Monday, November 30, 2009

Criminals & Technology

The advances in technology have been well-observed, and are being utilized by criminals and prisoners; and this story from Oklahoma shows how they are being used for recruitment of very young kids.

An excerpt.

“Gang members in Oklahoma have begun using cell phones and text messaging to conduct criminal activities, and Internet social media such as Facebook and YouTube to recruit members as young as second-graders, according to a survey of gang activity in the state.

“The survey, a follow-up to a study in 2006, shows Oklahoma’s increase in gang members the past three years is relatively small compared with the rest of the country. But youth in the state are joining gangs at an earlier age and gang members are becoming more prone to violent actions.

“As a result, the entire community, not just law enforcement, must address the gang issues facing Oklahoma, said Michael Wilds, an associate professor of criminal justice and legal studies at Northeastern State University, the author of the report.

"You’re seeing more recruiting done to the younger population,” he said.

“Oklahoma City and Tulsa officers reported gang members as young as 10 years old, compared with the youngest being identified as 12 years old three years ago. Oklahoma City officers reported that some youngsters are recruited as young as 8 years old, the survey states.

“Officers reported Oklahoma gangs are becoming more sophisticated in conducting criminal operations by using Internet social networking sites to recruit new members. They are also using cell phones and text messaging for communications related to criminal activities such as drug manufacturing and distribution routes, the survey found."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Church Militant

Many Catholic commentators have noticed a new energy and orthodoxy within the American episcopate, and it is truly refreshing, seems to be growing, and one feels the visit by the Pope last year contributed mightily to it.

This article in Human Events comments.

An excerpt.

“With the House debate on health care at its hottest, the U.S. Catholic bishops issued a stunning ultimatum: Impose an absolute ban on tax funds for abortions, or we call for defeat of the Pelosi bill.

“Message received. The Stupak Amendment, named for Bart Stupak of Michigan, was promptly passed, to the delight of pro-life Catholics and the astonished outrage of pro-abortion Democrats.

“No member was more upset than Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, son of Edward Kennedy, who proceeded to bash the Church for imperiling the greatest advance for human rights in a generation.

“Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin responded, accusing Kennedy of an unprovoked attack and demanding an apology. Kennedy retorted that Tobin had told him not to receive communion at Mass and ordered his diocesan priests not to give him communion.

“False! The bishop fired back.

“He had sent Kennedy a private letter in February 2007 saying that he ought not receive communion, as he was scandalizing the Church. But he had not told diocesan priests to deny him communion.

“As Rhode Island is our most Catholic state, Kennedy went silent and got this parting shot from Tobin: "Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church."

“The clash was naturally national news. But Tobin's public chastisement of a Catholic who carries the most famous name in U.S. and Catholic politics is made more significant because it seems to reflect a new militancy in the hierarchy that has been absent for decades

“Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., just informed the city council that, rather than recognize homosexual marriages and provide gays the rights and benefits of married couples, he will shut down all Catholic social institutions and let the city take them over. Civil disobedience may be in order here.

“Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York sent an op-ed to The New York Times charging the paper with anti-Catholic bigotry and using a moral double standard when judging the Church.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Religious Visitation & Resistance

It appears that the very reason many feel the Vatican ordered an inquiry into American congregations of women religious—that many of the orders have been in an active position of dissent against the Church, especially the papacy, for years—is being validated in the orders response to the inquiry, as reported by National Catholic Reporter.

An earlier post looks at the dissenting faction within the American Church from which the dissenting orders draw support.

The Church is blessed that many of the newer orders, retaining full habit, are deeply orthodox and growing strongly. while the dissenting orders continue their decline.

An excerpt from the article in the National Catholic Reporter.

“The vast majority of U.S. women religious are not complying with a Vatican request to answer questions in a document of inquiry that is part of a three-year study of the congregations. Leaders of congregations, instead, are leaving questions unanswered or sending in letters or copies of their communities' constitutions.

"There's been almost universal resistance," said one women religious familiar with the responses compiled by the congregation leaders. "We are saying 'enough!' In my 40 years in religious life I have never seen such unanimity."

“The deadline for the questionnaires to be filled out and returned to the Vatican-appointed apostolic visitator, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mother Mary Clare Millea, was Nov. 20. On that day, according to an informed source, congregation leaders across the nation sent Millea letters and, in many cases, only partial answers to the questionnaire. Many women, instead of filling out the forms, replied by sending in copies of their Vatican -approved orders' religious constitutions. A religious order's constitution states its rationale, purpose and mission.

“The Vatican initiated the study in January, saying its purpose is to determine the quality of life in religious communities, given the decline in vocations in recent decades. From the outset, the women have complained they were never consulted before Vatican officials announced the investigation and there is no transparency in the process. Some have called the effort demeaning and intrusive.

“The decisions by congregation leaders not to comply follow nearly two months of intensive discussions both inside and across religious congregations. They follow consultations with civil and canon lawyers, and come in the wake of what some women religious see as widespread support by laity for their church missions.”

Friday, November 27, 2009

Crime & Prisons

The underlying argument used by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops in their push to abolish capital punishment, is that modern carceral technology can protect the innocent from the aggressor, so a sentence of life in prison without parole can replace the option of capital punishment.

However, as we detailed in our book, Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support, that argument is incorrect and abolishing the capital punishment option would be a dramatic break with thousands of years of Church teaching.

This article (several others are noted in our book) reveals how well equipped prisoners are to control crime outside of prison through the use of information technology.

An excerpt.

“ONTARIO - These days social networking sites and cell phones are not just a place to catch up with friends.

“Gangs in Southern California are using them to orchestra crime, commit fraud and traffic drugs.

