Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nonprofits in California

A most important feature of American culture is the vast proliferation of nonprofit organizations—those largely volunteer associations that take on one issue or another, beyond and often more effectively than government can, and California, as this report from the Wall Street Journal notes, is not respecting that role.

Nonprofits are built into the fabric of our society since the beginning and represent much of what America is about.

Count Alexis De Tocqueville came to America in the early 1800’s, met with many of the founders and wrote one of the most perceptive books ever written about America.

Here is but a small part of what he said about nonprofit organizations.

“Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fetes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools. Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an association in the United States.

“I have since traveled through England, from which the Americans took some of their laws and many of their usages, and it appeared to me that there they were very far from making as constant and as skilled a use of association.

“It often happens that the English execute very great things in isolation, whereas there is scarcely an undertaking so small that Americans do not unite for it. It is evident that the former consider association as a powerful means of action; but the latter seem to see in it the sole means they have of acting.

“Thus the most democratic country on earth is found to be, above all, the one where men in our day have most perfected the art of pursuing the object of their common desires in common and have applied this new science to the most objects. Does this result from an accident or could it be that there in fact exists a necessary relation between associations and equality?

(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 2000 translation by H. C. Mansfield and D. Winthrop. pp. 489-490, highlighting added)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Prisoner Reentry

This is one of the most serious social problems our country faces today, as over 7 million people are under some form of criminal justice supervision, over 2 million are in prison, and 650,000 are released from prison annually, with approximately 70% of them returning to crime and prison.

The social reentry process has been a failure for generations, being a large contributor to existing crime rates, and public leadership still struggles to find some effective way to deal with it.

The solution the LampStand Foundation has developed to address this is to look for leadership from the 30% of those who have managed to reform their lives and want to help other criminals reform theirs, and inspire them to seek graduate education, professional training, and deep study of the social teaching of the Catholic Church, which is a significant tool that can be used for the transformation of criminals.

Just as it is true that it often takes a thief to catch a thief, it might also be true that it takes a reformed criminal to reform criminals.

The new prisoner reentry website developed by the White House Faith Based Initiative is a wealth of information.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Secretary Condoleezza Rice

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is easily the most accomplished person to hold that august position in my lifetime and it is a distinct pleasure to recommend to you her recent essay—perhaps her final one of this breadth as Secretary of State—on the state of the world from her unique vantage point, from Foreign Affairs magazine.

An excerpt.

“We have dealt with the world as it is, but we have never accepted that we are powerless to change the world. Indeed, we have shown that by marrying American power and American values, we could help friends and allies expand the boundaries of what most thought realistic at the time.

“How to describe this disposition of ours? It is realism, of a sort. But it is more than that -- what I have called our uniquely American realism. This makes us an incredibly impatient nation. We live in the future, not the past. We do not linger over our own history. This has led our nation to make mistakes in the past, and we will surely make more in the future. Still, it is our impatience to improve less-than-ideal situations and to accelerate the pace of change that leads to our most enduring achievements, at home and abroad.

“At the same time, ironically, our uniquely American realism also makes us deeply patient. We understand how long and trying the course of democracy is. We acknowledge our birth defect, a constitution founded on a compromise that reduced my ancestors each to three-fifths of a man. Yet we are healing old wounds and living as one American people, and this shapes our engagement with the world. We support democracy not because we think ourselves perfect but because we know ourselves to be deeply imperfect. This gives us reason to be humble in our own endeavors and patient with the endeavors of others. We know that today's headlines are rarely the same as history's judgments.

“An international order that reflects our values is the best guarantee of our enduring national interest, and America continues to have a unique opportunity to shape this outcome. Indeed, we already see glimpses of this better world. We see it in Kuwaiti women gaining the right to vote, in a provincial council meeting in Kirkuk, and in the improbable sight of the American president standing with democratically elected leaders in front of the flags of Afghanistan, Iraq, and the future state of Palestine. Shaping that world will be the work of a generation, but we have done such work before. And if we remain confident in the power of our values, we can succeed in such work again.”

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pope Benedict & Youth

A wonderful compilation from Chiesa of the talks Pope Benedict gave in Australia during World Youth Day, revealing his overarching inspiration to the youth of the world as they work out their Catholic faith.

An excerpt:

“On this page, …there is an anthology of the salient passages from the words spoken by Benedict XVI during his voyage.

“The selection made here inevitably sacrifices other selections that are no less important from the speeches and homilies of the pope. For example, it would be obligatory to reread in its entirety the catechesis on the Holy Spirit presented to the young people at the nighttime vigil on Saturday, July 19: and in doing so, one would understand why, in presenting it, "L'Osservatore Romano" called it "one of the most beautiful texts of the pontificate."

“But in any case, one unmistakable characteristic of Benedict XVI can be gathered from this anthology: his being a pope theologian. Who, like St. Augustine – quoted extensively during his visit to Australia – wants to preach to everyone, including the humble and the simple, the marvels of God, not dumbed down or watered down, but in their complete and sometimes difficult essentiality. And in their mysterious historical reverberations.”

Friday, July 25, 2008

Low Income Housing & Crime

While poverty does not cause crime, low income housing located within an area of higher income housing will create opportunities for street criminals—who usually do not have the inclination or wherewithal to travel out of the immediate environment to commit their crimes—to take advantage of, as criminals, especially street criminals, are opportunists.

