Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Vatican & Global Economics

The Vatican has presented an economic recovery plan for global consideration, reported by Chisea, and it has stirred the interest of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who will host the G20 meetings in London in April.

An excerpt.

“ROMA, February 27, 2009 – He was the first to be surprised – Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, 63, a fervent Catholic with five children, professor of economics at the Catholic University of Milan and president in Italy of Banco Santander, one of the largest banks in the world:

"When I came up with the idea for a 'good bank' and wrote about it in 'L'Osservatore Romano', I never imagined that it would be picked up by the head of the World Bank, and even by English prime minister Gordon Brown."

“But that's exactly what happened. The idea that Gotti Tedeschi proposed last January 30 on the front page of the newspaper of the Holy See was forcefully echoed, in the February 19 issue of the same newspaper, by British prime minister Brown (in the photo), who that same day was received by Benedict XVI at the Vatican.

“It is a simple but revolutionary idea, proposed to the rich countries that are now in financial disarray: to invest a gigantic sum of money, not at home, but on behalf of poor countries, so that these may become the leaders of an economic boom to their own advantage and that of all. Over the span of a few decades, it would be the growth of poor countries that would repay the debt contracted by the rich countries, producing more wealth and prosperity.

“Further below on this page, the idea is explained in greater detail, as it gradually took shape in "L'Osservatore Romano": first with the article by Gotti Tedeschi, then with the surprising follow-up from Brown, and then with another article by the Italian economist and banker, who for the past year has been the economics commentator for the pope's newspaper.

“An important test of the future of this project will be the next G20, the summit of the twenty largest and richest countries in the world, scheduled for April 2.

“But something important is already happening. There is a growing and increasingly authoritative recognition of the fact that the economy cannot be driven by selfish interests alone – with the devastation that today is plain for all to see – but must also draw upon ethics. "Inspired by grace," Gotti Tedeschi says.

“In his view, Brown has received this inspiration, "with the humility of great men." Gotti Tedeschi is confident that the British prime minister will be listened to by the other powers that be: "And so I urge that Gordon Brown be nominated for the Nobel prize in economics."

“An evidence of the attention to the connection between economics and ethics came recently from Italian economy minister Giulio Tremonti. Last summer, he published a book entitled "La paura e la speranza [Fear and hope]," which ended up on Benedict XVI's desk. The pope also received the minister for a private audience. And Tremonti, inaugurating the new academic year at the Catholic University of Milan last November 19, cited a 1985 conference on ethics and economics given by Ratzinger, crediting him with prophesying long in advance, at that conference, the current global disaster. "What is coming true today," Tremonti said, "is the prediction according to which the decline of discipline in the economy, a discipline based on a strong ethical and religious order, would bring the laws of the market to collapse."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Human Nature

This article from The Catholic Thing is an interesting look at a conference where human nature was discussed, and a large part of understanding the social teaching of the Church is understanding—as much as our human mind can understand the mystery of God’s work—the essential attributes of our human nature and our connection to the divine.

An excerpt.

“The occasion was a seminar on the question “Is There a Human Nature?,” sponsored by the Lumen Christi Institute, an independent Catholic organization at the University of Chicago. Lumen Christi is doing some of the best work in the world in bringing the Catholic intellectual tradition into dialogue with the very highest secular scholarship. Cardinal Francis George, the brainy Chicago archbishop, is a strong supporter and participant in this work. Jean-Luc Marion, a French Catholic philosopher who recently became one of the “immortals” of the Academie Fran├žaise spends one semester a year in Chicago and lectures for the institute. During any given academic year, figures like Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Leon Kass, along with equally eminent thinkers from Germany, Britain, or Poland, turn up on programs. Lumen Christi pursues both faith and reason as vigorously as any institution, Catholic or not, in the world.

“Last week’s discussion on human nature was something to witness. It not only addressed complex scientific matters, while remaining faithful to classical Christian teaching. If it were better known, it would help get us past the simple-minded polemics that continue to poison the relationship between religion and science. For instance, John O’Callahan, the gifted young director of the Jacques Maritain Center at Notre Dame (successor to The Catholic Thing’s Ralph McInerny) laid out an interesting philosophical understanding of Creation. God creates ex nihilo (from nothing), which means he does not act on pre-existing matter or even inject matter into a void. Creation, for us, unfolds in time, but God is outside of time and his creative act is continuous and enables secondary causes at every moment, including human free will. From that standpoint, it’s easier to see how the human soul might be directly created by God at the moment each of us is conceived. God did not let evolution go on and then “miraculously” intervene. His creative act started (in our perspective) some 15 billion years ago, but is actual at every moment and active in a particular way in the creation of each soul in its unity with a body, the traditional definition of human nature.”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Capital Punishment Abolition Saves Money?

Several articles in the news recently proclaim that some states are considering abolishing capital punishment as they assume it will save money, but they may be incorrect according to the results of this study by a Sacramento organization, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (disclosure—I was once on their board of directors and am a strong supporter of their work), one of the few national organizations tracking capital punishment issues on behalf of crime victims.

An excerpt from their press release announcing the study.

“Legislatures expecting a large savings in trial costs from repealing the death penalty may be in for a disappointment, according to a study released today by the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. The most widely cited estimates ignore or minimize an important cost-saving effect of having the death penalty available.

“In states where the death penalty is the maximum punishment, a larger number of murder defendants are willing to plead guilty and receive a life sentence. The greater cost of trials where the prosecution does seek the death penalty is offset, at least in part, by the savings from avoiding trial altogether in cases where the defendant pleads guilty. Although this effect is well known to people working in the field, there appears to be no prior study to determine the actual size of this effect.

“An example of the plea bargaining effect occurred two weeks ago in Navarro County, Texas. Shaun Earl Arender confessed to the sexual assault and murder of six-year-old Hanna Mack and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in return for avoiding the death penalty. If Texas did not have the death penalty, this case would almost certainly have gone to trial. Sentencing expert Douglas Berman of Ohio State University notes on his blog, “I think an important and underexamined aspect of the death penalty is its impact on plea bargaining and other pre-trial aspects of the investigation and prosecution of horrible murders.”

“The study released today, The Death Penalty and Plea Bargaining of Life Sentences, analyzed data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics from 33 large urban counties. The study examined how many of the murder cases were resolved by guilty plea, how many went to trial, and how many resulted in a sentence of at least 20 years.

