Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reading the Papers & Pius V

I subscribe to two newspapers, my hometown one and the Wall Street Journal, and reading though both lately can be a somewhat daunting experience with the flu scare, the economy imploding, politicians ranting, corporate leaders wandering, and journalists waxing; but our Catholic Church, through the ancient foundation of revelation, scripture, and tradition, provides safe harbor in a world often seen to be crumbling, but today is a veritable paradise of calm compared to the time of our great St. Pope Pius V.

Today is the feast day of Pius V, the pope who ensured the first universal catechism was written to bring all of the teaching of the Church, as validated through the Council of Trent, into being.

Here is an excerpt from Saint of the Day:

“During his papacy (1566-1572), Pius V was faced with the almost overwhelming responsibility of getting a shattered and scattered Church back on its feet. The family of God had been shaken by corruption, by the Reformation, by the constant threat of Turkish invasion and by the bloody bickering of the young nation-states. In 1545 a previous pope convened the Council of Trent in an attempt to deal with all these pressing problems. Off and on over 18 years, the Church Fathers discussed, condemned, affirmed and decided upon a course of action. The Council closed in 1563.

“Pius V was elected in 1566 and was charged with the task of implementing the sweeping reforms called for by the Council. He ordered the founding of seminaries for the proper training of priests. He published a new missal, a new breviary, a new catechism and established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes for the young. Pius zealously enforced legislation against abuses in the Church. He patiently served the sick and the poor by building hospitals, providing food for the hungry and giving money customarily used for the papal banquets to poor Roman converts. His decision to keep wearing his Dominican habit led to the custom of the pope wearing a white cassock.

“In striving to reform both Church and state, Pius encountered vehement opposition from England's Queen Elizabeth and the Roman Emperor Maximilian II. Problems in France and in the Netherlands also hindered Pius's hopes for a Europe united against the Turks. Only at the last minute was he able to organize a fleet which won a decisive victory in the Gulf of Lepanto, off Greece, on October 7, 1571.

“Pius's ceaseless papal quest for a renewal of the Church was grounded in his personal life as a Dominican friar. He spent long hours with his God in prayer, fasted rigorously, deprived himself of many customary papal luxuries and faithfully observed the Dominican Rule and its spirit.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Religion in America

This is a good article from Christian Science Monitor on the recent survey that examined the change in religion that characterizes American spirituality, and one fact of interest is that Catholics retain 68% who are born Catholic, while Protestants retain 80%.

An excerpt.

America is a country on the move in innumerable ways, and religion is no exception. Half of Americans have changed their religious denomination at least once in their lives – many several times – and 28 percent have switched faiths altogether (for example, from Christianity to Judaism). Amid this fluidity, the number of "unaffiliated" adults has grown to 16 percent of the population.

What is behind such extraordinary "churn" in US religious life? As a follow-up to its pathbreaking 2007 survey of the American religious landscape, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a new survey Monday – "Faith in Flux" – that explores in depth the patterns and reasons for such remarkable change.

Most people who switch their allegiance during their lifetime, the survey finds, leave their childhood faith while they are still young, before the age of 24. Yet the opportunities for attracting them to another religion appear to continue for some time.

The reasons for leaving differ according to the origin and destination of the convert. Roman Catholics, for instance, tend to leave because they don't accept certain church teachings. Those Protestants who switch denominations do so more often in response to life changes such as relocation or marriage, or because of dislikes about institutions or practices.

While 56 percent of US adults remain in their childhood faith, 16 percent left, joined another house of worship at least once, and then returned to their original fold.

Of those raised Protestant, 80 percent remain so, with 52 percent still in their childhood denomination. Twenty-eight percent have moved to another Protestant following, 13 percent are now unaffiliated, 3 percent have become Catholic, and 4 percent joined other faiths.

Of those raised Catholic, 68 percent remain in the faith, 15 percent are now Protestant, 14 percent unaffiliated, and 3 percent in other faiths.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Notre Dame, the President & Mary Ann Glendon

In a surprising and wonderful development, Mary Ann Glendon, the distinguished Catholic leader, professor at Harvard, and former United States Ambassador to the Vatican, has turned down the most prestigious medal that Notre Dame can award in objection to the University inviting the president to speak at Commencement and conferring upon him an honorary degree.

Awarding of an honorary degree is in complete disregard for the mandate governing Catholic institutions, regarding the honoring of public figures whose public positions are in direct contradiction to Catholic doctrine.

This is truly a wonderful moment for the Church in America.

The letter from First Things.

By Mary Ann Glendon

Monday, April 27, 2009, 9:32 AM
April 27, 2009

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly,

Mary Ann Glendon

Mary Ann Glendon is Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. A member of the editorial and advisory board of First Things, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican from 2007 to 2009.

Monday, April 27, 2009

De Tocqueville

The French Count, and devout Catholic, is, in many ways, the father of the American way of voluntary associations, or as they have come to be known and legalized through statue—the nonprofit corporation; as he was the first to write of them extensively and his most famous book, Democracy in America, first published in the 1830’s, is still read for its valuable, and still very relevant insights.

He also wrote an important book about prisons in America: On the Penitentiary System in the United States and its Application in France, which is, while a bit dated, a valuable addition to one’s criminal justice library.

There is a nice article about him from the Acton Institute.

An excerpt.

“Though it went virtually unnoticed, April 16th marked the 150th anniversary of the death of one of the significant thinkers of modern times. Author of the classic Democracy in America (1835/1840), Alexis de Tocqueville’s prophetic insights into America have been cited approvingly by figures ranging from Nobel Prize economist Friedrich Hayek to Benedict XVI.

“Today Tocqueville is largely ignored in his native France, where the left-dominated intelligentsia dismisses him as “antidemocratic.” Americans of all generations, however, have regularly turned to this nineteenth-century aristocrat to understand their past and future. This is especially true when it comes to Tocqueville’s thoughts about democracy’s promise and perils which, more than ever, seem relevant for America.

“Travelling through 1830s America, Tocqueville was struck by government’s apparent absence from this bustling commercial society. Unlike France, Americans had no particular regard for government officials, let alone politicians. They wanted to be let alone to follow their chosen pursuits. Why, Tocqueville wondered, did this not degenerate into anarchy?

“The answer, he discovered, was two-fold. First, Americans had developed habits of free association. They did not address social and economic problems by asking the state to fix the situation. Instead they banded together to resolve their own difficulties.

“Second, there was the influence of religion. Tocqueville was amazed at the plethora of religious activities in America which, unlike European countries, had no established church. While religious bigotry existed, religious liberty was generally taken seriously by American society and government alike….