From the facts given in this article, that is what is occurring in this Sacramento neighborhood.

An excerpt.

"Property crime in North Natomas has been on the rise, and it recently took a violent turn. In a three-week period in June, robbers pulled off 15 home invasions and 14 street holdups in North Natomas and neighboring South Natomas. Handguns were used in all the home invasions and most of the street robberies, police said.

"There have been no home invasions this month, but street robberies continue. A gunman tried to rob someone Wednesday night on Truxel Road, police said.

"By last week, police had arrested 12 people ranging from ages 15 to 20 for the robberies. Most live in North or South Natomas, said Police Capt. Dan Hahn.

"Some residents, looking for answers, have focused on affordable housing complexes. They say such a concentration of poverty creates a fertile environment for criminal activity.

"Being poor doesn't mean you're a criminal, but we all know there are many correlations between poverty and criminal behavior," said Angelique Ashby, president of the Creekside Neighborhood Association in North Natomas. "You can't have it overwhelm the community, which is what it's starting to do in Natomas."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Green Gods

A wonderful reflection on the intersect of education, learning, science, and God, from a Notre Dame’s professor….a wonderful read reminding us of the myth underlying green religion, that capitalistic man is the cause of all evil.

An excerpt.

“Fluctuations in temperature can be recorded and a certain rhythm discerned. Such charts are put forward as the simple record of what happened. But no longer. Natural explanations of the fluctuations are now taken to be insufficient. There is a frenzied myth which would make all this the result of human behavior, and that behavior must be changed! Only by human effort can our supposed control over the cosmic environment be reestablished, thus assuring our survival. Apocalyptic scenarios once were either fatalistic or providential; now they are great dramas in which human agents collectively bring about their own demise. Doubtless this is a carry-over from the days of that great clock ticking toward midnight and the horrified reminder that, by pushing a button, one man could reduce everything to the nothing from which it came.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Maltese Falcon

A review of a book about the wars between Christendom and Islam for control of the Mediterranean, the origin of the Maltese Falcon, and other very interesting things.

An excerpt.

“In "Empires of the Sea," Roger Crowley has taken as his subject the six decades from 1520 to 1580, the middle act -- and by far the most important -- of this tremendous drama. The act contains five main scenes. The first is set on the island of Rhodes in 1522, where for six months the Knights Hospitallers of St. John heroically resist the army of Mehmet's great-grandson, Süleyman the Magnificent, before their inevitable surrender.

“For the second scene, the spotlight moves to the Barbary Coast -- the strip of North Africa running between Tangier and Tunis. Piracy here had always been endemic, but after 1502, when Ferdinand and Isabella evicted all Muslims from Spain, it assumed the dimensions of a holy war. The climax of this war came in 1535, when Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor -- by now effectively the leader of Christendom -- personally led a naval expedition to Tunis against the most dangerous of the pirates, known in Europe as Barbarossa. The foray proved successful, up to a point; but Barbarossa escaped to continue the fight, and the Muslims had their revenge when they utterly destroyed a Spanish fleet off the coast of North Africa.

“After their departure from Rhodes, the Knights had wandered for seven years until, in 1530, Charles had given them the island of Malta, at a nominal annual rent of one falcon -- the famous Maltese Falcon. Malta provides the backdrop for scene three, which presents us with another siege, perhaps the greatest in Mediterranean history. It occurred in 1565, and the story has never been better told. Mr. Crowley has an astonishing gift for narration; his account is as exciting as any thriller. When we read of the arrival of the long-awaited fleet -- the "Gran Soccorso" -- from Spain we can hardly suppress a cheer. And when, a few pages later, what is left of Süleyman's once-great army drags itself back to the waiting ships we mop our brows with relief.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Arabia & Regensburg

Many months ago Pope Benedict gave a talk at Regensburg that set into motion—along with the brief anger it caused in the Muslim world—a series of talks between Muslim and Catholic theologians that continue to bear fruit and this recent event, reported on by Chisea might be another one.

An excerpt.

“In Madrid, from July 16-18, a conference is taking place on dialogue among religions – Islam, Judaism, and Christianity – with the decisive initiative of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the sovereign of Saudi Arabia and the custodian of the most sacred Muslim sites, the mosques of Mecca and Medina.

“King Abdullah had called for this encounter among the three religions at the end of the international Islamic conference held in Mecca last June 4-6. In Madrid, he was the one who opened the working sessions, which will be concluded with addresses by Abdullah bin Abdul Mohsin Al Turki, secretary general of the Muslim World League, and Cardinal Tauran.

“Before his departure, Tauran told "L'Osservatore Romano" that the objective of the conference is to offer the world an image of the three religions as religions of peace, "at the service of man, and not against man". This is especially true for Islam, which is generally associated with violence and terrorism, partly through the fault of many who practice it. "It can in fact happen," the cardinal added, "that as we witness this act of courage carried out with wisdom by the king of Saudi Arabia, in some mosques the talk may be of an entirely different kind."

Monday, July 21, 2008

World Youth Day

It has concluded in Australia—next WYD is in Madrid in 2011—and the Vatican News Service reports on the ending Mass.

An excerpt from Pope Benedict’s homily from the final Mass.

“Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects Him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the 'power' which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you?"

"Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith's rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God's gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished - not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of His love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.

