Sunday, November 30, 2008

Responsibility to Protect

This responsibility, while lying at the heart of our faith regarding the individual, also extends to the whole world, embracing the environment with a balanced approach that finds the narrow way between the ideological driven and often alarmist proclamations on one side and the purely economic driven motives from another.

The Holy See teaches us about that narrow way in this article.

An excerpt.

“In recent years, the church can take credit for keeping alive a high-level, comprehensive approach to ecology. The church hasn’t limited itself to offering criteria for a correct reading of the relationship between humanity and nature, but it’s also given an incisive contribution to the development of strategies for dealing with what’s been called the “environmental crisis.” The presence of a delegation from the Holy See at the Bali conference on climate change last year is a case in point, as is the Holy See’s ratification of the Convention of Vienna and the Protocol of Montreal on the protection of the ozone layer. The Vatican has also committed itself to giving a good ecological example within the limits of its own situation – exploiting alternative sources of energy, for example, utilizing recycling processes and compensating for its carbon emissions through reforestation.

“In short, the Holy See has decisively chosen the path of realism, steering between alarmist scenarios and denial. On the debated question of climate change, it espouses a responsible vision of the “precautionary principle”: Even in the absence of absolute scientific certainties, it’s wise to take less optimistic scenarios into consideration, and therefore not to delay concrete choices and actions indefinitely, but to act now. The key point lies in an extension of the “responsibility of protection” to the environmental question, and, in particular, to care for the global climate.

“This “responsibility of protection” was considered by the ancient ius gentium, the “law of peoples,” as the foundation for the actions of rulers with regard to their subjects. It was implicit in the origins of the United Nations, even if it’s only in recent years that it has been definitively recognized in that international setting. The principle has also been invoked in order to assert a duty to protect populations which have been the object of grave violations of human rights.

“The Holy See has not only recognized this principle as an effective guarantee of “the unity of the human family and the innate dignity of every human being,” as the pope said at the United Nations this past April 18, but has also expressly extended it to the protection of the environment. In an important speech on Sept. 27, 2007, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, under-secretary for relations with states, affirmed that states have “a common responsibility of protecting the global climate and our planet,” in order to guarantee that “present and future generations can live in a safe and secure environment.”

“If nations and international organizations were to take up this challenge, it could introduce some innovative elements into global conversation about the environment. While the current crisis prepares to present its burden to the most impoverished countries, [the church’s approach] could serve to revive the principle of interrelationship, according to which “the environmental question cannot be considered apart from issues surrounding energy and the economy, peace and justice, national interests and international solidarity,” as Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, recalled this past Oct. 28. It would also give renewed importance to the discussion over multilateralism, in a moment in which the temptation to allow particular interests to prevail over the common good is especially strong. The “responsibility of protection” should be the foundation of a consistent policy of sharing resources and technologies among rich and poor nations – a sort of “globalization of solidarity,” as Benedict XVI says. “

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Second Chance Act

One of the major problems with so many of the over-designed reentry and rehabilitation programs is that they wind up providing more governmentally funded services to criminals than those received by non-criminals; an objection of significant merit.

The simple design of the Lampstand reentry program revolves around the concept that the single most important progress to be made in reentry—rather than the provision of an array of services unavailable to anyone else—is for the criminal to make the internal decision, helped by a reformed criminal trained and educated to provide comprehensive mentoring, to live a crime-free life and at that point, the reentering criminal should have the same access (no more and no less) to government funded programs as anyone else.

This article on the Second Chance Act remarks on that issue.

An excerpt.

“With correctional facilities around the country teeming with repeat offenders, state and local officials are hoping the Second Chance Act — a federal law signed by President Bush in April to help keep former prisoners from committing new crimes — will be a priority under the incoming Obama administration.

“The act, which Congress approved with widespread bipartisan support, authorizes $165 million in annual grants to states, localities, nonprofits and religious groups to build programs that help current and ex-offenders find jobs and housing, overcome drug and alcohol addictions, receive mentoring and return to society as law-abiding residents….

“Meanwhile, there is some hand-wringing among supporters of the Second Chance Act over whether Congress will appropriate funds for ex-offenders at a time when other interests — from Wall Street to the auto industry — are pressing for emergency federal assistance. Indeed, some Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives opposed the Second Chance Act because, they said, it places former prisoners too high on the priority list.

“This bill would provide more benefits to felons than are available to those risking their lives in the service of the United States military,” U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a former judge, said while the Second Chance Act was being debated in the House of Representatives last year.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Cardinal & the President-Elect

Several days ago—November 13th—a Cardinal gave a speech in which he commented upon the presidential election and while the particular comments—excerpted here—did cause some commotion in the press, the context is crucial and the deeply thoughtful article certainly merits a full read.

An excerpt.

“On November 4, 2008 a cultural earthquake hit America. Senator Barack Obama and Senator Joseph Biden were elected President and Vice President of the United States together with a significant majority of their Party in the federal Congress supporting their deadly vision of human life. Americans were unanimous in their joy over the significance of the election of a Black President. However, if Obama, Biden and the new Congress are determined to implement the anti-life agenda which they spelled out before the election, I foresee the next several years as being among the most divisive in our nation’s history. If their proposals should be initiated and enacted, it would be impossible for the American bishops to repeat in the future what their predecessors described the United States in 1884 as “this home of freedom.”

“While reflecting about the profoundly negative impact of Obama’s vision on the humanum (and also of Biden’s), I recalled how current are the reflections of Mauriac upon his contemporary, an influential European author. Even though Mauriac disagreed with him on almost every point, he acknowledged his great intelligence and personal attraction. “But under all that grace and charm there was a tautness of will, a clenched jaw, a state of constant alertness to detect and resist any external influence which might threaten his independence. A state of alertness? That is putting it mildly: beneath each word he wrote, he was carrying on sapping operations against the enemy city where a daily fight was going on.”.

“Similar characteristics were evident in Senator Obama’s talk before Planned Parenthood supporters on July 17, 2007 - tautness of will, a clenched jaw, etc. - where he asserted, “We are not only going to win this election but also we are going to transform this nation.........The first thing I will do as President is to sign The Freedom of Choice Act........I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law...........On this issue I will not yield..” During a town meeting in March 2008 in Johnstown, Pa., he spoke with equal determination on the necessity of universal sex education for preteens and teens, “I don’t want my daughters punished with a baby.” The President - elect did not qualify in any way the methods his single daughters might employ in the event they needed to avoid being “punished with a baby”, that is, giving birth to his grandchild. Obama’s vision is modernist and rooted in the Enlightenment. The content and rhetoric of Obama and Biden have elements similar to those described earlier: aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic.

