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BY Jim Cosgrove
Wrecking Marriages the High-Tech Way
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, Aug. 5 – Perhaps you've seen those pop-up ads on the Internet for “reunion” Web sites that offer to connect people with high-school chums. Such sites also help users get back in touch with childhood sweethearts – which is fueling infidelity and divorce, according to marriage counselors in Great Britain.
The London Daily Telegraph reported that the largest counseling organization in the U.K. said 10% of the couples it served had encountered trouble because of the Internet.
Said a marriage therapist: “It's all too easy. You are at home, you pretend to be working, you find someone on the Internet who used to be an old flame. ... I know of a case where a woman tracked down a former boyfriend, is about to have an affair and her marriage is now rocking around all over the place.”
One counselor, Paul Maitland, told the Telegraph the services are a threat to relationships “where one partner perceives the marriage to be less exciting than it first was. ... The ease with which people can track down others from their past via Web sites is a real cause for concern.”
Brazilian Bishops Report More Rural Violence
FIDES NEWS, July 27 – A recent survey published by the Land Pastoral Commission of the Brazilian Bishops Conference pointed out that violence and oppressive work conditions are engulfing rural communities all over that vast country.
The survey, published with the approval of the Brazilian Institute of Technological Information and Science, said that compared to 2000, the number of murders increased in 2001 by 40%. Even more alarming, according to the bishops, was a 519% increase in the number of slave-workers in 2001 – to 2,416 people, more than half of them in plantations in the south Para region.
The Land Pastoral Commission was formed in 1975 to offer support and assistance to peasants and rural workers, and denounce situations of violence and injustice.
Embryos Cannot Be Destroyed for ‘Spare Parts'
LIFESITE NEWS, Aug. 2 – An English couple, Jayson and Michelle Whitaker, are faced with a medical tragedy they tried to remedy by creating a “designer baby.”
Their 3-year-old son, Charlie, has a rare blood disorder that can be treated if bone marrow is derived from the umbilical cord of a sibling with a perfect genetic match.
Their second child, a daughter, did not provide such a match. Chances of future children offering a match are one in four, so the couple planned to employ in-vitro fertilization to “design” a child whose umbilical cord could be mined for such marrow – creating and discarding as many other embryos as necessary.
However, Great Britain's Fertilization and Embryology Authority denied them permission, according to Lifesite News (www.lsn.ca). The authority “ruled that embryos can be screened only if there is a risk that they carry a serious genetic disease” and not to determine their suitability as organ or tissue donors for other children. The couple said they were “devastated” by the decision.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Europe Closer to Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research
THE GUARDIAN, Nov. 30 — Members of the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject a report calling for a ban on funding of stem-cell research that involves the destruction of human embryos, the London daily reported.
The EU report, which had been heavily amended, left most parliamentarians disappointed with the final version, The Guardian said.
If adopted in its original form, the report could have interfered with the European Union's plan to spend about $267 million over four years on health-related genetic research. Much of that would go to research on aborted embryos and those created in in vitro fertilization processes.
The Guardian also said the European Commission, the EU's executive, issued a statement reaffirming its opposition to creating human embryos for research uses.
Cardinal Glemp Calls for Spiritual Values in EU Constitution
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Nov. 30 — Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the primate of Poland, said that a constitution for the European Union should provide the bloc with a firm foundation of spiritual values, the news service reported.
“A constitution should be adopted for the European Union in the spirit of the principles expressed by its founding fathers after World War II so that the idea of the Union is not limited to economic and financial questions, but evokes spiritual questions as well,” the cardinal said in an interview published in the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita. Without a spiritual underpinning, the European idea “won't live more than one generation,” he warned.
Cardinal Glemp reiterated his support for Poland's bid to join the European Union. A November poll found that 61% of Poles favor joining the Union, the French news agency said.
Australian Parents Offended by Abortion Offer
THE HERALD SUN, Nov. 29 — A couple in Australia questioned what seems to be an increasing practice of offering abortion to mothers who have a multiple pregnancy, the Australian daily reported.
The newspaper featured an interview with Melissa and Anthony Chapman, who described being offered “fetal reduction” right after learning that Mrs. Chapman was carrying triplets. Chapman said his wife's doctor probably saw that they were surprised by the news of triplets and “wondering how we were going to cope with five children under 5.”
“He said, ‘Well, you've got two other kids … there's this thing called fetal reduction.’ I was just staggered,” Chapman said. “To tell you 10 minutes after you find out you're having triplets not to have one or more is a bit much.”
The Chapmans said that after a trouble-free pregnancy, two girls and a boy were born, and the family is happy.
“To look at them now and think one mightn't be here … you could-n't,” Mrs. Chapman said. Life is not always easy, she admitted, but extra expenses and efforts are worth it. “No matter what happens, you can usually cope.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
China Calls for Vatican Apology for Canonizations
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Nov. 24 — China's foreign minister said that before relations between Beijing and the Vatican can be restored, Pope John Paul II should apologize for canonizing the first Chinese saints.
Tang Jiaxuan said in an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa that while the Pope has asked for forgiveness for past mistakes of missionaries in China, the canonizations offended the Chinese people.
China described the 120 martyrs who were canonized, both Chinese nationals and foreigners, as criminals.
Pope Holds Vatican Summit on Holy Land
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 28 — Pope John Paul was scheduled to meet Dec. 13 at the Vatican with Catholic leaders from the Holy Land and heads of various bishops conferences in the Middle East.
The Pope, who visited Israel last year, wanted to confirm “his spiritual closeness” to Catholics in the region and “share the drama of their daily existence too often tested by violence and discrimination,” the Vatican said. The Vatican said the meeting would show the “common commitment to the continuity” of the Church's long presence in the Holy Land.
According to the wire service report, Christian influence has waned in the Middle East in recent decades. Where it was a majority 15 centuries ago, Christians today make up only 2% of the population in the Holy Land.