"The world", he added, "needs this renewal! In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns in a desperate search for meaning, the ultimate meaning that only love can give?"

And this commentary on the final Mass, from Inside the Vatican News, is superb.

An excerpt.

“This year’s event was completely 21st century in the online nature of registrations and accreditation of other professionals, and before the event Cardinal Pell had launched, a way WYD pilgrims could socially interact with each other, to which thousands had signed up for in just a couple of weeks.

“The Stations of the Cross held through the streets of Sydney at some of its prominent landmarks, was for many the highlight of the six day event also drawing strong accolades in comparison to previous ones at other WYD’s.

“Today’s Mass began in a spectacular way with helicopter fly over by the Pope and then a motorcade in his Popemobile.

“This took place after 200,000 people slept the night out in the cold following the Evening Vigil at the racecourse.

“Pope Benedict preached in his homily a challenge to all the young people there, "What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up Space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom?...What difference will you make?"

“Later on he said to the youth to tremendous applause, "The Church especially needs the gift of young people, all young people. She needs to grow in the power of the Spirit who even now gives joy to your youth and inspires you to serve the Lord with gladness. Open your hearts to that power! I address this plea in a special way to those of you whom the Lord is calling to the priesthood and consecrated life. Do not be afraid to say "yes" to Jesus, to find your joy in doing his will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others!"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

America’s Founding

From May 25, to September 17, 1787 55 delegates, presided over by George Washington, in the same location where the Declaration of Independence had been signed 11 years earlier, formed our constitution, a document recognized as the greatest civil governance protection of individual rights ever.

The wonderful story of the founding of America and the values that infuse it still—so hospitable to Catholicism—are captured in few places as well as those founding documents, The Federalist Papers; and the description of the atmosphere where the long talks that led to the forming of the Constitution of the United States of America, where men of experience and wisdom devoted the time necessary to work out the complicated issues, is remindful of that surrounding the great Councils of the Church.

An excerpt.

“This convention composed of men who possessed the confidence of the people, and many of whom had become highly distinguished by their patriotism, virtue and wisdom, in times which tried the minds and hearts of men, undertook the arduous task. In the mild season of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects, they passed many months in cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation; and finally, without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passions except love for their country, they presented and recommended to the people the plan produced by their joint and very unanimous councils.” (Federalist #2, para.10)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tony Snow, R.I.P.

I only knew him through the world of television but what I saw was a wonderful man of faith—a Catholic convert—who told us about the political things of the world with sincerity and a straightforwardness that was refreshing in its clarity and so often humorous.

This column from National Review is one of many wonderful memories of his life.

An excerpt.

“Tony Snow was remembered as “a man of uncommon decency and compassion” by President George W. Bush at his funeral Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of the Catholic University of America on a picture-perfect July Thursday morning this week.

“The president said it in tribute to Snow, his former press secretary, but he also set an underlying theme for the send-off for Tony: “Why so uncommon?” Call it “Tony’s challenge.”

“Say what you will about the president, he is a man of faith who speaks with an obvious sincerity when he declares, as he did Thursday:

“I know it’s hard to make sense of today. It is impossible to fully comprehend why such a good and vital man was taken from us so soon. But these are the great mysteries of life — and Tony knew as well as anyone that they’re not ours to unveil.”

Friday, July 18, 2008

Russia & The Renewal of Faith

The bloody revolutions of 18th Century France and 20th Century Russia, which toppled monarchies and executed royal families, were horrors that ushered in other national terrors that, in Russia’s case, continued until just a few decades ago; and this deeply touching article about a recent concert and multi-media presentation in the largest church in Russia about the execution of the Romanovs, will help you understand what happened then and what is happening now.

An excerpt.

“The story of the last days of the Romanovs is well known. Czar Nicholas II, embroiled in a terrible war with Germany and Austro-Hungary, decided to abdicate his throne on March 15, 1917. Without a single strong leader, Russia was soon in political turmoil. Out of the turmoil, the tiny but compact and single-minded Bolsheviks emerged as Russia's new rulers toward the end of 1917.

“Nicholas and his family were soon placed under house arrest. They gardened, read books, prayed. Then, in the summer of 1918, on the evening of July 17, they were taken to the basement room of their prison, and shot to death. Their bodies were then burned.

“Russia had made a clean break with its monarchical, and Christian, past.

“The age of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and of anti-Christian state atheism had begun.”

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Peter in Australia

Pope Benedict gave a wonderful talk today in Australia reminding us of the absolute nature of truth and the relative nature of the world which seeks to dissuade us of that absolute truth.

An excerpt from the Vatican News Service report.

“Benedict XVI praised "the majestic splendour of Australia's natural beauty" which evokes "a profound sense of awe. It is as though one catches glimpses of the Genesis creation story: light and darkness, the sun and the moon, the waters, the earth, and living creatures; all of which are 'good' in God's eyes".

“Yet "there are also scars which mark the surface of our earth, erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world's mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption. .... And we discover that not only the natural but also the social environment - the habitat we fashion for ourselves - has its scars; wounds indicating that something is amiss; ... a poison which threatens to corrode what is good, reshape who we are, and distort the purpose for which we have been created. Examples abound, as you yourselves know. Among the more prevalent are alcohol and drug abuse, and the exaltation of violence and sexual degradation, often presented through television and the internet as entertainment.

