Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Place Based Policing

This policing strategy directs daily policing efforts towards those areas that show the highest crime rates, but its focus away from specific criminals could be counterproductive; still it is a thoughtful approach worthy of discussion and continued research.

Here is an article about it from Professor Weisburd.

An excerpt from a recent award news release to Professor Weisburd.

“The 2010 Stockholm Prize in Criminology has been awarded by its International Jury to Professor David L. Weisburd for a series of experiments showing that intensified police patrol at high crime "hot spots" does not merely push crime around.

“This line of research encourages police around the world to concentrate crime prevention efforts at less than 5% of all street corners and addresses where over 50% of all urban crime occurs, yielding far less total crime than with conventional patrol patterns.

“The jury selected Weisburd's work on spatial displacement as the most influential single contribution of his wider body of work that has helped to bridge the gap between criminology and police practice. The jury noted that Weisburd has been a leader among the growing number of criminologists whose evidence shows how the application of research findings can help to reduce not only crime, but also the unnecessary impositions on public liberty from policing activities that do not address a predictable crime risk.

“Weisburd's work builds on and adds to other research showing the effectiveness of placing almost all police patrols at street corners, addresses or blocks with high rates of robbery, purse snatching, street fights, or illegal drug markets. Police have generally been reluctant to re-structure most patrols to match the extreme version tested in this research for fear that "spatial displacement" of crime will yield no net reduction in criminal events. This theory holds that, like air in a balloon, criminals and their crimes will simply move from one part of a city to another if pressure is placed on crime at any given location. The competing theory is that most public crime only happens in certain kids of locations, all of which can be made less hospitable to crime by proactive police efforts. Yet until Weisburd's series of crucial experiments, police have widely accepted the spatial displacement theory by spreading patrol out widely."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Government Control of Business

In the context of the current political discussion of the American government’s apparent assumption of adminstrative and financial control of some private businesses—in the auto manufacturing and financial industries as two recent examples—it is instructive to reflect on the words of Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Laborem Exercens: On Human Work.

The point he makes, in the final paragraph, is that you may be merely replacing one monopoly of ownership with another, either of which is bad for the focus of Catholic teaching, protecting the dignity and economic rights of labor, management, and ownership.

An excerpt.

“In the present document, which has human work as its main theme, it is right to confirm all the effort with which the Church's teaching has striven and continues to strive always to ensure the priority of work and, thereby, man's character as a subject in social life and, especially, in the dynamic structure of the whole economic process. From this point of view the position of "rigid" capitalism continues to remain unacceptable, namely the position that defends the exclusive right to private ownership of the means of production as an untouchable "dogma" of economic life. The principle of respect for work demands that this right should undergo a constructive revision, both in theory and in practice. If it is true that capital, as the whole of the means of production, is at the same time the product of the work of generations, it is equally true that capital is being unceasingly created through the work done with the help of all these means of production, and these means can be seen as a great workbench at which the present generation of workers is working day after day. Obviously we are dealing here with different kinds of work, not only so-called manual labour but also the many forms of intellectual work, including white-collar work and management.

“In the light of the above, the many proposals put forward by experts in Catholic social teaching and by the highest Magisterium of the Church take on special significance: proposals for joint ownership of the means of work, sharing by the workers in the management and/or profits of businesses, so-called shareholding by labour, etc. Whether these various proposals can or cannot be applied concretely, it is clear that recognition of the proper position of labour and the worker in the production process demands various adaptations in the sphere of the right to ownership of the means of production. This is so not only in view of older situations but also, first and foremost, in view of the whole of the situation and the problems in the second half of the present century with regard to the so-called Third World and the various new independent countries that have arisen, especially in Africa but elsewhere as well, in place of the colonial territories of the past.

“Therefore, while the position of "rigid" capitalism must undergo continual revision, in order to be reformed from the point of view of human rights, both human rights in the widest sense and those linked with man's work, it must be stated that, from the same point of view, these many deeply desired reforms cannot be achieved by an a priori elimination of private ownership of the means of production. For it must be noted that merely taking these means of production (capital) out of the hands of their private owners is not enough to ensure their satisfactory socialization. They cease to be the property of a certain social group, namely the private owners, and become the property of organized society, coming under the administration and direct control of another group of people, namely those who, though not owning them, from the fact of exercising power in society manage them on the level of the whole national or the local economy.

“This group in authority may carry out its task satisfactorily from the point of view of the priority of labour; but it may also carry it out badly by claiming for itself a monopoly of the administration and disposal of the means of production and not refraining even from offending basic human rights. Thus, merely converting the means of production into State property in the collectivist system is by no means equivalent to "socializing" that property. We can speak of socializing only when the subject character of society is ensured, that is to say, when on the basis of his work each person is fully entitled to consider himself a part-owner of the great workbench at which he is working with every one else. A way towards that goal could be found by associating labour with the ownership of capital, as far as possible, and by producing a wide range of intermediate bodies with economic, social and cultural purposes; they would be bodies enjoying real autonomy with regard to the public powers, pursuing their specific aims in honest collaboration with each other and in subordination to the demands of the common good, and they would be living communities both in form and in substance, in the sense that the members of each body would be looked upon and treated as persons and encouraged to take an active part in the life of the body.”

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Daily Saint Stories

One of the benefits of attending daily mass are the daily saint stories, the ongoing revelations of the stories of the men and women who show by their lives in the Church the path laid out by the Lord.

The Catechism says; “The communion of saints is the Church.” (946)

We see that reflected in the apostolate of today’s saint, Irenaeus, who lived in the second century and dealt brilliantly with one of the deepest heresies of all, Gnosticism, still afflicting the Church through its major tenet: that only the elect have access to the secret knowledge that is the foundation of universal truth.

An excerpt from his story.

“The Church is fortunate that Irenaeus was involved in many of its controversies in the second century. He was a student, well trained, no doubt, with great patience in investigating, tremendously protective of apostolic teaching, but prompted more by a desire to win over his opponents than to prove them in error.

“As bishop of Lyons he was especially concerned with the Gnostics, who took their name from the Greek word for “knowledge.” Claiming access to secret knowledge imparted by Jesus to only a few disciples, their teaching was attracting and confusing many Christians. After thoroughly investigating the various Gnostic sects and their “secret,” Irenaeus showed to what logical conclusions their tenets led. These he contrasted with the teaching of the apostles and the text of Holy Scripture, giving us, in five books, a system of theology of great importance to subsequent times. Moreover, his work, widely used and translated into Latin and Armenian, gradually ended the influence of the Gnostics.”

