Watching the World
According to the Madrid newspaper El País, Catholic priests and bishops are going through a crisis. Overwhelmed by discouragement, some are leaving the priesthood or are seeking early retirement. Among the reasons given is the loneliness of enforced celibacy. The bishops are also worried about the growth of other religious groups. El País noted that one cardinal proposed that seminarians be taught “the door-to-door technique so that they can go from house to house as Jehovah’s Witnesses do in order to convince people to accept the Catholic faith.” According to the newspaper, the cardinal added that both Christ and the apostle Paul participated in a house-to-house preaching work.
“Sick” Building Alert
Now that sick building syndrome due to indoor air pollution is well documented, how does one detect the problem before people become ill? (See Awake!, 11/8/88, page 30 and 12/8/88, page 29.) By using plants, say two professors at Dartmouth University. They claim that pollutants can visibly sicken plants before the chemicals sicken people, thus providing an early warning system. A number of plants display curled and dying leaves or show abnormal growth when exposed to chemicals that will give people headaches, cause dizziness, and produce other symptoms of “sick” buildings. Besides being very sensitive, they add, plants are much cheaper than instruments.
Beating Rifle Stocks Into Bats
In 1990 the South African government announced a substantial cut in defense spending, according to Financial Mail. “Military analysts predict at least R1bn [thousand million ($400,000,000, U.S.)] more will be lopped off next year’s defence budget,” said this South African journal. To cope with the reduced demand, the weapons industry has entered into partnerships with firms that produce commercial goods. One weapons factory “has adapted its machinery used for making wooden rifle stocks so that top-quality cricket bats can be made,” reports the Johannesburg newspaper The Star. The cricket bats are used in South Africa’s popular summer sport and have been tested and approved by a top cricket player.
Europe has some 380 known species of butterflies, about a third of which are exclusive to that continent. A report in The European points out that “almost all . . . have declined drastically and several face extinction.” The countries affected include the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. What is the cause? An increase in agricultural production, fostered particularly by the growth of the European Community, has led to the destruction of wildlife habitats. The plowing up of grasslands, the draining of marshes, the widespread use of pesticides, destruction of hedgerows, and the poor management of meadows have exacerbated the situation.
According to a study conducted by the Justice Ministry in Japan, “juveniles [account] for 57.4 percent of all suspects questioned or arrested,” reports The Daily Yomiuri. The average age of young criminals has dropped every year for over ten years. The newspaper adds that “according to the study, more than 70 percent of delinquents committed their first crime between the ages of 13 and 15. Of those detained at least twice, most committed their first offense before the age of 10.” The study revealed that the great majority of delinquent youths in Japan have parents that do not provide adequate discipline. They come from families with a “marked inability to communicate in a meaningful way.”
The Mongolian-speaking people of the world now have access to part of the Bible in their own language. It took British scholar John Gibbens 18 years to complete his translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. According to Mr. Gibbens, “Mongolian is the last official national language in the world to receive the New Testament,” reports Asia Magazine. However, the magazine adds that the number of those who believe the Bible is “estimated to be no more than a dozen out of the 2.2 million people who live in the Mongolian People’s Republic.” A Bible society in England explains that there is a growing interest in the Bible as a world classic.
The French newspaper Le Figaro reports that according to a recent nationwide survey of French Catholic opinion, a majority of French Catholics (57 percent) disagree with the official teachings of the church regarding matters of morality. When asked about marital fidelity, birth control, abortion, and artificial insemination, 60 percent responded that the church should not make any rules in these areas. The survey reveals that a full 69 percent of French Catholics say that they agree, in principle, with having sexual relations before marriage. Moreover, 49 percent said they were in favor of doing away with required celibacy for Catholic priests, and 51 percent thought women should be allowed within the priesthood. Interestingly, only 8 percent thought that the Catholic Church was still loyal to the teachings of Christ Jesus.
“Reports of satanic rituals, long dismissed as impossible, are increasingly frequent and disturbingly consistent,” reports The Globe and Mail of Canada. Such reports include sexual abuse, cannibalism, and human sacrifices. Some claim that the victims of human sacrifice are drawn from the 50,000 drifters and homeless people who are reported missing in North America every year. There are also allegations of the breeding and concealment of babies for the purpose of using them for human sacrifice. The Globe and Mail adds that in “Canada, an estimated 2,000 individuals have stepped forward claiming to have been abused in satanic cults.” To deal with the problem, police departments in some parts of Canada are featuring Satanism in their teaching courses. Officials are worried about “Satanism’s appeal to young people.”
A recent study revealed that the incidence of heart disease among people living along the coasts of Japan is lower than among inland dwellers. The reason? Asiaweek reports that a diet high in seafood “has been linked to a reduction in several common coronary hazards.” Salmon and trout particularly have a high content of a polyunsaturated fat known as omega-3. It is believed that this type of fat can lower the level of triglycerides and reduce the “blood’s ‘stickiness’—its tendency to clot and possibly block coronary vessels,” noted Asiaweek. Some suggest that omega-3 may even help prevent other diseases, such as arthritis, breast cancer, kidney disorders, and migraine headaches.
The Number One Tree Killer
According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a Munich newspaper, German forests have taken a turn for the worse. About 56 percent of Germany’s forest acreage is said to be damaged. Fir trees are especially affected, with serious consequences to the hills, where deep roots play an important role in preventing avalanches and the erosion of topsoil. Süddeutsche Zeitung notes that because of the high level of vehicle emissions in Germany, “conservationists have again called on the federal government to do something about the ‘No. 1 tree killer,’ the automobile.”
Learning at Home
Hundreds of thousands of parents in the United States are teaching their children at home rather than sending them to school. The New York Times reports that according to some estimates, up to 500,000 children are being taught at home. This option is gaining popularity among parents who are concerned “about drugs and crime in public schools and about a decline in the quality of teachers.” According to the Times, educators say that these children are left “vulnerable to well-meaning but unqualified parents.” A spokeswoman for the National Homeschool Association admitted that “home schooling isn’t for everyone.” Then she added: “But neither is public school.”
Although the Church of England is the second-largest landowner in Britain, it is having a hard time maintaining its many cathedrals. According to the Manchester Guardian Weekly, “there are signs that the public is wearying of years of supporting these crumbling if fine monuments.” Some church officials have suggested opening restaurants on church grounds or expanding the gift shops already there; in York, church officials doubled the rents of local shops. Such efforts have met with varying degrees of censure from church leaders. But Dr. Robert Runcie, former Archbishop of Canterbury, recently wrote a letter to the British government begging for financial assistance for the church. The cathedral of Ely has a simpler solution. It charges visitors admission.