1981 religion creationism 4327

1981: Religion Creationism

April 30, 2021

Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier’s Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.
1981: Religion
The shooting of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square shocked the Roman Catholic Church as well as the non-Catholic world this year. In the United States, a political-religious coalition dominated by conservative Protestants sought with mixed success to translate its 1980 election victories into legislation. Persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union and Ethiopia, together with disputes about the extent of anti-Semitism in Argentina and the influence of religious parties in Israeli politics, engaged the concern of American Jews.
Jewish Affairs
World Jewry.
In the Soviet Union, which has the world’s largest Jewish community after the United States and Israel, the number of Jews granted exit visas declined sharply again this year. During the first half of 1981, only about 7,000 Jews were allowed to leave, less than half the number who emigrated during the first six months of 1980 and the lowest six-month figure since large-scale emigration began in 1970. Soviet authorities also stepped up their campaign against Jewish activists. After a number of Soviet Jews staged a hunger strike in November 1980, at the time of the Madrid conference to review implementation of the 1975 Helsinki accords, Soviet police arrested Viktor Brailovsky, editor of the underground journal Jews in the U.S.S.R., in apparent retaliation. In June, Brailovsky was sentenced to five years’ internal exile. Anatoly Shcharansky, the best-known Jewish ‘prisoner of conscience,’ was heard from late in August for the first time in many months. In a letter to his mother, he wrote that he was receiving medical treatments. Earlier reports had indicated that he was being treated harshly in prison and was suffering from headaches and vision problems.
In the July-August issue of the American Jewish periodical Moment, Soviet affairs expert William Korey suggested that there were strong anti-Semitic inclinations among the Russian ultranationalist forces within the Soviet Communist Party who opposed General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and might be able to name a successor to the aging party leader. Anti-Semitic caricatures appeared in some major Soviet military and youth periodicals and, at times, in other media. Soviet Jews received strong support, however, from the U.S. delegation to the Helsinki follow-up conference in Madrid.
There was also new evidence that despite continued persecution, Soviet Jews’ ethnic roots remain strong. Some details of a 1976 survey of 1,216 Soviet Jews (believed to be the first of its kind) were published in February after the data were smuggled out of the country. They showed that 93 percent of the respondents wished to buy books on Jewish history and culture, 85 percent wanted their children or grandchildren to learn Hebrew or Yiddish, and 78 percent did not want a close relative to marry a non-Jew.
Many of France’s 700,000 Jews took heart at the election of Socialist François Mitterrand to the presidency in May. Mitterrand was seen as more pro-Israel than his predecessor, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Shortly after he took office, the government canceled an executive order that exempted some key industries from a law forbidding French firms to cooperate with the Arab boycott of Israel and Israeli products. New French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson criticized Israel sharply, however, after Israeli planes bombed a French-built Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad in June and Palestinian guerrilla headquarters in Beirut in July.
The publication of Jacobo Timerman’s Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number provoked considerable debate among Jews about the situation facing their 300,000 coreligionists in Argentina. In his account of his captivity and torture by the Argentinian military regime, Timerman, the former publisher and editor of the Buenos Aires daily La Opinión, charged that significant elements of the Argentine military had Nazi-like tendencies and that the organized Jewish community in Argentina had failed to respond actively enough to the danger. Other Jewish leaders and intellectuals disputed both charges, as the debate became entangled in the political issue of U.S. aid to Argentina. While there were a disproportionate number of Jews among Argentine political prisoners and anti-Semitic literature was available throughout the country, the majority of the country’s Jews appeared to be well off, and few emigrated during the year.
The debate over the significance of the Holocaust for Jewish history, education, and communal and religious life continued to engage Jews around the world. This spring three Israeli and six U.S. scholars discussed ‘The Meaning and Demeaning of the Holocaust’ in a symposium later published in Moment. In June, more than 5,000 survivors of the Holocaust gathered in Israel in a celebration of life, to commemorate their experience.
Concern continued to mount over the fate of the Falashas, the black Jews of rural Ethiopia, who have been among the foremost victims of the long-standing civil war in that country. Once numbering nearly 30,000, the Falashas have been reduced, according to some observers, to as few as 10,000 as a result of hunger, disease, flight, forced conversion, and violence. Reports this year indicated that many Falashas were being jailed and tortured and that Jewish schools were being closed. In May, the Israel Council of Ethiopian Jews called for new efforts to rescue the Falashas through creation of an Ethiopian Jewish Authority that would report directly to Israel’s prime minister.
American Jewry.
This year marked the centennial of the beginning of large-scale Jewish immigration to the United States from Russia and Eastern Europe. Between 1881 and 1921, an average of almost 100,000 Jews came to the United States each year. Like their ancestors of a century ago, American Jews are moving west in large numbers. The 1981 American Jewish Yearbook reported that in 1980 the Jewish population of Los Angeles alone grew by 40,000.
