priestly celibacy and 77 percent saying that women should be allowed to be ordained to the priesthood. About 60 percent “disagreed strongly” with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and only 20 percent agreed that sexual expression outside of marriage was immoral. Three quarters said that the Church’s teaching on sexuality is “not relevant” to them or their families.

Other countries seeing a drop in religious belief are, in order, Switzerland, France, South Africa, Iceland, Ecuador, the US, Canada and Austria. The most religious countries were Ghana, Nigeria and Armenia and the least were China, Japan and the Czech Republic. Notable also is the survey’s findings that many of the most religiously inclined countries are strongly Islamic, and that the countries seeing the sharpest decline in religious belief are all formerly Christian-majority.

Liam Gibson said that it is not surprising that the general state of global decline in religious belief should be hitting Ireland now: “Historically Ireland has been at the tail end of most cultural trends. While the decline in Christian life was taking place in the rest of Western Europe gradually, it wasn’t so obvious in Ireland.”

Gibson said that the delay in its effects until relatively recent years “has made the decline in Ireland seem more dramatic.”

Gibson also said that the causes include a uniquely Catholic problem that has been commented on globally for 50 years: “banal” liturgy and uninspired, uninspiring preaching since the major changes to the Church’s liturgy in the 1960s. For a country in which the day-to-day practice of Catholicism, through its liturgical and devotional rites, was the central driving cultural force, the changes in the liturgy hit the laity hard.

“When it comes to the public worship of the Church, the experience of most Irish Catholics is of what Pope Benedict has referred to as a banal, on-the-spot fabrication.

“The Mass in many Irish parishes lacks beauty, reverence and the standard of preaching is frequently anodyne and sometimes verging on the heretical.”

In addition, a “spirit of materialism” has infiltrated through every level of Catholic life. Not in the sense of pursuit of wealth, but “in the sense that the visible world is all that matters.”

Gibson also pointed directly at the bishops for their failure to defend and promulgate the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reiterated the Church’s teaching that artificial contraception is “gravely” sinful. This failure, one that the Irish bishops shared with the Catholic episcopate throughout the western world, “also played a part in the spread of this materialism”.

“It has led many people to believe that it was possible to reject Catholic teaching on the most serious issues and remain a Catholic. Eventually this contradiction is resolved by the complete abandonment of the Catholic faith.”

He said that a restoration of “reverence and beauty” in Catholic liturgy and music “is capable of reversing this trend” even now.

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Dr. Miriam Grossman speaks to large audience in Mississauga, Ontario Steve Jalsevac/LifeSite
Lianne Laurence

VIDEO: How DO you to talk to kids about sex? US sex-ed critic gives practical tips

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

MISSISSAUGA, ON, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Talking to their children about sex is “anxiety provoking to say the least,” for parents, says American sex-ed expert, Dr. Miriam Grossman.

“Some people just can’t even do it, and that’s okay,” the New York-based psychiatrist told the crowd of 1,000 who packed a Mississauga conference hall August 18 to hear her critique of the Ontario Liberal government’s controversial sex-ed curriculum.

After Grossman explained how the Liberal sex-ed curriculum is dangerously flawed and ideologically driven, she used the question-and-answer session to give parents much appreciated and sometimes humorous practical advice on how to teach their children about “the birds and the bees.”

“If you feel you can’t do it, maybe there’s someone else in the family or in the constellation of people that you know you can trust that could do it,” said Grossman, author of “You’re teaching my child WHAT?” and an internationally sought-after speaker on sex education.

A child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with 12 years’ clinical experience treating students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) clinic, Grossman said explaining sexuality and procreation to children is “a process,” that “shouldn’t ideally happen all at once. A child is not a miniature adult, and absorbs…new information differently than adults do.”

And parents need to be sure just what their child wants to know.

To illustrate this, Grossman referred to her earlier story about a father who gave his son every detail on human procreation after the boy asked him, “Dad, where do I come from?”

After the father finished, his son replied, “Well, that’s funny, because Johnny told me that he came from Montreal.”

“Try to find out what your child is really getting at, and, don’t give it all at once,” Grossman said. “You start with a little bit at a time…and you know, there’s so many variables here, and people have their own traditions and their own ways of explaining things, and something that might be right for my family might not be right for your family.”

She also advised that, when confronted with a four, five, six or seven-year-old asking about a pregnant woman, or where babies come, a parent can ask, “What a good question that is. What do you think?”

And parents can also legitimately put off the discussion when appropriate, telling the child, “That’s really not something you need to know about right now.”

