Religion Today Summaries, July 30, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, July 30, 2003

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.  In today's edition:

  • European Catholics Warned of Growing Vocations Crisis
  • New Poll May Signal Emerging Rebuff of Homosexuality
  • Muslim Convert Killed
  • Nuns Sentenced for Anti-Nuclear Protest

European Catholics Warned of Growing Vocations Crisis
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

A sharp decline in the number of European men studying to be Catholic priests spells bad news for the future of the Catholic Church, according to European vocations directors. At a conference in Warsaw, Poland, in mid-July, church leaders said the number of future priests has fallen to dangerously low levels in Ireland, Britain, Spain, France, Belgium and Switzerland, according to Ecumenical News International. Only Italy, home to the Roman Catholic Church, and Poland, reported increases in the number of seminarians.  "In much of Europe, pastoral work can continue only because priests are working into old age," said the Rev. Rainer Birkenmaier, the director of the European Vocations Service. "We need an evangelical effort among young people who are interested in faith and the church, but who haven't yet decided whether they wish to serve Christ through their life."  In the United States, the number of seminarians has dropped from 8,325 in 1965 to 3,584 last year. Krzysztof Pawlina, a seminary director in Warsaw, said that many new recruits seem to lack "psychic and emotional maturity." "One new phenomenon among seminarians is their unwillingness to make sacrifices and their fear of hard, responsible decisions," he said. "More and more are asking for breaks before proceeding with ordination."

New Poll May Signal Emerging Rebuff of Homosexuality
Michael Foust, Baptist Press News

Just one month after an historic Supreme Court ruling on sodomy, Americans' acceptance of homosexuality has plummeted, a new poll shows. The new USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll released July 28 shows that a large portion of Americans -- 49 percent -- do not consider homosexuality "an acceptable alternative lifestyle" and that 57 percent are opposed to homosexual civil unions. The poll of 1,006 adults reverses poll numbers released in May as well as trends from recent years. It also goes against cultural trends showing an ever-increasing promotion of homosexuality in the media and in education circles. Peter LaBarbera, senior policy analyst with the Culture and Family Institute in Washington, said the poll may indicate that "people are getting sick and tired of the media and Hollywood shoving homosexuality in their face at every turn." Perhaps not coincidentally, the reverse of poll numbers follows the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling that overturned state anti-sodomy laws. LaBarbera said the Canadian government's decision to legalize same-sex marriage also might have influenced the poll. In May, by a 59 percent to 37 percent margin, Americans said that homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal. The latest Gallup poll showed 48 percent now are for legalization, 46 percent opposed.

Muslim Convert Killed
Barnabas Fund News

The body of a Muslim convert to Christianity who went missing in mid-July, has been returned to his family, slaughtered and cut into four pieces by Islamic extremists. The man left his friends and family almost two weeks ago heading into a mountainous region of the Palestinian Authority area.  He took Christian materials including cassettes, videos and Bibles with him.  After approximately ten days during which his friends and family received no word from him, his body was returned to them.  He had been brutally killed as a warning to other converts.  He leaves behind a wife and two children. Local Christians in this part of the Holy Land have been involved in supporting converts from a Muslim background who suffer persecution from Islamic extremists in the Palestinian Authority areas.  Some of them have also been targets of attacks.  Last year one such Christian received a phone call telling him that a convert was in a serious condition in hospital. On the way, his vehicle was driven off the road by another car.  The phone call proved to be a hoax.  Islamic militants in this area deliberately target converts.  Hamas reportedly receives funding from Iran specifically for this purpose. According to Islamic law any Muslim male who leaves Islam faces the death penalty. 

Nuns Sentenced for Anti-Nuclear Protest
Religion News Service

Three Roman Catholic nuns were sentenced to at least 21/2 years in prison for vandalizing a nuclear weapons silo as an anti-war protest. The three Dominican nuns were arrested Oct. 6 at the silo in northeast Colorado after cutting through a fence and entering a Minuteman III silo site, bashing the silo with hammers and using their blood to paint a cross on it. Officials say they caused at least $1,000 in damage. The nuns, Jackie Hudson, 68, Ardeth Platte, 66, and Carol Gilbert, 55, had until Aug. 25 to go to prison but chose to go immediately. At the hearing Friday (July 25), prosecutor Robert Brown listed the nuns' previous arrests at anti-war protests.  Despite their prior arrest records, U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn departed from sentencing guidelines, which call for a minimum of six years and a maximum of 30 years.  An outpouring of support for the nuns followed the sentencing as hundreds of demonstrators gathered at missile silos in Colorado and Nebraska to carry on the nuns' pacifist work. Religious and political activists met to pray, dance, sing and hang an eviction notice on the silo.