In November 1980, for the first time since 1928, the majority of Jews did not vote for the Democratic candidate in a presidential election. According to the CBS-New York Times poll, 45 percent of Jewish voters cast their ballots for Democrat Jimmy Carter, 39 percent for Republican Ronald Reagan, and 14 percent for independent John Anderson. Analyzing the results in the August issue of Commentary, Milton Himmelfarb noted that the relatively high Jewish Republican vote did not necessarily mean that Jews are moving to the ideological right in large numbers. Indeed, while American voters generally classify themselves as ‘conservative’ by a ratio of three to two, Jews describe themselves as ‘liberal’ by a two to one margin.
No Jews were named to the new Reagan cabinet, nor were there any on the Supreme Court in 1981, the first time in many years that Jews have been absent from both bodies. But a record 33 Jews were elected to seats in the 97th Congress.
Many American Jews believed that the new president tended to be more pro-Israel than his Democratic predecessor. Reagan several times referred to Israel as an American ‘ally’ and refrained from criticizing the establishment of Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River. In September, he and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin met in Washington and agreed to strategic cooperation between the two countries. However, the ‘Israel lobby’ fought vigorously (but unsuccessfully) on Capitol Hill during the fall against an administration proposal to sell sophisticated Awacs radar aircraft to Saudi Arabia.
Another issue of concern to some American Jews was the rise of the New Right, particularly the fundamentalist Christian group Moral Majority. Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the (Reform) Union of American Hebrew Congregations, accused Moral Majority and other fundamentalist groups of creating a climate favorable to the growth of anti-Semitism. But other American Jewish leaders disagreed, cited Moral Majority’s pro-Israel stance, and noted that the Reverend Jerry Falwell, its leader, had received an award from Israeli Prime Minister Begin in 1980. The two men met again during Begin’s September visit to the United States.
In January the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith released a study of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States. The report cited 377 acts of anti-Jewish vandalism in 1980, almost triple the number of the year before, but acknowledged that some of the increase might have resulted from improved reporting methods. Among the institutions daubed with swastikas and graffiti were the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies in Los Angeles, the Baltimore Holocaust Memorial, and several buildings at the University of South Florida. However, separate studies by the Gallup organization and the public opinion firm of Yankelovich, Skelly and White, released in March and July respectively, showed a significant decline in anti-Semitic attitudes among Americans. The Yankelovich study revealed that the number of non-Jewish Americans who hold four or more negative stereotypes about Jews had declined from 45 percent in 1964 to 34 percent in 1981.
One area of Jewish life in which there has not been much change recently is the presence of women in top Jewish communal executive and administrative positions. A report issued in May by the Conference of Jewish Communal Service indicated that 38 percent of male—but only 3.5 percent of female—Jewish communal professionals earn over $30,000 annually.
Cultural and intellectual life.
Late 1980 and 1981 was rich time for Jewish culture. Three anthologies, all edited by Jews in their early 30’s, were published during the period: The Third Jewish Catalog, The Jewish Almanac, and The Big Book of Jewish Humor. In Jewish scholarship, there were major new histories of anti-Semitism by Jacob Katz, of the Holocaust in Hungary by Randolph Braham, and of American Jewish women by Jacob Rader Marcus. The Torah: A Modern Commentary, published by the Reform Movement, was the first commentary on the Torah in the history of Reform Judaism in America. Moshe Dayan’s Breakthrough and Ezer Weizman’s The Battle for Peace related the process that led to the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty (Dayan and Weizman were the Israeli foreign minister and defense minister, respectively, at the time). Other notable books of the year were Jacob Neusner’s Stranger at Home, a collection of essays on American Jewry, the Holocaust, and Zionism; Anne Roiphe’s Generation Without Memory: A Jewish Journey in Christian America; Philip Roth’s novel Zuckerman Unbound; Mark Helprin’s collection of stories and novellas Ellis Island; and Voices Within the Ark, a new anthology of Jewish poetry.
It was also a breakthrough year for Jewish film. The first Jewish Film Festival played in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Washington during the summer and fall. In New York the festival opened with the remarkable documentary Image Before My Eyes, produced by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The film depicts Jewish life in Poland prior to the Holocaust.
In March, a three-day Jewish ethnic music festival was held in New York. It featured performers who sang in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Russian, and English and played every major kind of Jewish music. A large-scale retrospective of Israeli art spanning six decades (the first of its kind in the United States) was shown at the Jewish Museum in New York in the spring. In October 1980, the First Jewish Art Annual was published.
Jewish studies programs continued to flourish. Yale University, which already offers some forty courses related to Jewish history and culture, launched a campaign in February to raise $6 million for a major expansion of its program. In April, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the University of Warsaw signed an agreement under which the Hebrew Union College (a Reform rabbinical school) and the Polish university will engage in joint research in Semitic studies, Hebrew linguistics, and the history of Polish Jewry.
Religious life.
