Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Felons in Nursing Homes

Ever since I was taught by Carole Herman, founder of Foundation Aiding the Elderly, who helps seniors across the country, about what goes on in nursing homes to our parents and grandparents unlucky enough to wind up in a bad one—and there are far too many that are very bad—I have been concerned about the issue.

Carole is one of a group of people whose selfless work I had admired for years and when I converted to Catholicism, I discovered all of them were Catholic; which told me a lot about the Church’s teaching and the impact it has had on many people.

This article from the Chicago Tribune reveals the additional problems when nursing homes begin accepting offenders whose continued criminal activity now becomes directed against one of the most defenseless populations in our country.

An excerpt.

“An elderly woman is raped in her room, and police arrest a 21-year-old ex-convict with acute psychiatric problems. When the victim is interviewed by investigators five days later, she shakes with fear.

“A frail man blind in one eye is slashed in the throat by a gang member, police say. About a year earlier, the same assailant allegedly had stabbed him in the face with an ice pick.

“A man in a wheelchair dies of head injuries so severe that his doctor says it looked like he was hit with a baseball bat. One of the suspects is a 24-year-old mentally ill woman with a history of drug use and prostitution.

“These incidents didn't happen on a street corner, in an alley or inside a drug house.

“They all took place inside Illinois nursing homes in the last 17 months, highlighting a new, volatile environment in some facilities where the elderly and sick expect a measure of care and peace.

“More than any other state, Illinois relies heavily on nursing homes to house mentally ill patients, including those who have committed crimes. But a Tribune investigation found that government, law enforcement and the industry have failed to adequately manage the resulting influx of younger residents who shuttle into nursing facilities from jail cells, shelters and psychiatric wards.

“Mentally ill patients now constitute more than 15 percent of the state's total nursing home population of 92,225, government records show, and the number of residents convicted of serious felonies has increased to 3,000. Among them are 82 convicted murderers, 179 sex offenders and 185 armed robbers.

“Yet the state's background checks on new residents are riddled with errors and omissions that understate their criminal records, the Tribune found, and homes with the most felons are among those with the lowest nursing staff levels.

“Meanwhile, state authorities don't track assaults and other crimes in nursing homes, making it difficult to uncover patterns and address the problems caused by unstable individuals.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Our New Parish, Our New Priest

They are the future of the Church, the new priests inspired by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, repelled by the sexual abuse crisis and the connected corrosions of moral relativity that has so infected our American Church over the past several decades; who are now bringing their message of clarity and tradition to parishioners hungry for their pastoral teaching.

We, who are also the future of the Church, must pray for them every day as they struggle against the world and those among the faithful still caught up in it’s miasma; but we should know, in our prayers, that not only our prayers are sustaining them, but also the prayers of the angels and Blessed Virgin Mary, and all of us, walking with Peter, will—as has been done so many times before—bring the fire of God’s transformative grace roaring through our Holy Mother Church.

“With Peter, to Christ, through Mary, for the Greater Glory of God”

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Seamless Garment & Intrinsic Evil

In this potent speech, Archbishop Burke illuminates the great error in this approach to life issues—however well intentioned it may be—through the clarity of the traditional thinking of the Church.

An excerpt.

“Whatever the good intention of using the image of a seamless garment to talk about the moral issues regarding human life, it has become identified with the proportionalist way of thinking in which, for example, acts of war, the use of the death penalty, procured abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and euthanasia are viewed as matters of equal moral weight. In other words, the image covers over the distinction between intrinsically evil acts and acts which are not evil in themselves but can become evil, if unjustly taken. The moral questions pertaining to the safeguarding and fostering of human life are all related to one another but they are not of the same weight. To use the image of the garment, they are not all of the same cloth. The use of the metaphor of the seamless garment, while it may have been intended to promote the culture of life, has, in fact, been used to justify the acceptance of acts essentially contrary to a culture of life for the sake of attaining some seeming good. Whatever good intention those who have developed the "seamless garment" argument may have had, it falsely places intrinsically evil acts, that is, acts which are always and everywhere morally wrong, on the same plane with acts which, according to prudent judgment, may not sufficiently safeguard human life.

“In a similar way, the language of common ground is employed in the advancement of a proportionalist or consequentialist way of moral thinking. Common ground, rightly understood, is the ground of moral goodness. It is established by what is objectively good. If, on the contrary, it is understood to be the compromise of certain moral truths for the sake of harmony with those who deny a moral truth, for example, the intrinsic evil of procured abortion or euthanasia, then it is a betrayal of the good and can only lead to the harm of self and others, and of society itself.

“Sometimes, we hear that we as Christians or as apostles of the Gospel of Life must be careful to get along in society, not to separate ourselves or to appear to be counter-cultural. One wonders how such language squares with the essence of the Gospel, that is, to be "a sign of contradiction" (cf. Lk 2:34). At the same time, one cannot help but think of what Christians getting along and being politically correct has meant in other nations whose leaders had embraced an agenda of death and the totalitarianism which advanced it.

“In some way, our consciences have become dulled to the gravity of certain moral issues. When insistence on the elimination of legalized abortion in our nation is dismissed as a kind of "single-issue" approach, as the obsession of the "religious right," which fails to take account of a whole gamut of moral issues, then we have lost the sense of the horror of destroying a human life in the womb. In a similar way, when the denial of nutrition and hydration to the gravely ill is seen as a "single issue," then we have lost a sense of the horror of failing to give basic care to a brother or sister who has grown weak for whatever reason. It is not a question of a single issue but of what is fundamental to life itself and to society. I recall the words of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II:

“The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behavior and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception (Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, "On the Good and Inviolability of Human Life," 25 March 1995, no. 58).”

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The New Priests

The priest at our new parish—I attended the first daily mass over which he presided Friday— is of that group of new young priests I have been reading about who are very connected to the traditions of the Church, having grown up and become priests through the papacy of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and what a wondrous future is in store for our American Church if this priest is the norm for all new priests.

The parish response was significant as the seats were full—I’ve rarely seen that in daily mass except for a day of obligation—and the sense that here is a priest fully in tune with Rome is validated in his homily when he mentions that when in doubt look to Rome; the lesson I learned shortly after conversion when what I was reading from the American bishops was often at odds with what I was reading in the Catechism.

And we are also hearing of a rejuvenation of the teaching from the American bishops as they begin the long ascent from the long descent of the sexual abuse trials; and though the devil will always strike against the Church and though there will always be priests who bend to him and the world, the eternal and steadfast strength of the Church's truth will shine through in the words, faith, and teaching of her ever new priests.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jewish Roots, Protestant Chaos and the Path to Rome

In our path to Rome, we went through a period of studying the Jewish faith, attending synagogue, Torah & Talmud Study, and during that exploration I also learned that I had a Jewish grandmother.

Our path also led through a few variations of Protestantism, some New Age dabbling, existentialism, and much else that was common among our generation of the Sixties.

Through all of this we never explored Catholicism until the very end, after we had virtually given up on finding a faith that met our criteria of being clearly true.

I was reminded of this when reading an article in a noted Protestant theological magazine that was bemoaning the lack of a clear connection between the Word and the Eucharist—from a Reformed perspective—and I was struck that the writer, though appreciating the early church’s connecting them in their service, failed to note that Catholic’s (which is the early Church) still do so in each and every mass.