“Is America on the road to comfortable servility? “The American Republic,” Tocqueville wrote, “will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Since Roosevelt’s New Deal, America has slowly drifted towards a political economy of soft despotism. Despite the Reagan Revolution, the trend-lines of government-spending and intervention have been in the anti-liberty direction. Entire constituencies of people now exist who regularly support politicians who promise that, in return for their votes, their entitlements (corporate-welfare, bails-outs for the “too big-to-fail,” the old-fashioned welfare state etc) will be maintained and increased.”

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Great Walk

At Mass this morning I was struck by the globalness of the great walk to the Eucharist taken by the faithful throughout time and all throughout the world this day, and every day.

We all come together, after sharing the hand of peace with each other, often strangers but friends in faith, and begin our move to the aisles, rich and poor, old and young, all partaking of the promise of Christ within the Church he founded upon the rock of Peter which stands though the gates of hell beat against it always.

A blessed day, a great walk, peace to you.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

St. Anslem & the Proslogium

April 21st was the feast day of St. Anslem, a truly great thinker from our Church history and the Catholic News Agency notes the Holy Father’s message.

An excerpt.

“Vatican City, Apr 21, 2009 / 02:49 pm (CNA).- Benedict XVI today sent a message for the 900 year anniversary of the death of St. Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury and doctor of the Church, whose feast day is celebrated today. In the letter, the Holy Father praised the saint’s wisdom and encouraged all people to draw close to him by studying his teachings on the Church.

"Recalling with a devoted heart the figure of this saint," writes the Pope in his Latin-language message addressed to Fr. Notker Wolf, abbot primate of the Benedictine Confederation, "we wish to exalt and illustrate the treasure of his wisdom so that the people of our time, especially Europeans, may draw close to him and receive his sound and abundant doctrine."

“St. Anselm was born in Aosta, Italy, in 1033 and entered the monastery at the age of 27. Three years later, he was made a prior.

“The saint is also known for his extensive writings in all areas of theology. They include: Monologium on the metaphysical proofs of the existence and nature of God; Proslogium, a contemplation of God's attributes; On Truth; On Freewill; On the Fall of the Devil (or On the Origin of Evil); On the Conception of the Virgin; On Original Sin; and a book on the art of reasoning called Grammarian.”

And here is an excerpt from the Proslogium:


“Truly there is a God, although the fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

“AND so, Lord, do thou, who dost give understanding to faith, give me, so far as thou knowest it to be profitable, to understand that thou art as we believe; and that thou art that which we believe. And indeed, we believe that thou art a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. Or is there no such nature, since the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God? (Psalms xiv. 1). But, at any rate, this very fool, when he hears of this being of which I speak—a being than which nothing greater can be conceived—understands what he hears, and what he understands is in his understanding; although he does not understand it to exist.

“For, it is one thing for an object to be in the understanding, and another to understand that the object exists. When a painter first conceives of what he will afterwards perform, he has it in his understanding, but he does not yet understand it to be, because he has not yet performed it. But after he has made the painting, he both has it in his understanding, and he understands that it exists, because he has made it.

“Hence, even the fool is convinced that something exists in the understanding, at least, than which nothing greater can be conceived. For, when he hears of this, he understands it. And whatever is understood, exists in the understanding. And assuredly that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For, suppose it exists in the understanding alone: then it can be conceived to exist in reality; which is greater.

“Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence, there is no doubt that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.”

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bishops & the Public Square, Part Two

The type of ringing words of teaching that we expect from our bishops—words being sent forth by more and more bishops in the United States—during a time of great evil, which this period of time certainly is, are delivered by Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Finn.

An excerpt.

“Warriors for the Victory of Life
Key Note Address for the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention
April 18, 2009 – St. Thomas Aquinas High School
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

“Dear friends,

“Thank you for coming together for this second annual Gospel of Life Convention, co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. It is a privilege to welcome you and greet you this morning. I am grateful for the encouragement of your presence and – as a Bishop it is my solemn and joyful duty to do all I can to fortify you in your own faith.

“But as I speak a word of encouragement today I also want to tell you soberly, dear friends, “We are at war!”

“We are at war.

“Harsh as this may sound it is true – but it is not new. This war to which I refer did not begin in just the last several months, although new battles are underway – and they bring an intensity and urgency to our efforts that may rival any time in the past.

“But it is correct to acknowledge that you and I are warriors - members of the Church on earth – often called the Church Militant. Those who have gone ahead of us have already completed their earthly battles. Some make up the Church Triumphant – Saints in heaven who surround and support us still – tremendous allies in the battle for our eternal salvation; and the Church Suffering (souls in purgatory who depend on our prayers and meritorious works and suffrages).

“But we are the Church on Earth – The Church Militant. We are engaged in a constant warfare with Satan, with the glamour of evil, and the lure of false truths and empty promises. If we fail to realize how constantly these forces work against us, we are more likely to fall, and even chance forfeiting God’s gift of eternal life.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bishops & the Public Square, Part One

The bishops of the Church are close to the faithful, and in that unbroken link with the twelve apostles and the founder of the Church, Christ Jesus, the actions they take in the defence of the teaching of the Church is vital for the salvation of souls and the constancy of the Church as the light unto the world.

Chiesa reports on one of those bishops.

“ROME, April 21, 2009 – Florence is a beacon city for the entire world. This is true in its being an artistic capital. But it is also exemplary as a laboratory for significant Christian experiences, both personal and in groups. This was certainly true for much of the twentieth century.

“The new example that Florence offers to the Catholic world today, and not only in Italy, has to do with the role of its archbishop.

His name is Giuseppe Betori. He is 62 years old, originally from Umbria, and studied as a biblicist. He has been archbishop of Florence since September 8, 2008. Before this, he was secretary general of the Italian bishops' conference, CEI, the right-hand man of its president, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, and then of his successor, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.

“Last summer, when his appointment was rumored but not yet officially announced, many of the priests and laypeople of Florence signed an open letter asking the new bishop to be a man of "patience" and "forgiveness," to leave behind "the bitter tones of condemnation," and to establish "a climate of freedom and mutual respect" between the Church and civil society.

“It was easy to guess that this profile of a bishop did not correspond to the one that the signers of the letter polemically attributed to Betori.

“In any case, Benedict XVI sent him to Florence. In his first interview with the newspaper of the diocese, Betori announced that he would work for "a faith capable of contributing to culture." And he added: "nothing that is human is alien to the Church, and therefore the Church will speak about every civil situation. The human can and must be illuminated by the Gospel."….

“This twofold novelty demands to be analyzed and interpreted, in part because of its power as an example. This is what professor Pietro De Marco, a Florentine and an acknowledged expert on Catholicism in his city, does in what follows:

“On the bishop as defender of the city, in the modern barbarian invasions

by Pietro De Marco

“I believe that the current situation of the Florentine Church, directed by Archbishop Giuseppe Betori, is an example that could have international repercussions. What is taking place in Florence is the recovery of an ancient role: that of the bishop as "defensor civitatis," defender of the city, and "consul Dei," consul of God, this latter title having been given to Pope Gregory the Great.

