The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that Amish children are exempt from the state’s compulsory school attendance law because of their religious beliefs. Three Amish fathers refused to enroll their children in the public high school in New Glarus. The most important aspect of the court decision was that it was based on freedom of religion as provided for in the United States Constitution, rather than on state laws.
A survey by news magazine U.S. News & World Report indicates that United States churchwomen, while determined, are promoting their liberation cause quietly without the dramatic confrontations forced by female militant in other fields. Two bodies of the Lutheran Church voted in 1970 to permit ordination of women to the ministry. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church now ordains women as deacons, as do some Baptist churches. The Roman Catholic Church has granted women a greater part in the liturgy. But Dr. Cynthia Wedel, president of the National Council of Churches, says, “I have still to hear of a woman holding a permanent post as minister in a good-sized parish which could afford to hire a man.”
The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican department once known as the Inquisition, has now decreed that no man can be publicly condemned for heresy without a hearing. The department also ruled that any priest whose writings or opinions came under its scrutiny for possible doctrinal error would, in the future, be represented by somebody to state his case. The principal aim of the new ruling is to get an erring theologian to correct his errors himself, not to punish him.
German Catholics have responded to their bishops’ questionnaires indicating that 60.9 percent attend church each Sunday, with another 15.5 percent attending nearly every Sunday. To them, attending mass means “an encounter with God” and “a chance to draw new spiritual strength.” In another survey of 2,400 baptized Catholics in thirty-one parts of Rome, Jesuit sociologist Emil Pin and lay sociologist Cesure Cavallin found that 92.2 percent believed in the existence of God, 79.9 percent in the divinity of Christ, 53.7 percent in the existence of hell for unrepentant sinners, and 38.7 percent in papal infallibility.
The best-selling religious book is Good News for Modern Man, the American Bible Society’s translation of the New Testament into contemporary English. Since it was published on September 15, 1966, more than 25,000,000 paperback copies have been sold.
A proposal to do away with private confession by Roman Catholics except in cases of “grave” sin has been sent to that church’s bishops by Pope Paul VI. The recommendation would allow congregations to confess their sins jointly in a prayer of general confession. The priest would then give joint absolution to all who had confessed, allowing them to receive Holy Communion.