Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Beatitudes, Part Three

The Beatitudes are among the most lofty—and often perplexing—teachings given to us by Christ, and one book I’ve been reading is an excellent study from a social perspective; The Divine Pity: A Study in the Social Implications of the Beatitudes, by Rev. Gerald Vann, O.P., and I’m posting some quotes from it as well as commentary from the Douay Rheims with the Haydock Commentary and The Navarre Bible, Matthew.

This is the third beatitude in the RSV translation, but second in the Douay Rheims.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.” (Matthew 5:4)

Rev. Haydock says of this verse:

"Ver. 4. The land of the living, or the kingdom of heaven. The evangelist prefers calling it the land of the living in this place, to shew that the meek, the humble, and the oppressed, who are spoiled of the possession of this earth by the powerful and the proud, shall obtain the inheritance of a better land. (Menochius) "They shall possess the land," is the reward annexed by our Saviour to meekness, that he might not differ in any point from the old law, so well known to the persons he was addressing. David, in psalm xxxvi, had made the same promise to the meek. If temporal blessings are promised to some of the virtues in the beatitudes, it is that temporal blessings might always accompany the more solid rewards of grace. But spiritual rewards are always the principal, always ranked in the first place, all who practice these virtues are pronounced blessed. (Hom. xv.)"

The Navarre says of this verse:

“5. The meek; those who patiently suffer unjust persecution; those who remain serene, humble and steadfast in adversity, and do not give way to resentment or discouragement. The virtue of meekness is very necessary in the Christian life. Usually irritableness, which is very common, stems from a lack of humility and interior peace.”

Rev. Vann says:

“We find God through making for ourselves the long sea-journey—in the company and in the power of Him who made it for us first; we find God through overcoming, again in His power, the dark evil within us; we find God by realizing in the first place our need of God as a child realizes its need of a father; we find Him by learning to see the reality of sin and therefore to repent and be meek and humble of heart.

“He descended into hell. That, too, we have to do in company with Him. We are all together God’s family; and we have to go down into the depths and understand the reality of the evil of the world if we are to help to heal the world. You cannot heal unless you love; but you cannot love unless you see. That is why the first prayer of the humble man is the prayer of the blind man in the Gospel: “Lord, that I may see.” Lord, that I may see the reality of sin and my share in it, and so turn again to You, and so see Your mercy and the meaning of the Love that rules the sun and the other stars; for then the Word will be made flesh in me and I shall be reborn, and in the power of the new life I shall share in the work of Him who makes all things new.

“You cannot help the world in its sin and its suffering unless you sense your share in the sin and have your share in the suffering. And how can you do this, not only for a few who are dear to you and for whom you are responsible, but for the whole world? You can do it only by putting on Christ, by being able to say “I live now not I, but Christ liveth in me.” And who can begin to say this but the meek and the humble of heart.” (pp. 62-63)

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Beatitudes, Part Two

The Beatitudes are among the most lofty—and often perplexing—teachings given to us by Christ, and one book I’ve been reading is an excellent study from a social perspective; The Divine Pity: A Study in the Social Implications of the Beatitudes, by Rev. Gerald Vann, O.P., and over the next several days I’ll be posting some quotes from it.

This is the second beatitude in the RSV translation, but third in the Douay Rheims.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

“They that mourn, they who can forget their own desires altogether if need be, or even choose discomfort and sorrow, in order to serve Love in all things, they are the ones who in actual practice achieve wisdom, because they have brought the manifold into unity by seeing God in all things and turning their love and service of all things into a single act of worship of the One. St. Thomas associates this beatitude with the gift of knowledge, because, he says, the gift leads us to mourn over the way we have allowed creatures to distract us from God: to distract us because we have turned them into a means of comfort or pleasure, and so enjoyed them apart from and in opposition to God.”

In The Navarre Bible, St. Matthew, the commentary on this verse says:

“Those who mourn”: here our Lord is saying that those are blessed who suffer from any kind of affliction—particularly those who are genuinely sorry for their sins, or are pained by the offences which others offer God, and who bear their suffering with love and in a spirit of atonement.

St. Josemaria says:

“You are crying? Don’t be ashamed of it. Yes, cry: men also cry like you, when they are alone and before God. Each night, says King David, I soak my bed with tears. With those tears; those burning manly tears, you can purify your past and supernaturalize your present life.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 216)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Beatitudes, Part One

The Beatitudes are among the most lofty—and often perplexing—teachings given to us by Christ, and one book I’ve been reading is an excellent study from a social perspective; The Divine Pity: A Study in the Social Implications of the Beatitudes, by Rev. Gerald Vann, O.P., and over the next several days I’ll be posting some quotes from it as well as from the Douay Rheims with Haydock Commentary and The Navarre Bible, Matthew.

We’ll begin with the first:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

Rev. Haydock says of this verse:

“Ver. 3. The poor in spirit;[1] which, according to the common exposition, signifies the humble of mind and heart. Yet some understand it of such as are truly in poverty and want, and who bear their indigent condition with patience and resignation. (Witham) --- That is, the humble; and they whose spirit is not set upon riches. (Challoner) --- It is not without reason that the beatitudes are disposed of in this order. Each preceding one prepares the way for what immediately follows, furnishing us in particular with spiritual arms of such graces as are necessary for obtaining the virtue of the subsequent beatitude. Thus the poor in spirit, i.e. the truly humble, will mourn for their transgressions, and whoever is filled with sorrow and confusion for his own sins, cannot but be just, and behave to others with meekness and clemency; when possessed of these virtues, he then becomes pure and clean of heart. Peace of conscience reigns in this assemblage of virtues, and cannot be expelled the soul by any tribulations, persecutions, or injustices of men. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xv.) What is this poverty of spirit, but humility and contrition? This virtue of humility is placed in the first place, because it is the parent of every other virtue, as pride is the mother of every vice. Pride deprived our first parents of their original innocence, and nothing but humility can restore us to our former purity. We may pray and fast, we may be possessed of mercy, chastity, or any virtues, if humility do not accompany them, they will be like the virtue of the Pharisee, without foundation, without fruit. (Hom. xv.)”

The Navarre Bible says of this verse:

“3. This text outlines the connection between poverty and the soul. This religious concept of poverty was deeply rooted in the Old Testament. It was more to do with a religious attitude of neediness and of humility towards God than with material poverty; that person is poor who has recourse to God without relying on his own merits and who trusts in God’s mercy to be saved. This religious attitude of poverty is closely related to what is called “spiritual childhood”. A Christian sees himself as a little child in the presence of God, a child who owns nothing; everything he has comes from God and belongs to God. Certainly, spiritual poverty, that is, Christian poverty, means one must be detached from material things and practice austerity in using them. God asks certain people—religious—to be legally detached from ownership and thereby bear witness to others of the transitoriness of earthly things.”

Rev. Vann says of this verse:

“To be poor in spirit is to be large-headed and open-handed, to be not too much exercised about legitimate worldly purposes, to be, on the contrary, care-free about success or failure, because whichever it is comes from God. To be poor in spirit is to have a childlike trust in Providence, and so to be freed from fear.

“This freedom from fear is indeed the characteristic of those who have learnt to care and not to care. To be grasping and possessive is to live always in anxiety and fear of loss; to live in the eternal present is to live in the love that drives out fear.” (p. 39)

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Having gone through the Mormon Church on my way to the Catholic, and having discovered many of the same inconsistencies -- which hastened my withdrawl from it -- as noted in this article from First Things, I was particularly interested in the arguments.

An excerpt.

“In contrast, there is only one voice testifying to the authenticity of the American Jesus—the translator of the gold plates that comprise the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith. To be sure, the Book of Mormon purports to be the testimony of more than several ancient prophets, and eleven witnesses say they saw the golden plates. But while there are many extant manuscripts from the ancient world attesting the existence of four gospels that arose independently—hence at least four independent voices—there is no other record from the ancient world outside the Book of Mormon that speaks of this Jesus, and none of the eleven witnesses claimed to be able to translate the writing on the plates.

“Second, the testimonies we have to the Palestinian Jesus date from the same century as that Jesus, but the single testimony to the American Jesus comes eighteen centuries later. Not only do we have manuscripts containing one or more gospels that date to within just a few centuries of the Palestinian Jesus, but we have evidence within those gospels and some epistles that goes back to within just a few decades (and for some units of the tradition, years) of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. But for the American Jesus, the first public record we can find is not until the nineteenth century.

“Third, there are inconsistencies between the Palestinian Jesus and the American Jesus. For example, while the American Jesus promises the land of America to the new Israel as a “new Jerusalem” (3 Nephi 20:22, Ether 13:3), the Palestinian Jesus speaks only of a kingdom of God that is open to people of every land. His promise to the meek is that “they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). His apostles write that Jesus’ followers still seek a country (Heb. 11:14) and “should be the heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13). People will bring into the New Jerusalem “the glory and honor” not of a single nation but of all the “nations” (Rev. 21:26). So the Palestinian Jesus seems to think of the coming Kingdom as a worldwide phenomenon not limited to one geographical part of the earth, while the American Jesus is fixated on America. “

Friday, September 26, 2008

Technology & Crime

The wonders of technology continue to provide great help to the nation’s police departments and this is a good one, as reported by the Charleston News.