"I ask myself", the Pope added, "could anyone standing face to face with people who actually do suffer violence and sexual exploitation 'explain' that these tragedies, portrayed in virtual form, are considered merely 'entertainment'? There is also something sinister which stems from the fact that freedom and tolerance are so often separated from truth. This is fuelled by the notion, widely held today, that there are no absolute truths to guide our lives. Relativism, by indiscriminately giving value to practically everything, has made 'experience' all-important".

"Life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose! Life is not just a succession of events or experiences. ... It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this - in truth, in goodness, and in beauty - that we find happiness and joy. Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Capitalism & Priests for Life

1) The truth that the system of government and private enterprise that was established in America over 200 years ago was one of the mightiest methods for ensuring that it would no longer be universally true that “the poor are always with us”, is the subject of this wonderful article by Michael Novak, from The Catholic Thing. An excerpt.

“Prior to 1776, scholars had assumed that there would always be poor people, because there always had been poor people. “The poor ye shall always have with ye,” expressed what their eyes could see. But when a significant body of formerly poor people in one large country rapidly moved out of poverty, a new moral calculus had to be invoked. Hannah Arendt observed in On Revolution that America’s success in raising up the poor forced upon nineteenth-century Europeans the famous “social question.” Once America had shown poverty to be neither universal nor commanded by the stars, what was Europe doing wrong?”

2) The most important doctrine of the Catholic Church’s social teaching is the protection of life, and elections have serious consequences in the fulfillment of this foundational protection.

Priests for Life, a dedicated apostolate protecting the right to life, have put together an excellent Presidential voting guide on Catholic issues, which will help guide those faithful Catholics who might be confused about what the Church teaches and what should guide their voting behavior.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Human Rights & The UN

What is happening in Zimbabwe belies the hopeful mission of the United Nations and points to the inherent fallacy of its founding, the permanent membership of dictatorships on the United Nations Security Council and their ability to veto anything threatening their position; seriously impeding the responsibility to protect human rights, the principle informing the idealistic core of the UN mission.

A very important book—by Mary Ann Glendon, US Ambassador to the Holy See—about the animating principle of the United Nations, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, notes how a sickened American president, a relentless Soviet ruler, and a British leader protective of their colonial rights, struggled against the human rights ideals, insisting on the veto, which has essentially negated the effectiveness of the revolutionary Declaration since; but yet, as the author notes, there were significant results:

“The growing hostility between the United States and the USSR was only one of many daunting obstacles confronted by the Declaration’s drafters. They had to surmount linguistic, cultural, and political differences and overcome personal animosities as they strove to articulate a clear set of principles with worldwide applicability. Their final product, they all acknowledged, was imperfect, yet they succeeded well enough to give the lie to claims that peoples with drastically opposed worldviews cannot agree upon a few common standards of decency.

“For everyone who is tempted to despair of the possibility of crossing today’s ideological divides, there is still much to learn from Eleanor Roosevelt’s firm but irenic manner of dealing with her Soviet antagonists; and from the serious but respectful philosophical rivalry between Lebanon’s Charles Malik and China’s Peng-chun Chang. There is much to ponder in the working relationship between Malik, a chief spokesman for the Arab League, and Rene Cassin, an ardent supporter of a Jewish homeland, who lost twenty-nine relatives in concentration camps. When one considers that two world wars and mass slaughters of innocents had given the framers every reason to despair about the human condition, it is hard to remain unmoved by their determination to help make the postwar world a better and safer place…

“The story of the parent document of the modern human rights movement is the story of a group of men and women who learned to cooperate effectively despite political differences, cultural barriers, and personal rivalries. It is an account of their attempt to bring forth from the ashes of unspeakable wrongs a new era in the history of rights. It is an unfinished story, whose course will be influenced, for better or worse, by actions and decisions being taken today. (pp. xix-xxi)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Priests and Laity

Vatican II called the laity into deeper service with the Church and through the partnerships that developed between priestly orders and lay people; a leavening within the secular world was brought to a level not seen since the golden age of Christendom.

What the laity can bring to the mission work of the Church is captured in this book review of a Harvard researcher who becomes a cop on the street for a year or so, then writes about it, and Cop in the Hood is probably much more connected than your average academic study of police work; but still lacks the true strength the sanctified laity can bring to the table, noted in this final paragraph by the book reviewer, a street cop:

“One must admire Mr. Moskos for his willingness to walk in a police officer's shoes for 20 months. But it is important to remember, while reading "Cop in the Hood," that though he wore the badge and carried the gun, in his heart he was still a researcher foremost, not a police officer. He lacked the attribute that marks out the genuine cop -- that rare and inexplicable impulse to run toward gunfire when other sane people are running away. It is an attribute that may be described and analyzed at Harvard, but it is not often found there.”

That “rare and inexplicable impulse” only comes from a lifetime of devotion to a vocational calling that, within the lay world, corresponds to that which marks the vocational priest, and together they can work much more effectively within the world,. against the aims of the prince of the world, than either can alone; the essence of Vatican II.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The G8 & World Youth Day

1) The results from the recent G8 conference is that President Bush has been right all along about the global warming situation and how best to address it—with technology and involving all of the countries of the world who are major polluters, which includes India and China—and it folds in accountability.

This is a much better plan than Kyoto, as this editorial notes. An excerpt.