“The issue is so severe at California Institution for Men in Chino, that Lt. Thomas Goetz said he has assigned two staff members to try to eliminate the use of pre-paid disposable phones in the prison.

"The cell phones have become a communication tool between inside and outside gang members that we can't circumvent," he said.”

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Homeless, The Mad, & Institutions

In this excellent article from Inside Catholic the institutional support—and not—that has sometimes characterized the care of the homeless and the mentally ill, and their emergence from Catholic institutional roots, is noted.

An excerpt.

“I'm an urban person myself, and a walker. Every day, I have the opportunity to look in the eyes of the victims of social-science modeling, who are often more than willing to help me "feel their pain." We could argue whether the mad in our streets are 95 percent of the homeless, or maybe only 82; that they are the majority is self-evident. The homeless problem existed a generation before Reagan could be blamed for it; two generations before Bush "created" it; and perhaps three before Sarah Palin could take the credit from all liberal media. The homeless are used as a lobbying lever to crank up social spending on a great variety of liberal causes.

“For the last couple of years, my life has also included frequent visits to a nursing home. Medical science has yet to deliver a pill that will suppress the symptoms of aging long enough to turn the old in these expensive institutions out into the street, to join the mad and the "elective indigent." But we're counting on bureaucracy to come up with a plan.

“These places are staff-intensive. And did you know that the staff have rights? They get paid bourgeois salaries, are protected by labor law, and work (usually) 35 hour weeks. A week has 168 hours, so that means 4.8 of them for each bureaucratically defined staff function. The staff thus frequently outnumber the inmates. Which is, if I am not mistaken, how euthanasia got on the public agenda, and we have all this glowing propaganda for "death with dignity."

“The huge, carefully interred truth is that all such eleemosynary activities -- not just homes for the old and the incurable and the mad, for orphans and the poor and for refugees, but every sort of school and university and hospital and mission known to the Western world and far beyond it -- originated in provisions of the Catholic Church. Many were sustained or added to by Protestants after the Reformation; but till the day before yesterday in historical time, the state restricted itself to prisons. Because that is what the state could afford.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rehabilitation Programs Often Worsen Recidivism

This result, as reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer, is not a new phenomena, and as long as rehabilitation programs continued to be designed and managed by individuals, regardless of their intent or professionalism, who are not reformed criminals with graduate education, spiritual grounding, and organizational training, (see the Lampstand program model and the reference to deep knowledge leadership) failure rather than success will continue to be the benchmark.

The American criminal world has become too complex and resonates so much more deeply within the interiority of criminals than it ever has in the past, that attempting to pull people out of it without having deep experiential knowledge, as well as standing, within it, does not appear to be possible; which is why approximately 70% of prisoners currently being released from prisons nationally, are returning to prison.

Though we do not know the specific reasons this program is failing—others of similar structure in the area are doing better—the general reasons that traditional rehabilitation programs fail are obvious to most criminals, and often result from the narrative in which the old adage of “adding insult to injury” plays a central role.

An excerpt.

“Hamilton County's intensive probation program is so ineffective that the convicts in it are more likely to commit crimes than others convicted of similar crimes who never receive supervision, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

"That poor showing comes despite the fact the county gets the most state money of any county in the state and spends more per probationer than other urban counties.

"The Hamilton County Program's success rate of 29 percent is the worst in the state, according to the prisons department.

"Prison officials threaten to yank the $1.7 million they give the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court for the program which is designed to keep people out of prison.

"If Hamilton County, as with all other counties, doesn't reach a certain level of quality, DRC can no longer fund their ineffective programs," said Linda Janes, deputy director of the prisons' Division of Parole and Community Services. "We have to make sure, as good stewards of tax dollars, that the money is well spent and we obviously cannot continue to put money into programs that do not have any effect - or worse yet, cause more people to wind up in prison."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bishop’s Homily to Youth

The Catholic Key Blog posted a very nice homily Bishop Soto of the Sacramento Diocese recently gave.

An excerpt.

“As I post this, Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto has just concluded his homily for the closing liturgy of the National Catholic Youth Conference in Kansas City. It is the Solemnity of Christ the King. I have had the grace of being able to hear Bishop Soto preach to youth a couple of times on the west coast. He is a powerful preacher who puts Christ at the center of all he says and who strongly connects with youth and young adults. Suffice it to say, his homily was applauded by the 22,000 youth at Sprint Center tonight - Try that at your parish.

“Luckily, I was able to buttonhole Bishop Soto earlier in the day and asked him for an electronic version of his homily. He emailed it to me with the caveat that he may make some changes in the actual presentation. I was able to catch most of his homily live tonight, and below is a very faithful rendition of what Bishop Soto did preach:

“Every second 2.5 million emails are moving across the internet. More than 4 billion text messages are lighting up cell phones in the United States every day. One young woman was reported to have sent 14, 528 text messages in a month. That’s 484 messages a day, one text message every two minutes, not counting sleep time. Her father’s cell phone statement that month was 440 pages long. Welcome to the information age. In this mad search for the answer, in the helter-skelter grab for a connection are we any closer to the truth that will set us free?

“The Lord Jesus is tapping on the homepage of your heart. He wants to text the truth of God’s mercy on your soul. Jesus is the Word, the ultimate Facebook of God and invites you to be his friend. Jesus does not twitter. Rather he humbled himself so that he could meet you, connect with you and serve you in charity and in truth. He is the IP address of the way, the truth and the life.