“Wow, what a novel idea: Telling a child that they could wait until they’re older to discuss that subject,” Grossman said, adding that parents wouldn’t brook a six- or even fifteen-year-old child asking how much money they made or had in the bank. “Excuse me? Not every subject has to be an open book.”

However, the time will come when a child needs to know “about how her body’s going to change, about reproduction, about how a new life is created.”

That time, Grossman advised, is puberty, or “as puberty is beginning,” and this is especially so for girls, who, if unprepared for the surprise onset of menstruation “might think [they’re] dying.”

“The actual nitty-gritty about the birds and the bees and intercourse” can “be told in bits and pieces, or it can be told all at once, if you feel it’s necessary,” she said, adding that it’s beneficial if the parent acknowledges his or her awkwardness, because the child will think: “This must be such an important subject that my mother or my father is sitting there squirming, but he’s doing it anyway. I’m really loved.”

“And the children need to understand that as you grow up, you change a lot, not only physically but emotionally,” Grossman said, “and what may seem odd or disgusting when you’re ten years old, or whatever age, it becomes something very special and beautiful when you’re older and you’ll understand it later. You don’t have to understand it now.”


Know your child and guard your home

But as an essential foundation for this discussion, parents must both know their children and guard their home from the encroachments of a culture that Grossman described as “very, very sexualized” and “really horrible.”

“Children need parents who are loving but are also firm and authoritative,” she asserted.  “They don’t need best friends. They need us to guide them, to know what they’re doing, to be on top of what they’re doing.

So parents need to be aware of whom their child is “hanging around with, and what kind of movies are they watching…what’s going on with your child.”

“You need to know that anyway, even if it’s not about sex education,” she pointed out. “Try and know your child. Every child is different.”

And Grossman emphasized that it is “extremely important to be careful about what your child is exposed to in the home, in terms of television and Internet, obviously.”

Children need to understand that “just like you have garbage you take out of the house, you put it in the garbage bin, it’s dirty, it smells…there are other things that also don’t belong in the house.”

And children learn quickly what is, and is not, permissible inside the home, Grossman said. “Me, I keep kosher…If I go into a store, my kids know from a very young age, we don’t eat that.”

So they are used to the idea of “the world outside and the inside world, of inside your home, and inside your heart as well.”

Parents can also convey this by telling their children that “the world is an upside-down place, and sometimes the most special, holy subjects are…just thrown in the gutter. And that’s a bad thing. In our family, in our tradition, we don’t do that.”

“Sexuality is one of the subjects that in this upside-down world, it is sometimes just in the gutter,” she said. “And so I want you to tell your child to come to me when you have questions, I will give you the straight story about it.”

Grossman herself is “not even sure,” as she stated in her seminar, that sex education should be in the schools: “I believe sex education should be at home for those parents that want to do it.”

She also noted that parents “can make mistakes. We all make lots of mistakes but it’s okay, you can always come back and do it differently,” adding that this is “another wonderful message for your child. You know what, it’s okay to make mistakes, you can always go back and try and fix it.”

Grossman urged parents to visit her Facebook page, website and blog. “I have so much information you can get there that you’ll find useful,” and added that she will be publishing books for children, and has posted her critique of New York City’s sex-ed curriculum, which is similar to Ontario’s.

The parental backlash to that sex-ed curriculum, set to roll out in the province’s publicly funded schools this September, has been “amazing” Grossman noted.

Grossman’s seminar was sponsored by Mississauga-based HOWA Voice of Change along with the Canadian Families Alliance, an umbrella group representing more than 25 associations and 200,000 Ontarians opposed to the curriculum. The report on her devastating critique of the sex-ed curriculum can be found here, and the video here.

Ontario readers may find information and sign up for a September 2 province-wide protests at MPPs offices here. So far, there are protests planned for 92 of Ontario’s 107 constituencies. The parents’ movement seeking removal of the curriculum is urging all concerned citizens to join this special effort to influence individual Ontario legislators.

See related reports:

Ontario’s dangerous sex-ed is indoctrination not science says U.S. psychiatrist to large audience

Videos: US psychiatrist tells parents “stand firm” against dangerous sex-ed

See the LifeSiteNews feature page on the Ontario sex-ed curriculum containing nearly 100 LifeSite articles related to the issue

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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Did the pope just endorse a gay children’s book? Of course not, says Vatican

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

ROME, August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- While mainstream media is gushing with news today that Pope Francis allegedly praised a children’s book that promotes gender theory, the Vatican is decrying what they called the "manipulation" of a cordial letter from an official in the Secretariat of State to suggest that the Vatican is promoting teachings contrary to the Gospel.