“Catholics weep over Barack Obama’s words. We weep over the violence concealed behind his rhetoric and that of Joseph Biden and what appears to be that of the majority of the incoming Congress. What should we do with our hot, angry tears of betrayal?”

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from the White House

President's Radio Address

"THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, Americans gather with loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving. This holiday season is a time of fellowship and peace. And it is a time to give thanks for our many blessings.

"During this holiday season, we give thanks for generations of Americans who overcame hardships to create and sustain a free Nation. When the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving nearly four centuries ago, they had already suffered through a harsh and bitter winter. But they were willing to endure that adversity to live in a land where they could worship the Almighty without persecution. When President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, the United States was in the midst of a terrible civil war. But in that hour of trial he gave thanks -- because he believed America would weather the storm and emerge into a new era of liberty.

"During this holiday season, we give thanks for those who defend our freedom. America's men and women in uniform deserve our highest respect -- and so do the families who love and support them. Lately, I have been asked what I will miss about the presidency. And my answer is that I will miss being the Commander-in-Chief of these brave warriors. In this special time of year, when many of them are serving in distant lands, they are in the thoughts and prayers of all Americans.

"During this holiday season, we give thanks for the kindness of citizens throughout our Nation. It is a testament to the goodness of our people that on Thanksgiving, millions of Americans reach out to those who have little. The true spirit of the holidays can be seen in the generous volunteers who bring comfort to the poor and the sick and the elderly. These men and women are selfless members of our Nation's armies of compassion -- and they make our country a better place, one heart and one soul at a time.

"Finally, I have a special note of thanks to the American people. On this, my last Thanksgiving as your President, I am thankful for the good will, kind words, and heartfelt prayers that so many of you have offered me during the past eight years. I have been blessed to represent such decent, brave, and caring people. For that, I will always be grateful, and I will always be honored. Thank you for listening."

# # #

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Holy Grail

One of the most significant relics of the sojourn of Christ on earth is authoritatively said to reside in Valencia, Spain, and this article reports on the provenance.

An excerpt.

“Antonio Beltrán, professor of archaeology at the University of Zaragoza, noted that the cup is formed by a deep red agate, called "Oriental carnelian," with streaks in the form of flames. By its material he asserts that it must come from a workshop in Palestine, Syria or Egypt between the fourth century B.C. and the first century A.D. The subsequent additions, such as the precious stones and the frame, date from the 13th or 14th century.

“Jorge Manuel Rodríguez, president of the Spanish Center for Sindonology, explained that although films have always shown "a wooden Holy Grail, […] that material did not comply with the norms of purification of the Jews."

“Another element discussed by the scholars was the journey of the chalice from Rome to Valencia.

“The experts affirmed that if the chalice arrived in Rome from Jerusalem, it was most likely taken by the Apostle Peter himself.

“Jaime Sancho, president of the liturgy commission of the Archdiocese of Valencia, presented a datum that supports the theory that the first popes celebrated the Eucharist with the same chalice that Jesus used.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Community Courts

While the concept described in this article meets the belief by many that crime is caused by social structures and conditions—rather than through the individual choices made by the criminal—and therefore is warmly received by many criminal justice professionals with limited exposure to criminals; it is probably not very effective as a crime reduction technology.

Most of the people going through the community courts are probably those who would have spun out of the criminal justice system themselves; as most experts know that the bulk of crime is committed by only about 16-20% of those who first enter the criminal justice system with the rest transitioning out after one or two arrests.

However, it is the type of program that probably doesn’t do much harm in that it connects people to their community in a way that they might not do on their own, thereby—the hope is—that many of them will see themselves as an important part of the community and less apt to become predators.

A major study done in Los Angeles looked at first-offenders, as noted by Edward Humes, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, in his book about the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles, No Matter How Loud I Shout: A Year in the Life of Juvenile Court:

“In 1990, researchers began watching first-offenders arrested in L.A. County in the first six months of that year, Richard among them—11,493 kids in all. Five men and women sat in a special secure room at probation headquarters and read file after confidential file, tracking every one of those kids—for three years. They did not intercede in any case, but merely watched, omnipotent and removed, part of a grand experiment that let each case spin out as it always had, even horror stories like Richards.

“By the end of 1993, the results of their painstaking work had become so appalling to the Probation Department and the juvenile court—and so profoundly threatening to the future of both bureaucracies—that officials have made no public announcement of the findings. But they boil down to this:

“ A little over half—57 percent—of kids who are arrested for the first time are never heard from again. They go straight, shocked by the system, mostly ordinary kids who make one mistake, and know it.

“Of the rest, just over a quarter—27 percent, to be precise—get arrested one or two more times, then they, too, end their criminal careers. But the last 16 percent—that’s sixteen kids out of every one hundred arrested—commit a total of four or more crimes, ranging from theft to murder. They become chronic offenders.” (pp 29-30)

An excerpt from the article on community courts.

“By 11 a.m. on a typical day, Judge Raymond Norko has already seen more than a dozen defendants at the community courthouse on Washington Street: a morning arrest for an open bottle of alcohol, middle-of-the-night loiterers in Hartford parks, train track trespassers.

“After brief, often light-hearted, conversations with Norko, the offenders are sent out of the courtroom in Hartford to meet with counselors who determine if they need social services.

“The loiterers and litterers probably won't. But in some cases — like the person stealing to support a drug habit — this might be the first time they are offered help for the underlying problems that cause them to break the law.

“It's been 10 years since Norko heard his first case in Hartford's community court, and it continues to be a different criminal justice model. In addition to social services being offered in the courthouse, almost every defendant is given a sentence of community service.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

Moral Economics

The major argument against the capitalistic system is that it is governed by the rules of economics as defined by supply and demand—a system deemed by many to be more concerned for people than socialism—rather than the common good.

The major argument against the socialistic system is that it is governed by the rules of economics as defined by, to each according to his need—which is deemed by many to be more concerned for people than capitalism—rather than the individual’s ability to secure the good for himself.

Both systems ultimately fall upon the individuals who make the decisions governing the field of economic play, and if those individuals are strongly influenced by deep seated religious beliefs constructed on the root of Catholic faith—the sacredness of each individual human being—the resulting benefits will be more apt to be truly for the common good; and this is a governing principle true for any in leadership positions with high potential of corruption.

This was remarked on in an article by the future pope, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in 1985.

An excerpt.