“The headline was that the nations pledged to cut global greenhouse emissions by half by 2050. Yet for the first time, the G-8 also agreed that any meaningful climate program would have to involve industrializing nations like China and India. For the first time, too, the G-8 agreed that real progress will depend on technological advancements. And it agreed that the putative benefits had to justify any brakes on economic growth.

“In other words, the G-8 signed on to what has been the White House approach since 2002. The U.S. has relied on the arc of domestic energy programs now in place, like fuel-economy standards and efficiency regulations, along with billions in subsidies for low-carbon technology. Europe threw in with the central planning of the Kyoto Protocol -- and the contrast is instructive. Between 2000 and 2006, U.S. net greenhouse gas emissions fell 3%. Of the 17 largest world-wide emitters, only France reduced by more.”

2) World Youth Day in Australia is next week and this posting on Mercator Net addresses the significant response of young people to Pope Benedict. An excerpt.

“The celebration of World Youth Day, which must be the largest gathering of young people on the planet, begins next week in Sydney. It is expected to draw 500,000 people from Australia and around the world. At its centre is Pope Benedict XVI.

“To understand why an 81-year-old cleric has such pulling power with the younger set, MercatorNet interviewed Dr Tracey Rowland, whose book Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, has just been published by Oxford University Press. According to Sydney’s Cardinal George Pell, "It is a sign of the times and a portent of the future that this excellent volume was written by a young married woman" well on her way to "becoming Australia's leading theologian".”

“MercatorNet: Benedict XVI is 81 and doesn't have the charisma of his predecessor as Pope, John Paul II. But it is said that he draws bigger crowds and that people respond warmly to him? Why is that, do you think?

“Rowland: In Rome it is said that the young people came to see John Paul II but that they come to listen to Benedict. The two pontiffs are definitely different personalities. John Paul II wanted to be an actor before he became a priest, but Benedict only ever wanted to be a priest. One was very much at home on the stage, the other is more at home in a university common room but both in their own way have been great communicators.”

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Orestes Brownson

"The thesis we propose to maintain is, therefore, that without the Roman Catholic religion it is impossible to preserve a democratic government, and secure its free, orderly, and wholesome action." (p. 585)

This is a remarkable statement, but a well-settled one in the work of Orestes Brownson, a great Catholic writer on the interface of public policy and Catholic theology. The book of essays from which this quote came is online, and the essay concerning it, Catholicity Necessary to Sustain Popular Liberty, begins on page 584.

My introduction to his work came in this recent review from Inside Catholic (a hat tip). An excerpt.

“Catholics would do well to remember Brownson (1803-1876), as he is at once one of the nation's most interesting political thinkers and a writer who addressed the complicated question of being both Catholic and American. He is also an American original: Born of Vermont Protestant stock, a friend to Emerson and a member of the Transcendentalist inner circle, Brownson became a Catholic in 1844, as did his good friend Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulist order; both had spent time at the Transcendentalist camp at Brook Farm. Before his conversion, however, Brownson had been through almost every variant of religious experience the country had to offer, from Methodism to Unitarianism, from Transcendentalist to "philosophical" Christian, before finally being received into the Church.”

Reading other major Catholic works encounters the same essential concept, that the 2,000 year old institutional Church and its sound body of theology and the ethics and social justice concepts built upon that body, have served humanity well, usually in a leading role, and for that we should remain humbly proud and grateful for our wisdom, luck, or whatever happenstance has brought us to Rome.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Part of Church of England Coming to Rome?

One of the most painful separations within the Church was that in England during the tussle around King Henry the VIII’s desire to marry Anne Boleyn, which led to extreme oppression brought upon English Catholics, to the point of executions, particularly when the daughter of Henry and Anne, Elizabeth, assumed the throne, so any return of a major group of Catholics resulting from that breakup would be wonderful indeed.

An excerpt from the article in the Catholic Herald:

“So we are to have a code of practice. Traditional Anglo-Catholics must now decide whether to stay in the Church of England in what, for a while, will be a protected colony - where the sacramental ministry of women bishops and priests is neither acknowledged nor received - or to leave.

“Leaving isn't quite so easy as it sounds. You don't become a Catholic, for instance, because of what is wrong with another denomination or faith. You become a Catholic because you accept that the Catholic Church is what she says she is and the Catholic faith is what it says it is. In short, some Anglo-Catholics will stay and others will go. It is quite easy to think of unworthy reasons for staying - and there are no doubt one or two unworthy reasons for leaving...

“What we must humbly ask for now is for magnanimous gestures from our Catholic friends, especially from the Holy Father, who well understands our longing for unity, and from the hierarchy of England and Wales. Most of all we ask for ways that allow us to bring our folk with us.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

President Bush & the G8

President Bush has long held true to the chief responsibility of the President to protect the nation’s people and extend that protection—when able—to other people of other nations when they are vulnerable and no one else steps forward to help, and this article from the Wall Street Journal remarks on that record.

An excerpt.

“If you've ever been through a G-8 Summit, right about now you're probably feeling like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day." That's the one where he plays a man forced to live the same day over and over.

“In much the same way, G-8 meetings follow a familiar script year after year. They begin with leaders issuing lofty statements on a checklist of "global challenges." They continue with TV footage of riot police struggling with the global protester brigade. And they finish with news stories quoting unnamed diplomats sighing that American obstinacy has just lost the world its last chance for some great advance on some issue vital for humanity.

