Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bishops & Politicians

A national political leader interpreted Catholic doctrine on Meet the Press recently, but the problem was, she interpreted it wrongly, quite wrongly—and the nation’s bishops have corrected the public record, through the Catholic News Service, and that is a very good thing.

An excerpt.

“The chairmen of the U.S. bishops' pro-life and doctrine committees criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying she "misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church on abortion" in a nationally televised interview Aug. 24.

“Pelosi, D-Calif., who is Catholic, said in an appearance that day on NBC's "Meet the Press" that church leaders for centuries had not been able to agree on when life begins.

“An Aug. 25 statement by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., said the church since the first century "has affirmed the moral evil of every abortion."

"The teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable," the statement said. "Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law."

“Cardinal Rigali heads the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, while Bishop Lori chairs the USCCB Committee on Doctrine.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Catholic Teaching and Citizenship

The 2008 statement from the U.S. Catholic Bishops on Faithful Citizenship is pretty good—especially strong on the pro-life issue—though their continued calling for an end to the death penalty is somewhat incongruent with two thousand years of Catholic teaching, the subject of our 2008 research report from LampStand, Catholic Social Teaching & Capital Punishment: A Tradition of Support.

An excerpt.

“An important point was made by Avery Cardinal Dulles (2004) regarding reversing the traditional support of the Church for capital punishment by abolishing it—a current project of the USCCB: The Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty.

Cardinal Dulles wrote: “The reversal of a doctrine as well established as the legitimacy of capital punishment would raise serious problems regarding the credibility of the magisterium. Consistency with scripture and long-standing Catholic tradition is important for the grounding of many current teachings of the Catholic Church; for example, those regarding abortion, contraception, the permanence of marriage, and the ineligibility of women for priestly ordination. If the tradition on capital punishment had been reversed, serious questions would be raised regarding other doctrines….

“For those interested in the practical applications of my analysis, I can make three suggestions:

“1) The death penalty should not be abolished. It should remain in law, and its implementation should be a real possibility.

“2) The death penalty should be imposed only in cases where the restoration of social order and the moral health of the society strictly require it and where the serious guilt of the perpetuator is certain. Such cases will be extremely rare for the reasons I have given.

“3) The judgment of these concrete cases is a prudential one to be made in the actual situation. Those who make the judgment would not be priests but competent secular agents, including judges and juries who are guided by sound principles. By reason of their vocation, priests cannot suitably call for a judgment of blood.” (Dulles, Avery (Cardinal). (2004). Catholic Teaching on the Death Penalty. In E.C. Owens, J.D. Carlson, & E.P. Elshtain (Eds.). Religion and the death penalty, (pp. 23-30). Cambridge, England; Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 26 & 30)

(LampStand Research Report #2 , March 25, 2008, pp. 25-26)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cathy Lanier, DC Police Chief

This story in the Washington Post is a remarkable story about a remarkable woman, a firefighter’s daughter, with a teenage past similar to that of many criminals, who is now the police chief of our nation’s capital.

Truly a must read.

An excerpt.

“POLICE CHIEF CATHY LANIER CUTS A FORMIDABLE FIGURE as she strides, long-legged, in front of an outdoor lineup of 125 khaki-clad D.C. police recruits standing at attention on a closed-off street in the Langston Terrace neighborhood in Northeast Washington. Nearly 6 feet tall and a fit 160 pounds, Lanier is wearing a blue jacket with four gold stars on each shoulder and shiny black patent-leather boots. Her dyed blond hair spills out of her dark blue police cap. Along with the recruits and more than 150 blue-clad officers, she has mustered nearly 300 of her forces to this crime-ridden area for another All Hands on Deck, a controversial innovation that sends hundreds of cops walking around their beats to meet citizens informally. The goal is to talk about neighborhood problems and to show that the Metropolitan Police Department is out to serve people, not just make arrests -- although the weekend exercises usually yield at least a few busts.

"It's good for the community to see this," Lanier shouts as she walks, gesturing at the long blue and khaki lines of cops. "We are fighting every day! We don't give up! We don't stop! And we do all that we can do!" She is barking above the street noise and needs no megaphone on this warm Friday afternoon in November.

"I'd like to introduce you to a lady from this community, Kathy Henderson," Lanier says, putting her arm around the shoulders of a middle-aged local activist. "She had tears in her eyes when she saw all the police officers out here. This community needs you! And there are a thousand Kathy Hendersons out there! You have to give them everything you have! You have to do 110 percent! You are gonna meet people who have suffered from extreme violence, and their kids can't go outside! And we put our lives on the line for them! And the law-abiding people appreciate this! You see what you can do? You put your lives on the line, and people like Kathy Henderson appreciate it!"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

St. Elizabeth Seton

This remarkable woman was a Catholic convert, the first American born canonized saint, and the foundress of “the first active religious community of women founded in the United States.”

A wonderful article about her is in America magazine.

An excerpt.

“Early in the life of her community, Elizabeth wrote, “There is every hope that it is the seed of an immensity of future good.” God speedily fulfilled her hope. After opening an academy and free school in Emmitsburg, she sent Sisters of Charity to Philadel-phia in 1814 and to New York in 1817 to care for orphans in both cities. When Elizabeth died in 1821, her community was only a dozen years old, yet some 60 Sisters of Charity in three dioceses were tending orphans, visiting the sick, teaching, catechizing and serving the poor of every type.

“Elizabeth Seton’s journey to Baltimore in 1808 led eventually to the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. For her indomitable hope, fidelity to God’s will and unswerving devotion to Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and in life, she was canonized in 1975, the first native-born American to be so honored. Like the community she founded, the five original dioceses linked with her life have flourished beyond all expectation. Today, in over 190 dioceses coast to coast, the church that Elizabeth Seton cherished as her “ark” serves more than 64 million Catholics. During this bicentennial year of the Baltimore Archdiocese, one can readily imagine the diminutive convert-mother-widow-foundress contemplating the American Catholic scene, with all its scars and struggles, from the vantage point of her beloved eternity, and celebrating the “immensity of future good” that has sprouted from the seeds planted 200 years ago.”

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Global America

As our population becomes a wonderfully balanced representative of all of the world’s cultures and hues, it also begins to truly fulfill its role as perhaps the most Catholic of countries in the modern era as it embraces the globe in its people, and in its historically universally-oriented past, may yet find its founding promise in this demographic future.

This article from New Geography remarks on the demographic shift that will result in a universal American minority soon.

An excerpt.

“Last week’s updated Census projections showing whites becoming a minority by 2042 – far more rapidly than previous estimates – is sure to turn up the heat in some quarters of American society. While it no doubt re-ignites predictable dooms-day scenarios among anti-immigration activists who warn about the “death of the West” and the gradual erosion of American values, it may also give some average Americans pause as well.