“This means that truth, any truth worth knowing, is fundamentally part of a relationship with Jesus. Truth is most beautiful when it is part of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the wisdom of Pope Benedict’s most recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Charity in Truth. Truth is most persuasive and most attractively revealed through the new covenant of charity found in knowing and connecting with the Lord Jesus.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An American Life

I just finished reading Sarah Palin’s book: Going Rogue: An American Life, and it most certainly is that, a wonderful political biography of a quintessential American life which embraces the common sense values she—and many of us—grew up with.

She was raised Catholic and though she now attends an evangelical congregation, her life and politics—describing herself as a “Commonsense Conservative”— clearly, to me, rest on the social teaching of the Catholic Church.

An excerpt.

“What does it mean to be a Commonsense Conservative?

“At its most basic level, conservatism is a respect for history and tradition, including traditional moral principles. I do not believe I am more moral, certainly no better, than anyone else, and conservatives who act “holier than thou” turn my stomach. So do some elite liberals. But I do believe in a few timeless and unchanging truths, and chief among those is that man is fallen. The world is not perfect, and politicians will never make it so.

“I am a conservative because I deal with the world as it is—complicated and beautiful, tragic and hopeful. I am a conservative because I believe in the rights and the responsibilities and the inherent dignity of the individual.” (p. 385)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Yesterday one hundred forty eight (signatories are still growing and now stand at 6298) Christian leaders (including many Catholic Bishops and Priests) released The Manhattan Declaration, vowing to stand fast in their obligation to speak the truths of Christians to resist the power of government supporting policies that have created an environment where:

“…in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.”

Am excerpt.

“We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities. We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

“While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.

“Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

“We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Political Polish & Street Smarts

In the dangerous—and so often ineffective—work of gang intervention, it is crucial to have political polish to accomplish the necessary work with criminal justice, medical, and government professionals called upon in the course of that work, and the necessary street smarts to deal with the gangs; a leadership combination that is extremely rare.

The Lampstand program leadership model, built on criminal/carceral experiential knowledge and graduate level college accomplishment, can create deep knowledge leaders who can bring these into congruence.

This article in the Los Angeles Times examines the current situation there, as public leadership tries to fashion an effective and well-regulated program.

An excerpt.

“A city-sponsored training academy for gang intervention workers will open at least a year later than Los Angeles officials had hoped after a collision of philosophies and egos -- a hitch in the city's effort to modernize its campaign against street violence.

“Officials said this week that an independent panel has selected the Advancement Project, the legal advocacy, civil rights and public policy group, as the winner of a bidding process to run the academy.

“But that bid was never supposed to occur. The city's original plan -- to meld the best practices of two gang intervention programs into an "official" curriculum -- collapsed, according to interviews with city officials and City Hall advisors.

“Now, the academy isn't expected to open until at least the spring of 2010 -- a year later than originally envisioned. And it's not over yet: The head of a group that lost the bid called the selection process flawed and pledged to appeal the decision into next year, when the City Council will be asked to sign off on the contract.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Church in an African Prison

The Catholic Church in Africa is undergoing a period of explosive growth, and part of the reason is visible in the care being put into its prison work, as revealed in this article from the Catholic Herald of the United Kingdom.

An excerpt.

“A line drawing of Jesus carrying his Cross adorned his light blue T-shirt as he stood, waiting for Mass to begin, occasionally moving to make space for the steady stream of men heading towards the makeshift confessional. One or two of them appeared incredibly sad, one of them perhaps not far from tears...

“Mass started late: one priest could not be in two places at once. Rarely have I felt the Liturgy to be such a desperately - needed lifeline of hope in the midst of hopelessness and suffering.

"Try to see life through the eyes of Jesus" - this was the message of the homily.

“Three men impressed themselves indelibly in my memory: the one who seemed so sad, the one with the blue T-shirt and a third, who crossed the chapel to greet us. He evidently considered himself of a higher social status as he shook hands, chatting cheerily for a few moments.

"He was a district secretary," Fr Donal Fennessey SMA explained afterwards. "He shot his nephew at point-blank range during an argument. At his trial, the judge said that if he could kill one of his own family, then nobody could be safe."

“My first Mass in a prison chapel was also the first and only time that I have, albeit unknowingly, shaken hands with a murderer. Yet, hearing the confessions of the prisoners through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and offering them the Eucharist is part and parcel of Fr Donal's normal Saturday routine when he visits the prison in Lafia, Nigeria.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Criminal Records

While it is obviously a help to criminals reentering society from prison to have employers limited in accessing their criminal histories, it is not good public safety policy, as the more transparency there is—in all things related to public policy—the better.

An excerpt from the Boston Globe article discussing this.

“The state Senate plans to vote today on wide-ranging criminal justice legislation that would make it easier for inmates to get jobs after their release from prison, a change that Deval Patrick promoted during his campaign for governor.

“The 30-page bill - which loosens the state’s criminal offender record information system, or CORI - has been pushed by advocates, who argue that former prisoners are often unable to get work because potential employers check their records and refuse to hire them.

“The legislation would limit employers’ access to the criminal record of potential employees. A separate provision would let nonviolent drug offenders apply for parole before serving the minimum amount of time required for the crime under stringent drug laws. Currently, those inmates cannot apply for parole until after they have reached that threshold.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Food & Catholic Social Teaching

It is often difficult, when caught up in the news whirling about us that promotes the perception that we are more a member of a particular country, ethnic group, religious persuasion, or political party, than a human being; which is exactly a prime part of the role of the Holy Father, to remind us that we are humans on this world together.

In these remarks about the food needed to feed all humans on this planet, he reminds us of eternal truths.

An excerpt.

“VATICAN CITY, 16 NOV 2009 (VIS) - At midday today Benedict XVI visited the Rome headquarters of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for the occasion of the World Summit on Food Security, being held there from 16 to 18 November.