Cardinal Calls for Muslim Help on Bioethics
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Nov. 29 — Cardinal Francis Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, invited Islamic religious leaders to a dialogue in order to collaborate more closely on the technological challenge to human life, particularly that posed by genetics. Cardinal Arinze said that although advances in genetics are exciting, they endanger human life and the respect due to it.
“Can we not work together to protect the most important human values which are threatened by a world in continual transformation?” he asked in a message to Muslims marking the end of the month of Ramadan.
“The most exciting and at the same time controversial field of technology is genetics,” the cardinal said, “which touches human nature directly, as human beings try to pierce its mysteries with the aid of technology, with the risk that human life itself and the respect due to it are endangered.”
Muslim-Produced Film Featured at Vatican Festival
BBC, Nov. 28 — An Iranian Muslim film about the friendship between a Muslim boy and a Catholic priest is one of the films showing at the Tertio Millennio film festival, which runs through Dec. 19 at the Vatican. The British radio and television agency described the festival as part of the Vatican's “battle for spiritual substance in contemporary cinema” and said the religious tolerance theme of the Iranian film, “Son of Mary,” makes it ideal subject matter for the festival.
Fereshteh Taerpour, the film's Muslim producer, said at a press conference that he considered his presence next to Vatican representatives a sign that the two religions can look toward a future of dialogue.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Episcopal Rector Becomes a Catholic in Pennsylvania
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, Dec. 2 — After 10 years of discerning, and increasing unease with the liberal attitudes within the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Dr. Richard Upsher Smith Jr., rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Wynnewood, Pa., became Richard Smith, Catholic layman.
Smith, 52, started thinking about Catholicism after a colleague's lecture debunking Anglican belief that the Reformation restored early, pre-Vatican church forms, according to the Philadelphia daily. He went on to study Catholicism with friends in Canada and kept it up when he moved to Wynnewood in 1997. A theologian at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia pointed him to Catholic apologetics, and Smith read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
According to a friend, quoted in the Inquirer article, Smith came to the theological conclusion that the “papacy is the essence of the Church.” A retreat last summer got him over his last roadblock: papal infallibility.
“It came to me that the answers I was seeking through historical research were really a matter of faith,” Smith said.
The article also said that the liberal views of Smith's Episcopal bishop — on Scripture, abortion and women and homosexual priests — encouraged him to leave.
Smith, who is married, said he is praying about possible ordination as a Catholic priest but said he is just happy being a Catholic.
Georgia Parish Helps Couples Get Married — for Sure
THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, Dec. 1 — For the second time this year, St. Joseph's Church in Dalton held a multi-couple wedding. The pastor, Msgr. William Hoffman, said he started the practice because of a high number of Hispanic immigrants who have not been properly married.
“For us Catholics, marriage is a sacrament, and sacraments don't happen in courthouses and under trees in the park,” he explained to the Atlanta daily.
Altogether, 14 couples have been “remarried” this year at St. Joseph's, where three-quarters of the 1,900 families are Hispanic immigrants. Most of the immigrant couples Msgr. Hoffman has met hoped eventually to have a Church wedding but felt they could not afford the traditional reception and other accouterments.
The article pointed out that Catholic couples who are not sacramentally married may not receive Communion.
Mississippi Bishop to Head Extension Society
THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL, Nov. 30 — Bishop William Houck of Jackson, Miss., submitted his letter of resignation when he turned 75 on June 26, as required by canon law — but he does not plan to retire. Bishop Houck has accepted an invitation to head the Catholic Church Extension Society, a Chicago-based agency that supports Catholic missionary work in America, the Memphis, Tenn., daily reported.
Catholic Extension said Bishop Houck, who has led the Diocese of Jackson for 22 years, was an excellent choice because of his year of experience in what is considered a “mission diocese.” Jackson is made up of 65 counties and about 45,000 Catholics and has many rural churches.
Bishop Houck said he would continue to lead the diocese until a new bishop is installed.
BY Jim Cosgrove
U.N. Coercive Contraception Criticized
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Nov. 26 — The Population Research Institute blasted the United Nations Population Fund, also known as UNFPA, for distributing morning-after pills to Afghan refugees.
The UNFPA said it was making availlable “lifesaving reproductive health care services” for the women of Afghanistan.
Steve Mosher, president of the institute, called the practice coercive and said it was being carried out “under the guise of safeguarding women's health.”
The French news agency reported Mosher had accused the U.N. agency of trying to “break down cultural resistance to abortion and contraception within the refugee camps.” He said some refugees in camps in Pakistan and Iran were resisting and had confiscated morning-after pills to protect their female population.
Korean Delegations, North and South, Join Hands
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 26 — Religious delegations from North and South Korea met for the first time in the communist North to celebrate Mass and hold other activities aimed at promoting unification, the news service reported.
The South Korean delegation, led by four priests, flew from Beijing to Pyongyang Nov. 27 for a weeklong visit in the North Korean capital with members of North Korea's Catholic Church association.
The first meeting between the two sides was held last year in Harbin, China. Inter-Korean exchanges flourished last year following a historic summit of leaders of both nations, the wire service said. But they stalled this year amid tension between North Korea and the United States, the South's key ally.
North Korea is known to have one Catholic and two Protestant churches, all in its capital. Last month, the U.S. State Department added North Korea for the first time to its annual report of nations that deny religious freedom to their people.
Northern Irish More Tolerant of Mixed Marriages
THE PRESS ASSOCIATION, Nov. 26 — A study at the University of Ulster found more tolerance for marriages between Catholics and Protestants, the British news agency reported.
The survey said that only 16% of those interviewed in 1998 believe people in Northern Ireland would “mind a lot” if a relative married someone from a different religion, compared with 33% of those questioned in 1989. Also, mixed marriages in the province have risen slowly over the past 10 years.
Catholics also remain more tolerant to mixed marriages within their families, the poll said, though the gap with Protestant feelings on the subject has narrowed.
Mexican Bishop Wants Bibles for Indians
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 26 — Bishop Felipe Arizmendi of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, promised to help finance distribution of the next 10,000 copies of a new Bible translation to Indians in southern Mexico.
