Watching the World
◆ A special report out of Paris shocked many when it revealed that some 18,000 churches and chapels have been abandoned or are at the point of being abandoned in France. The Toronto Star stated that that figure would mean that “about half of the places of worship in France face either extinction or decay in the relatively near future unless religious and lay authorities intervene promptly.”
One religious commentator is quoted as saying: “Not since the wars of religion in the 16th century have churches in France suffered so much!” They are suffering from neglect, from dwindling attendance, from lack of funds, and from vandals with an eye for valuable antiques. Also some parish priests, in order to finance improvements in their churches, are selling furniture, vases, carpets, candelabras and chandeliers.
Clergy Disavow Bible
◆ When 10,000 Protestant clergymen in the United States were asked what they believed, over 7,400 gave replies. They were asked: “Do you believe that Jesus’ resurrection is an historical fact?” Fifty-one percent of the Methodist ministers said “No.” Thirty percent of the Episcopal priests of America could not accept it, nor could 35 percent of the United Presbyterian preachers, 33 percent of the American Baptist preachers, 13 percent of the American Lutheran preachers and 7 percent of the Missouri Synod Lutheran ministers.
When asked if they believed in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ as a biological miracle, 60 percent of America’s Methodist preachers said emphatically “No,” as did 44 percent of the Episcopal priests and 49 percent of the Lutheran ministers.
When they were asked about the Bible itself, 82 percent of the Methodist preachers said they did not believe it is the inspired Word of God, and the same reply was given by 89 percent of the Episcopal priests, 81 percent of the Presbyterian clergy, 57 percent of the American Baptist clergy and 57 percent of the American Lutheran clergy.
If you are wondering what has happened to faith in America, look at its teachers. “My brothers, a fig tree cannot produce olives or a vine figs, can it?” (Jas. 3:12) Neither can faithless men build faith.
“Crisis of Disunity”
◆ The Roman Catholic Church is facing a “crisis of disunity,” said a Roman Catholic bishop from Canada and an American Jesuit priest. The only way the crisis can be remedied, they said, is to let bishops, priests, religious and the laity share in the decision-making responsibilities. They believe all levels of the church must have a voice in directing its destiny. The first step toward this goal, they said, would require a closing of the ‘communications gap’ between priests and bishops.
Priest Joseph H. Fichter, a sociologist on the faculty of Harvard University, stated that the American church had become “disunited, polarized and pluralized to the point of open disagreement on important issues.” He stated that “in many instances clergy and laity are moving apart. . . . Some of them [the laity] are going their own way, and they ‘couldn’t care less’ what the priests say.” The clergy, too, he said, are walking away in spectacular and increasing numbers.
“Is Religion Obsolete?”
◆ Thirty-nine-year-old Presbyterian minister Robert Larson quit his Pittsburgh pulpit to become a television program director. He is using the television network to stir up debate on the question: “Is religion obsolete?” Larson is concerned over declining church attendance among young people. He says they blame the drop in part on hypocrisy of the traditional church structure. “You can’t fool these youngsters,” he says. “They can tell whether the church is truly involved in community problems or is just piously ministering to the spiritual comfort of the elderly well-to-do.”
A sample remark from a Harrisburg girl was published: “All the churches are so concerned about getting all the members they can and keeping the members and getting the money. Everything the church does is for its own survival. They’re ignoring everything that religion is really supposed to stand for.” Baptist minister Paul Gehris contends: “It’s not religion that’s obsolete, it’s the vast, wealthy church corporation.” And he says: “If American churches don’t make more changes, they’ll see more and more decline.”
Priest in Politics
◆ Jesuit priest Robert F. Drinan tossed the biretta of a Roman Catholic priest into the political arena in Massachusetts. The forty-nine-year-old vice-president and provost of Boston College and dean of its law school is running for a Congressional seat. He saw no church-state problem in his candidacy. As far as can be determined, only one Catholic priest has ever served in the United States Congress, although several Protestant ministers have served in the House of Representatives.
New Freedom for Nuns
◆ It is estimated that about 5,000 nuns left Roman Catholic religious orders in 1969 in the United States. Some left to marry, some to enter the secular world, others simply to melt away into the mass of humanity. They are not content with the traditional concepts of religious service. Nun Joan O’Shea, dean of students at Rosary College in River Forest, sees a time when many convents will become “apartments or houses” in which women may serve for short periods of time, rather than taking vows for life.
Science, the Church and the Pill
◆ Professor of Biology Jeffrey J. W. Baker, presently at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut, took a critical look at the inability of the Roman Catholic Church to reconcile conflicts between science and Vatican dogma. In an article entitled “Science, Birth Control, and the Roman Catholic Church,” which appeared in the February 1 issue of BioScience, Dr. Baker examined Pope Paul VI’s 1968 birth-control encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and contrasted it with the findings of the pope’s twenty-man Birth Control Commission. The Commission recommended all means of birth control except abortion.