An excerpt.

“The day when police can swipe a suspect's finger through a device and check him instantly against a nationwide criminal database, all while standing on a city street, may not be far off.

“North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt said a new handheld device his department acquired this week is a step in the right direction. The gadget looks like a BlackBerry wireless device and allows an officer to check a national database for warrants and vehicle information. Until now, police had to call dispatchers, costing valuable minutes.

"This is just the beginning," Zumalt said on Wednesday, as the device manufacturer trained his officers on the new equipment. "This is innovation. We're the first in the state to have this."

“The gadget is made by an Atlanta-based company, the American Law Enforcement Network, or ALEN for short. The department purchased 10 handheld devices at just under $400 each. The city will have to pay about $30 in monthly subscription fees per unit.

“Francine Karp, an ALEN operations manager, visited North Charleston for the training. A former police officer in Connecticut, Karp said she often pulled over vehicles without having a chance to learn the driver's criminal history until it was too late.

“She said it's crucial to know that a car is associated with a violent felon, or has been reported stolen, before approaching the driver.

"It's literally walking into a very dangerous situation blindly," Karp said.

“The device, developed about 2 1/2 years ago, is in use by about 500 departments in five states, she said. The North Charleston Police Department is the first South Carolina agency to get one.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Bush Doctrine & Catholic Teaching

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the Bush Doctrine—and the overwhelming focus is on the protection of human dignity, human freedom, and religious freedom; powerful marks for a great power to assume and very congruent with those of another great power in the world, the Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict reinforced these principles in his speech to the United Nations, and reminds us of how important it is that we Catholics—who are voting in the United States for leaders of our city, county, and country—remember that being congruent with the basic principles of our faith and our nation, should be a major ingredient in the decision process that leads to our final vote.

An excerpt:

“The principle of “responsibility to protect” was considered by the ancient ius gentium as the foundation of every action taken by those in government with regard to the governed: at the time when the concept of national sovereign States was first developing, the Dominican Friar Francisco de Vitoria, rightly considered as a precursor of the idea of the United Nations, described this responsibility as an aspect of natural reason shared by all nations, and the result of an international order whose task it was to regulate relations between peoples.”

The responsibility to protect the innocent from the aggressor is a Catholic principle woven into its traditional support for babies in the womb, just war, and capital punishment, and is reflected in the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and the 2001 United Nations report, The Responsibility to Protect, which states as two basic principles:

“A. State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself.

“B. Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.” (p. xi)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

With Peter

The papacy of Benedict is an amazing moral witness to the world and a focused body of work reminding it of its true nature, and this article from Catholic Thing, captures what Benedict is doing.

An excerpt.

“…What is Benedict up to? Of course, the best any outside, or inside, observer can offer is an opinion or even a hunch.

“…Benedict is probing the world. We have never really seen anything like it, a pope who really does think in what Hegel would call “world historical” terms.

“Thus far, Benedict has visited Germany, Austria, Turkey, Brazil, the United States, Spain, Australia, Paris, and numerous Italian cities. On a regular basis, he meets leading political, ecclesiastical, and intellectual leaders from all over the world. He meets ordinary people, again, from everywhere. He has written two encyclicals, a book, numberless addresses and homilies. By now, he has looked over most religious orders and dioceses. He already knew about the curia. He had a good bead on the theologians, being one of them….

“The key to Benedict is that God is Caritas, Logos, but not Pura Voluntas. Benedict thought his way through the Old and New Testament, mastering the vast scholarship on the subject. His book, Jesus of Nazareth, tells us that we need not agree with him. But it has one basic conclusion, one that is confirmed, not undermined by scholarship; namely, that Jesus was indeed the Word made flesh.

“The fact is that Christ was Who He said He was. This fact means that the world is different; it cannot help but being so if this Logos is a fact. It is not a myth. This concreteness is why Benedict insists on the relationship of Jerusalem and Athens, which was already inaugurated in the Old Testament and confirmed when Paul was called to Macedonia. Christianity thus addresses philosophy, not myth.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Criminal Record Transparency

While the side effects of the technology driven transparency of criminal (and all other) records even decades old can be onerous, the fact remains that complete transparency of all criminal records is a reality—just as it is a reality for virtually anyone who is being screened for past behavior, including politicians; as this current election cycle reminds us once again.

Transparency is a good thing, and it is incumbent upon those of us who work in the field of criminal transformation to be supportive of it, as the public—including all employers—certainly have the right to know who they are hiring.

On the other hand, one hopes that in the egregious cases noted in this recent article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, unions and public interest lawyers arise to protect the rights of individuals who have truly transformed their lives and are now being caught up in the revelatory aspects of our technology.

An excerpt.

“Sweeping changes in state laws intended to keep students safe have uncovered criminal offenses -- some decades old -- that are costing school employees their jobs.

“The impact has been especially evident among nonteaching employees who, until this year, did not have to undergo the kind of comprehensive background checks done for teachers.

“Now, staffers such as custodians, secretaries and cafeteria workers may face dismissal for newly unearthed offenses committed years ago.

“John Reccord, a night supervisor for the Orange school district, has worked there for nearly two decades. But he stands to lose his job for an offense to which he pleaded guilty 35 years ago and was sentenced to probation.

"I have been at the school for 19 years without any problems," Reccord said. "This is going to affect people who did something when they were young. Why should they lose their jobs now?"

“He is one of a handful of Orange school employees facing an uncertain future as a result of the background checks.

“Statewide, it's unclear how many school employees are in a similar predicament. The Ohio Department of Education doesn't keep track of nonlicensed employees, and a union representing such nonteaching staff also had no tallies available.

“Shaker Heights is among the area school districts grappling with the issue.

"We absolutely need to protect children by checking the background of school employees. The problem we're struggling with is that schools are being forced to let some exemplary employees go," said Robert P. Kreiner, business administrator for the Shaker Heights school district.”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Being a Catholic Convert

Being a convert myself, and coming to the Catholic Church in a somewhat similar route as Dorothy Day—winding my way through the various practices and philosophies of the day including Hedonism, Marxism, and Existentialism—her words on being a convert are intriguing.

I discovered them in a book about her by Robert Coles.

An excerpt.

“I wish I had put more effort into understanding what was happening to me at that moment, when my whole life was changing. Then I would have known more, myself, about myself; then I would have been able to give people the answers when they asked me what made me become a Catholic convert, that’s what they kept calling me. I thought of myself—well, not as a Catholic convert. I thought of myself as someone who had been looking for God all those years, without really knowing it, and had now begun to find Him, but who had a long way to go: ‘the long loneliness.’ That expression ‘Catholic convert’ was much too final and decisive and conclusive for me; and it still is. The rain and wind and fog were still swirling around me all those years ago, more so than I dared admit to myself, and I’m not in the clear yet. Who of us is?” (pp. 56-57)

Ah yes, exactly, who of us is?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Candidates on Catholic Issues

The National Catholic Register publishes a good issue by issue comparison by the two presidential candidates.

An excerpt.


"Pope Benedict XVI recently summed up the Church’s teaching: “The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right — it is the very opposite. It is a deep wound in society.”

“John McCain

"Opposes the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA), a bill which would prohibit states from placing limits on abortion.

"On Supreme Court: “Chief Justice [John] Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito would serve as the model for my own nominees.”

"In the U.S. Senate:

Voted YES, make unborn children eligible for the SCHIP health-care program.
Voted YES, keep federal money out of abortion.
Voted YES, use taxpayers’ money to kill human embryos in stem-cell research.
Voted YES, a parent must be notified when a minor gets out-of-state abortions.
Voted NO on promoting contraception to teens.
Voted YES, unborn victims of violence count.
Voted YES, ban partial-birth abortion.
Voted YES, ban abortion on military bases.
Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortions.
Voted YES on banning human cloning.

“Barack Obama

"Co-sponsored the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA) and says his first act as president will be to prohibit states from placing any limits on abortion.

"On Supreme Court: Obama sharply criticized the Supreme Court for its 2007 decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

"Voted to allow “live birth abortion” when the “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act” came up in the Illinois Senate.

"In the U.S. Senate:

Voted NO, don’t make unborn children eligible for the SCHIP health-care program.
Voted NO, parents needn’t be told if their children get abortions in other states.
Voted YES, use taxpayers’ money to kill human embryos in stem-cell research.
Voted NO, parent should be notified when their children get out-of-state abortions.
Voted YES on promoting contraception to teens.”

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Peter & Geopolitics

The ability of the Holy Father to play a potent role on the world stage these past several decades has truly been remarkable; helping lead to the fall of communism in the Soviet empire and the stirrings of freedom in the former captive states in Eastern Europe.

Recently it has been with the extraordinary success of Peter’s involvement in bringing Islam to the table of discussion with reason and religion as the topic; a huge achievement in the future peace of the world with the continued success of these talks.

This article from Chiesa discusses this.

An excerpt.

