Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Irish losing their religion fastest among western countries: global survey

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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Claire Chretien Claire Chretien

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Texas AG to Target: Show me how you’ll protect women and kids from criminals

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien

AUSTIN, Texas, May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The latest backlash Target received as a result of its transgender bathroom policy was a letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking the company to provide its safety policies to protect women and children from “those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes.” 

“Target, of course, is free to choose such a policy for its Texas stores,” Paxton wrote in a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell. He noted the possibility of the Texas Legislature addressing the issue in the future, but said, “regardless of whether Texas legislates on this topic, it is possible that allowing men in women’s restrooms could lead to criminal and otherwise unwanted activity.”

“As chief lawyer and law enforcement officer for the State of Texas, I ask that you provide the full text of Target’s safety policies regarding the protection of women and children from those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes,” Paxton continued.

More than 1.1 million people have pledged to boycott Target over its new policy allowing men to access women’s bathrooms.  Opponents of the policy worry that it puts women and children at risk by emboldening predators, who may now freely enter women’s restrooms. 

Target’s new policy is “inclusive,” the company claims, and they say “everyone…deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.” 

“Texans statewide can no longer be silent on the issue of protecting the safety of women and children,” Texas Values President and Attorney Jonathan Saenz said in a statement Wednesday urging Texans to boycott Target.  This is the first time in its history the pro-family group has called for a boycott. 

“We need all Texans to understand that Target is using this radical change in their store policy to try convince people that our laws should be changed in this dangerous direction as well,” said Saena.  “Our goal with this boycott is for Target to change its dangerous new policy, to raise awareness of the real threats to safety that these policies bring and to help businesses and lawmakers understand the significant opposition to such measures that is growing daily… Texans all across our state must join this Boycott Target effort before someone gets hurt.”

On Tuesday a male allegedly filmed an underage girl at a Frisco, Texas, Target fitting room.  Police are searching for the man. 

There have been numerous incidents of male predators across North America accessing women’s facilities and citing transgender policies as allowing them to do so.  



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Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against a katz / Shutterstock.com
Albert Mohler

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Christians, America has reached a crisis point. Are you ready to take up this challenge?

Albert Mohler

May 5, 2016 (Albert Mohler) -- For nearly two and a half centuries, Americans have enjoyed the enormous privilege and responsibility of forming our own government—a privilege rarely experienced throughout most of human history. For most of history, humanity has struggled with the question of how to respond to a government that was essentially forced upon them. But Americans have often struggled with a very different reality; how do we rightly respond to the government that we choose? 

To put all of this in historical perspective, the Framers of the American experiment understood that a representative democracy built on the principle of limited government would require certain virtues of its citizens. These would include a restraint of passions and an upholding of traditional moral virtues, without which democracy would not be possible. As the idea of limited government implies, the citizenry would be required to carry out the social responsibilities of the community without the intrusion of government and, thus, citizens would be expected to have the moral integrity necessary for such an arrangement. The Framers of the American Republic also agreed that it would be impossible to have a representative democracy and a limited government if the people did not elect leaders who embodied the virtues of the citizenry while also respecting and protecting society’s pre-political institutions: marriage and family, the church, and the local community.

Thus, the idea of a limited government requires that society uphold and pursue the health of its most basic institutions. When a civil society is weak, government becomes strong. When the family breaks down, government grows stronger. When the essential institutions of society are no longer respected, government demands that respect for itself. That is a recipe for tyranny.

Much of this was essentially affirmed until the early decades of the 20th century when progressivists began promoting an agenda that fundamentally redefined the role of the federal government in public life. By the middle of the 20th century, the Democratic Party had essentially embraced this progressivist agenda, becoming committed to an increasingly powerful government—a government whose powers exceeded those enumerated in the Constitution. At the same time, the Democratic Party also began advocating for a basic redefinition of the morality that shaped the common culture. By and large, however, the Republican Party continued to maintain a commitment to the vision of America’s founders, advocating for a traditional understanding of morality while also upholding the principle of limited government.

By the 1980s, the two parties represented two very different worldviews and two very different visions of American government. For decades, each party has acted rather predictably and in ways that accord with their fundamental principles. All of that, however, has now changed.

The 2016 presidential campaign has developed in an entirely unpredictable manner and, in many respects, represents a crisis in American democracy. This crisis is not limited to either party. Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, has won several stunning victories in the primary season over presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While it is still extremely likely that Clinton will become the Democratic nominee, Sanders support among voters represents a populist flirtation with Democratic Socialism. This pattern is something few Democrats could have imagined just one year ago. What this foray into Democratic Socialism represents, then, is a radical adjustment of the Democratic Party’s basic economic principles. Thus, even if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, the process will likely drag her even further to the left, eventually redefining the Democratic Party before our very eyes.