“Naturally, something of this episcopal role emerges at times during wars or revolutions. Cardinal Clemens August von Galen was also called, because of his witness in Hitler's Germany, a "defensor civitatis" and a "consul Dei," like the ancient Fathers of the Church "among the barbarian hordes." Or it emerges in situations of grave social conflict, as happened with Bishop Oscar Romero in Latin America. But the case of Florence is interesting in part because it is taking place outside of the exceptional circumstance of an heroic action, or of the "engagĂ©" style as celebrated in liberationist cultures as it is rarely original, and often with negative doctrinal and pastoral effects.

“At the center of the case of Florence are anthropological, bioethical, and biopolitical questions that have little in common with the usual fields of political and economic dispute. On the questions of life, the Church stands in its full originality and solitude; it is an irreplaceable subject. In this sense, the Florentine case has the status of an example. This could prompt or confirm activity in the same direction, in other dioceses.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Catholics in America

The story of Catholics in America is largely a very positive one that continues to become stronger as the ideas of the social teaching and the involvement in Catholics in the public square reflect the profound ideas embedded in the 2,000 year history of the Church’s thinking about social issues, but it has not always been so.

This article is a good refresher course on the history of anti-Catholicism in the United States.

An excerpt.

“Should Catholics be concerned about populist uprisings? Absolutely. Since the Age of Jackson, “us versus them” movements have aimed at resisting or destroying the nation’s number one “them” – Roman Catholics. We have been the targets of numerous populist movements, including the anti-Masons, the Know-Nothings, the People’s Party, and the Ku Klux Klan.

“During the 1830s and 1840s, underground anti-Catholic movements led by back alley, low-life bigots, flared into full-fledged nativist populist crusades that came close to leaving major northern cities in shambles.

“In August 1835, a Boston mob screaming “down with the cross” torched an Ursuline convent and school dormitory and violated their graveyard. Anti-Catholic populist rage spread all over New England.

“Pennsylvania nativists took to the streets in May 1844, attacked Philadelphia Bishop Patrick Kenrick, burnt St. Augustine’s Church, an adjoining monastery, and a 5,000-book library.

“The Know-Nothings marshalled lawless gangs who threatened Catholic voters on Election Day 1856. Baltimore, New Orleans, St. Louis, and numerous other cities reported violent clashes at the polls that often ended with dead bodies on the streets.

“The 1890s rural People’s Party populist movement, dedicated to the cause of the Anglo-Saxon “common man,” viewed eastern urban America dominated by Catholics as enemy country. Their hero, William Jennings Bryan – three-time Democratic Party nominee for president – complained on the campaign trail that he was “tired of hearing about laws made for the benefit of men who work in shops,” Bryan took a shot at Catholic immigration when he declared he was opposed to the “dumping of the criminal classes upon our shore.” A Catholic priest in New York denounced Bryan from his pulpit as a “demagogue whose patriotism was all in his jawbone.”

“In the post-World War I era, a revamped, populist Ku Klux Klan took their racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic platform nationally and recruited four million members. While their terrorist methods – lynchings, bombings, and arson – eventually discredited the Klan and led by 1929 to its rapid decline, in 1924, it was at the height of its power and forced itself upon that year’s National Democratic Convention. To stick it in the eye of New York’s governor, Alfred E. Smith, the first Catholic to have his name placed in nomination for the office of president of the United States, a vote rejecting condemnation of the Klan was passed by convention delegates.

“Lots of Catholics believe all this came to an end with the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency in 1960. For all his popular appeal, however, Kennedy had all but to renounce his faith in front of a room full of Protestant ministers in Houston to succeed.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Catholic First

For most of my life I have been interested in politics, and have during those many years changed political affiliations a couple times.

My first political registration was as a Democrat, during the Watergate period, and I proudly voted for Jimmy Carter for president and Jerry Brown for Governor.

As I grew older, married and had a child, accumulating more responsibilities and possessions along the way, I registered as a Republican and just as proudly voted for Ronald Reagan for president, twice.

During the process of becoming Catholic (I was brought into the Church in 2004) I realized that my political allegiance was to the principle of Catholic social teaching that played such a large part in my becoming Catholic, and I changed my political registration to independent, though still vote largely with the Republicans as they are the party that supports one of the most important principles of the Church, that of pro-life.

What clearly drives my political thinking these days is the fact that I am a Catholic first, and this related article from The Catholic Thing is a reflection about being Catholic and being American.

An excerpt.

“Here’s a quick question: Are you Catholic first and American second, or the reverse?

“Yes, sometimes this might be a false choice, but just off the top of your head, which is it?

“Just to speak for myself, I’m Catholic first and American second. I don’t understand how any believer of any faith could think differently. If you are lucky, you spend eighty or so years in America. Dead is a long time. An American passport or American attitudes may not be ideal for travel into the undiscovered country. Except for those simple souls who think that Americanism is Christianity, a reflective person knows there will be days – in certain periods a lot of them – when a real believer must take a different path than other Americans.

“The Catholic Church occupies an odd position in the United States. We are a Church that has survived the rise and fall not only of nations, but of whole civilizations. Along the way, we developed a complex sense of the Church’s social responsibilities. Catholicism is compatible with American-style democracy – and with many other forms of government – yet does not concede that the public arena is properly understood as purely neutral or secularist.

“God is Lord of all, including a pluralistic order like our own. The Catholic Church, as other churches once did, teaches that the basic elements of his rule, including universal moral principles, must be acknowledged, even if only indirectly, for any regime to be legitimate. And therein lies the heart of the problem of the Church in America today.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

Catholic Economics & Individual Liberty

I’ve been reading a wonderful book, Building the Free Society: Democracy, Capitalism, and Catholic Social Teaching, and have just read the following, which seems appropriate to share with you during a period in our country’s economic planning when many of the issues now being addressed were written about.

An excerpt.

“Individual liberty has been persistently linked in Catholic thought to the notion of the “common good,” and John XXIII’s concern [in writing Mater et Magistra: On Christianity and Social Progress, in 1961] was to promote the common good in a “suitable manner” by the “production of a sufficient supply of material goods” (20). Such a goal is consistent with the Christian worldview, but Christian social ethicists have never agreed on the morally appropriate and economically effective means to achieve that desirable worldly end. Some would argue, and not without reason, that Mater et Magistra tends to overlook the ways in which state intervention in the economy obscures the price mechanism, thus distorting information exchange and patterns of production and consumption and inviting excessive bureaucratization. Such an oversight may well be due to the Church’s tendency to give weight to the social order of the Middle Ages as a normative model of Christian society.

“This criticism of the Church may have had some validity in the past. In recent times, however, John Paul has taken a more cautious approach to the role of the state, both as the regulator of the economy and as the remedy for social problems.