“The Catholic Church is a 2,000-year-old reality. But the current political role of the papacy on the world stage is a recent achievement, from the past few decades. For three centuries, after the peace of Westphalia, the papacy stood on the outer edge of political power. Its political neutrality coincided with its irrelevance. His denunciation of the first world war as a "useless massacre" condemned Benedict XV to isolation. The Holy See was not even invited to the peace conferences that put an end to the two global conflicts of the 20th century.

“Its resurgence began midway through the past century, with the pontificate of Pius XII. And it continued with his successors, John XXIII and Paul VI. The latter preached from the podium of the United Nations, in the name of a Church "expert in humanity." Stripped of temporal power, the papacy took on moral authority. But half of the world remained unalterably hostile to it. Stalin mocked a Church devoid of armed divisions. Crushing Soviet power forced the Church into silence, both behind the Iron Curtain and beyond it. Not a word about communist domination emerged from Vatican Council II, although it discussed everything. The famous Vatican Östpolitik of those years adhered to the strict doctrine of realism, to the minimum necessary to ensure that the persecuted Church would have the chance not so much to live, as simply not to die.

“Then came a pope from Poland, and everything changed. The spiritual revolution that he inspired was the additional factor that accelerated the collapse of the Soviet system. During his pontificate, the Church deployed the entire gamut of its resources. Geopolitical realism alternated with Wilsonian idealism. The papacy put the people in front of the state. It replaced the inviolability of borders with "the duty and the right of interference, to disarm those who wish to kill." It called for the intervention of international troops, in defense of the peoples of Bosnia and Kosovo. In both cases, these were Muslim populations, relics of the Ottoman Empire that three centuries before had besieged Vienna; now the pope was aligning himself with them.

“John Paul II was anything but a pacifist. He called for military intervention in East Timor, in Haiti, in the Great Lakes region of Africa: in this last case, his appeal went unheard, and the result was the unfettered genocide of entire populations. The expansion of freedom and of democracy was one of his guiding principles.

“But at other times and in other places, John Paul II opted for the rejection of armed action, for the sake of realism. He opposed the 1990-1991 war against Iraq, in spite of the fact that it was approved by the UN and intended to restore the legitimate sovereignty of an invaded country, Kuwait. Among the "interests" that motivated the pope's opposition to the war, the first was the defense of the Christian minority in Iraq. Another was the rejection of the new world order with unlimited American hegemony. Still another was the proposal of establishing a relationship, not of opposition, but of "dialogue" between the Church and Muslim countries, similar to the relationship with the Soviet bloc during the years of Östpolitik, even at the cost of keeping silent over the large-scale violations of human rights perpetrated in those countries.

“After September 11, 2001, Pope Karol Wojtyla gave de facto approval to war operations in Afghanistan. But he resolutely opposed the second war against Iraq. He contrasted this with all his strength, but without ever condemning it as immoral. The logic of the pope's opposition to the war was, again, realist. So much so that in 2003, especially after the terrorist massacre in Nassiriya on November 13, the official line of the Holy See became – and remains – one of open support for the continued presence of Western troops in the country, a presence viewed as a "peacekeeping mission," partly for the protection of Christian minorities.

“It is no surprise, therefore, that after the death of Pope Wojtyla in 2005, the last three presidents of the United States knelt before his body, and almost all of the world leaders came to his funeral. In a world that has become more anarchical after the dissolution of the blocs, the head of the Catholic Church has been recognized as having unprecedented authority, moral rather than political.

“With a giant of John Paul II's stature gone from the scene, the natural question was whether and how his successor would be able to keep the papacy at the center of the world stage. The question was all the more natural in that the new pope, the German Joseph Ratzinger, was a man of a different temper, a refined theologian, hard to imagine as an epic trailblazer. And in effect, from the very beginning, Benedict XVI refused to imitate his predecessor. But this did not mark a rupture with him. He proceeded along the same path, but with his own unique stride. And that includes the theater of international politics.

“If John Paul II was the pope of dazzling intuitions, Benedict XVI is the pope of methodical reasoning and action. The former was above all image, the latter is mainly "logos." John Paul II made an impact with these words from his first homily as pope: "Be not afraid, open the doors to Christ." The words already contained a glimpse of the peaceful revolution that he would inspire in Eastern Europe, and not only there. But the first action of Benedict XVI that made a worldwide impact was the long and substantial lecture that he gave at the University of Regensburg on September 12, 2006. He literally shook the world, for both the right reasons on the wrong ones. That lecture explained the new pope's view of the Church and of the West and his plans for them, including relations with Islam.

“According to the canons of geopolitical realism, Benedict XVI should never have delivered that lecture in its entirety. He should have had it reviewed and purged beforehand by the diplomatic experts, something that he intentionally declined to do. And a number of people in the Vatican curia criticized him for this.

“And yet, two years later, the facts tell a different story. Despite the alarm of the Cassandras, a dialogue emerged between the Catholic Church and Islam that had never existed before Regensburg, and had even seemed impossible. This dialogue is not only intellectual – represented, for example, by the initiatives following the "letter of the 138 Muslim scholars" – but also political. The political dimension advanced considerably after the audience at the Vatican on November 6, 2007 – the first of its kind in history – between the pope and the king of Saudi Arabia…

“Everyone was surprised by the extraordinarily friendly welcome that Benedict XVI gave to American President George W. Bush, on the occasion of his last visit to the Vatican. It certainly marked a break with respect to the traditional anti-Americanism of the Catholic hierarchy: an attitude that sees the United States as synonymous with unbridled capitalism, consumerism, social Darwinism. But the real motivation for Pope Ratzinger's fondness for the United States is that it is a country born and founded "on the self-evident truth that the Creator has endowed each human being with certain inalienable rights," foremost among which is liberty. To United States ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, who came to present her credentials to him, Benedict XVI said that he admires "the American people's historical appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse," a role that elsewhere – read, Europe – "is contested in the name of a straitened understanding of political life." With the consequences that derive from this on the issues closest to the Church's heart, like "legal protection for God's gift of life from conception to natural death," marriage, the family.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

Abortionist Strategies

Having lost the war to convince the public that abortion is the right thing to do; the abortionists are working to change the laws in various countries to force people to become involved in it regardless of their personal beliefs, as this article from Catholic Thing notes.

An excerpt.

“A classic American film, The Longest Day, chronicles the invasion of Normandy by the Allies on June 6, 1944. That fine movie is itself based on a fine book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan. I liked the movie so much I read the book. And in reading it, I was impressed that the Allied plan was not just to secure a beachhead, which would have left them vulnerable to counter-attack, but to break out from the beachhead as soon as possible, to move inland. Pockets of German soldiers near the beaches could be dealt with later. In military parlance, that is called “mopping up.”

“And that, I am afraid, is largely what the pro-abortion forces have done in the law (they are being turned back in the culture). They have secured their beachhead, flanked the pro-lifers, and are now turning back to mop up, to eliminate the pockets of pro-life resistance.

“Of course, one of the strongest pockets of resistance is among doctors, nurses, hospitals, and others who refuse to participate in abortion, or similar practices. They rely on long-honored rights to freedom of conscience, including protection from being forced to act contrary to what one’s conscience dictates is morally right. Still, pro-abortion activists are determined to force pro-lifers to participate in morally repugnant practices, and are changing the laws around the world to do so.

“Presently, for instance, legislation is pending in the province of Ontario in Canada and in the state of Victoria in Australia to force medical professionals to participate in abortions and other anti-life activities. If they refuse, they will lose their medical licenses; it’s as simple, and diabolical, as that. And do not delude yourself – pro-abortion groups in the United States have been pushing such laws in state legislatures for years.

“Earlier this year the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a statement proposing that doctors who refuse to perform abortions should be required to refer someone seeking an abortion to a doctor who will. The moral problem, of course, is that to refer for a procedure one believes is immoral is to make oneself complicit in the subsequent immoral act. Conscience protection, if it means anything, means that one cannot be forced, in violation of one’s conscience, to do, directly or indirectly, what one considers to be immoral or unethical.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Crime & Public Administration

While the narrative from some in academia and many in the media of why so many people are imprisoned—over 2 million in the United States—is comparable to this expressed by a prominent thinker on public administration in Governing Management Insights, the insight based in reality is that the public response to rising crime rates several years ago was broken-windows policing and three-strikes sentencing which has caused prisons to fill with criminals and lower crimes rates.

The public is safer as a result, many inner city neighborhoods have been reclaimed, and the certainty of timely arrest, judgment, and punishment will ultimately increase the ranks of penitential criminals.

The responsibility to protect the innocent from the aggressor is a Catholic principle woven into its traditional support for babies in the womb, just war, and capital punishment, and is reflected in the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and the 2001 United Nations report, The Responsibility to Protect, which states as two basic principles:

“A. State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself.

“B. Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.” (p. xi)

Pope Benedict XVI (2008) addressed the responsibility to protect in his talk to the United Nations:

“Recognition of the unity of the human family, and attention to the innate dignity of every man and woman, today find renewed emphasis in the principle of the responsibility to protect. This has only recently been defined, but it was already present implicitly at the origins of the United Nations, and is now increasingly characteristic of its activity. Every State has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments.” (n.p.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Changes in the Church

They have been dramatic and especially n the areas of protecting life, as witnessed by the recent storm after a prominent Catholic politician tried to counter the Church’s teaching on abortion; but it wasn’t always so, and this column remembering the whirlwind of protest that broke out when Pope Paul VI published his encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968.