“Why? Because when one envisages the average American, it is highly likely they are picturing someone with Anglo features rather than one with the skin tones and hues of Hispanics, Asians, or some exotic admixture of different ethnicities. Even as the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama and the rising global prominence of star athletes like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James at this year’s Olympics are changing these perceptions, all-American looks, for the most part, is still equated with ‘white’ for most people around the world.

“And who is to argue? After all, approximately two-thirds of the U.S. population is currently white. But according to new Census Bureau figures, this image is set to undergo a fundamental makeover in just a single generation. To summarize:

“• By 2050, whites will decline to just 46 percent of the U.S. population. At that time, they will also constitute the vast majority of persons over the age of 85 years — a population that is set to triple to 19 million. Demographers refer to this as the “graying of America.”

“• At the same time, the “browning of America” is marching forward in full force. Both Hispanics and Asians are scheduled to double their share of the population by mid-century — up to 30 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively. A majority of that share in growth will originate from births, and not immigration."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Catholic Social Teaching

The strength of the social teaching of the Church is that it has remained intact through the many generations when the Church herself often seemed to be coming apart, but just as it is with the current sexual abuse scandal, the Church founded on the rock of Peter will stand regardless of what the world throws at it or what it brings down upon itself, for that is the promise of Christ the Lord.

In the first millennium of the Church, it appeared in often dire straits, and Rodger Charles writes about the various scandals and in the excerpt below focuses on one 150year period.

Rodger Charles S.J. wrote the single best expression of the social teaching of the Church in its entirety and he makes it clear that it is a teaching with a history that began with Genesis.

His two volume work was published in Great Britain in 1998, Christian Social Witness and Teaching: The Catholic Tradition from Genesis to Centesimus Annus (Volume 1) From Biblical Times to the Late Nineteenth Century & (Volume 2) The Modern Social Teaching Contexts: Summaries: Analysis.

An excellent review of the work is at the Acton Institute’s Journal of Markets & Morality.

The best place to find both volumes is through the publisher, Gracewing Publishing, and occasionally they will show up at Amazon or Abe Books.

Here is the excerpt on early Church scandals.

“The scandals were intermittent over a period of some one hundred and fifty years from about 900 to 1050. The family of Theophylact was the first to exercise consistent control over the Papacy. From being a simple papal official, Theophylact progressed to treasurer and commander of its militia and in 915 ‘Senator of the Romans’. His influence and control was excessive, but not as evil as its political enemies portrayed it. The charges that his wife Theodora had been the mistress of Pope John X (914-928) and his daughter mistress of Pope Sergius III (904-911), for example, once widely accepted, now appear to have been unfounded, but the overall results of Theophylact power was malign. Marozia [daughter of Theodora] was the dominant influence towards the end of John X’s reign, but he broke with, and found himself at war with her, being imprisoned after riots in Rome; there he died, smothered it is said on her orders. She nominated the next three popes, the last of whom, John XI (931-935), was her son. Another son, Alberic, rebelled against her and she was herself imprisoned. The next four popes, from 936 to 955, were his nominees and they were men of good life, reformers guided by Odo of Cluny. When Alberic however died in 954 the full evil of lay control of the Papacy was demonstrated once more, because his sixteen-year-old son not only succeeded him as civil ruler, but also, in accordance with his father’s wishes, was elected pope as John XII (955-964). His pleasures were boorish and his lifestyle debauched; it is said he died in the arms of a woman. Strangely however this totally unworthy occupant of the office accepted his official responsibilities in its administration in a way which the Church found acceptable.

“The Crescenti family succeeded the Theophylacts as the dominant Roman family, and the catalogue of politically appointed popes went on. From Benedict VII (974-983) to Benedict VIII (1012-1024) in particular, the appointees were all virtuous men, but with John XIX (1024-1032) corruption and immorality returned and were continued under Benedict IX (1032-1044). The Emperor Henry III now took a hand in bringing the scandals to an end and at the Council of Sutri in 1046 the contested papacy of Gregory VI was ended with his abdication: eventually in 1048 Leo IX was nominated by the Emperor and lasting reform was under way.” (Volume 1: pp. 118-119)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

World & Church

The media of the secular world, often amusingly referred to as part of the world, the flesh, and the devil, has determined that when Pope Benedict talks about the environment he is really expressing the views of deep ecology, which places animals and the rest of nature—minus human beings of course—as being above humans.

However, when the pope is speaking of the environment he speaks from an ancient Catholic tradition which revolves around the human responsibility to care for all of nature, within which the human being, created in the image of God, is indisputably at the center.

This recent article from the Pacific Research Institute also remarks on this.

An excerpt.

"Listening to the news over the past year, one would think the Vatican was reinventing Catholicism in an effort to go green. First there was the story that the Vatican was sponsoring a forest to offset the carbon emissions of Vatican City. Then we found out that the Vatican had come up with seven new deadly sins, among them polluting the environment. The UK’s Telegraph even ran the headline “Recycle or go to Hell, warns Vatican.” And in July, the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Pope Benedict XVI, like many world leaders, has spoken passionately about the urgent need to protect the planet from climate catastrophe.”

"Is the Vatican jumping on the environmental crisis bandwagon? Not quite. For those who have not been paying attention, the Catholic Church has a longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship. Recent media coverage, however, has morphed that stance into something like the fanaticism that accompanies fundamentalist pantheism. As with most misrepresentations, there are elements of truth.

"The Vatican does indeed have a carbon-offset partnership. In 2007, a Hungarian start-up company offered to donate a 37-acre tract where forests will be restored, theoretically sequestering approximately the same amount of carbon that Vatican City generates annually through routine operations. The cardinals agreed to accept the donation but did not exactly proclaim the virtues of the dubious concept of carbon offsets as a global warming mitigation strategy. Rather, the Vatican focused on the direct benefits of the restored forests. In a statement to the UN General Assembly in February, Vatican representative Msgr. Celestino Migliore said of the Holy See, “With its involvement in a reforestation project in Hungary, it will provide environmental benefits to the host country, assist in the recovery of an environmentally degraded tract of land, and provide local jobs.”

"What about the story that crimes against the environment are a modern deadly sin? Far from being a pronouncement on the evils of environmental degradation, the comments were actually taken from an interview in the Vatican newspaper with Bishop Gianfranco Girotti on the value of the sacrament of Confession. Bishop Girotti spoke of the relevance of Confession at a time when the world is increasingly complex and interconnected. He explained that today the concept of sin takes on unique social, in addition to personal, dimensions."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Admiring the Kingdom of God

In our daily lives, especially for those of us who work in the social science field, it is crucial to maintain our strength through remaining as close as we can, daily if possible, to the inexhaustible source of strength and peace available to Catholics—the Eucharist, so as to be able to have as much support for living a life seeking perfection, rather than admiring it from afar.

