Thursday, December 31, 2009


The beauty of the concept of globalization is that it is the process that eventually leads to increased health and happiness throughout the world as tyranny is slowly swept away by commerce, raising standards of living and more educated populations, long advocated by the principles of the Church’s social teaching.

This review, in the Wall Street Journal, of a new book about globalization, Sonic Boom: Globalization at Mach Speed—I’ve just ordered it so will write my own review soon—seems to describe that process as it truly begins to take hold, promising good for the planet.

An excerpt.

“Two years ago, as the world flirted with a second Great Depression, Gregg Easterbrook was in the midst of writing a book about the coming economic boom. A less confident writer might have abandoned the project in despair. But Mr. Easterbrook, a graduate of the New Republic's school of contrarian journalism, forged on regardless. The result is a book that is both a pleasure to read and a valuable corrective to the gloom that currently envelops us.

“The big idea behind "Sonic Boom" is that globalization—celebrated, reviled and analyzed for at least a decade now—has hardly begun. The world, Mr. Easterbrook believes, is on the verge of a period of pell-mell integration that will dwarf anything before now, and a good thing too: The coming age of global integration, he argues, will produce riches that none of us can imagine and scatter them more widely than ever before. But it is a good thing that comes wrapped in a paradox: Growing prosperity will also produce growing anxiety. If the besetting malady of the 19th century was "quiet desperation," as Henry Thoreau wrote in "Walden," then the besetting malady of the 21st will be noxious nervousness—a pervasive sense of anxiety about job security and impending disasters.

“Mr. Easterbrook is not entirely alone in his boosterish outlook. Consultancies such as McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group have laboriously documented how far globalization still has to go, and every issue of Wired magazine celebrates our technologically enabled and globally integrated future. Mr. Easterbrook is also guilty of scooping himself: His previous book, "The Progress Paradox" (2003), tried to explain why so many people think that the goddess progress wears a crown of thorns.

“Still, Mr. Easterbrook tells his story well, with social portraiture, striking facts and sharp anecdotes aimed at puncturing common misconceptions about economic change. He begins "Sonic Boom" with a portrait of Shenzhen, China—a city that did not exist a generation ago but that now has nine million inhabitants. Paris and London took generations to build. The glittering new urban centers of postwar America such as Atlanta and Los Angeles took half a century to reach their current glory. But Shenzhen has arisen during the lifetime of its current inhabitants, a testament to the sonic qualities of its commercial dynamism.”

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

St. Thomas Beckett

This remarkable saint is an exemplar of one who lived much of his life as a man of the world, but when given the opportunity remained true to the call of God, even to the price of his own life.

The movie, Beckett, with Richard Burton as Becket and Peter O’Toole as King Henry II of England, is marvelous.

An excerpt from the Saint of the Day piece about Beckett.

“A strong man who wavered for a moment, but then learned one cannot come to terms with evil and so became a strong churchman, a martyr and a saint—that was Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his cathedral on December 29, 1170.

“His career had been a stormy one. While archdeacon of Canterbury, he was made chancellor of England at the age of 36 by his friend King Henry II. When Henry felt it advantageous to make his chancellor the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas gave him fair warning: he might not accept all of Henry’s intrusions into Church affairs. Nevertheless, he was made archbishop (1162), resigned his chancellorship and reformed his whole way of life!

“Troubles began. Henry insisted upon usurping Church rights. At one time, supposing some conciliatory action possible, Thomas came close to compromise. He momentarily approved the Constitutions of Clarendon, which would have denied the clergy the right of trial by a Church court and prevented them from making direct appeal to Rome. But Thomas rejected the Constitutions, fled to France for safety and remained in exile for seven years. When he returned to England, he suspected it would mean certain death. Because Thomas refused to remit censures he had placed upon bishops favored by the king, Henry cried out in a rage, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!” Four knights, taking his words as his wish, slew Thomas in the Canterbury cathedral.

“Thomas Becket remains a hero-saint down to our own times.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Global Cooling

Technology is a wonderful thing, the product of human creativity and determination, and in no place does it spring forth more freely than from democratic and capitalistic countries, something long understood by Catholic social teaching.

This innovation, reported by the Wall Street Journal, is an example.

An excerpt.

“This month's Copenhagen talks focused on the leading climate change culprit: carbon dioxide. But reversing global temperature increases by reducing carbon emissions will take many decades, if not centuries. Even if the largest cuts in CO2 contemplated in Copenhagen are implemented, it simply will not reverse the melting of ice already occurring in the most sensitive areas, including the rapid disappearance of glaciers in Tibet, the Arctic and Latin America.