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Guns & Criminals

Unfortunately, they are as congruent as students and books, and this story from the Denver Post offers a good look from a study by three professors about the criminal’s perspective on guns.

It also notes the fallacy that gun control laws keep guns from criminals, whereas the only sustainable strategy to see guns and the other artifacts of the criminal life be voluntarily given up by individual criminals, is through an internal transformation from being a part of the criminal world to becoming part of the communal world.

An excerpt.

“Guns offer protection, redress grievances, give power and status and are a ticket to a culture where violence is an acceptable fact of life.

“So say 67 men and six women who were in Colorado prisons in 2003 and 2004 serving time for gun crimes. They were interviewed by three Colorado professors who tell the inmates' stories in a book arriving in July called "Guns, Violence, and Criminal Behavior: The Offender's Perspective."

“The book — underwritten by the U.S. Justice Department's Project Safe Neighborhoods program — offers an often-overlooked perspective on the motivations behind gun crime, said Mark Pogrebin, professor of criminal justice at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver.

"It's an explanation really of what happened before, during and after the crime has been committed," Pogrebin said.

“Pogrebin's team included Paul Stretesky, also at the School of Public Affairs at UC Denver, and Prabha Unnithan, professor of sociology at Colorado State University.

“No other alternatives

“Most of the inmates were more than willing to tell their stories, Pogrebin said. They considered themselves average, ordinary people who reacted to circumstances beyond their control, he said.

"Many inmates claimed that they believe that (they) had no other choice in the situation but to use their gun to harm, murder or intimidate another person," said the authors. "To them, it was the only possible choice they could have made at the moment."

“While some were steeped in gang or criminal culture, others who used their guns to kill were not, Pogrebin said….

“The interviews indicated that gun-control laws would have had little effect on the study subjects' criminal behavior. Most got their guns through a variety of ways, including borrowing, stealing and taking them by force, the professor said.”

Friday, June 26, 2009

Spiritual Warfare

In this post from the Catholic Key Blog, the blog, as noted on their site "from the staff of the newspaper for the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph in Missouri," there is an excellent online discussion of the reality—which some Catholics still have difficulty understanding or accepting—of the eternal spiritual warfare that exists (with the Church as ground-zero in many ways) between good and evil.

The Catechism speaks clearly of the spiritual battle against evil.

"409 This dramatic situation of "the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one”makes man's life a battle:

"The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God's grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity."

An excerpt from the post at Catholic Key.

“A number of recent editorials by Catholic Obama partisans have sought to discredit the U.S. Bishops and the pro-life movement as a whole by grossly misappropriating the words of Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn.

“Sometimes with attribution, sometimes without, but never in context, they have ripped four words, “We are at war,” from a 3,981 word address Bishop Finn made to a pro-life convention April 18, and given it meaning and context of their own making.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Broken Windows Policing

Two effective criminal justice technologies are broken-windows policing and three-strikes sentencing, and both are based on focusing on the worst crimogenic aspects of neighborhoods and criminals respectively.

One of the foremost proponents of broken-windows policing, William Bratton, has been the police chief in Los Angeles awhile and garnering excellent reviews, as this recent article in the Los Angeles Times notes.

It appears—from this article on one neighborhood in Cincinnati—that broken-windows policing is called for and one hopes they soon bring it.

An excerpt.

“OVER-THE-RHINE - Two streets in this Cincinnati neighborhood have earned the city the top spot in a national ranking of the 25 most dangerous neighborhoods by a personal finance and consumer Web site, according to data from 2005 through 2007.

“According to walletpop.com, Central Parkway and Liberty Street in Over-the-Rhine are the center of the worst neighborhood, with a violent crime rate of 266.94 per 1,000 population and 457 predicted annual violent crimes.

“There is a 1 in 4 chance in becoming a crime victim in that area in one year's time, the site reports.

“Spokesmen for Cincinnati police and Mayor Mark Mallory did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“According to walletpop.com, the ranking was compiled by NeighborhoodsScout.com, which gathers FBI data from 2005, 2006 and 2007 submitted by all 17,000 local law enforcement agencies and came up with the highest predicted rates of violent crime in America.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Lord

One of the truly great Catholic books—and we are fortunate there are so many—I have discovered is The Lord by Romano Guardini, and when he writes about the reception Jesus receives from his own neighbors in Nazareth as he was teaching in the synagogue, well dear reader, I had to share this excerpt with you.

An excerpt.

“In Nazareth, scandal, flickering since Jesus’ very first words, now flares up. Then it glimmers hidden under the ash. At the end, its roaring conflagration closes over Christ’s head: eternal revolt of the human heart against the bearer of its own salvation.

“Scandal—source of the power that Jesus’ enemies organize against him. They use any ‘reasons’ for their hatred that they can find: that he heals on the Sabbath; that he dines with people of ill repute; that he does not live as an ascetic, and so on. The real reason is never given; invariably it is this mysterious, inexplicable impulse of the fallen human heart revolting against the holiness that is God.

“Thus into the hour glowing with the fullness of holy beauty and truth slash the words: “Is not this Joseph’s son?” and Matthew adds:” Is not his mother called Mary, and his brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Then where did he get all this” (Matthew 13:55-56)

“Jesus forces the enemy to step from his ambush: You doubt me? You whisper: Why doesn’t he work the miracles he has worked elsewhere here in his own city? Let me tell you! There I could work, because there they believed in me; but you do not believe. And why not? Because I am one of you! Beware, what happened to those nearest Elias and Eliseus will happen to you: their own people refused to believe and fell from grace, and the holiness which they denied was given to strangers!

“But the hour is Satan’s. From those who had just witnessed, amazed and moved, the grace and beauty of Jesus’ words, a paroxysm of rage breaks lose. They thrust him out of the synagogue and through the streets of the city to the precipice of the hill on which it lies, to hurl him from it. Rejection of the kingdom’s eternal, inexpressible abundance has become a living possibility. Already the cross stands waiting.