What did matter in our search through the religious chaos of the world is that when we came upon the truth, we did recognize it; having seen so much that proclaimed incarnate truth which, upon investigation, always proved not to be.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hidden Recidivism Rate

The national recidivism rate hovers around 70%, but there is another rate we have no idea of, except that it is higher, of those who continue to commit crimes but do not get caught.

The Crime and Consequences blog has a dramatic example of that.

An excerpt.

“A chronic problem in many kinds of research is that we cannot directly observe the variable we are interested in. We have to observe something else that we think/hope is close enough to the one we care about that we can "operationally define" the observable quantity to be the important quantity.

“How do we define "success" in rehabilitation efforts? True success is that the offender does not commit any more offenses. The observable quantity is whether the offender has been caught committing more offenses.

"On March 9, 1999, the U.S. Parole Commission issued the following certificate to a parolee: "You are hereby discharged from parole," the March 9, 1999, certificate read. "After a thorough review of your case, the Commission has decided that you are deserving of an early discharge," said the document signed by administrator Raymond E. Essex. "You are commended for having responded positively to supervision and for the personal accomplishment(s) you have made. The Commission trusts that you will continue to be a productive citizen and obey the laws of society."

“The parolee was Phillip Garrido. He had already kept Jaycee Dugard in captivity for 8 years at that point, and he would keep her for 10 more.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Parish Changes

This morning was the first day of daily mass at a new parish—which due to start time and other considerations—we have begun attending, and a couple of very nice things are different.

One was the use of bells, which I love, and the other was the priest entering in the procession with the liturgical ministers, both of which were not done at my previous parish for daily mass.

Another difference was the composition of attendees, which was about 90% men as opposed to the previous parish which was about 90% women.

Perhaps that is a reflection of the start times—6:30 am at the new parish and 8:00 am at the old—but it will be interesting to see if that gender ratio holds as I continue attending.

Also, and this is very important to my wife and I, our new parish is Marian, an influence we missed at our previous one.

The drive is a little longer but the early morning lack of traffic compensates and I am looking forward to many years here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sexual Predators

Our organization supports the most severe sanctions—including capital punishment, which is the fourth of our seven criminal justice principles—as a response to the evil of pedophilia and rape, and over the past several decades there have been a series of sexual crimes in California that lend weight to serious sanctions.

An article from the San Francisco Chronicle by the president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation looks at sex offenders and suggests a response.

An excerpt.

“California has had no shortage of notorious criminals over the years. Often their crimes have exposed weaknesses in state and local law enforcement policy.

“The Onion Field murder, which involved the 1963 kidnapping of two Los Angeles police officers and the killing of one, led to changes in police procedures during traffic stops. The slaughter of seven people in 1969 by followers of Charles Manson helped marshal public support for the death penalty and inspired reforms in legal procedures.

“Several terrible crimes have involved sexual predators, notably Reginald Muldrew, the Pillowcase Rapist who committed about 200 sex crimes between 1976 and 1978, and the Hillside Stranglers, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, who raped and murdered at least 10 young women from 1977 to 1978.

“These crimes encouraged California voters to adopt the Victims' Bill of Rights Initiative in 1982, which included major sentencing and procedural reforms. The shocking 1993 kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas by habitual criminal Richard Allen Davis galvanized support for California's "three strikes" sentencing law.

“The recent allegations that kidnap victim Jaycee Dugard had been held and sexually abused for 18 years in an Antioch neighborhood by habitual sex offender Phillip Craig Garrido now is raising questions about how California deals with these types of criminals.

“Sex offenders, particularly habitual rapists, child molesters and pedophiles, are different from most other criminals. While most criminals commit a wide variety of crimes, habitual sex offenders are often specialists who live unnoticed within law-abiding society.

“They generally have jobs. Some are married, have children and appear to live normal lives. Studies have shown this class of offender to be more intelligent and deceptive than other criminals. Habitual sex offenders plan their crimes, sometimes for months. Like the general population, most are white. Usually, they will continue to pursue their fantasies as long as they are free to do so....

“To protect the public from predatory sex offenders, the aggressive investigation and prosecution of sex crimes must continue. Over time, criminals who re-offend will receive the longer sentences recently enacted for habitual offenders. The worst of these may never be free to stalk another victim.

“Serious supervision of known offenders, free on parole, will require increased funding and a reorganization of parole agencies. Caseloads for parole officers monitoring sex offenders will have to be significantly reduced to allow officers more time to do their jobs. Full site searches of a sex offender's residence should become routine, as should unannounced visits.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Irving Kristol

He was a great American political thinker whose roots on the left gave him exceptional insight as he moved to the right, and the Wall Street Journal posted these excerpts from some of his articles that give a hint of his genius.

An excerpt.

The Conservative Prospect, June 13, 1975

“But there is little question that the ideological atmosphere as a whole has changed, and in a direction that can be fairly called conservative. . . . Expectations that outdistance reality by too much create unstable people and unstable societies. A politics which constantly incites such expectations is a politics of disorder, and ultimately of self-destruction. We have, in this past period, lived through such a politics and have experienced its baleful power. Now the American people seem to be saying that it is a time for sobriety and self-discipline.

The 'New Cold War,' July 17, 1975

“If the United States is to gain the respect of world opinion, it first has to demonstrate that it respects itself—its own institutions, its own way of life, the political and social philosophy that is the basis of its institutions and its way of life. Such a sense of self-respect and self-affirmation seems to be a missing element in our foreign policy.

Reforming the Welfare State, Oct. 25, 1976

“Our urban experts, planners, and social scientists generally . . . are people who are convinced that, if fully employed and given adequate budgets, they can successfully practice the art of making everyone healthier, wealthier, and happier. Congress has listened to them, and has structured legislation according to their design; and we are now paying the bills. It is these activities—in education, urban revitalization, mental health, welfare, etc.—which constitute an excrescence on the welfare state, properly understood. It is these programs, which do not work and involve vast intricate bureaucracies, that are bringing the welfare state into disrepute.”

Monday, September 21, 2009

Saints & the Church Triumphant

The Church Triumphant is the heavenly realm where the saints reside with God, and the souls of those saints are mighty, earned through sacrifices on earth we in our modern American comforts too often forget, but these Korean saints—martyred 170 years ago—are ones to remember.

An excerpt from American Catholic Saint of the Day.

“When Pope John Paul II visited Korea in 1984 he canonized, besides Andrew and Paul, 98 Koreans and three French missionaries who had been martyred between 1839 and 1867. Among them were bishops and priests, but for the most part they were lay persons: 47 women, 45 men.

“Among the martyrs in 1839 was Columba Kim, an unmarried woman of 26. She was put in prison, pierced with hot tools and seared with burning coals. She and her sister Agnes were disrobed and kept for two days in a cell with condemned criminals, but were not molested. After Columba complained about the indignity, no more women were subjected to it. The two were beheaded. A boy of 13, Peter Ryou, had his flesh so badly torn that he could pull off pieces and throw them at the judges. He was killed by strangulation. Protase Chong, a 41-year-old noble, apostatized under torture and was freed. Later he came back, confessed his faith and was tortured to death.