“In states with the death penalty, the average county obtained sentences of 20 years or more in 50.7% of cases where the defendant was charged with murder and convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter. These sentences were obtained through a guilty plea in 18.9% of the cases. In states without the death penalty, sentences of 20 years or more were obtained in 40.5% of such cases, but only 5.0% of those were guilty pleas, a little over a quarter of the number in the death penalty states.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reformed Criminal Entrepreneurs

While the Prison Entrepreneurship Program—in this report from the New York Times—is too selective in its participants to qualify as a reentry program that could be scaled up to serve as a national model serving very many of the 700,000 prisoners released each year, it is one that could (especially after a rigorous evaluation) be modeled as a leadership development program for business start-ups that, in addition to the benefit for the former criminals now business owners, could also become a source of providing jobs to other reentering prisoners.

An excerpt.

“This year, nearly 700,000 people will be released from state or federal prisons. They will join the worst economy in decades, many of them with limited education and little or no legitimate employment experience. And a criminal record will make it that much harder to find a job.

“Yet newly released prisoners need to work, not just to support themselves or their families, but also because having a job correlates with staying out of trouble. One study, in December 2006, found that 89 percent of people who violate the terms of their parole or probation were unemployed.

“In the past few years, several programs have been introduced to teach prisoners, who may have problems finding traditional employment after their release, how to work for themselves.

“We try to help these guys realize that the skills they already possess from illegal ventures have real value in the business world,” explains Catherine Rohr, founder and chief executive of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, based in Houston. “Major drug dealers are already proven entrepreneurs.”

“The program, usually called P.E.P., works with men incarcerated in Texas and spends about $15,000 on each graduate. Last year, it raised $2.5 million from private sources. Ms. Rohr, a graduate of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, started P.E.P. in May 2004, when she was 27. She said she left a $200,000-a-year job in private equity when her Christian faith led her to embark on a life of service…

“Since the program’s inception, 441 men, roughly a quarter of whom had been incarcerated for violent crimes, have graduated. Just over 8 percent have returned to prison...”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Consecrated Life

Consecrated life is a model for the life of the apostolate and for the daily practice that informs the work of the transformed criminal leading criminal transformative organizations.

The Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, in an article in the January 29, 2009 issue of L’Osservatore Romano: From past to present: religious life before and after Vatican II (Available by subscription only) noted:

“5. Active promotion of vocations

“Vocations are a gift from God, the initiative is completely his. Nevertheless, as is his custom, he normally uses secondary causes and he depends on our collaboration to carry out his plans.

“I distinguish two different and complementary ways to promote vocations: One I will call indirect and the other direct. I think that what I call indirect promotion is actually the more important of the two because without it the direct promotion of vocations remains mostly sterile.

“Indirect” promotion is everything that builds up the life of Christ in the church, and it can be summarized in three dimensions of life: spirituality, catechesis, and apostolate or ministry. And we have to focus these three dimensions to Christian life on the two places that most affect the vocation to consecration; on the family and on the heart, mind and soul of the individual young person.

“Today we are engaged in and worried about many things, like Martha (Luke 10:41). Committees, conferences, social justice issues, press releases, and the like, clog our calendar. But there is one thing and one thing alone that will ultimately change the world, and that is the inner transformation of the human person through contact with the grace of Christ.

“Spirituality is centered not on a vague religious feeling of being right with God and neighbor and having nice experiences in prayer. Its essence is continual conversion, nourished on the sacraments, and the fulfillment of God’s plan for one’s life. It has an objective dimension.

“Catechesis is not limited to initial instruction, but is the continued deepening in the riches of our Catholic faith, that alone among all religions and all versions of Christianity provides solid and completely satisfying nourishment for the intellect as well as the soul. It is essential that catechesis go hand-in-hand with spirituality, and to be able to give a reason for one’s hope, as Peter said. (I Peter 3:15) Witness Pope Benedict.

“The third dimension is action, the external living of Christ’s charity that takes one beyond the boundary of his own comfort. For the individual, this is a new experience of Christ. In prayer and the sacraments you are transformed by your contact with Christ, in catechesis your mind is nourished, but it takes the practice of Gospel charity to enter fully into the charity of Christ who didn’t hold onto what he was, (Philippians 2:6-7) but came among us to serve. (Mark 10:45) In doing apostolate you walk as it were “in Jesus’ sandals”."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Daily Communion

The cornerstone of daily practice, as it is for life, is the Eucharistic liturgy, and we are called to celebrate it each day, as the Catechism teaches in this section on the meaning of "Give us this day our daily bread" in the Our Father.

“2837 "Daily" (epiousios) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of "this day," to confirm us in trust "without reservation." Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence. Taken literally (epi-ousios: "super-essential"), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the "medicine of immortality," without which we have no life within us. Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: "this day" is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come. For this reason it is fitting for the Eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day.

“The Eucharist is our daily bread. The power belonging to this divine food makes it a bond of union. Its effect is then understood as unity, so that, gathered into his Body and made members of him, we may become what we receive.... This also is our daily bread: the readings you hear each day in church and the hymns you hear and sing. All these are necessities for our pilgrimage.

“The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] himself is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven.”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Unchanging Doctrine & Leadership

The cornerstone of the potency of the social teaching of the Catholic Church to act as an antidote to the world-inspired narrative of the criminal world is embodied in the perception of the reality that the Church walks the talk; that it actually lives by the spiritual truths it proclaims.

This act—reported by the Catholic News Agency—of a bishop in the United States, whose bishops have been buffeted over the past several years by accusations of not doing so, is another building block in solidifying the path upon which that walk is taken, and that is a very good thing.

An excerpt.

“Scranton, Pa., Feb 20, 2009 / 05:53 pm (CNA).- Explaining that he is determined to “prevent scandal,” Bishop of Scranton Joseph Martino has said that he will cancel Masses for St. Patrick’s Day or for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade if any pro-abortion officials are honored at the holiday events.

“The bishop said that scandal could arise if the Catholic Church is seen to be involved in honoring such officials.”

“John M. Dougherty, the Auxiliary Bishop of Scranton, explained Bishop Martino’s views in a Feb. 6 letter to John Keeler, President of the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick of Lackawanna County.

“Saying that St. Peter’s Cathedral plays “no small role” in the local observance of St. Patrick’s Day, Bishop Dougherty noted that local celebrations often honor elected public officials. This honoring takes place when they are given parade positions or dais opportunities.