“Given below are some excerpts from the Holy Father's address to the gathering:

"The international community is currently facing a grave economic and financial crisis. Statistics bear witness to the dramatic growth in the number of people suffering from hunger, made worse by the rise in price of foodstuffs, the reduction in economic resources available to the poorest peoples, and their limited access to markets and to food - notwithstanding the known fact that the world has enough food for all its inhabitants.

"Indeed, while low levels of agricultural production persist in some regions, partly owing to climate change, sufficient food is produced on a global scale to satisfy both current demands and those in the foreseeable future. From these data we may deduce that there is no cause-and-effect relationship between population growth and hunger, and this is further demonstrated by the lamentable destruction of foodstuffs for economic gain.

"In the Encyclical Letter 'Caritas in veritate' I pointed out that ... 'what is missing is a network of economic institutions capable of guaranteeing regular access to sufficient food and water . and also capable of addressing the primary needs and necessities ensuing from genuine food crises'".

"There is a "need to oppose those forms of aid that do grave damage to the agricultural sector, those approaches to food production that are geared solely towards consumption and lack a wider perspective, and especially greed, which causes speculation to rear its head even in the marketing of cereals, as if food were to be treated just like any other commodity.

"The weakness of current mechanisms for food security and the need to re- examine them are confirmed, one might say, by the mere fact that this summit has been convoked".

"The concept of co-operation, though, must be consistent with the principle of subsidiarity. ... This is because integral human development requires responsible choices on the part of everyone and it demands an attitude of solidarity - meaning that aid or disaster relief should not be seen as opportunities to promote the interests of those who make resources available or of elite groups among the beneficiaries".

Monday, November 16, 2009

Terror in Israel

It is too little noted in the news stories about the Israeli Palestinian issue how many Jews have been killed over time, but this new book has gathered the information and the stories together, as reported by Chiesa on the day Jews commemorated the “Night of Broken Glass.”

An excerpt.

“ROME, November 7, 2009 – Today Jews all over the world are commemorating their martyrs of the "Night of Broken Glass," the victims of the Nazi pogrom on the night of November 9-10, 1938, in Germany.

“There is universal, mournful observance of that massacre and of the tremendous extermination of Jews by the Reich that came after it.

“But the same is not done, in Europe and the West, for the many other Jewish victims who for years have been killed in Israel, assailed by Islamic terrorism.

“Every time one of them is killed, it is covered in the news and then immediately ignored. The victim ends up buried in the vagueness of the "Palestinian question," viewed by many as Israel's "fault."

“Meanwhile, one out of every three hundred Israeli families has been directly affected by an attack. The terrorist actions number in the thousands. More than 150 suicide attacks have been carried out, and for each of these the Israeli police estimate that they have prevented nine more. 1,723 people have been killed to date, 378 of them women. More than ten thousand have been injured.

“The indifference of the West and of Christians in the face of this steady stream of victims, struck systematically in the midst of their daily routine, on the buses, in the cafes, in the markets, at home, now has a response in a book that recounts their stories for the first time. It finally tells us who they are.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Criminal Records and Criminal Reformation

The only realistic position anyone can take in the current climate of easy access to any and all information about one’s criminal past is to accept it and be straightforward when applying for jobs.

The process of cleaning up ones record—if applicable—is a smart one, as noted by this article from the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“U.S. job seekers are crashing into the worst employment market in years and background checks that reach deeper than ever into their pasts.

“The result: a surge of people seeking to legally clear their criminal records.

“In Michigan, state police estimate they'll set aside 46% more convictions this year than last. Oregon is on track to set aside 33% more. Florida sealed and expunged nearly 15,000 criminal records in the fiscal year ended June 30, up 43% from the previous year. The courts of Cook County, which includes Chicago and nearby suburbs, received about 7,600 expungement requests in the year's first three quarters, nearly double the pace from the year before.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Capital Punishment & Prison Time

One of the unintended consequences of creating a legal situation in California—as well as in other states—where the actual imposition of the death penalty after sentencing may become so long that many death row prisoners die of natural causes before it can be applied, is the realization that—in many respects—prison time served in the often commodious accommodations of death row rather than in the crowded ones of the main line is much to be preferred; leading to what has happened as noted in this article from the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

“White supremacist gang hit man Billy Joe Johnson got what he asked for from the Orange County jury that convicted him of first-degree murder last month: a death sentence.

“It wasn't remorse for his crimes or a desire for atonement that drove him to ask for execution; it was the expectation that conditions on death row would be more comfortable than in other maximum-security prisons and that any date with the executioner would be decades away if it came at all.

“Although executions are carried out with comparative speed in states such as Virginia, where Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad was put to death Tuesday night, capital punishment in California has become so bogged down by legal challenges as to be a nearly empty threat, say experts on both sides of the issue.

"This is a dramatic reaffirmation of what we've already known for some time, that capital punishment in California takes way too long," Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the law-and-order Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, said of Johnson's bet that he will live a long life on death row. "This guy certainly feels like it's worth the risk."

“Statistics suggest that Johnson may be correct in his calculations.

“California has the nation's largest death row population, with 685 sentenced to die by lethal injection. Yet only 13 executions have been carried out since capital punishment resumed in 1977 and none of the condemned have been put to death since a moratorium was imposed nearly four years ago. Five times as many death row inmates -- 71 -- have died over that same period of natural causes, suicide or inside violence.

“Though death row inmates at San Quentin State Prison are far from coddled, they live in single cells that are slightly larger than the two-bunk, maximum-security confines elsewhere, they have better access to telephones and they have "contact visits" in plexiglass booths by themselves rather than in communal halls as in other institutions. They have about the only private accommodations in the state's 33-prison network, which is crammed with 160,000-plus convicts.