“Today, there are almost 4.7 million Catholics in Korea.”

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Life of the Political Mind

It is, in many ways, the cornerstone of the socially engaged Catholic's life, and through how we think about politics, we may become closer to God in what we do around politics; one of the ultimate measures of our success in this world.

In this interview with Robert R. Reilly, the Catholic professor James V. Schall, S.J., shares his ideas.

An excerpt.

"Robert R. Reilly: What is the most important thing you teach?

"James V. Schall: One could approach this question several ways: "What is the most important course?" or "What is the most important idea?" or "What is the most important thing that you want students to come away from in your classes having learned?"

"For more than 30 years now, I have been teaching the same course every semester, ranging in size from 90 to 100 students. It is called -- an old-fashioned title, I suppose -- Elements of Political Theory. The title I inherited from the department. In my mind, it is a political philosophy course in the broadest sense of that word.

"To do political philosophy right, you have to include things beyond it, like metaphysics and revelation, and things below it, like practical political life and economics. Geography and history come in, as do wars and rumors of war. Politics, as Aristotle said, is the highest of the practical sciences, but not the highest science as such. This means that politics is limited by what it is not: Politics does not make man to be man, but takes him from nature and guides him to be good, as Aristotle also said.

"Still, I suspect the most important thing I assume in teaching is that students be themselves docile -- that is, as I like to put it, that they be "eminently teachable." I like the remark of Allan Bloom in Shakespeare's Politics: "A man is most what he is as a result of what he does; a man is known, not simply by his existence, but by the character of his actions -- liberal or greedy, courageous or cowardly, frank or sly, moderate or profligate." To be teachable means that a student first realizes in his soul that he does not already know too much. Nor is his purpose in learning simply about grades. Aristotle's notion that there are things worth knowing "for their own sakes" strikes me as the most important thing I have to teach.

"But it is not enough to say, "Look here, son, you need to know about, say, Dante or Cicero." It is alright to say this to him, of course, and a teacher should say it. Authority means something, gives directions. What needs to happen, however, is that a student sees in his own soul that something both can be learned and is worthy of being known. Indeed, he needs suddenly to rouse himself and find delight in something that he now knows. There is a delight in knowing unlike any other delight, the absence of which, as Aristotle also said, is a very dangerous thing, especially for politicians."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Reentry Program

This reentry effort in North Carolina, directed from the Governor’s office, looks like a real good effort to bring everyone to the table, and if the faith-based folks can convince everyone else that true rehabilitation of habitual criminals takes a true internal conversion—often based on a specific faith focus—then there might be some good results in the future.

If not, it will be another in the long list of such high-profile organized collaborations that fall by the wayside as attention drifts to other priorities, the danger and difficulty of working with criminals sinks in, and the core leadership of the effort implodes.

Because of this tendency, the Lampstand model is based on one transformed criminal leader and one program small enough to be adequately managed efficiently by him, and small enough in client base (70 annually) to allow the type of individual attention crucial to effective reentry work.

That being said, we wish this effort in North Carolina all the best.

An excerpt from the news release.

“Gov. Bev Perdue today named 34 members to the StreetSafe Task Force. Attorney General Roy Cooper and Department of Correction Secretary Alvin Keller will serve as co-chairs. Secretaries Linda Hayes and Lanier Cansler also will serve on the task force.

"StreetSafe will bring together faith-based organizations, non-profits, local and state government agencies, business leaders and members of the community to develop a plan to combat recidivism and reintegrate offenders safely into the community.

“By uniting the efforts of government, business and civic organizations, this task force will work to stop ex-offenders from committing new crimes,” Perdue said. “StreetSafe will give ex-offenders the support they need to successfully reenter society, which will make North Carolina safer for everyone.”

“Law enforcement officers too often see criminals they’ve arrested and convicted go right back to their old ways as soon as they get out of prison,” Cooper said. “Stopping criminals from repeating their crimes will make all of us safer.”

“With more than 28,000 offenders being released from our prisons each year, we need to do everything possible to help those people succeed and to keep them from coming back,” said Secretary Keller. “StreetSafe will be a key part of that effort.”

“In May, Governor Perdue signed Executive Order No. 12 creating the StreetSafe Task Force. The governor made the announcement at Step Up Ministries, a program that works with ex-offenders.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Vatican & Russia

If this story from the National Catholic Register portends the future, which appears possible, then the future is very bright indeed for a reunification of the Catholic Church of Rome with the Orthodox, which separated a thousand years ago.

An excerpt.

“The Catholic Archbishop of Moscow has given a remarkably upbeat assessment of relations with the Orthodox Church, saying unity between Catholics and Orthodox could be achieved “within a few months.”

“In an interview today in Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi said the miracle of reunification “is possible, indeed it has never been so close.” The archbishop added that Catholic-Orthodox reunification, the end of the historic schism that has divided them for a millennium, and spiritual communion between the two churches “could happen soon, within a few months.”

“Basically we were united for a thousand years,” Archbishop Pezzi said. “Then for another thousand we were divided. Now the path to rapprochement is at its peak, and the third millennium of the Church could begin as a sign of unity.” He said there were “no formal obstacles” but that “everything depends on a real desire for communion.”

“On the part of the Catholic Church, he added, “the desire is very much alive.”

“Archbishop Pezzi, 49, whose proper title is Metropolitan Archbishop of the Mother of God Archdiocese in Moscow, said that now there are “no real obstacles” on the path towards full communion and reunification. On issues of modernity, Catholics and Orthodox Christians feel the same way, he said: “Nothing separates us on bioethics, the family, and the protection of life.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Boston Miracle

This template of many gang suppression efforts never was able to sustain its work, as this article from the Boston Globe reports, but is still being used as a model, as this article from the Monterey Herald reveals, which is too bad, as the built in problems remain, with the major one being that the former criminal street workers who are key to the effort are not highly educated, trained, or spiritually prepared to lead the work for the long period of time necessary to achieve scalable success.

But, even more important than that is the connected weakness, being that the former criminals, after becoming educated, trained, and spiritually prepared, need to develop their own program format rather than following anothers, how they will individually address the problem, for that type of ownership is what builds in sustainability in the nonprofit world as in the for profit.

An excerpt from the Monterey article.

“The room is filled with guys who have seen it all and done worse. The men — as young as 18 and as old as 34 — have been convicted of violent crimes during the past three years, and most are hard-core gang members.

"I know most of you guys that walked in," a San Francisco gang officer tells the group, according to a transcript of the meeting.

“The men know that federal prosecutors, local police and district attorneys have them marked for serious prison time if they ever shoot another gun — in fact, those very people are in the room with them.

“But something is different: The cops and prosecutors keep saying they want to help. Waiting for the gang members in an adjacent room are job and school counselors, offering an alternative to the gang lifestyle.

"I'd much rather see you working and passing by and saying, 'Hi,' than putting handcuffs on you," the gang cop says, "or to have to call your mom and let her know you're dead on the street."

“His message, delivered at a meeting known as a "call-in," is the heart of a strategy called Ceasefire — and it's coming to Salinas.

“When it was first introduced on the East Coast 15 years ago, Ceasefire was seen as a radical experiment. But with research reinforcing its claims of quickly lowering the number of gang murders by up to 75 percent, many are now calling the strategy revolutionary.

