Bishops and Pastors

Rate Better Than Pope

A new Zogby International poll shows support for American Catholic bishops is rebounding.

Nearly two-thirds of American Catholics polled -- 64 percent -- agreed that the bishops are doing a good job. The approval rate was at its highest, at 83 percent, in fall 2001, just before the clergy sex abuse scandal emerged. Approval for bishops dropped to its lowest, 57 percent, in fall 2004.

"It looks to me as if it's leveling off, but it's nowhere [near] where it was in 2001," said Mary MacDonald, a religious studies professor working on the Contemporary Catholic Trends survey at Le Moyne College, the Catholic school in Syracuse, N.Y., that commissioned it.

"The sex abuse scandal was just a big shock to people," MacDonald said. "It's not surprising that the ranking of the bishops fell off. Now people perhaps feel some corrective actions have been taken and things are a little better."

Le Moyne and Zogby released the findings of the 2005 survey at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops annual meeting in Washington last week.

The survey found that 89 percent of American Catholics agree that their pastors are doing a good job leading the Catholic Church. The new pope, Benedict XVI, got a lower approval rating, with 75 percent agreeing that he is doing a good job leading the church.

-- Religion News Service

Irish Catholic Named

As British Ambassador

Britain has appointed a new ambassador to the Vatican, naming the first Catholic to the post since Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534.

The appointment of Francis Campbell, 35, on Tuesday also makes him the youngest ambassador in the British diplomatic corps and the first Irish Catholic to become a British ambassador since the Republic was granted independence in 1921. Sir Roger Casement, the last British ambassador of Irish origin, was found guilty of treason and hanged in 1917.

Britain and the Vatican partially restored relations in 1914, mending ties that had been severed 380 years earlier.

According to a statement released by the Archdiocese of Westminster, Protestants have held the post of ambassador to the Holy See, with a Catholic serving as deputy, since Britain established full diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1982.

Campbell's appointment fills a position that had been vacant for months, stirring speculation that Britain's interest in the Vatican was flagging. At one point, the vacant post was advertised in British newspapers -- an unusual form of recruitment for an ambassadorship.

-- Religion News Service

Shiite Muslims in U.S.

Stay Silent on Problems

A new survey shows that Shiite Muslims in the United States are unlikely to report anti-Muslim hate crimes or other forms of discrimination.

Nearly 80 percent of American Shiites who were victims of "post 9-11 discrimination" reported the incidents either to family members or no one, according to the nationwide survey. The survey was sponsored by the Qunoot Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit group that released its findings Nov. 12 at a conference.

The survey found that few American Shiite victims reported such incidents to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national advocacy group that seeks to represent all American Muslims.

While there are an estimated 6 million Muslims in the United States, no one knows how many of them are Shiite. Worldwide, Shiites account for 10 percent to 15 percent of the Muslim population.

The survey also reported that 47 percent of American Shiites said they experienced overt or subtle forms of discrimination when attending Sunni-dominated mosques.

Conference participants -- mostly American Shiites in their twenties and thirties -- debated vigorously about whether to form their own national advocacy organizations or to try to make existing, Sunni-dominated ones, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, more responsive to their needs.

-- Religion News Service