“However, the hour in which “the power of darkness” has its will entirely has not yet come (Luke 22:53); the incident is turned into a demonstration of spiritual power. The strongest things are the stillest. The scene in the temple before Easter, when Jesus single-handed overthrows the tables of the money-lenders and drives the crowds of bartering pilgrims from his Father’s house is striking enough (John 2:14-17). But what occurs here in Nazareth is an even greater proof of spiritual force. The excited mob, infuriated by neighborly hate and general demonic hysteria, surrounds Jesus, drives him up the hill to the brink of the precipice, and tries to force him over it to his death. Suddenly, in the thick of the clamor and chaos, the quiet words: “But he, passing through their midst, went his way.” No return of violence for violence. Soundlessly, effortlessly, divine freedom walks right through the seething mob, its irresistible force bound by nothing on earth but its own “hour.” (Hardcover Edition, pp. 46-47)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Laity as Co-Responsible with Priests

The Catechism teaches that laity has already been deemed to have a collaborative place with Christ’s kingly, priestly, and prophetic offices within the Church, but in May Pope Benedict offered a deeper and more mature perspective of co-responsibility in a speech in Rome, with special relevancy for the work of lay apostolates such as the Lampstand Foundation.

An excerpt.

“There is still a long way to go. Too many of the baptized do not feel part of the ecclesial community and live on its margins, only coming to parishes in certain circumstances to receive religious services. Compared to the number of inhabitants in each parish, the lay people who are ready to work in the various apostolic fields, although they profess to be Catholic, are still few and far between. Of course, social and cultural difficulties abound but faithful to the Lord's mandate, we cannot resign ourselves to preserving what exists. Trusting in the grace of the Spirit which the Risen Christ guaranteed to us, we must continue on our way with renewed energy. What paths can we take? In the first place we must renew our efforts for a formation which is more attentive and focused on the vision of the Church, of which I spoke and this should be both on the part of priests as well as of religious and lay people to understand ever better what this Church is, this People of God in the Body of Christ. At the same time, it is necessary to improve pastoral structures in such a way that the co-responsibility of all the members of the People of God in their entirety is gradually promoted, with respect for vocations and for the respective roles of the consecrated and of lay people. This demands a change in mindset, particularly concerning lay people. They must no longer be viewed as "collaborators" of the clergy but truly recognized as "co-responsible", for the Church's being and action, thereby fostering the consolidation of a mature and committed laity. This common awareness of being Church of all the baptized in no way diminishes the responsibility of parish priests. It is precisely your task, dear parish priests, to nurture the spiritual and apostolic growth of those who are already committed to working hard in the parishes. They form the core of the community that will act as a leaven for the others. Although these communities are sometimes small, to prevent them from losing their identity and vigour they must be taught to listen prayerfully to the word of God through the practice of lectio divina, as the recent Synod of Bishops ardently hoped. Let us truly draw nourishment from listening, from meditating on the word of God. Our communities must not lack the knowledge that they are "Church", because Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, convokes them and makes them his People. Indeed, on the one hand faith is a profoundly personal relationship with God but on the other it possesses an essential community component and the two dimensions are inseparable. Thus young people, who are more exposed to the growing individualism of contemporary culture, the consequences of which inevitably involves the weakening of interpersonal bonds and the enfeeblement of the sense of belonging, will also taste the beauty and joy of being and feeling Church. Through faith in God we are united in the Body of Christ and all become united in the same Body. Thus, precisely by profoundly believing we may achieve communion among ourselves and emerge from the loneliness of individualism.”

Monday, June 22, 2009

Drug Legalization

It is an issue that has generated much debate—as we posted on earlier this month—and appears to becoming moot in Mexico which is due to sign a bill allowing possession of small amounts, according to this story in the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

“Reporting from Mexico City — Could Mexican cities become Latin Amsterdams, flooded by drug users seeking penalty-free tokes and toots?

“That is the fear, if somewhat overstated, of some Mexican officials, especially in northern border states that serve as a mecca for underage drinkers from the United States.

“The anxiety stems from the Mexican legislature's quiet vote to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs, an effort that in the past proved controversial.

“There's been less protest this time, in part because there hasn't been much publicity.

“Some critics have suggested that easing the punishment for drug possession sends the wrong message while President Felipe Calderon is waging a bloody war against major narcotics traffickers. The battle between law enforcement authorities and drug suspects has claimed more than 11,000 lives since he took office in late 2006.

“But it was Calderon who proposed the decriminalization legislation.

“His reasoning: It makes sense to distinguish between small-time users and big-time dealers, while re-targeting major crime-fighting resources away from the consumers and toward the dealers and their drug lord bosses.

"The important thing is . . . that consumers are not treated as criminals," said Rafael Ruiz Mena, secretary general of the National Institute of Penal Sciences. "It is a public health problem, not a penal problem."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Little Flower in Prison

The relics of the saint, who wrote the wonderful autobiography, Story of a Soul, and who was made a doctor of the Church—one of three women so honored—by Pope John Paul II, is being brought into an English prison in October, as reported by the Catholic Herald of Great Britain.

An excerpt.

“The relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux are to be taken into a high-security London jail as part of a visit to England and Wales this year.

“A casket containing some of the bones of the "Little Flower" will spend October 12 in Wormwood Scrubs.

“The prison is home to nearly 1,300 adult male prisoners, about 300 of whom are Catholic. All are classed as category B on a scale of A to D, meaning it is necessary for prison authorities to make escape "extremely difficult".

“Mgr Keith Baltrop, the tour organiser, said the idea was to give prisoners a chance to pray for the intercession of St Thérèse, a French Carmelite nun who was described by Pope Pius X as the "greatest saint of modern times".

“He said it was important to take the relics to "places not just where the faithful gather but where she is most needed".

“He said: "We are taking her to the big Church of England chapel and the relics are going there for approximately three and a half hours. They will be left there and it will be left for the prison authorities to enable as many people as possible to come and venerate them."

“He added: "God has made her a particular figure for our modern age. She was extremely humble but she had this sense that she was going to be a great saint. God had chosen her to be a powerful channel of grace…

“St Thérèse, who died in 1897 from tuberculosis at the age of 24, also said that she intended to spend her time in heaven "doing good on earth".

“She is famous for her theology of the "little way" - carrying out even the smallest and most mundane daily tasks or deeds with love. She was made one of just three women doctors of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

“She is considered such a powerful intercessor that in 1927, as the Soviet Union fell into the grip of Stalinist Communism, she was named by Pope Pius XI as the patron saint of all works for Russia, as well as a co-patron saint of France and co-patron of the missions. Her relics were flown to Baghdad in December 2002 in the hope that her intercession would prevent the Iraq war.”

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Encyclical & Personalism

As we await the release of Pope Benedict’s third encyclical—said to be on the social teaching about economics—this hint from Inside the Vatican indicates that Pope Benedict will be relying on thinking from two Catholic philosophers of the last century, Jacques Maritain and Emmanuel Mounier.

