Younger U.S. Nuns Voice Concerns

A national conference was held last month to air the concerns of a tiny religious minority: U.S. nuns younger than 50.

Only 5 percent of Roman Catholic nuns nationwide are in that age group, reflecting the steady decline in the number of women entering religious orders over the past four decades. The majority of nuns are older than 70.

About 125 nuns met in Cleveland for four days to exchange ideas and perspectives, according to Religion News Service. The event was organized by Giving Voice, a six-year-old support group.

Among the problems they cited were the emotional toll of seeing so many of their older colleagues suffering from illness; the lack of co-workers who understand the younger generation's life experiences and theological influences; and a crisis in religious retirement funding that is forcing orders to sell properties.

The number of nuns nationwide has dropped from 180,000 to 70,000 since 1965.

Muslims to Shun Spousal Abusers

A Muslim clergy council in Philadelphia has adopted a policy of publicly shunning Muslims who abuse their spouses or abandon their families. Their names will go on a list circulated among area Muslims, and Muslims will be discouraged from patronizing any businesses that the offenders own, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In coming months, the council -- known as the Majlis Ash'Shura of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley -- will develop guidelines for putting the policy into effect, including: the criteria for putting names on the list; the safeguards to protect spouses who step forward; and procedures under which an offending spouse can reform and be accepted back into the community.

The Rev. Marie Fortune of the FaithTrust Institute in Seattle, a leading domestic-violence policy center, told the Inquirer that she knew of no other religious community in the country that had "so specific and rigorous" a policy.

Experts have said domestic violence does not appear to be more prevalent in Muslim communities than elsewhere. But it remains a largely taboo subject within Muslim families, said Maha Alkhateeb, project manager of the Peaceful Families Project, a Virginia-based nonprofit group that studies spousal abuse among Muslims.

New Biblical Art Museum in N.Y.

New York has a new museum -- one devoted to religious art. The 2,700-square-foot Museum of Biblical Art opened in May with an exhibit on the evangelical Christian roots of modern-day folk art in the South.

Although the museum is funded by the American Bible Society and is inside the society's headquarters at Broadway and 61st Street, it was launched as a separate financial entity and does not aim to proselytize, museum executive director Ena Heller said.

"We're an art museum. We're not about the history of the Bible or the history of translation," Heller told the Orlando Sentinel. "We're about art that was inspired by the Bible, and we're about the relationship between art and religion in the Jewish and Christian traditions."

Author Donates to Baptist Alliance

The Baptist World Alliance no longer receives funding from the Southern Baptist Convention, which decided last year to stop sending money to the global organization because of a perceived "leftward drift." But the alliance last month got an unexpected celebrity endorsement: a $25,000 check from author Rick Warren.

Warren, who wrote the bestseller "The Purpose Driven Life," told a news conference that he did not agree with the action taken by his denomination.

"I think it was a mistake," Warren said, according to Religion News Service. "When the Southern Baptists pulled out funding, my wife and I wrote a check for $25,000 to BWA."


This month's spotlight: Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin

Date: Aug. 15

Description: Roman Catholics believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken body and soul into heaven, just like her Son. Early Christian writings and belief widely held that Mary was assumed into heaven when she died. In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared that her Assumption was a mandatory dogma of belief for Catholics. That was the last infallible papal declaration. The feast day is a day of obligation for Catholics, meaning that attendance at Mass is required.

Religion 101

What is the reason for the Jewish prohibition on mixing dairy and meat products?

The prohibition is inspired by language in the Torah, the first five books of Jewish Scripture, that instructs Israelites not to "boil a kid [goat] in its mother's milk." Although no explicit reason for that is given in the Torah, many Jews see the ban as a reminder of the importance of showing compassion. The ban is a fundamental aspect of kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws regulating food preparation and eating.

Compiled from reports by staff writer Caryle Murphy and news services.