“In what is perhaps one of the most notable innovations in the encyclical tradition, John Paul speaks cautiously about the danger of the welfare state. Looking at welfare in light of the principle of subsidiarity, he warns:

“By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbours to those in need. It should be added that certain kinds of demands often call for a response which is not simply material but which is capable of perceiving the deeper human need. One thinks of the condition of refugees, immigrants, the elderly, the sick, and all those in circumstances which call for assistance, such as drug abusers: all these people can be helped effectively only by those who offer them genuine fraternal support, in addition to the necessary care. (Centesimus Annus, 48, )” (p. 57)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Democracy in America & Catholics, Part Three

Truly one of the great books—that readers continue to mine for intelligent analyses of our American way of life, is Democracy in America—by a very perceptive French nobleman, and devout Catholic, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and here is what he had to say about Catholicism in America, in three parts, this is the final post:

“Most Catholics are poor, and they need all citizens to govern in order to come to government themselves. Catholics are in the minority, and they need all rights to be respected to be assured of the free exercise of theirs. These two causes drive them even without their knowing it toward political doctrines that they would perhaps adopt with less eagerness if they were wealthy and prominent.

“The Catholic clergy of the United States has not tried to struggle against this political tendency; rather, it seeks to justify it. Catholic priests in America have divided the intellectual world into two parts: in one, they have left revealed dogmas, and they submit to them without discussing them; in the other, they have placed political truth, and they think that God has abandoned it to the free inquiries of men. Thus Catholics in the United States are at once the most submissive of the faithful and the most independent of citizens.

“One can say, therefore, that in the United States there is no single religious doctrine that shows itself hostile to democratic and republican institutions. All the clergy there hold to the same language; opinions are in accord with the laws, and there reigns so to speak only a single current in the human mind.”
(Democracy in America, Mansfield/Winthrop translation, pp. 276-277)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Democracy in America & Catholics, Part Two

Truly one of the great books, that readers continue to mine for intelligent analyses of our American way of life, is Democracy in America, by a very perceptive French nobleman, and devout Catholic, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and here is what he had to say about Catholicism in America, in three parts; part three tomorrow:

"If Catholicism disposes the faithful to obedience, it does not therefore prepare them for inequality. I shall say the contrary of Protestantism, which generally brings men much less to equality that to independence.

"Catholicism is like an absolute monarchy. Remove the prince and conditions are more equal in it than in republics.

"It often happened that the Catholic priest left the sanctuary to enter society as a power, and that he came to seat himself there amid the social hierarchy; then sometimes he used his religious influence to assure the longevity of a political order of which he was a part; then also one could see Catholics become partisans of aristocracy by the spirit of religion.

"But once the priests are turned away or turn themselves away from government as they do in the United States, there are no men more disposed by their beliefs than Catholics to carry the idea of equality of conditions into the political world.

"If, therefore, Catholics in the United States are not carried violently by the nature of their beliefs toward democratic and republican opinions, at least they are not naturally opposed to them, and their social position as well as their small number bring them, as by a law, to embrace them." (Democracy in America, Mansfield/Winthrop translation, p. 276)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Democracy in America & Catholics, Part One

Truly one of the great books—that readers continue to mine for insight about our American way of life, is Democracy in America—by a very perceptive French nobleman, and devout Catholic, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and here is what he had to say about Catholicism in America, in three parts; part two tomorrow:

“The greatest part of English America has been peopled by men who, after having escaped the authority of the pope, did not submit to any religious supremacy; they therefore brought to the New World a Christianity that I cannot depict better than to call it democratic and republican: this singularity favors the establishment of a republic and of democracy in affairs. From the beginning, politics and religion were in accord, and they have not ceased to be so since.

“Around fifty years ago [he was writing in 1830], Ireland began to pour a Catholic population into the United States. For its part, American Catholicism made proselytes: today one encounters more than a million Christians in the Union who profess the truths of the Roman Church.

“These Catholics show great fidelity in their practices of worship and are full of ardor and zeal for their beliefs; nevertheless they form the most republican and democratic class there is in the United States. This fact surprises one at first approach, but reflection easily uncovers its hidden causes.

“I think that it is wrong to regard the Catholic religion as a natural enemy of democracy. Among the different Christian doctrines, Catholicism appears to me, on the contrary, one of the most favorable to equality of conditions. Among Catholics, religious society is composed of only two elements: the priest and the people. The priest alone is raised above the faithful: everything is equal below him.

“In the matter of dogma, Catholicism places the same standard on all intellects; it forces the details of the same beliefs on the learned as well as the ignorant, the man of genius as well as the vulgar; it imposes the same practices on the rich as on the poor, inflicts the same austerities on the powerful as the weak; it compromises with no mortal, and applying the same measure to each human, it likes to intermingle all classes of society at the foot of the same altar, as they are intermingled in the eyes of God.” (Democracy in America, Mansfield/Winthrop translation, pp. 275-276)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reentry with Bail-Out Money

We certainly wish this program in Indianapolis well, but I am afraid it will be another in a long line of failed programs built on the well-documented unsuccessful model that providing one or another services—employment, counseling, education, etc—can modify the internal dynamic that brings an individual into close communion with the criminal world.

Deciding to leave the criminal world for the true communal world of the Catholic Church and productive citizenship, requires a strenuous, prayerful effort, of which the year long RCIA process plays a supportive role; and it is our contention that the only guide in this internal transformation—who will have authentic access to the criminal—is a reformed professional criminal already having traversed the terrain.

An excerpt from the Indianapolis Star article about the reentry program.

“Indianapolis would spend more than $1.5 million in economic stimulus funds on prisoner education and re-entry services under a proposal unveiled Monday.

“The proposal -- part of the city's plan for using $6.4 million earmarked for law enforcement activities -- calls for hiring 200 ex-convicts in temporary jobs at the Indianapolis Department of Public Works.

"We have 5,000 people coming into our community every year" after their release from the Indiana Department of Correction, said David Wu, policy director for Mayor Greg Ballard. "If you don't work to keep them from re-offending, they are going to clog the criminal justice system."

“The proposal also calls for spending about $1.3 million to upgrade the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's automated fingerprinting system, which Wu said will become obsolete by this fall.

"They had to replace it one way or another," Wu said.
“The spending plan was introduced at Monday's City-County Council meeting. The council is expected to vote on the plan May 2.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Social Innovation

The power of social entrepreneurship has been well discussed, and the great book, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, began the debate in earnest a few years ago; and now comes word from the Chronicle of Philanthropy that our new president might be starting an Office of Social Innovation, which if so, is wonderful news.

The Lampstand concept of prisoner reentry built on individual decision-making, acceptance of responsibility, penance, and redemption, is—in the current rehabilitative climate of structural causation of crime—surely an innovative approach.

An excerpt.