“It has been dubbed Operation Peacekeeper, Safe Streets and The Boston Miracle. California's version is the Safe Community Partnership. Whatever the name, studies indicate that variations of Ceasefire have been successful in dropping gang murder counts, usually within a year or two, in the roughest neighborhoods of Boston, Chicago and other cities.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Supported Employment & Recidivism

As this article from the Sacramento Bee notes, there are cases of well-intentioned and capable employers willing to help reentering prisoners who want to change their lives by offering them employment with supportive services, and we have all probably heard many other cases where this occurs.

Unfortunately, it is not something that is replicable to scale, as the average employer remains more concerned with finding good employees to begin with than helping create them by taking on the obviously dangerous and difficult work of criminal rehabilitation alongside developing strong work habits.

The model we have developed allows the Lampstand program executive director to seek out those potential employers and working with them, take on that dangerous and difficult work and once a nucleus of reformed criminal employees takes hold within a company, the future hires from the criminal ranks can count on their mentoring impact to ensure continued success.

Most importantly, our model is replicable to scale after an initial implementation and evaluation over a three to five year period.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“California's overcrowded, constitutionally suspect prisons aren't just incarcerating criminals. They're confining our state's ability to fix our fiscal house, better serve taxpayers and provide crucial services for law-abiding, working families and their children. To balance its books, the state has slashed funding for schools, health care and services that protect children and seniors.

“With the state cutting funding to the bone for these and other vital programs, Californians deserve a more effective, less costly corrections system.

“Three years ago, University of California, Irvine, professor of criminology Joan Petersilia pointed to the bleak statistic that of the 115,000 parolees California released each year, some 70 percent were back in jail within 24 months. Worse yet, she said about 10 percent of these prisoners will repeatedly return – six or more times over a seven-year period. This year, the release rate is up to 134,000 parolees, with little sign of any change in recidivism.

“Beyond parole practices, the principal reason for recidivism is what Petersilia calls an inexcusable failure to maximize opportunities for prisoners to adapt to life on the outside. We need to correct that failure.

“And employers can play a vital role, something I've seen firsthand.

“Take, for instance, Tri-CED Community Recycling of Union City, near my own hometown of Hayward. It was started 30 years ago by Richard Valle, a Vietnam veteran who had seen far too many of his own friends end up in the streets or in jail. Tri-CED is a business dedicated to supporting workers who need a little extra help to make it.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Humanity’s Growth & Space Exploration

As posted yesterday, there is a strong environmental movement—based on the principles of deep ecology—to limit the human population of earth, which many have rightly concluded is the evolution of the Marxist approach to history that works to destroy the influence of religion in temporal affairs.

The Catholic response to this has been and remains, that each baby conceived is a blessing and furtherance of God’s love, and human society on earth, rather than seeking more effective ways of destroying human life, needs to seek more effective ways of protecting and growing it.

One of the most effective in terms of population growth is to dedicate our space technology towards the colonization of space, beginning with the most logical first step, the human settlement of Mars.

Human space travel to Mars is the mission of the Mars Society, but the recent Summary Report from the current American administration’s Committee for Review of U.S. Human Space Flight, appears to be negative regarding human space exploration directed to Mars, and that is consistent with their culture of death approach to life issues.

The founder of the Mars Society recently testified to the congressional committee responsible for the Summary Report, testimony which has been published by The New Atlantis.

An excerpt.

“In order to accomplish anything in space we need to set a goal. What should that goal be? In my view, the answer is straightforward: Humans to Mars within a decade.

“Why Mars? Because of all the planetary destinations currently within reach, Mars offers the most—both scientifically, socially, and in terms of what it portends for the human future.

“In scientific terms, Mars is critical, because it is the Rosetta Stone for letting us understand the position of life in the universe. Images of Mars taken from orbit and the ground show that the planet had liquid water flowing on its surface for a period of a billion years during its early history, a duration five times as long as it took for life to appear on Earth after there was liquid water here. So if the theory is correct that life is a naturally occurring phenomenon, emergent from chemical complexification wherever there is liquid water, a temperate climate, sufficient minerals, and time, then life should have appeared on Mars. If we can go to Mars, and find fossils of past life on its surface, we will have good reason to believe that we are not alone in the universe. If we send human explorers, who can erect drilling rigs which can reach ground water where Martian life may yet persist, we will be able to examine it, and by so doing determine whether life as we know it on Earth is the pattern for all life everywhere—or alternatively, whether we are simply one esoteric example of a far vaster and more interesting tapestry. These things are worth finding out.

“In terms of its social value, Mars is the bracing positive challenge that our society needs. Nations, like people, thrive on challenge and decay without it. The challenge of a humans-to Mars program would also be an invitation to adventure to every youth in the country, sending out the powerful clarion call: “Learn your science and you can become part of pioneering a new world.” There will be over 100 million kids in our nation’s schools over the next ten years. If a Mars program were to inspire just an extra one percent of them to scientific educations, the net result would be 1 million more scientists, engineers, inventors, medical researchers, and doctors, making technological innovations that create new industries, finding new medical cures, strengthening national defense, and generally increasing national income to an extent that utterly dwarfs the expenditures of the Mars program.

“This point is so critical that it is worthy of further emphasis. The wealth and the strength of a nation are based first and foremost on its intellectual capital. In this respect, the Apollo program produced a terrific return, as it doubled the number of our science graduates, at every level—high school, college, Ph.D. This paid off massively when those twelve-year-old little boy scientists of the 1960s became the forty-year-old technological entrepreneurs of the 1990s and launched the computer revolution. A humans-to-Mars program today would repay even greater dividends, because in this day and age the science and engineering professions are also open to women in a way that was simply not the case during the 1960s. Thus an Apollo-like challenge today would not only inspire into being legions of little boy scientists, but little girl scientists as well, whose ensuing research and inventions would benefit the nation, and humanity at large, for decades to come.

“But the most important reason to go to Mars is the doorway it opens for the future. Uniquely among the extraterrestrial bodies of the inner solar system, Mars is endowed with all the resources needed to support not only life but the development of a technological civilization. In contrast to the comparative desert of the Earth’s Moon, Mars possesses oceans of water frozen into its soil as permafrost, as well as vast quantities of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen, all in forms readily accessible to those clever enough to use them. These four elements are the basic stuff not only of food and water, but of plastics, wood, paper, clothing—and most importantly, rocket propellant.

“In addition, Mars has experienced the same sorts of volcanic and hydrologic processes that produced a multitude of mineral ores on Earth. Virtually every element of significant interest to industry is known to exist on the Red Planet. While no liquid water exists on the surface, below ground is a different matter, and there is every reason to believe that geothermal heat sources could be maintaining hot liquid reservoirs beneath the Martian surface today. Such hydrothermal reservoirs may be refuges in which survivors of ancient Martian life continue to persist; they would also represent oases providing abundant water supplies and geothermal power to future human settlers. With its twenty-four-hour day-night cycle and an atmosphere thick enough to shield its surface against solar flares, Mars is the only extraterrestrial planet that will readily allow large-scale greenhouses lit by natural sunlight.