Maritain’s works played a role in my conversion to Catholicism, and I came to appreciate Mounier—who also influenced Dorothy Day—by reading his book A Personalist Manifesto, whose first sentence is: “We shall apply the term personalist to any doctrine or any civilization that affirms the primacy of the human person over material necessities and over the whole complex of implements man needs for the development of his person.” (1938, p. 1)

An excerpt from the Inside the Vatican article.

“I was told today that one of the Pope's advisors on the upcoming encyclical is Father Mario Toso, a professor of Social Philosophy at the Pontifical Salesian University, and from 2003 to 2007 the Rector Magnificus of the university. This role has not been officially confirmed, but it makes sense: Toso is one of the leading social philosophers in Italy, and he is a Salesian, a member of the order of Don Bosco... and the Salesians are now in the ascendant in Rome, with the leading Salesian in the Curia being the highest official after the Pope, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State.

“Father Toso has studied the political personalism of Jacques Maritain and Emmanuel Mounier, and researched the democratic populism of the great Italian priest, Fr. Luigi Sturzo.

“Toso is among the few Catholic thinkers who in his studies has reflected on the nature of the welfare state. He has proposed a new social consensus based on the common search for the genuine good of mankind. As a Consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, he has taken part in studies on non-violence and problems of land distribution.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

Year for Priests

The Year for Priests begins today and the magnificent priest who is held up as a model is the Cure of Ars, John Mary Vianney.

Fr. Vianney is my birth saint and as such I have read much of the material about him, but the most wonderful is the book of his sermons: Sermons of the Cure of Ars: Sermons for all the Sundays and Feast Days of the Year, and fortunately, there is a website that has extensive excerpts of his sermons.

Benedict XVI announced the Year for Priests.

An excerpt .

“Dear Brother Priests,

“On the forthcoming Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday 19 June 2009 – a day traditionally devoted to prayer for the sanctification of the clergy –, I have decided to inaugurate a “Year for Priests” in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the “dies natalis” of John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests worldwide. This Year, meant to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world, will conclude on the same Solemnity in 2010. "The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus”, the saintly Curé of Ars would often say. This touching expression makes us reflect, first of all, with heartfelt gratitude on the immense gift which priests represent, not only for the Church, but also for humanity itself. I think of all those priests who quietly present Christ’s words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world, striving to be one with the Lord in their thoughts and their will, their sentiments and their style of life. How can I not pay tribute to their apostolic labours, their tireless and hidden service, their universal charity? And how can I not praise the courageous fidelity of so many priests who, even amid difficulties and incomprehension, remain faithful to their vocation as “friends of Christ”, whom he has called by name, chosen and sent?

“I still treasure the memory of the first parish priest at whose side I exercised my ministry as a young priest: he left me an example of unreserved devotion to his pastoral duties, even to meeting death in the act of bringing viaticum to a gravely ill person. I also recall the countless confreres whom I have met and continue to meet, not least in my pastoral visits to different countries: men generously dedicated to the daily exercise of their priestly ministry. Yet the expression of Saint John Mary also makes us think of Christ’s pierced Heart and the crown of thorns which surrounds it. I am also led to think, therefore, of the countless situations of suffering endured by many priests, either because they themselves share in the manifold human experience of pain or because they encounter misunderstanding from the very persons to whom they minister. How can we not also think of all those priests who are offended in their dignity, obstructed in their mission and persecuted, even at times to offering the supreme testimony of their own blood?

“There are also, sad to say, situations which can never be sufficiently deplored where the Church herself suffers as a consequence of infidelity on the part of some of her ministers. Then it is the world which finds grounds for scandal and rejection. What is most helpful to the Church in such cases is not only a frank and complete acknowledgment of the weaknesses of her ministers, but also a joyful and renewed realization of the greatness of God’s gift, embodied in the splendid example of generous pastors, religious afire with love for God and for souls, and insightful, patient spiritual guides. Here the teaching and example of Saint John Mary Vianney can serve as a significant point of reference for us all. The Curé of Ars was quite humble, yet as a priest he was conscious of being an immense gift to his people: “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy”. He spoke of the priesthood as if incapable of fathoming the grandeur of the gift and task entrusted to a human creature: “O, how great is the priest! … If he realized what he is, he would die… God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host…”. Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the sacraments, he would say: “Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest… After God, the priest is everything! … Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is”. These words, welling up from the priestly heart of the holy pastor, might sound excessive. Yet they reveal the high esteem in which he held the sacrament of the priesthood. He seemed overwhelmed by a boundless sense of responsibility: “Were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright, but of love… Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth… What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods … Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshiping the beasts there … The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you”.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


One of the great Thomist scholars was Josef Pieper (1904-1997), and one of his greatest books is The Four Cardinal Virtues.

In it he writes about the foundational interiority that governs exteriority, and in this excerpt writes about the apparent contradiction between Christ’s teaching of turn the other cheek with his behavior of not turning the other cheek when struck by the servant when he was before the high priest. (John 18:23)

“Thomas Aquinas, in his commentary on St/ John’s Gospel, has pointed to the apparent contradiction between this scene…and the injunction of the Sermon on the Mount: “I say unto you, resist not evil, if one strike you on the right cheek, offer him the other” (Matt 5:39). A passivistic exegesis is quite unable to solve this “contradiction.” Thomas explains (in agreement with Augustine): “Holy Scripture must be understood in the light of what Christ and the saints have actually practiced. Christ did not offer His other cheek, nor Paul either. Thus to interpret the injunction of the Sermon on the Mount literally is to misunderstand it. This injunction signifies rather the readiness of the soul to bear, if it be necessary, such things and worse, without bitterness against the attacker. This readiness our Lord showed, when He gave up His body to be crucified. That response of the Lord was useful, therefore, for our instruction.” (p. 132)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hello Good Men

Written by Michael S. Rose, the author of Goodbye Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church in 2002 , his book Priest: Portraits of Ten Good Men Serving the Church Today, written in 2003, is an excellent book, wonderful reading, and eternally relevant.

Many of us—including your blogger—are very fortunate to attend a parish with magnificent priests; but many of the faithful are stuck with the kind of priests written about in Goodbye…and reading Priest reminds us that there are many great priests out there, and that the Church will always, until the final triumph, battle attacks against its priests from the gates of hell.

An excerpt.