According to the article, “recent surveys indicate that almost 80% of Roman Catholics in the United States practice means of birth control forbidden by the Church,” that there are “over 900,000 abortions a year in Catholic Italy, where contraceptives are outlawed,” that “in Catholic Austria, Belgium, and France, it is estimated that there is at least one abortion for every live birth,” that “in Uruguay the ratio is three abortions to every live birth.” Dr. Baker appealed to the academic community for support of those Roman Catholic laymen and clergy who, often at great personal sacrifice, have spoken out against the pope’s encyclical.
‘Is Armageddon Near?’
◆ The above question was asked by a California newspaper focusing attention on the population explosion problem. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, room must be found for about 100,000,000 more Americans by the year 2000. The paper says: “In light of already severe environmental problems, such figures have prompted some scientists to circle a date on the calendar for an Armageddon sometime in the middle or latter years of this decade.” adds that scientists who are most alarmed about environmental deterioration consider the population boom already so far out of hand that global famine, pestilence and war probably are unavoidable.
Priest Raps Chaplains
◆ Roman Catholic priest James Roberts of St. Joseph’s Parish Community, Port Moody, Canada, called on chaplains in the armed forces to discard their military titles and uniforms and to relinquish their salaries as employees of the state. “Let them give up their fat salaries and be supported by their churches to whom they should be responsible,” Roberts said.
Roberts was commenting about the following statement that Daniel Bryne, deputy command chaplain of Catholic troops in Vietnam, made recently about Vietnam massacres: “We do not debate the morality of war in general or the morality of any particular war. Our job is to look after the spiritual welfare of the men.”
“Words like this stun the mind,” said priest Roberts. “How can the morality of war, which Pope Paul calls the greatest moral issue of our day, be exempted from ‘the spiritual welfare of men’?” “Today the theology of views like those of Chaplain Bryne are exposed as morally bankrupt for all the world to see,” said Roman Catholic priest Roberts.
Presbyterian Church “Out of Touch”
◆ A national survey sponsored by the Presbyterian Church in Canada revealed the church to be “slow to change, stuffy and stodgy, out of touch, in-grown” and badly in need of renewal. The 125-page report showed that “in nearly all sectors there exists a state of confusion as to the mission of the church.” In addition, the report said there was a lack of communication with young people. The report follows hard on the heels of a similar study prepared for the United Church in Canada, which predicted that there would be virtually no United Churches in the Metro area of Toronto within the next fifteen years if the drop in interest and membership was not halted.
Easy on the Criminals
◆ In a recent statistical report from the federal bureau of prisons, it was disclosed that a large number of persons convicted of crimes never go to prison. The District Attorney of Oklahoma said the statistics are appalling. In Oklahoma they show that in 1960 a total of 86.7 percent of persons given prison time served less than three years. Many received sentences up to 20 and 30 years. A man who was sentenced to two fifteen-year sentences after he pleaded guilty to two armed robberies was paroled in less than a year. The “do-gooders,” said the District Attorney, “are emptying the prisons faster than juries can convict known felons.”
“Eclipse of the Century”
◆ The first total solar eclipse to be seen over heavily populated areas of the United States since 1925 was greeted with curiosity and passing awe on March 7. Millions of people watched as the moon crossed the path of the sun. In some areas where the eclipse was total, buzzards went to roost and some animals were thrown into confusion. Many people entered a holiday spirit and thousands of spectators crowded beaches and parks to view this rare spectacle. However, in New York city, where 96 percent of the sun was blacked out, the Saturday crowds hardly slowed down to notice the “eclipse of the century.”
◆ Dr. J. Garrott Allen, professor of surgery at the Stanford School of Medicine, said that blood purchased from unscreened donors by commercial blood banks is responsible for 90 percent of infectious hepatitis cases. Each year more than 5,000 cases of hepatitis are attributed to transfusions in California alone.
Family Farms Disappearing
◆ Nearly 100,000 family-operated farms in America are disappearing each year. The total number of farms is down to about 3 million, the lowest number since the 1870’s, more than 20 percent fewer than in 1960, and 56 percent fewer than the peak farm number of 1935. Since the end of World War II, the population of the United States has increased by 55 million, or 37 percent. In the same period the farm population declined by nearly 15 million, or nearly 60 percent. Since 1960, the exodus of persons from farms has been going on at a rate of 811,000 a year, according to the United States department of agriculture’s economic research service. The average size of the American farm, however, has increased from 212 acres in 1950 to 369 acres in 1968.