The main religious issue of the year was the demand by the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Israel Party in Israel that Israel’s Law of Return be amended so that for purposes of the law, a person who had converted to Judaism would be defined as a Jew only if the conversion had taken place according to halachah (Orthodox Jewish law). Led by Chancellor Gerson D. Cohen of the (Conservative) Jewish Theological Seminary, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist leaders in the United States strongly protested this proposed change, which Agudat Israel had made a precondition for its joining Israel’s ruling coalition. In a joint statement issued in July, the American Jewish leaders declared that the proposed change ‘would place the Jewish state in the untenable position of denying the authority and legitimacy of major religious movements’ and ‘would constitute an unacceptable intervention in the affairs of Diaspora Jewry.’ A modified form of the Agudat Israel demand, however, was included in the coalition agreement signed by the Begin government in August.
There were also doctrinal conflicts during the year between different groups of Hasidim (adherents of a Jewish pietist and antimodernist movement that began in 18th-century Poland) and between ultra-Orthodox Jews and the Israeli government. Satmar Hasidim clashed in New York in March with Belzer Hasidim, whose spiritual leader, Yischoer Dov Rokeach, was visiting the city. The Belzer, the largest Hasidic group in Israel, support the Jewish state, while the Satmar, who believe that the Jews should establish a state only when the Messiah comes, are vehemently anti-Zionist. In Israel, some Orthodox groups forced the government to suspend archaeological work in Jerusalem that, the protesters say, would result in the desecration of ancient burial sites. However, the action was reversed by Israel’s Supreme Court.
At dawn on April 8, thousands of Jews went to the top of Jerusalem’s hills, the observation decks of the Empire State Building and World Trade Center in New York, and other high points to watch the sun rise and recite special prayers in commemoration of the most infrequent of Jewish holidays, Birkat ha-Hamah. The holiday is observed once every 28 years, when the sun is in the same position that it is believed to have been in at the time of the creation, and celebrates God’s ‘radiant goodness to all living creatures.’
A special symposium in Stockholm was devoted to Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who helped thousands of Jews escape from Nazi-occupied Hungary toward the end of World War II. Wallenberg was arrested after Soviet forces took Budapest, and the Soviets claim he died in 1947. At the symposium, several individuals testified to having seen someone who looked like Wallenberg in Soviet labor camps many years after that date. In September, President Reagan signed a congressional joint resolution making Wallenberg an honorary citizen of the United States.
Prominent Jews who died in 1981 included novelist Meyer Levin, historian Isaiah Trunk, Warsaw ghetto resistance leader Yitzhak (Antek) Zuckerman, Israeli poet Uri Zvi Greenberg, and former Israeli defense and foreign minister Moshe Dayan.
Protestant and Orthodox Churches
The Christian New Right.
Political activism by conservative Protestants continued to gain prominence in American life in 1981, although the degree to which their goals would be translated into government policy remained unclear. With the inauguration of Ronald Reagan as president in January, leaders of the Christian New Right expected swift results on a social agenda aimed at reinforcing what they considered traditional Christian values, especially those related to the family. During his 1980 campaign Reagan had endorsed several of the positions espoused by the New Right, including opposition to abortion and the equal rights amendment, and had welcomed the support of the movement. But other concerns—most notably, the economy—took precedence over the social agenda of religious conservatives during his first year in office.
The administration remained sympathetic but did not press for action on various pieces of legislation on the conservative Christians’ shopping list, which included an omnibus Family Protection Act introduced by Republican Senator Roger Jepsen of Iowa. Jepsen’s bill would, among other actions, legalize prayer in public schools, exclude corporal punishment from the offenses banned by child abuse laws, and prevent federally funded school programs from using educational materials presenting an overly progressive view of male and female roles. By midsummer the leaders of the New Right, many of them prominent television evangelists like the Reverend Jerry Falwell, had begun to complain that the president was not giving their agenda the attention it deserved, and they pledged an all-out battle to put their interpretation of public morals into law, with or without the president’s help.
The New Right had its first full-blown confrontation with the administration over the nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court. Charging that O’Connor had supported abortion as an Arizona state legislator in the early 1970’s, antiabortion leaders testified at Senate hearings on her confirmation to the effect that she should make a firm commitment to oppose abortion before she could be approved for the Supreme Court. However, several prominent conservative senators indicated that they could not block a judicial appointment on one issue alone and furthermore maintained that it was improper to ask a potential Supreme Court justice to determine in advance how she would rule on specific cases. O’Connor was easily confirmed in September without committing herself to a firm position regarding the legality of abortion, although she expressed personal opposition to it.
Liberal activities.
