Church of Scientology documents seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (see May 5 issue, page 46) “indicate that the church has been waging an extensive, sophisticated campaign to identify, attack, and discredit its ‘enemies,’ including Justice Department investigators, other public officials, and inquiring journalists,” the Washington Post reported late last month in a copyrighted story by reporter Ron Shaffer.
Quoting sources “close to an intensive federal investigation of the Scientologists’ activities,” Shaffer said that an attack-and-destroy campaign by the church’s Guardian’s Office to silence critics “has involved illegal surveillance, burglaries, forgeries, and many forms of harassment.”
A number of covert operations carried out by Scientologists are documented in the church’s internal memoranda and directives, the sources alleged to Shaffer. The reporter cites the following allegations:
• Scientologists obtained the personal stationery of author Paulette Cooper, who had written a book in 1971 entitled The Scandal of Scientology. A bomb threat was typed on the paper, and it was mailed to a Scientology office, which reported the threat to police. Miss Cooper was arrested in connection with the charge. She denied writing the note, but the paper had her fingerprints on it, and federal prosecutors charged her with perjury. The charges were eventually dropped after Miss Cooper submitted to lengthy questioning under a truth-serum drug, but in the process she reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown.
• Scientology agents staged a phony hit-and-run accident involving then mayor Gabriel Cazares of Clearwater, Florida. Cazares had been a central figure in a dispute with Scientologists over the church’s purchase of a Clearwater hotel (see February 27, 1976, issue, page 41). During a visit to Washington, D.C., the mayor was a passenger in a car driven by a female Scientology agent. The agent struck a pedestrian in a park, sped from the scene, and urged Cazares not to report the “accident.” Unknown to Cazares, the pedestrian was another Scientology agent who helped to stage the accident. Later, the Scientologists tried to use the incident against the mayor in a political campaign.
• An attempt was made to discredit a Clearwater reporter who had covered the arrival of the Scientologists in town and the ensuing dispute. A Scientology agent forged the rough draft of a newspaper story under his byline and slipped it to state legislators whom the reporter was covering. The story supposedly linked Florida politicians to the Mafia.
• Scientology members were placed in at least three government agencies to collect information and steal documents related to the agencies’ dealings with the church. The agencies: the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
• A harassment campaign was directed against prosecutors handling Scientology cases. The campaign included telephone calls and background investigations that sought details ranging from grades in school to personal habits.
Spokesman Greg Layton of the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington denied the allegations in the Washington Post story. He said the church has documentation to refute the charges, and he implied that the Post had been supplied with a compilation of “false reports” as part of a government harassment campaign against the church. Other Scientology members voiced similar sentiments, but as of early this month the church’s national headquarters in Los Angeles had not released any official comment regarding the allegations. Information officer Arthur Maren did issue a news release that suggested “corrupt officials” in government had used the press, including the Post, “for smear campaigns to try and invalidate the traditional reform role of the church.…”
After the Post articles appeared, Scientology attorney Phillip J. Hirshkop petitioned the federal district court in Washington. He asked the court to obtain and destroy whatever seized documents the Post might possess along with notes pertaining to them. He argued that the documents had been improperly leaked to the newspaper by government agents who were reviewing them. Judge John H. Pratt, however, rejected the request. He said that it was a “clear violation” of First Amendment rights, and he indicated that a subpoena for the reporter’s materials would not be enforced. Pratt agreed with a Post attorney that Shaffer could invoke privilege and not answer questions about the documents if he were called on to testify in court.
A Justice Department official said that an investigation would be conducted in an attempt to find out the source of the Post story.
Maren’s news release was issued to acknowledge that the Church of Scientology “has been ‘spying’ on the government for years.” The government, he said, calls it spying, “but we call it reform action.…” He explained that Scientologists “have been involved in exposing government illegalities and coverups for years, and this is a legitimate and traditional function of the church.” The reform-action program was code-named Snow White in Scientology’s inner circles, Maren indicated.