“The good news is that this week's summit in Japan may be the one in which we finally awake from the G-8 version of "Groundhog Day." And when we do, we will find that the president has now succeeded in baking into the G-8 process a time-honored Texas principle. It's called "put up or shut up."

“That's not how it will read in the official G-8 communiqués, of course. Instead, these statements will speak diplomatically of "accountability." And this time, they will give us something we have never seen before: country-by-country breakdowns of how well nations are living up to their G-8 commitments.

“What a revolutionary concept: Judging a nation's commitment to problem-solving by whether its money matches its mouth. The first reports come out today, and will track how well G-8 members live up to promises to tackle health scourges such as polio, HIV/AIDS and malaria. These reports should have a salutary effect on the public debate.

“For while the rhetoric about Uncle Sam's global leadership tends to the harsh and negative, the record tells a different story. Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. has taken the lead on issues from combating malaria to breaking down trade barriers that keep the crops of poor African farmers out of First World markets. No one else is even close.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Philanthropy in America & Europe

One of America’s major social assets, and central to the American attraction to the rest of the world, is its spirit of philanthropy arising from the voluntary association, which was first remarked on by the French Count Alexis de Tocqueville after his visit here in the early 1800’s in his famous book, Democracy in America.

An excerpt.

“Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fetes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools. Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an association in the United States.

“I have since traveled through England, from which the Americans took some of their laws and many of their usages, and it appeared to me that there they were very far from making as constant and as skilled a use of association.

“It often happens that the English execute very great things in isolation, whereas there is scarcely an undertaking so small that Americans do not unite for it. It is evident that the former consider association as a powerful means of action; but the latter seem to see in it the sole means they have of acting.

“Thus the most democratic country on earth is found to be, above all, the one where men in our day have most perfected the art of pursuing the object of their common desires in common and have applied this new science to the most objects. Does this result from an accident or could it be that there in fact exists a necessary relation between associations and equality?” (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 2000 translation by H. C. Mansfield and D. Winthrop. pp. 489-490)

This article from First Things also looks at the sprit of giving, in relation to Europe today.

An excerpt.

“Anyone traveling to Europe this summer will surely marvel at how different it is from the United States—and how Europeans have trouble understanding the difference. “Individualists,” they call Americans, but the facts show far more personal social concern in the United States.

“Here’s an example: In Europe, many leave philanthropy to the state. For Americans, the personal element—in giving, volunteering, and philanthropy—form an indispensable principle of democracy. According to this principle, people who do not want to depend on the state for all of their needs and wants must seek another source of funds. The best source—the most reliable source—derives from the tradition of reasoned giving. A free people must be able to organize themselves to finance sets of activities that are conducted independently from the state. A wise state supports this tendency by allowing givers to subtract their gifts from their reported income, thus lowering their income taxes by that amount.

“To establish these private institutions of independent social activity, individuals need the habit of association. They know that dependence on the state breeds the spirit of dependency. They wish to be independent and free. Therefore, they need to find a way to raise funds which they do not want to solicit from the state.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Enron Ethics

The collapse of Enron followed an internal collapse of ethical standards, oversight that failed in its role, and a general love of wealth which permeates the culture; all of which this article from Harvard Business Week examines.

An excerpt:

"In the end, Enron was at the center of a truly delinquent society. Once Enron's ethical drift took hold, its collapse was only a matter of time," says HBS professor emeritus Malcolm S. Salter. As he explains in this Q&A and in his new book, Innovation Corrupted: The Origins and Legacy of Enron's Collapse (Harvard University Press), the devastation of Enron was total—yet there is much that business today can gain from a postmortem of the once-triumphant company.

“Salter had access to an extensive library of public information, including volumes of technical analyses and sworn testimonies in court documents, sources that were not yet available for earlier books on Enron. In addition, he interviewed former Enron executives and acquired internal Enron documents, which extended and deepened his research.

"Earlier descriptive narratives of Enron's collapse either downplay or fail to analyze the utter breakdown in board governance and Enron's internal controls, and the failure of credit rating agencies to blow the whistle," he says. "They also overlook the collusion of investment banks in misrepresenting the true financial condition of Enron, the inattentive regulatory agencies, and the absence of Enron's ethical discipline while choosing to live in the murky borderlands of the law."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Onward Christian Soldiers

The beginning of the Religious Right, which has done so much to promote the cause of life, the very cornerstone of all human rights issues, was popularly attributed to the Evangelical community and, while that perception is largely correct, the important new book, Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States, by Catholic author and former Chairman of Catholic Outreach at the Republican National Committee, Deal Hudson, reminds us of the major contribution of Catholics.

In commenting on the founding period of the Moral Majority and the role they played in the career of Ronald Reagan, he notes:

“Prominent Evangelical leaders such as Falwell, Robertson, Grant, McAteer, Lehaye, and Dobson, along with other nationally known Evangelicals such as Reverend James Robison in Texas, Oral Roberts in Oklahoma, and Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright, threw themselves into the Reagan campaign as if the very future of our nation depended on it. Oddly enough, the strategy for bringing these Evangelical preachers and laymen into politics was the brainchild of a Catholic, Paul Weyrich, a conservative strategist who later became a deacon in the Melkite rite (the Melkite Greek Catholic Church is an Eastern rite Catholic Church in communion with the Roman Catholic Church and the pope.)