An excerpt.

“Where did Nancy Pelosi come by the notion that she could offer alternatives to “official” doctrine and that this was actually the Catholic thing to do? Where would she have acquired the confidence that abortion is a live option, that everyone could just follow his own “conscience,” that moral absolutes are no more? The answer is simple. She is a typical product of Catholic education.

“In the forty years and more since the close of Vatican II, those with a claim to authoritative credentials in the matter have been saying the sort of thing Nancy Pelosi said, and worse, in season and out, in the halls of Catholic academe, warping the minds of the young, offering stones rather than bread.

“The revolt of the theologians began much earlier, but it came out of the closet with the appearance of Humanae Vitae in 1968. The day after the encyclical appeared, a full-page ad in The New York Times announced that the undersigned theologians rejected the teaching of the Holy Father. The pope was wrong and the laity were to listen to dissenting theologians rather than to the Vicar of Christ. It was a heady moment.

“Cardinal Stafford’s recently published memories of what it was like to be a young priest in Baltimore during those tumultuous times reveals them to be even worse than I had thought. There was open revolt of the clergy and it was given a patina of respectability by the leadership of moral theologians in seminaries and universities.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Praying the Rosary

Praying the Rosary is a powerful devotional tool uniting us with the timeless truths of the Church and is a key element in the triune path—With Peter, to Christ, through Mary—all are encouraged to daily walk to ensure they are enveloped within the blessed armor of God in this earthly world under the sway of its prince.

Peter speaks of the rosary during his visit to Lourdes.

An excerpt.

“Benedict XVI indicated that "by coming here to Lourdes on pilgrimage we wish to enter, following in Bernadette's footsteps, into this extraordinary closeness between heaven and earth, which never fails and never ceases to grow. In the course of the apparitions, it is notable that Bernadette prays the rosary under the gaze of Mary, who unites herself to her at the moment of the doxology. This fact confirms the profoundly theocentric character of the prayer of the rosary. “When we pray it, Mary offers us her heart and her gaze in order to contemplate the life of her Son, Jesus Christ".

“After pointing out that John Paul II visited Lourdes on two occasions and "keenly encouraged the prayer of the rosary", the Pope also recalled how his predecessor had enriched the Rosary "with the meditation of the Mysteries of Light".

"The torchlight procession expresses the mystery of prayer in a form that our eyes of flesh can grasp: in the communion of the Church, which unites the elect in heaven with pilgrims on earth, the light of dialogue between man and his Lord blazes forth and a luminous path opens up in human history, even in its darkest moments".

Monday, September 15, 2008

Reentry Failure & Police Athletic Leagues

1) A tragic family situation from the perspective of loving parents trying to deal with a criminal child brings home the family tragedy involved in the failure of reentry; and the difficulty of expecting the state agency responsible for imprisoning criminals to also be responsible for reforming them. It is dual roles that can only work with the small percentage of criminals who possess enough internal reasons to remove themselves from the criminal world—while surrounded by it in prisons—and will never generate enough of a success to make much of dent in the 70% recidivist rate.

Rejoining the community is a process that, though it may have some tentative beginning in prison, will not come to full-flower except in the community, through community programs managed by professionals other than correctional professionals; and it is our contention that the best professionals to have in this role is the reformed criminal, once educated, trained, and involved in a deep enough process of communal living himself, that he can legitimately attract others to a similar process.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

“On the days when her son Thomas gets out of prison, Nikki Pittman follows the same routine.

"I lock my husband's office," Pittman said, seated in a chair inside the spotless residence on her 18-acre walnut ranch. "I lock my other son's bedroom. I lock my bedroom. I take my laptop and lock it. I put all checkbooks in a safe for fear that he can break open an office door."

“Then she drives to the prison, picks Thomas up at the gate, brings him home – and waits for corrections officials to revoke his parole and return him to custody.

“It's a cycle that has repeated itself 10 times in seven years, according to parole and probation records – a testament, Nikki Pittman says, to California's parole system that sends seven of every 10 offenders back to prison within three years of their release….

“"I love my son very much," Nikki Pittman said. "But the only time I'm relaxed and at peace is when he's locked up in prison. I look forward to the parole date because I love him and I can only visit him behind glass when he's in prison. But I know I'm going to be scared to death when he gets out."

“As of Sept. 3, there were 171,790 inmates in California prisons, fire camps and the like. An untold number of families share Nikki Pittman's fear of and love for society's outcasts who hold entree into their homes and hearts.”

2) One of the few types of programs that allow police or corrections to help kids that may be in danger of straying into a criminal life are Police Athletic Leagues (PALS), where the reformation work is completely separate from the police or corrections work and there is an opportunity to build a relationship on trust and honesty; virtually impossible within prisons or on the streets.

Unfortunately, many PALS are struggling to remain solvent, as this story relates.

An excerpt.

“In a forlorn building at the heart of Oak Park, a stalled dream is gathering dust where as many as 400 impoverished children once thrived.

“The Police Athletic League once was a refuge where children received tutoring, hot meals, recreation and adult guidance.

“A few years ago, money dried up, bills continued to pour in, and efforts by City Council members, the police union and other charitable folks couldn't keep the padlock off.

"We got overwhelmed. I know people are unhappy, but everybody gave it our best shot," said Dave Topaz, former president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association.

“Police athletic leagues have been around for more than 75 years, giving kids in most major cities and suburbs a place to go.

“Since the Sacramento PAL closed almost three years ago, the remaining board members have juggled debt and struggled to revive the program.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Becoming A Catholic Nation

Since its founding America has been primarily a Protestant nation, informed by the classic images of the Puritan founding fathers, visions of a shining city on a hill, and the far-away new world where individual dreams may become reality.

While still retaining much of this animating foundation, the clarity—even with the sullying of the sexual abuse scandal—of the recent proclamation of principles of the Holy Father and the Bishops of the Catholic Church, have had a significant impact on the perception of the Catholic Church in our country, and may indicate a slow evolution into a much more Catholic perspective in its leadership; something already remarked on by one political writer as occurring within one political party, as noted by Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, (2007):

“The two intellectually vital movements within the Republican Party today are libertarianism and Roman Catholic social thought.” (Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America's Ideals (And Why They Deserve to Fail If They Don't), p. 160)

The current state of the waning Protestant influence in America is examined closely in this article from First Things.

An excerpt.

“America was Methodist, once upon a time—Methodist, or Baptist, or Presbyterian, or Congregationalist, or Episcopalian. A little light Unitarianism on one side, a lot of stern Calvinism on the other, and the Easter Parade running right down the middle: our annual Spring epiphany, crowned in bright new bonnets.

“The average American these days would have ¬trouble recalling the dogmas that once defined all the jarring sects, but their names remain at least half alive: a kind of verbal remembrance of the nation’s religious history, a taste on the tongue of native speakers. Think, for instance, of the old Anabaptist congregations—how a residual memory of America’s social geography still lingers in the words: the Hutterites, Mennonites, and Amish, set here and there on the checkerboard of the nation’s farmland. The Quakers in their quiet meeting¬houses, the Shakers in their tiny communes, and the Pentecostals, born in the Azusa Street revivals, like blooms forced in the hothouse of the inner city.

“And yet, even while we may remember the names of the old denominations, we tend to forget that it all made a kind of sense, back in the day, and it came with a kind of order. The genteel Episcopalians, high on the hill, and the all-over Baptists, down by the river. Oh, and the innumerable independent Bible churches, tangled out across the prairie like brambles: Through most of the nation’s history, these endless divisions and ¬revisions of Protestantism renounced one another and sermonized against one another. They squabbled, sneered, and fought. But they had something in common, for all that. Together they formed a vague but vast unity. Together they formed America.

“In truth, all the talk, from the eighteenth century on, of the United States as a religious nation was really just a make-nice way of saying it was a Christian nation—and even to call it a Christian nation was usually just a soft and ecumenical attempt to gloss over the obvious fact that the United States was, at its root, a Protestant nation. Catholics and Jews were tolerated, off and on, but “the destiny of America,” as Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1835, was “embodied in the first Puritan who landed on those shores, just as the whole human race was represented by the first man.”

“Even America’s much vaunted religious liberty was essentially a Protestant idea. However deistical and enlightened some of the Founding Fathers may have been, Deism and the Enlightenment provided little of the religious liberty they put in the Bill of Rights. The real cause was the rivalry of the Protestant churches: No denomination achieved victory as the nation’s legally established church, mostly because the Baptists fought it where they feared it would be the Episcopalians, and the Episcopalians fought it where they feared it would be the Congregationalists. The oddity of American religion produced the oddity of American religious ¬freedom.

“The greatest oddity, however, may be the fact that the United States nonetheless ended up with something very similar to the establishment of religion in the public life of the nation. The effect often proved little more than an agreement about morals: The endlessly proliferating American churches, Tocqueville concluded, “all differ in respect to the worship which is due to the Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man.” The agreement was sometimes merely an establishment of manners: “The clergy of all the different sects hold the same language,” he added. “Their opinions are in agreement with the laws, and the human mind flows onward, so to speak, in one undivided current.”