“While some of the officials have merited the pride our local people take in them, others have positions and voting records that have contributed to the daily killing of the unborn by abortion,” Bishop Dougherty wrote.

“Saying Bishop Martino “understands and blesses” the ethnic pride of men and women in the diocese, he is also “determined to prevent scandal.”

“This scandal would take place “when or if” the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick, the Saint Patrick’s Parade Association of Lackawanna County or the Society of Irish Women should honor such officials and the Catholic Church is seen to be involved.”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

School of the Holy Spirit

In the School of the Holy Spirit is a wonderful book by Rev. Jacques Philippe who:

“is a member of the Community of the Beatitudes, founded in France in 1973. Ordained in 1985 and a preacher of retreats in France and abroad, he has written several books of spiritual advice which have been translated from French.” (From the back cover)

This book provides guidance on learning from the Holy Spirit, and one section that was particularly moving to me is how to practice abandonment.

In its entirety.

“5. Practice Abandonment

“Finally, we shouldn’t forget the sort of obedience that may be the most important and the most overlooked: what might be called “obedience to events.”

“This notion obviously poses a difficult theological and existential problem. “Obedience to events” does not mean falling into fatalism or passivity, nor does it mean saying that everything that happens is God’s will. God does not will evil or sin. Many things happen that God does not will. But he still permits them, in his wisdom, and they remain a stumbling block or scandal to our minds. God asks us to do all we can to eliminate evil. But despite our efforts, there is always a whole set of circumstances which we can do nothing about, which are not necessarily willed by God but nevertheless are permitted by him, and which God invites us to consent to trustingly and peacefully, even if they make us suffer and cause us problems. We are not being asked to consent to evil, but to consent to the mysterious wisdom of God who permits evil. Our consent is not a compromise with evil but the expression of our trust that God is stronger than evil. This is a form of obedience that is painful but very fruitful. It means that after we have done everything in our power, we are invited, faced with what is still imposed on our will by events, to practice an attitude of abandonment and filial trust toward our Heavenly Father, in the faith that “for those who love God, everything works together for good.” (Romans 8:28) To give an example, God did not want the treachery of Judas or Pilate’s cowardice (God cannot want sin); but he permitted them, and he wanted Jesus to give filial consent to these events. And that is what he did—“Father, not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36)

“The events of life are, after all, the surest expression of God’s will, because there is no danger of our interpreting them subjectively. If God sees that we are docile to events, able to consent peacefully and lovingly to what life’s happenings “impose” on us, in a spirit of filial trust and abandonment to his will, there can be no doubt that he will multiply personal expressions of his will for us through the action of his Spirit who speaks to our hearts.

“If, however, we always rebel and tense ourselves against difficulties, that kind of defiance of God will make it difficult for the Holy Spirit to guide our lives.

“What most prevents us from becoming saints is undoubtedly the difficulty we have in consenting fully to everything that happens to us, not, as we have seen, in the sense of a fatalistic passivity, but in the sense of a trusting total abandonment into the hands of our Father God.

“What often happens is that, when we are confronted with painful occurrences, we either rebel, or endure them unwillingly, or resign ourselves to them passively.

“But God invites us to a much more positive and fruitful attitude: that of St. Therese of Lisieux, who, as a child, said: “I choose it all!” We can give this the meaning: I choose everything that God wants for me. I won't content myself with merely enduring, but by a free act of my will; I decide to choose what I have not chosen. St. Therese used the expression: “I want everything that causes me difficulties.” Externally, it doesn’t change anything about the situation, but interiorly it changes everything. This consent, inspired by love and trust, makes us free and active instead of passive, and enables God to draw good out of everything that happens to us whether good or bad.” (pp. 32-35, italics in original)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Spin & Truth

It is in the nature of politicians to spin, but when the other party to an event you are trying to spin is Peter, it is probably not a good idea to even try, but that is what the Speaker did anyway, and George Weigel comments on it.

An excerpt.

“Were They at the Same Meeting?
The Pope and the Speaker in Rome.


“By George Weigel

“From the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:

“It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, today. In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the Church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel. I was proud to show His Holiness a photograph of my family’s papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren.

“From the press office of the Holy See:

“Following the General Audience, the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage. His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception until natural death, which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists, and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of development.

“Were Benedict XVI and Nancy Pelosi in the same meeting, or even in the same city, this morning?

“Charity requires that one concede the possibility that genuine piety was a part of Pelosi’s (rather boorish, and certainly irregular) insistence on being given a private moment with the pope during her current taxpayer-funded junket to Rome. But her office’s statement on today’s meeting makes it clear something else was afoot: that Pelosi, who shamelessly trumpets her “ardent” Catholicism while leading congressional Democrats in a continuing assault on what the Catholic Church regards as the inalienable human rights of the unborn, was trying to recruit Benedict XVI (“Joseph Ratzinger, D., Bavaria”?) to Team Nancy.

“His Holiness wasn’t buying it.

“He told Pelosi, politely but unmistakably, that her relentlessly pro-abortion politics put her in serious difficulties as a Catholic, which was his obligation as a pastor. He also underscored — for Pelosi, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Barbara Mikulski, Rose DeLauro, Kathleen Sebelius, and everyone else — that the Church’s opposition to the taking of innocent human life, at any stage of the human journey, is not some weird Catholic hocus-pocus; it’s a first principle of justice than can be known by reason. It is a “requirement of the natural moral law” — that is, the moral truths we can know by thinking about what is right and what is wrong — to defend the inviolability of innocent human life. You don’t have to believe in papal primacy to know that; you don’t have do believe in seven sacraments, or the episcopal structure of the Church, or the divinity of Christ, to know that. You don’t even have to believe in God to know that. You only have to be a morally serious human being, willing to work through a moral argument — which, of course, means being the kind of person who understands that moral truth cannot be reduced to questions of feminist political correctness or partisan political advantage.”

Thursday, February 19, 2009

We are all Sinners

This is a very nice reflection from The Catholic Thing on the work of Graham Greene, reminding us of the great truth that we are all sinners, walking within and towards eternity.

An excerpt.

“Graham Greene, the equivocally Catholic novelist, writing against the background of the Mexican Revolution in The Power and the Glory, pitted the pursuing Jefe against a pursued alcoholic priest to contrast the worldly view of life and the religious view. The one man represents the confidence that there is a political man-made solution to human life, one that requires the elimination of distracting other-worldly views. The priest of course represents those distracting other-worldly views, with their consciousness of sin and the need for redemption. Call it the contrast of church and state.