“Beginning in 1979 and continuing to the 1980 election, Weyrich and his colleagues Howard Phillips and Connie Marshner traveled coast-to-coast recruiting ministers by explaining both what was at stake and how a nonprofit church could become political without risking tax exemption. It was a hard sell. Evangelicals had stayed out of politics since the Scopes trial debacle in 1925, believing such an active grappling with worldly matters beneath their spiritual mission. Yet when they realized that the power of the federal government and the judiciary was legitimizing the taking of human life, putting its religious schools and churches at risk, redefining the meaning of the family and sexuality, and forcing the teaching of secular and relativistic morality in public education, there was nothing to do but stand and fight.” (pp. 12-13)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Open Borders

It is the focus of a wonderful July 4th article by Linda Chavez from Patriot Post reminding us of the City on the Hill image so prominent in our history from the time it was first spoken on the deck of the Mayflower when arriving on these shores almost 400 years ago, and talking about the open borders debate now being joined within the conservative ranks, and it is a good time to do so.

Here is an excerpt from Linda Chavez’s article:

“There are few places in the world that beckon to those who share no common blood or history, but America has done so for centuries. It is one of the things that defines this great country. In celebrating the 232nd birthday of our nation this Fourth of July, it is worth recalling what Ronald Reagan said about the promise the United States holds out to so many.

“In his farewell address, President Reagan explained: “I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here."

“Jason Riley, a member of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, quotes President Reagan's words in his new book, “Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders, Six Common Arguments Against Immigration and Why They Are Wrong." Like Reagan, Riley is an optimist, one who sees the United States as a land of unlimited opportunity and potential. It's a view in short supply lately but worth thinking about as we celebrate our nation's founding.”

And I would suggest you read a few pages of Riley's book, available online at Amazon and you will perhaps come to the same conclusion Ronald Regan did, open immigration policies are good for this country as we always benefit from the immigration of hard-working and responsible people, which virtually all of those who come here are.

The Catholic Church supports an open immigration policy, with certain conditions, as this section of the Catechism notes:

“2241 The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

“Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.”

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Peace & Just War

This article by George Weigel looks at the 1983 pastoral letter of the US Bishops, The Challenge of Peace in relation to what actually happened.

An excerpt:

“The farther the 1980s recede into the historical rear-view mirror, the less The Challenge of Peace looks like an insightful analysis of the political dynamics of that dramatic decade. It is now clear that disarmament -- not the arms control promoted by the bishops' letter, but real disarmament -- only took place after a human rights revolution had brought down the communist regimes of central and eastern Europe. The bishops' tacit argument that nuclear weapons issues could be factored out of the larger political context of the Cold War turned out to be quite wrong. There was a path to the end of the deterrence system and to genuine nuclear disarmament: it was victory over the Soviet Union. To suggest that TCOP missed this is, to put it gently, an understatement.

“The bishops' pastoral has left certain intellectual residues in the American Catholic mind; but it's hard to argue that these residues have had a positive effect on Catholic thought about war and peace. Go to most parishes today, listen to the way prayers for peace are framed in the General Intercessions, and you will hear a faithful echo of TCOP's failure to clarify the distinctions-in-kind among the peace of the Kingdom of God, the peace of a secure personal relationship with the Lord, and the peace of rightly-ordered political community (which is the only peace that politics can produce)”

Weigel—biographer of Pope John Paul II with the seminal Witness to Hope—explores this area at much more depth in his new book, Against the Grain: Christianity and Democracy, War and Peace, and one area he examines at some length is the just war doctrine of the Church, and here is an excerpt:

“The classic tradition, to repeat, begins with the presumption—better, the moral judgment—that rightly constituted public authority is under a strict moral obligation to defend the security of those for whom it has assumed responsibility, even if this puts the magistrate’s own life in jeopardy. That moral truth helps clarify one reason why Thomas Aquinas locates his discussion of bellum justum within the treatise on charity in the Summa Theologiae. That moral truth is why the late Paul Ramsey, who revived Protestant just war thinking in America after World War II, described the just war tradition as an explication of the public implications of the Great Commandment of love-of-neighbor (even as he argued that the commandment sets limits to the use of armed force).” (p. 209)

Thomas Aquinas also includes his support for capital punishment—another crucial state obligation stemming from the responsibility to protect—within the treatise on charity in the Summa Theologiae. (Article 6, Reply to Objection 2)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Latin Mass, Rome & America

As a convert to the Church—my wife and I were baptized in 2004—the Latin Mass was a complete unknown, but as we penetrated deeper into the history and traditions of our faith we came across the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), which is an order of the Church which performs the Latin Mass exclusively, and there is an FSSP parish in our city.

We visited a couple of times and after attending a Solemn High Mass, with the Gregorian Chant, the incense, the great pageantry and solemnity, we were captivated and spent the next couple of years as a member of the parish.

Though we have now returned to our home parish—a combination of gas prices and time constraints as I now attend mass daily—we will still occasionally return to partake of the deep blessings of the Latin Mass.

Consequently, this update from the Catholic Herald in Britain, on the results of the Moto Proprio of Pope Benedict, which frees any priest who wants to perform it to be able to do so, on how the Catholic world, has received the papal action, is very much appreciated.