Italian children’s author Francesca Pardi was reported by The Guardian to have submitted a parcel of children’s books promoting the acceptance of homosexuality and gender theory to Pope Francis in June after Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro publicly banned the author’s newest book, Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), from children’s schools. The book was criticized by pro-family leaders for promoting non-natural family structures of two men and two women.

In a letter accompanying the books, Pardi wrote: “Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics. ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

The Guardian is reporting that Pardi has now “found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis,” who through his staff has responded to the author and is presented as “praising her work.” It quotes the following from a July 9 letter to Pardi from the Vatican.

“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in a the letter The Guardian is reporting it has seen.  

While the letter gently calls the author to use her talents to spread “genuine human and Christian values,” The Guardian takes it as the pope’s endorsement of gender theory.

“Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book,” the paper’s headline states. “Italian book that explores different family types including same sex was banned by mayor of Venice, but pontiff becomes unlikely supporter,” reads the subtitle.

In a press release that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi sent to LifeSiteNews on Friday, the vice speaker of the Vatican, Ciro Benedettini, made clear that the friendly reply letter to the author in no way approves of attitudes or positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching and the Gospels.

The Vatican's statement also says that in the original letter from the secretariat of state Wells merely "acknowledged receipt" of the materials sent by Pardi, and also made clear that the letter was private and not meant for publication. 

"In no way does a letter from the Secretary of State intend to endorse behaviors and teachings not in keeping with the Gospel," says the statement, decrying the "manipulation" of the letter.

Benedettini said the blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was meant to be for the author herself, and not to affirm positions concerning gender theory that are contrary to the Church's teaching. Using the letter to this end is erroneous, he said.

Pope Francis has strongly condemned the notion of “gender theory” on numerous occasions, saying that it is an “error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Poll suggests most US Catholics wrongly believe Pope Francis backs gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A considerable majority of U.S. Catholics are in conflict with Church teaching on abortion and marriage, a new study says, and a startling number of those also believe Pope Francis backs homosexual “marriage.”

Despite Church teachings, Catholics in America also closely parallel the general populace in their support for abortion and homosexual “marriage,” falling short in the Biblical call to be “in the world but not of the world.”

The findings suggest what many Catholics have said is a climate of confusion in the midst of the Francis pontificate. Concerns over that confusion prompted a coalition of pro-family groups to respond with an international petition effort asking the pope to reaffirm Church teaching, drawing more than a half-million signatures.

The survey, conducted by Public Religions Research Institute, found that 60 percent of all U.S. Catholics favor legalized homosexual “marriage,” compared to 55 percent of all Americans. Likewise, 51 percent of Catholics think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 53 percent of the general population holding this view.

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman, mirroring Christ and the Church respectively as bridegroom and bride.

The Church also teaches that life begins at conception, that each human life possesses dignity as a child of God and is to be afforded protection, making abortion an intrinsic evil.

Catholics, accounting for 22 percent of adults in the U.S. population, have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the study said, but they are very confused about his take on homosexual “marriage.”

Of the Catholics who back homosexual “marriage,” 49-percent also think the leader of the Catholic Church backs it along with them. Fifteen percent of those Catholics who oppose homosexual “marriage” also mistakenly believe Pope Francis supports it.

Pope Francis has made numerous statements in support of life, marriage and family, but the confusion remains.

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"After Ireland and the U.S. Supreme Court both approved same-sex 'marriage,' a strong reaffirmation of Church teaching could save the sacred institution of marriage, strengthen the family and dispel the lies of the homosexual revolution," TFP Student Action Director John Ritchie stated.  "Young Catholics -- even non-Catholics -- look to the Church as a beacon of morality and stability in our Godless culture, but some of our shepherds have issued confusing statements."

TFP Student Action is a part of the lay Catholic organization American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and is part of the alliance behind the Filial Appeal, the petition asking the Holy Father to reinforce Catholic teaching at the Vatican’s upcoming Synod on the Family in October.

Ritchie explained how the confusion was aiding the Church’s enemies, and warned of the potential consequences.

"This prayerful petition asks Pope Francis to clear up the moral confusion that's been spreading against Natural and Divine Law," he said. "If the enemies of the family continue to chip away at holy matrimony, the future of the family and civilization itself will be in even more serious peril."

At press time more than 500,000 signature had been gathered for the appeal, including five cardinals, 117 bishops and hundreds of well-known civic leaders.

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