“Death row prisoners are served breakfast and dinner in their cells, can usually mingle with others in the outdoor exercise yards while eating their sack lunches, and have exclusive control over the television, CD player or other diversions in their cells.

"Death row inmates probably have the most liberal telephone privileges of anyone in state custody," said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, explaining that they need ready access to their attorneys and can often make calls from their cells over a phone that can be rolled along the cellblock.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Bishop & The Congressman

There has been a remarkable series of public exchanges between Catholic Congressman Patrick Kennedy (a son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy) and his Bishop, Thomas J. Tobin, where the ancient call of the bishop to teach the faithful is being used effectively.

It is a wonderful expression of public pastoral leadership about Catholic social teaching one hopes to continue to see from many more Catholic bishops in the future.

An excerpt from yesterday’s letter from Bishop Tobin to Congressman Kennedy.

“Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership.

“For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true. And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.

“For example, the “Code of Canon Law” says, “Lay persons are bound by an obligation and possess the right to acquire a knowledge of Christian doctrine adapted to their capacity and condition so that they can live in accord with that doctrine.” (Canon 229, #1)

“The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says this: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles, ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ the faithful receive with docility the teaching and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.” (#87)

“Or consider this statement of the Church: “It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002)

“There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”

“But let’s get down to a more practical question; let’s approach it this way: What does it mean, really, to be a Catholic? After all, being a Catholic has to mean something, right?

“Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.

“Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

US Bishops Exert Political Clout

After many years in the political secular wilderness driven by the seamless garment approach to life issues, they appear to have fully accepted the traditional hierarchy of life issues approach, newly focused on by Pope Benedict, and the bishops are beginning to rally around the protection of the most innocent, and it is truly heartening to see.

The influence of the Holy Father is deepening and focusing the debate.

The efforts of the bishops in the abortion debate connected to the health care bill are noted in this article from the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“Injecting itself aggressively into the health-care debate, the Roman Catholic Church in America has emerged as a major political force with the potential to upend a key piece of President Barack Obama's agenda.

“Behind-the-scenes lobbying, coupled with a grassroots mobilization of Catholic churches across the country, led the House Saturday to pass an amendment to its health-care bill barring anyone who receives a new tax credit from enrolling in a plan that covers abortion, a once-unthinkable event in Democrat-dominated Washington.

“The restriction would still have to be accepted by the Senate, where it will likely face a tough fight. The issue could sink the larger health legislation if the chambers fail to reach agreement, or if any consensus language leads supporters to defect.

“The House vote, and the central role played by one of the country's biggest religious denominations, stunned abortion-rights groups that had worked hard to elect Mr. Obama and expand Democratic congressional majorities. Activists on the left had thought social issues would take a back seat to economic concerns.

“The bishops' success served as a reminder that Democrats' strategy over the past two election cycles of recruiting more conservative candidates to run in competitive House and Senate seats can have unwelcome policy consequences for liberals among the party's base. About 40 House Democrats are opposed to abortion rights.

“The bishops have a history of political activism. In the 2004 presidential race, some bishops said they would refuse to grant communion to Democratic nominee John Kerry, a Catholic who favored abortion rights. In 2005, the bishops' conference backed efforts by then-President George W. Bush and Republican lawmakers to intervene in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case. But rarely has the church entered the fray with such decisive force.

"The Catholic bishops came in at the last minute and drew a line in the sand," said Laurie Rubiner, vice president for public policy at the abortion-rights advocacy group Planned Parenthood. "It's very hard to compete with that."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good & Evil

Rarely does a political leader of a major nation express the evil of another major nation as did President Ronald Reagan with his famous four words, “Tear down this wall,” which eventually led to the breakup of the Soviet empire, a long work that deeply involved Pope John Paul II.

The process by which these four words were written and kept in the speech against the advice of virtually all of the other politicians and diplomats of the time, is one that needs bearing in mind at all times, as we continue our struggle against evil.

An excerpt from the article in the Wall Street Journal.

“Ronald Reagan would embarrass himself and the country by asking Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, which was going to be there for decades. So the National Security Council (NSC) staff and State Department had argued for many weeks to get Reagan's now famous line removed from his June 12, 1987, Berlin speech.

“With a fervor and relentlessness I hadn't seen over the prior seven years even during disputes about "the ash-heap of history" or "evil empire," they kept up the pressure until the morning Reagan spoke the line. "Is that what I think it is?" I asked White House communications director Tom Griscom about a cable NSC Adviser Frank Carlucci had been nudging at us across the table during a White House senior staff meeting at the Cipriani Hotel in Venice. (Reagan had been attending a G-8 summit there and would shortly fly to the German capital.) With a shake of his head and a smile, Mr. Griscom confirmed the last-minute plea from State to drop the key sentence.

“In the Reagan Library archives, similar documents chronicling the opposition's intensity surface from time to time. I was gratified though not surprised to hear a few years back about one NSC staffer's memo to Deputy National Security Adviser Colin Powell complaining that on multiple occasions, perhaps as many as five or six, I had declined as head of speechwriting—the writer talked about "a heated argument" between us—to remove the offending sentence.

“And not only me. Shortly after the speech draft began making its review through the bureaucracy, the speechwriters, as Reagan true-believers, had deployed to do the interpersonal glad-handing that sometimes eases objections to speech passages. The Berlin event for us was the quintessential chance—in front of Communism's most evocative monument—to enunciate the anti-Soviet counterstrategy that Reagan had been putting in place since his first weeks in office.