A Protestant-led group distributed the first 10,000 Bibles to Indians in San Juan Chamula. Most of the Indians have abandoned a Maya Indian version of Catholicism in recent decades in favor of Protestantism, the wire service said. That resulted in their being driven out of their homes, a move the Catholic Church has repeatedly denounced.
Presbyterian Pastor Abner Lopez Perez, director of the Mexican Bible Society, said the Bible distribution was a “call to build peace in the region.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican and Afghan King Agree on Negotiated Peace
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Nov. 27 — The Vatican's secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, and the former king of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah, agreed on the need for a “negotiated peace” in talks at the exiled monarch's residence in Rome. “They talked about the need for … international solidarity for the reconstruction of the country, in the conviction that arms, in themselves, cannot bring about peace and security,” said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls.
The meeting preceded talks among several Afghan parties in Bonn, Germany, on formulating a broad-based administration in Afghanistan to replace the Taliban.
Pope Meets with Former Polish Communist Leader
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 28 — Pope John Paul II met with former Polish Communist leader Wojciech Jaruzelski almost 20 years after the start of martial law in Poland, the wire service reported. Jaruzelski imposed martial law to crush the independent trade union Solidarity, and the Pope's support for that union is credited with helping bring about the demise of Soviet bloc communism.
The Vatican released no information about the half-hour meeting in Rome, saying it was strictly private. But the Polish news agency PAP quoted Jaruzelski as saying, “The fact he received me means that he recognizes also whatever positive I have done.”
The meeting came during a break in Jaruzelski's trial in Warsaw on charges he issued a national order allowing soldiers to fire on workers during anti-communist demonstrations in 1970, when he was defense minister.
Vatican Not Ready to Open Archive, Cardinal Kasper Says
THE JERUSALEM POST, Nov. 22 — The Vatican said it is not ready to open its secret archive relating to the Nazi Holocaust, the Israeli daily said. Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, conveyed the judgment to a gathering of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.
“Out of respect for the truth, the Holy See is ready to consent to the access of the Vatican's Secret Archive as soon as the reorganizing and cataloguing work is completed,” the cardinal said, quoting an official Vatican communique.
Avi Becker, secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, said that in order for a Catholic-Jewish commission of scholars studying the Vatican's response to the Holocaust to continue its work, “the Jewish world has to get a more precise sense of the timing of the archives' opening.” Two of the commission's three Jewish members, frustrated with restrictions on the archives, have resigned.
Kazakh President Designated Papal Knight
INTERFAX, Nov. 23 — Pope John Paul has conferred the Order of Pius, the Vatican's highest award for heads of foreign states, on Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan. In a diploma of a Knight of the Order of Pius, the Pope expressed his gratitude to Nazarbayev “for the bright humanity and respect” shown during the Holy Father's visit to Kazakhstan in September, as well as for the “skillfulness and talent” which Nazarbayev exercises in his capacity as president of the “noble and beloved” Kazakh people.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Santa Schools Counsel St. Nicks to Encourage Faith
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Nov. 21 — Anticipating difficult questions from kids this year in the wake of Sept. 11, Santa Claus training schools are giving store Santas ideas about how to answer fears, the business daily reports. Some children might be asking the jolly bearded ones about how they might get back parents who perished in the terrorist attacks.
IPI Inc., a Toledo, Ohio, school that sends Santas to malls in the Midwest and Florida, instructs students to tell worried children to have faith in God and family, remind them that the world has been through difficult times before and counsel them that good always conquers evil.
Instructor Tom Valent at the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Midland, Mich., says he often tells fearful children, “I'm better at making toys, but I'll go home and talk to Mrs. Claus about it, and we'll say a prayer tonight.”
FDA Approves Contraceptive Skin Patch
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 21 — The federal Food and Drug Administration approved the first contraceptive skin patch, the news service reported.
Ortho-Evra, made by Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals, is the fourth contraceptive to be approved within the past year. It prevents pregnancy by emitting the same hormones used in birth-control pills. The Church teaches that use of artificial contraception is a grave evil.
The wire service quoted a contraception expert saying the patch is the easiest-to-use method yet in the nation's trend toward longer-acting contraceptives. But the patch carries the same risks as the pill, including blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
Post-Sept. 11 Church Attendance Surge Not Sustained
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Nov. 26 — Though some religious leaders saw a religious revival after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, church attendance seems to be returning to pre-attack levels, the New York daily says.
The Times reports that 47% of people polled by Gallup in the 10 days after Sept. 11 said they had attended church or synagogue in the previous week. But by early November, that figure had dropped to 42%.
“I just don't see much indication that there has been a great awakening or a profound change in America's religious practices,” said Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief. “It looks like people were treating this like a bereavement, a shorter-term funeral kind of thing, where they went to church or synagogue to grieve.”
In New York City, though, where the Times says the pain of the attack is most intense, many churches report sustained crowds.
And the Times found that the events of Sept. 11 were a watershed in some people's religious commitment. The paper quotes a 40-year-old Catholic in Los Angeles who said she is much more committed now, increasing her Mass attendance from twice a week to daily.
Justices Hear Arguments on Internet Porn Law
LOS ANGELES TIMES, Nov. 29 — Easy access to pornography on the Internet is an “urgent national problem,” U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson told the Supreme Court, which is reviewing a law that requires commercial pornographers to put tighter controls on their Internet products.
The American Civil Liberties Union says the law limits free speech, but justices seemed to feel the commercial interests could be so regulated. They will rule on Ashcroft vs. ACLU in several months.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Middle Eastern Christians Leaving the Region
THE ECONOMIST, Nov. 3 — Christians have been leaving the Middle East in record numbers, even as Islamic fundamentalism plays a greater role in regional affairs.
Unlike Muslims in the West, Christians are native to the Middle East, the business weekly said, and their response to world events often parallels that of their Muslim neighbors. “Most Middle Eastern Christians share the belief that American policy in the region helped stoke the fire of fanaticism,” the magazine said.