"For the coming age of space exploration, Mars compares to the Moon as North America compared to Greenland in the previous age of maritime exploration. Greenland was closer to Europe, Europeans reached it first—but it ultimately proved too barren an environment for the establishment of a new branch of human civilization. Similarly, in contrast to the Moon, Mars can be settled. For our generation and many that will follow, Mars is the New World. In establishing our first foothold on Mars, we will begin humanity’s career as a multi-planet species."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Population Growth an Environmental Problem?

The deep ecology inspired organization, Optimum Population Trust (OPT), calls for increased efforts to restrain population growth—meaning abortion—in their August 2009 statement, reminding us that a plank of the deep ecology movement is that the number of human beings on the earth threatens life and those numbers need to be reduced.

Catholic teaching is clear that each baby born into the world is a blessing and each baby aborted is a grave evil, as the Catechism teaches us:


“2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.

“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.

“2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

“You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.

“God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”

An excerpt from the OPT statement calling for population control.

“All environmental problems, and notably those arising from climate change, would be easier to solve with a smaller future population. Population restraint in rich countries and communities would reduce the future number of major carbon emitters (who will also be victims). Restraint in poor countries and communities would reduce the number of minor emitters and likely major victims.

“The gap between the extremes of the UN (2008) population projections for 2050 is 3 billion people. Current trends, with less aid for family planning, point towards the higher end - 11 bn, with no change in fertility (the UN median projection, at 9.2 bn, assumes a considerable reduction in fertility). Just meeting known, but currently unmet, need for family planning services, however, would point the projections near the lower end - 8 bn.

“The recent Global Humanitarian Forum on the Human Impact of Climate Change in Geneva accepted OPT’s position that population growth is a major environmental problem, making equitable mitigation and adaptation policies harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve.”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Early Release of Criminals

California is on the verge of releasing early the highest number of prisoners in United States history—43,000—though the order by three federal judges has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

We blogged on early release recently.

The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has written an excellent article that addresses the three major arguments used for early release, and found them all wanting.

An excerpt.

“Assumptions about California sentencing and prison conditions

“Three widely reported assumptions about California sentencing and prison conditions have been cited by proponents as support for the release of prison inmates.

“1) California sentences a disproportionate number of people to prison compared to other states. Sentencing data from the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) tracking the imprisonment rates in each state per 100,000 population does not support this claim. A DOJ report, Prisoners in 2007, released in December 2008, indicates that California’s imprisonment rate ranks 40th among the 50 states and is significantly below the national average. (See Chart 1.) If anything, California is behind the national curve on the imprisonment of convicted felons.

“2) California prisons are overcrowded and conditions are getting worse. The claim that state prisons are filled beyond design capacity is correct. California prisons have been overcrowded for more than 15 years. While state spending increased from $68.5 billion in 1998 to $144.8 billion in 2008, the Democrat majority in the state legislature has refused to include spending to modernize and expand the capacity of state prisons. In spite of this, overcrowding has not gotten worse. As of June 30, 2009, California had roughly the same number of inmates in state prisons as it did in 1998. And, since 2000, the number of juveniles in state institutions has actually dropped by 79%.

“3) Healthcare in California prisons is so substandard that massive inmate releases are necessary. The judicial inmate release order cites experts, anecdotal evidence, and earlier court rulings to support its conclusion. Other data raises questions about how severe the problem is and the need for drastic action to solve it. The mortality rate of prison inmates can be affected by several variables such as age, prison assaults, and suicide, but a total breakdown in the prison healthcare system as the panel asserts, should have caused a significant impact. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report, Mortality rate per 100,000 state prisoners by state, 2001-2006, provides this data. (See Chart 2.) It shows that the mortality rate among California prison inmates is the 38th lowest among the 50 states.”

Saturday, September 12, 2009

God’s Wondrous Creation

Another reason we need to adequately fund space exploration are the incredible images from the revamped Hubble Space Telescope revealing more of the creation in all its beauty and mystery; photos at the jump.

An excerpt.

“The Hubble Space Telescope has always been an amazing machine, but it was recently made even more amazing with some repairs and optical upgrades in daring spacewalks. The first pics are out now, and they're stunning.

“The HST was visited by Space Shuttle Atlantis in May, a mission that had been long-delayed and was even at risk of cancellation due to the potential danger to the astronauts in the case of a space vehicle failure. Notwithstanding these setbacks, Atlantis made it to Hubble's high orbit and performed five spacewalks to fix and upgrade the telescope. Among the work performed was an upgrade to the telescope's cooling blankets, a repair to the Advanced Camera for Surveys and new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and Wide Field Camera installations.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

Parole Board Chair With Experience

The new chair in Oregon brings extraordinary experience to her work and the power of having it, from the dual perspectives she gained through the extremely tragic life experiences she suffered through; will serve her—and those she sits in judgment on— well.

An excerpt from the story from The Oregonian.

“SALEM -- The 57-year-old inmate sat in a locked metal cage in the parole board room of the Oregon State Penitentiary and pressed his case for release. He'd spent two decades in prison for murdering his stepfather for $20,000 in insurance money, and he told board members he was a different man now.

“The board grilled John Castro on why he was ready for freedom, how he'd owned up to the murder and what, specifically, he'd done to become a better person.

“But the son of Castro's victim wasn't convinced the man in the cage was really rehabilitated. He urged the board to keep him imprisoned.

“Vicki Walker, the former state senator chosen by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to chair the parole board, sat quietly in the small, stuffy room and took notes. Though appointed in July, Walker is not allowed to participate in the hearings until her appointment is confirmed by the Senate in October.

“When she joins the board debate, Walker will have plenty to say to inmates like John Castro.

“Naturally outspoken, Walker brings perspective to the job that few can claim -- compassion, forged through personal experience, for those on both sides of the prison wall.

“Her empathy for victims, she says, comes from being sexually abused by her father and her uncles when she was a child. In the Legislature, she was a frequent advocate for victim's rights. But Walker also offers understanding for inmates. Her brother spent 17 years in an Alaska prison for murder. Walker set up a post-prison release plan for him and helped him negotiate the outside world when he was released in 2000.

“With that background, Walker will juggle the claims before her from those convicted and those they harmed, leading the calls on who leaves prison and who stays.

"Ninety-five percent of offenders return to the community," she says. "If we as a board don't believe in redemption, we're in trouble."

“But there's that other side, she acknowledges: "We also want to make sure these people don't come back."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Catholic Institutions and Truth

In the vital service of helping transform individual lives, the most powerful weapon is the truth, and for Catholic organizations, the moral truths of the Church are the first weapons of choice for those organizations sincere about informing that transformation, and it is tragic when those organizations choose—for whatever reason—to not use those weapons, and in the process, fail at their foundational purpose, the transformative salvation of individuals.

This story from The Catholic Thing examines this situation in respect to two major Catholic organizations,one in the United States.

An excerpt.

“Agencies that promote works of charity on behalf of the Church should be particularly keen on putting Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) into practice – with courage and without reservation. The British Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) welcomed it instead by highlighting climate change and ignoring the human ecology – issues of life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations, natural death – so threatened today by “the moral tenor of society,” which Benedict plainly asserts is the “decisive issue.”

“That politicized and self-serving reaction glosses over what is at the heart of the encyclical: only conformity to truth – defending moral and ethical positions unpopular in elite circles – can safeguard authentic charity and foster “integral human development.”

