Thursday, 31 December 2015

Adults’ self-interest trumps children’s best interests every time

New research reported in the Family Education Trust Bulletin indicates that children with increased childcare “subsequently had worse health, lower life satisfaction, and higher crime rates later in life.”

One of the most disturbing aspects of contemporary Western culture is the willingness of a selfish materialistic society to conduct long-term social experiments on the lives of children. These social experiments would almost certainly be banned if they were medical experiments.

We have assumed easy ‘no-fault’ divorce would be better for children. We have assumed that children being brought up by same-sex couples will not be disadvantaged. And when evidence to the contrary emerges in the damaged lives of some of these children, now grown to adulthood, we shrug our shoulders because the best interests of adults (for which read self-interest) will always trump the so-called best interests of the child.

We believe children will not be disadvantaged if they are cared for by strangers in their early pre-school years. And the benefits are there for all to see. Take, for example, the Quebec universal childcare system. It is the biggest such system in North America.

The Family Education Trust (FET) carries a well referenced story on Quebec. The benefits of this system have been documented by the economist Pierre Fortin.
  • It has helped expand the provincial economy;
  • It has increased employment rates and women’s participation in the work force;
  • It has boosted the flow of taxes into the coffers.
What’s not to like? Wins for everyone? Well, yes, for the adults. But apparently not for the children!
You can read the discussion of these less than promising results in the November 2015 edition of the Family Education Trust bulletin.

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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

One woman defies the world for the sake of her children

Fiorella Nash, a researcher and writer working for SPUC, has sent me her characteristically compelling and candid review of Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy, published this year.
Before reading this short book about the extraordinary life and death of Chiara Petrillo*, I had already heard her described as a twenty-first century Gianna Beretta Molla.

In worldly terms, her life was a series of disasters: she fell pregnant with a longed-for child shortly after getting married, only to be told that the baby had anencephaly and would die shortly after birth. Chiara refused an abortion and the little girl, Maria, died less than an hour after birth. A second pregnancy followed shortly after, a baby boy this time whom she called Davide, but during a routine scan he was found to have serious disabilities and he too died shortly after birth.

The response of some of those closest to Chiara and her husband was to tell them to forget about having any more children but they went on to have a third child whom they called Francisco. Francisco showed every sign during the pregnancy of being fit and well, but this time it was Chiara’s health that was in danger when a seemingly harmless mouth ulcer turned out to be a carcinoma. Well beyond the call of duty, Chiara chose to delay cancer treatment, even though she knew the dangers involved and she died shortly after her son’s first birthday. Chiara’s story is told in this book, written by two of her closest friends.

At this point, I have to make an embarrassing admission. When I first began reading Chiara’s story, I found it so difficult I very nearly asked for someone else to review it. I am naturally sceptical of anything that feels like hagiography and initially found the constant references to Chiara’s serenity exhausting (could somebody please direct me towards the patron saint of the volatile, the stubborn, the grumpily faithful??) ... However, as I was drawn into Chiara’s story, the nagging scepticism slowly gave way to a sense of awe that one person could endure so much with such quiet fortitude. I defy the coldest of readers to reach the end of the book dry-eyed.

One of the reasons Chiara’s story is so unsettling is that she is such a sign of contradiction in the world. Outwardly, she comes across as placid and unnaturally accepting of the suffering she is given, but it must take an incredibly powerful character to endure the loss of two children and to make a decision that will mean an early death.

Pro-life women are often forced to contemplate their own responses if they found themselves in a crisis situation – what if my baby were terminally ill? What if I became seriously ill during a pregnancy? What if I became pregnant through rape? In Chiara’s case, not one but two of the hard case scenarios campaigners argue about in debating chambers became part of her lived experience. She went much further than morality requires in refusing treatment of her own body that did not target her baby to which she would have been morally entitled. This book should be read, not so much as a biography, but as a testament to the power of one woman to defy the world for the sake of her children.

*Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy
Simone Troisi and Cristiana Paccini
Sophia Institute, 2015
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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Government's anti-extremism strategy threatens freedom to oppose same-sex "marriage"

Last month, the Family Education Trust (FET) published an article by Norman Wells, FET's director, which adds to the concern expressed by SPUC during the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

Three years ago, SPUC said that the government's same-sex "marriage" legislation* threatened the freedom of citizens to say that legalising same-sex "marriage" is wrong (or simply impossible). The Society warned:
"There will be compulsory teaching of same-sex marriage, dismissal for teachers with a conscientious objection to teaching about same-sex marriage, and no opt-out for faith schools."
Norman Wells's article on the British government's counter-extremism strategy raises the question: Must we respect a person or a person’s opinion? Is there any difference between saying I respect Christians and I respect Christian beliefs?

Well yes there is and Norman Wells points out the dangers of failing to see the difference. And that failure is to be seen, in a fundamental way, in the recently published government counter-extremism strategy defined by the government as follows:
“Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also regard calls for the death of members of our armed forces as extremist.” [Emphasis added]
The point/distinction to be made is this. I may respect a communist as a person, but loathe detest and abominate communist beliefs and practices. Why should I respect beliefs with which I disagree?

In his important discussion on this issue, Wells begins with this perceptive remark by Professor John Haldane at the Family Education Trust conference last June:
"The word toleration has been reinterpreted. Toleration is the primary virtue in the context of disagreement or difference. It allows us to live with people with whom we disagree. But in recent years, toleration has shifted to become approbation and approbation has shifted to become celebration. Intolerance is now defined as refusing to celebrate something with which you disagree. It is a corruption of language."
Does this mean that when a teacher in a school, asked about same sex marriage, responds with a defence of traditional natural marriage that that teacher is undermining the value of ‘equality’ and therefore would be regarded as indulging in extremist behaviour?

Normal Wells goes on to discuss all of the anti-democratic and anti-free speech implications of current government strategy which is dangerous because of a failure to make a simple but logical distinction. And Wells concludes with advice to the government about the need to rethink how it expresses it counter-extremism legislation and “to proceed with the utmost caution".

* SPUC opposed the redefinition of marriage in law to include same-sex couples, because it would undermine the true nature of marriage and thus the pro-life benefits of marriage. Marriage offers the most protective environment for both unborn and born children.

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