The publicist, recently released after spending some seven months in jail for refusing to answer questions for a federal grand jury investigating the church, explained that the Snow White project was kept confidential because “we didn’t want to embarrass government officials.” He said that when certain materials were found, they were turned over to government agencies and congressional committees. The raids of Scientology churches and seizure of documents by FBI agents last July were aimed mostly at Snow White, he suggested. “Apparently some dishonest bureaucrats found the Snow White program upsetting,” he commented. (The Scientologists have filed a $750 million lawsuit against the FBI agents and virtually every government officer and agency connected with the raids.)
Maren outlined what he claimed were some Snow White accomplishments and activities (documentation concerning Interpol, the international police intelligence agency based in France; publication of confidential IRS policies; exposure of inhumane conditions in South African mental institutions where more than 8,000 blacks were confined; leadership in use of the Freedom of Information Act). He then announced the formation of a national “spy network of honest citizens” to “expose and publicize illegal government activities.” Maren urged “every honest government employee” to turn over to the new group information on illegal government activities and dishonest officials. “We will investigate, document, expose, and publish what we find,” he pledged.
The release concluded by listing the names of thirty-eight present and former employees of the Drug Enforcement Agency who at one time worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. There is no indication in the release as to why they were named. Also named were two foreigners connected with Interpol: the Scientologists say they have been involved in drug traffic. In addition, the release cited alleged FBI intelligence operations against groups in Los Angeles.
There are about two dozen Scientology churches in the United States and three times that number abroad. More than three million members are claimed, according to press reports. Observers question the membership figure (an average exceeding 30,000 members per church), but it seems to be in line with Scientology’s broad definition of membership and with reported income. Informers have told federal investigators that Scientology’s U.S. churches may gross more than $100 million a year. Much of this money comes from fees for church courses and Scientology-style counseling, in which advanced members attempt to help others to achieve a “clear” or untroubled state with the assistance of a mechanical device known as an E-meter.
The church has been embroiled in legal confrontations almost since its founding in 1952 by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer and author of Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health, the bestseller bible of the Scientology movement. Many of the church’s problems with the government involve tax issues. Only about half of its U.S. branches have been able to obtain tax-exempt status. Some legal decisions have viewed it more as a business or secular philosophy than a religion.
One thing is certain in light of the Washington Post revelations: Scientology’s most serious legal battle is yet ahead.
A Jewish Look At Luther
Martin Luther’s legacy to his spiritual heirs includes a certain discomfort about Jews. Generations of Lutherans have disclaimed his 1543 treatise, “On the Jews and Their Lies,” but it keeps coming up, most recently on the NBC television network’s “Today” show. In his old age the Reformer wrote that Jewish schools and synagogues should be burned. A New York psychoanalyst and author of a book on the Nazi era, Arnold Hutschnecker, cited a passage from the 400-year-old controversial work during a “Today” interview that dealt with NBC’s “Holocaust” series last month. Luther contributed to anti-Semitic feeling that “has existed in Germany for hundreds of years,” Hutschnecker claimed.
Lutheran leaders issued protests immediately. They requested air time from the network to reply. NBC said no, but “Today” host Tom Brokaw next day told viewers that the remarks had “caused a stir in the Lutheran community in this country.” He then attempted to put the quotation in context and expressed the hope that the Luther statements “will not be misused.”
The NBC’s dramatized documentary, viewed by an estimated 120 million persons on four successive evenings, was widely hailed as a broadcasting triumph. More than 50 per cent of the nation’s television audience watched some nights. In New York alone an estimated six million saw the initial installment. The series sparked commentaries and letters to the editor in media all over the nation. Critics were unhappy with the film’s commercial interruptions, and some thought the production smacked too much of Hollywood.
A carefully planned educational program was prepared for use in schools and churches in connection with the telecasts. Interfaith “remembrance” services were held in many communities. The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith said it had distributed nine million newspaper supplements about the Holocaust. Religious News Service reported that a Washington pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, sent a copy of the novel on which the series was based to each member of Congress, key administration officials, and members of the Washington press corps. A note was enclosed mentioning the committee’s opposition to the proposed sale of jet fighters to the Jewish state’s Arab neighbors.
The telecasts and associated emphasis on the Holocaust came on the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel.