The more liberal ‘mainstream’ Protestant churches, accustomed for several decades to exerting the dominant religious influence on government policy, were put on the defensive by the new political climate and made little progress in public life. The most successful liberal church activity on the public front during the year was the role played by several church groups in blocking the appointment of Ernest W. Lefever as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs in the Reagan administration. When it was announced that Lefever had been nominated to the position, a self-designated Ad Hoc Committee of the Human Rights Community, which included representatives of the National Council of Churches as well as several major denominational social agencies, declared that Lefever ‘represents the antithesis of the congressionally mandated concern for human rights that has been a component of U.S. foreign policy since 1973.’ The group cited earlier statements by Lefever in opposition to the program he was to administer. It also alleged that the tax-exempt organization of which Lefever was president, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, had received money from the Nestlé Corporation in direct relation to the center’s support for Nestlé’s controversial sale of infant formula in Third World countries. After hearing testimony from NCC President L. William Howard and others, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommended that the Senate reject Lefever’s nomination, and he withdrew from consideration for the post. He was later appointed a consultant by the State Department.
Liberal church groups were less successful in their efforts on behalf of a World Health Organization resolution opposing the marketing of infant formula in the Third World. Supporters of the measure maintained that the sale of baby formula discouraged breast-feeding, which they believed a superior method of infant nourishment, and caused infant deaths from disease borne by the polluted water with which the formula was often mixed. At a WHO assembly in Geneva in May, the U.S. government resisted the pressure of a coalition including the NCC and other Protestant and Catholic organizations and cast the only ‘no’ vote on the measure, arguing against government interference in private business.
In November, Bishop James Armstrong, leader of the United Methodist Church in Indiana, was elected to a three-year term as president of the NCC. Armstrong, a widely respected church figure, is well known as a social activist.
Church growth movement.
Within church life, the church growth movement, which uses seminars and institutes to teach techniques for enhancing the numerical growth of local congregations, continued to draw mixed reviews. In general, the movement is regarded as a positive development to the extent that its efforts help to increase the size of congregations and thereby extend the influence of Christianity through further evangelistic work and missionary outreach. But its danger, according to critics, is that its literature projects an attitude that appears to sanction or even encourage prejudice. One of the movement’s basic tenets is the belief that local churches should be homogeneous groups in which people do not have to cross racial, linguistic, or class barriers in order to worship as Christians. In an article published in the August 12-19 issue of Christian Century, Dr. Ralph H. Elliott, senior pastor of the North Shore Baptist Church in Chicago, criticized this emphasis on homogeneity. Elliott cited German theologian Jürgen Moltmann’s insistence that the authentic church must actively break down the barriers between groups.
The interest in the church growth movement arises from concern in recent years over the decline in membership in mainstream Protestant churches. Today’s churches yearn to repeat the success experienced in the halcyon days of the 1950’s, when membership in Protestant churches surged forward. However, churches in the 1980’s find themselves wrestling with the issue of what constitutes ‘success’ for them: whether it is simply a matter of enlarged enrollments, or whether it also involves greater influence in the world and increased devotion among clergy and worshipers.
The concern of American Protestant churches over the perceived erosion of the influence of Christianity in contemporary life was heightened by the release of several Gallup polls this year. When asked if religion could answer all or most of today’s problems, 65 percent of the adults polled gave a positive response, as opposed to 81 percent in 1957. And a poll released in May revealed what it characterized as a ‘shocking lack of knowledge’ about the Christian faith among young people. Six out of ten teen-agers polled, including half of those who attended church regularly, were unable to name any of the four New Testament Gospels. About one-third of those polled could not identify the religious event that is celebrated at Easter.
Church finances.
Another disturbing report was released in the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches 1981. In a survey by Loyde H. Hartley, dean of Lancaster Theological Seminary, financial giving to local churches was found to be lagging behind inflation. Using the latest available figures, the study indicated that in 1979, for the first time in five years, giving to ten major denominations had failed to keep up with rising costs. In another report, the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel indicated that giving to the nation’s 300,000 nonprofit institutions—of which religious organizations received the largest share—reached a record $47.74 billion in 1980, but the gain over 1979 also fell behind the inflation rate. Furthermore, nonprofit organizations, including church-related agencies, were likely to be hurt by the Reagan administration’s cutbacks in federal spending for social welfare, health, education, foreign aid, and the arts.
By the end of the year, Protestant officials were also viewing with some uneasiness the emerging federal grand jury investigation of allegations that Roman Catholic Cardinal John Cody of Chicago had diverted $1 million in church funds for the private use of a stepcousin. Whatever the legal outcome of the case, it was evident that more public attention would be drawn to the government’s right to investigate church finances. Funds given to churches may not be used for any but religious purposes; otherwise, they are subject to taxation. But defining what constitutes ‘religious use’ remains a cloudy area of law. The issue arose again when the United Church of Christ asked for a clarification of a 1978 ruling by the Internal Revenue Service regarding the church’s right to publish voting records of candidates for public office. At first it was suggested by the IRS that such publication constituted an endorsement of the candidate’s opponent, if there was an indication that the church publishing such a record disapproved of the votes. In October 1980, however, the IRS finally ruled that the listing of votes would not violate its guidelines. Nonetheless, the fact that such a ruling had to be made at all suggests that the ‘wall of separation’ between church and state remains an uncertain structure in American jurisprudence.
