c. 2003 Religion News Service
Unstable Economy, Sex Scandal Impact Charity Funding
(RNS) Three out of four Catholics said they would give more to charity if they felt their finances were more “secure,” according to a new survey by Catholic Charities USA.
The poll also showed that nearly one-quarter of Catholics _ 22 percent _ have decreased their giving to church charities because of lingering concern over sexual abuse by clergy.
In Boston, where the sex scandal erupted last year, church donations have dropped to nearly half. The lay reform group Voice of the Faithful collected nearly $100,000 in alternative donations that were refused by interim Bishop Richard Lennon. That money was eventually given to the local Catholic Charities office.
About 67 percent of Catholic Charities’ $2.6 billion budget comes from state or local government grants; about 14 percent comes from private donations or church funds.
With more people asking for help because of the lagging economy, the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir said times are tight for the nation’s fourth-largest charity.
“While more and more people are turning to Catholic Charities, the government contracts, donations and other vital sources of revenue needed to provide those services are declining or not keeping pace,” said Hehir, president of the agency.
While 57 percent of Catholics said the amount of money they donated stayed the same, 20 percent said they gave less, and 23 percent said they gave more. Nearly two in three Catholics said they would give more if they knew of a “growing need among people in their communities.”
The telephone poll of 622 Catholics contains a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
_ Kevin Eckstrom
Baptist Leaders Affirm Missionaries in Developing and Developed Nations
(RNS) International Baptist leaders meeting recently in England called for new viewpoints on missions that encourage people from the developing world as well as developed nations to spread the gospel.
“We recognize that models of mission used in the past will not be wholly adequate for the new era that has dawned with the startling speed of modern technology,” reads a statement adopted during the Summit on Baptist Mission in the 21st Century, sponsored by the Baptist World Alliance May 5-9 in Swanwick, England.
“Notions of sending and receiving are unhelpful if we assume that it is the role of some simply to send and others simply to receive.”
During the meeting of leaders from 60 countries, BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz also proposed an “international Baptist mission agency” that would support Baptist missionaries in the developing world who wish to do missionary work beyond their own borders but do not have the necessary financial resources.
The statement adopted by Baptist leaders, titled “Call to Mission,” discussed the “spectacular growth” of churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as the “major challenge of a post-Christian culture in large parts of Europe and North America.”
The Baptist representatives also urged understanding of the cultures that will be approached by missionaries.
“We affirm that the gospel should always be a vehicle of liberation, never domination, a principle we will respect and honor within our own family of faith and in our mission endeavors,” they stated.
The document also noted the “inadequate representation” of women leaders at the gathering.
“Their absence we interpret as indicative of the lack of recognition and affirmation of the role of women in all aspects of the church’s mission,” they said. “We are immeasurably poorer because of this, and will remain so until this fundamental imbalance is addressed.”
The statement also addressed the Baptist leaders’ commitment to help suffering people and work for peaceful resolution to world conflicts.
_ Adelle M. Banks
Catholics Say Law Should Face Prosecution; Louisville Makes Budget Cuts
(RNS) More than half of Boston-area Catholics believe Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as archbishop last year for his handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal, should face prosecution, according to a new Boston Globe poll.
Fifty-seven percent say Law should be prosecuted. Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly has convened a grand jury to investigate the scandal, but has said he does not believe the cardinal broke any laws.
Law’s disapproval rating registered at its all-time highest level, at 75 percent, compared with 15 percent a decade ago. Law is now the private chaplain for a conservative order of nuns in Clinton, Md.
Emerging favorably in the poll was a lay reform group, Voice of the Faithful, that was formed in the wake of the scandal. Sixty-one percent of area Catholics have a favorable view, prompting Voice of the Faithful leaders to again ask interim Bishop Richard Lennon to rescind his ban that keeps the group from meeting on church property.
Lennon received mixed reviews in the Globe poll, with most saying they don’t know enough about him to register an opinion. Thirty-seven percent said he would be a good choice for Law’s permanent successor, while 20 percent said he would not.
The poll of 400 Catholics has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
The scandal and a related drop in donations prompted the archdiocese to cut its budget by $4 million. Lawyers for the church and abuse victims are trying to settle nearly 500 lawsuits, with one estimated price tag of $100 million.
In related budget news, the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., said it will cut its budget by $2 million, including 34 job cuts, because of the high cost of abuse-related legal settlements.