“President Barack Obama seems to be in the process of setting up an Office of Social Innovation in the White House. At least, such an entity is included on a list of White House offices on an official Web page describing the Executive Office of the President.

“However, no information is provided about the office and White House press spokesmen have so far not returned messages asking for explanation.

“Many nonprofit leaders have been calling for a White House or federal office to promote innovative approaches to social problems and help entrepreneurial nonprofit groups expand their programs. America Forward, a coalition of more than 70 nonprofit groups, for example, has proposed a White House Office of Social Innovation and Results.

“The office would lift up promising nonprofit organizations for greater visibility and promote outcomes measurement and competition for federal funding within the nonprofit sector,” the group says. (Jennifer Macauley, an America Forward spokeswoman, says she has no information about the status of that proposal.)”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Politics, Bareknuckled & Good

Politics needs to engage the public and passionate partisanship appears to have done that, as the level of engagement has increased as the television viewing habits of many Americans revolve around the 24 hours news channels.

What is good about it—the clarity of one another’s position—is based jupon the same principle within the Catholic Church that continues to draw converts from those who have an opportunity to explore its deep riches, constancy of teaching creates constancy of faith.

This article from Brookings looks at partisanship.

“From the steps of the Capitol on January 20th, President Barack Obama appealed for an end to the politics of “petty grievances” and “worn-out dogmas.” The year 2009 was supposed to mark the dawn of a post-partisan era. With any luck, Democrats and Republicans would stop quarreling, and would finally get down to work together. The time had come, exhorted the new president drawing from Scripture, to lay “childish” polemics aside.

“But childish or not, America’s partisan politics have remained as stubbornly intense and polarized as ever. To paraphrase more Scripture, the lambs remain unwilling to lie down with the lions. And there are few signs of partisan swords being turned into plowshares. Far from opening a new age of bipartisan comity in the House of Representatives, the president and the Democratic majority received not a single Republican vote in their first big legislative test, the roll call on the so-called American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “stimulus”). More recently, not one Republican in the Senate or the House voted for the concurrent resolution on the president’s budget. More, not less, of such party-line voting probably lies ahead.

“So here’s a heretical thought: Maybe, among the many inflated expectations that we attach to the Obama presidency and should temper, those about the advent of “post-partisanship” ought to be lowered, drastically. In other words, get over it. The rough-and-tumble of our party politics is here to stay. What’s more—and this is even greater heresy—not everything about that fact of political life is horrible.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Sunday

Our parish is normally pretty full at the early morning Sunday service, one of four masses on Sunday, but yesterday it was packed to the rafters and we had to put chairs down the aisles to accommodate everyone; and I imagine it was so throughout the Catholic world.

After the magic of the papacy of John Paul II, followed by the extraordinary one of Pope Benedict XVI, who has shocked those who predicted he was ushering in the next Inquisition, by revealing himself to the world what all of those who knew him realized him to be; a rather shy and gentle intellectual, but with the steely faith of Peter for the steady hand on the great barque sailing through eternity that our faith always needs.

And what marvels abound in our Catholic world in recent months, from the taking to the tool shed of the leading liberal politicians who tried to instruct the Church on the correct attitude to have on abortion, to the conversions of leading conservatives to the faith, and the outrage over the invitation by one of the jewels of our Catholic Colleges to our nation’s president; whose staunch pro-abortion stance invalidates any and all reasons for being honored at Catholic colleges for anything beyond the simple holding of the office of the presidency, deeply honored by all Catholics.

And so, on this quiet day after the greatest day in the history of the world, after the great acclamation of the mystery of our faith, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”, we reenter the workaday world, but even more strongly held by our cherished faith that is truly the light unto the world.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Catholic Teaching & Capitalism

The Church has always spoken of the need for a moral base to stabilize capitalism, the economic system agreed upon as that which, when operating from a moral base, is best for all people.

In this column from the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan, a Catholic and former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, explores this in relation to events of the recent past, that of the aftermath of September 11th.

This is a must read.

An excerpt.

“Wall Street, or what remains of it, has dealt a catastrophic blow to its reputation in the past eight months of bonuses, bailouts and bankruptcies. What its current leaders, and the young who are lucky enough to be entering business, have to do now is begin rescuing and restoring that reputation.

“This will, in fact, be the great work of a generation of American business leaders.

“More is at stake than their standing. At stake is the standing of a free-market system that has flourished since America's founding and made it the wealthiest nation in the history of man.

“In his classic "The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism," the philosopher Michael Novak noted that capitalism is good because, of all the economic systems devised by man, it is the one that lifts the greatest numbers out of poverty. Capitalism is itself not selfish, exploitative, unequal; it wants to grow and produce, bringing more services, more creativity, more opportunity, more ferment and movement—more life. It is not just an economic system, it is a public good.

“To Mr. Novak, business is a vocation, a deeply serious one. But it cannot exist in a void. It requires an underlying moral edifice, a knowledge of right and wrong, "a sense of sin." Greed is not good. Wall Street is a stage, a platform on which men and women can each day take actions that are ethical or not, constructive or not. When their actions are marked by high moral principle, they heighten their calling—they are not just "in business" but part of a noble endeavor that adds to the sum total of human happiness. The work they do strengthens the ground on which democracy and economic freedom stand. "The calling of business is to support the reality and reputation of capitalism."

“Noble. Constructive. Admirable.

“When was the last time anyone thought of Wall Street like that?

“There was a moment, a very public one well within memory, that was all of those things. And it might help the coming generation of business leaders to keep its lessons in mind.

“It had to do with the last time Wall Street was in ashes—literally. It had to do with how they brought it back.”

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Father & Holy Week

Chesia has posted the Holy Father’s words for us during Holy Week.

An excerpt.

“Dear brothers and sisters, Holy Week, which for us Christians is the most important week of the year, offers us the opportunity to be immersed in the central events of Redemption, to relive the Paschal Mystery, the great mystery of the faith. Beginning tomorrow afternoon, with the Mass "In Coena Domini," the solemn liturgical rites will help us to meditate in a more lively manner on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord in the days of the Holy Paschal Triduum, fulcrum of the entire liturgical year. May divine grace open our hearts to comprehend the inestimable gift that salvation is, obtained for us by Christ's sacrifice.

“We find this immense gift wonderfully narrated in a famous hymn contained in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11), on which we meditated several times in Lent. The Apostle reviews, both in an essential and effective manner, the whole mystery of the history of salvation referring to Adam's pride who, not being God, wanted to be like God. And he contrasts this pride of the first man, which all of us feel a bit in our being, with the humility of the true Son of God who, becoming man, did not hesitate to take upon himself all the weaknesses of the human being, except sin, and pushed himself to the profundity of death. This descent to the last profundity of the Passion and Death is then followed by his exaltation, the true glory, the glory of the love that went all the way to the end. And that is why it is right -- as Paul says -- that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!" (2:10-11). With these words, St. Paul refers to a prophecy of Isaiah where God says: I am the Lord, to me every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth (cf. Isaiah 45: 23). This -- says Paul -- is also true for Jesus Christ. He really is, in his humility, in the true greatness of his love, the Lord of the world and before him every knee truly bows.