“Morals and manners, however, count for a great deal in the public square, and, beyond all their differences, the diverse Protestant churches merged to give a general form and a general tone to the culture. Protestantism helped define the nation, operating as simultaneously the happy enabler and the unhappy conscience of the American republic—a single source for both national comfort and national unease.”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reentry Fallacy

In our region the state corrections department is being opposed in its plans to establish reentry facilities housing up to 500 prisoners, in another traditionally designed attempt to reduce the recidivist rate—running about 70% nationally—with a service-based approach; as reported in this article.

Though having access to certain reformative social development tools—employment, education, counseling, etc—certainly plays a role in an individual becoming a successful and productive member of society; it plays a minor role in criminal transformation.

Deciding to leave the criminal world and become a member of the communal society is primarily an internal individual decision based on discovering reasons to do so that are powerful enough to trump those for staying within the criminal world, and it is our contention that this generally only happens through a close relation with another reformed criminal who helps guide the penitential criminal into the communal world; or a very fortuitous set of circumstances—usually centered around education—that provide the environment within which the penitential criminal discovers, on his own, the way out of the criminal world and into the communal.

An excerpt from the article.

“Have you ever been to Madison?

“Not the city in Wisconsin, but the three blocks by four blocks in rural Yolo County that's home to 300 people and seasonal occupants of a migrant farmworker camp.

“There aren't many residents, but it seems most every one of them is spitting mad about a proposal that would double the population with convicted felons.

“Yolo County supervisors agreed this week that an alfalfa field near town would be the best place to build a re-entry prison in exchange for $30 million from the state.

“With just days to go before a final vote Tuesday, Madisonites are digging in for a fight. They're worried about the safety of their families if the state drops 500 inmates on their doorstep.

“They have been painting protest signs, firing off e-mails, calling emergency meetings and asking lawyers and neighbors for help.

"We're not sleeping. We're not eating," said Carla Phillips, 47. "We are trying to figure out how to save the lives we've been developing in this community for 20 or 30 years."

“Meanwhile, Yolo County officials are racing toward a different goal.

“By the time they vote Tuesday, supervisors want an agreement from the state to help solve Madison's flooding, water and sewer problems in exchange for the prison site.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Criminal Sanctions

The increased focus on policing through the development and expansion of the broken-windows concept of law enforcement and sanctions through three-strikes sentencing, has resulted in a significant decrease in crime rates in the jurisdictions where they have been used, adding to the safety of the public square.

With the proposal to develop alternatives to incarceration, which this article reports, that success may be in jeopardy as the alternatives sound like the same methods that have been tested and found wanting, as scholars have found that traditional rehabilitation programs that have been in use for the past several decades—including the more recent faith-based efforts—have a 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, Cheryachukin, Davis, Dauphinee, Hope, & Gehi (2005) regarding Project Greenlight, a well-funded and closely evaluated—rare for the field—reentry effort that failed spectacularly:

“Contrary to the expectations of program planners and research staff alike, Greenlight participants recidivated at higher rates than either of the comparison groups after one year postrelease.

“Most of these differences were statistically significant and held across multiple measures of recidivism, including new arrests, new felony arrests, and revocation. Assignment to the Greenlight group remained significant in multivariate models. The Upstate group, which received no pre-release reentry programming, recidivated at the lowest rate.”

Smoothing the Path From Prison to Home: An Evaluation of the Project Greenlight Transitional Services Demonstration Program, Vera Institute of Justice, New York (Executive Summary)

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):

“Unfortunately, as presently operated, the in-prison substance abuse treatment programs managed by the Office of Substance Abuse Programs are ineffective at reducing recidivism and in that regard represent both a waste of money and a missed opportunity to change lives. Numerous university studies of the programs over the past nine years consistently show little or no difference in recidivism rates between participants of the in-prison programs and inmates who received no substance abuse treatment. In fact, a five-year university of California, Los Angeles study of the two largest in-prison programs found that the 12-month recidivism rate for inmates who had received in-prison treatment was slightly higher than that of a nonparticipating control group.” (2007. Special review into in-prison substance abuse programs managed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Sacramento, California. State Printing Office. p. 1)

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 who have had no lived, experiential knowledge of the population whose lives they are attempting to change.

The substantial front-end success of broken-windows policing and three-strikes sentencing 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 efforts with the traditional rehabilitative back-end often increase the sense of alienation and a deeper commitment to the criminal world.

Our work at the LampStand Foundation offers an optional approach for criminal rehabilitation based on programs developed and managed by reformed criminals with graduate degrees and training in the social teaching of the Church; giving them—in conjunction with their experiential knowledge as former criminals—a base of deep knowledge from which to successfully reform other criminals through transformative relational work.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Daily Mass Attendance

A personal look at how daily mass attendance—the core element in the daily practice required of the LampStand Leader’s Circle—has changed, for the better, in the practice of one Catholic author who gets around to enough parishes to notice a difference, and it is very good news he reports.

An excerpt.

“For the past 25 years I've been trying to get to Mass every day. My track record is very far from perfect, but I guess it's fair to say that I'm a "regular."

“Over the course of those years, because of shifts in jobs, homes, and daily schedules, I've attended weekday Mass regularly at eight different parish churches and chapels. And at every stop along the way I've noticed something: The number of "regulars" at daily Mass keeps increasing.

“The increase isn't very dramatic, nor is it predictable. A single individual or a large family will begin showing up occasionally, then more frequently, and finally blends into the familiar daily congregation. A few regulars move away, but new arrivals take their place. During Lent some people will make an extra effort to get to daily Mass, and a few will continue that habit even after Easter.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Daily Practice

Pope Benedict reminds us of the importance of daily renewal.


- At 5 p.m. today in the cathedral of Cagliari, Italy, the Pope met with priests, seminarians and students of the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Sardinia.

“The Holy Father called on the formators and professors to guide their pupils "to a daily personal experience of God through individual and community prayer, and above all through the Eucharist, celebrated and experienced as the centre of existence".

“Theological formation, he told the seminarians and students of the theological faculty, "must lead you to achieve a 'complete and unitary' vision of revealed truths and of their assimilation into the Church's experience of faith. From here arises the dual need to know the totality of Christian truths and to know them not as separate from one another, but in an organic way, as a unit, as a single truth of faith in God".

“Benedict XVI highlighted the "great flowering of religious vocations among women, of which Sardinia is a true incubator". Without them, he said, "it would have been more difficulty to spread Christ's love in villages, in families, in schools, in hospitals, in prisons and in workplaces. This heritage of good has been accumulating thanks to their dedication!"

“Turning to address priests, the Pope assured them of his "spiritual proximity" to help them "respond to the call of the Lord with complete faithfulness as some of your confreres have done, even recently". In this context, he mentioned Fr. Graziano Muntoni, murdered on Christmas Eve 1998 while on his way to celebrate Mass, and Fr. Battore Carzedda of the P.I.M.E., who gave his life "so that believers in all religions may open to a sincere dialogue founded upon love".

“The Pope went on: "Do not be afraid of or discouraged by difficulties. ... It is important you become grains of good wheat which, falling to earth, bring forth fruit". Priests "must authoritatively proclaim the Word, renew gestures of forgiveness and giving, and exercise loving solicitude in the service of their flock, in communion with pastors and faithfully compliant to the teachings of the Magisterium".

“The Holy Father concluded by calling on priests "daily to revive the charism you received with the imposition of hands, identifying yourselves with Jesus Christ in His triple function of sanctifying, tending and feeding the flock".

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Power-Over or Power-With

One of the dilemmas in working with criminals and bringing them to Christ is the misconception that coming to Christ is bowing to a power greater than oneself in abject obedience when the truth is that the bowing is in devoted deference and deep respect and it is—in the sense of congruent practice—power-with rather than power-over.

The call from Christ—and from the Church—is to be like Christ, or as Baron (1998) puts it:

“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.” (And Now I See: A Theology of Transformation, p. 3, italics in original)

This is also a concept formulated by Mary Parker Follett, noted in the forward to her book The New State:

“In a 1925 paper entitled “Power,” Follett proposed the distinction between “power-with” and “power-over” that is now common in feminist theory. She began provisionally by saying that power might be defined as “simply the ability to make things happen, to be a casual agent, to initiate change” (sometimes now called power-to.) Then in a section entitled “Power-with versus power-over” she elaborated her theory of “power-with”: Whereas power usually means power-over, the power of some person or group over some other person or group, it is possible to develop the conception of power-with, a jointly developed power, a co-active, not a coercive power.” (1998, pp. xvii-xviii)

And power-with is the great power given to the faithful, for did not Christ say,

Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

This is the ultimate power-with.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Spiritual Tools

Developing the spiritual tools necessary to become successful bringing other criminals to Christ involves a daily personal practice of prayer, devotion, and study.

We are fortunate—that with internet technology—the means of studying the great classics of the spiritual life is greatly enhanced; though the diversions implicit within the use of the internet are sometimes almost as destructive as the former is constructive.