“In the attempt to describe the constellation of a dialogue between Church and economy, I have discovered yet a fourth aspect. It may be seen in the well-known remark made by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912: “I believe that the assimilation of the Latin-American countries to the United States will be long and difficult as long as these countries remain Catholic.” Along the same lines, in a lecture in Rome in 1969, Rockefeller recommended replacing the Catholics there with other Christians — an undertaking which, as is well known, is in full swing. In both these remarks, religion — here a Christian denomination — is presupposed as a socio-political, and hence as an economic-political factor, which is fundamental for the development of political structures and economic possibilities. This reminds one of Max Weber's thesis about the inner connection between capitalism and Calvinism, between the formation of the economic order and the determining religious idea. Marx's notion seems to be almost inverted: it is not the economy that produces religious notions, but the fundamental religious orientation that decides which economic system can develop. The notion that only Protestantism can bring forth a free economy — whereas Catholicism includes no corresponding education to freedom and to the self-discipline necessary to it, favoring authoritarian systems instead — is doubtless even today still very widespread, and much in recent history seems to speak for it. On the other hand, we can no longer regard so naively the liberal-capitalistic system (even with all the corrections it has since received) as the salvation of the world. We are no longer in the Kennedy-era, with its Peace Corps optimism; the Third World's questions about the system may be partial, but they are not groundless. A self-criticism of the Christian confessions with respect to political and economic ethics is the first requirement.

“But this cannot proceed purely as a dialogue within the Church. It will be fruitful only if it is conducted with those Christians who manage the economy. A long tradition has led them to regard their Christianity as a private concern, while as members of the business community they abide by the laws of the economy.

“These realms have come to appear mutually exclusive in the modern context of the separation of the subjective and objective realms. But the whole point is precisely that they should meet, preserving their own integrity and yet inseparable. It is becoming an increasingly obvious fact of economic history that the development of economic systems which concentrate on the common good depends on a determinate ethical system, which in turn can be born and sustained only by strong religious convictions. Conversely, it has also become obvious that the decline of such discipline can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse. An economic policy that is ordered not only to the good of the group — indeed, not only to the common good of a determinate state — but to the common good of the family of man demands a maximum of ethical discipline and thus a maximum of religious strength. The political formation of a will that employs the inherent economic laws towards this goal appears, in spite of all humanitarian protestations, almost impossible today. It can only be realized if new ethical powers are completely set free. A morality that believes itself able to dispense with the technical knowledge of economic laws is not morality but moralism. As such it is the antithesis of morality. A scientific approach that believes itself capable of managing without an ethos misunderstands the reality of man. Therefore it is not scientific. Today we need a maximum of specialized economic understanding, but also a maximum of ethos so that specialized economic understanding may enter the service of the right goals. Only in this way will its knowledge be both politically practicable and socially tolerable.”

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Catholics in the Public Square

Though not completely agreeing with the prognosis offered by Fr. Neuhaus in this article from First Things, the already stated and acted upon ideas of the president-elect and many of his supporters do suggest rough waters ahead around the life issue upon which our faith rests; and while continuing to pray that the soon-to-be First Family—an absolutely charming family as revealed in the 60 Minutes interview—will come to realize the evil of abortion, through their own family's happiness and their sense of responsibility to all Americans, even those who are most defenseless; the unborn.

It is a hope devoutly to be wished.

An excerpt from the First Things article.

“If, as I suggested last week, we are heading into a greatly intensified public clash of state power and religious freedom, something not entirely unlike the Kulturkampf attempted by Bismarck in the nineteenth century, Christian leadership is ill prepared for the battles ahead. Some express the hope that, given President-elect Obama’s repeated commitment to healing national divisions, he will not push for extreme measures such as the Freedom of Choice Act, thus igniting, in a way not seen since Roe v. Wade, the most explosive moral questions in our public life. I would like to think such hopes are justified, but his early choice of Thomas Daschle—a radically pro-abortion politician and, to the Church’s shame, a Catholic—as secretary of health and human services, the department dealing most closely with abortion and related life issues, is not encouraging.

“Obama’s public remarks on the freedom of religion and constitutional law demonstrate little awareness of the significance of the first freedom of the First Amendment in America’s law and lived experience. Moreover, after more than three decades of the most passionate public debate of these matters, Obama declared during the election that the moral and legal status of the unborn child are questions “above my pay grade.”

“The truly ominous possibility, indeed likelihood, is that Obama does not see his extreme positions on abortion as being extreme at all. They are the entrenched orthodoxies of the parties that got him to where he is. Those in opposition are viewed as a recalcitrant minority guilty of perpetuating divisiveness, and the time has come to break their back once and for all. I hope I am wrong, but this strikes me as the more plausible understanding of the Freedom of Choice Act and other measures aimed at “bringing us together again.”

“The response of Christian leaders to the imminent aggressions will require determined legal talent, especially in First Amendment law, a sharpening of public arguments, reaching out to those who do not understand what is at stake, and careful strategizing by pro-life activists and politicians. In the first place and in the long term, however, the need is for the courage to recover a biblical and historical understanding of what it means to say “Let the Church be the Church.” The Church is not an association of individuals sharing the experience of religion as what they do with the solitude. The Church is not in the consumption business, peddling the products that satisfy one’s self-defined spiritual needs. The Church is a unique society among the societies of the world; a community of obligation standing in solidarity with the truth who is Christ…

“Yes, the imminent Kulturkampf, if that is what is in the offing, will require legal talent, political strategizing, relentless persuasion, and all the other means compatible with our constitutional order. Most of all, however, it requires the courage born of faith that the Church really is the Body of Christ through time, a distinct and public community bearing public witness to public truths about the right ordering of life both public and personal. In Catholic history, the cry through the centuries is for libertas ecclesiae—the freedom of the Church to be the Church. For Catholics and others, that freedom now faces a time of severe testing. In the defense of that freedom there have been through the centuries martyrs beyond numbering. We do not know what will happen in the months and years ahead, except that now it may be our turn. “

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Broken Windows

One of the most important theories of crime control was developed in a 1982 article in the Atlantic Monthly by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling proposing that if police act on any signs of community disorder, even to the level of broken windows in vacant buildings, it will send a message to criminals that crime is not allowed; while not responding sends the opposite message.

The theory was put into practice in New York under Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Chief William Bratton, changing New York City from one of the most dangerous cities in America to one of the safest.

It is practice that has become a standard for police agencies throughout the nation and is very congruent with the key element Catholic social teaching understands as animating the responsibility of the state to sustain public safety, maintaining public order.

This article notes research examining that theory.

An excerpt.

“In a series of real-world experiments, people exposed to graffiti, litter and other cues of lawlessness were more likely to commit small crimes, according to a study published today that bolsters the controversial "broken windows" theory of policing.

“The idea is that low-level offenses like vandalism and panhandling create an environment that breeds bigger crimes. According to the theory, authorities can help head off serious violence by keeping minor infractions in check.

