01: Contrary to fears of a collapse in financial support relating to the sex abuse scandals, contributions to the church among American Catholics actually rose last year, the peak period of the crisis.
The annual financial statement from the Vatican shows that Americans continue to lead other nations, such as Germany and Italy, in contributions to the annual operating expenses of the church. The National Catholic Reporter (Aug. 1) reports that although the Vatican declined to give a specific figure on how much the U.S. contributions increased in 2002, economics official Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani confirmed that there was an increase. The Vatican registered a significant growth in worldwide contributions, with the total leaping from $41 million in 2001 to 96.7 million in 2002 (some of this increase was due to an 18 percent decline in the value of the dollar over the past year).
02: While a majority of gays and lesbians say they are affiliated with a religion, few are practicing that religion, according to a recent survey.
The recent Gay/Lesbian Consumer Online Census found that more than six out of 10 respondents (63.7 percent) said they belong to a particular faith, and 38 percent said they are practicing this religion. Of the 8, 831 respondents (the largest sample consumer study of gays and lesbians), Catholics were the most numerous (17.2 percent), although only 29.5 percent of those members said they are practicing.
Six percent of the respondents say they are atheists and almost a third (30.3 percent) said they have no religious preference. The website Advocate.com (Aug. 7) cites the study as showing that the highest percentage of practicing believers were found in Pagan (84.6 percent), Metropolitan Community Church (79.4 percent), Unitarian (66.7 percent), Episcopal (57.6 percent), and Jewish (47.5 percent) congregations.
03: There is a significant difference between how Muslims fare in prisons in Britain and France, which may be a factor in encouraging a turn to radicalism among prisoners . . . In a paper presented at the conference of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, James Beckford of the University of Warwick in England contrasted the conditions of British and French Muslims in prison and found the former have more opportunities and freedom to practice their faith.
Beckford found halal food is available and imams are considered chaplains in British prisons. In France there are few opportunities for Islamic worship and observance, as officials fear that such activity might encourage resistance to the prison system. These differences may have an effect on the growth of radicalism among Muslims in prison.
In France, with the absence of a recognized imam, terrorists and those suspected of terrorism play a more prominent role in spreading the faith. “Prisoners construct a do-it-yourself religion. These extremists become heroes and teachers for other Muslims,” Beckford said. Many more prisoners may be introduced to Islam in British prisons, but it is controlled by imams; in France, the restrictions can lead to dissidents who feel they are discriminated against who become resistant to prison authorities.