One book I am currently reading, The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology, by Aldolphe Tanquerey, S.S., D.D. (1854-1932) is available online and is described on the back cover of the paperback: “Published in English in 1930, The Spiritual Life by Fr. Adolphe Tanquerey has established a reputation as undoubtedly the finest, most comprehensive and best-respected one-volume treatise on the spiritual life ever published.”

Here is an excerpt:

“II. The consequences of the fall

“#69. Punishment followed quickly for our first parents and for their posterity.

“A) The personal sanction visited upon them is described in Genesis. Here again God's goodness is to the fore. He could have on the spot punished them with death. His mercy halted Him. He merely left them shorn of those special privileges with which He had vested them, that is, stripped of the gifts of integrity and of habitual grace. He did not touch their nature or the prerogatives flowing therefrom. Doubtless, man's will is weakened compared with the strength it possessed when integrity was his. However, there is no conclusive evidence that it is actually feebler than it would have been in a purely natural state, at any rate it remains free in choosing good or evil. God even condescended to leave our first parents in possession of faith and hope and gave their forlorn souls the hopeful assurance of a redeemer,--their own offspring, who would one day vanquish the devil and reinstatefallen humanity. By His actual grace, at the same time, He invited them to repentance, and as soon as they repented, He granted them pardon of their sin.

“#70. B) But what will be the condition of their descendants? The answer is that mankind will be likewise deprived of original justice, that is to say, of sanctifying grace and the gift of integrity. Those endowments, free gifts in every sense, a patrimony, so to speak, were to be handed to his heirs should Adam prove faithful. This condition unfulfilled, man comes into the world deprived of original justice. When through penance our first parents regained grace, it was no longer as a heritage for their posterity, but solely as a personal possession, a grant to a private individual. To the new Adam, Christ Jesus, who would in time become the head of mankind, was reserved the expiation of our faults and the institution of a sacrament of regeneration to transmit to each of the baptized the grace forfeited in Paradise.

“#71. Thus it is that the children of Adam are born into this world without original justice, that is, without sanctifying grace and the gift of integrity. The lack of this grace is called original sin, sin only in the broad sense of the term, for it implies no guilty act on our part, but simply a fallen condition. It constitutes, considering the supernatural destiny to which we are called, a privation of a quality that should be ours,--a blemish, a moral taint that places us out of the pale of God's kingdom.” (highlighting added)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Early Criminal Release

In a trend that marks an even deeper problem than the 70% failure rate from the back-end of the criminal justice system—the percentage returning to prison within three years after release—jurisdictions are now releasing criminals early prior to prison; a front-end strategy which will surely increase the back-end rate.

As the numbers compound and grow the criminal world at an even faster rate than present, the corresponding culture of the criminal world deepens its penetration into the public culture, further shaping the social markers that glorify and glamorize the attraction to criminality; broadening the pull of more and more individuals and social structures into its embrace.

The early release figures are fairly substantial, even in only one state, as reported in this article.

An excerpt.

“In Yolo County, if it's a question of doing the jail time or paying the fine, they're taking the 30 days because they know they'll be free in three.

“In Sacramento, the jailers tell the cops to hold off on things like domestic violence sweeps until they know they'll have enough space to accommodate the spousal abusers.

“In Placer County, one of the top early-release jurisdictions in the state, more than 2,000 inmates skated out of jail last year before they served a collective total of 94 years of the time they owed.

“In El Dorado County, the jail space shortage is such that even a sentenced felon has a chance to hit the streets before his time is up.

“Everywhere you look in the Sacramento area and around the state, county jails are so full that sheriffs are being forced to let inmates out early or to adjust their policies so that they don't even try to hold their lowest-level miscreants.

“Last year in California, the 58 counties released 86,064 convicted inmates from jail before they had completed their sentences, according to California State Sheriffs Association data submitted to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The jails released another 103,859 local inmates before trial because they didn't have any room.”

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Presidential Race

We are surely witnessing history today in our country, in that whatever party wins the White House, it will be a wonderful change from over two centuries of Caucasian men being the only ones to hold the august office of president or vice president; and that is a very good thing for us, for our children and for the great and vibrant idea of America as the melting pot of the world.

This significant change in our country’s history is not being mentioned much with the conflict-oriented management of each of the political races and the media-driven reporting that seeks to focus on that which is negative about the candidates rather than that which is positive; and as in all things of this sort, we hope that at some point the public discussion will focus on what is good for the country, as that is the only barometer worth measuring when selecting who it is we hope secures the office of president and vice-president.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Funding Social Entrepreneurs

A crucial part of the proposal of the LampStand Foundation to help create effective reentry programs for reforming criminals is to support the development of reentry programs managed by reformed criminals—in a twist on the old adage that “it takes a thief to catch a thief”—it takes a reformed criminal to reform criminals.

Key to this support is providing financial support to those initial entrepreneurial programs developed by reformed criminals, properly evaluate the results, then determine if they are worth replicating on a larger scale.

This type of support is something looked at in this interview in the Stanford Social Innovation Review with David Gergen.

An excerpt.

“David Gergen is one of America’s best-known political pundits. And well he should be. Having spent three decades as advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, Gergen knows as much about what goes on inside the Beltway as anyone.

“What most people don’t know is that Gergen is also an astute observer of social innovation. From his perch at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (where he is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership), Gergen has taken an active role in not just studying social entrepreneurship, but also championing it.

“One of the things Gergen has done recently is to encourage social entrepreneurs to become more active in national politics. Last year, he helped launch America Forward, a nonpartisan coalition of about 60 nonprofits (including City Year, Jumpstart, Teach for America, and BUILD) that are attempting to get the federal government more engaged with nonprofits in developing innovative solutions to social problems. America Forward is developing public policy in this area and trying to get presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain to adopt the coalition’s ideas.

“In this interview with James A. Phills Jr., the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s academic editor, Gergen discusses his views on social innovation, why social entrepreneurs should be more engaged in politics, and how the federal government can work with and even fund social entrepreneurs.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Catholic Church & Abortion

For those Catholic politicians who don’t accept the Church’s doctrine that abortion is always wrong, the Bishop’s Conference has reminded all of us about the clear and ancient teaching in this new fact sheet.

An excerpt.

Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching
Fact sheet by the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities

"The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (No. 2271).

"In response to those who say this teaching has changed or is of recent origin, here are the facts:

• From earliest times, Christians sharply distinguished themselves from surrounding pagan cultures by rejecting abortion and infanticide. The earliest widely used documents of Christian teaching and practice after the New Testament in the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) and Letter of Barnabas, condemned both practices, as did early regional and particular Church councils.
• To be sure, knowledge of human embryology was very limited until recent times. Many Christian thinkers accepted the biological theories of their time, based on the writings of Aristotle (4th century BC) and other philosophers. Aristotle assumed a process was needed over time to turn the matter from a woman’s womb into a being that could receive a specifically human form or soul. The active formative power for this process was thought to come entirely from the man – the existence of the human ovum (egg), like so much of basic biology, was unknown.
• However, such mistaken biological theories never changed the Church’s common conviction that abortion is gravely wrong at every stage. At the very least, early abortion was seen as attacking a being with a human destiny, being prepared by God to receive an immortal soul (cf. Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”).
• In the 5th century AD this rejection of abortion at every stage was affirmed by the great bishop-theologian St. Augustine. He knew of theories about the human soul not being present until some weeks into pregnancy. Because he used the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, he also thought the ancient Israelites had imposed a more severe penalty for accidentally causing a miscarriage if the fetus was “fully formed” (Exodus 21: 22-23), language not found in any known Hebrew version of this passage. But he also held that human knowledge of biology was very limited, and he wisely warned against misusing such theories to risk committing homicide. He added that God has the power to make up all human deficiencies or lack of development in the Resurrection, so we cannot assume that the earliest aborted children will be excluded from enjoying eternal life with God.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Politics in America

During my politically active life—from about age 25 when I began paying attention to the issues of the day—I have been a registered member of both of the major parties, beginning with the Democrats, a several year sojourn with the Republicans, and ending as an independent; putting my own spin on the adage that you begin political life as a dreamer, then get real, and then, in my case, become Catholic.

Becoming Catholic changed many of my opinions as I began to view policy positions through the perspective of Catholic theology and the social teaching.

As my study of Church teaching led me closer to the source of the magisterium, I learned to rely more on the Bishop of Rome than local Bishops as what came from the center of our faith held firm to the magisterium more so than the local bishops often did; and learning that national bishop’s conferences were not teaching authorities was very helpful.

The Holy Father—when still Cardinal Ratzinger—(1985) has spoken clearly regarding bishop’s conferences in relation to a teaching mission:

"We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function…No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission; its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given by the individual bishops…

"It is a matter of safeguarding the very nature of the Catholic Church, which is based on an episcopal structure and not on a kind of federation of national churches. The national level is not an ecclesial dimension." (Ratzinger, J. C. (1985). The Ratzinger report. An exclusive interview on the state of the Church. San Francisco, Ignatius Press. pp. 59-60)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reformed Criminal Barriers

This story from the New York Times points out the difficulty surrounding many reformed criminals when they try to practice a trade and it is a great joy to see some of these legal barriers fall.

An excerpt.