“Dutch researchers tested the psychological underpinnings of the theory and found that signs of social disorder damped people's impulse to act for the good of the community, allowing selfish and greedy instincts to take over. The results appear in the journal Science.

“Community policing strategies based on the "broken windows" theory have taken root in cities across the U.S. and around the world since it was proposed in 1982.

“Most famously, New York City saw a 50% reduction in crime in the 1990s after then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and then-Police Commissioner William J. Bratton -- now head of the Los Angeles Police Department -- cracked down on squeegee-wielding panhandlers and the like. They credited the "broken windows" approach for their success.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

America Works

One of the great blessings of America was realized many years ago—the freedom to choose where to live, where to work, where to shop—and it remains central to the still powerful global dominance of American business models, as this article notes.

An excerpt.

“Venturesome America

“So does the relative decline of America as a technology powerhouse really amount to a threat to its prosperity? Nonsense, insists Amar Bhidé of Columbia Business School. In “The Venturesome Economy”, a provocative new book, he explains why he thinks this gloomy thesis misunderstands innovation in several fundamental ways.

“First, he argues that the obsession with the number of doctorates and technical graduates is misplaced because the “high-level” inventions and ideas such boffins come up with travel easily across national borders. Even if China spends a fortune to train more scientists, it cannot prevent America from capitalising on their inventions with better business models.

“That points to his next insight, that the commercialisation, diffusion and use of inventions is of more value to companies and societies than the initial bright spark. America’s sophisticated marketing, distribution, sales and customer-service systems have long given it a decisive advantage over rivals, such as Japan in the 1980s, that began to catch up with its technological prowess. For America to retain this sort of edge, then, what the country needs is better MBAs, not more PhDs.

“America also has another advantage: the extraordinary willingness of its consumers to try new things. Mr Bhidé insists that such “venturesome consumption” is a vital counterpart to the country’s entrepreneurial business culture.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Crime Trends

Academics and most other criminal justice researchers too often forget about the internal criminal world dynamics driving crime, as their knowledge of it is limited by the often un-authentic access they have to that world, and as such; the reports emanating from their research also often miss the obvious.

In this new book from the National Academies for instance, there is some mystification around rising violent crime rates in particular cities, which most folks more familiar with the field from an experiential perspective, know emanate from the deepening acculturation of the carceral world upon the criminal world as well as from the changes that might have been made in specific policing or correctional technologies in those locales.

They would answer the three questions thus: Quite a bit, noted above, and yes.

An excerpt.

“Changes over time in the levels and patterns of crime have significant consequences that affect not only the criminal justice system but also other critical policy sectors. Yet compared with such areas as health status, housing, and employment, the nation lacks timely information and comprehensive research on crime trends. Consider a recent example. After declining or remaining stable for over a decade, violent crime rates rose in many American cities in 2005 and 2006. What is known about these changes? What brought them about? Could they be anticipated? The honest answers are: very little, no one knows, and no.” (p. 1)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Canons of Conservative Thought

After electing the most liberal president in memory—and the interview with the president-elect and his wife on 60 Minutes recently revealed a charming couple, parents of two lovely children, for whom we all pray that their stated opinions on abortion and many other issues, may change as they learn more from the vantage point of the most visible governing seat in the world—it can be helpful to review the canons of the conservative movement as formulated by Russell Kirk, a Catholic convert, author of The Conservative Mind, and father of modern conservatism, who defined “six canons of conservative thought—“

“(1) Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems. A narrow rationality, what Coleridge called the Understanding, cannot of itself satisfy human needs. “Every Tory is a realist,” says Keith Feiling: “he knows that there are great forces in heaven and earth that man’s philosophy cannot plumb or fathom.” (J.G. Baldwin, Party Leaders, pp.144-145) True politics is the art of apprehending and applying the Justice which ought to prevail in a community of souls.

“(2) Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems; conservatives resist what Robert Graves call “Logicalism” in society. This prejudice has been called “the conservatism of enjoyment”—a sense that life is worth living, according to Walter Bagehot “the proper source of an animated Conservatism.”

“(3) Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a “classless society.” With reason, conservatives often have been called “the party of order.” If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum. Ultimate equality in the judgment of God, and equality before courts of law, are recognized by conservatives; but equality of condition, they think, means equality in servitude and boredom.

“(4) Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Economic leveling, they maintain, is not economic progress.

“(5) Faith in prescription and distrust of “sophisters, calculators, and economists” who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs. Custom, convention, and old prescription are checks both upon man’s anarchic impulse and upon the innovator’s lust for power.

“(6) Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress. Society must alter, for prudent change is the means of social preservation; but a statesman must take providence into his calculations, and a statesman’s chief virtue, according to Plato and Burke, is prudence. (pp. 8-9)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

About Life, Part 2

The presidential election has produced significant statements regarding the central issue in Catholic social teaching—that of life—and some particularly potent voices come from the Culture of Life Foundation, and one is E. Christian Brugger, Ph.D. Senior Fellow in Ethics.

An excerpt from his statement.

“Like many concerned with the welfare of vulnerable human life, the results of the Nov. 4 election have led me to question where our country is going. Do the results imply we are growing more tolerant of abortion? After three and a half decades of strenuous effort to sensitize our friends and neighbors to the ‘silent screams’ of the unborn, does the electoral outcome mean we’re losing the battle for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens? Does electing a president as politically tolerant of killing human embryos, fetuses and newborns as Barack Obama mean our country’s moral callousness is thickening? What does the Obama victory foreshadow for the future of preborn human life in our country? …

“Our parents taught us never to judge a book by its cover, either for worse or for better. Read it, they said, and then make your judgment. Our nation last week purchased Barack Obama based solely on his cover. His sound bites and slogans, stump speeches and campaign promises were no more than promotional material on the Obama dust jacket. But the book is now ours and we have four years to read it. And read it we will, whether we like it or not. I expect that when the majority of Americans begin to see clearly whom they elected, their enthusiasm will mute and their attention turn. And then the time will be ripe for defenders of life to put forward a freshly formulated and newly motivated appeal on behalf of the godlike dignity of every human person, especially the preborn. I agree with Dr. May that we need more effectively to address “disabling factors” preventing people from hearing the gospel of life. First and foremost we need to address widespread ignorance of basic truths concerning life issues, such as when human life begins, what you’re killing when you kill an embryo or fetus, whether the unborn feel pain, and whether abortion is bad for women. We need to continue to unmask the blatant falsifications of the abortion and embryo destruction industries, clearly set forth viable life affirming alternatives to abortion and embryo destruction, point out the psychological and moral link between contraction and abortion, and tirelessly proclaim God’s willingness to forgive those who execute or facilitate the killing of the innocent.