“Well before a draft was circulated, I called the writer who had the assignment, Peter Robinson, and told him I was going to an Oval Office meeting.

“Shortly before we walked to the West Wing, Peter told me what he wanted in the draft: "Tear down the wall." I pushed back in my chair from my desk and let loose "fantastic, wonderful, great, perfect" and other inadequate exclamations. The Oval Office meeting agenda went quickly, with little chance to pop the question. But the discussion ceased for a moment toward the end, and I crowded in: "Mr. President, it's still very early but we were just wondering if you had any thoughts at all yet on the Berlin speech?"

“Pausing for only a moment, Reagan slipped into his imitation of impressionist Rich Little doing his imitation of Ronald Reagan—he made the well-known nod of the head, said the equally familiar "well," and then added in his soft but resonant intonation while lifting his hand and letting it fall: "Tear down the wall."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Surfer is Back

In this story from the San Francisco Chronicle about a legendary surfer who struggled with addiction but has rebuilt his life and is helping others find the path he discovered through a strong family intervention many moons ago, we see the power of transformational help coming from someone who has been there and back.

Our prayers are with his continued recovery and help to others.

An excerpt.

“Nearly dying is a specialty of Darryl "Flea" Virostko.

“The surfer, who won the first three monster-wave contests at Mavericks north of Half Moon Bay, almost drowned there once when the leash that attaches his ankle to the board clung to an underwater rock.

“So epic was a plunge down a 50-foot wall of water at Hawaii's Waimea Bay in 2004 that Surfer magazine dubbed it the "Wipeout of the Decade."

“But Virostko was never closer to death than when he decided to get sober last year, several days after terrified relatives and fellow surfers staged an intervention.

“Closing out a final bender, he smoked a pipe of crystal meth, then chugged a half-gallon of vodka as he drove from Santa Cruz to a Pacific Grove rehab center.

"I didn't care about my life at all," Virostko said recently, talking about his rise to stardom and near-fatal descent. "I wasn't being Flea."

“Being Flea means pushing the limits of mortality on freakishly large waves, not dry land. Now, he said, it means celebrating 14 months of sobriety, teaching addicts to surf in his FleaHab program, and training to become a drug and alcohol counselor.”

Monday, November 9, 2009

Church Moves to Deeper Unity

As the Holy Father continues the work of his predecessors in bringing the lost sheep of the Church back into the fold of the Shepherd of Rome, the dissenting and doctrinally confused are reminded once again of the apostolic clarity of Holy Mother Church and called also, back into embrace with her magisterium.

The Apostolic Constitution Regarding the Anglican Communion has been released by the Holy See, as well as the Complimentary Norms for the Apostolic Constitution.

There was also released a Commentary on the Signfigance of the Apostolic Constitution.

An excerpt from the Constitution.

“In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately. The Apostolic See has responded favorably to such petitions. Indeed, the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches, could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realization.

“The Church, a people gathered into the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, as “a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all people.” Every division among the baptized in Jesus Christ wounds that which the Church is and that for which the Church exists; in fact, “such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching the Gospel to every creature.” Precisely for this reason, before shedding his blood for the salvation of the world, the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father for the unity of his disciples.

“It is the Holy Spirit, the principle of unity, which establishes the Church as a communion. He is the principle of the unity of the faithful in the teaching of the Apostles, in the breaking of the bread and in prayer. The Church, however, analogous to the mystery of the Incarnate Word, is not only an invisible spiritual communion, but is also visible; in fact, “the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, the visible society and the spiritual community, the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches, are not to be thought of as two realities. On the contrary, they form one complex reality formed from a two-fold element, human and divine.” The communion of the baptized in the teaching of the Apostles and in the breaking of the eucharistic bread is visibly manifested in the bonds of the profession of the faith in its entirety, of the celebration of all of the sacraments instituted by Christ, and of the governance of the College of Bishops united with its head, the Roman Pontiff.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Call to Action

When I first began the formal process of conversion into the Catholic Church I encountered many members of the Call to Action generation who seemed to be well represented in the parish into which I was baptized.

Their perspective on the Church was infused within the parish Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) to the extent that my sponsor informed me that abortion was not dogmatic Catholic teaching and that he supported the right of women to choose.

It took awhile for me to study my way into alignment with the teaching of the Church, and as I explored the catechism and the papal encyclicals I learned, in addition to the eternal teaching of the Church, how important it is to do your own study and to ensure the core of that study emanates from the Vatican.

This article from Catholic World reveals the tragic direction taken by too many religious and laity who have become attached to the dissenting Call to Action approach to the Church rather than to the eternal truth from the Holy See.

An excerpt.

“Claiming that they are attempting to address the “serious deterioration of the US Church today,” organizers of a new Catholic reform organization are planning a national conclave in 2011 called the American Catholic Council. In what is being billed as a kind of off-site Vatican Council, the proposed gathering promises “thoughtful discussion” of scholarly papers and presentations by Catholic theologians, scholars, and activists—all directed toward the goal of creating a new Church that is “fully in tune with the authentic Gospel message.”

“Promising that the American Catholic Council will “recapture the universal call to ministry,” organizers claim to have launched the call for the national council in an effort to create a more responsive, accountable Church that “calls on the active participation of its people and more closely models the American experience.”

“Although council leaders have denied that they are attempting to create their own church, the American Catholic Council website states their mission clearly: “We seek nothing short of a personal conversion of all to create a new Church.” And, while the organizers of the proposed council have appropriated the language and trappings of an authentic Catholic council, the reality is that the American Catholic Council will be conducted entirely outside the purview of the Church, flouting canon law, and ignoring input from current Church leaders.