“How marvelous, and at the same time amazing, is this mystery! We can never meditate this reality sufficiently. Jesus, though being God, did not want to make of his divine prerogatives an exclusive possession; he did not want to use his being God, his glorious dignity and power, as an instrument of triumph and sign of distance from us. On the contrary, "he emptied himself" assuming our miserable and weak human condition -- in this regard, Paul uses a quite meaningful Greek verb to indicate the "kenosis", this descent of Jesus. The divine form (morphe) is hidden in Christ under the human form, namely, under our reality marked by suffering, poverty, human limitations and death. The radical and true sharing of our nature, a sharing in everything except sin, leads him to that frontier that is the sign of our finiteness -- death. But all this was not the fruit of a dark mechanism or a blind fatality: It was instead his free choice, by his generous adherence to the salvific plan of the Father. And the death which he went out to meet -- adds Paul -- was that of the cross, the most humiliating and degrading that one can imagine. The Lord of the universe did all this out of love for us: out of love he willed to "empty himself" and make himself our brother; out of love he shared our condition, that of every man and every woman. In this connection, Theodoret of Cyrus, a great witness of the Eastern tradition, writes: "Being God and God by nature and having equality with God, he did not retain this as something great, as do those who have received some honor beyond their merits, but concealing his merits, he chose the most profound humility and took the form of a human being" (Commentary on the Letter to the Philippians, 2:6-7)….


“This hope is nourished in the great silence of Holy Saturday, awaiting the resurrection of Jesus. On this day the Churches are stripped and no particular liturgical rites are provided. The Church watches in prayer like Mary, and together with Mary, sharing the same feelings of sorrow and trust in God. Justly recommended is to preserve throughout the day a prayerful climate, favorable to meditation and reconciliation; the faithful are encouraged to approach the sacrament of penance, to be able to participate truly renewed in the Easter celebrations.

“The recollection and silence of Holy Saturday lead us at night to the solemn Easter Vigil, "mother of all vigils," when the singing of the joy of the resurrection of Christ will erupt in all the churches and communities. Proclaimed once again will be the victory of light over darkness, of life over death, and the Church will rejoice in the encounter with her Lord. We will thus enter into the climate of the Easter of Resurrection.

“Dear brothers and sisters, let us dispose ourselves to live the Holy Triduum intensely, to participate ever more profoundly in the mystery of Christ. We are accompanied on this journey by the Holy Virgin, who in silence followed her son Jesus to Calvary, taking part with great sorrow in his sacrifice, thus cooperating with the mystery of the Redemption and becoming Mother of all believers (cf. John 19:25-27). Together with her we will enter the Cenacle, we will stay at the foot of the Cross, we will watch next to the dead Christ, awaiting with hope the dawn of the radiant day of the Resurrection. In this perspective, I now express to all of you the most cordial wishes for a happy and holy Easter, together with your families, parishes and communities.”

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

A marvelous column today at Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

“According to the ancient tradition of the Church, Good Friday is the only day of the year when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not offered. The celebration of the Eucharist is suspended on all the altars in every Catholic Church throughout the world as we mourn the Passion and Death of the Lord.

“Good Friday is a day of prayerful contemplation of the mystery of the Cross. And the Church invites us to do this as a community in the Good Friday liturgy, which consists of three parts: the liturgy of the Word, including the Passion according to St. John; the Veneration of the Cross; and Holy Communion, or what was formerly called the Mass of the Pre-sanctified (which consists of the distribution of Holy Communion from hosts that have been consecrated or “pre-sanctified” at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper.)

“In our contemplation of the Cross we discover the “sign of contradiction.” This is at the heart of the Paschal Mystery, the coming together of apparent opposites: suffering and healing, death and resurrection, defeat and victory, agony and glory.

“And yet they are not really opposites. Self-giving is a necessary prerequisite for perfect freedom, and perfect freedom constitutes new life and glory.

“I think one of the most powerful and mysterious lines in Mel Gibson’s popular movie, The Passion of the Christ, is when our Lord meets His dear Mother along the Way of the Cross, as she comes to His side when He falls, yet again, under the weight of the Cross. Looking into her compassionate and sorrowful eyes He tells her, “Don’t you see, Mother? I make all things new.” Now these words are not found in the Gospel, but are actually in the Book of the Apocalypse (21:5), and the filmmaker superimposes these words on the lips of Jesus for dramatic effect. Nonetheless, the scene conveys a powerful and mysterious truth.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Catholic social teaching has much to say about economics and this article from First Things, with a focus on subsidiarity, is excellent.

An excerpt.

“Attempting to differentiate among the categories of culpability for the crisis is more than an amusing parlor game, for this crisis is the result of a complex convergence of behaviors that we are only beginning to appreciate. Understanding the different types of behavior that got us to this point is crucial to crafting an intelligent plan for digging us out of this hole and preventing us from falling back into it in the future. Can appropriate limits to greed be legislated without compromising the vitality of our markets? Are some outright caps on how much money lenders should make appropriate, in the form of usury laws or compensation restrictions? With respect to fraudulent activity, where is the line between aggressive selling and outright lying?

“A significant consideration in assessing possible responses to these questions should be the application of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is a fundamental tenet of the Catholic Church’s social doctrine. As Pius XI wrote in Quadragesimo Anno:

“’Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do.’”

“The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church cautions that it “is impossible to promote the dignity of the person without showing concern for the family, groups, associations, local territorial realities.”

“Subsidiarity plays itself out in our response to the banking crisis in a very significant question: Should the federal government be the sole arbiter and enforcer of consumer credit law, or should some power be retained by state governments? The battle over the expanding federal preemption of state consumer credit laws has been raging in banking circles and federal courts for years. It is currently before the Supreme Court yet again, in the case of Cuomo v. Clearing House, L.L.C. It is also one of the points of contention among the members of the Congressional Oversight Panel on Regulatory Reform that prompted two of its five members to withhold their support from the Panel’s January 2009 Special Report on Regulatory Reform.

“The basic question is whether a state has the authority to regulate the terms under which national banks can lend money to consumers within that state. Over the past few decades nationally-chartered banks have come to be insulated from the reach of virtually all state consumer credit laws. Aggressive interpretations of federal banking laws by the Comptroller of the Currency, uniformly ratified by the Supreme Court, give national banks the power to export the regulatory regime of the state in which they are headquartered to borrowers in other states. Lenders who want to offer credit to consumers across the county on uniform (and essentially unregulated) terms charter national banks in states with no regulation of credit; they export this lack of regulation to all of their borrowers across the nation.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

About Blogging

Interesting info from Technocrati about what some of us spend an inordinate amount of time, reading, compiling or researching to compile.

