Signs of the Times

Thousands Form Human Chain Around Capitol Against Debt

Thousands of Americans formed a human chain around the U.S. Capitol on April 9 to urge debt relief for the world’s poorest nations. Sign-bearing union workers, nuns and studentsmany wearing cloth or paper chains to symbolize the enslaving chains of debtmingled side by side at a four-hour Jubilee 2000 rally on the Mall before encircling the Capitol. They ignored the blustery winds of an unseasonably cold day as they chatted, sang and chanted, Cancel the debtnow!

Vatican Urges Withdrawal of ICEL Translation of Psalms

A Vatican official has called on the International Commission on English in the Liturgy to do all it can to halt further publication or distribution of its doctrinally flawed 1994 English version of the Psalms. The text does not accurately represent the word of God and therefore risks being a danger to the faith, said Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburrino, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, in a letter of Jan. 14 to ICEL’s chairman, Bishop Maurice Taylor of Galloway, Scotland. Such a text is clearly no more suited for private prayer than it is for public proclamation, he wrote. The translation at issue is known for its use of inclusive language and reliance on dynamic equivalence rather than formal equivalence as a translation technique. Formal translations are more literal or word-for-word; dynamic translations are freer in adapting thought patterns, linguistic structures and idioms of one language to the different patterns, structures and idioms of another language.


Southern African Bishops Accuse Zimbabwe of Encouraging Unrest

The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference accused Zimbabwe’s political leaders of encouraging lawlessness in the country since white-owned farms were invaded by blacks. We note with great regret that the political leadership of Zimbabwe has not only failed to intervene to restore order, but actually seems to be encouraging the lawlessness, the bishops said in a statement on April 8. President Robert Mugabe has called for redistribution of white-owned land to Zimbabwe’s black majority, and Zimbabwe’s Parliament voted on April 6 to sanction the seizure of farms without compensation.

Vatican Official: Bishops Must Be Active in Theology Faculties

To ensure that theology develops within the church’s faith and life, bishops must take an active role in theological faculties in their dioceses, a top Vatican official said. Despite changes in method brought about by scientific progress, theology does not cease to receive the faith of the church, which is correctly called mother and teacher, said Archbishop Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. The text was published on April 6 in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

Gallup Poll Explores Anti-Catholic Bias in U.S.

A Gallup Poll has found that roughly one-fourth of Americans have a negative view of the Catholic religion and nearly two-thirds view it favorably. Contrary to widespread opinion that anti-Catholic bias exists disproportionately among evangelical or born-again Protestants, the survey found that only 29 percent of that groupcompared to 30 percent of Protestants generallydescribed Catholicism as unfavorable. Despite recent flaps over alleged insensitivity to Catholic feelings by Republican leaders, the poll found that Democrats and independents are slightly more likely than Republicans to view Catholicism negatively.

An examination of the data suggests that one of the biggest predictors of negative attitudes toward Catholics is an overall lack of personal religious faith or practice, rather than intense religious belief in a different religion, the Gallup News Service said in a press release on the poll. Having an unfavorable attitude toward the Catholic religion may be more a part of a negative attitude toward any religion, rather than a specific or targeted negative attitude toward the Catholic faith, it added. It cited as evidence:

Among those who say religion is not important in their own life, 44 percent said their opinion of Catholicism was unfavorable.

Among those who are not members of a church or synagogue, 39 percent viewed Catholicism unfavorably.

Of those who never attend church, 54 percent viewed Catholicism unfavorably.

Of those who regarded religion as old-fashioned or out-of-date, 45 percent viewed Catholicism unfavorably.

Among respondents who identified themselves as Catholic, 12 percent said their opinion of Catholicism was unfavorable.

The poll found that negative attitudes toward Christian fundamentalism were more widespread than those toward Catholicism. Overall, only 48 percent of Americans expressed a favorable opinion of the fundamentalist religions, and 35 percent said their opinion was unfavorable. The remainder did not express an opinion.

Despite recent accusations of anti-Catholicism against Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Republican presidential contender George W. Bush, the poll found that only 23 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of Catholicism, compared with 27 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents.

Gallup also reported that according to the poll, 44 percent of Americans are unchurcheddefined as either not having church membership or not having attended any regular religious services in the past six months. It found that 45 percent of whites but only 32 percent of blacks were unchurched. Half of men but only 39 percent of women were unchurched.

It said the greatest divide appeared among ideological subcultures of the nation. Whereas 55 percent of liberals in this country dissociate themselves from a church, only 35 percent of conservatives fall into the same category, it said.

Forty percent of those with college education were unchurched, compared with 49 percent of those with high school or less. Gallup said the percentage of unchurched Americans has changed only slightly since 1978, when 41 percent were unchurched.

Cardinal Law Urges U.S. Support for Peace in Sudan

The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ International Policy Committee called on the U.S. government to support peace efforts in Sudan and pledged continued church efforts to aid victims of its civil war. Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston said in a statement: The end of the war would not resolve all of Sudan’s problems, but it would make it possible to address some of the most egregious suffering of the people of Sudanhunger, millions of displaced, economic underdevelopment and slavery. There is no military solution to this conflict; as difficult as it may be, a negotiated solution is the only way forward, he said.

Vote on Partial-Birth Abortion Praised by Bishops’ Official

A U.S. bishops’ official praised House passage of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act on April 5 and said President Clinton should sign it. The 287-to-141 vote was the third time the House had passed a ban on the controversial abortion procedure. The Senate has also passed the ban three times, including last October by a 63-to-34 vote. But the ban has been vetoed twice by President Clinton, who has promised to veto it again this year. A recent poll showed that 68 percent of Americans support such a ban. Less than 20 percent of the respondents opposed a ban on the partial-birth abortion procedure, while 13.4 percent said they didn’t know or declined to answer.

Archbishop: Jesuit Murder Case Is Closed

Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador recommended the Society of Jesus accept that there will not be a fresh investigation into the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her teenage daughter. If the laws say that the case cannot now be reopened, then that must be respected, Archbishop Saenz told reporters on April 9. There are laws of the country that are made for everyone.... In order to impart justice, there must be equality before the law, he added. Spokesmen for the Salvadoran attorney general have practically ruled out the possibility of reopening the murder inquiry, as requested in late March by the Society of Jesus, on the basis that a 10-year statute of limitations and a 7-year-old amnesty law apply to the case. The Society of Jesus, at the request of Jesuit-run Central American University in San Salvador, formally petitioned the authorities to investigate six former army officers and ex-President Alfredo Cristiani for their part in ordering the murders of the priests, all of whom were prominent members of the university.

U.S. Urged to Do More to Help World’s Refugees

The United States must do more to help the world’s refugees, a Catholic official told a House appropriations subcommittee. The United States has been curtailing its response to refugees by reducing the number who may come to our country to begin a new life, said Mark Franken, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Catholic Conference. Franken made the comments to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. He was presenting the bishops’ view on two migration and refugee assistance programs funded by the U.S. Refugee Program, which falls under the House subcommittee’s jurisdiction.

Catholic Schoolteachers Can Benefit From HUD Initiative

Through a new initiative of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Catholic and public schoolteachers can buy HUD-owned homes for half price in economically distressed neighborhoods in the school districts where they work. The Teacher Next Door Initiative will offer 8,000 to 10,000 single-family houses, town homes and condominiums for sale to teachers at 50 percent discounts every year in HUD-designated revitalization areas. The participating areas are low- and moderate-income neighborhoods that often have many vacant properties but are considered by the federal agency to be good candidates for economic development and improvement.

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