But unlike many Middle Eastern Muslims, their opposition to the U.S.-led attack in Afghanistan was muted compared to their expression of outrage at the terrorism directed against the United States in September.
Pro-Abortion Group Meets at Australian Nuns’ Center
THE COURIER MAIL, Nov. 16 — A women's center owned by the Presentation Sisters in Queensland, Australia, came under fire for renting its space to a pro-abortion counseling service.
Sister Anne McLay, chairwoman of Womenspace, told the Brisbane daily that she had nothing to do with bookings at the center, but refused to say if she would bar pro-abortion groups in the future. Children by Choice coordinator Cait Calcutt said she booked the center because it was inexpensive and close to the group's offices.
Local pro-life groups, including a chapter of Human Life International, called on Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane to correct the situation. He has already launched an investigation into reports of distribution of literature for pagan rituals and witchcraft at the Church-run Womenspace center.
Priests Released in Central African Republic
AFRICA NEWS AGENCY, Nov. 16 — Two priests who were arrested in the Central African Republic in connection with a failed coup in May have been released, the news service reported.
Comboni Father Tolino Falagoista, 62, director of Radio Notre Dame in Bangui, the republic's capital, and correspondent for the Catholic news agency Misna, was arrested in October and accused of writing a story regarding mass executions of Yakoma tribe members. He denied the charges.
Father Falagoista was released on condition that he not leave the capital, and a further investigation is pending.
Father Julien Koyenguia of the Berberati Diocese was arrested in September, accused of preaching violence and tribal hatred and of sheltering some of those behind the attempted putsch. He was released by the committee set up to investigate the coup.
South Korean Support Grows for Abolishing Death Penalty
THE KOREA HERALD, Nov. 16 — Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan of Seoul is a prominent leader of a growing movement to abolish the death penalty in South Korea, the Korean English-language daily reported.
A survey published by the Chosun Ilbo newspaper Nov. 4 showed 36% of respondents opposed capital punishment, compared to 20% in a 1994 Gallup Korea survey. Still, 59% of Koreans support the death penalty.
A further sign that support for abolition is gaining was a vote in the 273-seat National Assembly to ban capital punishment, which in Korea takes the form of hanging. The vote exceeded by 18 the 137 votes needed to pass legislation and was a marked increase over a similar vote just two years ago, when 98 legislators voted to ban the punishment.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Dialogue with Muslims Paramount, Says Cardinal Arinze
THE VANCOUVER SUN, Nov. 19 — Dialogue with Muslims is more important than ever because of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism around the world, Cardinal Francis Arinze said. It is also more difficult because of that trend.
The cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said the Vatican has been going out of its way to open channels of communication with Muslims, following the “barbarous” Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He spoke to an audience of 500 at the Benedictine Westminster Abbey in Vancouver. Though he rejects the relativistic belief that all religions are equal, Cardinal Arinze said Christians and Muslims must advocate religious tolerance and freedom.
He said he would not disagree with many Muslims who believe Western secular values are being imposed on them through globalization and the mass media, the Canadian daily reported. “The Church is not in favor of the imposition of the culture of one people on other peoples, in past decades by colonialism and today by powerful mass media, which, by TV alone, quietly but effectively spread a whole philosophy of life that homogenizes culture,” he said.
Push for Higher Media Standards, Pope Urges
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 20 — Pope John Paul II encouraged Catholics to help set high standards for the communications industry. “People spend enormous amounts of time absorbed in media consumption, particularly children and adolescents,” the Pope said in a private audience with 450 members of the International Catholic Association for Radio and Television (UNDA) and the International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisuals (OCIC). “An important part of your work, therefore, is to teach wise and responsible media use. This means setting high standards, not for the general public alone, but also for the leaders of the communications industry.”
UNDA and OCIC are merging to form SIGNIS, a new international Catholic organization for all audiovisual media.
Pope Intends to be in Toronto Next Summer
THE TORONTO SUN, Nov. 16 — Though he has shown signs of frailty lately, Pope John Paul has stated his intention of being in Toronto next July for World Youth Day. According to the Canadian daily, the Pope has told close confidants that his trip is of grave importance, given the world's heightened climate of terrorism and violence. And he is up to the task, said Father Thomas Rosica, Canadian director of World Youth Day. “His mind is extremely strong,” the priest reported. “His heart is with us, and he told us as recently as Monday, ‘I will be there.’"
Cardinal James Stafford, the lead Vatican organizer of World Youth Day, agreed that the Pope's presence is important. “Young people have the right to ask, ‘Why has there been so much systemic violence and the murder of so many lives?'” The Pope, he said, will come and say, “I want to help you.”
The July 22-28 event, expected to draw 1 million young people, could be the largest single gathering in Canadian history. In the first five weeks of registration, 45,000 people from more than 50 nations have signed up.
BY Jim Cosgrove
‘Victoria's Secret’ Show Subjected to Scrutiny
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, Nov. 18 — The federal government has received dozens of complains about “The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show,” which aired on ABC Nov. 15, the entertainment industry daily reported.
The Federal Communications Commission said it had received numerous complaints from around the country about the racy lingerie show and the promotional ads that ran with it. FCC commissioner Michael Copps said he had received 50 e-mails the day after the 9 p.m. airing. One came from his own daughter, who is a new mother concerned about the kinds of things her son might be exposed to on TV when he grows up.
Copps said he was forwarding the complaints to the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, asking it to investigate whether ABC violated indecency regulations.
ABC said the show was approved by its Broadcast Standards and Practices department and aired with a TV-14 parental label, allowing parents with V-chip-equipped sets to block it out.
Ann Landers Advises Couple to Get a Room
THE WASHINGTON POST, Nov. 19 — Advice columnist Ann Landers said that the insistence of a Catholic man's parents that their son and his wife, who were married outside the Church, sleep in separate bedrooms when visiting “makes very little sense.”
The man, a 30-year-old fallen-away Catholic, married his girlfriend in a nondenominational ceremony with a nondenominational minister. His parents refused to attend the wedding, and said the couple is not truly married because “our union was not sanctioned by God in the Catholic Church,” the man said in his letter to the advice columnist.
