Catholics Must Not Remain Neutral
Last November 15 the United States bishops’ conference voted overwhelmingly in favor of the document "A Pastoral Message: Living With Faith and Hope After Sept. 11."
The bishops acknowledge the "loss and pain, anger and fear, shock and determination in the face of these attacks on our nation and all humanity." They also make clear their rejection of pacifism, declaring, "The dreadful deeds of Sept. 11 cannot go unanswered." This is because there is a "duty to preserve the common good, protect the innocent, and re-establish peace and order." America therefore "has a moral right and a grave obligation to defend the common good against mass terrorism."
But they also say that military action must not violate the norms of civilian immunity and proportionality: "The traditional moral norms governing the use of force still apply, even in the face of terrorism on this scale." As well, there needs to be a serious effort in the humanitarian field to aid refugees and the local population. In the postwar era, the bishops call for a determined effort by the United States, the United Nations, and others to rebuild Afghanistan.
The Church leaders admit that there is room for a legitimate difference of opinion on how to respond to terrorism. Moreover, the application of moral principles requires the use of prudence. "Those who subscribe to the just-war tradition can differ in their prudential judgments about its interpretation or its application," they state.
In relation to the problem of economic injustice, the bishops called for America to "do more to spread the benefits of globalization to all, especially the world’s poorest." They also asked Americans to recognize how the influence of the more-negative.aspects of their culture could harm other societies.
As to the means of creating a more just world, the bishops say that here too there can be a legitimate difference of opinion. What they ask is that Catholics not remain neutral and that they work in favor of promoting the common good—not just in economic terms, but also in the areas of culture, human rights, and all that is related to human dignity.
A New Force to Be Reckoned With?
The movie and entertainment web site imdb.com has reported that Scientology, author L. Ron Hubbard’s creation that detractors call a "science-fiction" religion, may be soon be overshadowed by George Lucas’s honest-to-goodness sci-fi religion. Jedi Knight has joined mainstream religious choices—like Church of England, Hindu, and Muslim—and less mainstream choices—like Scientology, Druidism, and New Age—on the list of religion codes for the 2001 British census. Earlier this year, an e-mail campaign urged Brits to list Jedi—the mystical way of life followed by Obi-wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies—as their religion on census forms.
The project succeeded: Jedi’s official code is 896, placing it at number 174 on a list of 177 choices, just above heathen, atheist, and none. Though sufficient numbers of people wrote the entry in for it to be allocated its own code for the census processing team to use, officials from Britain’s Office of National Statistics noted the code does not confer an official status on the religion. It is not yet clear how many people will declare themselves as Jedi. Results will be published in autumn 2002.
Yahoo! Accused of Catholic Bias
If you have web access, try this: Go to Yahoo!, the Internet portal, and type the word Catholic into the search engine. Unless things have changed since press time, the second of the "category matches" has a listing called "Christian History—Catholic Inquisition." Click on that category, and the listings of "Torture" and "Witch Hunts" appear. But when the words "Protestant," "Judaism," or "Islam" are typed in, no negative entries associated with these religions are listed.
When Catholicism is typed in, the first listing under "web site matches" is "The Case against Catholicism." Click on this and you’ll get entries from Joseph McCabe’s Rationalist Encyclopedia, which consists of some remarkably twisted misinterpretations of Church history and teaching. The second listing, "Gay and Lesbian Catholicism," is loaded with criticism of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Interestingly, the Vatican’s web site is listed fourth (and Catholic Answers tenth).
In early December, William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, revealed that he’d written a letter a month before to Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel "stating my objections to his portal’s bias against Catholicism." Donohue said Semel had chosen not to respond, which was why he made the matter public.
Donohue says that no other Internet portal shows an anti-Catholic bias.
Anglicanism Is a Recessive Gene
Last fall, for the first time in the history of Britain’s state church, the number of baptized Anglicans is less than half of the country’s population.
Catholic World News reported that new research by the University of Sheffield found that the number of babies born in England and baptized into the Church of England dropped to twenty-one percent in 1999. By contrast, before World War II (in 1933) seventy-five percent of babies were christened in the Church of England. In the years since WWII, with the exception of 1950, the number of baptisms has declined.
A spokesman for the Church of England challenged the validity of the research. "Baptism introduces people into the Christian family and not into any particular denomination, and so it is difficult to calculate how many end up as Anglicans," he said. "Anyway, we may be less than fifty percent of the population but we are still the largest religious group in the country."
Dr. David Voas, a demographer at the university’s department of sociology, claims that the minority status of Anglicans threatens the foundations of the church’s establishment. He told the Daily Telegraph, "Religion is being passed down like a recessive gene: It does not generally appear in the new generation unless both the parents match." He added, "With this pattern of transmission, further erosion in church affiliation is almost inevitable."
The Zenit news agency reported November 30 that Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India, are being targeted by at least two Muslim fundamentalist groups, one of which is linked to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network. The news was published by local newspapers and confirmed by Vidimus Dominum, the information service of religious communities.
Despite the threats, Missionaries of Charity superior general Sister Nirmala Joshi said the order intends to stay and to try to minimize risks. Other reported terrorist targets include a Hindu temple, the U.S. consulate, and a British office.
Press reports say the terrorist groups have targeted the nuns, because they believe the nuns receive economic aid from the United States to convert Muslims to Christianity.
Embarrassed by the Faith
Avery Cardinal Dulles, the first U.S. theologian to be named a cardinal, said that Catholic colleges should challenge their secular counterparts "to show how it is possible to find and transmit the truth if they neglect or marginalize the word of God."
His remarks came at a November 10 banquet where he was awarded the annual John Henry Newman Award for distinguished service to Catholic higher education. The Cardinal Newman Society, a group whose aim is to reverse the tide of secularism at many of America’s Catholic universities, presented the award.
"In the United States, Catholic universities have been very apologetic, almost embarrassed, by their obligation to adhere to the faith of the Church," Cardinal Dulles said. "Surrounded by powerful institutions constructed on principles of metaphysical and religious agnosticism, the Catholic universities of this nation have too long been on the defensive. They have tried too hard to prove that they are not committed to any truth that cannot be established by objective scientific scholarship.
"The time has come for them to regain their confidence and proudly proclaim the faith that animates them. Shifting the burden of proof to the secular institutions, they should challenge the other universities to defend themselves and to show how it is possible to find and transmit the fullness of truth if they neglect or marginalize the word of God."