Austria: The rise of Joerg Haider’s far-right Freedom Party in Austria can be explained in part by his ability to “play on the fears of Austrians,” says Robert Wegs , professor of history and director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at Notre Dame. Located next to the former Yugoslavia, Austria has had to absorb many immigrants – some 400,000 in a country of less than 8 million, Wegs points out. “Over the past several years, resentment has built up among all but a few Austrians about this influx,” he says. “So while one can understand the resentment among Austrians, one cannot understand Haider’s attempt to gain political advantage from it. His statements concerning the Waffen SS and Nazi labor policy have been troubling. Although he later disavowed them, they were followed with further angry, undiplomatic statements directed at other European leaders. Also, his disavowal does not mean that he might not revert to a similar position later if his party were to gain sufficient strength for him to become chancellor.” *Professor Wegs can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-6470 or email@example.com .
- p. Survey of priests I: A Kansas City Star survey that indicates the death rate of Catholic priests from AIDS is at least four times that of the general population is troubling in that “a significant number of AIDS victims among the priestly ranks implies an equally significant frequency of homosexual activity,” says R. Scott Appleby , professor of history and director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame. The church is largely silent on the issue, in part because it finds no sin or fault in homosexual orientation, Appleby says. But he adds that the disproportionate numbers of AIDS victims is another “less sound” reason for the silence, because “to acknowledge that they are also (inevitably) sinners ? and sometimes quite colorful ones ? is not a threshold frequently crossed.” *Professor Appleby can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-5441 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
- p. Survey of priests II: The Kansas City Star report asserting that AIDS-related deaths among Catholic priests are four times more frequent than among the general population unfairly suggests that the Catholic Church is “somehow at fault for this sad state of affairs because it forbids homosexual activity,” according to Ralph McInerny , Michael P. Grace Professor of Medieval Studies and director of the Jacques Maritain Center at Notre Dame. According to McInerny, the tragedy is neither the result of hierarchical denial nor of doctrinal rigidity, but of “the rebellion among academic theologians that has characterized the post-Vatican II era.” In a recent article on the Beliefnet website, McInerny argues that many Catholic theologians during the mid-1960s “were urging the church to sign onto the sexual revolution that secular society embraced” while Catholic doctrine “remained ? and remains ? unchanged and increasingly counter-cultural.” Of the priests now dying of AIDS, McInerny says that they “are perishing not because of the church’s doctrines on sexuality (which, had they been followed, might have saved their lives), but because a generation of theologians charged with teaching them those doctrines led them profoundly and tragically astray.” *Professor McInerny’s article may be found on the World Wide Web at http://beliefnet.com/story/9/story_919_1.html . He can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-5825 or McInerny.email@example.com .
- p. T-rex auction: The online auction of a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ? with bidding to begin at $5.8 million ? will only encourage poachers, unskilled amateurs and unscrupulous traders to enter a field that requires the utmost scientific care, Notre Dame paleontologist J. Keith Rigby, Jr. , told the South Bend Tribune. “The more of these commercial interests that get involved in dinosaur pieces … the more difficult it’s going to become to actually preserve North America’s heritage, which is probably the best in the world in terms of dinosaur research,” said Rigby, who is preparing for research and display a massive T. rex fossil he discovered in 1998 in Montana. The damage that can be caused by poachers and traders is the “kind of thing that puts the hair on the back of my neck straight up.” *Professor Rigby can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-6245 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
- p. Russia: Notre Dame political scientist Martha Merritt says of the March 26th presidential election in Russia: “Boris Yeltsin’s resignation was timed to allow him to do something the Soviet leaders never managed: select a successor. The intense manipulation of state-controlled media prior to the legislative elections in December led to electoral success for Yeltsin’s chosen party, and now acting President Vladimir Putin will try to exercise the same control. This is not democracy. Stage-managed elections, timed for incumbent advantage, do not allow the people a real choice.”
*Note: Professor Merritt will conduct a policy briefing in February for the State Department on the Russian presidential election and will be in Moscow for the election itself. She can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-7695 or at email@example.com .
- p. Valentine’s Day: Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Notre Dame Press has published “Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying,” edited by Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass, both faculty members of the University of Chicago. An anthology of 60 selections from a wide variety of sources, the book is intended to address the contemporary culture’s occluded understanding and diminished expectations of the love that leads to marriage. It includes marriage vows and blessings from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu traditions as well as readings from Homer, Herodotus, Plato, Erasmus, Shakespeare, Rousseau, Austen, Darwin, Tolstoy, Rainer Maria Rilke, C.S. Lewis, Miss Manners, and Robert Frost, from whose sonnet, “The Master Speed,” the anthology derives its title. According to the Kasses, “these deeply silvered mirrors bequeathed to us from the past (enable) us to see ourselves the way we truly are ? and could be” and are “useful not only for self-understanding but even for conducting his or her own courtship or for better educating our children toward the promises of marriage.” For more information, contact Julie Dudrick at Notre Dame Press at (219) 631-6346.
p. Home loans: New research by a University of Notre Dame sociologist suggests that the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may not be meeting their government mandate to “lead the mortgage finance industry in making credit available for low- and moderate-income families.” Richard Williams , associate professor and chair of sociology at Notre Dame, is one of 11 independent researchers nationwide who received funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to study the performance of the GSEs in serving the targeted markets of low-income and minority neighborhoods and families. The Williams study examined the effect of the GSEs, as well as the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and financial institution characteristics, on home mortgage lending to underserved markets in Indiana from 1992-96. *Professor Williams can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-6668 or firstname.lastname@example.org .