Martin Luther’s offensive quotation was not cited as such, but one prominent Jewish spokesman accused the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) of having “sadly revived the medieval image of the Jews” in an evangelism program. Rabbi James Rudin of the American Jewish Committee last month scored the synod’s 1977 convention resolution on Jewish evangelism and a witnessing manual used in the church. “By singling out Jews for intensive proselytizing,” he declared, “the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has, in effect, branded Judaism as an inadequate and incomplete religion.… The resolution is a moral affront to the Jewish people and to forty centuries of Jewish religious life and theological self-understanding.”
Rudin’s blast came after a series of consultations with Missouri Synod officials. Accounts of the results of the conversations differ. Erwin J. Kolb, executive secretary of the LCMS board of evangelism, said members of the synod’s Jewish-witness committee agreed that Rudin had some valid criticisms of their materials. He disclosed that the committee also agreed to make certain changes in the manual and that Rudin would be allowed to review the final manuscript. Meanwhile, stated Kolb, all parties agreed not to make public statements. The new edition of the manual is not due until this July, but Rudin went public with more criticism in April. Rudin, when asked about the agreement, said he had agreed with Kolb that no reporters would attend their meetings but that he made no promise about public statements.
In another ticklish situation related to Lutheran views of Jewish questions, the American Lutheran Church recently suspended two Long Island congregations that incorporated Hebrew traditions into church life. Following a long squabble, denominational officials last year officially charged that the Gospel was being “subordinated” to Jewish tradition. Pastors and people wore skull caps and prayer shawls, and one ritual slaughter of goats was reported. Kosher kitchens were being kept by some members of the congregations. Neighborhood Jews, as well as area Lutherans and some other Christians exclaimed “about time” when the denomination cracked down, reported the Lutheran Forum Letter.
Memo to Lutherans: ‘Let’s Merge’
At its founding convention in December, 1976, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC) formalized the split in the 2.8-million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). This followed years of controversy over doctrinal interpretation and administrative practice.
At the AELC’s second convention, held last month in Milwaukee, the 135 voting delegates gave almost unanimous voice approval to the view that the young denomination’s chief business is to go out of business—by trying to spark “organic church union” among the bulk of U.S. Lutherans. (The AELC has about 110,000 members in 245 congregations.)
A “Call for Lutheran Union” adopted by the delegates envisions in late 1979 a “consultation … to establish an implementation process” for the union of the Lutheran denominations that have formally committed themselves to a merger goal by that time. The document states as axiomatic what the LCMS would officially reject: “Lutherans are already united in a common, Gospel-centered witness to the Christian faith through our common commitment to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.” Therefore, the call reasons, there should be a “move beyond cooperation, which though admirable in itself, does not enable Lutherans to exhibit and express fully the oneness which God has given.”
A few delegates argued that it is presumptuous or premature for a denomination so young and so small to speak up in such a way. After a couple hours of polite discussion, however, those who felt that the call would be salutary—or that the AELC at least should speak its collective mind and see what happens—easily carried the day.
Although the call is addressed to “all Lutheran church bodies in North America,” no one suggested at the convention that a favorable response is likely from the LCMS, the 400,000-member Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, or the several largely isolationist U.S. Lutheran minibodies. Instead, chief targets of the call are the three-million-member Lutheran Church in America (LCA) and the 2.4-million-member American Lutheran Church (ALC), both of which have national conventions this year.
The presidents of the ALC and LCA brought fraternal greetings to the assembled delegates. The ALC’s David Preus endorsed coordination, cooperation, and even partial merger “whenever such actions … clearly” make the church “more effective in mission.” But as a result of the ALC’s own recent restructuring, he said, “we are a church on the move. We have gotten our act together. We are functioning effectively.…” This is not the time, he suggested, to spend time, energy, and resources on “organizational matters.” He foresaw the likelihood of “booby traps,” including “unnecessary theological … battles,” in major merger efforts.
Greeted with a standing ovation, Preus was simply applauded when he finished. The LCA’s Robert Marshall, though, managed to bring the delegates to their feet after as well as before his endorsement of the AELC call. Having recently surprised many by announcing he will not run for reelection as LCA president, Marshall forcefully reiterated his personal as well as the LCA’s constitutional support for North American Lutheran union. Working at structural union, he affirmed, would help, not detract from, Lutheran mission and ministry. Citing examples of the difficulties he has experienced in cooperative efforts, Marshall said “the time that we have spent on cooperation that fizzled is far greater than any time that’s going to be spent on achieving Lutheran union.”