Denominational meetings.
Denominational meetings, often beset by internal strife, were somewhat more harmonious in 1981, partly because pressure from the New Right was a greater source of concern to the churches than their own internal differences. The issues of ordination of women and the rights of homosexuals did not surface in national meetings this year, although some church bodies are still debating the use of ‘nonsexist’ language in hymnals and worship services.
A potentially explosive confrontation between conservatives and moderates at the Southern Baptist Convention in Los Angeles in June was defused in the name of church unity. In an extremely unusual move, moderate Abner McCall, chancellor of Baylor University, challenged incumbent Bailey Smith in the election for president of the convention. Smith, who had been the focus of national attention in 1980 for his statement that ‘God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew,’ had angered moderates by announcing that he would remove a number of moderates from church offices in his new term, replacing them with conservatives who shared his belief in the ‘inerrancy,’ or literal truthfulness, of the Bible. Smith appeased the moderate faction by reinstating ten of the moderate officials and won reelection, though by a narrower margin than had been expected.
Church unity.
Three of the major Lutheran bodies in the United States announced this year that they expected their respective 1982 conventions to endorse plans that would merge their memberships. The merger of the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches was not expected to be completed before 1986. It would join 5.4 million Lutherans in a new denomination that would be the fifth largest in the United States. The more conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which includes 2.5 million members, has elected not to join the other three denominations in the proposed merger.
The two major American Presbyterian denominations also sent merger proposals for approval to their members in October. The new denomination, which would join the 2.7 million members of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. with the 1 million members of the Southern-based Presbyterian Church in the U.S., might be formalized as early as 1983 if it is endorsed by the membership of both churches.
The first phase of unity talks between the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, split for over 900 years, ended in October. The Holy Synod, the governing board of the Orthodox Church, reported that deep differences persist but voted to continue the talks in 1982.
Heresy case.
Heresy (holding a belief contrary to official church teaching) had not been a Protestant issue for some time, but this year it emerged in a case involving a minister who declined to state without qualification that Jesus Christ is God. Mansfield Kaseman, a United Church of Christ minister, sought admission to the United Presbyterian Church’s National Capital Union Presbytery in March 1979 and was asked in an examination to state whether he believed that Jesus Christ is God. When he answered, ‘No, God is God,’ conservatives in the presbytery sought to deny his admission, claiming that his comment was heretical. But this year the denomination’s highest judicial body, the Permanent Judicial Commission, upheld the local presbytery’s decision to admit Kaseman on the grounds that his answers to this and other theological questions ‘were not denials of the doctrines’ of the church.
The decision, however, finally turned not on the question of heresy but rather on the procedural issue of whether a local presbytery had the right to determine its own standards for admission. The commissioners decided that they had no power to overrule a presbytery except for ‘the most extraordinary reasons.’ Apparently they did not feel that the theological issue involving Kaseman represented anything out of the ordinary. However, a number of the 40 Presbyterian congregations that withdrew this year from the United Church specifically mentioned the Kaseman decision as an example of the liberal theology that drove them away.
Orthodoxy, at least as it is defined by fundamentalist Christians, did make itself felt on the legislative front in several states this year. The fundamentalist belief that Charles Darwin’s theory of the evolution of species contradicts the biblical doctrine of divine creation has prompted a number of organizations to campaign with some success against the teaching of evolution in the classroom and in textbooks. Increasingly pressured by these ‘creationists’ in recent years, over 20 state legislatures have considered bills requiring public schools to give equal treatment to ‘scientific creationism,’ which the creationists claim is scientific evidence that the world was literally created by God in six days, as described in the book of Genesis. In March, Arkansas became the first state to pass such legislation, followed by Louisiana in July. In both states, however, coalitions of educational, religious, and civil liberties groups sued to have the laws declared unconstitutional.
This year also saw the settlement of a lawsuit involving the director of one of the most prominent creationist organizations. Kelly Segraves, director of the Creation-Science Research Center in San Diego, had filed suit in 1979 against the state of California and its Board of Education, claiming that the guidelines established by the board for the teaching of science in public schools violated the religious freedom of his children. Segraves maintained that his children’s beliefs were being undermined in classes that, in accordance with the guidelines, taught only the evolutionary theory of human origins. Superior Court Judge Irving H. Perluss ruled that the guidelines were not so dogmatic as to offend the rights of Segraves’ children, but he also ordered the distribution to teachers and publishers of a 1973 policy statement by the Board of Education to the effect that textbooks must avoid dogmatism in any discussion of the origins of humanity.
Mormon prophecy revision.
The Mormon church this year changed the wording of a Book of Mormon prophecy that had stated American Indians would become ‘white and delightsome’ upon joining the church. The revised text now indicates that rather than becoming lighter in color, as the church had formerly maintained, Indians who become Mormons will become ‘pure and delightsome’ in the eyes of God.