“The election results are an opportunity for us to regroup in anticipation of a new day of pro-life evangelization in which the splendor of truth and gospel of life are confidently defended in the public square.
Couragio pro-lifers!”

Monday, November 17, 2008

About Life, Part 1

The presidential election has produced significant statements regarding the central issue in Catholic social teaching—that of life—and some particularly potent voices come from the Culture of Life Foundation, and one is Helen Avare, J.D. Senior Fellow in Law

An excerpt from her statement.

“The candidacy of President-elect Obama rested upon one of the most dangerous ideas threatening a culture of life within the United States. It is an idea the Catholic Church, via particularly its bishops and its social justice ministries, has been laboring to contradict for a very long time.

“It is the idea that it is impossible and unnecessary to hold and pursue integrally and simultaneously, a social justice agenda which promotes justice for unborn human beings and born human beings. Many, many Americans, with Catholics possibly leading the way, have held for a long time that the principles animating justice for born persons – the equality and dignity of persons based upon their equal humanity, alongside the innate fragility of human persons in the world, with their need for food, clothing, shelter, health care, justice and religious freedom – easily apply to all human beings, no matter their stage of development. Out of these ideas, Catholics and many others have expressed real skepticism for politicians or anyone for that matter, who professes a “heart” for some of the dispossessed, but not all. Real skepticism toward those who can’t see in the discarded bodies of the unborn anything to call upon our humanity, similar to the call that comes from the wasted bodies of the poor, the war-dead, and the seriously ill, or the call that comes from the sight of lives wasting away for want of racial justice, education, family stability, and economic opportunity.

“About the election and the agenda of Barack Obama, we have witnessed instead, especially in the media, the very opposite of skepticism. There is rather an exulting in his youth, in his breaking of racial barriers, his rhetoric, and his repetition of a truly American mantra, CHANGE! Look where we might in the leading media outlets, and in the results of exit polling, there is almost no one wondering what to make of Candidate Obama’s shredding of an authentic consistent ethic of life. Almost no one wondering aloud how a man who deliberately turned his back on the killing of newborns in a Chicago hospital, and who campaigned on the promise to make partial-birth abortion and all other abortion restraints illegal, can understand the dignity of other, even desperately vulnerable, persons. Instead, he is hailed as the answer to the needs of the economically downtrodden.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Election’s Meaning for Catholics, Part 2

Richard John Neuhaus captures the potential of the coming months of an administration that has said it hopes to sign the most sweeping pro-abortion legislation since Roe vs Wade in its first days in office; and the corresponding strengthening voices of the Catholic bishops vowing to fight against that, lend potent drama to an election that many thought had ended drama for awhile.

No, not yet.

An excerpt from Fr. Neuhaus.

“This awareness that Christians are different, and different in ways that make a very big difference, will, I expect sharply increase in the months and years ahead. For all of President-elect Obama’s wafting language about bringing us together, healing divisions, and so on and so on, if he seriously intends to follow through on his extremist abortion views, we are headed for the intensification of an American version of the Kulturkampf that Bismarck came to rue. The focus is on FOCA, the Freedom of Choice Act, that Obama says he wants to sign on his first day in office. This act would eliminate the very modest restraints and regulations established by states, provide government funding for abortions, and in its present form, require religiously sponsored hospitals and clinics to perpetrate abortions or go out of business.

“The aggressor in the opening phases of this Kulturkampf is the Obama administration. The initial response to the aggression was evident in the meeting of Catholic bishops this week in Baltimore. There were refreshingly bold statements by bishops, and by Francis Cardinal George, president of the conference, on the imperative to protect the integrity of the Church’s teaching and to employ every legitimate means to resist the further advance of what John Paul the Great taught us to understand as the culture of death. Some bishops even invoked the venerable tradition of martyrdom, sounding very much like the successors to the apostles that they are.

“The Christ against culture model does not come naturally to Catholics. The Church is much more disposed toward conversion, providing moral guidance, and the transformation of culture. The Christ against culture model is never chosen, but sometimes there is no choice. Pushed to the wall by the Obama aggression, it seems evident that most of the Catholic bishops are, in the words of Paul to Timothy, prepared to “fight the good fight.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Election’s Meaning for Catholics, Part 1

An excellent analysis from The Catholic Thing of what Catholics may have to deal with now that the election is over, and one hopes that sound voices within the political arena, the focused work of Catholic apostolates, and the consistent prayers of the faithful, will be able to ensure that these rather dire warnings do not come to pass.

An excerpt.

“On the bright side, exit polls indicate America is still a center-right nation. Thirty-four percent of voters consider themselves conservatives, 22 percent liberal –unchanged from the 2004 election, and essentially the same breakdown as has existed since Reagan recentered the electorate to the right.

“Four out of five Green ballot issues went down to defeat – two of them in California. In Arizona, California, and Florida, same-sex marriage bans passed with the overwhelming support of African-Americans and Hispanics.

“On the dark side, Democrats who will control on January 20, 2009, the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, will be positioned to implement their extreme leftist social agenda. In their new social order, rights will be the weapons of self-interest; responsibility based on a moral hierarchy will be anathema…

“For forty years, radical groups promoting secular ideologies such as Marxism, Darwinism, Freudianism, and behaviorism – all of which deny man’s spirituality and declare him free of all moral constraints – have been plotting to get their hands on the wheels of the federal government. Well, on November 4, they and their fellow travelers finally succeeded.

“Catholics must realize that for these ideologues man is an individual without intrinsic value; he is not a person in the traditional sense, just the highest animal on the evolutionary scale. For these ideologues the human person is irrelevant. Universal ideas and absolute values are meaningless because man’s existence has no spiritual dimension. The concept of liberty as freedom to do what one ought to do is, in this view, absurd; freedom means license to do whatever is desired. Values are merely a matter of taste; the common good is disregarded in favor of the collective good or individual good.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Catholic Bishops Begin to Speak

In what is a marvelous development that began some time ago with individual bishops speaking out, more of the nation’s Catholic bishops are beginning to speak clearly and vigorously about Catholic teaching, and in the process calling out those Catholic politicians who would violate Catholic teaching while claiming to be faithful Catholics.

What those politicians have been doing is called scandal and it is finally being challenged in our country; a very good thing.

An excerpt.

“BALTIMORE — The nation's Roman Catholic bishops vowed Tuesday to forcefully confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights, saying the church and religious freedom could be under attack in the new presidential administration.

“In an impassioned discussion on Catholics in public life, several bishops said they would accept no compromise on abortion policy. Many condemned Catholics who had argued it was morally acceptable to back President-elect Obama because he pledged to reduce abortion rates.