“The Jefe pursues the weak and fallen priest who somewhat reluctantly and with a sense of his own unworthiness fulfills his role, saying Mass, hearing confessions, baptizing, in a dangerous environment. At one point in the story, the priest has the opportunity of escaping across the border to the United States. He looks across at the glitter, the ease, the safety from pursuit, seemingly heaven on earth. This gives Greene an early opportunity to vent his dislike for America. It is clear that we are to see Gringoland as the apotheosis of the Pelagianism represented by the Jefe. The priest turns back and resumes his furtive ministry, knowing that it can only lead to his execution, as it does.

“It is a powerful scene. In his travel book on Mexico, The Lawless Roads, Greene cited Cardinal Newman’s remark about Original Sin – it is inescapable that some primordial catastrophe occurred, the effects of which hang over human history. Original Sin as a matter of observation, not simply doctrine.

“Kierkegaard wrote that before you throw a rock, you are free to do so or not, but once you have thrown it, you cannot unthrow it, so to speak. Sin is like that. We can commit it, all too easily, but we cannot undo it without the forgiveness of God. We cannot save ourselves. Greene underscores the gratuitousness of God’s mercy by making the priest a weak and sinful man. We cannot imagine him defying the firing squad, shouting, Viva Cristo Rey!”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Peter Teaching

As reported by the Catholic News Agency, one of the highest Catholic legislative leaders in our country, Nancy Pelosi, met with Peter today, and was properly taught about that which she has expressed some confusion, and we are also called to pray for the souls of those who cause scandal, and remember that with Peter, to Christ, through Mary, is the path to working for the Greater Glory of God.

An excerpt.

“Vatican City, Feb 18, 2009 / 10:18 am (CNA).- House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s photo-op with Pope Benedict XVI turned sour when the Pontiff used the 15-minute meeting to reaffirm the teachings of the Catholic Church on the right to life and the duty to protect the unborn.

"No photo of Nancy Pelosi and the Pope will be forthcoming, since the meeting was closed to reporters and photographers. The two met in a small room in the Vatican just after the Pope's weekly public audience.

“Immediately after the meeting, the Holy See’s press office released a statement saying, "following the general audience the Holy Father briefly greeted Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage."

"His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in co-operation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Twilight of Civilization

This is the title of a book comprising several lectures given by Jacques Maritain, one of the great Catholic thinkers of the 20th Century—just prior to the Second World War, yet it is relevant still.

As this excerpt reveals, the names may have changed but the anti-God strategy is still much the same.

“The forces in the presence of which we now find ourselves are, in principle, anti-Christian. It might be better to call them “anti-Christic,” for at this point there is not so much a question of doctrinal opposition to Christianity as an existential opposition to the presence and the action of Christ in the bosom of human history. I should like to analyze briefly the spiritual and religious implications of these forces, especially of Nazi racism and Communism. It is useless to speak of Fascism from this point of view, since, for several reasons which I have not the time to elaborate, the religious or mystical dynamism of Fascism is quite weak. Because of this, too, it is difficult for Fascist state-worship not to feel, in this respect, the influence of other and more virulent forms. It has definitely been enslaved by German racism.

“Let us first of all consider the principle of racism. Racism is, as I said at the outset, above all an irrationalist reaction. German racism—nourished by a most absurd pedantry (but in such cases as this the more absurd the pedantry, the greater its effectiveness)—is a pathological protestation of nature, with its brutal force surging up from the hidden depths of the nourishing earth, with its needs for euphoria and power and with that implacable rage which is capable of exalting mere instinct when spirit, betraying itself, flings itself into the abyss of animality; it is a pathological protestation against a clericalism of pure reason which in the course of the nineteenth century had promised a heaven on earth but had possessed no understanding of nature nor sense of human distress.

“Thus is developed a mystical hatred of truth itself, intellectual or moral, a mystical hatred of wisdom and of all asceticism; but concomitantly there arises a sort of powerful religiosity, the religiosity inherent to the human substance in its most elemental physical fibres. God is invoked, but only by virtue of the natural desire rooted even in the fleshly vitality of man. Because of the fundamental process of reaction which I have just pointed out, this God is invoked against the God of the spirit, of intelligence and of love, excluding Him and hating Him. Through an extraordinary spiritual phenomena, one believes in God and still does not know Him. The idea of god is asserted, but at the same time it is disfigured and perverted. A god which will end by identifying himself with some invincible forces at work in the blood defies the God of Sinai and the God of Calvary, burls a challenge to the transcendent Being, to HIM WHO IS and who inhabits inaccessible glory, the WORD which was in the beginning, the God or whom it has been said the He is Love. We are face to face, not with pseudo-scientific atheism but with a demonic paratheism, or pseudo-theism which if it rejects wisdom, is at the disposal of all forms of occultism and is no less anti-Christian, is even more corrupting that atheism.” (Maritain, J. (1945) The Twilight of Civilization, London; Sheed & Ward. Pp. 18-19)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Global Cooling? A Remembrance

What is important to take from this article about the global cooling scare in the 1970’s, is that leaders will often misrepresent reality to satisfy their agendas—which I’m sure is not news to anyone—in complete contradiction to the social teaching of the Church applying to the integrity of leaders whose charge is to protect the citizens in their care and treat them with dignity, not lie to them.

In all too many cases, and we rarely discover the truth until after the fact, statistics and assumptions are presented to persuade us to do something, usually with our money, and it is good to remember the history of these pleas, usually transmitted as end-of-the-world warnings, is that most of them were untrue, as this article does.

An excerpt.

“A corollary of Murphy's Law ("If something can go wrong, it will") is: "Things are worse than they can possibly be." Energy Secretary Steven Chu, an atomic physicist, seems to embrace that corollary but ignores Gregg Easterbrook's "Law of Doomsaying": Predict catastrophe no sooner than five years hence but no later than 10 years away, soon enough to terrify but distant enough that people will forget if you are wrong.

“Chu recently told the Los Angeles Times that global warming might melt 90 percent of California's snowpack, which stores much of the water needed for agriculture. This, Chu said, would mean "no more agriculture in California," the nation's leading food producer. "I don't actually see how they can keep their cities going."

“No more lettuce or Los Angeles? Chu likes predictions, so here is another: Nine decades hence, our great-great-grandchildren will add the disappearance of California artichokes to the list of predicted planetary calamities that did not happen. Global cooling recently joined that lengthening list.