This marvelous book by Robert Barron, And Now I See: A Theology of Transformation, marks that, in this excerpt.

“Now the Gospel writers agree that the Kingdom of God, the enfleshment of the divine life in human form, the Incarnation, is not something to be admired from the outside, but rather an energy in which to participate. This is, tragically, one of the most overlooked dimensions of Christian thought and experience. If we open our eyes and see the light, we too often stop at the point of admiration and worship, lost in wonder at the strange work that God has accomplished uniquely in Jesus of Nazareth. But Jesus nowhere in the Gospels urges his followers to worship him, though he insistently calls them to follow him. One of the surest ways to avoid the challenge of the Incarnation, one of the most effective means of closing our eyes, is to engage in just this sort of pseudo-pious distantiation. But the Gospels want us, not outside the energy of Christ, but in it, not wondering at it, but swimming in it. In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of himself as the vine onto which we are grafted like branches, and he compares himself to food which we are to take unto ourselves. These beautifully organic images are meant to highlight our participation in the event of the Incarnation, our concrete citizenship in the Kingdom of God. It was the great medieval mystic Meister Eckhart who commented that the Incarnation of the Word in Jesus of Nazareth long ago is of no interest and importance unless that same word becomes incarnate in us today.” (italics in original pp.3-4)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Political Radicals & Catholic Social Teaching

There is much about the social teaching of the Church that rightly inspires radical political behavior against entrenched interests that oppress people, and while that is a large part of the true witness of the Church; some of that behavior merely shadows a fundamental dissent against the doctrines of the Church.

Which appears to be the case with this Maryknoll priest, whose involvement in the ordination of women priests is reported by Catholic News Service.

An excerpt.

"I see (my participation) connected in a real way in my work for justice in Latin America, speaking out against the war in Iraq and connected to the injustice in my church here at home," added Father Bourgeois, who is best known for his 19-year effort to close a U.S. Army school at Fort Benning, Ga., [School of Americas Watch] that trains soldiers from throughout Latin America.

"Who are we as men to say to Janice and these other women that we are called but not you?" asked the priest. "This is a big issue for me. I feel we are tampering with the sacred, that we are in a way overwriting God's call. Who are we to say that our call as men is valid, your call as women is not valid?

"I've come to the realization that women could be ordained in our Catholic Church," he said.

“He acknowledged that he has placed his 36-year ministry as a priest in jeopardy by participating in the ceremony. At the same time, he expressed hope that the council will continue to support him once his views are discussed.

"I don't want to leave (the order)," he said. "But I do believe in this issue enough that I cannot be silent."

“Father Bourgeois, 69, said that during the event he concelebrated the liturgy and delivered the homily. He also said he laid hands on Sevre-Duszynska, 58, during what traditionally would be the rite of ordination.”

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Assumption

Friday was the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in the Magnificat—my daily Mass companion—was this lovely poem.

From About the Virgin’s Death

Who would have believed that before she came
the vast heavens had been incomplete?
The resurrected Christ had taken His place,
but next to Him, for twenty-four years,
the seat was vacant. They had begun
to get used to this pure gap
that was almost not there, for the Son’s splendor
shone across and filled it.
She, entering the heavens, did not
come towards Him, even though she wanted to;
there was no room for her, only He sat there
in his magnificence which hurt her.
But as her graceful figure
now joined the newly blessed
and inconspicuously stood, light on light,
there broke from her being a glory
of such radiance that an angel, lit up by it
and blinded, cried: Who is she?
All were amazed. Then they saw how
God the Father above held back our Lord
so that the empty place, brushed
by fading twilight, seemed a small sorrow,
a trace of loneliness,
like something that He still endured, a remnant
of earthly time, a dried affliction.
They looked at her: she glanced up, fearfully,
leaned forward, as if she felt: I am
His longest pain—suddenly rushed forward.
But the angels took her in their midst,
supportingly, sang blissfully,
and carried her up the last few steps.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke (died 1926) is considered one of the greatest lyric poets of modern Germany. (Magnificat, August 2008, (Volume 10 No. 6) pp. 229-230)

A hat tip to the magnificent daily blog, Hallowed Ground for the image.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Catholicism & the Public Square

A recent book on political life by Bishop Chaput of Denver has been published and will be stirring some discussion.

Here is an excerpt of a review from Chisea.

“The title of the book itself gives a hint to its contents: "Render Unto Caesar. Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life." It is right to give Caesar what belongs to him. But one serves the nation by living out one's own Catholic faith in political life.

“Chaput moves decisively against the prevailing cultural tide in the media, in the universities, among political activists, a tide that wants to thrust the faith from the public stage.

“But he is also issuing a challenge to the American Catholic community. There are 69 million Catholics in the United States, one fourth of the population. More than 150 congressmen say they are Catholic. In the Senate, the Catholics are one out of four. They are the majority on the Supreme Court. But, the author of the book asks, what difference do they make?

“Among the American bishops, Chaput is one of the most decisive in taking clear positions on abortion, the death penalty, immigration. In the controversy over giving communion to "pro-choice" Catholic politicians, he maintains that those who ignore the Church's teaching on abortion are no longer in communion with the faith. They separate themselves from the community of the faithful. And therefore, if they take Eucharistic communion, they commit an act of dishonesty.”

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Catholic Universities & Catholic Teaching

Once upon a time there was no air between the two, but that was long before the Age of Relativism and the ongoing struggle between the teaching and the university is expressed in no more loving way than in this superb column from Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

“The University of Notre Dame has always been blessed by loyal and generous alumni. This has never been truer than in the case of Project Sycamore, whose president is Bill Dempsey ‘52, retired after a most distinguished legal career that began with a clerkship under Chief Justice Earl Warren. Dempsey has rallied fellow alumni to address current campus outrages, and thousands of alumni have subscribed to the Sycamore website ( ). The extremes of alumni sentiment might be called unquestioning, on the one hand, and carping, on the other. Project Sycamore, as evidenced by Dempsey’s letters to ND president Father John Jenkins and his analyses of university proposals, is a model of calm and reasonable yet unrelenting friendly questioning of recent events on the South Bend campus.