“And several prelates promised to call out Catholic policy makers on their failures to follow church teaching. Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pa., said he planned to counter Vice President-elect Biden, a Catholic, Scranton native who supports abortion rights.

"I cannot have a vice president-elect coming to Scranton to say he's learned his values there when those values are utterly against the teachings of the Catholic Church," Martino said. The Obama-Biden press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Diocese of Kansas City in Kansas said politicians "can't check your principles at the door of the legislature."

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The movement in the world to avoid accepting the responsibility of protection human beings have to one another-especially the strong for the weak-has been, is now, and always will be, a potent force that Catholics will need to constantly struggle against, often within its own members ranks; and that is a tragedy, but a constant reality.

An excerpt from an article in First Things about one front in that movement.

“Between 1994 and last Tuesday, the assisted-suicide movement in this country was moribund. After Oregon passed Measure 16 (the Death with Dignity Act) in 1994 and saw it go into effect in 1997–despite widespread expectations, myriad state legislative efforts, and two voter referenda (Michigan and Maine)–no other state swallowed the hemlock.

“Frustrated advocates adopted an “Oregon-plus-one” strategy, believing that if only a second state legalized assisted suicide, it would put the winds back into their sails. That theory is about to be tested. Boosted by a multi-million dollar campaign budget that swamped the opposition—most coming from out of state, some even from out of the country—fronted by a popular former governor who also poured hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money into the cause, and cheered on by a media all but unanimously in favor of “death with dignity,” Washington State became the “plus one” on November 4, 2008 when Initiative 1000 cruised to a 58–42 victory.

“And with that success, the sails of the ghost ship Euthanasia rippled with the briskly rising breeze, and once again began to plow through the waves toward other shores, far and near. Soon, legislation will be introduced to legalize assisted suicide in state throughout the country—California, Vermont, Arizona, Wisconsin, Hawaii, perhaps Ohio, and others—to make it Oregon-plus-two, -three, -four, and -five.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reading the New Testament

Since June 1st I have been following the 6 months daily reading program in the Confraternity Pocket Edition of The New Testament, available from Scepter Publishers, and the reading for November 8th is surely one of the most powerful and clear statements Christ made regarding the world as ruled by Satan, contrasted with the Kingdom of Heaven.

42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.
43 Why do you not understand what I am saying? Because you cannot bear to hear my word.
44 You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.
45 But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me.
46 Can any of you charge me with sin? If I am telling the truth, why do you not believe me?
47 Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God." (John 8:42-47)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Catholic Muslim Dialogue

The mutual discussion—one of the most important discussions in the world—opened by Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, has concluded its first meeting, and issued a statement, remarked on by Chisea.

An excerpt.

“The hard thing is to move from theory to practice. Words, silences, and background of the first meeting of the Forum between the two religions, born from the lecture of Benedict XVI in Regensburg and the letter to the pope from 138 Islamic scholars.

“ROMA, November 10, 2008 – In the photo, Benedict XVI is shaking the hand of Ingrid Mattson, a Canadian and the president of the Islamic Society of North America. Watching is Tariq Ramadan, the most famous and controversial of the European Muslim thinkers, an Egyptian with Swiss citizenship and a professor at Oxford, grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The photo was taken on Thursday, November 6, in the Sala Clementina of the apostolic palaces. The pope was receiving the two delegations, one Catholic and one Muslim, each including 24 members and 5 consultants, that had participated in the first seminar of the Catholic-Muslim forum. It was held on November 4-5 at the Vatican, organized by the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue and by representatives of the 138 Muslim leaders who signed the open letter to Christian leaders dated October 13, 2007, one year after the memorable lecture delivered by Benedict XVI in Regensburg.

“The encounter with the pope opened with a greeting from Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Catholic delegation, and two addresses read by the head of the Muslim delegation, Shaykh Mustafa Cerić, a Sunni, the grand mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a Shiite, an Iranian immigrant to the United States and a professor at George Washington University.

“Benedict XVI responded to all of them with a speech in which he said:

"There is a great and vast field in which we can act together in defending and promoting the moral values which are part of our common heritage. Only by starting with the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and defending life which is the gift of God, and is thus sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike – only on the basis of this recognition, can we find a common ground for building a more fraternal world, a world in which confrontations and differences are peacefully settled, and the devastating power of ideologies is neutralized."

“And again:

"My hope is that these fundamental human rights will be protected for all people everywhere. Political and religious leaders have the duty of ensuring the free exercise of these rights in full respect for each individual’s freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The discrimination and violence which even today religious people experience throughout the world, and the often violent persecutions to which they are subject, represent unacceptable and unjustifiable acts, all the more grave and deplorable when they are carried out in the name of God."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Campaign for Human Development

This information about the Campaign for Human Development (CHD) was a big surprise to me, as it may be to you, and was published as part of the daily column from First Things.

"...The Campaign for Human Development (CHD) is an annual collection in parishes, usually on one of the last two Sundays in November. It used to be called the Catholic Campaign for Human Development but the Catholic was dropped, which is just as well since it has nothing to do with Catholicism, except that Catholics are asked to pay for it. Some bishops no longer allow the CHD collection in their dioceses, and more should not allow it. In fact, CHD, misbegotten in concept and corrupt in practice, should, at long last, be terminated.

"Ten years ago, CHD was exposed as using the Catholic Church as a milk cow to fund organizations that frequently were actively working against the Church's mission, especially in their support of pro-abortion activities and politicians. Now it turns out that CHD has long been a major funder of ACORN, a national community agitation organization in support of leftist causes, including the abortion license. ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is under criminal investigation in several states. In the last decade CHD gave ACORN well over seven million dollars, including more than a million in the past year. It is acknowledged that ACORN, with which Sen. Obama had a close connection over the years, was a major player in his presidential campaign. The bishops say they are investigating the connection between CHD and ACORN. They say they are worried that it might jeopardize the Church's tax-exemption. No mention is made of abusing the trust of the Catholic faithful.

"What most Catholics don't know, and what would likely astonish them, is that CHD very explicitly does not fund Catholic institutions and apostolates that work with the poor. Part of the thinking when it was established in the ideological climate of the 1960s is that Catholic concern for the poor would not be perceived as credible if CHD funded Catholic organizations. Yes, that's bizarre, but the history of CHD is bizarre. The bishops could really help poor people by promptly shutting down CHD and giving any remaining funds to, for instance, Catholic inner-city schools. In any event, if there is a collection at your parish this month, I suggest that you can return the envelope empty-and perhaps with a note of explanation-without the slightest moral hesitation."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

He was, other than Peter and some Catholic theologians, one of the greatest spiritual and prophetic speakers on the international stage during the last century, and his famous speech in 1978 at Harvard is a must read from the perspective of forty years.