“In the 1970s, "a major cooling of the planet" was "widely considered inevitable" because it was "well-established" that the Northern Hemisphere's climate "has been getting cooler since about 1950" (New York Times, May 21, 1975).

“Although some disputed that the "cooling trend" could result in "a return to another ice age" (the Times, Sept. 14, 1975), others anticipated "a full-blown 10,000-year ice age" involving "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation" (Science News, March 1, 1975; and Science magazine, Dec. 10, 1976, respectively).

“The "continued rapid cooling of the Earth" (Global Ecology, 1971) meant that "a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery" (International Wildlife, July 1975).

"The world's climatologists are agreed" that we must "prepare for the next ice age" (Science Digest, February 1973). Because of "ominous signs" that "the Earth's climate seems to be cooling down," meteorologists were "almost unanimous" that "the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century," perhaps triggering catastrophic famines (Newsweek cover story, "The Cooling World," April 28, 1975).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Great Depression? Hardly!

There has been a lot of talk lately about how we are on the verge of another great depression, and in addition to the silliness attributed to those proclamations by those who actually experienced that tragic time; this Wall Street Journal article puts things in perspective, a necessary antidote to the political fear mongering.

An excerpt.

“This fearmongering may be good politics, but it is bad history and bad economics. It is bad history because our current economic woes don't come close to those of the 1930s. At worst, a comparison to the 1981-82 recession might be appropriate. Consider the job losses that Mr. Obama always cites. In the last year, the U.S. economy shed 3.4 million jobs. That's a grim statistic for sure, but represents just 2.2% of the labor force. From November 1981 to October 1982, 2.4 million jobs were lost -- fewer in number than today, but the labor force was smaller. So 1981-82 job losses totaled 2.2% of the labor force, the same as now.

“Job losses in the Great Depression were of an entirely different magnitude. In 1930, the economy shed 4.8% of the labor force. In 1931, 6.5%. And then in 1932, another 7.1%. Jobs were being lost at double or triple the rate of 2008-09 or 1981-82.

“This was reflected in unemployment rates. The latest survey pegs U.S. unemployment at 7.6%. That's more than three percentage points below the 1982 peak (10.8%) and not even a third of the peak in 1932 (25.2%). You simply can't equate 7.6% unemployment with the Great Depression.

“Other economic statistics also dispel any analogy between today's economic woes and the Great Depression. Real gross domestic product (GDP) rose in 2008, despite a bad fourth quarter. The Congressional Budget Office projects a GDP decline of 2% in 2009. That's comparable to 1982, when GDP contracted by 1.9%. It is nothing like 1930, when GDP fell by 9%, or 1931, when GDP contracted by another 8%, or 1932, when it fell yet another 13%.

“Auto production last year declined by roughly 25%. That looks good compared to 1932, when production shriveled by 90%. The failure of a couple of dozen banks in 2008 just doesn't compare to over 10,000 bank failures in 1933, or even the 3,000-plus bank (Savings & Loan) failures in 1987-88. Stockholders can take some solace from the fact that the recent stock market debacle doesn't come close to the 90% devaluation of the early 1930s.”

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Social Teaching Compendium

I read a paper today that discussed the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and it reminded me again of the tremendous value of the social teaching of the Church and the deep ancient wells from which it springs.

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) & (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)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Criminalization of Culture

The merging of the criminal world culture with the non-criminal world culture over the past several decades in America continues, and this reflection on a recent appointment to the US Justice Department, from the Catholic Thing is revealing.

An excerpt.

“Truth isn’t always stranger than fiction. Sometimes, the facts just run obscenely ahead of one’s darkest fantasies.

“Consider the new administration’s recent nomination to deputy attorney general, the second-highest law enforcement post in the land. Obama’s choice is a lawyer from all the best schools, a prestigious Washington firm, and previously of the Clinton Justice Department. The catch? He has made a particular legal specialty – one wants to say a fetish – of defending pornographers, including at least one child pornographer.

“Even the worst pessimists could not have made this nomination up. As anyone even half following the court cases of the past decade will know, there are few enough laws on the books any more to protect children from smut and sexual predators. And thanks to this nominee’s past work in cases that you can read about online elsewhere, there are now even fewer.

“Nor was his work on behalf of the smut industry a one-time gig. If the questions are “how often” and “how much,” as the priests like to ask, then the answer can only be “plenty.” Former clients include Penthouse, Playboy, and the largest distributor of hardcore pornography videos. If there’s a pornographer anywhere who is not deserving of every First Amendment protection, we wouldn’t know it from this nominee’s record.

“This is the legal mind that’s about to help oversee the most important department in the nation charged with enforcing the laws – including existing laws against obscenity, which are legion albeit under-enforced?”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cost of Methamphetamine

The RAND Corporation has completed a study about the economic costs of methamphetamine use in our country and it is sobering, $23 billion estimated in 2005.

Here is an excerpt from the press release.

“The economic cost of methamphetamine use in the United States reached $23.4 billion in 2005, including the burden of addiction, premature death, drug treatment and many other aspects of the drug, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

“The RAND study is the first effort to construct a comprehensive national assessment of the costs of the methamphetamine problem in the United States.

"Our findings show that the economic burden of methamphetamine abuse is substantial," said Nancy Nicosia, the study's lead author and an economist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

“Although methamphetamine causes some unique harms, the study finds that many of the primary issues that account for the burden of methamphetamine use are similar to those identified in economic assessments of other illicit drugs.

“Given the uncertainty in estimating the costs of methamphetamine use, researchers created a range of estimates. The lowest estimate for the cost of methamphetamine use in 2005 was $16.2 billion, while $48.3 billion was the highest estimate. Researchers' best estimate of the overall economic burden of methamphetamine use is $23.4 billion.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Catholic Organizations, Part Three

Following up on the past two days of posting about Catholic informed organizations, here is another one of great value to any apostolate work you might be doing , the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

Here is an excerpt from their website.

“The members of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars wholeheartedly support the renewal of the Catholic Church undertaken by Pope John XXIII, shaped by Vatican II, and carried on by subsequent pontiffs. We accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and believe that contemporary questions must be considered with courage and dealt with in honesty. We strive to assist everyone to personal assent to the mystery of Christ as made manifest in the lived faith of the Church.

“The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars is an association of Catholic scholars in various disciplines who see their intellectual work as a service they owe to God.