“The trigger for the Project was the incredible waffling of Father Jenkins about, and ultimate allowing of, campus presentations of the infamous and pornographic play The Vagina Monologues. The very title is an affront. Imagine Penis Ponderings, Malice Aforeskin or Anal Analyses. That such a patent effort to corrupt the young and to trash common morality, to say nothing of the enforcement and enlargement of that morality by Catholic moral teaching, should not require five minutes of reflection before being dismissed. Yet the unthinkable has happened, again and again. If only Father Jenkins had simply sought his mother’s advice, none of this would have happened….

“Notre Dame is not a secular university. It is a Catholic university, as indeed were all the original universities. Universities arose, as John Paul II pointed out, ex corde ecclesiae. What the times require is not for Catholic universities to become more like their chaotic secular counterparts, but to recover and celebrate the great tradition in which they stand. The future of Catholic universities could be even more golden than their past, but only if they set aside an indecent respect for the opinions of mankind and celebrate the complementarity of faith and reason.

“No one could imagine that Father Jenkins would take exception to this ideal. Only a churl would imagine that there is some plan to secularize Notre Dame. Our president is a good and holy priest, although a philosopher. Project Sycamore and Father Jenkins are children of the same mother, the lady atop the golden dome. She will bring them together in her historic roles as Advocata nostra and Sedes sapientiae.”

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pope Benedict’s Environmentalism

At World Youth Day this year, the pope spoke to the environmental consciousness of youth and reminded them of the priorities, the true priorities, and though his words were often spun to indicate an environmentalism congruent with that of deep ecology, it is anything but.

This column examines his speech and here is an excerpt.

“The pope urged his listeners to apply the same discipline and sacrificial spirit that drives them to recycle cans and conserve fuel to their spending practices, sexual choices and prayer habits. They should worry not only about disappearing rainforests but also about the spread of "a spiritual desert" of "interior emptiness" and "despair" in wealthy nations. And they should follow their respect for the limits of nature to its logical conclusion by recognizing objective moral limits on their own behavior as well.

“Far from parroting predictable environmentalist mantras, Benedict's remarks pointed his listeners to a more satisfying, person-centered model of environmental stewardship. That model emphasizes precisely the unique human capacity for moral reflection and openness to the transcendent that many eco-warriors dismiss in their eagerness to prove that plants and animals matter as much as we do. Although reporters covering World Youth Day may have missed the profundity of Benedict's point, the enthusiastic response of his audiences suggests that the young heard him loud and clear.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Social Entrepreneurs, Street Saints

Quoted in the front page of this new book (Amazon lets you read a few pages) is a truism I—and all the folks who read history—have known about for some time, which is: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable men.” George Bernard Shaw.

The book is The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World, and it appears, though I haven’t read it yet, to be documenting that those persistent and often unreasonable folks who just won’t give up on a problem they see worthy of attacking (they are my favorite kind of people) are those leaders vitally needed by our culture to jump in and tackle the problems most people would just prefer to ignore, but they refuse to.

Two who come to mind are Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Compstat Policing, the Responsibility to Protect

The responsibility to protect embraces aggressive public safety measures that begin with insuring order in the public square, and a major advance of that was the broken windows theory, promulgated by Wilson and Kelling in the 1980’s.

What grew out of the broken windows theory of policing—that police do not allow any semblance of disorder in a community, not even broken windows—was Comstat or the computer driven real-time crime reports by neighborhood, which immediately brought accountability to local police commanders.

This is what changed New York city from one of the most dangerous cities in America to one of the safest, and now the dispersion of New York police officers is bringing it to the larger country, and that is a very good thing.

An excerpt from an article in City Journal.

“Since the late 1990s, more than 18 police commanders have left the New York City police department to run their own agencies elsewhere. This unprecedented migration has spread the Compstat revolution—the data-driven transformation of policing begun under New York police commissioner William Bratton in 1994—across the nation. Some of the transplants are well-known: Bratton himself now heads the Los Angeles Police Department; and his former first deputy, John Timoney, has led both the Miami and the Philadelphia forces. But the diaspora also includes lesser-known young Turks who rose quickly through the NYPD’s ranks during the paradigm-shattering 1990s. Now, as chiefs in their own right, they’re proving the efficacy of analytic, accountable policing in agencies wholly dissimilar from New York’s—in one case, achieving success beyond anything seen in Gotham or elsewhere.

“José Cordero once led precincts in the Bronx and in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, and eventually he served as New York’s first citywide gang strategist. Like other members of the diaspora, he describes the 1990s NYPD as a life-changing experience: “It was an incredibly resourceful, competitive environment. The wave of captains I was privileged to serve with fed off of each other’s experiments.” In 2002, he took the helm of the Newton, Massachusetts, police department, bringing crime in that already safe city down to its lowest point in over 30 years.

“Then he moved to a very different city. East Orange, New Jersey, has 70,000 citizens by official counts, about 95 percent of them black, and deep pockets of poverty. Crime there—much of it violent—had started skyrocketing in 1999, reaching a per-capita rate in 2003 that was 14 times that of New York City and five times that of Detroit. East Orange’s mayor recruited Cordero to quell the violence; Cordero started work in 2004. The results were astonishing. By the end of 2007, major felonies had dropped 68 percent, and homicides 67 percent, from their 2003 high—possibly a national record. (By comparison, from 1993, the year before Bratton arrived in New York City, through 1997, major felonies in New York dropped 41 percent and homicides 60 percent.) East Orange’s remarkable experience should give pause to criminologists, who too often ascribe crime drops to anything but policing reforms.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross & the Mystery of Sin

August 9th was the feast day of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also known as Edith Stein, an extraordinary woman who understood the deep truth, that to understand the cross one must have experienced the cross, to understand evil one must have experienced evil, a core concept informing the work of the LampStand Foundation.

This first excerpt from her cannonization, is from the Vatican website:

“On New Year's Eve 1938 she was smuggled across the border into the Netherlands, to the Carmelite Convent in Echt in the Province of Limburg. This is where she wrote her will on 9 June 1939: "Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy as being his most holy will for me. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death ... so that the Lord will be accepted by His people and that His Kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world."…

“In Echt, Edith Stein hurriedly completed her study of "The Church's Teacher of Mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Cross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942." In 1941 she wrote to a friend, who was also a member of her order: "One can only gain a scientia crucis (knowledge of the cross) if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart: 'Ave, Crux, Spes unica' (I welcome you, Cross, our only hope)." Her study on St. John of the Cross is entitled: "Kreuzeswissenschaft" (The Science of the Cross).

“Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt Convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: "Come, we are going for our people."…

“On 7 August, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. It was probably on 9 August that Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, her sister and many other of her people were gassed.

“When Edith Stein was beatified in Cologne on 1 May 1987, the Church honoured "a daughter of Israel", as Pope John Paul II put it, who, as a Catholic during Nazi persecution, remained faithful to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness."