An excerpt.

Welcome to Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2008 report, which will be released in five consecutive daily segments. Since 2004, our annual study has unearthed and analyzed the trends and themes of blogging, but for the 2008 study, we resolved to go beyond the numbers of the Technorati Index to deliver even deeper insights into the blogging mind. For the first time, we surveyed bloggers directly about the role of blogging in their lives, the tools, time, and resources used to produce their blogs, and how blogging has impacted them personally, professionally, and financially. Our bloggers were generous with their thoughts and insights. Thanks to all of the bloggers who took the time to respond to our survey.

Blogs are Pervasive and Part of Our Daily Lives

There have been a number of studies aimed at understanding the size of the Blogosphere, yielding widely disparate estimates of both the number of blogs and blog readership. All studies agree, however, that blogs are a global phenomenon that has hit the mainstream.

The numbers vary but agree that blogs are here to stay

• comScore MediaMetrix (August 2008)
• Blogs: 77.7 million unique visitors in the US
• Facebook: 41.0 million | MySpace 75.1 million
• Total internet audience 188.9 million
• eMarketer (May 2008)
• 94.1 million US blog readers in 2007 (50% of Internet users)
• 22.6 million US bloggers in 2007 (12%)
• Universal McCann (March 2008)
• 184 million WW have started a blog | 26.4 US
• 346 million WW read blogs | 60.3 US
• 77% of active Internet users read blogs

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Prison & Jail Statistics Updated

There has been a slowdown in the several year trend of steadily increasing prisoners—but still an overall increase—according to the latest numbers by a Bureau of Justice Statistics press release.

An excerpt.

“WASHINGTON – As of June 30, 2008, state and federal correctional authorities had jurisdiction or legal authority over 1,610,584 prisoners. Additionally, 785,556 inmates were held in custody in local jails, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, announced today.

“During the six months ending June 30, 2008, the prison population increased by 0.8 percent, compared to 1.6 percent during the same period in 2007. The local jail population increased by 0.7 percent during the 12-month period ending June 30, 2008, accounting for the slowest growth in 27 years.

“Sixteen states reported decreases in their prison populations. California (down 962 prisoners) and Kentucky (down 847) reported the largest decreases since yearend 2007.

“While the prison populations in the remaining 34 states increased, growth slowed in 18 of these states. For these 18 states, prison populations increased by 1.6 percent in the first half of 2008 as compared to the increase of 3.1 percent in the first half of 2007. Minnesota experienced the largest growth rate (up 5.2 percent) in the first six months of 2008, followed by Maine (up 4.6 percent) and Rhode Island and South Carolina (both up 4.3 percent).

“The federal prison system added 1,524 prisoners in the first six months of 2008, reaching a total of 201,142 prisoners. The 0.8 percent growth represented the smallest increase in the first six months since 1993 (when BJS began collecting data at midyear).

“State and federal prisoners in private facilities increased 6.8 percent during the 12-month period, reaching 126,249 at midyear 2008. The federal system (32,712), Texas (19,851), and Florida (9,026) reported the largest number of prisoners in private facilities.

“As of June 30, 2008, over 2.3 million inmates, or one in every 131 U.S. residents, were held in custody in state or federal prisons or in local jails, regardless of sentence length or conviction status. Since yearend 2000, the nation’s prison and jail custody populations have increased by 373,502 inmates (or 19 percent).

“Over one-third of inmates held in custody at midyear 2008 were in local jails. More than half (52 percent) were housed in the 180 largest jail facilities, with average daily populations of 1,000 inmates or more. Overall, an estimated 13.6 million inmates were admitted to local jails during the 12-month period ending June 30, 2008.”

Monday, April 6, 2009

Broken Windows Policing

The focus on all levels of crime, even broken windows, in the now proven theory that vigorous enforcement of laws reduces crime, continues to be validated.

The broken windows theory was first proposed in a 1982 article in Atlantic Monthly by George Kelling and James Q. Wilson and has proven itself as the most effective crime control policing ever, as a recent evaluation reported in a February 2009 article in the Boston Globe noted.

Broken windows policing, along with three strikes sentencing, and the institution of programs developed and managed by reformed criminals to reform other criminals would form a three phase effort of effective criminal justice work that currently works effectively only in the first two phases, while still failing in the third.

Reentry statistics still show approximately 60-70% of criminals released from prison return to prison and crime within three years, and with approximately 700,000 prisoners being released each year, that is a significant problem that has yet to be adequately addressed through the utilization of traditional rehabilitation programs.

In Los Angeles, where police chief Bratton, an early adherent of broken windows policing, has continued his stellar work and crime continues to fall, as this article from the Los Angeles Times reports.

An excerpt.

“Crime in much of Los Angeles County and elsewhere in Southern California has dropped significantly so far this year, despite an economic meltdown that has pushed unemployment into double digits, imploded the housing market and shuttered countless businesses.

“The decline flies in the face of predictions made by many crime experts that the region would probably experience substantial increases in property-related crimes and some types of violence as more people fell into financial hardship.

“Overall in the city of Los Angeles, property crimes, such as burglary and auto theft, were down 6.4% over the same period last year, while violent crimes, including homicides and rapes, were down 4.9%. The only citywide increase was a 1.6% rise in robberies. Elsewhere in the county, the Sheriff's Department reported a 10% drop in serious violent and property crimes in the areas it patrols.

“Other large American cities similarly have bucked expectations this year. New York City posted a dramatic 14% drop in overall serious crimes, while Chicago and Houston also saw declines. Across the country, however, things are far more uneven. More than 100 large police departments have reported increases in property crimes or robberies this year, according to a survey by a police research group.

“But few other major cities in the country have been hit harder by the economy than Los Angeles, where the unemployment rate has reached 12%. Police Chief William J. Bratton sounded his familiar refrain when asked to explain why crime has not increased. "Cops matter. Police count," he said.”

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I have always assumed, because of what is written in Scripture, that the first person to see the Risen Christ was Mary Magdalene, but there is more to the truths of the Church than Scripture, and Tradition weighs heavily.

It is in Tradition that we find the truth that the first person the Risen Christ appeared to was his mother, and as soon as I read this in the Magnificat in morning Mass, I thought, well of course, who else would he first appear to but his mother, and now the Holy Mother of us all.

An excerpt.

“There is no mention in Scripture of her whereabouts and she is not singled out as one of the specific individuals to whom Christ made an appearance. But while the Gospel says nothing, Christian tradition has long taken it for granted that Christ appeared to his mother first. For it is logic that she who had shared most in him passion should also share in his glory. This opinion has been held by the Doctors of the Church and by the faithful at large from the earliest times.”