“Commemorating the 50th anniversary of what organizers view as the “unfulfilled promise” of the Second Vatican Council, the American Catholic Council is scheduled to be held in Detroit in the fall of 2011. Detroit was selected because it was the site of the 1976 Call to Action Conference—a conference that Joseph Bottum, editor of First Things, has described as the “low point in post-Vatican II American Catholic unity.” Bottum recalled that the 1976 conference began by calling upon the Church to fight “chronic racism, sexism, militarism, and poverty in modern society.” But, by the conclusion of the conference, Call to Action participants demanded that the Church change its positions on celibacy, male clergy, homosexuality, birth control, and Communion for the divorced and remarried—with further decisions to be made by majority votes of laypeople.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Blueprints for Youth Crime

This research center at the University of Colorado appears to be doing some pretty good work in evaluating youth crime prevention programs. Their research methods are first-rate.

However, in any study of youth crime, it is crucial to keep in mind that most of the model programs are dealing with kids with little actual criminal involvement—Big Brothers Big Sisters of America for instance—and major studies show that most kids committing crimes will spin out of the system, without any intervention, after one or two arrests.

A previous post addressed this.

An excerpt from their website, Blueprints for Violence Prevention Overview.

“Why do we need to know what works? For two reasons.

“First, many programs, despite their good intentions, are either ineffective or actually do more harm than good. Second, ineffective or harmful programs are a waste of scarce violence prevention dollars.

“For example, Scared Straight, which is supposed to deter delinquent youth from a life of crime by showing them life in prison, actually increases crime. Yet shock probation programs like Scared Straight continue to be used throughout the country. Ineffective prevention programs include boot camps, gun buybacks, peer counseling, summer jobs for at-risk youth, neighborhood watches, and home detention with electronic monitoring.

“But other prevention programs, like Life Skills Training and Project Towards No Drug Abuse, not only work but are highly cost-effective. They are among 11 model programs certified by Blueprints, meaning that they have a high level of evidence supporting their effectiveness and should be replicated in other communities to prevent violence and drug abuse. In addition, Blueprints has designated 19 promising programs that have shown good results but require either replication in another community or additional time to demonstrate their effectiveness and sustainability.”

Friday, November 6, 2009

Internet Gospel in Prisons

This program of catechesis—even in the prisons—in Australia by the Australian Bishops, as reported by Zenit, is a great idea, one that should be considered here.

An excerpt.

“SYDNEY, Australia, NOV. 4, 2009 ( The Gospel message was sent through the Internet today to isolated places, even prisons, in a global e-conference organized by the Australian bishops.

“A press release from the bishops' conference reported that thousands of people, including convicts from Sydney's Long Bay Correctional Centre and Silverwater Correctional Centre, tuned in to the online conference to learn more about the Gospel of Luke.

“Through the Internet, individuals joined the global network of participants from across Australia, as well as Rome, Great Britain, the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland, the United States, the Philippines, Korea, Fiji and New Zealand. They were able to listen to the talks and send in questions by email, which were then answered throughout the day.

“The conference, titled "Come to the Table," is the second of its kind, following the successful online presentation on St. Paul last June.

“The events were organized by the bishops' conference along with The Broken Bay Institute.”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Prisoners Voting

The idea of prisoners voting is contrary to common sense and the Catholic tradition of penance prior to redemption, but it still struggles to become normative, per this article from The Economist.

An excerpt.

“MOST rich democracies spend a lot of time and money trying to convince more people to exercise their right to vote. So it might seem strange that some of the same countries take some trouble preventing thousands of citizens from going to the polls. In 48 American states and seven European countries, including Britain, prisoners are forbidden from voting in elections. Many more countries impose partial voting bans (applying only to prisoners serving long sentences, for instance). And in ten American states some criminals are stripped of the vote for life, even after their release.

“There is scant public sympathy for characters such as Peter Chester, a British child-killer whose bid to use human-rights legislation to win the right to vote from his cell was rejected on October 28th. But voting should not require a character test. The punishment of monsters such as Mr Chester consists of the prolonged deprivation of liberty. Withdrawing the vote from them only hammers home what they already believe: that normal social rules do not apply to them.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Root Causes

One of the most common root causes used by many criminal justice and homelessness practitioners who, incorrectly, diagnose crime and homelessness—both caused largely by individual choice—is poverty.

If poverty as causation were true, the current economic situation would have resulted in a crime explosion, but as it is not true, it hasn’t’

A brief note in City Journal addresses this.

An excerpt.

“The economic situation is proving challenging to “root cause” theorists—those who argue that social pathologies like crime arise from economic inequality and racism, not cultural dysfunction. The regular predictions that crime will go up as self-disciplined burghers lose their jobs continue to be dashed. To be sure, in some cities, youth violence has been bobbing up and down. Chicago, for example, saw a 38 percent spike in homicide victims aged 17 and younger in 2008—to a total of 50 victims—but this year, those youth homicides were down 19 percent by the end of September. Inner-city gangbangers never had jobs to begin with. Their violence represents the cumulative effects of a culture where marriage has disappeared as an expectation for young men.

“And now the other favorite target of root-causism—homelessness—is also defying advocates’ expectations. The homeless population in Los Angeles has dropped 38 percent since 2007. Despite recent unconvincing attempts by the New York Times to portray a rise in homelessness among socially affiliated people, homelessness is overwhelmingly a product of addiction, mental illness, and opportunity. When misguided urban leaders tolerate the colonization of streets by vagrants, more and more people will take advantage of the opportunity to live outside the rules of normal society. The Los Angeles Police Department has been aggressively enforcing quality-of-life laws in downtown’s Skid Row, as well as offering housing and assistance to every vagrant its officers cite who does not have a history of violence. People seldom accept the offer of assistance, but they have gotten off the streets. And with the once anarchic and violent Skid Row encampments greatly diminished, thanks to police action, the former residents of those tents and lean-tos are not being replaced by new fugitives, pimps, and addicts.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reentry & Ignatian Mission

Our recent newsletter (requires membership) focused on the historical tradition of the Society of Jesus and their martial founding nature, which is very suitable to working within the danger zone of criminal reformation.