The archdiocese is named in 249 abuse lawsuits, and will have spent more than $1 million on legal settlements and counseling when its current fiscal year ends June 30, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“This is a difficult time for those of us who work for the church,” archdiocesan chancellor Brian Reynolds told the newspaper. “The impact of the sexual abuse crisis is widespread, not just in the lives of victims of abuse but also of those who have dedicated their lives to serving the church who have done nothing wrong and are now being impacted by this litigation.”
Paris Anti-Semitism Conference Finds Hate Acts Rising
PARIS (RNS) Hate acts against Jews in Europe have reached worrying heights, with sharp rises in Internet slurs and physical attacks reported from Denmark to Spain, according to experts at a Paris conference that ended Wednesday (May 14).
But participants at the three-day meeting at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization _ who ranged from Israeli politicians to a former archbishop of Canterbury _ differed on the reasons behind the anti-Jewish attacks, and even on the scope of the problem.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish rights group that organized the conference, suggests attacks against Jews in Europe have reached heights not witnessed since World War II.
“The anti-Semitic incidents in Europe are ominous,” agreed Beate Winkler, head of a European Union monitoring center on racism. “Old images reappear. Anti-Islamic sentiments following Sept. 11 are ominous too. And in both cases, it’s the symbolism _ synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and mosques _ which becomes the target of violence.”
But Winkler was careful to note a recent rise of anti-Jewish acts in certain European countries _ notably Germany, the Netherlands, France and Sweden _ rather than a continent-wide phenomenon.
Internet hate sites were also mushrooming, she said, with many originating in Spain and Denmark. In some cases, she said, fundamental religious groups were teaming up with right-wing hate groups in creating the hate sites.
But Winkler also praised recent European efforts to promote tolerance, along with new European Union legislation to fight racism and xenophobia. “We need to highlight and recognize the positive,” she said.
With Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim populations, France has been a particular cause of concern. A March governmental report found anti-Jewish acts constituted 62 percent of all hate crimes in 2002 _ and reached the highest levels in a decade.
On Monday, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy vowed a “zero tolerance” policy toward anti-Semitism and other hate acts.
“Too often we try to explain these attacks as linked to the dramatic situation in the Middle East,” said Rachid Kaci, an ethnic Algerian politician and member of France’s governing party. “I don’t believe it.”
Rather, he said, “it’s a rampant Judeophobia from young Muslims … that has existed in our suburbs for decades. To deny it is to be ignorant at worse, or naive at best.”
But conference protesters argued the Wiesenthal Center had mischaracterized widespread anger in Europe over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as anti-Semitism.
The critics suggested the Center was instead fostering intolerance, by focusing solely on anti-Jewish acts, and that it had deliberately excluded radical Zionist organizations from a list of Internet hate groups.
_ Elizabeth Bryant
Irish Boy Scouts, Separated Along Religious Lines, Agree to Merge
(RNS) Despite misgivings expressed by the country’s Roman Catholic bishops, Ireland’s two separate Boy Scout organizations _ one historically Catholic, one historically Protestant _ have voted to merge.
Scouting Ireland (SAI) was started in 1908 as the Dublin City Boy Scouts, becoming the Irish Free State Scout Council in 1921. It was perceived as having a predominantly Protestant membership, and in response the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland (CSI) was set up in 1927. It has always operated under the auspices of the Catholic bishops.
The two organizations have long had a close working relationship, formalized in 1965 by the formation of the Federation of Irish Scout Associations. Formal negotiations about a merger began in May 1998.
At separate meetings May 11, the two organizations’ national councils voted to merge, Scouting Ireland (SAI) by a majority estimated at 92 percent, the Catholic Scouts (CSI) by 301 to 146 _ three votes over the two-thirds majority needed. SAI has some 8,000 members and CSI 22,500.
The chief Scouts of the two organizations welcomed the votes as “the foundation for a new century of scouting for all young people in Ireland regardless of race, color or creed.”
In a letter to the national secretary of the Catholic Scouts, Bishop John Magee of Cloyne said that the bishops had discussed the merger proposal at their spring meeting in March, at which they “articulated serious misgivings.”
The CSI’s constitution says amendments to it considered by the Irish bishops’ conference as having “a spiritual or moral dimension” need the bishops’ approval. The implications of the merger decision will be considered by the bishops when they meet in June.
_ Robert Nowell
Quote of the Day: Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold
(RNS) “It struck me looking through the window at a hospital gurney how an execution now parodies hospital procedures. Intravenous tubes and all the rest of it are an effort to help heal someone, when what is really happening there is just the opposite.”
_ Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, describing his first visit to a prison death chamber, in Indiana in April. He was quoted by Episcopal News Service.