(Magnificat, April 2009/Volume 11. No. 2, My Spirit Rejoices page II, requires subscription)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Crime Commissions

The major national crime commission of the past several decades was that in 1967, whose report, The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society, shaped the government’s response to crime since then, and judging by the results, it was either a very flawed document, inadequately implemented, or based on incorrect assumptions to begin with.

One assumption we know is incorrect is that which assumed the best method of dealing with offenders is through some type of treatment, as noted:

“The Commission’s second objective—the development of a far broader range of alternatives for dealing with offenders—is based on the belief that, while there are some who must be completely segregated from society, there are many instances in which segregation does more harm than good. Furthermore, by concentrating the resources of the police, the courts, and correctional agencies on the smaller number of offenders who really need them, it should be possible to give all offenders more effective treatment.” (p. vii)

Crime is generally the result of an internal decision by an individual knowing the difference between right and wrong and choosing the wrong, generally based on the utilitarian perspective congruent with the culture of the world as shaped through the millennia by the prince of the world, as promoted and lived in the United States; a culture too often congruent with that of the criminal world, making the decision to commit crimes often a rewarding—in terms of the world—decision.

A new national crime commission is proposed as this report from the New York Times notes, and one incorrct assumption is already expressed, that three-strikes sentencing is a failure.

An excerpt.

“America’s criminal justice system needs repair. Prisons are overcrowded, sentencing policies are uneven and often unfair, ex-convicts are poorly integrated into society, and the growing problem of gang violence has not received the attention it deserves. For these and other reasons, a bill introduced last week by Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, should be given high priority on the Congressional calendar.

“The bill, which has strong bipartisan support, would establish a national commission to review the system from top to bottom. It is long overdue, and should be up and running as soon as possible.

“The United States has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world. More than 1 in 100 adults are now behind bars, for the first time in history. The incarceration rate has been rising faster than the crime rate, driven by harsh sentencing policies like “three strikes and you’re out,” which impose long sentences that are often out of proportion to the seriousness of the offense.”

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Faith Based Initiative

While most of us may have thought this effort began with President George W. Bush, it actually began earlier and will be continued by President Obama.

What is crucial for the future of this initiative, as it relates to prisoner reentry from our perspective, is that programs using conversion to Catholicism as their major rentry focus, become part of the government funding stream.

This article from the Hoover Institution Digest notes the history.

An excerpt.

“One program many thought would not outlive the Bush presidency is his faith-based initiative. Seemingly fueled by his personal evangelical Christianity and enacted unilaterally by his first executive order as president, the policy allowing religious organizations to receive government funds to perform social services was a signature Bush effort from the start.

“Imagine the surprise, then, when Democratic nominee Barack Obama announced in a campaign speech that, as president, he would continue a program of faith-based initiatives. The new president’s support of faithbased programs makes it clear that these programs are not merely shortterm priorities of one leader but instead have become a new way of doing business.

“Some on the right dismissed Obama’s campaign statement as political posturing, an effort to appeal to regular churchgoing voters who once turned out heavily for Bush and who favored Republican candidate John McCain 49 to 37 percent in the recently concluded campaign.

“Others, from the left, were dismayed that Obama would continue a policy they believe promotes government establishment of religion prohibited by the First Amendment. The Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said, “This initiative has been a failure on all counts and ought to be shut down, not expanded.”

“The roots of faith-based initiatives can be traced back more than a decade before Bush’s executive order in 2001. President George H. W. Bush, building on Ronald Reagan’s “devolution” of many social programs from Washington, D.C., to state and local governments, began his “thousand points of light” initiatives. Speaking of a “kinder, gentler” nation, Bush used the bully pulpit of the presidency to recognize and encourage volunteer efforts, religious and otherwise, in local communities.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nonprofit Funding Models

This is an excellent article from Stanford Social Innovation Review that can stimulate thinking about nonprofits and, for nonprofit leaders, can provide some guidance on the reality that nonprofits are always in two types of work, that of their mission, and that of raising funds to support their mission.

And though there are some models left out—we’ve produced a model for a Catholic grassroots criminal transformation program that is an appendix in our book The Criminal’s Search for God—it is a good introduction to thinking about nonprofits in this important way.

An excerpt.

"Money is a constant topic of conversation among nonprofit leaders: How much do we need? Where can we find it? Why isn’t there more of it? In tough economic times, these types of questions become more frequent and pressing. Unfortunately, the answers are not readily available. That’s because nonprofit leaders are much more sophisticated about creating programs than they are about funding their organizations, and philanthropists often struggle to understand the impact (and limitations) of their donations.

"There are consequences to this fi nancial fuzziness. When nonprofits and funding sources are not well matched, money doesn’t flow to the areas where it will do the greatest good. Too often, the result is that promising programs are cut, curtailed, or never launched. And when dollars become tight, a chaotic fundraising scramble is all the more likely to ensue.1

"In the for-profit world, by contrast, there is a much higher degree of clarity on financial issues. This is particularly true when it comes to understanding how different businesses operate, which can be encapsulated in a set of principles known as business models. Although there is no definitive list of corporate business models,2 there is enough agreement about what they mean that investors and executives alike can engage in sophisticated conversations about any given company’s strategy. When a person says that a company is a “low-cost provider” or a “fast follower,” the main outlines of how that company operates are pretty clear. Similarly, stating that a company is using “the razor and the razor blade” model describes a type of ongoing customer relationship that applies far beyond shaving products.

"The value of such shorthand is that it allows business leaders to articulate quickly and clearly how they will succeed in the marketplace, and it allows investors to quiz executives more easily about how they intend to make money. This back-and-forth increases the odds that businesses will succeed, investors will make money, and everyone will learn more from their experiences.

"The nonprofit world rarely engages in equally clear and succinct conversations about an organization’s long- term funding strategy. That is because the different types of funding that fuel nonprofits have never been clearly defined.3 More than a poverty of language, this represents—and results in—a poverty of understanding and clear thinking.

"Through our research, we have identified 10 nonprofit models that are commonly used by the largest nonprofits in the United States. (See “Funding Models” on page 37.) Our intent is not to prescribe a single approach for a given nonprofit to pursue. Instead, we hope to help nonprofit leaders articulate more clearly the models that they believe could support the growth of their organizations, and use that insight to examine the potential and constraints associated with those models.

" BENEFICIARIES ARE NOT CUSTOMERS One reason why the nonprofit sector has not developed its own lexicon of funding models is that running a nonprofit is generally more complicated than running a comparable size for-profit business. When a for-profit business finds a way to create value for a customer, it has generally found its source of revenue; the customer pays for the value. With rare exceptions, that is not true in the nonprofit sector. When a nonprofit finds a way to create value for a beneficiary (for example, integrating a prisoner back into society or saving an endangered species), it has not identified its economic engine. That is a separate step."