In the current issue of the Jesuit magazine, Company, (click on the article California Centennial and scroll to the heading Ganglands and Social Outreach) there is a summary of some of their work in this arena.

An excerpt from the Fall 2009 issue of the Lampstand Newsletter Essay: Prisoner Reentry & Ignatian Mission:

“While community reentry efforts continue to be unsuccessful, faith-based prison programs appear to have some success changing the prison behavior of their participants. Unfortunately, these in-prison programs appear to have little interest in establishing community efforts at a scale to become effective in reducing the national recidivism rate of approximately 70%.

“Considering 700,000 prisoners are released annually, indicates 490,000 of them are returning to crime and prison, and this is a figure obviously unsustainable for too much longer without some degree of success at community rehabilitation efforts that can scale up to the point of impact.

“While government continues to develop its faith-based community strategy through the Second Chance Act, it seems appropriate to consider why few faith-based community rehabilitative programs exist while many faith-based prison efforts do.

“Johnson (2008), writing about the level of danger in working with criminals, inside and outside of prison, notes: “As important as volunteer work within correctional facilities might be, it does not diminish the fact that reentry and aftercare tend to be largely overlooked by most religious volunteers and organizations. Compared to reentry, prison ministry is a much easier task to pursue and a safe service opportunity in what many consider to be an unsafe environment….faith based organizations disproportionately opt for in-prison ministry rather than out-of-prison services because reentry and after care are anything but easy or safe.” (Johnson, B. R. (2008). The faith factor and prisoner reentry; Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Vol. 4, Special Section p. 1-21. Retrieved August 15, 2009 from Academic Source Complete: EBSCO Database (AN 36238182) (p. 6)

“The recent decades-long war on crime inspired martial policing and legislation resulting in massive increases in incarceration and lengthy sentences—which, while one oft used analysis defines as a means of controlling the ethnic minority underclass—is rather, a response based on ancient behavior attuned more to the Old Testament than the New; but based just as firmly on the Catholic teaching of protecting the innocent by stopping the aggressor.

“One of the many terrible consequences of the great heresy of the reformation and the subsequent plunge into relativity in all things has been a corresponding loss among many of the faithful of the understanding of the martiality of our faith, the congruence and singularity of the mind of God as expressed in both the Old and the New Testaments.” (Lukenbill, D.H. (2009). Lampstand Newsletter #15, (pp.1-2)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sign of Peace

I became a Catholic in 2004 and as I learned more about my adopted faith and explored the two different formulations of its liturgy—the old mass and the new— in various parishes, one of the things I liked about the old mass is that there is no sign of peace.

The sign of peace as it is generally practiced in the parishes I have been to, is somewhat of a social moment, which intrudes upon the spiritual contemplative state the rest of the mass calls me to enter.

Reading an editorial in the Magnificat (subscription required) has opened me to the deeper significance of its true purpose, and describes one beautiful form of it.

An excerpt.

“…Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

“…It is not our own peace that we offer to one another; it is the very peace that the risen Christ himself has given us…the peace and unity of his kingdom. We act as agents for the Savior.

“I remember being in a church once where the sign of peace was given in a most beautiful way. The priest began the sign of peace by offering it first to the servers. The servers then offered it to those seated in the first pews. The people in the first pews turned and offered it to those who were seated behind them. They in turn continued this pattern. In this way, the peace of Christ spread through the church in a serene and moving way. It reminded me of the Easter Vigil and the way the darkened church gradually becomes flooded with candlelight as the fire of the paschal candle is shared, taper by taper. When the rite of peace is offered with this kind of intentionality and reverence, it witnesses to the deepest meaning of Gospel peace. This peace “is not merely a feeling: it is an authentic Christian virtue, that is, the power of God radiating through the believer and inclining him to spread the peace of Christ around him” (S. Pinckaers). The gift of this peace draws us to new heights and makes us hungry for Holy Communion.”

Cameron, P.J. (2009). How to go to mass: The sign of peace. Magnificat, 11(9), 2-5.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day

We live our lives by the rhythm established by the saints of our Church, many of whom are unknown, but all a great treasure from which we draw sustenance and strength.

Today is the feast of all of the saints, and from Saint of the Day, an excerpt.

“The earliest certain observance of a feast in honor of all the saints is an early fourth-century commemoration of "all the martyrs." In the early seventh century, after successive waves of invaders plundered the catacombs, Pope Boniface IV gathered up some 28 wagonloads of bones and reinterred them beneath the Pantheon, a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods. The pope rededicated the shrine as a Christian church. According to Venerable Bede, the pope intended "that the memory of all the saints might in the future be honored in the place which had formerly been dedicated to the worship not of gods but of demons" (On the Calculation of Time).

“But the rededication of the Pantheon, like the earlier commemoration of all the martyrs, occurred in May. Many Eastern Churches still honor all the saints in the spring, either during the Easter season or immediately after Pentecost.

“How the Western Church came to celebrate this feast in November is a puzzle to historians. The Anglo-Saxon theologian Alcuin observed the feast on November 1 in 800, as did his friend Arno, Bishop of Salzburg. Rome finally adopted that date in the ninth century.”