When the man informed his parents that he and his wife would be visiting, they said the couple must sleep in separate bedrooms because “it would be sinful for us to sleep together.”
Landers said the notion that they are “living in sin” because they were not married in the Church made “little sense” to her. But she said that, when visiting, the couple should abide by the rules of another person's home and, Landers suggested, they could stay in a hotel when visiting the parents.
Bush Aide Describes Personal Importance of Faith
THE SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, Nov. 19 — President Bush's counselor, Karen Hughes, spoke recently of the importance of faith in her life and work, the Texas daily reported.
The former television reporter and Sunday school teacher at a Presbyterian church said that prayer guided her decision to join Bush's team on his first campaign for Texas governor in 1994, a few years after leaving journalism to raise a child. “I prayed about it and I gradually decided that God really wanted me to do this,” she said at a church-sponsored conference about the importance of faith.
Faith played a role again on Sept. 11, when news of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon prompted Hughes to race to the White House, a potential target of further attacks. As she headed there, she said, “Everybody else was going the other way.”
Hughes said she continued on because “it was my job, first of all.”
“But it was more than an act of duty,” she added. “It was an act of faith” in eternal life and the idea that she would not be challenged with something she couldn't handle.
BY Jim Cosgrove
World Health Organization Pressures Mexico on Abortion
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 12—A World Health Organization representative urged Latin American countries to seriously consider proposals legalizing abortion, Associated Press reported.
Axel Mundigo, who said some 4 million abortions are performed each year in Latin America, said that because abortion is largely banned there, 90% are performed in secret by unlicensed doctors, resulting in 6,000 deaths. The wire service did not say where Mundigo derived his figures.
Mundigo addressed more than 250 health officials from 20 Latin American countries meeting in Mexico. Sponsored by Mexico's National Institute of Health, the conference was intended to help Latin American governments establish “a free exchange of ideas” about the possible legalization of abortion.
Hundreds of protesters affiliated with Mexico's ruling National Action Party demonstrated outside the three-day forum. Said Angeles Amaro, president of the Love Life Network, “These leaders have arrived as messengers of death under the pretense of public health.”
Iranian Leader Condemns Attacks on America
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Nov. 10—Iranian president Mohammed Khatami called the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington a “most brutal and appalling crime” against American civilians, the Washington daily reported.
Speaking at the United Nations in New York, Khatami called the attacks “inhumane and anti-Islamic” actions that were perpetrated by “a cult of fanatics who had self-mutilated their ears and tongues and could only communicate with perceived opponents through carnage and devastation.”
But Khatami also cautioned against revenge, which, coupled with a “misplaced sense of might,” he said “could lead to failure to hear the calls of people of good will or the cries of children, women and the elderly in Afghanistan.” Iran is on the U.S. State Department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
Bangladeshi Hindus Complain of Islamist Backlash
CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE, Nov. 12—Hindus in Bangladesh have claimed that they are victims of a Muslim backlash resulting from the U.S.-led war against terrorism, the Internet news site reported.
Attacks against the minority group in Muslim Bangladesh have increased, according to a Hindu movement affiliated with India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. R.S. Vaidya, a senior official of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh organization, said Muslim fundamentalists, unhappy that their government is supporting the anti-terrorism drive, have increased harassment of Hindus in Bangladesh, prompting thousands of refugees to flee to the Indian state of West Bengal.
Hindus are widely seen as sympathetic toward neighboring India, which is regarded as a U.S. ally and hostile to Islam.
Trimble Decries Torment of Catholic Students
BELFAST NEWS LETTER, Nov. 13—David Trimble, the Protestant First Minister of Northern Ireland, said he was appalled at the intimidation being inflicted on children on their way to a Catholic school, the Belfast daily reported.
Trimble called the taunting of children passing through a Loyalist enclave in north Belfast “hate crimes.”
Students at Holy Cross girls primary school were guarded by 400 riot police as they walked to classes Nov. 12. It was the largest security operation since Sept. 5, when a bomb was thrown by a Protestant and exploded outside the school.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Cites Internet as New Media for Evangelization
NATIONAL JOURNAL'S TECHNOLOGY DAILY, Nov. 7—Pope John Paul II will dedicate his message for World Communications Day to the Internet, the Washington-based Web service said. The Pope has chosen the theme, “Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel,” for the message, which will be published Jan. 24. The Church will mark World Communications Day May 12.
But the Gospel has some competition on the Internet. Reuters reports that some 40% of Internet users in Britain say they have accidentally come across pornography while surfing the Web. A consumers association said it was working with search engines to crack down on porn sites.
Afghans Need Aid Urgently, Pope Warns
YORKSHIRE POST, Nov. 11—Noting that people in many parts of the world suffer from lack of food, water, housing and health care, Pope John Paul said during a Sunday blessing that the “dear people of Afghanistan” need urgent humanitarian aid.
“It's an emergency for the world, which must not, however, make us forget that, in other parts of the world, there still persist conditions of great poverty and pressing need,” the Pope said in remarks delivered from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square.
He did not refer directly to the U.S.-led military strikes against Taliban and Al Qaeda positions in Afghanistan. But he said that imbalances between the world's haves and have-nots only fuel conflict, and he called on people to reform their lives. “It's not enough to limit oneself to extraordinary initiatives,” he said. “The commitment to justice requires an authentic change of lifestyle, especially in the society of prosperity, as well as a more equitable management of resources in both rich and poor countries.”
Matteo Ricci's Map Displayed in Beijing
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE, Nov. 10—Brought out of a 56-year storage, a 400-year-old map drawn by the Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci was displayed in the capital of China in connection with an international seminar marking the 400th anniversary of Father Ricci's arrival in Beijing.
Father Ricci's map for the first time showed China as one nation among many, a marked departure from charts depicting the “Middle Kingdom” as the center of the world.
The map had once been part of the Forbidden City's imperial collection, but when Japanese forces entered Beijing in 1931, it was taken to safe havens around southern China, ending up in Nanjing.