Roman Catholic Church
For the Roman Catholic Church it was a year of violence. Forebodings of 1981 came in December 1980 when four U.S. women missionaries, three of them nuns, were murdered in El Salvador, in an incident with religious and political repercussions that endured for months. Then in May the seemingly unthinkable occurred, when a Turkish terrorist gunned down Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square of the Vatican. The pope survived his wounds but was to endure months of hospitalization. Meanwhile, there was continuing sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, fueled in part by a succession of hunger strikes by Irish nationalist prisoners.
Shooting of the pope.
The violence against Pope John Paul took place May 13, as he rode in an open car blessing 10,000 pilgrims and tourists. He was hit in the abdomen, right forearm, and left hand. The car sped to Gemelli Hospital, two miles from the Vatican, where the pope underwent 5½ hours of surgery, including a colostomy made necessary by damage to the intestinal area. Two other persons—Rose Hall, 21, an American living in West Germany, and Ann Odre, 58, of Buffalo—were also wounded in the episode.
The gunman was Mehmet Ali Agca, 23, a convicted murderer who had escaped in 1979 from a maximum-security Turkish prison where he was under sentence of death for the slaying of a newspaper editor. Agca’s motives were unclear. On his escape from prison, he had left behind a note terming the pope the ‘Crusader Commander’ of ‘Western imperialists’ and threatening that he would ‘definitely shoot’ him. The Italian court in which he was tried issued an opinion that he was part of a conspiracy whose nature and motives it could not identify.
On June 3, Pope John Paul walked unaided out of the hospital, but on June 20 he was readmitted with symptoms of pleurisy and hepatitis. The illness was eventually diagnosed as cytomegalovirus, a dangerous viral infection, probably caused by the massive blood transfusions he received after the shooting. He remained in the hospital until more than a week after an operation closing the temporary colostomy was performed on August 5. Doctors prescribed two additional months of convalescence before resumption of his full, normal routine.
Agca, meanwhile, was brought to speedy trial in Rome, convicted of attempted murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Missionary murders.
The missionaries murdered in El Salvador in December 1980 were Ita Ford, 40, and Maura Clarke, 46, Maryknoll sisters from New York City; Dorothy Kazel, 40, an Ursuline nun from Cleveland; and Jean Donovan, 27, a lay missionary, also from Cleveland. Their murders brought a suspension of U.S. military and economic aid to El Salvador, but the economic aid was resumed in mid-December after a new Salvadoran president was named, and military aid was restored during a guerrilla offensive in January, touching off strong protests from humanitarian and religious groups, including the U.S. Catholic Conference. The new administration of President Ronald Reagan, however, increased aid to El Salvador, saying it was necessary to counter weapons provided to the guerrillas by Communist nations. The administration also suggested that missionaries in El Salvador might be crossing the fine line between religious and political activity, a charge that caused still more controversy. Six members of El Salvador’s armed forces were arrested in April in connection with the murders, but religious groups charged that the government was dragging its feet in investigating the crimes and controlling right-wing terrorism.
Hunger deaths in Ireland.
Violence between Catholic and Protestant groups in Northern Ireland entered a new phase in May, when Robert (‘Bobby’) Sands, a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who had been elected to the British Parliament in April, died in the Maze prison in Northern Ireland after a hunger strike of 66 days. Nine more hunger strikers died at intervals of days or weeks, as Provisional IRA leaders promised a new striker would take the place of each one who died until the prisoners won the concessions they demanded. The prisoners sought political status, including the right to wear their own clothing and to associate freely, on the grounds that their crimes stemmed from opposition to British rule in Northern Ireland. The British government refused to yield and maintained that the hunger strikers had committed suicide. In late summer, several strikers who had lost consciousness were put on intravenous feeding by their families, and the Irish National Liberation Army, a companion organization to the Provisional IRA, reduced the level of its participation in the hunger strike. In early October, the hunger strikes were officially ended. All prisoners in Northern Ireland were subsequently given permission to wear their own clothes.
The Irish bishops termed the hunger strikes ‘evil’ and condemned the murder, bombings, and street violence spawned with each hunger-striker death. They asked the prisoners to compromise their demands, a request that went unheeded. The IRA, in fact, accused the clergy of undermining the strike campaign and causing its collapse. The bishops’ decision to allow the deceased hunger strikers Catholic burials became theologically controversial in the light of Catholic teaching on suicide. Pope John Paul sought to intercede by sending his private secretary, Father John Magee, to the bed of Sands on the 59th day of his hunger strike. The gesture was futile, however.
Papal activities.
The injuries to the pope severely restricted his activities for most of the year. His travel plans were canceled, and Vatican business slowed perceptibly, as the Church went on a virtual standby awaiting the pope’s recovery.