“Infidelity to the truth renders “development” work illusory – no matter how vehemently influential governmental agencies or fabulously wealthy donors, whose loveless (i.e. safe-sex, population control) initiatives resemble misanthropy more so than philanthropy, insist otherwise….

“Catholic Charities USA, for example, has been mobilizing in favor of Obama’s ominously nebulous health care bill (urging their members to voice support to their representatives “in the next 24 hours”) despite obvious concerns about its implications for the non-negotiables of abortion and euthanasia, and other major drawbacks….

“Conveniently, Catholic Charities USA just landed a $100 million contract for natural disaster work from the Department of Health and Human Services. We may never know if there was or was not some sort of quid pro quo, but anyone who has read Brian Anderson’s masterful essay How Catholic Charities Lost Its Soul would know that Catholic Charities long ago abandoned confidence in the capacity of moral truth to transform individual lives, only to co-opt the “value-free worldview that has made most government-run poverty efforts a hindrance rather than a help to the poor.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rush to Secularization

With a hat tip to the Catholic Culture blog, in this speech to Brazilian Bishops—but as, if not more, relevant to Americans—the Holy Father comments on the aspect of modern life wherein Catholics begin to secularize themselves, a destructive trend that has been chronicled in our country through the works of several authors (one recent example I am reading is documented in the self-secularization of Catholic universities, in the book by Anne Hendershott, Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education) and can be seen in the confusion over elemental protection of life issues of the faith where we see Catholics support abortion and oppose capital punishment, rejecting the traditional support of the Church on both counts.

The traditional support of the Catholic Church for capital punishment, in light of some national bishop’s conferences—including the United States—calling for its abolition, is the subject of my new book: Capital Punishment and Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support.

An excerpt from the pope’s remarks from the Vatican News Service.

“Benedict XVI also told the bishops that in modern society, in which "so many people seem to want to live everything in a single minute, while others give themselves up to boredom, inertia, or various forms of violence", in reality "these desperate lives are seeking hope, a fact evinced by the widespread and at times confused need for spirituality, and the renewed search for points of reference to resume the journey of like".

“In the decades following Vatican Council II "many Christian communities sank into self-secularisation. ... At the present time there is a new generation born into this secularised ecclesial environment which, instead of demonstrating openness and consent, sees in society an ever-deepening gulf of differences and contrasts to the Magisterium of the Church, especially in the field of ethics. In this godless desert, the new generation thirsts for transcendence".

“Modern youth "needs formators who are true men of God, priests completely dedicated to formation who bear witness of the gift of self to the Church through celibacy and an austere life, according to the model of Christ the Good Shepherd. In this way the young will learn to be open to the meeting with the Lord, though daily participation in the Eucharist. They will love silence and prayer and seek primarily the glory of God and the salvation of souls".

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Universal Health Care, Two Catholic Perspectives

As the health care debate reaches its crescendo, here are two Catholic perspectives for your consideration, the first is the column by Bishop Doran of Rockford and the second is the 2004 statement from the Catholic Medical Association Health Care Task Force, Health Care in America: A Catholic Proposal for Renewal, which provides history and policies foundational for understanding the Catholic position.

An excerpt from Bishop Doran’s column.

“The overwhelming preoccupation of our national political government and consequently of the captive media is the vexed and vexing question of health care reform. It is almost impossible to get reliable consistent figures as to the number of people who lack health care coverage in the United States. Each advocacy group inflates or minimizes the numbers to suit each group’s respective fantasies. If, for instance, the number of people who actually, at this moment, lack health care is estimated from a low of 18 million to a high of around 50 million, the difference is considerable (from about 6 percent of the population up to around 16 percent — a vast range).

“One analyst breaks down the 50 million figure into about three equal groups:

“1. Those who do not want any health care but would rather have whatever the employer spends on health care given to them in wages;

“2. Those who because of changes of employment or medical condition are disqualified from the coverage they formerly had; and

“3. Those who have no hope of getting adequate health care (children whose parents do not or cannot provide it for them).

“Certainly only the hardhearted would say that children who through no fault of their own lack coverage, should not be provided it by the state. Further, the state should do something to insure that people who have been provided with health care by employers should not be deprived of it simply because they change jobs or are victims of “reductions in force.” Those who refuse health care are somewhat more problematic for me….

“As Catholic people, however, we are not allowed to wash our hands of it and to let things shake out as the federal government would have it. Our more than bicentennial experience with our federal government leads many to the conclusion that our government really does only one thing well: waging war. In every other area of life, when someone says, “I am from the government and I am here to help you,” our survival instinct tells us to run and hide. In the early ’90s when the health care scare was last put upon us, the opposition crowed: “If you like the postal service, you will love national health,” and that still seems to be the feeling of many.”

An excerpt from the Catholic Medical Association Statement.

“A crisis exists in American health care. This crisis transcends, indeed it explains, the crisis of coverage. In the United States in 2002, an estimated 43.6 million people lacked health insurance coverage during some part of the year, 60 percent of them for the entire year. However, the number of Americans who are mis-insured -- who work but cannot obtain coverage, who cannot obtain coverage that matches the varying needs of the life cycle, or, most important, who cannot obtain coverage that accords with their fundamental moral beliefs -- is far larger. Indeed, it can be said that the mis-insurance of America, defined as the systematic, inequitable and unjust allocation of public and private resources for health purposes, is a near-universal phenomenon.

“Just as cogently, the crisis in American health care is more than the crisis of the insured and uninsured. It is a crisis afflicting the patient-physician relationship, which has been eroded by factors that include the financing of health care, but that are more properly understood as having their root in the loss of a common understanding, within and without the medical profession, of the sanctity and inviolability of each human life.

"In the United States, this erosion is now decades-advanced, and in key respects it is deepening. For millennia, the guiding ethic of the physician was captured in the Hippocratic Oath, a statement of both positive obligation and moral proscription, epitomized by its strict injunctions against acts of abortion and euthanasia. More than this, the Oath carried with it notions of both justice and charity in the care of the sick. Secular in its underpinnings, it nonetheless reflected in thought and form a sense of medicine, much as the Charter for Health Care Workers expresses it, as “a meeting between trust and conscience.”

“Since 1964 the clarity of the classical Oath has been gradually displaced, in many U.S. medical schools, by the subjective terms of a modern restatement. Omitting all reference to the moral proscriptions, the restatement, for example, acknowledges the physician’s “power to take a life” but describes it only as an “awesome responsibility [that] must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of [the physician’s] frailty.”

“By 1993 displacement of the classical Oath and the unbroken tradition it represented was nearly complete. In that year only 8 percent of new physicians swore not to commit abortions, and only 14 percent forswore the practice of euthanasia. There is little reason to believe that the numbers have changed markedly since, though it should be acknowledged that many physicians who did not take the Oath do observe its precepts.”

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

Each day is a day of labor embraced by the word and who can say who is working or not, as Guardini in his marvelous work, The Lord, teaches us:

“No one has the right to judge whether or not another lives according to the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. There is no specific outward behavior that expresses it. Indeed, not even the chosen one himself can be certain how things stand with him. St. Paul says it explicitly: God alone is judge. Dare then to hope that you are chosen! The chance is taken in faith, and neither from the world’s point of view, nor from that of inner or outer experience, can there be any possible objection. But I cannot love my enemy? You can bring yourself to the point of no longer hating him. That is already the beginning of love….I can’t even do that!...Then try at least to keep your dislike out of your speech. That would be a step in the direction of love….