“It was founded primarily to give the corporate witness of scholars to the truth of the Catholic faith.

“Aware of the duty that Christian scholars have to serve the whole community of faith, the members of the Fellowship wish to give assistance to the Church. The resources presented through this website are one form of such service.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Catholic Organizations, Part Two

Following up on yesterday’s post, here is another great Catholic informed organization for those of us who work in a social apostolate—whether through our work with a grassroots organization or a government agency--the Society of Catholic Social Scientists.

Here is an excerpt from their website.

“The contemporary social sciences are primarily dependent on secular assumptions, concepts and theories. Consequently, the role of faith and Catholic social teaching is hardly considered in today's body of social science. The Society of Catholic Social Scientists (SCSS), founded in 1992, boldly challenges this secularlized approach to the social sciences by combining objective scholarly analysis with fidelity to the Magisterium.

“Through a collegiality of Catholic scholars, professors, researchers, practitioners, and writers, the SCSS brings rigorous, credible scholarship to political, social and economic questions. SCSS members approach their work in both a scholarly and evangelical spirit. They are expected to strictly observe the highest scholarly and professional requirements of their disciplines as they examine their data in light of Church teaching and the Natural Law. In this way, the Society seeks to obtain objective knowledge about the social order, provide solutions to vexing social problems, and further the cause of Christ.

“SCSS membership is open to Catholics involved in the social sciences or disciplines concerned with social questions (e.g., moral theology, ethics) and who possess and advanced degree (i.e., beyond a bachelor's) or are full-time graduate students. Members must demonstrate fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and a reasonable knowledge of and interest in deepening their understanding of the Church's social teachings. Non-Catholics who are knowledgeable about and support the Catholic Church's teachings and the purposes of the Society may become special associate members. Annual dues are $25 ($15 for full-time graduate students), which includes a subscription to The Catholic Social Science Review, the refereed scholarly journal published once each year by the SCSS.”

Monday, February 9, 2009

Catholic Organizations

In our work in the world, particularly for those of us whose work is in the helping fields—whether through our work with a grassroots organization or a government agency—it is our apostolate and there are Catholic informed organizations out there that can be of great help.

One of them is the Catholic Social Workers National Association.

Here is an excerpt from their website.

“Catholic Social Workers National Association is a Professional Membership Association that was formed on the belief that professional associations should support not only your profession, but also your beliefs, values, and your faith. CSWNA has been established for social workers who are faithful to the teachings of the church and are looking for support and direction within their profession based upon church teachings. Catholic Social Workers National Association affirms and supports the teachings and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church.

“Catholic Social Workers are called to care for the poor and the poor of spirit. They work with those who abuse, and are abused as well as who have been neglected in body, mind, or spirit. They advocate for the youngest of the young, in their mothers wombs, the elderly, the sick and the dying until Jesus calls them home. Catholic Social Workers humbly walk with their clients through life’s joys and challenges, living out Jesus’ command to love, by following his example in washing the feet of our fellow man.”

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Power of Touch

The homily today looked at the power of touch from Christ’s healing of Peter’s mother-in-law chronicled in Mark 1:29-39.

The power of touch is not only physical but can come from the closeness of experience, especially potent experience—shared between one human being and another; and this fertile field is at the heart of the Lampstand Foundation’s work: the belief that only a reformed criminal can reform a criminal.

The experience of being part of the criminal and carceral world is such a deeply singular experience resulting from and encompassing the causing of great harm to innocent human beings by the criminal; that it is only through the deep knowledge of a transformed criminal—converted to the Catholic faith, accepting that for the rest of his life he must work to atone for the harm be has caused to the innocent—that an authentic touch can occur within the often hardened soul of even the penitential criminal.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Noonan on the Signs of the Times

Peggy Noonan, perhaps the best Catholic journalist in the country writing for a secular paper, writes about the mood she finds people in around her turf—New York City/Washington DC—and they appear to be prepared for the worst.

I feel that also, but think that with the passage of the stimulus bill, regardless of its specifics, the surge of money entering the economy will correspond to a surge in consumer confidence, particularly as the weather begins to change from the current ice storms of the east and the rain of the west into nation wide sunshine and warmth, so will the national mood; and the interior resiliency of the American people and the American economy will kick in and we will pull out of this.

An excerpt.

“All week the word I kept thinking of was "braced." America is braced, like people who are going fast and see a crash ahead. They know huge and historic challenges are here. They're not confident they can or will be met. Our most productive citizens are our most sophisticated, and our most sophisticated have the least faith in the ability of our institutions to face the future and get us through whole. They have the least faith because they work in them.

“Tuesday I talked to people who support a Catholic college. I said a great stress is here and coming, and people are going to be reminded of what's important, and the greatest of these will be our faith, it's what is going to hold us together as a country. As for each of us individually, I think it's like the old story told about Muhammad Ali. It was back in the 1960s and Mr. Ali, who was still Cassius Clay, was a rising star of boxing, on his way to being champ. One day he was on a plane, going to a big bout. He was feeling good, laughing with friends. The stewardess walked by before they took off, looked down and saw that his seatbelt was unfastened. She asked him to fasten it. He ignored her. She asked him again, he paid no attention. Now she leaned in and issued an order: Fasten the seatbelt, now. Mr. Clay turned, looked her up and down, and purred, "Superman don't need no seatbelt."

“She said, "Superman don't need no airplane. Buckle up." And he did.

“We all think we're supermen, and we're not, and you're lucky to have a faith that both grounds you and catches you.

“But during the part in which I spoke in rather stark terms of how I see the future, I think I saw correctly that the physical attitude of some in the audience was alert, leaned forward: braced. Again, like people who know a crash is coming. Afterward I asked an educator in the audience if I was too grim. He looked at me and said simply: No.

“A sign of the times: We had a good time at lunch. It is an era marked by deep cognitive dissonance. Your long-term thoughts are pessimistic, and yet you're cheerful in the day to day….

“Whatever happens in the Senate, Republicans have to some degree already won. They should not revert to the triumphalism of the Bush era, when they often got giddy and thick-necked and spiked the ball. They should "act like they been there before." They should begin to seize back the talking mantle from the president. And—most important—they must stay serious.”

