LifeSiteNews staff

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Study: Belief in Hell is associated with reduced crime

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff
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EUGENE, OR June 21, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Religions are thought to serve as bulwarks against unethical behaviors. However, when it comes to predicting criminal behavior, the specific religious beliefs one holds is the determining factor, says a University of Oregon psychologist.

The study, appearing in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, found that criminal activity is lower in societies where people’s religious beliefs contain a strong punitive component than in places where religious beliefs are more benevolent. A country where many more people believe in heaven than in hell, for example, is likely to have a much higher crime rate than one where these beliefs are about equal. The finding surfaced from a comprehensive analysis of 26 years of data involving 143,197 people in 67 countries.

“The key finding is that, controlling for each other, a nation’s rate of belief in hell predicts lower crime rates, but the nation’s rate of belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates, and these are strong effects,” said Azim F. Shariff, professor of psychology and director of the Culture and Morality Lab at the UO. “I think it’s an important clue about the differential effects of supernatural punishment and supernatural benevolence. The finding is consistent with controlled research we’ve done in the lab, but here shows a powerful ‘real world’ effect on something that really affects people—crime.”

Last year, in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, Shariff reported that undergraduate students were more likely to cheat when they believe in a forgiving God than a punishing God.

Religious belief generally has been viewed as “a monolithic construct,” Shariff said. “Once you split religion into different constructs, you begin to see different relationships. In this study, we found two differences that go in opposite directions. If you look at overall religious belief, these separate directions are washed out and you don’t see anything. There’s no hint of a relationship.”

The new findings, he added, fit into a growing body of evidence that supernatural punishment had emerged as a very effective cultural innovation to get people to act more ethically with each other. In 2003, he said, Harvard University researchers Robert J. Barro and Rachel M. McCleary had found that gross domestic product was higher in developed countries when people believed in hell more than they did in heaven.

“Supernatural punishment across nations seems to predict lower crime rates,” Shariff said. “At this stage, we can only speculate about mechanisms, but it’s possible that people who don’t believe in the possibility of punishment in the afterlife feel like they can get away with unethical behavior. There is less of a divine deterrent.”
He added, however, that these are correlational data, and so caution should be taken with the conclusions. Though Shariff and study co-author Mijke Rhemtulla of the Center for Research Methods and Data Analysis at the University of Kansas tried to account for obvious alternative explanations, more research is needed to explore other interpretations for the findings.

The data for belief in hell and heaven, belief in God and religious attendance were culled from World Values and European Values surveys done across various time periods between 1981 and 2007. Crime data were pulled from United Nations records on homicide, robbery, rape, kidnapping, assault, theft, drug-related crimes, auto theft, burglary and human trafficking. Other factors accounted for included such things as nations’ dominant religion (Roman Catholic, other Christian and Muslim), income inequality, life expectancy and incarceration rate.

“This research provides new insights into the potential influences of cultural and religious beliefs on key outcomes at a societal level,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation. “Although these findings may be controversial, dissecting the associations between specific belief systems and epidemiologic behaviors is an important first step for social scientists to disentangle the complex web of factors that motivate human behavior.”

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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Wendy Davis facing trouble in Democratic stronghold over radical abortion stance

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By Dustin Siggins

State Senator Wendy Davis' outspoken support for late-term abortion made her a national figure, but it may have so turned off Hispanic voters that it could cost her, and her party, the votes of a Democratic-stronghold.

According to The Texas Tribune, Davis has a tremendous advantage in the Rio Grande Valley, a strongly Hispanic part of the state. Hidalgo County has not elected a Republican to a countywide post in "the modern era," the paper noted.

But her Republican challenger, Attorney General Greg Abbott, is looking to change that, targeting the area and the Hispanic vote with a new ad campaign.

According to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-TX, pro-life Democrats will find it more difficult to vote for Davis because of her abortion position. And the region, which is very Catholic, tends to send pro-life Democrats to the polls.