An excerpt.

“The Direction of Freedom

“In today's Western society, the inequality has been revealed of freedom for good deeds and freedom for evil deeds. A statesman who wants to achieve something important and highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly; there are thousands of hasty and irresponsible critics around him, parliament and the press keep rebuffing him. As he moves ahead, he has to prove that every single step of his is well-founded and absolutely flawless. Actually an outstanding and particularly gifted person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind hardly gets a chance to assert himself; from the very beginning, dozens of traps will be set out for him. Thus mediocrity triumphs with the excuse of restrictions imposed by democracy.

“It is feasible and easy everywhere to undermine administrative power and, in fact, it has been drastically weakened in all Western countries. The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.

“Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people's right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

“And what shall we say about the dark realm of criminality as such? Legal frames (especially in the United States) are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorists' civil rights. There are many such cases.

“Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature; the world belongs to mankind and all the defects of life are caused by wrong social systems which must be corrected. Strangely enough, though the best social conditions have been achieved in the West, there still is criminality and there even is considerably more of it than in the pauper and lawless Soviet society. (There is a huge number of prisoners in our camps which are termed criminals, but most of them never committed any crime; they merely tried to defend themselves against a lawless state resorting to means outside of a legal framework).”

Saturday, November 8, 2008

After the Election

While the bishops of the United States were certainly a little more vocal in their defense of the faith this election season, there is much room for improvement and as they are—for better or worse—the public leaders of our Church in this country, we need for them to speak clearly, and with humility, about the truths of our faith; not only for the benefit of the faithful who are listening, but for the souls of those who might become the faithful, who are also listening.

Richard John Neuhaus, in his very special way, remarks on this in First Things.

An excerpt.

“In a few days, the American bishops of the Catholic Church will be holding their annual fall meeting in Baltimore. High on the agenda is how Catholic bishops can better communicate Catholic teaching on social justice both in the Church and in the public square. It is understood that the priority issue of social justice is the protection of innocent human life—from the entrance gates of life to the exit gates, and at every step along life’s way. The most massive and brutal violation of justice is the killing of millions of children in the womb.

“In recent months, an unusually large number of bishops have been assertive, articulate, and even bold, in their public affirmation of the demands of moral reason and the Church’s teaching. Some estimate the number of such bishops to be over a hundred. Critics of these bishops, including Catholic fronts for the Obama campaign, claim that bishops have only spoken out because prominent Democrats stepped on their toes by egregiously misrepresenting Catholic teaching. Why only? It is the most particular duty of bishops to see that the authentic teaching of the Church is safeguarded and honestly communicated.

“Not all bishops covered themselves with honor in the doing of their duty. Ignoring their further duty to protect the integrity of the Eucharist and defend against the faithful’s being led into confusion, temptation, and sin by skandolon, some bishops issued statements explaining why they had no intention of addressing the problem of public figures who claim they are Catholics in good standing despite their consistent rejection of the Church’s teaching on the defense of innocent human lives. Some such bishops took the position that publicly doing or saying anything that addressed that very public problem would be viewed as controversial, condemned as politically partisan, and misconstrued by those hostile to the Church. Therefore, they explained, they were doing and saying nothing except to say why they were doing and saying nothing. Such calculated timidity falls embarrassingly short of the apostolic zeal exemplified by the apostles whose successors the bishops are. Fortunately, these timorous shepherds seem to be in the minority among the bishops.”

Friday, November 7, 2008

Faith in the World

As we saw again in this recent election, it is most difficult to maintain our Catholic faith in a world in which virtually every social manifestation is set against us—exactly why the prince of the world is who he is—but that burden is greatly lightened by the teaching of our Church, and most potently by the teaching of Peter; upon whose shoulders the Church was built and eternally sustained by Christ against the very gates of hell.

All of the works of our popes are valuable tools in our faith-strengthening; and occasionally, works by others about our popes are as well.

One wonderful example is the book by Tracey Rowland, Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI.

An excerpt on the various ways others have described the essence of Benedict’s theology.

“Komonchak describes it as a ‘Bonventurian theological vision’ according to which the gospel will save us, not philosophy, not science, and not scientific theology. In a period of disillusion with modernity the Church can make her appeal to the world by ‘presenting the Christian vision in its synthetic totality as a comprehensive structure of meaning that at nearly every point breaks with the taken-for-granted attitudes, strategies, and habits of contemporary culture.’” (p. 14, highlighting added)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Politics and Catholic Social Teaching

During a period in American politics when the politics of death—the unbridled support for abortion—appears to be reigning supreme, it is an excellent time to remind ourselves that the only politics founded on the dignity and respect for each individual human life, emanate from the eternal principles embodied in the social teaching of the Church.

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

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

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

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

Here is an excerpt.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Bishop

One of America’s truly great bishops, Bishop Burke of St. Louis, has been called to important work in the Vatican.

He gave an interview to Inside the Vatican before the election, and it is wonderful.

An excerpt.

“2. As archbishop of St Louis and bishop of La Crosse, your style of church leadership was very distinctive. Is something lacking in the way some other dioceses are administered throughout the world?

“My leadership in the Diocese of La Crosse and in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis was inspired by the directives of the Holy See on the office and ministry of the Diocesan Bishop. I was also inspired by the Regula Pastoralis of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. In a world which is beset with the ideologies of secularism and relativism, it is more important than ever that the Bishop be a strong leader who teaches clearly, celebrates the Sacred Liturgy with the greatest possible reverence, directs and disciplines justly, and gives the best example of the Christian life, of which he is capable. I was trying to do my best, both in La Crosse and in Saint Louis. It is not my place to comment on the leadership of other Bishops.

“3. In your country an election is about to take place in a couple of days. Archbishop Chaput says Obama is the biggest supporter ever of abortion rights, in a presidential candidate. Should Americans be concerned if he becomes president?

“My fellow citizens of the United States of America should be deeply concerned about any candidate for the presidency who supports legislation which permits the destruction of human life at its very beginning, the killing of babies in the womb, or legislation which violates the integrity of marriage and family life. The safeguarding and promoting of human life, from the moment of its inception, and of the integrity of marriage must be the fundamental planks of any political agenda. A good citizen must support and vote for the candidate who most supports the inalienable dignity of innocent and defenseless life, and the integrity of marriage. To do otherwise, is to participate, in some way, in the culture of death which pervades the life of the nation and has led to so much violence, even in the home and in educational institutions.

“4. In a recent interview you were quoted saying the Democratic Party is fast becoming "the party of death". Is this a fair statement, when you consider that the Republican administration has become involved in an unpopular war?

