Crisis Update

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops surveyed 1,000 U.S. voters, asking: “Would you support a law which would prohibit partial-birth abortion, except to save the mother’s life?” 57 percent responded with a “strong” yes, and 14 percent a “somewhat” yes. 13 percent were unsure, and only 16 percent said no. The NCCB also commissioned a survey on general attitudes about abortion, discovering that 11 percent would ban abortion in all circumstances, 15 percent would allow it only when the mother’s life was threatened, and 26 percent would allow abortions in cases of incest or rape. 23 percent would allow all abortions, but only during the first three months of pregnancy, with another 7 percent forbidding abortion after six months of pregnancy. Only 13 percent would keep abortion legal for any reason throughout pregnancy—only 13 percent, that is, would be in agreement with current U.S. law.

Italian writer Umberto Eco, author of, among other works The Name of the Rose, recently weighed in on the denominational implications of choosing your personal computer. As reported in the Ecumenical News International, Eco stressed, “I am firmly convinced that the Macintosh is Catholic and the DOS is Protestant.” The Mac, Eco explained, is “cheerful, friendly and conciliatory”—a true product of the counterreformation—and tells the faithful “how they must proceed step by step to reach—if not the kingdom of heaven—at least that moment when their document is printed.” Further, Eco noted, it is a “catechistic” system, where revelation is dealt with by simple icons, and everyone has a right to salvation. DOS, however, is “Protestant, or even Calvinistic,” skeptical that all can achieve salvation. With DOS, “the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.” Windows (the graphic program that runs on DOS computers) is, in turn, Anglican, with “big ceremonies in the cathedral but always the possibility of a return to DOS.” Some thoughts to ponder before investing in an upgrade.

After four decades of decline, the rate of suicide among elderly Americans has risen sharply from 1980-1992, reaching a peak of 21.8 suicides per 100,000 in 1987, before dipping a bit to 19.1 in 1992. The latter figure still remains the highest rate of any age group, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and marks a 9 percent increase over twelve years. The period covered gave birth to the “right to die” movement as well as celebrity to Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his assisted suicides. Both phenomena have made suicide more socially acceptable and increased already existing pressures on the elderly.

The Vatican may send two fifteenth century heretics on the road to sainthood in time for the third millennium. Girolamo Savonarola, the Dominican spiritual ruler of Florence, burned at the stake by Pope Alexander the VI in 1498 for being a false prophet, and Jan Hus, also burned at the stake (in 1415), the Czech religious reformer partially rehabilitated by John Paul II six years ago, are both being considered for beatification. The Church’s reconsideration of these two well-known religious figures is based on its desire for self-criticism as the new millennium approaches, reports Tertium Millennium, the official organ of the Vatican’s Jubilee 2000’s historical-theological committee.

Stanley Greenberg, the well-known presidential pollster, is convinced that Catholics will determine the outcome of the 1996 presidential race. Catholics, who make up approximately a quarter of the electorate, are “floating” voters and will arbitrate “which party represents working, middle-class life, from their work lives to their religious lives,” Greenberg told the Chicago Tribune. A poll conducted by Greenberg’s firm indicated 27 percent of Catholics list themselves as Democrats and 22 percent as Republicans, with 24 percent describing themselves as independents and 27 percent refusing to answer. The dramatic shift of Catholics (as reported in these pages and elsewhere), Greenberg feels, has been the principal reason Democrats are no longer the majority party.

Toronto will host the Second Pan-American Conference on Family and Education from May 26-30, 1996. The conference’s theme is “Building the Civilization of Love.” The conference will feature speakers familiar to Crisis readers, including Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Sim Johnston, Paul Vitz, and John Haas. Topics will include “The Media, the Family, and the Civilization of Love.” For more information, call: 416-449-2891.

The Heritage Foundation’s Patrick F. Fagan, William H. G. Fitzgerald Fellow, has authored a remarkable monograph as part of the research institute’s “Cultural Policy Studies Project.” Marshaling an impressive array of empirical evidence, Fagan arrives at a Tocquevillian destination: “Regular religious practice is both an individual and social good. It is a powerful answer to many of our most significant social problems, some of which, including out-of-wedlock births, have reached catastrophic proportions. Furthermore, it is available to all, and at no cost.” The study, replete with every imaginable piece of sociological data concerning American religious practice, is available from Heritage: 202-546-4400.


  • Brian C. Anderson

    Brian C. Anderson is a writer and Senior Editor of City Journal, a quarterly magazine, published by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. He served as literary editor of Crisis during most of the 1990s.

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