But if it is remarkable to see what is happening in the Democratic Party, it is absolutely shocking to see what is happening among Republicans. Traditionally, the Republican Party has established its reputation by standing for the principles advocated by the American Founders—limited government upheld by the health of society’s primary institutions such as marriage, family, and community. Yet Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against. Clearly, both political parties are now redefining themselves. What is not clear is where each party will ultimately end up. What is also not clear is whether the American experiment can survive such radical political change.

As already noted, the American experiment in limited government requires that the citizenry and those who hold public office honor certain moral virtues and respect the institutions that are crucial for a society to rightly function. Yet, we now find ourselves in a situation where the three leading candidates for president show little to no respect for such institutions in their articulations of public policy.

This fundamental redefinition of the American political landscape requires Christians to think carefully about their political responsibility. Make no mistake; we cannot avoid that responsibility. Even refusing to vote is itself a vote because it privileges those who do vote and increases the value of each ballot. In truth, we bear a political responsibility that cannot be dismissed or delegated to others. Every Christian must be ready to responsibly steward his or her vote at the polls.

To put the matter bluntly, we are now confronted with the reality that, in November, Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump the Republican nominee. This poses a significant problem for many Christians who believe they cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. As a result, Christians are going to need a lot of careful political reflection in order to steward their vote and their political responsibility in this election cycle.

Headlines from around the world tell us that other representative democracies are at a similar moment of redefinition. Political turmoil now marks the United Kingdom and also nations like France and other key American allies. Perhaps democracy itself is now facing a crucial hour of decision and a crucial season of testing. It is no exaggeration to say that democracy is being tested around the world; it is certainly being tested here at home. Yet if this is a moment of testing for democracy, it is also a crucial moment for Christian witness. This election cycle is going to be a particular test for American Christians—and we are about to find out if Christians are up to this challenge.

Reprinted with permission from Albert Mohler.



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Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

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‘Sick and twisted’: Scientists keep embryos alive outside womb up to 13 days for experimentation

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Two teams of scientists have announced that they have been able to keep human embryos alive outside the womb for 13 days for the purpose of conducting scientific experiments. Some call the announcement the onset of a “Brave New World,” while others are petitioning lawmakers to lift sanctions that would keep scientists from experimenting on newly conceived babies even longer.

Researchers from Cambridge University, King's College, and Rockefeller University said in two separate reports that they stopped at 13 days only to avoid violating an internationally accepted law. At least 12 nations restrict the amount of time a newly conceived child may be kept alive in a laboratory to 14 days, the point at which scientists believe “individuality” begins.

The newest development allows scientists to observe newly conceived human beings after the point at which implantation in the womb would have occurred.

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, one of the studies' lead researchers, said her team's breakthrough could advance embryonic stem cell research and “can improve IVF success.”

Some scientists have called on the international community to extend the amount of time such experimentation can take place.

“If restrictions such as the 14-day rule are viewed as moral truths, such cynicism would be warranted,” three experts – Insoo Hyun, Amy Wilkerson, and Josephine Johnston – wrote in a commentary published yesterday in Nature magazine. “But when they are understood to be tools designed to strike a balance between enabling research and maintaining public trust, it becomes clear that, as circumstances and attitudes evolve, limits can be legitimately recalibrated.”

Pro-life experts said the experimentation destroys human life and could lead to grave ethical dilemmas by extending the research.

“No human being should be used for lethal experimentation, no matter their age or stage of development,” said Dr. David Prentice, a professor of molecular genetics and an Advisory Board Member for the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center. “The 14-day rule is itself arbitrary, and does not assuage those who believe life begins at the moment of sperm-egg fusion. Moreover, allowing experiments on human embryos beyond 14 days post-fertilization risks the lives of untold more human beings, because it further encourages creation and destruction for research purposes.”

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, called the experimentation “sick and twisted.”

“Science has undeniably proven that a new human life, with unrepeatable DNA, begins at conception,” she said. “There is no reason for experimentation on that human life and science itself should not be heralding thae fact that a tiny human being can survive now for two weeks outside of the womb, all for the sole purpose of experimentation.”

Dr. Prentice noted that embryonic stem cell research “has yielded no benefit thus far,” leading even its most vocal advocates, such as Michael J. Fox, to admit it has not lived up to its promise.

“If this research does not stop at 14 days, where does it stop?” asked Prentice. “This is a risky step which could encourage further eugenic attitudes and actions.”

Dr. Prentice encouraged Congress “to have a full and open debate on the issue of human embryo research before the research community moves further without oversight.”



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