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c. 1999 Religion News Service

Catholic educators warn on rules for colleges and universities

(RNS) Two prominent Roman Catholic educators are warning that proposed rules for preserving the Catholic identity of the church’s schools by strengthening episcopal control over Catholic colleges and universities”would be profoundly detrimental to Catholic higher education.” The rules, drafted by a committee of U.S. bishops headed by Cardinal Anthony Bevilaqua of Philadelphia, were ordered by the Vatican which seeks a”juridical”instrument to resolve”tensions, crises or problems.” But the Rev. J. Donald Monan, chancellor of Boston College, and Edward A. Malloy, president of the University of Notre Dame, made their comments in the Jan. 30 issue of America, the Jesuit magazine.

The two educators said the proposal drafted by the Bevilaqua committee is filled with”prescription after prescription whose content and tone run counter”affirmations about academic freedom and the autonomy of Catholic schools of higher education.”The document proposes to legislate articles to be incorporated into university governing documents and statutes, and it requires ecclesiastical approval of these inclusions,”they said.”It even legislates the university’s care for the poor and underprivileged.” They also argued that despite the document’s affirmation of autonomy and academic freedom, its”failure to safeguard these two fundamental characteristics of U.S. Catholic universities”makes it”positively dangerous to these institutions.” In particular, the two educators express concern about the proposal’s requirement that professors receive a”mandate”from the local bishop or other church authorities in order to teach and that they take an oath of fidelity to church doctrine and otherwise show obedience to church teachings.

UNICEF issues appeal for funds for war-ravaged women, children

(RNS) UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, has appealed for $136 million to aid an estimated 48 million children and women it says have been targeted for special abuse in civil wars from Sierra Leone to Afghanistan.

The funds would aid children and women victims in about 20 countries, Reuters reported.”The entire picture of war in the world has changed,”said Carol Bellamy, UNICEF’s executive director.”Today, children and women are not only the first casualties in armed conflict, they are being deliberately targeted and are being forced to take part in the conflicts as well.” Bellamy said four years ago UNICEF was working in about 15 countries gripped by civil war, while today the number has risen to more than 55 nations.

Churches in England protest `marry a stranger’ gimmick

(RNS) _ Church leaders in Birmingham, England are protesting a local radio station’s proposal to marry two complete strangers selected through a competition launched in December.

In a letter to Julie Fair, station director of BRMB Radio, the three co-chairs of the local church council _ Roman Catholic Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville, Anglican Bishop Mark Santer, the Rev. Christina Le Moignan, Methodist district chairman _ urged the station to”reconsider very carefully”the gimmick.

They said the project reduced a wedding to”a media event.” Under the gimmick the couple is to be married in a civil wedding in a Birmingham hotel on Monday (Jan. 25) _ followed by a honeymoon in the Bahamas _ and will not have met each other beforehand, although they did speak to each other on BRMB’s radio program _ for the first time _ Friday morning. The couple are also being given an apartment with all expenses paid for the first year of the marriage and a year’s use of a car. They are known only by their first names _ Greg, aged 27, and Carla, aged 23.

In their letter, the church leaders said,”Marriage should be the celebration of one man’s and one woman’s decision to commit themselves to each other for life.””By contrast, what you have arranged deliberately prevents the couple from meeting and reduces a sacred and momentous decision to a media event. Both marriage and the human beings involved are too important to be manipulated in this way.” The 12 finalists in the competition were chosen from over 100 men and 100 women in interviews which took place earlier this month. The finalists then underwent in-depth interviews and psychological testing. Their family and friends were also interviewed and their astrological charts examined, before a panel of judges selected the man and woman considered most suited to each other.

Fair argued the station was being responsible.”What we are saying is that marriages are based on common values and attitudes rather than looks and short-lived attraction,”she said.”This is a real attempt to look at all the elements that make a marriage work and apply them responsibly.” In addition, the legality of the forthcoming wedding has been challenged by the Rev. Tom Pyke, Anglican chaplain to Aston University, on the grounds the financial inducements being offered are such as to call into question whether the couple are marrying of their own free will, as required by law.

But the chief superintendent of city agency responsible for issuing marriage licenses, Bill Wilson, said:”It’s nothing to do with the register office whether someone is marrying for financial gain. So long as they are entering into it of their own free choice, it is legal.”

Update: Indonesian death toll rises to 43

(RNS) The death toll in Indonesia from Christian-Muslim violence this week was raised to 43, even as lingering strife continued despite a curfew Friday (Jan. 22).

Police said more than 20,000 villagers had fled their homes on Ambon, Sanana and Seram islands, which are about 1,400 miles northeast of Jakarta, the Indonesian capital. Seven mosques, nine churches and 189 homes were burned in the violence.

Despite the reports of scattered violence continuing Friday, hope increased that the strife might end when Christian youths guarded mosques on Ambon, scene of the worst violence, during Friday’s communal Muslim prayers.

Meanwhile, Indonesian President B.J. Habibie declared the situation under control.”Community leaders in Ambon have agreed to urge their followers of the two religions to forgive and forget each other for what happened,”he said, according to the Associated Press.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation and has a small Christian minority. The fighting reportedly erupted after Muslims attacked a Christian they accused of being drunk and insulting Islam, which forbids the use of alcohol.

The violence was the latest in a series of ethnic and religious outbursts that have swept the southeast Asian island nation, which is gripped by economic and political uncertainty.

Iranian Muslim leader calls Internet, satellite TV threats to morality

(RNS) A leading Iranian Muslim figure has warned that the Internet and satellite television pose a danger to the Islamic nation’s moral standing.

In a Friday (Jan. 22) sermon, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, secretary of fundamentalist Iran’s powerful Guardian Council said”the danger of the Internet and satellites that broadcast from a close range threatens usâÂ?¦They broadcast disgraceful, immoral pictures and threaten all humanity and morality and chastity.” Jannati suggested that the way to counter the threat was to produce more Islamic-friendly media programming, the Associated Press reported.”The radio and television (must) set up more networks and make attractive films about the lives of the imams (Muslim prayer leaders), the prophet (Muhammad) and the early history of Islam,”he said.

Iranian law bans satellite television dish receivers and official permits are required to use the Internet. Users must also sign a statement promising not to access”immoral”sites or those”against national security.”

Quote of the day: Johanna Olson of Lutheran Disaster Response

(RNS)”We are astonished by disasters’ immediate devastation, but rarely do we see or hear from their long-term effects. It is the church’s role not only to commit to long-term response, but to remind people throughout the country to be be committed as well. `Out of media’ sight should not mean `out of mind.'”We need to let survivors of disasters know they are not forgotten.

_ Johanna Olson of Lutheran Disaster Response commenting on a report that the agency of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America responded to 30 weather disasters in 1998.

DEA END RNS

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