Even as Davis faces risks among Hispanic Catholics, Abbott is making a major push to the minority population, which is expected to become a plurality of the state's population by 2020. Abbott has launched ads in Spanish, and spoken about how his wife will be the first Hispanic First Lady of Texas. He has also brought volunteers in for a ground campaign in the Rio Grande Valley, reminiscent of the 1998 George W. Bush gubernatorial campaign.

Bush was considered a popular Republican among Hispanics, winning 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2004 president re-election campaign. While Abbott has a 12 to 13-point advantage in many polls over Davis, and an enormous financial advantage, his efforts are seen as looking to the GOP's future in Texas.

Davis, meanwhile, has struggled with all voting blocs. She is losing to opponent Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott by 12 to 13 points -- including women, according to an April 2014 poll. Democrats have largely written off the race, especially with control of the U.S. Senate taking up enormous media and financial resources.

Since her filibuster, Davis has attempted to walk a tightrope on her abortion position in order to win more moderate voters. She has called herself "pro-life" because of her support for certain education policies, and indicated that she supports limitations on abortions done after the first trimester. However, she has also recently published a book describing how she aborted a child in 1997 to prevent the child from "suffering."

That claim has drawn enormous media coverage for Davis, who was in New York for a book signing, was on the Rachel Maddow show, and generally had her abortion claims widely covered in innumerable national media outlets.

The book has also brought new life to abortion's importance in the gubernatorial race. In the Davis-Abbott debate last week, the first between the candidates, Davis indicated she supported no restrictions on abortion. She was asked "What do you see as fair regulations on abortion?"
Davis responded that she has "always believed that women should be able to make this most personal and difficult of decisions themselves, guided by their faith and their family and with their doctor."
"I stood on the Senate floor for 13 hours to ensure that this most private of decisions could be made by women," Davis said, before attacking Abbott for, among other things, allegedly opposing abortion in cases of "brutal rape" and incest.

At no point did Davis indicate support for any "regulations on abortion."

In his response, Abbott said that he is "pro-life" and Catholic. He said that "all life is sacred," and said that "Texas is ensuring that we protect more life and do a better job of protecting the health care of women by providing that women still have five months to make a very difficult decision, but after that time the state has an interest in protecting innocent life."

When asked by Houston-area TV station KHOU whether he would sign a bill that would ban abortions for reasons of rape and incest, however, Abbott did not answer the question. Instead, he described his support for the lives of the unborn and women, and his support for HB2.

HB2 is the legislation that Davis filibustered last year.

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Abbott faces his own difficulties -- he favors border enforcement and has made comments about corruption in the Rio Grande Valley. University of Texas-Pan American political scientist Jerry Polinard told the Tribune that he expects Davis to pull at least 55 percent of Democratic voters in Hidalgo, Texas – simply because "this is the bluest part of a red state." 

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Paul Huff, 66, and Tom Wojtowick, 73, were “married” in Seattle in May 2013. Wojtowick was an organist at the parish, while Paul sang in the choir. Video screenshot
Lisa Bourne

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Bishop stands by priest who removed ‘married’ homosexual couple from parish ministry

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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'This is not animus against someone who happens to be a homosexual; this issue is the same-sex marriage,' said Bishop Warfel.

A Montana bishop is standing by one of his priests after the priest told a homosexual couple in his parish that they cannot receive Communion or participate in Church ministry due to the fact that they have contracted a civil “marriage.”

Paul Huff, 66, and Tom Wojtowick, 73, have reportedly been together for more than 30 years and were “married” in Seattle in May 2013, according to the Associated Press.

The men told the local ABC-FOX affiliate that Father Samuel Spiering approached them shortly after beginning his assignment as administrator of St. Leo the Great and asked if the rumor he’d heard of them being “married” was true. When they affirmed it was, he asked if he could meet with them the following day.

Father Spiering informed them the next day that they have broken Cannon Law, and that they would not be able to receive communion or continue in ministry.

Canon 915 holds that those persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.

Both men sang in the choir and Wojtowick was an organist.