Muslims Begin Work on Nazareth Mosque
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 14—Muslims in Nazareth have begun constructing a mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, despite protests from the Vatican and from Israeli authorities.
The wire service reported that the Vatican, in a statement, called on the Israeli government to stop “Muslim extremists” from building the mosque. Construction would, in effect, “put this holy place in a state of permanent siege and make its gate a gathering place for the most hostile elements,” the statement said.
Muslims in the city accused the Vatican of meddling in local affairs. “The Vatican wants to control Nazareth,” said the leader of the local Islamic Movement.
Construction, which began without the necessary permits, was halted by the Israeli Lands Authority. The Islamic Trust said it will start the work again if it does not get the necessary permits within a week.
Earlier this year, Father Giovanni Battistelli, the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, said that free access to Christian holy sites was threatened, and that a mosque next to the basilica would put the church “under siege, in terms of free access.” In a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he urged construction of a public plaza there instead.
BY Jim Cosgrove
National Institutes of Health Launches Stem Cell Registry
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Nov. 8—The National Institutes of Health has launched an online registry of embryonic stem cells eligible for federal funding, the business daily reported.
The launch of the site, part of the Bush administration's stem-cell plan, allows researchers to seek federal funds to study the cells. The NIH said it could begin awarding grants within a month.
The site lists 52 stem cell lines that have been propagated in research labs around the world from the original cells derived from days-old human embryos. The extraction process kills the nascent life.
Under a controversial plan announced by President George W. Bush Aug. 9, scientists at U.S. universities can win government grants to work with embryonic stem cells created on or before that date. No grants can go to research using other stem cell lines.
New Long Island Bishop Leads Prayer Prolife Vigil
NEWSDAY, Nov. 11—Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., led a prayer vigil outside a Planned Parenthood clinic, his first such participation since becoming bishop of the Long Island diocese Sept. 5.
About 350 people walked from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Massapequa Park, where Bishop Murphy celebrated an early morning Mass, to the nearby clinic.
Planned Parenthood representatives compalined it was inappropriate to be protesting in a time of war. But vigil participants told the Long Island daily that they saw their efforts as more important than ever since the World Trade Center disaster.
Said Bishop Murphy, “What happened Sept. 11 makes this an even more appropriate time to pray. We're here to witness in respect for human life, including the lives of the unborn.”
Orthodox Priest Predicts Agreement on Creed
WORCESTER TELEGRAM & GAZETTE, Nov. 12—An Orthodox priest participating in the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation expressed confidence that there will be agreement over the divisive “filioque” clause of the Nicean Creed, the Massachesetts newspaper reported.
But Rev. Nicholas Apostola, pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Worcester, Mass., predicted opposition from “conservative” elements in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
The filioque controversy, which led to the Orthodox Schism over 1,000 years ago, centers on whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from only God the Father, as it is expressed in the Orthodox version of the Creed, or from the Father and the Son, as it is expressed in the Catholic version.
The Orthodox-Catholic consultation is cosponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Catholic and Protestant Leaders Take Helm in Belfast
BELFAST NEWS-LETTER, Nov. 7 — Moderate leaders David Trimble, of the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party, and Mark Dur-kan, of the Catholic Social Democratic and Labor Party, were elected First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland's unity government, the Belfast daily reported.
The pair got the necessary support from Unionists and Nationalists after three members of the Alliance Party, which represents Catholics and Protestants, were allowed a temporary re-designation as Unionists. They received more than 70% support in the Northern Ireland Assembly, including unanimous support from the Catholic side of the house.
Bin Laden Calls Conflict a ‘Christian Crusade’
THE NEW YORK POST, Nov. 2 — Osama bin Laden has called upon Pakistanis to defend Islam against what he sees as a Christian crusade, the New York daily reported.
“Muslims in Afghanistan are being subjected to killing, and the Pakistani government is standing beneath the Christian banner,” the letter said. “The world is split into two. Part of it is under the head of infidels Bush [sic], and the other half under the banner of Islam. The Pakistani government has stood under the banner of the cross. Adherents to Islam, this is your day to make Islam victorious.”
The letter was dated Nov. 1, four days after an attack on a Catholic church in Pakistan left 16 people dead.
First British Cathedral Closure Since Reformation Eyed
SUNDAY TIMES, Nov. 4 — Good Shepherd Cathedral in Ayr, Scotland, the seat of the Diocese of Galloway, may become the first Catholic cathedral to close in Britain since the Reformation more than 400 years ago, the London newspaper reported.
A dwindling congregation and soaring repair costs have led Bishop Maurice Taylor of Galloway to petition Rome for permission to close the church, which was consecrated in 1957. If the Vatican approves, St. Joseph's Church in Kilmarnock may become the new cathedral of Galloway.
The diocese, at 1,600 years old, is Britain's oldest, but its Catholic population is falling 1% a year.
Chinese ‘Christian’ Sect Spreading to United States
TIME ASIA, Nov. 5 — A Catholic bishop and other Christian leaders in China have warned their congregations about Lightning from the East, a fast-spreading sect that believes Jesus has returned in the form of a Chinese woman who has written a third Testament. The movement claims some 300,000 adherents in China, and followers have begun handing out leaflets in Chinatowns in New York and San Francisco, the newsweekly reported.
The sect has been one of the subjects of a two-year police campaign against “evil cults,” including Falun Gong. Lightning from the East targets ill-formed Christians with aggressive apologetics and warns of an imminent apocalypse, Time reported.
Last year, a man claiming to be Lightning's coordinator for north China met with a senior aid to a Catholic bishop in Hebei province to try to convert the Catholic leadership there. He failed, and the bishop has warned priests to remain vigilant against the sect.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Italian Minister Plays Down Threat of Vatican Attack
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 5 — Italy's Interior Minister played down fears that the Vatican might be the target of a terrorist attack, but said Italy is on the highest alert against possible threats. “We have said from the beginning that Italy, since it hosts the Pope, is a strong symbol of the Christian world and, as a symbol, it is a target at risk,” said Claudio Scajola.
