01: Close to two-thirds of bishops have allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to keep working, “a practice that spans the decades and continues today,” reports the Dallas Morning News (June 12).
A three-month study conducted by the newspaper, which involved studying the records of the top leaders in each of the nation’s dioceses, found that at least 111 of them were headed by men who have protected accused priests or other church figures, such as brothers in religious orders, teachers and youth group workers. Such protection took the form of ignoring warnings about suspicious behavior, and keeping priests on the job after admission of wrongdoing, diagnoses of sexual disorders or even criminal convictions.
02: Faith-based social ministries that use federal funds are not losing their religious identities nor compromising their teachings, according to a recent study.
The results of the study, which was conducted by Stephen Monsma of Pepperdine University, examined the faith-based programs in four cities (Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia), yet may not please liberal or conservative critics, notes the Washington Times (June 11). The liberal view that federal funding of faith-based groups would coerce or discrimate against people based on faith did not pan out, as Monsma found that in these cities, at least, that fear did not materialize.
Conservatives have widely speculated that government support would weaken the religious identity of the faith-based group. But Monsma found that government officials asked few questions of the groups being funded. He concludes that taking government money does not secularize a religious organization. Rather, the organization itself makes the decision to move in a more secular direction.
03: A comparative study of 21 countries reveals that those nations with a Protestant heritage are far more likely to have embraced environmentalism than the others.
In the current issue of the Hedgehog Review (Spring), sociologist Robert Bellah cites the unpublished work of David Vogel of the University of California at Berkeley, who created a rating system for 21 of the richest nations regarding their involvement in the environmental cause. The nations were divided into two groups: “light green,” those countries mainly involved with the quality of air and water that directly affect their own populations; and “dark green,” countries concerned with the ecosphere, including endangered species, rain forests, ozone holes and “all the rest.”
Vogel finds that all but one of the dark green countries (the exception is Austria) are of Protestant heritage, and none of the light green countries is. The latter include six Catholic countries, one Greek Orthodox country (Greece), one Jewish country (Israel), and three Confucian/Buddhist countries (Japan, Korea, and Taiwan). Vogel argues that it is not so much a direct connection with the doctrines of Protestantism (he notes that evangelical Protestants are among the groups least involved in environmentalism).
Rather, “dark green” environmentalism functions as a secularized version of Protestantism in these countries. Both environmentalism and Protestantism share a relatively pessimistic view of the world, they tend to make strong moral judgments, and share a romantic and “aesthetic appreciation of nature” (partly because much of Protestantism does not have a strong sense of liturgy and sacramentalism), and stress responsibility in dealing with nature.
(Hedgehog Review, P.O. Box 400816, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4816)
04: Although observers have pointed to the growth of an Islamic “ghetto” in Britain, Muslims themselves have a strong desire for closer integration with mainstream society, according to a new poll.
In the wake of Sept. 11, there were growing fears that Britain’s almost 2 million Muslims made up a marginalized “parallel society” that could foster militancy among some of its members, as well as increase prejudice among non-Muslims. But the poll, conducted by the Guardian newspaper (June 17), finds that 41 percent of Muslims believed their community should do more to integrate with the rest of society. Another indicator of a desire for mainstream acceptance could be seen in wide Muslim support (65 percent) for government plans for compulsory English language and citizenship tests for new immigrants.
But the poll did identify a growing generation gap among British Muslims. For instance, 41 percent of Muslims under 34 say they define themselves first and foremost as Muslim, compared with 30 percent of those over 35. The young were also more likely to say that their community was too integrated.
05: More than one in every four Israelis is not Jewish, according to a recent study by Bar-Ilan University.
The Jerusalem Post (June 12) cites the study as showing that there are 83,868 mixed Jewish and non-Jewish couples (and unofficially that number could be as high as 114,254). In 50,000 of these cases from the official count, the wife is not Jewish, and another 33,500 families are not Jewish at all. Only 72 percent of Israelis are Jewish, with many being Israeli Arabs (18 percent). There is also a growing number of non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
The Bar-Ilan study comes in the wake of new figures from Hebrew University demographer Sergio Della Pergola, who estimates that 30,000 foreigners will immigrate to Israel this year — half of whom will not be Jewish. At the same time, 15,000 to 20,000 Jews are leaving Israel annually.