Besides approving the union call, delegates overwhelmingly reelected AELC’s part-time president William Kohn, pastor of Capitol Drive Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. Also, they directed the AELC national office to “refuse to do business with any financial institutions making loans to the private or public sector of South Africa until apartheid injustice is eliminated.” Other resolutions were adopted urging AELC members to join Jews in commemorating the holocaust, to “respond to the issues of injustice to American Indians,” to support programs fighting world hunger, and to “continue working toward changing our language style in church communications … to be non-racist and non-sexist.”
Churchmen in a Huff
Tuition tax credits, abortion, human rights, foreign sales of military hardware, deductions for charitable contributions, and youth camp safety are issues enough to keep Washington’s church-related lobbyists busy. But in this congressional election year they have another worry: a bill to regulate lobbying.
A bill (H. R. 8494) opposed by most religious lobbies passed the House of Representatives last month by a vote of 259 to 140. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas, one of the bill’s staunch supporters, said it would simply “… require these organizations to disclose … exactly what they are doing.” Introduced by George E. Danielson of California, the measure requires lobbying groups that spend a certain amount of staff time or money in Congress to report to the comptroller general their total expenditures for such activities, the identity of lobbyists, and a description of the issues on which they are working. Churches must report if they seek to influence legislation, and then must pass the expenditure “thresholds” described in the bill.
Similar proposals are pending in the Senate but they are sure to encounter stiff opposition in committee. Among the opponents of tighter regulation of lobbying are the U.S. Catholic Conference, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, the United Church of Christ, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Among the proponents are Common Cause and AFL-CIO union lobbyists. Barry Lynn, a United Church of Christ representative on Capitol Hill, called the measure “a slap in the face of democracy.” John W. Baker of the Baptist committee considers it a simple question of religious liberty and served notice that if enacted into law the provisions would not be followed by his organization.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington’s best-known Baptist went on record in favor of the legislation. President Carter told a news conference that his Adminstration has “been actively involved in drafting (the bill) in the strongest possible terms, and I do support it.”
The Capitol Hill Baptists were closer to the position of their White House brother on another piece of hot legislation: tuition tax credits. The Administration continued to oppose the credits as unconstitutional aid to private schools (many are church-related). Instead, White House spokesmen asked Congress for more grants and loans for students and their institutions. While the Baptists and Methodists active in Congressional affairs generally agreed with the Administration position, Roman Catholics and some evangelicals in the private school movement continued efforts to salvage tax relief for parents of their students.
Members of the House Ways and Means Committee, who handle all tax proposals, dealt the Administration a serious blow last month when they rejected a Carter proposal on charitable deductions. They voted to permit taxpayers who choose the “standard deduction” on their income tax returns also to itemize their charitable contributions—including gifts to churches. William P. Thompson, the United Presbyterian executive who is president of the National Council of Churches, had asked the committee to treat such contributions differently from other deductible items. In his testimony he said such treatment “is not a ‘loophole’ for avoiding taxation since the gifts deducted do not remain under the control of the giver but go to benefit the whole community, often with greater efficiency and effect than the same amount paid in taxes.”
Even if Congress settles all the tax questions early, as it would like to do in this election year, it will still have plenty of other issues to keep the lobbyists busy. Revision of the federal criminal code (including gun control), foreign aid, and ethics in government are issues about which church representatives are waiting to have their say. A “sleeper” issue that has aroused heated discussion in past years, the Youth Camp Safety Bill introduced by Senator Alan Cranston of California, has recently come back to life with White House blessings. Administration support came with introduction of provisions to encourage state enforcement. Some camp operators and religious groups have opposed similar legislation in the past on grounds that it would mandate government interference in religious activities.