Earlier, an Italian Interior Ministry undersecretary voiced concern over a possible terrorist attack, saying the Vatican was “the No. 1 target” in Italy. “There is a real and serious threat,” said Alfredo Mantovano.
Cardinal Dismisses Speculation of Rome Appointment
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, Nov. 2 — Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said that he has not been offered a job at the Vatican and hopes that he won't be. The cardinal sought to end speculation that began after Pope John Paul II asked him to give the Lenten retreat last spring for the Roman Curia. Many of those who have led the retreat in the past have ended up taking curial positions.
Cardinal George, who lived in Rome as provincial of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, told the Chicago daily that a curial position would not hold much appeal for him. “It's a very hard job over there because the bishop is a pastor, and over there you don't have people, you just have paper. You're an office man. No matter how romantic it sounds, you just take care of an office, and that isn't much fun.”
Two Former Vatican Officials Charged with Art Fraud
THE GUARDIAN, Nov. 7 — Two former officials at the Vatican have been charged in Rome with trying to sell works of art falsely attributed to artists such as Michelangelo and Euphronius. Msgr. Michele Basso, a former administrator of the Chapter of St. Peter's, and Msgr. Mario Giordana, a former counselor in the Vatican's Italian Embassy, allegedly approached institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., said the London daily.
The case rests on whether the works are fake, genuine or wrongly attributed. They may belong to the artists' schools.
Msgr. Basso said that he wanted to sell his collection — which was reportedly left to him by fellow clergymen and noblewomen to whom he acted as spiritual advisor — to raise money for a hospital. His lawyer said that unscrupulous people exploited the priest's naiveté. Experts consulted by Msgr. Basso said the Michelangelo piece of St. John the Baptist was genuine.
Columnist Clarifies Greatest Offense to Catholics
NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE, Nov. 5 — In a column in which he clarified points that his readers had misunderstood, Jonah Goldberg said he had been mistaken about the “most offensive thing you could do to a Catholic.” It is not to murder the Pope, he said; it is to desecrate the Eucharist. “The Pope is, at the end of the day, just a man,” Goldberg wrote. “Several readers pointed out that it would be far more offensive to desecrate the Eucharist, a.k.a. Jesus. In fact, that is precisely what members of ACT UP did in the 1980s” at St. Patrick's in New York City.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Former Catholic School Student Volunteers for Taliban
THE NEW YORK POST, Nov. 4 — Although his mother had been rescued from the World Trade Center Sept. 11, Mohammad Junaid left New York for Pakistan to fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan, the daily reported.
“I'm willing to kill the Americans. I will kill every American that I see in Afghanistan. And I'll kill every American soldier that I see in Pakistan,” Junaid told a British television correspondent.
The 26-year-old son of Pakistani immigrants said his anti-American anger began when he was the only Muslim child at the Catholic school he attended in New York. He said he always felt left out at the school and said his grandfather instilled in him the belief that “your loyalty is with Islam.”
Court Upholds Cross Burning as Free Speech
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 2 — The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that a state ban on cross burning is unconstitutional, the news service reported.
In a 4-3 ruling, the court threw out convictions against three people in two cross-burning cases, the wire service reported.
“Under our system of government, people have the right to use symbols to communicate. They patriotically wave the flag or burn it in protest; they may reverently worship the cross or burn it as an expression of bigotry,” said the ruling written by Justice Donald W. Lemons.
Virginia Attorney General Randolph A. Beales, who plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, said, “Cross burning with the intent to intimidate is a form of domestic terrorism, which is intolerable in a free society.”
Bush and Putin Discussed Meaning of Cross
DRUDGE REPORT, Nov. 5 — President George W. Bush and Russian leader Vladimir Putin discussed the importance of a cross that Putin's mother had given him, the Internet news service reported.
In a meeting of the two men last summer, Putin described how a worker found the cross in the ruins of a house fire, even before Putin could ask him to look for it. “It was as if something meant for me to have the cross,” said Putin, who had the object blessed on a visit to the Holy Land and has taken to wearing it.
Putin “basically seemed he was saying there was a higher power,” Bush told Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan. The president also told the Russian president, “I think you judge a person on something other than politics. I think it's important for me and you to look for the depth of a person's soul and character.”
Noonan relates the incident in her new book about the Reagan years, When Character Was King.
Lambs of Christ Priest Reports to Federal Prison
LIFESITE CANADA, Nov. 2 — Father Norman Weslin, founder of the pro-life group The Lambs of Christ, surrendered to McKean Federal Prison in Bradford, Penn., Nov. 5 to begin a five-month sentence.
The priest was sentenced for criminal contempt for violating an order to stay at least 60 feet away from an abortion clinic in Buffalo, N.Y.
The 71-year-old priest, a retired U.S. Army officer, had volunteered to serve as a chaplain to troops in Afghanistan, the pro-life Internet site noted.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Guatemala President Signs Contraception Bill
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, Oct. 26 — Ignoring the Catholic Church's call to veto the legislation, President Alfonso Antonio Portillo Cabrera of Guatemala signed the Social Development and Population Law, the daily newspaper reported.
The new law will bolster reproductive health programs and require reproductive health education in schools. “Reproductive health services,” as interpreted by many international aid agencies that deliver such programs, includes provision of abortion.
But supporters of the law argue it will protect the right to life of Guatemalan women, who have an average of five children.
Guatemala, a predominantly Catholic country where abortion is illegal, has the highest fertility rate in Latin America. It also has one of the lowest rates of contraceptive use.
Said Nery Rodenas, director of a Catholic human rights office in Guatemala, “Our fear is that this law could be manipulated to promote abortions.”
State Department Tailors List of Religious Oppressors
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, Oct. 27 — The Bush administration listed Afghanistan's Taliban rulers and six other nations as the world's worst persecutors of religious believers, but rejected calls to include other countries that are seen to be key in the war against terrorism, the daily newspaper reported.