“Although each priest featured in the chapters that follow has played his own unique role in today’s Church, together they share a number of similarities. Each understands and accepts the teachings of the Catholic Church. Each understands and accepts the role of the priest in the Church and in society. Each loves his vocation as a priest and actively encourages and promotes other such vocations. Each faithfully serves the Church, doing what priests were ordained to do: offering the sacraments, preaching the gospel, teaching the Faith, and leading souls to Christ and eternal salvation. At the same time, each understands the many challenges that confront the Church today, and the many obstacles and temptations with which priests must contend. Not one expresses himself with the intent of minimizing the challenges or downplaying the many struggles. Each understands and acknowledges that this particular calling is not for the faint of heart.

“In the words of one priest: “No wimps need apply.”

“All is not well in the priesthood today—but neither was it in apostolic times. After all, the twelve Apostles were the Church’s first priests. Peter denied Christ thee times; nine other apostles were cowards who dared not follow Jesus to Golgotha; and Judas, the first “bad priest,” betrayed the innocent blood of his Lord. That leaves only John, “the apostle whom Jesus loved” (cf. John 20:2). Nevertheless, it is not the priesthood that is the problem—not today and not in apostolic times. The problem is more often than not a failure of young men to hear and faithfully answer their calling; a failure of seminaries and bishops to form and educate their future priests properly; a failure of the ordained to focus on the duties of their state in life; and a failure of the laity to offer the proper spiritual and moral support for their pastoral leaders.” (pp. ix-x)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Persuasion Reducing Youth Crime?

Though this treatment program, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, which uses the hammer of criminal evidence behind the words of persuasion, and its cousin restorative justice, may be effective in turning some youthful offenders from a life of crime—according to larger studies like the Los Angeles study documented in the book No Matter how Loud I Shout and the Orange County study documented in the book the 8% Solution—effectiveness is as often as much due to the arrest itself as any subsequent treatment.

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

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

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

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

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

The 8% Problem

A six year study, that was published in neighboring Orange County, California covering the period between 1987-1993 and based on a different cohort structure, corroborated many of these finding, but came up with the figure of 8% of youthful criminals who were responsible for fully 55% of juvenile crime.

As Schumacher and Kurz (2000) note.

“To answer these questions, our research staff examined two groups of first-time offenders, one with 3,304 youths who were charged with crimes during the first 6 months of 1985 and another with 3,164 juveniles facing criminal charges in the first 6 months of 1987. All these youths were initially tracked for 3 years, and representative subsamples were followed for 6 years.

“What our research staff discovered surprises most people. As table 1.1 shows, the vast majority of these kids (70%) committed just one crime during the 3-year tracking period. They committed no additional crimes in Orange County, which the police sought to bring to juvenile court’s attention during these 3 years…Another 22% were accused on one or two more crimes (for a total of two or three crimes) during the 3-year follow-up period, but their criminal careers also appeared to end.

“In addition, there was this small, but very troublesome, 8%. These youths, like Gina, were arrested repeatedly. In fat, this 8% of first-time offenders went on to comprise 55% of our repeat cases…

“From our 7-year study, we found that more than half of the 8% Problem kids continued lives of crime as young adults. As Table 1.2 shows, these serious, chronic juvenile offenders were formally handled by Orange County’s justice system an average of eight times and served nearly 20 months in adult and juvenile custody facilities in the 6-year follow-up period.” (The 8% Solution: Preventing Serious, Repeat, Juvenile Crime) pp. 4-5)

An excerpt from the Wall Street Journal article.

“Developed by David Kennedy, a criminologist at John Jay College in New York, the crime program combines elements of initiatives run in the 1990s in Boston and in High Point in 2004 that were credited by authorities with helping reduce youth gang and drug violence. Boston authorities say their program cut youth homicides by two-thirds and homicides citywide by half. The High Point plan eliminated drug markets citywide, the city says.

“Under the project, law-enforcement officials and prosecutors in the cities identify individuals operating in violent-crime areas who haven't yet committed serious violent crimes, and build cases against them, including undercover operations and surveillance. The culmination is a "call in" when the case is presented to the would-be suspect in front of law enforcement, community leaders, ex-offenders and friends and family.

"The prosecutor talks to them and lets them know: 'we could arrest you now but we won't because the drug dealing stops today, the violence stops today,'" said Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay. "If you continue, you now know the consequences and you've seen the case against you but we don't want to send you to prison."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Prison Ministry Degrees & College Programs

Education for criminals, inside or outside prison, is a winner all around and one hopes to see these types of programs, reported by USA Today, expanded

An excerpt.

“Several religiously based schools offer educational programs in prison.

“Liberty University in Virginia, New York Theological Seminary and Mercy College are among them, according to Mark Early, president of Prison Fellowship, a national prison ministry.

“Columbia International University, a conservative Christian school, operates a degree program in South Carolina, graduating 15 inmates in December. At New York's Sing Sing Prison, more than 100 convicts have completed the Mercy College program, Early said. Forty-five have been released and haven't returned to prison.

"This is very effective," he said.

“At the Parchman graduation, inmates draped caps and gowns over black-and-white prison stripes. The nearly two-hour commencement ceremony at the sprawling Mississippi Delta prison included guitar-heavy renditions of "Amazing Grace" and "Knocking on Heaven's Door," performed by the prison gospel band, L.I.F.E, an acronym for Living in Fellowship Everyday with God.

"Thank you for giving us the crimes that we committed," Thomas C. Smith prayed. "That we might be agents of change right here in this prison."

“Among the graduates was Jerry Mettetal who entered Parchman 20 years ago on a life sentence for killing a sheriff's deputy and another person.

"This will be my new job," said Mettetal, a former member of the Simon City Royal prison gang. "I came here and for a long time I didn't care. God allowed something to come into this prison to show that people can change."

“James Wash, serving a life term for murder, said some inmates had to survive beatings to be released from prison gangs. When he left a gang to earn a bachelor's degree, Wash said he was only "questioned" by the members.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Criminal Justice Overhaul?

America’s criminal justice system has been overhauled before and the results haven’t been so good, posted here, and this new attempt, as noted by the Huffington Post, based on a perspective that begins by seeing effective police work filling prisons as somehow bad, rather than the individual choices responsible for people becoming criminals, will probably suffer the same fate.

That being said, we always wish those who attempt to make things better with the criminal justice system, the very best, and our prayers are with this newest effort should it come into being.

An excerpt.

“America's criminal justice system is broken.