John Paul was very busy before his shooting, however. In December 1980 he issued an encyclical, Dives in Misericordia (On the Mercy of God), that was essentially a spiritual document, but one thought to contain openings for change on such controversial church issues as divorce. However, there was no noticeable follow-through in the months following. Indeed, on a trip to the Far East in February, the pope restated the Church’s strong opposition to divorce, as well as casual sex, artificial birth control, abortion, and polygamy. In January he even criticized Catholic marriage tribunals for granting ‘easy and hasty’ annulments. In October, however, a Vatican commission approved a new canon law code that essentially adopted the relatively liberal grounds for annulment used in the United States.
The Far East trip covered 12 days and more than 20,000 miles and included stops in Pakistan, the Philippines, Guam, Japan, and Alaska, the last for a stay of only 4½ hours. In the Philippines the pope championed the ‘legitimate material interests’ of citizens and advised President Ferdinand Marcos that ‘even in exceptional situations . . . one can never justify any violation of the fundamental dignity of the human person or of the basic rights that safeguard this dignity.’ In Japan the pope prayed at the site of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima in 1945.
Back home in Italy, the pope sought to rally Italian Catholics to support a tightening of the nation’s abortion law in a referendum on May 17-18. It was thought that the shooting of the pope just days before the referendum would induce a strong sympathy vote for his position. However, voters rejected by 68 to 32 percent a proposal that would have restricted abortions to cases in which the mother’s life or physical health was endangered. The vote was considered a major defeat for the Church.
In September, the pope released another encyclical, Laborem Exercens (On Human Work), in which he termed labor unions ‘an indispensable element’ of modern industrial society and a vehicle ‘for the struggle for social justice.’ The encyclical was originally scheduled for release on May 15, the 90th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s social encyclical, Rerum Novarum, but was delayed because of the pope’s shooting. The document did not contain specific references to the labor situation in his native Poland but was thought to have it in mind. It went beyond earlier social encyclicals of the Church in stressing the independence of labor unions and insisting upon ‘suitable working conditions’ for women.
Ironically, lay employees at the Vatican had agitated in March and April for higher wages and better fringe benefits. It was the first such labor protest in Vatican history. The pope met with a 39-member delegation representing about 1,500 workers and told them their demands were ‘just’ but that the Vatican was also facing ‘grave economic difficulties.’ The Vatican subsequently projected a $26 million deficit for 1981.
On September 29, the pope named Bishop Paul C. Marcinkus, a native of Cicero, Ill., chief administrator of the Vatican. Marcinkus, who was made an archbishop, had been head of the Vatican bank, the Institutes for the Works of Religion, since 1971.
In October, the pope appointed Father Paolo Dezza, a conservative theologian, as temporary director of the Society of Jesus after Father Pedro Arrupe, the Jesuit leader, suffered a stroke and was unable to resume his duties. John Paul’s move, which delayed Jesuit election of a new leader, was seen as an attempt to strengthen papal control over the order.
Events in Poland attracted considerable attention, one being the death on May 28 of Stefan Cardinal Wyszy?ski, 79, primate of Poland and archbishop of Warsaw and Gniezno. Wyszy?ski had guided the Polish Church from outright opposition to the Communist government during Stalinist times to peaceful coexistence in the years after. Throughout the political and economic turmoil that began with the strikes on the Baltic coast in August 1980, he supported workers’ rights while preaching moderation.
So large was Wyszy?ski’s presence, in fact, that many worried about the fate of Catholic interests and influence in Poland after his death. There was no immediate cause for concern, however. The government declared a period of national mourning and welcomed Wyszy?ski’s successor, Bishop Jozef Glemp, 52, of Warmia. Later in the year, Glemp met with labor leader Lech Walesa and party leader Wojciech Jaruzelski to discuss possible formation of a consultative body, which was to include representatives of Church, labor, and other nonparty groups.
The Far East.
Rapprochement with China took a step forward in June when Pope John Paul named Monsignor Dominic Tang Yiming as archbishop of Canton. Tang was the first archbishop appointed in China since 1955. The move spurred talk about a resumption of Vatican-Chinese diplomatic relations, severed in 1949. Enthusiasm was checked a month later, however, when Chinese prelates elevated five new bishops without authorization by the Vatican.
In June, Jaime Cardinal Sin of Manila accused Philippine President Marcos of mounting a ‘deliberate, finely orchestrated campaign’ to stifle religious freedom and said government attempts to discredit him were similar to the tactics used by the Nazis when they were rising to power in Germany. Press releases from Marcos’s office had accused the cardinal of ‘political agitation.’ Earlier, 13 persons were killed and 177 injured when a terrorist grenade exploded at Easter mass in the cathedral at Davao. Authorities blamed the Communist New People’s Army.
Western Europe.
