ViewpointSome items that have caught my attention recently

I have more material in my "Viewpoint" drawer than I could ever write columns on. But here are some brief items that came to my attention recently.

MOST DISAPPOINTING RECENT ECUMENICAL EVENT. In my early years as a priest, I was heavily involved in ecumenical affairs. Sad to say, I've become increasingly discouraged by the general state of the mainline Protestant churches.

Consider this example: Recently, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion coalition of leaders from different Protestant denominations, gathered to bless an abortion clinic near Cincinnati. They carried signs which read, "Pro-Faith/Pro-Family/Pro-Choice." One of the speakers (in liturgical garb) shouted, to much applause, "Thank God for abortion providers."

In my opinion, many leaders in the mainstream Protestant churches have lost their moral compass. Some Protestant ethicists who seek to recover an orthodox Christian morality look today to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches for guidance.

IS THIS A QUIRKY OPINION? Earlier this year, The Leonardo, an exhibition center in Salt Lake City given, shall we say, to the unusual, mounted a show entitled "Mummies of the World." People could go from mummy to mummy gawking at the skeletons for God knows what reason. 

I don't go to anything sponsored by The Leonardo, because I am too culturally conservative, and, being a person of excellent taste, I save my interests for the opera and professional wrestling.

But, seriously, did it ever occur to The Leonardo exhibitors and to those who were titillated by the mummies that these are the remains of children of God, had names, were someone's child, spouse, sibling, parent, had a unique story, and are now in the providence of God? Probably not.

Such exhibitions are a sign of cultural jadedness, disorientation, and social boredom.

SOME STATISTICS THAT SHOULD KEEP CHURCH LEADERS AWAKE AT NIGHT.  Only 50 percent of Italians called themselves Catholic; a further 20 percent call themselves atheist. This represents a serious weakening of the faith over a 20 year period in what has been regarded as the world's most Catholic nation.

Fifty-two percent of Scottish people today are religiously affiliated. The proportion of people who belong to the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) has fallen from 39 percent in 1999 to 20 percent today. The Catholic Church is doing better, due largely to immigration from traditionally Catholic countries.

In the past six years, 168 Church of England parishes have closed. Meanwhile, evangelical and charismatic communities have burgeoned. For every Anglican Church, three evangelical or charismatic churches have opened, drawing massive congregations (as they do in the U.S.)

A report commissioned by the Dublin Council of Priests finds that Mass attendance in the Dublin Archdiocese will drop by 30 percent in the next 14 years (It is now 40 percent!), and that Dublin will be left with 111 priests by 2030-a  drop of 70 percent!

(If you would like a report on the Mass attendance of my Irish family, give me a call; your teeth will fall out!)

SILLIEST DEVELOPMENT SINCE THE CLOWN MASS. What on earth do we do to involve woman more fully in the life and ministry of the church? Well, some sort of hybrid Christian outfit in Taiwan has one of the best answers yet (Not!): A huge blue glass church built, get this, in the shape of a woman's high-heel (I'm not making this up!). According to the proud authorities, the church building "will be tailored to women, especially female tourists visiting the area." The church is expected to become a major wedding center. Women everywhere, rejoice!

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