“How broken? The numbers are stark:

“• The United States has 5% of the world's population, yet possesses 25% of the world's prison population;

“• More than 2.38 million Americans are now in prison, and another 5 million remain on probation or parole. That amounts to 1 in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release;

“• Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980, up from 41,000 to 500,000 in 2008; and

“• 60% of offenders are arrested for non-violent offensives--many driven by mental illness or drug addiction.”

Saturday, June 13, 2009

American Babylon

As a fan of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus I recently bought his last book, American Babylon, and am working my way through it, savoring his writing and thinking, so was very happy to see this review from George Weigel.

An excerpt.

“He was an amazingly prolific writer, but the late Father Richard John Neuhaus was also finicky about writing. He would personally review the galleys of each issue of First Things, the journal he founded, which was one reason the magazine was a pleasure to read: it was edited, and re-edited, and then edited again. But Richard was particularly finicky about his books. Last August, in what turned out to have been the last of our twenty-two summer vacations together, he sat in his cottage on the Ottawa River and, pounding away on his beloved MacBookPro, edited, and reworked, and then re-edited the book that is now his posthumous literary valedictory -- American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile (Basic Books).

American Babylon is vintage Neuhaus, in several senses of the term. It deepens themes Richard had been exploring since Time Toward Home (1975) and The Naked Public Square (1984), especially the continually vexed question of Church-and-state. It includes perhaps his most developed reflection on the importance of living Judaism for Christianity. It takes up the cudgels in defense of life and sharply critiques the "immortality project" with which some scientists are obsessed.

“There is a notable chapter on Richard Rorty, one of the most influential of contemporary American philosophers, whose pragmatic case for democracy Neuhaus found perilously thin. And there is the final version of a famous lecture to which Richard gave the deliberately provocative title, "Can an Atheist Be a Good Citizen?" (Answer: Yes, but only accidentally.)

“Above all, and tying it all together, is Richard Neuhaus's profound conviction that this gloriously messy, often maddening, sometimes exhilarating business we call "living here and now" is time spent on the way to Somewhere Else -- "time toward home," as he called it in that earlier book, time toward the New Jerusalem, time toward life within the light and love of the Holy Trinity. Richard Neuhaus loved this life, as he loved New York City and as he loved America. Yet, above those loves and giving those loves meaning was his love of Christ and Christ's Church. For RJN was a radically converted Christian disciple who believed with the author of the Letter to the Hebrews that "here we have no lasting city," because everything about this city, about life here and now, is directed toward "the city which is to come" [Hebrews 13.14].”

Friday, June 12, 2009

Secularism and the Church

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post where the power of secularism to render impotent the Post Vatican II generation of priests for whom walking the talk was no longer as important as talking the walk, and envisions an emerging Church where the balance is returning to the former; this article from Catholic Thing remarks on another aspect of that future.

An excerpt.

“This Christian world came to mind while reading the remarkable interview with the great French scholar, Rémi Brague, in his new book The Legend of the Middle Ages (University of Chicago, 2009). The interview is full of amazing things about Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and the modern age. I want to comment on the last point raised by the interviewer: “Why do you remain Christian?” Brague is amused – at the question itself.

“For Brague, the question presupposes that “Christians are a rearguard made up of people who haven’t caught on yet.” All is over for them. Only dullards do not know. In Europe, are the Christian churches “declining?” In fact, in Europe, Europeans are “declining” faster than Christians.

“Brague cites a 1944 essay of Benedetto Croce, “Why We Cannot Not Call Ourselves ‘Christians.’” The answer was that all that was worthwhile in Christianity is now found in modern secularism. To deny secularism is to deny its Christian roots. But modern secularism also eliminated things intrinsic to Christianity, like, among other things, the Incarnation and some of the Ten Commandments.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Special Year for Priests

Tomorrow begins the special Priestly Year called by Pope Benedict XVI, and as, for most of the faithful, the primary relationship with the Church comes through her priests, it is crucial they be able to provide us with dogmatic guidance and constancy of teaching from the heart of the Church, and that has not always been the case, especially over the past several decades.

In this article from Chiesa, an introduction to a recent speech by the Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop Jean-Loius Bruges, sets the tone.

An excerpt.

“Archbishop Bruguès, 66, a Dominican, was bishop of Angers until 2007. In addition to being secretary of the congregation for Catholic education, he is vice president of the pontifical work for ecclesiastical vocations and a member of the commission for the formation of candidates for the priesthood. He is also an academic at the St. Thomas Aquinas pontifical academy.

“His speech to seminary rectors doesn't use any curial language at all. It is unusually frank. In no uncertain terms, it describes and denounces the failures following the council, in Europe in particular, including the astonishing ignorance on elementary points of doctrine that is found today in young men entering the seminary.

“This ignorance is so significant that one of the remedies recommended by Archbishop Bruguès is the dedication of an entire year at the seminary to the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“The Catechism "ad parochos" was another of the milestones of the Tridentine reform. Four centuries later, we're there again.

“Here is the speech of the secretary of the congregation for Catholic education to the rectors of the pontifical seminaries, published by "L'Osservatore Romano" on June 3, 2009:

“Formation for the priesthood, between secularism and models of the Church

“by Jean-Louis Bruguès

“It is always risky to explain a social situation on the basis of a single interpretation. Nonetheless, some keys open more doors than others do. I have long been convinced of the fact that secularization has become a key word for thinking about our societies today, but also about our Church.

“Secularization represents a historical process that is very old, having emerged in France in the middle of the 18th century before spreading to all modern societies. Nevertheless, the secularization of society varies greatly from one country to another.

“In France and Belgium, for example, it tends to prohibit signs of religious membership in public, and to push faith back into the private sphere. The same tendency can be seen, but with much less strength, in Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain. In the United States, however, secularization harmonizes easily with the public expression of religious convictions: we saw this also during the last presidential election.

“Over the past decade, an extremely interesting discussion has emerged among the specialists. Until it began, it seemed that it had to be taken for granted that European-style secularization constituted the rule and model, while the American kind constituted the exception. Now, however, there are many - Jürgen Habermas, for example - who think that the opposite is true, and that the religions will play a new social role in postmodern Europe as well.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Identity Thinking

Though identity thinking is certainly a central part of our work—as we believe that it takes a reformed criminal to reform criminals—identity thinking is not all good in all areas; however, in terms of understanding a certain perspective and analyzing it for clues to behavior and possible transformative action, it can be very helpful.

An example is this recent column from the Wall Street Journal about post-racial politics, which could only have been written by a member of the same race as its protagonist.