“But surely that would be watering the wine? Isn’t it a question of everything or nothing? To be quite frank, the Either-Or people seldom appear to practice their own severity. Their uncompromising attitude often looks suspiciously like rhetoric. No, what the Sermon on the Mount demands is not everything or nothing, but a beginning and a continuing, a rising again and plodding on after every fall.” (Guardini, R. (1956). The Lord. London: Longmans. (pp. 94-95, ellipsis in original)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

God is Back

Many of you remember the proclamation several years ago that God is Dead, well, he isn’t and in this article from Foreign Affairs, his resurgence is discussed in a new book by a Catholic and an atheist.

An excerpt.

“In international politics, religion has been the elephant in the room for most of the modern age. And in recent years, it has only grown larger and louder. Policymakers and political theorists have adopted the mostly unpromising strategies of ignoring it in the hope that rationality and modernity will eventually push it out; using laws, coercion, or public opinion to remove it from the political sphere; or pretending that it is only a matter of culture and treating it accordingly.

“The authors of God Is Back are an exception. They admit that religion is here to stay and seek to find out what it is really all about. John Micklethwait, editor in chief of The Economist, and Adrian Wooldridge, its Washington bureau chief, work for a publication that has been notably dubious about religion's long-term viability in the face of modernization and economic globalization. The Economist boldly published God's obituary in its millennium issue, declaring that "the Almighty recently passed into history." Micklethwait and Wooldridge, for their part, were not so sure about God's demise. To investigate God's place in the world today, the two men traveled thousands of miles to talk to religious leaders and ordinary believers across the world and spent hundreds of hours visiting mosques and temples, attending religious services, sitting in on Bible-study groups, and picking the brains of theologians.

“Micklethwait and Wooldridge entered dangerous territory. They faced the literal dangers of encountering real live religious radicals and investigating religion's impact in all kinds of tough neighborhoods -- from inner-city Philadelphia to the northern Nigerian city of Kano. And they faced literary dangers by walking into a field thick with theological crossfire between believers and nonbelievers, epitomized on one extreme by Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity and on the other by Christopher Hitchens' atheist manifesto, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. The confessionally diverse duo of Micklethwait and Wooldridge -- the first is a Catholic and the second an atheist -- steers clear of polemics and focuses instead on reading God's vital signs rather than identifying his virtues or vices. What they find is that many of the forces that were supposed to consign the Almighty to the ash heap of history -- or to a quiet corner of the living room -- have only made him stronger.”

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Capital Punishment Support

With a hat tip to a recent post from the Crime & Consequences Blog, American support for capital punishment, as measured by the last full report of the Gallup Poll in November 2008, has remained fairly consistent since the 1930’s, with one blip in the 1960’s when support dipped below opposition.

This long term support is a testament to the understanding of the American people, whose values are still largely built upon a Judeo-Christian foundation, regarding the nature of unrepentant evil and the proper response to it.

An excerpt.

“PRINCETON, NJ -- Last week's recommendation by a Maryland commission that the state's death penalty law be repealed contrasts with broad U.S. public support for the punishment. According to Gallup's annual Crime survey in October, 64% favor of Americans favor the death penalty for someone convicted of murder, while just 30% oppose it.”

“In addition to the majority of Americans who support the death penalty, nearly half (48%) believe it is not imposed often enough. Only 21% of Americans say it is imposed too often, with a nearly equal number, 23%, saying it is imposed about the right amount of time.

“The death penalty is favored by most Republicans nationwide, but it also receives the general support of a solid majority of independents and more than half of Democrats.

“In its preliminary report -- the final report will be issued next month -- the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment cited evidence that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent to crime, and that it is racially biased in its application. Americans don't share the same view on at least one of these arguments. The slight majority of Americans in the Oct. 3-5, 2008, poll -- 54% -- say they believe the death penalty is applied fairly in the country today -- a rough indication that Americans don't perceive bias to be a major problem with the death penalty system.”

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Pope Has No Divisions!

The ability to fight and win against even the most heavily armed foe, is not only a matter of being willing to risk your life, but being armed with the truth of the Catholic Church and the protecting grace of God.

With that with you, the divisions within which you march to spiritual war and fight the daily battle against evil, are the heavenly legions of the Church Triumphant.

This article from The Catholc Thing, remembering a day in history—September 1, 1939— and the eventual victory within which Pope John Paul II played a major role, is a resounding read.

An excerpt.

“Seventy years ago today, Adolf Hitler started the most horrendous war in the history of mankind by ordering the German Wehrmacht to invade and conquer Poland. The Polish army fought valiantly but they were no match for Germany’s sixty-five highly mechanized divisions and 1.8-million troops. By the time Polish resistance ended on October 5, 200,000 Poles were dead or wounded and 400,000 were taken prisoner. But the invasion also set in motion a moral battle that led to the global moral leadership of John Paul II and the Catholic Church’s rise as an institution opposed to all forms of political religion.

“Hitler, who despised Poland and held that all Poles were subhuman, ordered his invading army to kill “without pity or mercy, all men, women and children of Polish descent or language.” In the first thirty days of occupation, the Wehrmacht destroyed 531 towns and villages and murdered over 16,000 civilians. Hitler’s aim was more than expanding Germany’s borders; he wanted the “annihilation of living forces” by means of extermination and enslavement. “All Poles,” Heinrich Himmler declared, “will disappear from the world.” The Nazi Governor General of Poland, Hans Frank, told his henchmen: “The Pole has no rights whatsoever. . . . A major goal of our plan is to finish off as speedily as possible all troublemaking politicians, priests, and leaders who fall into our hands. I openly admit that some thousands of so-called important Poles will have to pay with their lives. . . .Every vestige of Polish culture is to be eliminated. Those Poles who seem to have Nordic appearances will be taken to Germany to work in our factories. . . .The rest? They will work. They will eat little. And in the end they will die out. There will never again be a Poland.”…

“Despite this massive human destruction, Poland’s Catholic identity survived the war. And the lesson that the battle of moral ideas rooted in a deep faith could win out over violence was not lost on Poles – particularly Karol Wojtyla. He realized the Church did not need divisions to defeat Poland’s totalitarian foes. And for forty-five years, as priest, cardinal-archbishop, and pope, he relentlessly pursued a strategy of cultural resistance that eventually undermined Poland’s Communist government, destabilized Soviet domination throughout Eastern Europe, and brought down the Iron Curtain.”

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mission, Purpose, Focus

The reason that social or business entrepreneurs get up in the morning is to essentially change the world—that part of it that they have claimed as their own—and that part to which they bring the skill and passion able to have some impact.

This article from Harvard Business looks at that.

An excerpt.

“I recently sat down with my BlackBerry voice recorder and Mats Lederhausen to ask him to share his philosophy of "purpose bigger than product." Mats is a great entrepreneur and also had one of the most successful careers at McDonald's where he was a driving force for its turnaround. He currently runs his private investment vehicle Be-Cause and is a Special Partner at our firm, Cue Ball.