"The national conversation on the economy is frozen, and has been for a while. Republicans say tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. Democrats say spend, new programs, more money. You can't spend enough for the Democratic base, or cut taxes enough for the Republican. But in a time when all the grown-ups of America know spending is going to bankrupt us and tax cuts without spending cuts is more of the medicine that's killing us, the same old arguments, which sound less like arguments than compulsive tics, only add to the public sense that no one is in charge."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Holy Father on St. Paul

The centrality of St. Paul to the Church is beautifully described in this talk by Pope Benedict.

An excerpt.

“The saint's martyrdom, said the Holy Father, "is first related in the 'Acts of Paul' written towards the end of the second century. They state that Nero condemned him to be beheaded, and that the execution was summarily carried out. The date of his death varies in the ancient sources, which place it between the persecution unleashed by Nero following the fire of Rome in summer 64, and the last year of his reign, 68". According to tradition he was beheaded at a place in Rome known as "Tre Fontane" (Three Fountains), and buried on the Via Ostiense, where the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the- Walls, erected over his tomb, stands today.

"In any case", he went on, "the figure of St. Paul towers over the events of his earthly life and death. He left an extraordinary spiritual heritage. His Letters soon entered the liturgy where the structure: Prophet-Apostle-Gospel would prove decisive for the form of the Liturgy of the Word. Thanks to this 'presence', ... the Apostle has been, since the very start, spiritual nourishment for the faithful of all times".

"The Fathers of the Church, and later all theologians, drew sustenance ... from his spirituality. For this reason he has, for centuries, been the true Master and Apostle of the Gentiles. ... To him St. Augustine owes the decisive step in his own conversion, and St. Thomas Aquinas left us a magnificent commentary on his Letters, the finest fruit of medieval exegesis. Another decisive moment was the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation", when Luther "found a new interpretation for the Pauline doctrine of justification which freed him from scruples and concern ... and gave him a new and radical trust in the goodness of God, Who forgives everything unconditionally. From that moment Luther identified Judeo-Christian legalism - condemned by the Apostle - with the life of the Catholic Church, while the Church herself appeared to him as enslaved to the Law, with which he contrasted the freedom of the Gospel.

"The Council of Trent", the Holy Father added, "provided a profound interpretation of the question of justification and found, in line with all Catholic tradition, a synthesis between the Law and the Gospel, in conformity with the message of Scripture considered in its entirety and unity.

"The nineteenth century, drawing on the finest elements of Enlightenment tradition, saw a fresh revival of Pauline studies in the field of academic research, of historical-critical interpretation of Sacred Scripture. ... The new Paulinism of that century considered the concept of freedom as a central part of the Apostle's thought, ... and he is presented almost as a new founder of Christianity. What is certain is that in St. Paul the centrality of the Kingdom of God ... is transformed into the centrality of Christology, the decisive moment of which is the Paschal Mystery whence derive the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, as a permanent presence of this mystery thanks to which the Body of Christ grows and the Church is constructed".

“Over the last two hundred years in the field of Pauline studies "there has been increasing convergence between Catholic and Protestant exegesis, and conformity is being discovered on the very point that gave rise to the greatest historical disagreement. This represents a great hope for the cause of ecumenism, so fundamental for Vatican Council II".

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wilson on Crime

James Q. Wilson is the preeminent thinker on crime and public policy (his Book Thinking About Crime is a criminal justice standard) and this book, Crime & Human Nature written with Richard J. Herrnstein, from almost 25 years ago is an example of how solid thinking stands up for a long time.

The opening paragraph is significant because it went against most of the prevailing criminal justice thought at the time, but it is still largely true.

“Predatory street crimes are most commonly committed by young males. Violent crimes are more common in big cities than in small ones. High rates of criminality tend to run in families. The persons who frequently commit the most serious crimes typically begin their criminal careers at a quite young age. Persons who turn out to be criminals usually do not do very well in school. Young men who drive recklessly and have many accidents tend to be similar to those who commit crimes. Programs designed to rehabilitate high-rate offenders have not been shown to have much success, and those programs that do manage to reduce criminality among certain kinds of offenders often increase it among others.” (1985, New York; Simon & Schuster, p. 19)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Finances of the Vatican

This is a good article revealing the astuteness and deep generosity of the managers and donors respectively, of the funds providing the financial foundation of the Holy See.

An excerpt.

“Providing comfort is the fact that the IOR, the Institute for the Works of Religion, the Vatican bank legendary for its impenetrable secrecy, seems to have finished 2008 in modest good health, in spite of the global financial disasters. Every January, the president of the IOR – for the past 20 years, this has been Angelo Caloia, from Lombardy – has presented the pope with a generous check in proportion to the year's profits. The amount of this check is top secret, but reliable sources say that it is approximately twice the amount of Peter's Pence, the donations from all over the world sent each year to the pope, for his charitable activities.

“And Peter's Pence is a well-known benchmark. In 2007, it came to 94.1 million dollars, 14.3 million of which came from a single donor who wanted to remain anonymous. In contributing to Peter's Pence, the most generous nations have been, in order, the United States and Italy, with 28 and 13 percent of the total respectively. Germany lacks a little behind, with 6 percent.

“But Peter's Pence is not the only source of donations for the pope. There are also the offerings and contributions that the dioceses and religious congregations all over the world are required to give to the successor of Peter, according to canon 1271 of the code of canon law.

“In 2007, these contributions amounted to 29.5 million dollars, with Germany in the lead at 31 percent of the total, the United States with 28 percent, and Italy with 19 percent. These offerings are given freely, but for a few years the Vatican has asked the dioceses to give at least 1 euro for each baptized person, and the religious congregations to give at least 10 euros for each member. But these guidelines are widely ignored. Some contributors give more, but most give much less. The Church's central government remains very far from managing itself according to a regulated system of taxation.

“Peter's Pence and the other donations to the pope are administered by an office of the secretariat of state, directed by Monsignor Gianfranco Piovano. It is from here that the Holy See gets its money for its many "emergencies," the latest of these a hefty contribution for the rebuilding of Gaza. The money is deposited at the IOR, which has handled it very prudently since Caloia has been at the helm. Caloia's fourth consecutive five-year mandate ends in June of 2009, and those in the running to replace him include Antonio Fazio, a former governor of the Bank of Italy. Another rumored candidate is Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who has five children and is a professor at Catholic University, the president of Banco Santander in Italy, and a brilliant economic commentator for "L'Osservatore Romano." But it is likely that Caloia will remain at his post for a little while longer. The decision will be made by the five cardinals who oversees the IOR, more specifically the current secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone, and his predecessor and rival Angelo Sodano, whose former secretary Piero Pioppo is firmly planted in the bank with the role of "prelate."