This second excerpt is from her book, The Science of the Cross.

“Through sin human nature, represented by the first humans, lost its honor—its original perfection and graced elevation. It is raised up anew in every individual human soul that is reborn through the grace of baptism into the state of the children of God. It is crowned in the chosen souls who attain to bridal union with the Redeemer. This happens “under the tree of the cross,” as the ripened fruit of the death of the cross and in co-suffering this death on the cross. But how are we to understand that the place of this elevation and that of the fall are one and the same place, the tree of the cross and the tree of paradise, one and the same? It seems to me the solution lies in the mystery of sin. The tree is paradise, the fruits of which were forbidden to human beings, was, after all, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Human beings could only get an authentic experimental knowledge of evil and its radical opposition to good by doing evil. So we may see in the tree of paradise an emblem for human nature in its openness to sin and in the fruit of the tree, actual sin (the first as well as every succeeding one) with all its consequences. But the most terrible result of sin, and therefore the revelation of its terrifying effectiveness is the passion and death of Christ.

“The redemption is also the fruit of the tree of paradise in a multiple sense: because sin moved Christ to accept the passion and death, because it was sin in all the forms in which it appears that crucified Christ, and because thereby sin became the instrument of redemption. The soul united to Christ, however, in her co-suffering with the Crucified (that is, in the dark night of contemplation) attains to “knowledge of good and evil” and experiences this as redemptive strength. After all, it is repeatedly stressed that the soul arrives at purification through the keen pain of self-knowledge (as recognition of one’s own sinfulness).” (2002). Washington D.C.; ICS Publications. (pp. 260-261)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Catholic Social Teaching; Natural Law

Rodger Charles S.J. wrote the single best expression of the social teaching of the Church in its entirety and he makes it clear that it is a teaching with a history that began with Genesis.

His two volume work was published in Great Britain in 1998, Christian Social Witness and Teaching: The Catholic Tradition from Genesis to Centesimus Annus (Volume 1) From Biblical Times to the Late Nineteenth Century & (Volume 2) The Modern Social Teaching Contexts: Summaries: Analysis.

An excellent review of the work is at the Acton Institute’s Journal of Markets & Morality.

The best place to find both volumes is either through Abe Books or through the publisher, Gracewing Publishing.

A foundational concept necessary to discern the justness of laws of governance is that of the natural law.

Here is an excerpt from Volume 1.

Natural law is a concept which has been used in different ways by different thinkers and writers over the centuries. It had its philosophical roots in ancient Greece but it was because it proved so valuable in the elucidation of law and the strengthening of the philosophy of law in the hands of the Roman jurists, whose skill in this area of intellectual and practical achievement has never been excelled, that it made its most lasting mark on the Western tradition. The concept itself received its classic definition from the Roman Stoic and philosopher Cicero.

“There is in fact a true law—namely right reason which is in accordance with nature and eternal…to invalidate this law by human legislation is never morally right…it will not lay down one rule at Rome and another at Athens, nor will it be one rule today and another tomorrow…but there will be…one law eternal and unchangeable…there will be one common master and ruler of men, namely God the author of this law and its sponsor
.” (p. 76)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Child Rape & Capital Punishment

The fourth guiding criminal justice principle of the LampStand Foundation is:

4) Capital punishment is an appropriate response to the criminal evil of murder, rape, and pedophilia.

Capital punishment is often the only effective social method available to protect the innocent and applied with dispatch after legal review of the crimes charged and determining the fitness of its application, should be considered an appropriate sentence for murderers, rapists and pedophiles; who, knowing the time of their death, are able, with certainty of their remaining time to do so, seek God’s forgiveness.

Correctional professionals realize that if a pedophile is placed into a maximum security prison, where the population is primarily professional criminals, he will soon be killed, which poses an interesting question: “Why would the criminal world respond more aggressively to the abuse of a child than the non-criminal world?”

However, five states, have approved the use of capital punishment in child rape cases; Louisiana (where it is being contested), Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.

From the Vatican Catechism (2007):

2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.”

From the Summa Theologia of St. Thomas Aquinas (1920)

“According to the order of His wisdom, God sometimes slays sinners forthwith in order to deliver the good, whereas sometimes He allows them time to repent, according as He knows what is expedient for His elect. This also does human justice imitate according to its powers; for it puts to death those who are dangerous to others, while it allows time for repentance to those who sin without grievously harming others…

“When, however, they fall into very great wickedness, and become incurable, we ought no longer to show them friendliness. It is for this reason that both Divine and human laws command such like sinners to be put to death, because there is greater likelihood of their harming others than of their mending their ways. Nevertheless the judge puts this into effect, not out of hatred for the sinners, but out of the love of charity, by reason of which he prefers the public good to the life of the individual. Moreover the death inflicted by the judge profits the sinner, if he be converted, unto the expiation of his crime; and, if he be not converted, it profits so as to put an end to the sin, because the sinner is thus deprived of the power to sin any more. (ST. Thomas Aquinas, II-II, Ques. 25, Article 6, reply to objection 2.)”

This article from the Wall Street Journal examines the recent Supreme Court decision regarding capital punishment for child rape, and the aftermath.

An excerpt.

“In the recent case of Kennedy v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishments" barred Louisiana from imposing the death penalty for the rape of an 8-year-old child.

“The court perceived that there was a "national consensus" against the death penalty for child rape, concluding that capital punishment for this crime was inconsistent with "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." This supposed consensus, according to the court, was based on the fact that 44 states have not made child rape a capital offense; it also observed that while the federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 expanded the number of federal crimes punishable by death, it did not do so for child rape.

“But the factual basis of the ruling was in error. The court overlooked the amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice -- passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2006 -- which imposed capital punishment for child rape. So much for the national consensus.

“On July 21, Louisiana filed a petition for rehearing. Will the Supreme Court grant such a request? It has in the past.”

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Open Society

Once the internet became a reality, it was only a matter of time before everything about everyone became easily accessible to everybody, and as this New York Times article makes clear, that time has arrived.

For penitential criminals it also places a responsibility of transparency, as trying to hide a past is no longer reasonable and may cause more problems in the hiding than will arise in the opening.

An excerpt.

“Last month, PeopleFinders, a 20-year-old company based in Sacramento, introduced, a free service to satisfy those common impulses. The site, which is supported by ads, lets people search by name through criminal archives of all 50 states and 3,500 counties in the United States. In the process, it just might upset a sensitive social balance once preserved by the difficulty of obtaining public documents like criminal records.