An excerpt.

“President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court points to a dilemma that will likely plague his presidency: How does a "post-racialist" president play identity politics?

“What is most notable about the Sotomayor nomination is its almost perfect predictability. Somehow we all simply know -- like it or not -- that Hispanics are now overdue for the gravitas of high office. And our new post-racialist president is especially attuned to this chance to have a "first" under his belt, not to mention the chance to further secure the Hispanic vote. And yet it was precisely the American longing for post-racialism -- relief from this sort of racial calculating -- that lifted Mr. Obama into office.

“The Sotomayor nomination commits the cardinal sin of identity politics: It seeks to elevate people more for the political currency of their gender and ethnicity than for their individual merit. (Here, too, is the ugly faithlessness in minority merit that always underlies such maneuverings.) Mr. Obama is promising one thing and practicing another, using his interracial background to suggest an America delivered from racial corruption even as he practices a crude form of racial patronage. From America's first black president, and a man promising the "new," we get a Supreme Court nomination that is both unoriginal and hackneyed.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More Catholics in US

There are 1 million new Catholics in the US Church, according to this report from the Catholic News Service.

An excerpt.

“Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2009 / 02:57 am (CNA).- The 2009 Official Catholic Directory has released new statistics on the Catholic population. The directory shows that there are 68.1 million Catholics in the United States, an increase of about one million from the previous year which maintains Catholics as 22 percent of the U.S. population.

“The directory, also known as the Kenedy Directory, reports that there are 41,489 diocesan and religious order priests, 60,715 religious sisters, 4,905 religious brothers and 16,935 permanent deacons. In 2008 there were 887,145 infant baptisms, 42,629 adult baptisms, and 81,775 baptized Christians who entered full communion with the Church. The Kenedy Directory lists 18,674 parishes, including 91 new parishes, and 189 seminaries with 4,973 students.”

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Lord & The Trinity

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday and last night I came across this paragraph in the most wonderful book, The Lord, by Romano Guardini:

“Jesus’ every act is governed by the Father; hence the Spirit (through which the Lord was conceived and made man) is always with him, for it is the bond of love uniting Father and Son. Yet we read that the Holy Spirit “comes” over Jesus, just as one day, sent forth from the Father, it will come over all whom Jesus calls his own. The intellect cannot cope with such paradoxes, though it somehow senses the reality beyond all reality, the truth beyond all truth. Precisely here lies the danger. The mind must never allow itself to be misled into seeming ‘comprehension,’ into facile sensations or phrases with nothing solid behind them. The whole problem is a mystery, the sacred mystery of the relationship of the triune God to his incarnate Son. We can never penetrate it, and knowledge of this incapacity must dominate our every thought and statement concerning Jesus’ life.” (p. 27)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mary, Our Holy Mother

In this article from the Bishop of Phoenix, Mary’s maternity, even to the criminals of the city of man, is eloquently described.

An excerpt.

“The Immaculate with the maculate

“Mary’s preservation from sin did not remove her from contact with sinners, neither did her virginity. On the contrary, her whole mission in life was to make it possible for the Eternal Word to rub shoulders with liars and beggars and to eat at table with Pharisees and tax collectors and other people of ill repute. By becoming the Mother of the Savior, she made it possible for the Son of God to become the Son of Man.

“Mary’s holiness is indeed one of exceptional beauty. No trace of sin ever touched her soul. But her mission is totally bound up with that of her Son. Like Him, she reaches out in love to all the children of Adam. Her “Fiat” makes possible His Incarnation. It also makes possible her mission as mother of all the faithful. Recall Jesus’ words from the Cross, “Woman, behold your son.”

“Archbishop Fulton Sheen described her maternity in this way: “The Immaculate is with the maculate, the sinless with the sinner… In her purity, Mary is on the mountaintop; in her compassion, she is amid curses, death cells, hangmen, executioners and blood… Mary’s cooperation was so real and active that she stood at the foot of the Cross. In every representation of the Crucifixion, the Magdalen is prostrate; she is almost always at the feet of Our Lord. But Mary is standing.”

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Legalize Drugs?

According to this article by the Police Executive Research Forum, the legalization of drugs has not gained any traction, but it would still seem that it is certainly an issue deserving of further discussion.

The prominent Catholic and public policy/political thinker, William F. Buckley, makes a good case for legalization and is joined by several others from related fields in this symposium sponsored by National Review in 1996, which is still very relevant.

An excerpt from Buckley’s opening statement to the symposium.

“We are speaking of a plague that consumes an estimated $75 billion per year of public money, exacts an estimated $70 billion a year from consumers, is responsible for nearly 50 per cent of the million Americans [twice that today] who are today in jail, occupies an estimated 50 per cent of the trial time of our judiciary, and takes the time of 400,000 policemen -- yet a plague for which no cure is at hand, nor in prospect. …

“A conservative should evaluate the practicality of a legal constriction, as for instance in those states whose statute books continue to outlaw sodomy, which interdiction is unenforceable, making the law nothing more than print-on-paper. I came to the conclusion that the so-called war against drugs was not working, that it would not work absent a change in the structure of the civil rights to which we are accustomed and to which we cling as a valuable part of our patrimony. And that therefore if that war against drugs is not working, we should look into what effects the war has, a canvass of the casualties consequent on its failure to work. That consideration encouraged me to weigh utilitarian principles: the Benthamite calculus of pain and pleasure introduced by the illegalization of drugs….

“Curiosity naturally flows to ask, next, How many users of illegal drugs in fact die from the use of them? The answer is complicated in part because marijuana finds itself lumped together with cocaine and heroin, and nobody has ever been found dead from marijuana. The question of deaths from cocaine is complicated by the factor of impurity. It would not be useful to draw any conclusions about alcohol consumption, for instance, by observing that, in 1931, one thousand Americans died from alcohol consumption if it happened that half of those deaths, or more than half, were the result of drinking alcohol with toxic ingredients extrinsic to the drug as conventionally used. When alcohol was illegal, the consumer could never know whether he had been given relatively harmless alcohol to drink -- such alcoholic beverages as we find today in the liquor store -- or whether the bootlegger had come up with paralyzing rotgut. By the same token, purchasers of illegal cocaine and heroin cannot know whether they are consuming a drug that would qualify for regulated consumption after clinical analysis.”

Friday, June 5, 2009

Human Sacredness & Cloning

The sacredness of human life is at the center of Catholic dogma, but often creates some confusion when discussing the issues of stem cell research or human cloning; both being medical technologies that are presented as being of help to humanity.