“Marc La Cloche didn’t get to do much with his life. In death, though, he has left his imprint. It is to have made the path a bit less rocky for New Yorkers like him, former prison inmates who try to go straight but find themselves sandbagged by bureaucracy and indifference.

“Mr. La Cloche was no saint. He did an 11-year stretch in New York prisons for first-degree robbery. Along the way, he acquired a passion for barbering, so much so that he had the image of a barber’s clippers and comb tattooed on his right arm. In prison, he put in hundreds of hours learning the craft. It was how he wanted to make his living after he did his time and moved to the Bronx in 2001.

“Only he couldn’t get a required state license. The licensing authority, New York’s Department of State, said that his “criminal history” proved that he lacked the necessary “good moral character and trustworthiness.” In other words, Mr. La Cloche could not lawfully ply the trade that the state had taught him in prison because of the very fact that he had been in prison. Joseph Heller couldn’t have made this stuff up.

“Mr. La Cloche took his case to the courts, but his efforts ultimately went nowhere. The same may be said of him. On welfare and suffering from AIDS — a disease that few knew he had — he died three years ago at age 40. “I felt like Marc’s illness was exacerbated by his fight for this license,” said Glenn Martin, vice president of the Fortune Society, a New York group that helps former inmates.

“The La Cloche case did not go unnoticed. Among those paying attention were State Senator Velmanette Montgomery of Brooklyn and Assemblyman Michael Benjamin of the Bronx, Democrats both. They sit on committees that deal with prison issues.

“With Mr. La Cloche in mind, they introduced bills to forbid the state to deny a license to a would-be barber or cosmetologist just because of an applicant’s criminal record. Barbering and cosmetology were singled out because they are skills valued both in prison and in the neighborhoods to which many inmates return, once freed…

“Some state officials didn’t like the bills. When they were passed by the Legislature last year, Gov. Eliot Spitzer vetoed them. One argument against them was that discrimination based solely on a criminal record is already forbidden by the state’s Correction Law…

“TIMES change. So do governors — in New York, sometimes unexpectedly. What might well be called the La Cloche Law passed the Legislature once more. This time, it went to Gov. David A. Paterson. He signed it a few weeks ago.”

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Church & Capital Punishment, Romano Amerio

Just as many Catholic politicians get the teaching of the Church wrong on abortion, there is also wide disagreement within the Church on capital punishment, and most of that is due—as with abortion—to a lack of studious understanding of the history of the issue within the development of the magisterium of the Church.

The Lampstand Foundation examined this issue in depth in a research report and a monograph.

Romano Amerio—a Catholic theologian and philosopher who worked closely with the Central Preparatory Commission of Vatican II—has written a wonderful book, Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century, which also addresses this.

His study is one of the best presentations of capital punishment from a Catholic perspective, that is completely congruent with the Magisterium, I have yet discovered.

Here is the relevant chapter in his book regarding capital punishment.

Chapter XXVI
187. The death penalty.

Certain social institutions derive from the principles of the natural law and as such are perpetual in one form or another; for example the state, the family, a priesthood of some sort; and there are others that arise from a certain level of reflection on those principles and from historical circumstances, and which are abandoned when thought moves on to another level or when circumstances change; for example slavery. Until recently, the death penalty was philosophically defended, and used in practice by all countries as the ultimate penalty society imposes on evildoers, with the threefold aim of righting the balance of justice, defending society against attack, and dissuading others from wrongdoing.

The legitimacy of capital punishment is usually grounded on two propositions. First: society has a right to defend itself; second: this defense involves using all necessary means. Capital punishment is included in the second proposition on condition that taking the life of one member of the body of society is genuinely necessary for the wellbeing of the whole.

The growing tendency to mitigate punishments of all sorts is in part the product of the Gospel spirit of clemency and mercy, which has always been at odds down the centuries with savage judicial customs. With a certain degree of confusion that we need not go into here, the Church has always drawn back from blood. It should be remembered that canon law traditionally decreed the “irregularity,” that is the banning from holy orders, not only of executioners, but of judges who condemned people to death in the ordinary course of law, and even of advocates and witnesses in trials that led to someone being put to death.

The controversy does not turn on society’s right to defend itself; that is the undeniable premise of any penal code, but rather on the genuineness of the need to remove the offender altogether in order to effect that defense, which is the minor premise involved. From St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas to Taperelli d’Azeglio, the traditional teaching is that the decision as to the necessity and legitimacy of capital punishment depends on historical circumstances, that is, on the urgency of the need to hold society together in the face of the disruptive behavior of individuals who attack the common good. From Beccaria onwards, proposals to abolish capital punishment have admitted the major premise, and allowed that the minor one depends on historical circumstances, since they allow the execution of offenders in some emergencies, such as war. During the last war, even Switzerland sentenced and shot seventeen people guilty of high treason.

188. Opposition to the death penalty.

Opposition to the death penalty stems from two diverse and incompatible sets of reasons, and can only be evaluated in the light of the moral assumptions on which it is based. Horror at a crime can coexist with sympathy for human weakness, and with a sense of the human freedom that renders a man capable of rising from any fall as long as his life lasts; hence opposition to the death penalty. But opposition can also stem from the notion that every person is inviolable inasmuch as he is a self-conscious subject living out his life in the world; as if temporal life were an end in itself that could not be suppressed without frustrating the purpose of human existence. Although often thought of as religiously inspired, this second type of reason for rejecting capital punishment is in fact irreligious. It overlooks the fact that from a Christian point of view earthly life is not an end in itself, but a means to life’s moral goal, a goal that transcends the whole order of subordinate worldly goods. Therefore to take away a man’s life is by no means to take away the transcendent end for which he was born and which guarantees his true dignity. A man can propter vitam Vivendi perdere causas (for the sake of life, loose the causes of life) that is, he can make himself unworthy of life by taking temporal life as being itself the supreme good instead of a means to that good. There is therefore a mistake implicit in the second sort of objection to capital punishment, inasmuch as it assumes that in putting someone to death, other men or the state are cutting a criminal off from his destined goal, or depriving him of his last human end or taking away the possibility of his fulfilling his role as a human being. Just the opposite in fact. The condemned man is deprived of his earthly existence, but not of his goal. Naturally, a society that denies there is any future life and supposes there is a fundamental right to happiness in this world, must reject the death penalty as an injustice depriving man of his capacity to be happy. Paradoxically, those who oppose capital punishment on these grounds are assuming the state has a sort of totalitarian capacity which it does not in fact possess, a power to frustrate the whole of one’s existence. Since a death imposed by one man on another can remove neither the latter’s moral goal nor his human worth, it is still more incapable of preventing the operation of God’s justice, which sits in judgment on all our adjudications. The meaning of the motto engraved on the town executioner’s sword in Fribourg in Switzerland: Seigneur Dieu, tu es le juge (Lord God, Thou art the Judge), was not that human and divine justice were identical; it signified a recognition of that highest justice which sits in judgment on us all.

Another argument advanced is that capital punishment is useless as a deterrent; as witnessed by Caesar’s famous remark during the trial of the Cataline conspirators, to the effect that a death which put an end to the shame and misery of the criminals would be a lesser punishment than their remaining alive to bear them. This argument flies in the face of the juridical practice of pardoning people under sentence of death, as a favor, and is also refuted by the fact that even infamous criminals sometimes make pacts between themselves with death as the penalty for breaking the agreement. They thereby give a very apposite witness to the fact that capital punishment is an effective deterrent.

189. Doctrinal change in the Church.

An important change has occurred in the Church regarding the theology of punishment. We could cite the French bishops’ document that asserted in 1979 that the death penalty ought to be abolished in France as it was incompatible with the Gospel, the Canadian and American bishop’s statements on the matter, and the articles in the Ossevatore Romano calling for the abolition of the death penalty, as injurious to human dignity and contrary to the Gospel.

As to the biblical argument; even without accepting Baudelaire’s celebration of capital punishment as a supremely sacred and religious proceeding, once cannot cancel out the Old Testament’s decrees regarding the death penalty, by a mere stroke of the pen. Nor can canon law, still less the teaching of the New Testament, be canceled out at a stroke. I am well aware that the famous passage in Romans (Rm 13:4) giving princes the ius gladii (the right use of the sword), and calling them the ministers of God to punish the wicked, has been emptied of meaning by the canons of the new hermeneutic, on the grounds that it is the product of a past set of historical circumstances. Pius XII however explicitly rejected that view, in a speech to Catholic jurists on 5 February 1955, and said that the passage of St. Paul was of permanent and universal value, because it refers to the essential foundation of penal authority and to its inherent purpose. In the Gospel, Christ indirectly sanctions capital punishment when he says it would be better for a man to be condemned to death by drowning than to commit the sin of scandal (Mt 18:6). From the Book of Acts (Acts 5:1-11) it seems the primitive Christian community had no objection to the death penalty, as Ananias and Sapphira are struck down when they appear before St. Peter guilty of fraud and lying at the expense of the brethren. Biblical commentaries tell us that the early Christians’ enemies though this sentence was harsh at the time.

