Watching the World
Earthquake Rocks Peru
◆ Half of Peru was rocked by an earthquake on May 31. Homes and buildings tumbled. Some towns were reported to be in rubble. The city of Huarás, north of Lima, was said to be destroyed. All power and telephone lines to the stricken area were cut by the quake. Initial reports show that many thousands of people were killed in the earthquake.
Exodus of Latin Priests
◆ The flood of priests leaving the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America is increasing. Predominantly Roman Catholic Latin America now has only one priest for every 5,800 inhabitants, well below the ratio in Europe’s Catholic nations. Spain has one priest for every 880 persons, but Brazil, the world’s largest Roman Catholic country, with a population of over 90,000,000, has only 11,200 priests, a ratio of about one for every 8,000 people. In 1960 there were 13,100 priests in Brazil; by 1969 the number had fallen to 11,200. Between 1961 and 1968 some 643 clergymen left the priesthood to marry. In contrast, Jehovah’s witnesses have rapidly increased in numbers in Brazil, and now there is, on an average, one active Witness ministering to the spiritual needs of every 1,600 Brazilians and glad to help them no matter what religious affiliation they profess.
Debt in America
◆ Two out of every three American families are deep in debt today. Together they owe a staggering total of more than a third of a trillion dollars. Eight of 10 adults under 35 live on the installment plan and face a mortgaged future. An extensive study of American buying habits by the Federal Reserve Board shows that private debts for American families have hit $387,000,000,000—enough to pay all the costs of running the federal government for nearly two years. This means that family debt has multiplied by more than 10 since 1946, when it amounted to only $35,000,000,000. Federal Reserve Board figures show that the overwhelming majority of families in middle-class income groups are in debt. They are led by the group whose annual incomes range from $7,500 to $9,999, where 84 percent of the families owe money. The average family is shown to be within six weeks of bankruptcy.
Is Noise Killing You?
◆ Increasingly there exists the possibility of running into unwanted noise that can be dangerous to health. The cost of noise to industry now is estimated in the billions of dollars annually. These dollars are lost through drops in efficiency and productivity resulting from fatigue, tension and irritability associated with loud noise. The toll, not in dollars, but among people is the most tragic. Deafness is one result of continuous and excessive noise exposure. Noise has been linked to urban violence. Noise may be related to high blood pressure, a high cholesterol count, nervous tension, seizures, psychotic behavior and the development of defective or brain-damaged children.
VD Rising Alarmingly
◆ Public health officials in America are alarmed over what they regard as a nationwide epidemic of gonorrhea, a disease once thought to be under control. Syphilis also showed an increase in all but one section of the country. Venereal disease has become the nation’s most common communicable disease, except for the common cold. In some large cities gonorrhea has risen more than 200 percent. Health officials attributed the rise in gonorrhea to increased promiscuity, especially among youngsters. Last year in Philadelphia, 50 reported cases of gonorrhea occurred among children under 10.
“Simply Too Complex”
◆ When a group decided to commission a study of church assets and immunities in fourteen cities in the United States, they excluded New York on the grounds that it was “simply too complex.” There are reportedly 4,883 churches, synagogues, monasteries and convents spread through the five boroughs of New York. The value of the land they occupy is modestly placed at $726,010,645. The assessed value does not include the worth of 1,383 parsonages or the 931 private dwellings for the clergy, or the hospitals, cemeteries, colleges and religious schools the value of which adds at least another $1,000,000,000 to the total.
◆ The first international Congress on Group Medicine in Winnipeg, Canada, was told that three-quarters of the illnesses doctors treat could cure themselves. Dr. Alton Ochsner of New Orleans said: “Because his patients place him [the doctor] on a pedestal and give him credit for results for which he is really not responsible, the physician may get the idea that he deserves the adulation and the credit which is given to him.” Dr. Ochsner went on to say that unless doctors realize that “approximately 75 percent of illnesses are self-limited, no matter what is done, . . . he is likely to get a perverted idea of his importance.”
◆ Moscow conservationist Vladimir Peskov reported that by a careless use of chemical pesticides two Soviet farmers accidentally killed more than 50 cranes, 200 rare great bustards, 11 gray geese and 50 foxes. Peskov said the “disaster” in southern Russia was only a “small part” of the whole story of the abuse of chemicals on Soviet farms. “It happens everywhere,” he said. “This question is worrying us more and more every year. Why do we see almost no flocks of geese and cranes in April? Almost all the partridge are gone. Our woods, gardens and fields are becoming quieter and quieter.” Although Peskov did not mention it, the duck-hunting season was canceled across Russia this year because of a shortage of ducks.
Is There Truth?