“So what can we do to effectively buffer global warming? The most obvious strategy is to make an all-out effort to reduce emissions of methane.

“Sometimes called the "other greenhouse gas," methane is responsible for 75% as much warming as carbon dioxide measured over any given 20 years. Unlike carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, methane lasts only a decade but packs a powerful punch while it's there.

“Methane's short life makes it especially interesting in the short run, given the pace of climate change. If we need to suppress temperature quickly in order to preserve glaciers, reducing methane can make an immediate impact. Compared to the massive requirements necessary to reduce CO2, cutting methane requires only modest investment. Where we stop methane emissions, cooling follows within a decade, not centuries. That could make the difference for many fragile systems on the brink.

“Yet global discussions about climate and policies to date have not focused on methane. Methane is formally in the "basket" of six gases targeted by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. But its value is counted as if it has the same lifetime as carbon dioxide.

“This ignores its much larger, near-term potential. As a result, methane represents only about 15% of the projects under the Kyoto Protocol's emissions offset program. And it is not a major focus of climate protection programs in any nation.

“This is huge missed opportunity, and not just for the climate. Methane also forms ozone, the smog that severely damages food crops and kills tens of thousands each year by worsening asthma, emphysema and other respiratory diseases

“Captured methane gas can be used as a clean energy source, contributing to energy security and diversification as well as reducing damaging black carbon (soot) and CO2 emissions. Solving the methane problem will lead to a higher quality of life by cleaning up city and agricultural wastes and odors, and curbing air pollution from dirty stoves and local industries. It will also create local jobs in construction and operation of methane-abating equipment.

“Methane comes from a variety of sources: landfills, sewage streams, coal mines, oil and gas drilling operations, agricultural wastes, and cattle farms. For most of these sources, relatively cheap "end of pipe" technologies are available to collect methane and convert it to useful energy rather than venting it to the atmosphere.”

Monday, December 28, 2009

Midnight Mass in Rome

The homily the Holy Father delivered was about the Nativity and here is an excerpt regarding the shepherds, us, and being awake, always.

“The first thing we are told about the shepherds is that they were on the watch – they could hear the message precisely because they were awake. We must be awake, so that we can hear the message. We must become truly vigilant people. What does this mean? The principal difference between someone dreaming and someone awake is that the dreamer is in a world of his own. His “self” is locked into this dreamworld that is his alone and does not connect him with others. To wake up means to leave that private world of one’s own and to enter the common reality, the truth that alone can unite all people. Conflict and lack of reconciliation in the world stem from the fact that we are locked into our own interests and opinions, into our own little private world. Selfishness, both individual and collective, makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another. Awake, the Gospel tells us. Step outside, so as to enter the great communal truth, the communion of the one God. To awake, then, means to develop a receptivity for God: for the silent promptings with which he chooses to guide us; for the many indications of his presence. There are people who describe themselves as “religiously tone deaf”. The gift of a capacity to perceive God seems as if it is withheld from some. And indeed – our way of thinking and acting, the mentality of today’s world, the whole range of our experience is inclined to deaden our receptivity for God, to make us “tone deaf” towards him. And yet in every soul, the desire for God, the capacity to encounter him, is present, whether in a hidden way or overtly. In order to arrive at this vigilance, this awakening to what is essential, we should pray for ourselves and for others, for those who appear “tone deaf” and yet in whom there is a keen desire for God to manifest himself. The great theologian Origen said this: if I had the grace to see as Paul saw, I could even now (during the Liturgy) contemplate a great host of angels (cf. in Lk 23:9). And indeed, in the sacred liturgy, we are surrounded by the angels of God and the saints. The Lord himself is present in our midst. Lord, open the eyes of our hearts, so that we may become vigilant and clear-sighted, in this way bringing you close to others as well!”

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Youth Crime

When it is untended—or over worked—it often grows into adult crime, and even doing nothing can sometimes work, as a major study from Los Angeles concluded some years ago, which we blogged on here.

This article from the Wall Street Journal focuses on the problems in New York, which, with a 90% recidivist rate among juvenile boys, is obviously doing something very wrong.

A excerpt.

“What does $210,000 buy in New York State? These days, as two recent reports demonstrate, that's what it costs to lock up one child in a brutal juvenile justice system so dysfunctional that its reform-minded commissioner, Gladys Carrion, advises judges not to place children in her facilities.

“We could not do worse. But 10 years of research shows that we know how to do much better—incarcerate less, and use the latest research to treat delinquents in community-based programs.