The change in teaching is obvious on two points. In the new theology of punishment, justice is not considered, and the whole matter is made to turn on the usefulness of the penalty and its aptitude for bringing the guilty person back into society, as the saying goes. On this point, as on others, the new fangled view coincides with the utilitarianism preached by the Jacobins. The individual is held to be essentially independent; the state defends itself against a miscreant, but cannot punish him for breaking a moral law, that is, for being morally guilty. This guiltlessness of the guilty goes on to manifest itself in a reduced consideration for the victim and even in giving preference to the guilty over the innocent. In Sweden people who have been imprisoned are given preferential treatment in examinations for public employment, as compared with other, unconvicted, members of the public. Consideration for the victim is eclipsed by mercy for the wrongdoer. Mounting the steps to the guillotine, the borderer Buffet shouted his hope that he would “be the last man guillotined in France.” He should have shouted he hoped he would be the last murderer. The penalty for the offense seems more objectionable than the crime, and the victim is forgotten. The restoration of a moral order that has been violated by wrongdoing is rejected as if it were an act of vendetta. In fact it is something that justice demands and which must be pursued even if the harm done cannot be reversed and if the rehabilitation of the guilty party is impossible. The modern view also attacks even the validity of divine justice, which punishes the damned without there being any hope or possibility of amendment. The very idea of the redemption of the guilty is reduced to a piece of social engineering. According to the Osservatore Romano (6 Sept 1978), redemption consists in the awareness of a return to being useful to one’s fellows” and not, as the Catholic system would have it, in the detestation of one’s fault and a redirecting of the will back into conformity with the absolutes of the moral law.

To go on to assert that a life should not be ended because that would remove the possibility of making expiation, is to ignore the great truth that capital punishment is itself expiatory. In a humanistic religion expiation would of course be primarily the converting of a man to other men. On that view, time is needed to effect a reformation, and the time available should not be shortened. In God’s religion, on the other hand, expiation is primarily a recognition of the divine majesty and lordship, which can be and should be recognized at every moment, in accordance with the principle of the concentration of one’s moral life.

Attacking capital punishment, the Osservatore Romano (22 Jan 1977) asserts that where the wrongdoer is concerned “the community must allow him the possibility of purifying himself, of expiating his guilt, or freeing himself from evil; and capital punishment does not allow for this.” In so saying, the paper denies the expiatory value of death; death which has the highest expiatory value possible among natural things, precisely because life is the highest good among the relative goods of this world; and it is by consenting to sacrifice that life, that the fullest expiation can be made. And again, the expiation that the innocent Christ made for the sins of mankind was itself effected through his being condemned to death. Remember too the conversion of condemned men at the hands of St. Joseph Carfasso; remember some of the letters of people condemned to death in the Resistance. Thanks to the ministry of the priest, stepping in between the judge and the executioner, the death penalty has often brought about wonderful moral changes, such as those of Niccolo de Tuldo, comforted by St. Catherine of Sienna who left an account of what happened in a famous letter of hers; or Felice Robol, assisted on the scaffold by Antonio Rosmini; or Martin Merino who tried to kill the Queen of Spain in 1852; or Jacques Fesch guillotined in 1957, whose letters from prison are a moving testimony to the spiritual perfection of one of God’s elect.

The most irreligious aspect of this argument against capital punishment is that it denies its expiatory value which, from a religious point of view, is of the highest importance because it can include a final consent to give up the greatest of all worldly goods. This fits exactly with St. Thomas’s opinion that as well as canceling out any debt that the criminal owes to civil society, capital punishment can cancel all punishment due in the life to come. His thought is Mors illata etiam pro criminibus aufert totam poenam pro criminibus debitam in alia vita, vel partem poenae secundum quantitatem culpae, patientiae et contritionis, non autem mors naturalis. (Summa, “Even death inflicted as a punishment for crimes takes away the whole punishment due for those crimes in the next life, or a least part of that punishment, according to the quantities of guilt, resignation and contrition; but a natural death does not.”) The moral importance of wanting to make expiation also explains the indefatigable efforts of the Confraternity of St. John the Baptist Beheaded, the members of which used to accompany men to their deaths, all the while suggesting, begging and providing help to get them to repent and accept their deaths, so ensuring that they would die in the grace of God, as the saying went.

190. Inviolability of life. Essence of human dignity. Pius XII.

The leading argument in the new theology of punishment is however the one that asserts an inviolable and imprescriptible right to life, that is alleged allegedly infringed when the state imposes capital punishment. The article we have cited says: “To the modern conscience, which is open, and aware of human values and man’s centrality and primacy in the universe, and of his dignity and his inalienable and inviolable rights, the death penalty is repugnant as being an anti-human and barbarous measure”

Some facts might be helpful in replying to this article, which sums up in itself all the abolitionists’ arguments. The prominence the Osservatore Romano gives to the “modern conscience” is similar to the position accorded it by the French bishops’ document, which says le refus de la peine de mort correspond chez nos contemporains à un progrès accompli dans le respect de la vie humaine (“the rejection of the death penalty is an indication that our contemporaries have an increased respect for human life”). A remark of that sort is born of the bad mental habit of going along with fashionable ideas and of letting the wish become father to the thought; a crude rebuttal of such unrealistic assertions is provided by the atrocious slaughter of innocents perpetrated in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, the widespread use of physical violence by despotic regimes as an ordinary means of government, the legitimation and imposition of abortion by changes to the law, and the increasing cruelty of delinquents and terrorists, who are only feebly resisted by governments. The axiological centrality of man in the universe will be discussed later.

In discussions on the death penalty, the difference between the rights of an innocent and a guilty man are generally ignored. The right to life is considered as if it were inherent in man’s mere existence when, in fact, it derives from his ordination to values that transcend temporal life, and this goal is built into his spirit inasmuch as it is an image of God. Although the goal is absolute and the image indelible, man’s freedom means that by a fault he can descend from that dignity and turn aside from his goal. The philosophical justification for penal law is precisely an axiological diminution, or shrinking in worth, on the part of a person who violates the moral order and who, by his fault, arouses society to some coercive action designed to repair the disorder. Those who base the imposition of penalties merely on the damage done to society, deprive penal law of any ethical character and turn it into a set of precautions against those who harm society, irrespective of whether they are acting freely or compulsively, rationally or irrationally. In the Catholic view, the penal system exists to ensure that the crime by which the delinquent sought some satisfaction or other in defiance of the moral law, is punished by some corresponding diminution of well-being, enjoyment or satisfaction. Without this moral retaliation, a punishment is merely a utilitarian reaction which indeed neglects the dignity of man and reduces justice to a purely materialistic level; such was the case in Greece when recourse was had to the Prytaneum, or city council, to pass sentence against rocks, trees or animals that had caused some damage. Human dignity is something built into the natural structure of rational creatures but which is elicited and mace conscious by the activity of a good or bad will, and which increases or decreases within that order of being. No right thinking person would want to equate the human worth of the Jew in Auschwitz with that of his killer Eichmann, or St. Catherine of Alexandria with Thias the Alexandrian courtesan. A person’s worth can only be reduced by actions within the moral realm; and therefore, contrary to popular opinion, it cannot be measured by some level of participation in the benefits of technological progress: by a quote of economic welfare, by a level of literacy, by a better health service, by an abundance of the pleasures that life provided or by the stamping out of diseases. Let there be no confusion between an increase in a person’s dignity or worth, which is a moral quality, and an increase in the possessions of those utilitarian benefits which unworthy men also enjoy.

The death penalty, and any other form of punishment, if they are not to descend to the level of pure defense and a sort of selective slaughter, always presuppose a moral diminution in the person punished: there is therefore no infringement of an inviolable or imprescriptible right involved. Society is not depriving the guilty person of his rights; rather, as Pius XII taught in his speech of 14 Sept 1952 même quand I s’agit de l’exécution d’un condamné à mort, l’Etat ne dispose pas du droit de l’individu à la vie. Il est reserve alors au pouvoir public de priver le condamné du bien de la vie en expiation de sa faute après que par son crime il s’est déjà dépossedé de son droit à la vie (A.A.S., 1952, pp.779ff. “Even when it is a question of someone condemned to death, the state does not dispose of an individual’s right to life. It is then the task of public authority to deprive the condemned man of the good of life, in expiation of his fault, after he has already deprived himself of the right to life by his crime.”).

If one considers the parallel with one’s right to freedom, it becomes obvious that an innocent man’s right to life is indeed inviolable, whereas a guilty person has diminished his rights by the actions of his depraved will: the right to freedom is innate, inviolable and imprescriptible, but penal codes nonetheless recognize the legitimacy of depriving people of their liberty, even for life, as a punishment for crime, and all nations in fact adopt this practice. There is in fact no unconditional right to any of the goods of earthly life; the only truly inviolable right is the right to seek one’s ultimate goal, that is truth, virtue and eternal happiness, and the means necessary to acquire these. This right remains untouched even by the death penalty.

In conclusion, the death penalty, and indeed any kind of punishment, is illegitimate if one posits that the individual is independent of the moral law and ultimately of the civil law as well, thanks to the protection afforded by his own subjective moral code. Capital punishment comes to be regarded as barbarous in an irreligious society, that is shut within earthly horizons and which feels it has no right to deprive a man of the only good there is. (pp. 429-438)