◆ A young Loyola University scholar, Dr. Gary Lease, predicted the crumbling of institutional religion in the coming years. The view that churches do not hold an adequate explanation of the world and that “truth” is not an absolute, eternal object—particularly not in the hands of institutionalized religion—is the view that is gaining ground, he said. Dr. Lease, who graduated from Loyola, a Jesuit school, feels that the concept of truth as eternal and absolute must be abandoned. But, without qualifications, Jesus Christ said to God with reference to His Word the Bible: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) True Christians view matters as he did.
Pastors Leave Flocks
◆ Why do clergymen leave their flocks? “I’ve found more Christian concern in a city agency than I did in ten years with the church,” answered an ordained Presbyterian minister now working as a field representative. Another minister disillusioned with organized religion does not go to church anymore. He said: “The sickest people in the world are sometimes the most active in running churches.” He added: “Of the seven of us who graduated cum laude from seminary, only one is still working for the church.”
Equal Justice Under Law?
◆ Daily News reporter Donald Singleton said: “New York city’s criminal courts are so swamped with cases, so sloppily administered and so short of money, manpower and facilities that the whole system has all but broken down.” He adds: “If every defendant were to insist on his Constitutionally guaranteed speedy trial by a jury of his peers, our courts would still be hearing this year’s cases in the year 2000.” As for equal justice under law, he says: “There is no equal justice for the poor. . . . All along the weary way, poor defendants are given only a lick-and-a-promise brand of representation.” What kind of justice is received? “There is no exact justice for society—The People,” he says. “In the name of expediency, our courts have degenerated into gross bargain basements. Prosecutors bargain away justice by making deals with obviously guilty defendants. The prosecutors agree to lower the charges; the defendants agree to plead guilty. Tens of thousands of guilty people are sent back onto the streets of the city in this way, uncorrected, unpunished, and even unrepentant, to commit more of the same crimes that brought them to court in the first place.” What about the system? There exists “a kind of controlled chaos throughout the whole system, a chaos that is instantly visible to any observer, a chaos that cheats everyone of justice.”
“Revolt Against Reason”
◆ A noted Roman Catholic sociologist, Andrew Greeley, speaking in Chicago, Illinois, referred to “the new barbarians” of the American Catholic Church, whose irrationality, he said, seems to be taking over through “pot masses” and the like. Greeley stated that he believes Catholicism in the United States is engaged in a “colossal revolt against reason,” which is “particularly strong among the clergy, religious and younger laity.” He said this revolt is permeating all levels of the church.
◆ The United States is experiencing a recession. The fact is that Washington is very worried about the economy. The stock market is reacting sharply—one day hitting new lows and the next day shooting to its greatest increase for a single day. Unemployment is rising much higher than people in authority had foreseen. Prices are still surging faster than had been predicted. The self-confidence of many in authority has obviously been shaken. Corporate profits are off. Business failures, personal bankruptcies, home-mortgage foreclosures are all cause for deep concern. Throughout America, many people have an uneasy feeling that the economy is in unprecedented trouble and that Washington does not know what to do about it.
◆ Anglican clergyman M.C. Russell, vicar of St. Matthew’s-in-the-City, stated that Christian congregations should accept the relationship of a homosexual couple and perhaps find some way of “blessing” it. The Bible says such a relationship is abhorrent to God and decent man, but this New Zealand clergyman says a homosexual association between two people loyally devoted to each other could not be considered sinful if it genuinely expressed true love and tenderness. Does not the morality of the Bible mean anything to religious leaders anymore? Or have they set themselves up as gods to determine what is good and bad?
Unmarried Parents Punished
◆ A published report from Zanzibar said that any man proved to be the father of an unmarried woman’s child is liable to not less than five years’ hard labor under a decree issued by the Zanzibar government. If the unmarried woman refuses to disclose the name of the father of her child, she can be detained until she does disclose it. If she gives false information she is liable to be imprisoned for not less than a year. Any unmarried girl found to be pregnant while still at school must be expelled. If such a firm decree is enforced, it may give immoral persons something to think about.
The Whale Song
◆ Dr. Roger S. Payne, a research scientist at Rockefeller University, talked about recording whale songs off Bermuda. The sounds were strangely melodious. They resembled sounds of an oboe and a muted cornet combined—sounds that trailed off into an eerie high-pitched wail of melancholy bagpipes. “Nobody knows how they make the sounds,” said Payne, “they have no vocal cords. But we think it’s with their larynx and the air in their lungs.” The symphonic composer Alan Hovhaness was so intrigued with what he heard that he eagerly agreed to compose an orchestral work that incorporates some of the actual taped melodies of the whales. Hovhaness called the symphonic piece, “And God Created Great Whales,” a quotation from the Bible book of Genesis in the King James Version.