The group of extreme religious oppressors includes China, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar and Sudan, as it did last year, and North Korea, which is new to the list.
Human rights groups said Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan should have been on the list of worst oppressors, which the State Department releases every year under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The report was sharply critical of religious practices in those countries, the Times reported, and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher conceded that Saudi Arabia prohibits the open practice of any religion other than Islam.
The U.S. report also listed improvements in religious freedom during the past year, placing Mexico, which elected new president Vicente Fox in July 2000, at the top of the list.
Columbia University Scans French Cathedral
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Oct. 27 — In a high-tech approach to determining what can be done to prevent the eventual collapse of a massive French church, computer scientists and architectural historians from Columbia University have made digital scans of St. Peter's Cathedral in Beauvais, France, the daily newspaper reported.
The 700-year-old Gothic cathedral, which is on the World Monuments Fund's list of 100 most endangered sites, is unstable and is regularly battered by gale-force winds from the English Channel, less than 100 miles away.
Using a 3-D laser scanner, the Columbia team recorded detailed images of the cathedral's façade and interior by bouncing a laser beam off its surfaces. They then created a digital replica of the building, and plan to perform tests and try out strategies for restoration.
Columbia computer scientist Peter Allen told the Times, “Once we create a computer model, we can do all kinds of structural analysis of the building and figure out the best way to shore it up and figure out where it's weak.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope to Meet With Muslims in Bulgaria Next May
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE Nov. 1 — The Vatican has accepted an invitation for Pope John Paul II to visit Bulgaria in May, said Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passi.
The trip, the Pope's first to the nation, is to take place in the second half of May 2002 and is to include a meeting with Islamic religious leaders in the country.
Passi expressed hope that the papal visit will help “erase the stain on Bulgaria's name” in connection with Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca's 1981 papal assassination attempt. Italian officials charged three Bulgarians with organizing Agca's attempt to kill the Pope after the gunman implicated them. But the three were later acquitted for lack of evidence.
Agca, pardoned by Italy after nearly 20 years in prison, is now serving a 10-year prison term in Turkey for the 1979 murder of a newspaper editor there, and another seven years for robbery.
Vatican Newspaper Criticizes Belgium on Law
DE STANDARD, Oct. 30 — L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, has criticized Belgium as the Senate there voted 44-23 to legalize euthanasia.
“Belgium, the country where King Baudouin chose to give up his sovereignty rather than sign an abortion act, seems on its way to becoming the second European country where doctors are no longer asked 'to cure but to kill,’” the Vatican newspaper wrote. The legislation must still be passed by the Chamber of Representatives, where changes are certain to be proposed.
Two Resign from Vatican Holocaust Panel
THE JERUSALEM POST, Nov. 2 — Two Jewish members of the Catholic-Jewish commission appointed to study the role of the Vatican during the Nazi Holocaust have resigned.
One member, Robert Wistrich, a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said he felt resignation was his only option in the face of the Vatican's refusal to open all of its World War II-era archives to commission members. Bernard Suchecky of the Free University of Brussels also resigned.
The two resignations make it unlikely that the commission will be able to continue, the Israeli daily said. Msgr. Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio to Israel, said that to resign from a commission whose work has already been suspended serves no useful purpose other than propaganda.
Taiwan Offers to Help Holy See Promote Religious Freedom
BRITISH BROADCASTING CORP. Oct. 26 — Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reminding the Vatican that Mainland China remains an “autocratic government” which continues to deny religious freedom, offered to help the Holy See promote such freedom in the People's Republic.
The ministry also commended Pope John Paul for his recent statements on the “errors” of some Western missionaries in China.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Reformation Day Thoughts of Lutherans-Turned-Catholics
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Oct. 31 — Almost 500 years after Martin Luther posted his “95 Theses” to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, there seems to be a steady stream of Lutherans entering the Catholic Church he criticized.
The Washington daily, in an article on Reformation Day, the 484th anniversary of Luther's defiant act, said that many Lutherans seek even closer unity with the Church than that offered by the 1998 agreement on justification signed by the Holy See and the World Lutheran Federation.
Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things and a former Lutheran pastor, said that most Lutherans who convert do so after trying to find the Church which is “in continuity with the apostolic community of the New Testament.” The article also quotes several individuals profiled in a recent book by Register features correspondent Tim Drake, There We Stood, Here We Stand.
Jim Anderson, who runs the Coming Home Network for Protestant pastors wishing to become Catholic, says that people are seeking a Church with authority that can be traced back to Christ. Others quoted in the article said they left the Lutheran Church because of its pro-abortion position.
Muslim Clerics Report Quadrupling of Conversions
THE ECONOMIST, Oct. 27 — Muslim religious leaders in the United States have reported that conversions to Islam have quadrupled since Sept. 11.
The surprising fact was reported by the British weekly magazine, which sees a calm, steady response to terrorism among Americans. Citizens generally are not reacting with hysteria to continuing threats, the magazine said, though they are taking precautions.
They also are showing a greater interest in the religion of the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Rather than railing against Islam, they are trying to understand it, buying books on the religion and signing up for courses in Arabic.
SEC Suing Churches to Recover Investors’ Funds
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, Oct. 25 — Federal officials are suing churches in the Southwest to recover some of the more than $46 million they say was stolen from investors in a fraudulent program, the daily newspaper reported.
The money came from more than 300 investors in Texas, California and Arizona, who were promised their money would grow 24% to 48% annually. Benjamin Cook, of Arizona, was arrested in a Las Vegas casino in 1999 and has been ordered by a judge to repay investors $36.7 million. A partner of his, Ellsworth McLaws, of Scottsdale, Ariz., was ordered to repay $10.3 million.
The money was used to buy luxury cars, gold coins, expensive jewelry, large homes and other real estate. Some was funneled to associates of the Colombo crime family of New York, the FBI alleges in court records.
In the late 1990s, promoters for Cook also made large contributions to churches in an effort to impress potential investors in the congregations. One church, First Baptist of Richardson, Texas, is fighting efforts to recover over $64,000 that it received from a promoter for Cook.