“Academics have a term for the old inaccessibility of records like those for criminal convictions: “practical obscurity.” Once upon a time, people in search of this data had to hire private investigators to navigate byzantine courthouses and rudimentary filing or computer systems, and to deal with often grim-faced legal clerks. In a way, the obstacles to getting criminal information maintained a valuable, ignorance-fueled civil peace. Convicts could start fresh after serving their time without strangers knowing their pasts, and there was little risk that unsophisticated researchers could confuse people with identical names."

Friday, August 8, 2008

China & the Olympics

A wonderful article on China and what the Olympics, as shown on television, will reveal to us about the still mysterious Middle Kingdom, all woven through a Catholic perspective.

An excerpt.

“Among the nations, China has long fascinated Christians. Half of the lore of the Society of Jesus, it sometimes seems, has to do with Ricci, Schall, Verbeist, and the glory of a failed mission. The Middle Kingdom records many dynasties going back before Christianity itself. The Xia and Shang Dynasties are before Abraham.

“Most scholars think Confucianism is more of a philosophy than a religion. Things like style, propriety, manners, beauty, pervade our images of China. A student of mine sent me a postcard the other day on which was a picture of the Great Wall. She wrote: “Greetings from China! I am having a wonderful time living in Shanghai and learning Chinese. This week I am visiting Beijing. Yesterday I hiked up to the Great Wall which was even more impressive than in photographs. I am looking forward to your Aristotle class this fall.” It is already all there, East and West.

“Thomas Boswell, in a fine article in The Washington Post sports page (August 3), wrote that there are two Olympics. One has to do with games and races, the other with China presenting itself before the world as the new Middle Kingdom. The “authoritarian capitalism” is there, with its Marxist background that takes us back not to China but to Germany itself and a man who was originally a Jew and read Hegel.”

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Criminal World Culture, Evaluation of Rentry

Many states are struggling with an increase in criminal world culture and they try taking steps that will reduce or stop that increase, but since the programs are being founded on formulas largely of government and bureaucratic design, the potency of their countervailing force is largely nil; explaining the historic evidence-based failure of traditional criminal rehabilitation programs.

Traditional rehabilitation programs have been in use for the past several decades, and include the more recent faith-based efforts. They have dismal record of success noted by Farabee (2005):

“I wish it were otherwise, but scientific evidence is sorely lacking to support the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs for criminal offenders. It is similarly lacking to support the effectiveness of most programs aimed at treating conditions that exacerbate crime, such as substance abuse and dependence. Although a limited menu of behavioral and pharmacological treatments have shown small to moderate effects among offenders when administered under controlled research conditions, those effects tend to decline rapidly soon after criminal justice supervision is withdrawn. Moreover, these empirically validated interventions are almost entirely unavailable to offenders in day-to-day practice. The vast majority of services for offenders and substance abusers in this country are group-based, peer-administered, and loosely modeled on an amalgam of psycho-educational and twelve-step principles. Typically, the “ingredients” or “mechanisms of action” of these interventions are so vaguely defined as to be essentially unmeasurable, unverifiable, and unfalsifiable. And because the interventions are rarely, if ever, standardized or systemized, they are delivered quite differently across different programs, making it nearly impossible to discern the effects of such an elusive target.” (Farabee, D. (2005). Rethinking rehabilitation: Why can’t we reform our criminals?.
Washington D.C.: AEI Press. p. ix)

A recent example of a traditionally designed rehabilitation program actually making things worse is reported by Wilson (2007) regarding Project Greenlight, a well-funded and closely evaluated—rare for the field—reentry effort that failed spectacularly:

“Project Greenlight participants showed worse outcomes for every type of recidivism at 6 and 12 months after release. The chart “Percent of Participants Who Recidivated at 6 and 12 Months” shows the percentage of each group that experienced any kind of arrest (misdemeanor or felony), felony arrest only, and parole revocation. It is especially noteworthy—because it is statistically significant—that the overall arrest rate for the Project Greenlight group was 10 percent higher than that for the TSP group at 12 months postrelease (34 percent versus 24 percent). Also statistically significant is the 12 percent more parole revocations experienced by the Project Greenlight group than the UPS group at 12 months postrelease (25 percent versus 13 percent).

“Several findings of the evaluation were at odds with program expectations. Most notably, Project Greenlight participants’ postrelease outcomes were significantly worse than those of the TSP and UPS [control] groups. The evaluation found that the Project Greenlight program had no effect on the interim outcomes that it was designed to address—including housing, employment, and parole—and that Project Greenlight participants fared significantly worse than the two control groups in rearrest and parole revocation rates at the 1-year mark. In addition, although Project Greenlight participants displayed greater knowledge of parole conditions, showed more positive attitudes toward parole, received more service referrals, and reported greater contact with service providers after release, none of these translated into better outcomes.”

(Habilitation or Harm: Project Greenlight and the Potential Consequences of Correctional Programming, by James A. Wilson, Ph.D.)

Another recent and much more costly failure in California’s prisons—$1 billion dollars since 1989—was reported by the Office of the Inspector General (2007):

"According to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, more than 36,000 of the state’s 172,500 inmates—21 percent of the adult prison population—are serving prison terms for drug offenses. An even higher percentage reportedly has underlying substance abuse problems. A recent University of California study estimated that 42 percent of California inmates have a “high need” for alcohol treatment and 56 percent have a high need for drug treatment. Recidivism rates for California inmates in general continue to be among the highest in the country.

"In a 50-page special review released Wednesday, the Office of the Inspector General reported that numerous university studies of the state’s in-prison substance abuse programs conducted over the past nine years consistently show no difference in recidivism rates between inmates who participated in the programs and those who received no substance abuse treatment. One five-year University of California, Los Angeles, study of the state’s two largest in-prison programs found, in fact, that the 12-month recidivism rates for inmates who received in-prison treatment was slightly higher than that of a control group." (pp. 1-2 italicized in original)

(Office of the Inspector General, California,(2007).

An analysis of faith-based program research in 2006, noting the results of one well-known program, Fairhurst (2006) commenting on Mears, D. P., Roman, C. G., Wolff, A., & Buck, J. Faith-based efforts to improve prisoner reentry: Assessing the logic and evidence, Journal of Criminal Justice, 2006 August, Vol. 34 Iss. 4, pp. 351-367.

"The fundamental flaw in all the studies: the absence of a clear, consistent operational definition of "faith-based." Is it, for example, nonprofit organizations with religious affiliations delivering secular services such as vocational and drug counseling—or is it individual faith volunteers conducting Bible classes with prisoners? Furthermore, where gains were declared, it was unclear which practices or combinations of secular and religious components generated them.