“It is not my intention to engage in partisan politics. I wish that both of the major political parties in the United States of America were more coherent regarding the right to life. The Democratic Party, however has, over the years, put forth and defended a political agenda which is grievously anti-life, favoring the right to procured abortion and "marriage" between persons of the same sex. One can legitimately question the wisdom of the decisions taken in the war in Iraq, but war in itself is not always and everywhere evil, as are, for example, procured abortion, human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, and the so-called "marriage" of persons of the same sex. Engagement of the nation in a war cannot be placed on the same moral level as the nation making laws which permit the wholesale killing of the unborn or the artificial generation of human life or experimentation on embryonic human life or "marriage" between persons of the same sex.

“5. By emphasizing the issue of abortion, are some of the US bishops taking single issue politics too far, when the world's economies are in financial meltdown, obviously a product in part of government policies?

“Procured abortion is the fundamental moral issue in the safeguarding and fostering of human life. To make economics or the environment the fundamental political issue, when life itself, in its most innocent and defenseless form, remains unprotected is morally irresponsible. Yes, the government of the United States must address a number of critical issues, including the current and most serious economic crisis. But it must address first its duty to promote the common good by defending the life of every human being, from the moment of its inception, and by safeguarding the integrity of marriage and the family.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Catholic Teaching and Citizenship

The 2008 statement from the US Catholic Bishops on Faithful Citizenship, is pretty good—especially strong on the pro-life issue, important to note with the election today.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Government & Grassroots

In the human service field, particularly within the area of criminal transformation, the government has become the major funder and administrator—via program regulations—of efforts to rehabilitate criminals.

While government involvement is desired as a funder of programs, the regulatory side effects often render the program efforts much less effective than those of the pure grassroots organization funded and administered by people from the community; often the very community—penitential criminals—being served.

In her book, Loaves and Fishes, Dorothy Day comments on the government’s involvement in social programs—in reference to demands they upgrade certain things on the Catholic Worker farm.

“It is a strange and terrifying business, this all-encroaching state, when it interferes to such a degree in the personal practice of the works of mercy. How terrible a thing it is when the state takes over the poor! “State ownership of the indigent,” one of the bishops called it. The authorities want us to live according to certain standards, or not at all. We are forced to raise our standard of living, regardless of the debts involved. We are forced to be institutional, which is not what we want.” (p. 205)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Souls Day & the Election

Today is All Souls Day where we remember those we love who have died and at my parish they have put pictures of those who have died on the walls; a poignant reminder of the end of each of us in this physical body, but also the hope that those we leave behind will remember us with love, necessitating the type of life the saints—All Saints Day was yesterday—modeled for us.

It is also only a couple days more until the nation votes and Richard John Neuhaus notes that the choice we make may also impact the freedom of religion that we so take for granted in this country.

An excerpt.

“One can argue that every presidential election is a “historic” election. But some are more historic than others. Daniel Henninger had a provocative column yesterday making a strong case that this one is a “tipping point” between America continuing as an entrepreneurial society or going the way of the European “social democracies.” He cites the late Senator Pat Moynihan who said the big difference between Europe and America is that the former gives priority to equality and the latter to liberty. I’m not sure that Henninger is right in saying there would be no turning back after four or eight years of President Obama and an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress imposing their passion for a government-directed program of redistribution and social coordination, but the future he depicts is both plausible and ominous.

“There is another dimension of this ideological passion for the expansion of government control that is at least equally worrying. It has to do with the freedom of religion in the American constitutional order and the indispensable part that religion plays in checking the ambitions of the modern democratic state. Obama has said that he thinks it is “tragic” that the Supreme Court has declined to advance the cause of redistributive justice. That refers, of course, to economic redistribution. But the language of healing divisions and bringing us all together—under government auspices—applies also to the social dynamics of American society.

“There are several issues, all closely related to religion, on which Obama, for all his undoubtedly sincere talk about his own faith and the importance of religion in public life, is manifestly hostile to the vibrant diversity of American life. The first is abortion, of course. The protection of innocent human life should not be seen as an exclusively religious concern, for it is grounded in scientifically-informed moral reason that should be compelling to all. Nonetheless, the pro-life cause is largely driven by the religiously motivated.

“Obama makes no secret of his intention to shut down that cause and disenfranchise the millions who are committed to the abolition of the abortion license imposed by Roe. This is evident beyond doubt by his repeated and enthusiastic endorsement of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would, among other things, eliminate all state regulation of abortions—such as informed consent and parental notification—and provide government funding for abortions. FOCA aims to extinguish once and for all the single issue in American public life on which the free exercise of religion has had greatest potency in the last several decades of our history. Similar dynamics are in play in the court-imposed laws favoring same-sex marriage, of which Obama has expressed his approval, such as the California ruling now being fiercely contested in a referendum.”

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Political Philanthropy

The political giving being done by employees of the nonprofit sector is largely to liberal politicians—surprising hardly anyone—but it should be troubling to many as it reflects a lack of balance within one of the most important sectors of our society, the nonprofit sector.

It is vital to see the ideas of conservatives more active within the nonprofit sector, particularly when we are reminded that it was through the largess of the relatively conservative corporate leaders of the past—Carnegie, Ford, Rockefeller—that the sector has been able to grow and thrive these past hundred years.

An excerpt from a recent article from the Chronicle of Philantrhopy.

“Janet Marcotte, executive director of YWCA Tucson has contributed $4,600, the maximum amount allowed by law, to help Sen. Barack Obama become president. She also attended the Democratic National Convention as a volunteer and traveled to New Mexico to help drum up support for the Illinois senator.

“I haven’t been inspired like this since I was a teenager working for Robert Kennedy,” she says, referring to the 1968 Democratic primary campaign.

“Ms. Marcotte, who emphasizes that she is speaking for herself and not the YWCA, calls Mr. Obama a “rare and exceptional talent” who would do more to help the women and children that her organization serves than his Republican opponent would.

“According to federal campaign records, Ms. Marcotte has a lot of company in the charitable world: People who work at large charities and foundations have favored Senator Obama — and Democrats in general — by a large margin during this election season.

“At The Chronicle’s request, the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, compiled data from the Federal Election Commission on donations to presidential and Congressional candidates and political-party committees from staff members at the 25 wealthiest foundations and 75 of the largest charities. Of almost $1.2-million contributed from January 2007 through August 2008, 88 percent went to Democrats.

“The donors gave more than 12 times as much money to Senator Obama as to his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, of Arizona — about $399,000 to almost $32,000.

“Charity employees favored Democrats by 82 percent to 18 percent, and foundation employees by 98 percent to 2 percent.”