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The men agreed to write a restoration statement that, in part, would uphold the concept of marriage being between a man and a woman, during an August 25 conference call with Father Spiering, Bishop Warfel and other diocesan officials. They said they did not intend to challenge the Church’s concept of marriage with their union, rather they just wanted civil protection.

However, the statement also included a timeline for the two men to cease living together and divorce, which they would not agree to.

In an interview with the Billings Gazette last week Bishop Warfel said he knows Wojtowick and Huff “to be good people.”

“This is not animus against someone who happens to be a homosexual; this issue is the same-sex marriage,” Bishop Warfel said. “A lot of people put those two together, and obviously there’s a connection, but it’s not the same thing.”

After meeting with parishioners on Sunday, the bishop said that he would like to “effect healing” at the parish, but pointed out that he also has to uphold Catholic teaching.

The bishop also confirmed for ABC-FOX-Montana on Saturday that Huff and Wojtowick could not receive Communion.

While Bishop Warfel acknowledged growing support for homosexual “marriage” when speaking with the Billings Gazette, he said the fact remains that it stands in conflict with Catholic teachings.

“As a Catholic bishop I have a responsibility to uphold our teaching of marriage between one man and one woman,” said Bishop Warfel. “And I think there’s very solid scriptural teaching on it and our sacred tradition is very strong on it.”

Those teachings leave him little choice, he continued.

“Either I uphold what Catholic teachings are or, by ignoring it or permitting it, I’m saying I disagree with what I’m ordained to uphold,” the bishop said.

“Everyone is welcome to the journey of conversion,” said Bishop Warfel. “But there are certain convictions, beliefs or behaviors that are in direct contradiction to what we believe and teach, and this would be one of them.”

Father Spiering has declined to speak publicly and there has not been an official diocesan statement on the issue since the meeting at the parish on Saturday.
 

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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

New archbishops in Chicago and Madrid: Ratzingerians out, ‘inclusiveness’ in

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By Hilary White
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Chicago's Archbishop-elect, Blase Cupich

Pope Francis announced Saturday that he is appointing as archbishop of Chicago a prelate best known in pro-life circles as the man who ordered his priests in 2011 not to participate in local 40 Days for Life prayer vigils. The media and Church watchers describe him as “progressive,” “inclusive,” and “left-of-center.”

The appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich, current head of the Spokane diocese in Washington, to America’s third most prominent see – an appointment which Vatican watchers predicted would signal the pope’s priorities for the direction of the U.S. Church – has been widely praised by liberal Catholics and opponents of Church teaching but met with concern by many Catholic activists.

The archbishop-elect gave a sense of his approach to the U.S. “culture war” in an interview Sunday with Chicago’s CBS affiliate, in which he suggested he would be open to giving Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians and a person wearing a button in favour of same-sex “marriage.”

“As long as they’re in church, are willing to hear the word of God, be open to Christ’s call of conversion for each one of us, then I think that that’s sufficient for me,” he said. “We cannot politicize the Communion rail and I just don’t think that that works in the long run.”

Cupich will replace the ailing Cardinal Francis George, known in the US as a “Ratzingerian” for his strong defense of Catholic orthodoxy, particularly on issues of sexual morality, but who is suffering from cancer and is overdue for retirement at age 77. The archbishop of Chicago is also normally granted the “red hat” and made a cardinal, which would make Cupich eligible to vote in upcoming papal conclaves. Cupich is scheduled to be installed in Chicago November 18.

The Chicago appointment mirrors that of another outside the US in recent weeks. Rome announced August 28 that Carlos Osoro Sierra, 69, will be installed as the new archbishop of Madrid, Spain’s capital city and largest archdiocese. But the story in Madrid has less to do with the new appointee and more to do with the would-be appointee who was demoted.

Until just before the appointment, most Vatican watchers expected the prominent post to be given to 68-year-old Vatican Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, dubbed the “little Ratzinger” for his orthodoxy in line with Pope Benedict XVI.  When LifeSiteNews interviewed Cardinal Cañizares in 2009 at the time of his appointment as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, he noted that denying communion to pro-abortion politicians was a charitable act.

