The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
Archdiocese of Los Angeles Reaches
Largest Settlement in Abuse Cases
he Archdiocese of Los Angeles has reached a landmark $660 million settlement with 508 alleged victims of sexual abuse, the largest such payment thus far in the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal. The settlement was approved by a California judge on Monday (July 16) and follows an agreement by the archdiocese last December to pay $60 million to settle 45 abuse claims made against its clergy.
Collectively, the sex abuse scandal has cost the U.S. Catholic Church about $2 billion since 1950.
Archbishop of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony said funding for the settlement will be shared by the archdiocese, insurance companies, several religious orders, and other parties. The archdiocese is expected to pay $250 million of the total settlement, which Mahony said would require the selling of "nonessential properties," not parish properties or schools.
The settlement was reached on July 14, days before the start of a trial in which the cardinal was expected to be required to testify. Mahony said he had met "with many, many victims" individually. He became more determined to settle the cases as he listened to their stories. "I said, 'Your life I wish were like a VHS tape where we could put that in, press rewind, delete these years of misery and difficulty and start over when you were young and just before this happened,'" he said.
Ray Boucher, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the settlement "should bring closure and healing to the hundreds of victims, who have been waiting more than five years for this moment."
Mary Grant, Western regional director for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the settlement can be a "healthy validation" of victims but the church hierarchy should get no credit for it.
"Settlements in no way signify `reform' or `change' by church officials," said Grant, who is among the plaintiffs. "When bishops settle child sex abuse cases, it is almost always to spare themselves court appearances, tough questions, and the risk of perjury charges.'
Cut Farm Subsidies, Boost Food Stamps, Religious Leaders Say
A group of religious leaders met on Capitol Hill Tuesday to lobby for a Farm Bill that would improve the Food Stamp Program -- a change they described as the quickest way to reduce hunger in the U.S.
Bread for the World, a Christian anti-hunger organization, is leading Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, and other churches to push what they call "reform that reflects American values of fairness and equal opportunity."
Religious leaders have been visiting representatives and encouraging Christians to write letters to legislators--both in favor of food stamps, which now pay recipients an average $1 per meal, and in opposition to what they see as an expensive and unjust farm subsidy program.
"Our nation's farm policy needs to be guided by a strong moral compass," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, at a press conference. "An equitable system would not pour federal dollars into the largest farms in America without addressing the needs of those who need help the most."
According to Oxfam, an anti-hunger advocacy group working with Bread for the World, just 25 percent of farmers qualify for commodity subsidies. Among those who do qualify, Oxfam said, only 10 percent receive 72 percent of the benefits.
The group also argued that these commodity payments distort the global market and have destructive repercussions abroad. Low prices for subsidized American products make it more difficult for foreign
producers, such as cotton growers in sub-Saharan Africa, to compete in the global market.
"The House leadership must begin to address this bill from a moral perspective, which transcends the typical as-you-go-politics that have sustained U.S. agricultural policy," said Episcopal Bishop John Bryson Chane of Washington.
The current farm legislation has been in place since 2002, when it was adopted with a ten-year price tag of $190 billion.
Oregon Court Says Mormons Can't Hide Financial Worth
Oregon's top court has rejected the Mormon church's bid to shield detailed financial information about its net worth--a closely held secret for nearly half a century.
But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not immediately release the financial information to lawyers for a Portland-area man who claims he was molested by a church "home teacher" in the late 1980s.
"The church is considering its position," said Stephen F. English, the LDS church's lead Portland attorney. "The church respects the rule of law but has profound constitutional concerns based on its constitutional right to protect the free expression of its religion."
English said he would renew the church's legal arguments in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Kelly W.G. Clark, a Portland attorney whose client is suing the LDS church, said a jury should have the financial information before considering his request for $45 million in punitive damages.
"A jury needs to know the entire financial context to know whether a punitive award is too much or sufficient or not enough," Clark said.
A trial is scheduled for August 6.
The LDS church sought emergency relief from a trial court order to turn over the financial information, but the Oregon Supreme Court rejected the appeal late Monday. The pre-trial decision was reached on narrow pre-trial grounds and doesn't mean the court would not ultimately agree with the church's position that the Constitution protects its right to keep financial information private.
While the LDS church has not released financial information since 1959, a book claims it is among the most affluent churches in the world. Mormon America: The Power and the Promise estimated the church's net worth at between $25 billion to $30 billion in the late 1990s.
Richard N. Ostling, a former Time magazine religion writer and co-author of the book, said the church had about $6 billion on Wall Street and in church-controlled businesses and cash. It owned $5 billion in real estate. "The land owned by the church is roughly comparable to the state of Delaware," Ostling said. LDS church officials said his estimates were exaggerated but did not offer their own numbers, Ostling said. "The full financial facts are probably known to only 15 or 20 men in Salt Lake City," he said.
Poll Says Muslims, Evangelicals Closer Than Many Might Think
Muslim Americans and White evangelicals find themselves on opposite sides of many issues, but have more in common than other religious groups when it comes to religious fervor, scriptural literalism, and social morality, according to a new report.
The report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that U.S. Muslims and evangelical Christians consistently scored closer than other groups, including Black Protestants, mainline Protestants, and Catholics.
On the question of religious versus national identity, 47 percent of Muslims saw themselves as Muslims first and Americans second, while 62 percent of evangelicals said they were Christians first and Americans second. Similar scores were 55 percent for black Protestants, 31 percent for Catholics and 22 percent for mainline Protestants.
While Black Protestants rated the highest (87 percent) when saying religion is "very important" in their lives, evangelicals came in at 80 percent and Muslims at 72 percent. Findings were significantly lower for Catholics (49 percent) and mainline Protestants (36 percent).
There was similar agreement on whether the Quran (for Muslims) and the Bible (for Christians) were the literal word of God: Half of Muslims and two-thirds of evangelicals and Black Protestants agreed, compared to one-quarter or less of both Catholics and mainline Protestants.
Muslims and evangelicals scored the closest--and highest--when asked whether homosexuality should be discouraged as a way of life. About six in 10 Muslims and evangelicals agreed, while less than half of other Christian groups did, with white Catholics the lowest, at 27 percent.
Politics was the one glaring difference between Muslims and evangelicals: about 60 percent of Muslims said they are Democrats or lean Democratic, while a similar number (57 percent) of evangelicals said they were Republicans.
"American Muslims, like many people of faith, seek improvements in family values and would like to see society encourage morality, not impose it," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C.