“What is your philosophy of "purpose bigger than product" all about?

“At its core, it is about being real and idea-driven. Trust is perhaps the most important currency in business, and big ideas may be the only true source of competitive advantage. Lack of trust is a form of tax. And that tax rate has increased in the past number of years. Customers simply don't trust institutions as much today. Particularly large businesses. The main reason is that we now live in an "information everywhere" and more transparent world. Every customer has a camera in their cell phone, a Facebook in their pocket and Twitter at their fingertips. This means we hear and see evidence of businesses not walking their talk. Their products don't match their promise. In order to regain this trust you must simply make sure that all your products, your merchandising, your advertising, your people and the totality of your touch points with consumers sing from the same hymn. And that hymn is what I call purpose. Some people call it vision. Others call it focus. It is the same thing. It is source of your promise. It answers the question: Why are you here?

“Talk a little more on the notion of "big ideas."

“I often talk about "altitude creates attitude". When you meet people that have a big idea it is almost impossible to be unaffected. It is like a perfume. You can smell it miles away. I firmly believe that the source of human energy and creativity can be found in the distance between where we are and where we'd like to be. It is that creative dissonance that is the entrepreneurial rocket fuel. If human beings could have walked everywhere on the planet I don't believe we would have invented trains, planes and automobiles. So, if you really want to build great companies you need big ideas.

“Certainly, not all big ideas may be viable in all incarnations. What about the reality of these ideas?

“Of course they have to be believable. They can't be pipedreams. Or as John Naisbitt once said: You can't get so far ahead of the parade that no one knows you're in it.

“From an execution perspective, you have to think big, start small, and scale fast. You can't think big and start big, that's almost impossible. You need miniature versions of your grand idea so you can validate its parts, and then iterate and tweak constantly. There's nothing wrong with having a really big idea and launching only aspects of that idea. Rome wasn't built in a day. Take Chipotle, for example. Steve Ells had a very big idea about food, but he didn't start by executing 100% of his vision; he gradually did what he could towards that theme.

“It is also important to remember that your purpose is not what you "tell" customers, but what you do. The best way to disappoint everyone is to over-promise and under-deliver. Therefore you must be humble AND committed at the same time. In fact, customers are more forgiving when you make mistakes if those mistakes are honest efforts in trying to improve towards a known and worthwhile direction.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Economic Competition, Death & Life

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, in an address to the Italian Senate—published in L’Osservatore Romano (requires subscription)—discussing business and economic competition from a Catholic perspective, in light of Pope Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, noted, in these remarkable six paragraphs:

“Contrary to what people think, Efficiency is not the fundamentum divisionis for distinguishing between what is business and what is not, for the simple reason that “efficiency” is a category that belongs to the order of means and not of ends. Indeed, efficiency is indispensable in order to achieve as well as possible the purpose one has freely chosen to give one’s action. The entrepreneur who gives priority to efficiency that is an end in itself risks being caught by one of the most frequent causes of the destruction of wealth today, as the current economic and financial crisis sadly confirms.

“To expand briefly on this theme, to say “market” means saying “competition”, in the sense that the market cannot exist where there is no competition (even if the opposite is not true). And there is no one who can fail to see that the fruitfulness of competition lies in the fact that it implies tension, the dialectic that presupposes the presence of another and the relationship with another. Without tension there is no movement, but the movement—this is the point—to which tension gives rise can also be fatal; in other words it can generate death.

“If the purpose of economic action is not synonymous with striving for a common goal—as the Latin etymology “cum-petere” would clearly indicate—but rather with Hobbes’ theory, “mors tua, vita mea” [your death is my life], then the social bond is reduced to commercial relations and economic activity tends to become inhuman, hence ultimately inefficient.

“Therefore, even in competition, “the Church’s social doctrine holds that authentically human social relationships of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity can also be conducted within economic activity, and not only outside it or ‘after’ it. The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral, nor inherently inhuman and opposed to society. It is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed is an ethical manner”.

“ Well, the advantage—by no means small—that Caritas in Veritate offers us is to give special consideration to the concept of market, typical of the tradition of the thought of civil economics, according to which it is possible to live the experience of human sociality within a normal economic life and not outside or beside it. This concept might be defined as an alternative, both regarding the concept that sees the market as a place for the exploitation and abuse of the weak by the strong, and the concept, which, in line with anarchic-liberalistic thought, sees it as a place that can provide solutions to all the problems of society.

“This way of doing business is differentiated from that of the traditional Smithian economy, which sees the market as the only institution truly necessary for democracy and freedom. The Church’s social doctrine, on the other hand, reminds us that a sound society is certainly the product of the market and of freedom, but there are needs that stem from the principle of brotherhood that can neither be avoided nor be referred solely to the private sphere or to philanthropy. Rather, the Church’s social doctrine proposes a humanism with various dimensions in which the market is not combated or “controlled” but is seen as an important institution in the public sphere—a sphere which far exceeds State control—which, if it is conceived of and lived as a place that is also open to the principles of reciprocity and of giving, can construct a healthy civil coexistence.” (Bertone, 2009, The many dimensions of humanism, L”Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, Wednesday August 5, 2009, p. 4)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Case for Capital Punishment

The recent horror uncovered in California regarding the evil couple—one an already convicted sex offender—who kidnapped, and held for years, a young girl, is the sort of tragic criminal justice result which underlies the reason why our organization's criminal justice principles calls for increasing the use of capital punishment for pedophiles and rapists, a sanction some states already use.

The New York Times reports on this case and how it may impact pending legislation to reduce the prison population as a budget saving measure.

An excerpt.

“SAN FRANCISCO — The case of Phillip Garrido, a parolee and registered sex offender accused of abducting an 11-year-old girl and holding her hostage for 18 years, has become embroiled in the debate over legislation intended to reduce California’s inmate population.

“The State Assembly is scheduled to vote on Monday on its version of a bill to help cut the budget deficit by $1.2 billion by reducing the state prison population by 27,000 through an early parole program. The State Senate passed its version of the legislation this month. But now, some corrections reform advocates in Sacramento, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, fear the fallout from the case of Mr. Garrido could affect or even derail action on the Assembly bill.

“This demonstrates the problems that we’re going to have if we release thousands of prisoners into our local communities,” State Senator Tom Harman, a Republican from Huntington Beach, told The Sacramento Bee.

“Mr. Harman’s concerns echoed fears that many of his colleagues had expressed even before Mr. Garrido and his wife were arrested and charged last Wednesday in the abduction and rape of Jaycee Dugard, who was taken as an 11-year-old in 1991 and has two daughters, ages 11 and 15….

“Mr. Garrido, 58, and his wife, Nancy, 55, were charged with 29 counts of kidnapping and rape; Mr. Garrido is accused of fathering Ms. Dugard’s two children.

“In 1976, Mr. Garrido was arrested after an interstate kidnapping and the rape a 25-year-old woman. He received a federal prison sentence of 50 years to life. But he was convicted before Congress passed “truth in sentencing” laws that prohibited early release programs until inmates had served most of their sentences, so Mr. Garrido was released from federal prison after serving only 11 years.

“He was granted federal parole in 1988, and was still under federal supervision when Ms. Dugard was kidnapped from a bus stop near her home in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. She remained missing until last week.”