St. Paul Speaks: ‘No’ to Gays
Homosexuality, seldom discussed publicly a few years back, may be one of the top political issues of 1978. Voters in St. Paul, Minnesota, last month served notice that Middle America might be tuning out the talk about gay rights. Led by Pastor Richard A. Angwin of Temple Baptist Church, citizens of St. Paul went to the polls in unusually large numbers for a referendum and voted two-to-one to repeal a city ordinance banning homosexual discrimination. Television viewers around the nation saw some of the victory celebration at Temple Baptist. Asked why a city with liberal leanings would produce such a vote, Angwin told reporters, “You can’t be progressive about sin.”
As in other cities around the country, however, the religious community was not all on one side of the St. Paul issue. United Methodist bishop Wayne K. Clymer sent a letter of support for homosexuals’ rights to St. Paul members of his denomination. The Minnesota [Methodist] Conference Board of Church and Society opposed the repeal of homosexual protections in the ordinance. Charles Purdham, United Methodist district superintendent in the area, said of the vote, “It appears that those who support human rights issues did not take seriously the possibility that the repeal vote would win and thus did not bother to vote. If so, then fear and apathy have combined to deprive people of their just rights as citizens and children of God.” The bishop commented that the vote was indicative of “how deeply imbedded fear and anxieties of people are on this issue.” He also suggested that “the vote accurately reflected where the country is at this time.”
Both proponents and opponents of repeal quoted Roman Catholic archbishop John R. Roach of the Minneapolis-St. Paul archdiocese to bolster their positions. Those favoring retention of the gay rights measure quoted the part of his statement that said “economic security and social equality” should be provided for those who “find themselves to be homosexual in orientation through no fault of their own.” Champions of repeal quoted Roach when he said, “In affirming the rights of homosexuals, we must not neglect the right of the larger community. The Catholic Community … cannot sanction the gay lifestyle as a morally acceptable alternative to heterosexual marriage.” The archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Bulletin, was clearer on the issue. It took a position against granting “special protection” to homosexuals. A representative of the archbishop noted that the paper has always been free to express views independent of those of the prelate. The priests’ senate of the archdiocese opposed repeal.
Among the national figures associated with the pro-repeal forces were Carl Lundquist, president of nearby Bethel College and Seminary and of the National Association of Evangelicals, singer Anita Bryant, and television preacher Jerry Falwell.
After the St. Paul vote, gay activists served notice that they were preparing to fight those who are out to set back their cause in other parts of the country. Not only are the homosexuals and their supporters trying to get friendly ordinances onto the books in many cities, but they also are trying to put those already enacted beyond voter recall. Politicians in the District of Columbia are currently debating procedures that would make it impossible for the citizens to vote on certain “human rights” measures. So far the discussion concerns procedures recently added to the District’s home rule charter providing for initiatives and referenda. No one has formally proposed an election on any part of the human rights issue. However, candidates for mayor and city council posts are taking sides on the subject, and voters may be able to take an indirect stand on the issue when they choose the District’s executive and legislative leaders later this year.
San Francisco, meanwhile, has elected an avowed homosexual to the city council and has passed an anti-bias ordinance. Over 300,000 signatures were collected in California to put on the state ballot this year an initiative that would bar homosexual teachers. Some 1,000 people attended a Los Angeles rally against the referendum. Among the national and state politicians lending their names to the cause was former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern. The senator told the crowd, “I had to accept this invitation because of the basic principles you and I stand for in all the struggles against discrimination. I don’t think anyone needs to be told this is a controversial area, but I don’t think there’s any need for controversy over someone’s freedom to personal privacy and against prejudice.” He added that he came to the meeting because he did not want “any Americans to feel alone and deserted.”
Homosexual teachers have won court cases in several states, but their cause suffered a setback last year when the U.S. Supreme Court let stand Washington state and New Jersey decisions that allowed the dismissal of homosexuals. Teachers have been the focus of the argument in many of the cities and states around the country. A Gallup Poll last year indicated that although the majority of those surveyed believe that homosexuals should have their job rights protected legally, about two-thirds feel that such protection should not be applied to school teachers.