In this piece from the EWTN library, first published in L’Osservatore Romano, the theologian from the Papal Household reflects on cloning and helps us understand why it is forbidden within Catholicism.

An excerpt.

“The transmission of human life has always been viewed as a mystery, not in the sense that the biological functions were unknown, but in the sense that there is something great and inscrutable happening in this moment that cannot be fully fathomed by empirical observation and deserves respect. Human life is marked by an inherent sanctity. For this reason the transmission of human life is distinguished semantically from the transmission of the life of plants and animals. One is called "procreation" and the other is called "reproduction". The prefix pro- in procreation refers to a vicarious function. It is God who creates out of nothing an immortal human soul and gives it to every child that is conceived. This divine gift is received not only by the child that begins its human existence. It is also received in the moral sense by the parents of the child who fulfil the gravest mission of transmitting life (cf. the opening lines of Paul VI's Encyclical: Humanae vitae tradendae munus gravissivum) and of loving and educating the child that they have received from God. And even if the parents fail in their responsibilities, God does not fail because "God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice" (Rom 11:29). When the conceiving of a child takes place as a result of sinful adultery, incest, rape or is in vitro, God continues to create an immortal soul for the child, even though the participation of the parents in this transmission of human life is tainted by egoism, aggression, irresponsibility or manipulative pride. The transmission of the life of plants and animals is different, because plants and animals have no immortal soul and so no personal dignity, and that is why it is simply termed "reproduction". They exist not only for themselves but ultimately in view of the needs of humanity (cf. Gn 1:28-29).”

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Keeping the Faith

Holding on to the spiritual truths of our Catholic faith in a world that seems to spin on an axis of materialism, and too often finds evil in the ascendency, is difficult at best and life threatening at worst, as the continuing martyrdom of Catholics around the globe reveal.

But it can and must be done. Eternity demands it, truth calls us to it, and we know in our deepest hearts that the Word prevails, even against the gates of hell and beyond.

In a related article, The Catholic Thing reflects on a threat to the faith.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bishops: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

In the sexual abuse horrors of the past several years within the Church, well documented in many books, reports, and news stories but best compiled in these five: Goodbye Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church, by Michael S. Rose (2002), The Rite of Sodomy: Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church, by Randy Engel (2006), After Asceticism: Sex, Prayer and Deviant Priests, by Patrick Guinan (2006), The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture, by Philip F. Lawler (2008), and Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, by Leon J. Podles (2008)—we learn how bishops should not act; some were merely bad and some were very ugly.

All five of these will be tough reading for the faithful, but absolutley necessary to understand the evil that can arise, even within the Church, and without understanding it we cannot fight against it with our deepened prayer and devotional life.

In this article from California Catholic Daily, we learn how bishops should be; good, and effective.

An excerpt.

"What qualities best equip today's bishop to fight the culture war? That's the question I posed in a survey of Catholic authors and activists, priests and scholars. It brought a flurry of thoughtful responses.

“1. A bishop must be personally holy.

“David Tennessen, author of Dave's Digest, a pro-life news summary, identified several important qualities that serve a bishop at the crossroads of the culture war. One stood at the forefront, however: "The first and most fundamental quality any bishop must have is personal holiness." Tennessen believes that bishops who pray the Divine Office, make regular retreats, and schedule regular confessions for themselves are better equipped to serve as Christ's emissaries.

“In fact, it could be argued that the other habits of an effective bishop flow from this first habit. "The second quality necessary to be a good bishop," Tennessen offered, "is the ability to teach, which is his primary obligation…[and] reading the lives of the saints has shown me that the bishops who are holy make the best teachers."

“And so, holiness must be the foundation of any successful bishopric. "If a bishop has personal holiness," Tennessen concluded, "God will fill in anything else that might be missing."

“Tennessen wasn't the only one to observe that a bishop is most effective when his commitment to personal prayer is strong. One Atlanta priest noted, "How does one follow Christ if one is not on his knees? Think of Christ on His knees in Gethsemane. The Catechism is clear, 'Although Christ's ministers act in communion with one another they also act in a personal way.'" The citation continues, "Each one is called personally: 'You follow Me' in order to be a personal witness…to bear personal responsibility…."

“2. A bishop must promote and defend the authentic Catholic Faith.

"One frequently mentioned quality of a strong bishop is his willingness to stand up for the truth, no matter the cost (often paid in media uproar). Indeed, for 2,000 years, bishops have been among the chief defenders of the Faith -- from the early Church, through the Reformation, and to the modern era. Our contemporary shepherds must continue that venerable tradition.

“Happily, respondents offered some excellent examples. Francis Cardinal George of Chicago was often praised for his "devastating" and repeated critiques of dissent. Professor Gerard Bradley of Notre Dame observed that Cardinal George is also "extraordinary and exemplary for his untiring and fearless and unblinking intellectual engagement with the challenge of militant secularism."

“Many others recalled Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz's refusal to permit Catholics in his diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, to be members of Planned Parenthood, the dissident Catholic organization Call to Action, or to maintain any Masonic affiliation and still be considered in good standing with the Church.

"What I find most admirable in him," said Phil Lawler of the Catholic World Report, "is his willingness directly to acknowledge and confront the most serious problem in the Church in America today: the manifest failure of the bishops, as a group, to provide pastoral leadership."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gates of Silence

It is often difficult to comprehend that in the world we live in, with its constant flurry of change, that there remains a bedrock of reality that has not changed, ever.

The revealed truths of the Catholic Church embedded within scripture and tradition comprise the reality underlying and superseding the phantasmagoria passing for reality we witness as it roars around us.

Discovering the still silence where the small voice of eternity can be heard is why daily mass exists, why adoration exists, why prayer exists, and it is through those gates of silence you and I enter for our greatest treasure.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Crime Down in 2008

In what is very good news, it appears that crime rates have fallen in 2008, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report news release.

If these preliminary figures hold, it would be a good marker for 2009 to see if the poor economy causes a crime rate increase.

An excerpt.

“Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation reported a decrease of 2.5 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention in 2008 when compared to figures reported for 2007. The violent crime category includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The number of property crimes in the United States from January to December of 2008 decreased 1.6 percent when compared to data from the same time period in 2007. Property crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Arson is also a property crime, but data for arson are not included in property crime totals. Figures for 2008 indicated that arson decreased 3.9 percent when compared to 2007 figures.”