"Regardless of the definitions and measurements used and the manner in which findings were presented, the review found few studies that had generated data credible enough to justify public support—or outright rejection—of faith-based programming.

"As an example, Mears cites the Prison Fellowship Ministries, founded by Charles Colson, the former Nixon aide who became a born-again Christian while imprisoned for his part in the Watergate scandal. Colson has touted the success of his ministries based on studies that show lower recidivism rates among participants. However, Mears noted that the studies focused only on inmates who completed the program, while comparing its recidivism rates to those of all participants—including dropouts—of selected secular programs.

"In fact, if recidivism rates in Colson's programs were revised to include all participants, "graduates" or not, results would be worse than those for the comparison groups. Where successes might be construed to exist, it's unclear what to credit—the computer and life skills classes or its fundamentalist Christian doctrine. Where recidivism increases among its program participants, did faith-based programming play a part by leading some inmates to believe that ultimate responsibility for their actions lies with God, not them? Like arguments that faith-based programs decrease recidivism, this possibility remains to be demonstrated empirically. (Retrieved March 12, 2010 from Florida State University.

This result with Colson's programs was also found by an Ohio State Department of Rehabilitation & Correction study:

“Specifically, they found that persons who completed the in-prison and aftercare components of the IFI program had an 8% recidivism rate when compared to a 20% rate for a matched group of non-participants. However, non-completers, persons who started the program but did not complete all phases, had a higher recidivism rate (36%) than the comparison group.” (p. 3)

The one element that all of these programs share, that in my opinion led to their failure, is that they have been developed and managed by professional rehabilitation practitioners or the religiously inspired, who have had no deeply lived, experiential knowledge of the population whose lives they are attempting to change.

The one area where government has shown success is in broken-windows policing and three-strikes sentencing as more cops on the street and certain prison sentences for habitual criminals, most certainly reduces crime; but rather than changing the motivations of persons drawn to the criminal world—much of which comes from the sense of joining a family—the bureaucratic efforts instead often increase the sense of alienation and the often subsequent deeper commitment to the criminal world family.

Our work at the Lampstand Foundation offers an optional approach for criminal rehabilitation in communities.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Another Solzhenitsyn Tribute

This is a much briefer tribute than the one yesterday but focusing on the great writer’s essential message of good and evil.

An excerpt.

“Russians found in Solzhenitsyn, who died Sunday in Moscow at age 89, their own story told with clarity, courage and humanity. Ivan Shukhov's prison camp was, in reality, all of the Soviet Union. When "Gulag Archipelago," his monumental history of the Soviet penal system, was published in Paris in 1973, Solzhenitsyn made it impossible for serious people anywhere to excuse Stalin's crimes or the inhumanity of communist totalitarianism. His documentation showed that the commissars had the blood of 60 million victims on their hands. Communism's essence was exposed in relentless detail as slavery, terror and imperialism…

“For the rest of his life, Solzhenitsyn engaged in what he called "a struggle with falsehood," caring not a whit what his critics thought. His 1978 Harvard commencement speech solidified his reputation as a prickly recluse. But his diagnosis of threats to the West -- not least those from within -- remains bracing.

“Solzhenitsyn warned of "an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses," and a "tilt of freedom in the direction of evil . . . evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature." His own prison-camp experience after World War II told him evil was all too real and had to be confronted.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Great Moral Writer Dies

One of the truly great writers—a moral teacher and thinker—died Sunday, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who had as much to do with the downfall of the Soviet empire than anyone else through his prophetic writing about the tyranny of Soviet Russia and the Gulags, scene of his most memorable work.

An excerpt from the New York Times obituary.

“Mr. Solzhenitsyn outlived by nearly 17 years the Soviet state and system he had battled through years of imprisonment, ostracism and exile.

“Mr. Solzhenitsyn had been an obscure, middle-aged, unpublished high school science teacher in a provincial Russian town when he burst onto the literary stage in 1962 with “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.” The book, a mold-breaking novel about a prison camp inmate, was a sensation. Suddenly he was being compared to giants of Russian literature like Tolstoy, Dostoyevski and Chekhov.

“Over the next five decades, Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s fame spread throughout the world as he drew upon his experiences of totalitarian duress to write evocative novels like “The First Circle” and “The Cancer Ward” and historical works like “The Gulag Archipelago.”

“Gulag” was a monumental account of the Soviet labor camp system, a chain of prisons that by Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s calculation some 60 million people had entered during the 20th century. The book led to his expulsion from his native land. George F. Kennan, the American diplomat, described it as “the greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever to be leveled in modern times.”

“Mr. Solzhenitsyn was heir to a morally focused and often prophetic Russian literary tradition, and he looked the part. With his stern visage, lofty brow and full, Old Testament beard, he recalled Tolstoy while suggesting a modern-day Jeremiah, denouncing the evils of the Kremlin and later the mores of the West. He returned to Russia and deplored what he considered its spiritual decline, but in the last years of his life he embraced President Vladimir V. Putin as a restorer of Russia’s greatness.

“In almost half a century, more than 30 million of his books have been sold worldwide and translated into some 40 languages. In 1970 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Experiential Knowledge

One of the best predictors of success in most human endeavors is the degree of experience the leader of the effort has in the particular venture being pursued, as true in selecting a president—and perhaps part of the reason the One might not become the one elected—as in selecting someone to lead an effort to change human behavior in the arena of social problems.

It is the approach we have presented with our criminal transformative work at the LampStand Foundation, and it is the approach taken by this extraordinary book about a related area of human transformation, freeing people from alcoholism.

It is called Sober for Good: New Solutions for Drinking Problems—Advice from Those Who Have Succeeded, and the additional blurb on the cover says: “Get sober with or without AA—You can quit on your own—You can deal with any drinking problem, small or large—you don’t have to “hit bottom”—You don’t have to call yourself an alcoholic—You may not have to quit altogether…”

Well worth the read, to help yourself or one you love.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Catholic Roots of International Law

Many of the modern political, governmental, educational and social structures throughout the world were founded upon principles developed by Catholic priests and laity and a terrific book which touches on all of these is How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.

International law is one such area developed by Catholic priests and in this excerpt from the book, the author focuses on the rights of Indians and other aboriginal people during the Spanish exploration in the New World.

“Among the most illustrious of these thinkers was Father Francisco de Vitoria [born 1483]. In the course of his own critique of Spanish policy, Vitoria laid the groundwork for modern international law theory, and for that reason is sometimes called “the father of international law,” ….