The issue may eventually reach a showdown in Congress. Edward Koch, now New York City’s mayor, is known as the principal sponsor of a bill still pending in Congress to guarantee homosexual rights at the federal level. Among the cosponsors was congressman Frederick W. Richmond of Brooklyn who last month entered the District of Columbia’s first offenders’ program after being caught soliciting homosexual favors from an undercover policeman. Earlier he had been seeking to buy the sexual services of a sixteen-year-old boy. About twenty New York politicians, mostly fellow members of Congress but including Koch, rallied to Richmond’s defense. In effect, they called for his reelection. Homosexuals and their opponents probably will be watching closely to see whether the voters return Richmond and the colleagues who supported him to Congress.
Future Church: One on One?
Are there too many clergy in the pipeline? How many are too many? Would one minister per lay person be more than enough?
A study released last month indicated that if current trends continue the Episcopal Church will have an equal number of lay and clergy members in just over a quarter century. They found that other groups have a similar clergy glut.
The study of twelve main-line predominantly white denominations was reported at a recent conference of seminary placement officers, denominational executives, and regional church leaders at Duke University. The conference and the research—by Jackson W. Carroll of the Hartford Seminary Foundation and Robert L. Wilson of Duke Divinity School—were financed by the Lilly Endowment.
Findings of the researchers did not get high grades from one United Methodist official who had earlier withdrawn from the study’s steering committee. Robert Watts Thornburg, an executive in the United Methodist Division of the Ordained Ministry, complained that the Lilly project’s study method was so broad-based that it failed to consider the uniqueness of the Methodist itinerant system. Carroll and Wilson had predicted that the Methodists would have a preacher for every person in the pew by the year 2038 if membership continues to decline and ordinations continue to increase at the current rates. To the contrary, said Thornburg, “all indications are that there is no oversupply and that, in fact, there could be a shortage by 1984.”
The authors of the study concede that the trends may not be reliable long-term indicators. For instance, they suggest that the declining membership may soon “bottom out.” They even see the possibility of a “significant religious awakening” that could throw out all their predictions. Such awakenings, they admit, are hard to predict, since “the Spirit, like the wind, blows where it will.…”
Lacking any significant change in the trends, however, they predict that at least through 1985 the effects of the current oversupply are likely to be felt. One reason for the oversupply in most major denominations is the increasing number of women studying for the ministry. In the Episcopal Church, for example, 18.4 per cent of those earning seminary degrees are female, the researchers said. Other figures show that about half of all current Episcopal seminary students are women.
Another reason has to do with the post-World War II baby boom’s contributions to the job market in the past decade, coupled with the sudden falloff in the birth rate in recent years.
In addition to the Episcopal and United Methodist churches, the greatest oversupply of clergy is in the United Church of Christ, the United Presbyterian Church, and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (Southern), according to the researchers. Even the 13-million-member Southern Baptist Convention faces a serious situation, they said. Although membership is not yet in decline, they pointed out, the denomination’s seminaries are virtually filled (with about 9,000 students). Current projections show the Baptists having one pastor for every lay member by the year 2023, the study concludes.
Although one study indicates that American Protestantism is faced with an oversupply of clergy (see preceding story), that is certainly not the case with the Roman Catholic Church. It is generally agreed among Catholic leadership that a critical clergy shortage exists, and a number of Catholic researchers say the situation will get much worse before it gets better.
Sociologist Richard Schoenherr of the University of Wisconsin, who codirected with Andrew Greeley a landmark study of the American priesthood in 1972, is quoted in the National Catholic Reporter as saying that the random closings of parishes and the cancellation of programs headed by priests are bound to reach “epidemic proportions” in the early 1980s.
The independent Catholic weekly in a special report on the crisis points out that there were 59,000 priests and 46,000 seminarians in America in 1966. Currently, according to estimates, there are 51,000 active priests and 16,800 seminarians—a net loss of 14 per cent of the priests in twelve years and 64 per cent of the seminarians. The experts, according to the newspaper, predict a net loss of 25 per cent of the priests nationally by 1985, “and no one has attempted to estimate where the seminarians will be by then.”
The loss factors involve resignations, retirements, and deaths. Schoenherr’s studies found that between 1966 and 1973 the church lost about 17 per cent of its active priests (more than 10,000) through resignations. About 15 per cent of the priests (8,800) have retired since 1966, the Reporter concluded from its studies, noting that some men retired early and some were persuaded to stay on past retirement age. An estimated 10 per cent (5,900) of the non-retired priests died between 1966 and 1978, the paper added. The priests who remain are frequently overworked and frustrated, adding to the pressures to drop out, the paper indicated.
