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International News Archive
September 13 - September 19, 1999

 

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This page contains news for the period Monday, September 13, 1999 through Sunday, September 19, 1999.

 

 

 

<<   September 1999  >>

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Sunday, September 19, 1999

Church of England report addresses divorce and cohabitation

According to a story published today in the London Times, the Church of England will publish a document on September 20 attempting to clarify its position on marriage.

Marriage, in the timeless words of the Book of Common Prayer, is "for better or worse, till death us do part". The problem for church leaders is that with every passing year, fewer people seem to believe that to be true.

In 1998 there were only 279,000 weddings in England, less than ever before. And of those only 75,000 got married in church. In the same year 165,000 couples decided to divorce.

If the present trend continues, four married couples out of 10 are likely to part long before death can intervene.

The new booklet on marriage is intended to form a basis for teaching in parishes. Advance publicity says the booklet is an attempt "to reaffirm the Church of England's teaching on marriage by restating that lifelong marriage should be one of the bedrocks of a rapidly changing society".

However, many people whose marriages end in divorce marry again. And many of them want their second marriage to take place in a church, with holy blessing.

But not many are able to do so because relatively few clergy will agree to marry divorced people. If marriage really is lifelong, they argue, there can be no remarriage.

This traditionalist line is the Church's official position. The new booklet speaks gently on the topic of remarriage in church by simply restating the current discouragement of it.

"Should the church as a whole decide upon an alternative, it will be on exactly the same principles that have guided it up to this point - that marriage is an unconditional commitment for life. "A further marriage after a divorce is an exceptional act, not a routine one."

A more liberal report was given to church officials almost a year ago but it has not been debated. That report is believed to say that remarriage in church should be allowed, so long as the new partner did not cause the break-up of the first marriage. Church officials say that report is unlikely to be published "this side of Christmas".

At the moment, therefore, it looks as if church traditionalists will continue to call the shots. But there are a few small signs of change.

One leading liberal is the bishop of Edinburgh. He is the head of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church of England's equivalent north of the border. In his book "Godless Morality", published earlier this year, the bishop wrote: "Sexual love and its discipline of faithfulness, while the relationship endures, is a contemporary version of the traditional ethic of marriage".

"Traditional supporters of marriage may see this ethic as a severely attenuated version of the old one.

"But it does bear witness to the continuity of the moral principle that informed the sexual aspect of marriage."

Richard Holloway is not by any means a typical Anglican bishop. But his understanding of morality speaks for many Anglicans in the pews.

 

Friday, September 17, 1999

Belgium to Enact Partner Measure

A story published today in the Melbourne Star Observer reports that the parties of Belgium's Federal Coalition Government have agreed on provisions of a Statutory Cohabitation Contract that is expected to take effect 1 January 2000.

The mostly symbolic domestic-partnership law will allow any two unmarried adults to sign an agreement and record their relationship in the city's Register of Population. The couple then will be jointly responsible for expenses and debts and will jointly own property acquired during the relationship.

The contract will not extend to areas such as income tax, adoption, medically assisted procreation, social security, pensions, inheritance or immigration.

Irish births outside marriage hit record high

A story by Reuters wire service published today in the Irish Times reports that the number of births outside marriage in Ireland hit 4,275 in January-March this year, its highest level since detailed records began in 1976. The data was provided by the nation's Central Statistics Office.

Of 13,388 births registered in the first quarter of 1999, 32 percent were to unmarried parents, CSO figures showed.

The number has risen sharply since 1976, when there were 640 births outside of marriage in the first quarter out of 17,000 live births. It has more than doubled in the past decade, from 1,670 in January-March 1989.

The total number of births in the Republic of Ireland has fallen from around 70,000 in 1976, representing a rate of 21 births per 1,000 people, to around 52,000 or 14 per 1,000 last year, the CSO said.

 

Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Catholic Church won't apologize to abused Quebec orphans

According to a Reuters wire story published today by CNN, the Catholic Church In Quebec refused to give an apology or compensation to the aging orphans who claim to have suffered years of abuse decades ago while under the care of the church.

In a period from the 1930s to the 1950s, the church declared the children mentally ill as a way to get additional funding from the Canadian government, which paid more for the care of mentally handicapped children than for orphans. Many of the children were born to unmarried parents who abandoned them on the steps of Church-run orphanages out of fear of being ostracized by the highly religious society of Quebec of the time.

The orphans, numbering more than 3,000, have said many of them were abused, sodomized and forced to provide sexual favours as children.

Pierre Morissette, president of the Quebec Assembly of Archbishops, said the matter was delicate because of legal considerations. But he acknowledged that some orphans went through "difficult situations." He said that a full apology would not be forthcoming.

"Such excuses would betray the works of those who dedicated all their lives to the service of the most destitute," Morissette said at a news conference.

The orphans were outraged by the announcement. "This is total hypocrisy. This is a campaign of disinformation. It is horrible and contemptuous," said Bruno Roy, spokesman for the orphans.

Judges in Ontario, Canada get domestic partner benefits

According to a story published today in the Toronto Sun, provincial court judges in Ontario will now receive benefits for their unmarried partners just as such benefits are given to spouses of judges. The plan was approved Aug. 18 by Management Board chairman Chris Hodgson.

The new benefit and salary schedules for Ontario's 260 provincial court judges, which boost their pay to $170,000 a year from about $130,000, guarantee spousal benefit coverage for judges who live with an unmarried partner.

"In this part, spouse means: Either of two persons of the opposite sex, or the same sex, who live in a conjugal relationship outside marriage," states the cabinet order, bearing Hodgson's signature.

Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Debate Over Equal Rights for Single Fathers in Sweden

According to a wire story by Reuters News Service published on September 14, 1999 by Fox News, Swedes came out in droves in support of single fathers the day after a child expert said young children were better off living with their mothers.

The statement came from chief physician Torgny Gustavsson who is the government-appointed child expert on a committee investigating whether unmarried parents should automatically have joint custody of children, just like married parents.

Under current law, single mothers in Sweden automatically receive full custody of the child and it is only with the woman's permission — or a court order — that the father can also take on some of the care.

Gustavsson's view that children under the age of five should live with their mothers has caused uproar in Sweden where more than half of all children are born to unmarried parents.

"As long as there is no research that shows children are worse off by joint custody, men should be regarded as suitable parents as women,'' said an editorial in one newspaper.

Gustavsson, who is based at a child psychiatry clinic in Vaxjo, southern Sweden, came under fire from a variety of quarters for saying it was harmful for the child to keep swapping homes.

Sociology professor Lars Tornstam disagreed, saying that research proves the opposite. "Studies show unequivocally that it is better for children to have rotating homes,'' said Tornstam, 55, whose five-year-old son spends two days with him then two days with his mother. "Children who lived alternately with their mother then father developed better than those living with just one parent.''

The wire story said that Sweden's welfare system aims to give both mothers and fathers the chance to care for their children with one of the world's most generous parental leave benefits. Parents can collect 80 percent of their salary up to a maximum limit of 23,000 Swedish crowns ($2,772) a month for maternity or paternity pay for one year.

 

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