Young adult Catholics generally have a positive opinion of men and women religious, but many do not know a great deal about them, according to a new national study. Only one-third of those surveyed, for example, said they knew the difference between diocesan priests, who do not take vows, and religious order priests, who do take vows. Fewer than two-thirds said they knew the difference between a priest, who is ordained, and a religious brother, who is not. Commissioned by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the study was conducted last year by Dean Hoge, a sociologist at The Catholic University of America.Humanizing Economy Is Theme of Conference Held by Bishops
At a three-day international conference in Washington, representatives of the world’s bishops met with an array of government, banking, commerce, labor and academic leaders to discuss how the increasingly global economy can be humanized. A Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, said the key is massive new investment in the capacities of people. Without that, even the best-intended systemic and structural initiatives to make the global economy more human are doomed to produce very modest results, said Archbishop Martin, the Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva.
The Conference on Humanizing the Global Economy was held from Jan. 28 to Jan. 30 at The Catholic University of America. About 100 leaders in church and secular affairs participated. Among major speakers on the first day were the heads of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. Also among conference speakers and panelists were internationally recognized economists, business, banking and investment leaders, labor leaders, political and government figures and representatives of various international organizations, including the United Nations, World Trade Organization and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The managing director of the I.M.F., Horst Kohler, sharply criticized agricultural subsidies in rich countries that effectively shut many of the world’s poorest countries out of key marketsa good example of how the current widening of the rich-poor gap under globalization could be dramatically reversed by changing the rules under which globalization is taking place.
Kohler called for a new commitment by donor countries to the U.N. target of 0.7 percent of G.N.P. [gross national product] for official development assistance. He called the actual current average of 0.22 percent unacceptably low and noted that among donor countries the United States is at the bottom of the list, with official development assistance of only 0.10 percent of G.N.P.
He called the internal agricultural subsidies of the United States, Japan and the European Union unconscionable, saying such subsidies in rich countries maintain marginal activities for the benefit of a small sector of their population, while undermining agricultural sectors that are central to peace and development in poor countries.
Most of the conference’s first day was devoted to plenary sessions laying out the dimensions of economic globalization, from its impact on work and workers to the environment, from global trade and trade barriers to debt relief and aid and investment in poor countries. Corporate ethics, government ethics and the right of the poor to a voice in their own destiny were also among the topics.
The second day was devoted mainly to drawing out various issues in smaller group sessions, engaging experts coming from different perspectives to lead a dialogue in an effort to broaden everyone’s horizon.Ireland to Hold Referendum on Abortion
Ireland will hold a constitutional referendum to amend its abortion laws on March 6. The referendum will mark the third time in 20 years that Irish citizens have voted on abortion. The issues surrounding this referendum involve closing loopholes that would allow abortions in certain circumstancesfor example, when the mother is threatening suicide. The proposed constitutional amendment, supported by the Irish bishops, would outlaw abortion in most cases but would allow it to protect the life of the mother. If approved by the Irish electorate, the amendment would take effect only if specific legislation, the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Bill, were enacted within 180 days of the referendum vote. Otherwise the amendment in its entirety would be nullified.Catholic Schools Share in $55.3 Million Lilly Grants for Vocations
Five Catholic schools are among 28 U.S. colleges and universities sharing in $55.3 million in grants from the Lilly Endowment Inc. as part of its initiative, called Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation. The College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.; Fairfield University in Connecticut; Marquette University in Milwaukee; St. Louis University in St. Louis; and the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., each received grants of $2 million or slightly less for projects that help students to think through their vocational choices and consider the ministry as a profession they might pursue.Scalia: Death Penalty Support No Conflict With Church
In an address at Georgetown University on Feb. 4, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reiterated his belief that not only is he justified in disagreeing with the Catholic Church’s opposition to the death penalty, but that Catholic judges who oppose capital punishment should resign. He said that because the pope has not spoken ex cathedra in opposition to capital punishment, there is no reason that as a Catholic he should not only approve of it but consider it a duty of the state.
Scalia noted that the strongest denunciation of capital punishment from a pope came in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) in 1995, in which Pope John Paul II said that because of improvements in penal institutions, capital punishment is no longer necessary to protect society. If I agreed with that encyclical I’d have to resign, he continued, explaining that a jurist who does not think the government has a right to execute criminals has no right to be on the bench in a society where the death penalty is constitutional.Cardinal Sees Missed Opportunity at World Economic Forum
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, D.C., said religious leaders could play a useful role in the World Economic Forum but that this potential was not realized at this year’s meeting in New York on Jan. 31Feb. 4 . The role of religious leaders is to get ethical and religious points of view into these discussions with business and political leaders, he said. Many business and political leaders would be open to that, he added. The cardinal said that because forum organizers had a special track for religious leaders, they spent much of their time talking with one another. An interreligious panel at one plenary session was the only formal opportunity for interchange, he said.Despite Doubts, Vatican Believes Juan Diego Existed
Despite the continued doubts of some Mexican church scholars, the Vatican has concluded that Blessed Juan Diego, a 16th-century visionary set to be canonized, truly existed, a Vatican official said. In a recent letter to the Vatican, four Mexican priests, including the retired abbot of Mexico City’s Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, said there was no proof Juan Diego had existed and warned that declaring him a saint would harm the church’s credibility. The letter, dated Dec. 3, became public in Mexico in mid-January.Catholic Leaders Support Insuring Unborn Children
Catholic leaders praised the Bush administration’s announcement on Jan. 31 of plans to expand health coverage to unborn children of low-income women, saying it was a good decision to protect mothers and their infants. But groups that support keeping abortion legal criticized it as step toward making abortion illegal. Under the plan, announced by Secretary Tommy Thompson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, states could provide prenatal care by classifying the developing fetus of a low-income woman as an unborn child eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.Irish Religious Pay $110 Million to Settle Child Abuse Claims
The Irish religious conference has agreed to pay $110 million to Irish children who were sexually abused in church-run schools in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. The church’s payment includes $32 million in cash, about $70 million in property donated to the state and another $8.6 million to fund counseling services for victims. We accept that some children in residential institutions managed by our members suffered deprivation, physical and sexual abuse, said Elizabeth Maxwell, P.B.V.M., secretary-general of the Conference of Religious of Ireland. Sister Maxwell said that while the settlement could not erase the pain and suffering of victims, it was a concrete expression by the church to foster healing and reconciliation in the lives of former residents.
Since 2000, a judicial commission has been inquiring into child abuse in care institutions dating back to the 1940’s. The institutions were funded by the state but staffed by religious orders. In most of the cases, those accused have been members of religious orders. More than 3,000 people presented evidence to the commission. The church’s settlement package will be added to a government-run compensation fund. Claims against the fund could exceed $350 million, said anti-sex abuse campaigners and opposition lawmakers. Those who take money from the compensation fund must agree to drop any further legal action against the church or state.