Leaving his Vatican post, he was considered a natural for the Madrid spot. But instead it went to the archbishop of Valencia, and Cañizares is to fill that vacancy instead.

The former archbishop of Valencia is known for his strong “liberal” leanings and he will be replacing Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 78, who, like Cañizares, is also known for following the lead of the retired Pope Benedict XVI.

El Pais wrote of the new appointee that Catholics of the Madrid archdiocese, accustomed to the “hieratic” Varela, will be seeing “an entirely different model.”

“Shortly after the announcement of his appointment, the most repeated words to define his figure were ‘dialogue’ and ‘moderation.’”

“During the 12 years he has been the head of the Catholic Church [in Madrid], Rouco Varela has too often mixed faith and politics, with an overdose of intransigence. Defending the (exclusively traditional) family and attacking laws that recognize the right of women to abortion are the main workhorses.”

Catholic News Agency’s Vatican-watcher, Andrea Gagliarducci, wrote that the appointment marks a “new course for Spain’s bishops.” He is described in the Spanish press as “affable,” “friendly,” and “extremely gregarious.” 

As for Cupich, David Gibson of Religion News Service described him as “a prelate closely identified with the Catholic Church’s progressive wing.”

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Vatican watcher Rocco Palmo, author of the “Whispers in the Loggia” blog, wrote that the appointment is “the most shocking major move the American hierarchy has seen in the last decade and a half.” Another Vatican veteran, John Allen Jr., wrote for the US Catholic online magazine Crux that Cupich so closely mirrors Pope Francis’ theology and style that he could be called the “American Pope Francis in Chicago.”

On his blog, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, known for his icy relations with the pro-life movement, shared his excitement over the “new breeze” brought by Cupich’s appointment. The bishop noted that Cupich “admires deeply the ecclesiology and vision” of leftist prelates such as former San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn and former Galveston-Houston Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.

The news of Cupich’s appointment was met with praise in the mainstream press. According to The New York Times Francis has “set the tone” for US appointments by “replacing a combative conservative with a prelate whose pastoral approach to upholding church doctrine is more in keeping with the pope’s inclusive tone.”

It has also been praised by dissident Catholic groups such as the homosexual activist group New Ways Ministries. Last year, the group issued a roundup of evaluations of the various leading members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops who were set to elect a new president. New Ways praised Cupich for his intervention in the 2012 debate leading up to a referendum on “gay marriage” in Washington State. Cupich’s only intervention was a pastoral letter in which he asked voters to uphold traditional marriage, but also called for a “more civil and honest conversation about Catholic positions on equality.”

“I also want to be very clear that in stating our position, the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility toward homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity,” Cupich wrote.

Cupich stood out from his fellow US bishops in his response to the abortion-funding Obamacare. Though he joined his other bishops in condemning the Obama administration’s mandate that Catholic employers cover abortifacients and contraceptives, he encouraged Catholic Charities in his diocese to act as an Obamacare navigator and help people sign up for coverage that could fund the destruction of unborn life.

He also condemned the line of other US bishops when they threatened to shut down Catholic social services. “These kind of scare tactics and worse-case scenario predictions are uncalled for,” Cupich wrote in a letter to diocesan employees. “I am confident we can find a way to move forward.”

Today the anti-Catholic organization Call to Action issued a press release saying they are “relieved” at the appointment. “At a time when numerous U.S. Bishops are choosing to fight ideological battles, Pope Francis’ selection of Cupich demonstrates a desire for a humbler, more pastoral church.”  

Call to Action, like New Ways Ministries, works to overturn Catholic doctrine, particularly on sexual matters, from within the Church, and has received the censure of the US bishops for their activities. They wrote, “The choice of Cupich shows promise for a church which can be closer to the people. Catholics in Chicago and beyond yearn for a faith rooted in the Gospel call of love and justice over rigid orthodoxy.”

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