Vitoria borrowed two important principles from Saint Thomas Aquinas: 1) the divine law, which proceeds from grace, does not annul human law, which proceeds from natural reason; and 2) those things which are natural to man are neither to be taken from nor given to him on account of sin. Surely no Catholic would argue that it is a less serious crime to murder a non-baptized person than a baptized one. This is what Vitoria meant: The treatment to which all human beings are entitled—e.g., not to be killed, expropriated, etc.—derives from their status as men rather than as members of the faithful in the state of grace. Father Domingo de Soto, Vitoria’s colleague at the University of Salamanca, stated the matter plainly” “Those who are in the grace of God are not a whit better off than the sinner or the pagan in what concerns natural rights.”

“From these principles adopted from Saint Thomas, Vitoria argued that man was not deprived of civil dominion by mortal sin, and that the right to appropriate the things of nature for one’s own use (i.e., the institution of private property) belonged to all men regardless of their paganism or whatever barbarian vices they might possess. The Indians of the New World, by virtue of being men, were therefore equal to the Spaniards in matters of natural rights. They owned their lands by the same principles that the Spaniards owned theirs. As Vitoria wrote, “The upshot of all the preceding is, then, that the aborigines undoubtedly had true dominion in both public and private matters, just like Christians, and that neither their princes nor private persons could be despoiled of their property on the ground of their not being true owners.” (pp. 137-139, italics in original)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Catholic Social Teaching

Rodger Charles S.J. wrote what, in my opinion, is the single best introduction of the social teaching of the Church in its entirety, and where his approach is different from many writing about the social teaching, he makes it clear that it is a teaching with a history that began with Genesis.

His two volume work was published in Great Britain in 1998, Christian Social Witness and Teaching: The Catholic Tradition from Genesis to Centesimus Annus (Volume 1) From Biblical Times to the Late Nineteenth Century & (Volume 2) The Modern Social Teaching Contexts: Summaries: Analysis.

An excellent review of the work is at the Acton Institute’s Journal of Markets & Morality.

The best place to find both volumes is through Abe Books, or you can go through the publisher, Gracewing Publishing.

Here is an excerpt from Volume 1.

“Like the Old Testament, the New spoke of man made in God’s image, but now he was in a new relationship with God, taken up into Christ and therefore into the life of God himself. The parable of the vine and the branches (John 15: 5-6) brings this out. St. Paul extended this parallel using the example of the human body. It is made up of many parts but is none the less one body; so it is with Christ’s mystical body, the Church. ‘In one spirit we were baptized, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens’ (1 Cor.12:12-30, Rom. 12: 4-8, Eph. 4: 11-13).

“The kingdom, then, is vivified by the life of Christ, and his Church is its first budding forth on earth, though potentially it embraces all mankind. The Gospel which united man to his God therefore was also a Gospel of solidarity and brotherhood. It encourages its citizens toward mutual association and these characteristics of its history are not accidental. There is a natural instinct which draws mankind to mutual co-operation; he is a social being. But membership of the Church raises the social connection of human beings from the sphere of convention to that of moral obligation.

“Charity among men, as a duty stemming from love of God, follows; the parable of the Good Samaritan and its practical implications demonstrate this most fully. (Luke 10: 29-37). Christ was talking about solidarity with his suffering brethren whoever they are, not only those of the Jews. ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me…’ (Matt. 25: 35-46). This new aspect of the theology of benevolence has been the basis of Christian works of charity in which the Church has been outstanding from the earliest times. In the long term, and peacefully, this kingdom, purely spiritual and moral though it was, was to exercise immense influence on earth, precisely because it did not seek access to direct political power. This is the paradox of the kingdom of God in terms of the social order, of ethics and civil society. There was in the Gospel a message of solidarity and brotherhood, an impulse to mutual association which was not accidental or peripheral to it. It spiritualized all that was best in man’s social nature, the impulse that draws us to one another and endows what had been simple social convention with the character of moral obligation.

“It does this through the grace of Christ. He is the vine, we are the branches. The human race, human society, is bound up into his mystical body—which is not only the Church, though it is the Church primarily; secondarily but no less really it is all mankind, whether mankind knows it or not. There is in us a supernatural life, and through us as social beings that life permeates human society also. This bond between men is capable of being stronger than any merely human bond. It should bind us together from the time we come into human society through the most basic of its forms, the family. It should teach us that man is more to be valued for what he is than for what he has, to protect the poor and defend their rights and dignity. It should enable the rich to use their riches for God’s glory and the service of others as well as for their own honest enjoyment, and warns of the spiritual dangers wealth can bring.

“If we let it, it provides in sum the principles and ideals on which a healthy human society can be based; it exhorts us to pray that the kingdom will come on earth and that the Father’s will be done here as it is in heaven, and through grace it gives us the power to do this. Fulfilled as it will be only in eternity, the kingdom none the less begins on earth and helps inspire human society to charity and justice. It secures for us the means to self-giving because the Christ in whose life we live gave himself of us. It bases human rights on man’s dignity as made in God’s image and likeness, and it establishes human freedom in the context of the divine and natural laws which alone can ensure the true happiness and fulfillment which men and women seek.” (Volume 1, pp. 32-33)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Social Teaching

Over the past several decades the work around the social teaching of the Church has been segmented, often by politics, and various turfs have been established that are essentially in conflict with each other, when the social teaching itself is a beautifully woven tapestry that has grown within the Church since Genesis and calls for a complete embrace rather than the partial embrace we see all too often within the Church where those who support social justice for the poor downplay support for the prolife groups and vice versa.

A recent conference in New Jersey, reported on by the Catholic News Service, brought all of the elements together and the presiding bishop gave a talk calling for unity among those involved with the teaching and practice around social doctrine.

An excerpt.

“CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CNS) -- Bishop Joseph A. Galante challenged leaders of Catholic pro-life, family life and social justice offices around the country to "tear down our cubicles" and "give up our turf" in order to model collaboration for the rest of the church.

“The bishop of Camden, N.J., spoke July 25 at the close of the first day of a national conference in his diocese called "Life, Justice & Family: Partners in the New Evangelization."

“Bishop Galante said those in the church are sometimes guilty of "paralysis by analysis," with each person examining only his or her own area of expertise and then "wondering why we're not having a greater impact on those whom we serve."

"In a culture of individualism it is most important that we live and model communally what we teach," he added. "By giving up the prerogatives of turf, we can discover a more ecclesial way of ministering."

“Bishop Galante said the Trinity, with its "divine unity and divine diversity," offers the "key to how we live and are church."

“Reminding his audience that the body of Christ includes everyone, from the moment of conception to the "the last breath breathed," the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned and the homeless, the bishop asked, "How can we dishonor, dismember, destroy that body? How can we kill the unborn, bomb the Iraqis, shun the one who is different from us?”