“In addition to Peter's Pence, two other balance sheets made public in their general outlines are that of the Holy See, and that of the governatorate of Vatican City.

“Each of the two administrations is headed by a cardinal: the Holy See by Attilio Nicora, from Lombardy, president of the APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and the governatorate by Giovanni Lajolo, from Piedmont, the previous Vatican foreign minister and nuncio to Germany before that. The two administrations have separate accounts and responsibilities.

“The governatorate is the heir of the old Pontifical State. It takes care of property, buildings, security, health, water, energy, postal service, stamps, coins, communications, supplies. The papal villas of Castel Gandolfo also fall under its jurisdiction, including a farm that produces fruit, vegetables, oil, and eggs, and has 26 milk cows. It has about 1800 employees, and 600 more in retirement. But it almost always ends the year with a profit. Most of its income comes from the Vatican Museums. Financial profits are more variable. In 2006, for example, it made a profit of 7.2 million euros. The following year, it lost 8 million.”

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Davos

The World Economic Forum, held at Davos, Switzerland, has for the past 38 years brought global leaders together to address economic problems and this year’s event is significant for the great turmoil in the global economy.

Harvard Business has blogged on it, and here is an excerpt from the first morning of the conference last week.

“The crisis the world is suffering through now is a failure of leadership. The leaders of the world are in Davos. If the world is watching what happens here this week, it will be to hear solutions and see responsibility and accountability. I'd say it's not off to a great start, at least on the latter.

“This morning, I started my Davos week with talk of trust. The Edelman Trust Barometer presentation revealed plummeting trust in financial, government, and journalistic institutions: 62% of adults in 20 countries trust companies less than they did a year ago. Trust in government is even lower.

“Nonetheless, the first trend I spot here: the rise of government. News reports have been saying that this will be a dialed-down Davos, but I don't see that; it's the same Davos with the same pastries and parties. The change I do sense is less of a presence and apparent swagger from business and more from government. "Power has shifted from Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue," said a speaker the Edelman event.

“The other obvious trend is America to the woodshed. "America is the new Europe," Richard Edelman said. In a decade of the survey, they have never seen such a precipitous drop in trust in one category: American business, falling from 58% to 38%in a year, now stands equivalent to France and Germany and under the UK. The least-trusted industries in the U.S.: no surprise -- automotive and banking.

“In most markets, trust in business remains higher than trust in government, "which is not a good thing for either," Edelman says. Asked who can fix the economy and prices, government is now clearly the preferred leader, the survey says. The percent who agree that government should impose "stricter regulations and greater control over business across all industry sectors:" 61% in the U.S. up to 84% in France (65% worldwide). The percent who trust business less: 62% worldwide, ranging from 77% in the U.S. down to 49% in India.

“The survey reveals a new world split: optimists in China (where trust in business rose from 54% to 71% in a year), Brazil, India, Indonesia, pessimists in the US, Europe. "The United States picture is really bleak. I can't put a better face on it," Edelman said.

“Edelman advised companies to make change and not wait for regulation, to recognize mutual social responsibility, and to show "shared sacrifice.... This is not the French Revolution yet but it is certainly not the roaring 2000s," he said.”

Monday, February 2, 2009

Solidarity

Within the economic crisis, the role of labor unions, informed by the social teaching of the Church (deeply supportive of the unions as a way to protect the workers) provides spiritual tools needed to help.

The Holy Father spoke of these in a recent talk to an Italian labor union.

An excerpt.

“Today, he told his audience, "you continue to draw inspiration for your activities from the social Magisterium of the Church, with the aim of protecting the interests of workers and pensioners in Italy".

“Benedict XVI then went on to refer to the Church's "concern for social problems, which have increased over the last century". In this context he mentioned Leo XIII's Encyclical "Rerum novarum", which "strongly defended the inalienable dignity of workers. The guidelines contained in that document", he said, "helped to reinforce Christian influence on social life".

“In 1991 John Paul II marked the hundredth anniversary of "Rerum novarum" by publishing his Encyclical "Centesimus annus". Ten years earlier, in his Encyclical "Laborem exercens", dedicated to the subject of work, the same Pope had described trade unions as "an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialised societies", said Benedict XVI.

"A recurring element in the Magisterium of twentieth-century Popes", he went on, "is the call for solidarity and responsibility. In order to overcome the economic and social crisis we are currently experiencing, we know that free and responsible efforts must be made by everyone. In other words what is needed is to overcome individual and sectorial interests, and unite to confront the difficulties affecting all areas of society, and particularly the world of work. Never before has this been so urgent as it is today; the difficulties afflicting the world of work call for closer and more effective collaboration among the many different components of society".

"My hope is that from the current global crisis there may emerge a shared desire to create a new culture of solidarity and of responsible participation, which are indispensable conditions if we are to build the future of our planet together".

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Catholics & Republicans

The only pro life party among major political parties in the United States now has a devout Catholic as its head and that is very good news for an expansion of understanding about the other important issues from the social teaching among Republicans.

The Catholic News Agency reports this.

An excerpt.

“Washington DC, Jan 30, 2009 / 07:29 pm (CNA).- The Republican National Committee has chosen Michael Steele, a devout Catholic who is well-known for his charisma and strong work ethic, as its new chairman.

“Steele, who previously served as the lieutenant governor of Maryland, is the first black chairman of the Republican Party. He was selected after six rounds of voting with 91 votes out of a possible 168. Steele beat out Ken Blackwell, Ohio's former secretary of state, and Saul Anuzis, Michigan GOP chairman, to win the chairmanship.

“Some Republicans questioned Steele's conservative credentials during the campaigning for the chairmanship because of his past association with Christie Todd Whitman's Republican Leadership Council (RLC). Many conservatives within the Party ridiculed the RLC's "big tent" philosophy, which they say attempted to bring pro-abortion candidates onto the Republican ticket.

“Deal Hudson, a Catholic political commentator, explained that he first became convinced of Steele's pro-life convictions by a 2003 meeting he invited Steele to with the U.S. Catholic bishops' executive committee.

“According to Hudson, Steele spoke "very directly, but diplomatically, to the bishops about their need to promote the pro-life cause with greater vigor. He talked about his disappointment with their leadership and its consequences among the African-American community. When he finished talking there was a powerful silence in the room."