If the present rates of loss persist, projections indicate that by the year 2015 the church will experience a 50 per cent loss of clergy, said the Reporter.
Conditions vary from diocese to diocese, the newspaper found, and in some dioceses in Texas and the Dakotas “the shortage generally is regarded as a fullblown crisis.”
To illustrate its story, the paper cited the following incidents:
• A 110-year-old church was closed in Freeburg, Minnesota. A clergy spokesman told the press that the move was necessitated by the “extreme shortage of priests.”
• Bishop Joseph Brunini told a Jackson, Mississippi, church audience: “There is a vocation crisis in this diocese at the present time and in five years it will be a major disaster.… [Therefore] I am calling a five-year moratorium on any priest serving outside the diocese.”
• Bishop Glennon P. Flavin of Lincoln, Nebraska, noted in a pastoral bulletin that only seven young men were beginning studies for the priesthood in the diocese, less than half the number of entering students the year before. He called on his priests to promote vocational ministry, then added: “By the way, since we will have no ordinations to the priesthood until June, 1979, no priest of the diocese may die until then. This is an order.”
Religion in Transit
A suit was filed against the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., seeking to halt the museum’s use of taxpayer’s money to propagate the evolutionary theory of the origin of man. The move was led by radio evangelist Dale Crowley and his son Dale, Jr., a Washington pastor.
The 200,000-member Morality in Media organization has called for a national TV blackout on May 23 to protest the networks’ plans to increase sex-oriented television programming in the fall season. A reduction in advertising revenues “seems to be the only language the networks understand,” said MIM’s chairman, Rabbi Julius G. Neumann.
A Dallas Seminary student, Jeff Wells, 23, finished second in the famed Boston marathon last month. He ran the twenty-six-mile course in two hours, ten minutes, and fifteen seconds—two seconds behind winner Bill Rodgers of Massachusetts, but ahead of 862 men and 154 women. His seminary roommate John Lodwick finished eighth. Wells has his eyes on the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has relaxed its opposition to legalizing contraceptives, making it likely that the Irish parliament will pass legislation this year allowing them to be sold. The bishops reiterated their stern opposition to contraception on moral grounds but said that the state is not necessarily bound to prohibit what the church deems wrong. Studies indicate that tens of thousands of Irish Catholic women are using birth control pills.
Ukrainian Baptist Peter Vins, 21, of Kiev, the son of Georgi Vins, the imprisoned leader of dissident or unregistered Baptists in the Soviet Union, was sentenced last month to one year in prison for “parasitism” (not having work) and “hooliganism” (possession of two Bibles). Stated Clerk William P. Thompson of the United Presbyterian Church sent a cable to Soviet leader Leonid I. Breshnev, appealing for the release of both Peter and Georgi Vins.
The Chili Wasn’T So Hot
The 500-member First Church of God in the little town of Benton, Illinois, had a problem: How do you pay off a big mortgage on a new church building when income is already tight?
Into the picture stepped Dallas oilman Robert Philpot with an answer. He had a new engine additive named Add-A-Tune that he wanted to introduce, but he needed a way to capture attention. He and First’s pastor, J. Lloyd Tomer, decided to team up. Philpot leased for the church a lavishly appointed Convair 880 jet that had belonged to the late rock king, Elvis Presley. Tomer endorsed Add-A-Tune and organized a nationwide tour of the plane that was to begin this month in Dallas.
Admission to the plane—named Lisa Marie for Presley’s daughter—will be granted for a $300 donation to the church, Tomer announced. Those who tour the plane will receive free color photos of the jet’s interior and a case of Add-A-Tune.
Those who can’t afford or don’t want to tour the plane will be treated to a free “Tribute to Elvis” show featuring the Stamps Quartet, Presley’s backup group for six years. The performance will also feature a thirty-minute puff for the lubricant and a chance to buy Elvis-related photos.
Tomer estimated that “probably 5,000 couples will go through the plane each day” of the tour. If so, he projected, income will total $150 million. As a fundraising idea, he said, “this sure beats chili suppers.”
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