Watching the World
New Catholic Catechism
The Vatican has announced that after six years of preparation, it will soon release a new universal catechism. This is only the second time in the history of the Catholic Church that one has been produced. The first universal catechism was produced in 1566, following the Council of Trent, and was part of the church’s efforts to counteract the effects of the Reformation. The French newspaper Le Monde says that the new catechism represents “a concession to the church’s traditionalist faction, who have been campaigning since Vatican II for one unique catechism reflecting older, more traditional values.” In giving his official approval to the text, Pope John Paul II said that the new catechism would “provide a sure point of reference in the preparation of national and diocesan catechisms.”
Increased Life Span a Blessing?
Although medical science has increased man’s average life expectancy somewhat in recent years, Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, director general of WHO (World Health Organization), admits that “the health and quality of life of the world’s population are far from improving.” In an interview with the Paris newspaper Le Figaro, Dr. Nakajima said: “According to our information, the number of those sick or disabled, especially among the aged, may have even increased.” Globally, average life expectancy is now 65 years. In industrialized nations it is 76 years, whereas in developing countries it averages 62 years, and it is just 50 years in the least advanced regions of the earth. In the next five years, WHO hopes to increase the average life expectancy by four months. But Dr. Nakajima noted: “It is obvious that increases in longevity do not necessarily mean life without disability or chronic illness.”
To Save the Colosseum
“As long as the Colosseum stands, so will Rome,” goes an ancient Latin saying. However, rainwater seepage, corrosive action of atmospheric pollution, and vibrations caused by city traffic have put the famous monument in critical condition. The danger that fragments will fall from it is constant, and a number of places need to be reinforced. To save the amphitheater from further decay, an agreement has been reached between the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and a Roman bank. The first phase of the project includes waterproofing and restoring the arches and reconstructing the arena’s wooden floor, where gladiators once fought. Referring to the planned investment of 40 billion lire ($32 million, U.S.), the newspaper La Repubblica calls the agreement “the biggest marriage between public and private sectors ever celebrated in Italy to save a work of art.”
‘No Priests—No Church’
The Catholic clergy in France are facing a serious problem—old age. With too few new priests to fill the vacancies left by loss of older clergy through death or retirement, the number of priests in France is steadily dwindling. The newspaper Ouest-France reports that in Brittany, a traditionally Catholic stronghold in the west of France, the number of priests has dropped to just 2,207. Only 180 priests are less than 50 years old, 900 of them are between 50 and 70 years of age, and over half are more than 70 years old. In predicting that the trend could mean a crisis for the church, the archbishop of Rennes, Jacques Jullien, lamented: “The shortage of priests is our number one problem. . . . No priests means no church.”
Inflation Erodes Morals
What effect does a high rate of inflation over a long period of time have on people? In answer to this question by Veja magazine, economist Eduardo Giannetti da Fonseca of the University of São Paulo replied: “Inflation affects society’s moral standards. A country where people do not know how much the money in their pocket will be worth the next month ends up compromising the most fundamental ethical rules of human relations. Trust, truth, punctuality, honesty, and integrity are undermined by lack of economic stability.” In protecting themselves against the high cost of living, both government and common people may feel that the end justifies the means. Says Fonseca: “Inflation is a school of opportunism, immediacy, and corruption.”
The Steroid Look
The use of anabolic steroids by athletes who hope to boost athletic performance has long been known. In recent years, however, steroid abuse has spread among nonathletes for cosmetic purposes. A study reported on by the World Health Organization found that among high school seniors in the United States, 6.6 percent of all males had taken steroids. Of this group 26 percent said that their main reason for taking steroids was to improve their personal appearance. Adverse reactions to anabolic steroids include increased cholesterol, edema, a higher risk of coronary artery disease, enlarged prostate, liver tumors, testicular atrophy, and impotence. Steroids are also thought to increase aggressive, combative behavior.
Attitudes Toward AIDS
“Many South Africans fail to see the importance of [AIDS] or refuse to believe the disease exists at all,” reports the Saturday Star of Johannesburg, South Africa. “A potent mixture of racism, poverty and ignorance is accelerating the spread of the incurable disease.” Some feel that the idea of AIDS is a Western plot to weaken Africa or that the disease is some invention of the white man to curb Africa’s black birthrate. Another factor affecting people’s attitude toward AIDS is the violence that has become part of everyday life for many. A South African man in one strife-torn area said to a group of AIDS counselors: “You tell me AIDS can make me ill in 10 years. But 25 people died here . . . last weekend [in political violence]. Can AIDS really make life worse than it is already?” Unless viewpoints change, it is estimated that the disease will run rampant in South Africa within the next 10 to 15 years.
That the moon causes the ebb and flow of the earth’s ocean tides has long been known. However, the French magazine Terre Sauvage reports that scientists from CNRS (French National Center of Scientific Research) now affirm that the moon has a similar effect on the earth’s land surfaces. By means of a probe placed in a pool of brine in a sealed cave 3,300 feet [1,000 m] beneath the earth’s surface, researchers were able to detect a rise and fall of the cave’s contents every 12 hours. This movement, caused by the minute expansion and contraction of the cave’s walls, corresponds to the moon’s rotation around the earth and proves that the moon is indeed the source of what Terre Sauvage calls the “surprising subterranean respiration.”
Cause of Motion Sickness
Most people have suffered from motion sickness at some point in their lives. Millions encounter it regularly as they travel. Scientists now believe they understand what induces the typical nausea. The problem turns out to be in the brain, where the information relayed by the eyes does not match the information sensed by the inner ear. For instance, the inner ear detects the body’s movement inside a rocking boat while the eyes see a stable scene as the body moves with the boat. The contradictory messages received by the brain cause a release of stress-related hormones and an increase in electrical pulse rates in the stomach muscles, and in time this results in nausea and vomiting. Ways to avoid motion sickness include eating a small, starchy, low-fat meal before traveling; looking at the curves of a winding road while in a car or at the horizon while in a boat so that the eyes can see what the inner ear senses; minimizing head and body movements; and keeping the mind busy with other thoughts.
Middle-Agers Lose Jobs
“If you’re over 40, don’t even think of changing your job,” says The Star, a newspaper of Johannesburg, South Africa. Many workers in South Africa are being laid off as a result of the economic slump. The first to lose their jobs are often older persons who are approaching retirement age. According to statistics from the Department of Manpower, 37,500 people over 50 years old are losing their jobs each month in South Africa. “The South African situation is not different from the trends overseas where men and women aged above 55 are fast becoming an endangered species in the workplace,” says The Star. “The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says formal employment for men and women aged 55 and above is going out of fashion. . . . The exceptions are the older men of Japan, 60 percent of whom work.”
Popularity Endeavor Backfires
The recent efforts of U.S. politicians to gain favor by adding religious overtones to their campaigns has often had the opposite effect. In one instance, a listener wrote the New York Daily News: “Jesse Jackson needs to consult his Bible. In his speech at the Democratic convention July 15, he spoke of Mary and Joseph as being a homeless couple and Mary as a single mother. Mary and Joseph were not a ‘homeless couple.’ They traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill the law, they fled to Egypt to avoid prosecution by Herod, but they lived in Nazareth. And Mary was not a ‘single mother.’ In Matthew, Chap. 1, verses 18-23, and in Luke, Chap. 1, verses 26-35, Joseph is referred to as Mary’s husband and Mary as Joseph’s wife. So, while ‘homeless’ and ‘single’ are popular and effective adjectives, they are not, in this case, applicable. Jesse, get real.”