Media Watch

More Protestants Wearing Ashes

BOSTON GLOBE, Feb. 28 — It's getting harder to tell Catholics from Protestants on Ash Wednesday, the Boston daily reported.

As Protestant hostility toward Catholics lessens and Americans of many denominations seek ritual, many Protestant churches are beginning to offer ashes on the first day of Lent.

In the Reformation, many Protestants discarded the practice, but some Episcopal and Lutheran churches have returned to the imposition of ashes. More recently, some Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, and even some Unitarian Christian and American Baptist churches have joined in.

Some scholars point to the Second Vatican Council, which spurred Protestants to reform and reconsider their own liturgies, as an explanation. A few mainline Protestant churches are even returning to rituals like foot-washing ceremonies on Maundy Thursday.

When God Is an Obsession

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, March 3 — Obsessive-compulsive disorders can work their way into any aspect of a sufferer's life — even religion, the Salt Lake City daily reported.

For example, sufferers from scrupulosity are constantly beset by doubts such as: Am I praying enough? Am I praying correctly? One woman said she would travel to several different churches a day so that priests would not realize she had already been to confession that day. Some of those afflicted by scrupulosity also have more common forms of obsessive-compulsion like repetitive hand-washing.

Father Thomas Santa, editor of the 13,000-circulation monthly newsletter Scrupulous Anonymous, based in Liguori, Mo., described the disorder: “Everything becomes a sin, to the point that you're almost paralyzed.” People with scrupulosity often feel that forgiveness or repentance is impossible.

From two to three percent of Americans — as many as six million people — may have obsessive-compulsive disorder. Between 60% and 80% of cases can be treated with antidepressants.

The ‘Gender Revolution’ Continues

U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, March 2 — A new movement casts transsexuals as the next minority to demand civil rights, columnist John Leo wrote.

A&E television's Investigative Reports recently featured the “Transgender Revolution,” and the Los Angeles Times ran a two-day series of sympathetic reports. The city of San Francisco has decided to pay for city employees' sex changes.

But Paul McHugh, director of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University medical school, argued that someone who feels he is a woman trapped in a man's body is analogous to an anorexic woman who feels that she is drastically overweight. “We don't do liposuction on anorexics,” he said. “Why amputate the genitals of these poor men?” He opposed surgery on a healthy body.

The next step after recognizing transsexual “rights,” Leo suggested, is the demand for civil rights for sufferers of apotemnophilia, a mental disorder in which people want healthy limbs amputated. Some bioethicists already compare these amputations to sex changes.