- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2014

The number of Catholic sisters in America has dropped by more than 70 percent over the last half-century, according to a recent study.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University found that the number of nuns has dropped to just under 49,000 women, compared to 181,000 in 1965, the peak year for women serving the Church.

“There are about as many women religious in the United States now as there were a hundred years ago,” the study found. “An investigation of these institutes reveals that these sharp declines in membership occurred shortly after the Second Vatican Council (1962—1965), which coincided with a period of turmoil and rapid social change in the United States.”

Some groups of nuns were able to use the council as a way to renew their work, while for others, “debates ensued which caused irreconcilable divisions.”

“Some sisters responded to these divisions by breaking from their institute in order to found new religious institutes,” the report said, “while others sought dispensation from their vows altogether.”

Chickpeace

D.C. area lunchers got a side of advocacy with their meals Tuesday, when members of the Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum (GWMJF) made their way through the city in support of religious tolerance.

Chanting “spread hummus not hate,” the group traveled by bus from the University of Maryland to the District and Virginia, the Religion News Service reported.

The one-day campaign, the news service reported, was started as a way to fight back against the anti-Islam advertisements that recently popped up on the sides of city buses in the District and in New York City.

The forum was established under the national Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and foundation program director Walter Ruby told the news service that the goal of the local campaign is “to teach Muslims and Jews about each other’s faith so they could come to each other’s defense when incidents of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia erupt in greater Washington, D.C.”

For more information go to facebook.com/gwmjf

Pro for con

A California atheist was awarded $2 million after winning a six-year fight for his freedom from religion.

Barry A. Hazle Jr., 46, of Shasta County, sued the California Department of Corrections and WestCare California Inc., after he lost his parole for complaining about having to attend a drug treatment program that required participants to “acknowledge a higher power,” the Sacramento Bee reported. About half of Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 steps contain some reference to God in their original formulation, and such wordings have found their way into similar drug-related 12-step programs.

Mr. Hazle was sent back to prison for several months because he did not cooperate.

Shortly after his lawsuit was filed, the corrections department announced that parolees could not be forced to participate in “religious-themed programs,” and instead be sent to a nonreligious program, the Bee reported,

In an interview with the Bee this week, Mr. Hazle’s attorney John Heller said the settlement sets an important precedent.

“It made clear that a loss of liberty entitles a person to compensatory damages as a matter of right,” Mr. Heller said. “It tells others that they have this right, and it informs authorities what they can expect if that right is violated. That might keep things like this from happening in the future.”

Bad rabbi

A rabbi at a well-known D.C. synagogue was arrested this week on charges of voyeurism.

Rabbi Barry Freundel, 62, has pleaded not guilty to the charges that he used what looked like a digital clock to film a private ritual bathing area at Kesher Israel in Georgetown.

Police say they found footage of six women in a state of undress on two dates this year, and investigators said there could be many more victims, including children, on the tape.

In a statement posted to the Kesher Israel website, leaders called the news “a painful moment” and that Mr. Freundel had been suspended without pay.

“At this challenging time, we draw strength from our faith, our tradition, and our fellow congregant,” the statement said.

Mr. Freundel was released on bail. He’s set to appear in court against next month.

Meredith Somers covers religion and faith issues for The Washington Times.

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