In February a Jewish convert to Christianity was named archbishop of Paris. Bishop Jean-Marie Lustiger, 54, of Orléans succeeded François Cardinal Marty, 76, who retired. Lustiger, born in Paris of Polish immigrant parents, took refuge with a Catholic family when his parents were deported to concentration camps during the Nazi occupation. (His mother subsequently died at Auschwitz.) Converted to Catholicism at the age of 15, he is the first member of the French hierarchy in history who was not born a Christian.
In Spain, passage on June 22 of a law permitting divorce for the first time in more than 40 years brought expressions of regret from the Vatican and a warning to Catholics from the Spanish bishops that they cannot in conscience use the new law. Catholics comprise 99 percent of the nation’s population.
The Vatican issued a reminder in March that church law still excommunicates Catholics who join Masonic lodges and other organizations said to be actively anti-Catholic. In May the Italian government fell because of a scandal involving the membership of hundreds of prominent officials in a Masonic lodge.
United States.
Excluding women from full participation is a ‘serious matter’ that may be alienating women from the Church, a joint committee of American bishops and representatives of the Women’s Ordination Conference agreed in June. However, there was no agreement on how the exclusion of women from the priesthood could be eliminated. The two groups nonetheless expressed their intention to continue their talks.
Bishop Bernard Law of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., was named in March to take charge of petitions from Episcopal clergy seeking admission to the Roman Catholic Church. Most of these priests left their church in protest against modernizing trends, such as the ordination of women. Some of them are married and will be allowed to function as married priests in the Roman Catholic Church. The issue has strained Catholic-Episcopal relations since it became public in August 1980.
In June, U.S. bishops announced plans to expand family-planning services to Catholics through the integration of natural family planning into diocesan structures embracing educational, health-care delivery, and social-service components. The program is innovative but does not vary from the traditional Catholic position against all forms of artificial birth control. In November, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops endorsed a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress and individual states to adopt laws banning abortion. The bishops indicated they were backing this proposal as more ‘achievable’ than an amendment that would itself ban abortions.
In September the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that John Cardinal Cody of Chicago was under investigation by a federal grand jury for alleged ‘improper diversion’ of church funds. The diversion was said to involve as much as $1 million and to have benefited primarily Cody’s stepcousin, Helen Dolan Wilson. Cody said he was ‘falsely accused’ and suggested that the charges were really ‘an accusation against the church.’ The unprecedented federal probe into diocesan financial affairs disturbed some U.S. religious leaders, who felt the government had overstepped the traditional line of separation between church and state. Further controversy was generated in Catholic circles by published reports that Father Andrew Greeley, a Chicago diocesan priest and prominent sociologist and author, had encouraged a newspaper investigation of Cody as a means of deposing him. Greeley, who had for several years openly denounced the cardinal and called for his removal, denied contributing to the investigation but said that to have done so ‘would have been neither criminal nor immoral.’
In June the Nicaraguan Bishops Conference ordered four priests holding high offices in the Sandinista government to resign or face church sanctions for disobedience. The order, which enforced a Vatican restatement in 1980 of its ban against priests in politics, was resisted by the priests, three of whom were cabinet ministers and one the director of the Young Sandinistas. In July a compromise was reached whereby the priests could temporarily retain their posts as long as they ‘abstain in public and private from the exercise of their priestly ministry.’ The arrangement eased tensions that had sprung up between the government and the hierarchy over the order, which did not affect priests involved in government programs of education, economics, and land reform.
In a letter made public in May, the Jesuit superior general at that time, Father Pedro Arrupe, sent a reminder to Jesuit superiors in Latin America that although some elements of Marxist social analysis may be acceptable to Christians, the major principles of Marxism are anti-Christian. A controversy has continued for several years in Latin America over the uses of Marxist analysis in so-called liberation theology.
In June a band of Ugandan soldiers reportedly attacked a Catholic mission run by the Verona Fathers, killing about 60 unarmed civilians and wounding about 40, many of them young girls. Mission doctors were said to have treated a guerrilla leader several hours before the attack.
Archbishop Pio Laghi, nuncio to Argentina, was named apostolic delegate to the United States in December 1980, succeeding Archbishop Jean Jadot, who had been promoted to a Vatican congregation. In Detroit, Bishop Edmund Casimir Szoka of Gaylord, Mich., was named to the archbishopric left vacant by the resignation of John Cardinal Dearden.
Death claimed Dorothy Day, 83, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, on November 29, 1980, in New York; Egidio Cardinal Vagnozzi, 74, controversial apostolic delegate to the United States from 1958 to 1967, on December 26, 1980, in Rome; Barbara Ward, 67, prominent British economist and adviser to the Vatican, on May 31 in Lodsworth, England; and Maryknoll Bishop James E. Walsh, 90, from 1958 to 1970 a prisoner in Communist Chinese jails for alleged counterrevolutionary activities, on July 29 in Ossining, N.Y.
In March, Maurice Cardinal Roy retired as archbishop of Quebec and primate of Canada. He was succeeded by his auxiliary, Bishop Louis-Albert Vachon.

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