An excerpt:

“New personal parishes and the like are also being established. In Canada's largest, most populous diocese, Toronto, it was recently confirmed that the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) had been invited into that archdiocese and work was underway to find a suitable situation for them. This is in addition to the Toronto Oratory which already offers Mass in the usus antiquior on Sundays and weekdays. Likewise, an FSSP apostolate was recently established in Quebec City under Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Primate of Canada, while another parish was offered to the FSSP in Vancouver, British Columbia. Most significant, however, were the advancements that occurred within the Diocese of Rome itself. Whereas the community attached to the usus antiquior in that city formerly had use of a very small chapel that was located at the end of an alley, that same community has now been established as a personal parish for the ancient liturgy and has been given use of a large historical church that sits upon a well-travelled Roman piazza - a church which contains important works of sacred art. This development, perhaps more than any, bespeaks the effects of the Motu Proprio - and we must be clear that what happens within Rome does have an effect and influence upon what happens without; it very much sets a model and template that can help other dioceses feel more confident in doing likewise. With these changes and for these reasons, the Roman personal parish is perhaps now the single most important apostolate for the usus antiquior.”

2) Anyone who reads about world affairs these days finds the same thing the author of this article—America’s Days Aren’t’ Numbered— does when perusing the new books out about America, most of them are pretty pessimistic.

An excerpt:

“The last time I strolled through the local Barnes & Noble, there were so many books announcing the end of American power, wealth, influence, or just America itself, that I began to wonder whether my dollars would be worth anything by the time I hit the checkout counter…

“As a historian, I find this trend fascinating. After all, since humans climbed out of the trees and began surveying the lion-infested Savannah, none have ever lived in a period more prosperous, secure and stable than Americans do today. The U.S. is not only the wealthiest and most powerful country on earth now, but in all of history. There's never been a better time and place to be alive than America in the 21st century.”

Indeed, Have a Wonderful 4th!!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Catholic Social Teaching, Solidarity

Solidarity is one of the most embracing of the social teachings of the Church and essentially means “we are all in this together”, but a more cogent definition is found in an invaluable two-volume resource just published last year, the Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy:

“In its relevant Christian meaning, solidarity is implicit in Catholic teaching about the fatherhood of God and in the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. Solidarity was probably first expressed in that relevant sense in the modern era as applied to the social order by the Spanish political philosopher Juan Donoso Cortes. In his Essay on Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism (1851). Donoso referred to “solidarity” as the “responsibility” that all share in common because as sons of Adam they are all children of God. He termed this “one of the most beautiful and august revelations of Catholic dogma.” The German Jesuit economist Heinrich Pesch noted that perceived in that way, solidarity passed easily into the modern social teaching of the Catholic Church.

"Pesch installed the principle of solidarity as the heart of his economic system, which he called solidarism or the solidaristic system of human work. In his five-volume Lehrbuch der Nationalokonomie, he defined it as social interdependence, the actual reciprocal dependence of people on one another. For Pesch solidarity represented an inescapable fact along with a concomitant moral obligation. He indicated its operation at all levels of society from the family, to the workplace, the occupational group, the nation, and beyond to the global community. He also proposed that it becomes more urgent the more complex society becomes.” (Volume 2, pg 1010-1011)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Catholics Go Left?

The idea, revealed by a new poll, that many Catholics in the United States do not live in accordance with Catholic doctrine and have gone left—in their politics as well as their faith—is certainly not a new one, and has as much to do with the era of relativism that has shaken traditional institutions worldwide for several generations as it has to do with being American.

Being American does have something to do with bending to authority, much as being French does, and the two national histories of being founded—at least in our case wholly, while partly for the French—in revolution, does play into the desire to resist becoming too faithful to a religion whose knee is bended to God and Rome.

However, while the French in particular, and Europe in general, seem to be fleeing from their religious traditions, it might be that in America, the fleeing is not from religion, but from religion that is no longer religious, no longer founded on clear and solid truths that have survived for eternity, which is what most would think religion is (or certainly should be) all about.

And in that respect, it may be that the turning toward the traditional doctrine of the Catholic Church, evident here in much of what is going on, on the ground—and even in France—through the growth of Latin Mass attendance.

The poll itself, while so embracing of the secular social narrative that religion is dying, was also quite tilted—reminding us that with the correct set of people and correct set of questions you can determine anything you want—as this excerpt from the article from Catholic World News notes:

“The Pew Forum survey did not make a distinction between active and lapsed Catholics. In fact, 48% of the respondents who identified themselves as Catholics said that they attended Mass "a few times a year" or even less frequently.

“The Pew survey demonstrated an apparent liberal tilt in the political views of American Catholics. Although 36% of those surveyed described themselves as conservatives, and only 18% as liberals, a slim majority (51%) favored more government programs and 60% supported stronger environment laws. About one-third (33%) of the respondents said that they favored the Republican party, while nearly half (48%) favored the Democrats.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Universal Economy & Universal Strategies

This article from the Wall Street Journal is a good antidote to the thinking that relates economic circumstances purely nationalistically when we have moved into a planetary economy requiring planetary thinking.

Perhaps this new reality—which is not really so new to those folks who have been paying attention over the past few decades—can explain the great turning toward the one organized institution that has developed a method of thinking that embraces the entire earth, and has refined it over the past two thousand years.

This idea—of a great turning to the Church by people in American public leadership—was one of the ideas that led to the beginning of this blog, which a review of my first posting reveals.