“The Empire State runs one of the country's largest juvenile prison systems. At its height in 2005, it operated 31 facilities housing 2,500 children. Like many other states in the 1970s and '80s, New York responded to rising crime rates with a get-tough approach that included more punitive laws, more arrests, and more incarceration for both juveniles and adults. In an iconic moment in 1995, the state put razor wire fences around its juvenile facilities.

“This approach doesn't work: Almost every boy and girl (nine out of 10 boys and four out of five girls) who leaves state custody is rearrested before the age of 28 and, even within just three years, 75% are rearrested. And the costs are jaw-dropping. This year the operating budget for the juvenile facilities will top $220 million.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmastime With Family

The ancient tradition of spending time at home with family and friends at Christmastime is wonderfully reminiscent of the eternal bonds of our heavenly family; and as we gathered on Christmas Day with our family and friends, it was as if a sacred glow emanated from the hearth as the knowledge of the Christ Child’s Birth we had celebrated earlier at Christmas Mass, suffused these days of Christmastime with its divine light.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Novena Reflection

In his general audience of yesterday in Rome, the Holy Father focused on Christmas and the spiritual power of the Nativity.

An excerpt.

“Dear brothers and sisters, with the Christmas novena, which we are celebrating in these days, the Church is inviting us to live in an intense and profound way the preparation for the Nativity of the Savior, which is now imminent. The desire that we all hold in our hearts is that the upcoming feast of Christmas may give us, in the midst of the frenetic activity of our days, the serene and profound joy that allows us to touch with our hands the goodness of our God, and fills us with new courage.

“In order to understand better the significance of the Nativity of the Lord, I would like to make some brief remarks on the historical origin of this solemnity. In fact, the Church's liturgical year did not initially develop beginning from the birth of Christ, but from faith in his resurrection. For this reason, the most ancient feast of Christianity is not Christmas, it is Easter; the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of the Christian faith, it is at the basis of the proclamation of the Gospel, and gives birth to the Church. Therefore being Christian means living in a Paschal manner, participating in the dynamism that arises from baptism and leads us to die to sin in order to live with God (cf. Romans 6:4).

“The first to state clearly that Jesus was born on December 25 was Hippolytus of Rome, in his commentary on the book of the prophet Daniel, written about the year 204. Some exegetes later noted that the feast of the dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem, instituted by Judas Maccabeus in 164 B.C., was celebrated on that day. The coinciding of these dates would therefore mean that with Jesus, who appeared as the light of God in the darkness, there is the true realization of the consecration of the Temple, the Advent of God upon this earth.

“The feast of Christmas took on definitive form in Christianity in the fourth century, when it replaced the Roman feast of the "Sol Invictus," the invincible sun; this highlighted the fact that the birth of Christ is the victory of the true light over the darkness of evil and sin.

“However, the special and intense spiritual atmosphere that surrounds Christmas developed in the Middle Ages, thanks to St. Francis of Assisi, who was deeply in love with the man Jesus, with God-with-us. His first biographer, Thomas of Celano, recounts in the book "Second Life" that Saint Francis "above all of the other solemnities celebrated with indescribable fervor the Nativity of the Child Jesus, and called a 'feast of feasts' the day on which God, having become a little infant, suckled at a human breast" (Fonti Francescane, 199, p. 492).

“This special devotion to the mystery of the incarnation gave rise to the famous celebration of Christmas in Greccio. St. Francis probably got his inspiration for this from his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and from the crèche at Saint Mary Major in Rome. What drove the Little Poor Man of Assisi was the desire to experience in a concrete, living, and present way the greatness of the event of the birth of the Child Jesus, and to communicate its joy to everyone.

“In his first biography, Thomas of Celano talks about the night of the crèche in Greccio in a living and touching way, making a decisive contribution to the spread of the most beautiful Christmas tradition, that of the crèche. Christmas Eve in Greccio, in fact, restored to Christianity the intensity and beauty of the feast of Christmas, and taught the people of God to grasp its most authentic message, its unique warmth, and to love and adore the humanity of Christ.

“This unique approach to Christmas brought a new dimension to the Christian faith. Easter had focused attention on the power of God who conquers death, inaugurates the new life, and teaches hope in the world to come. St. Francis and his crèche highlighted the defenseless love of God, his humility and kindness, which in the incarnation of the Word are manifested to man in order to teach a new way of living and loving.

“Celano recounts that, on that Christmas Eve, Francis was granted the grace of a wonderful vision. He saw lying motionless in the manger a little baby, who was awakened from his sleep by the presence of Francis. And he adds: "Nor was this vision at odds with the facts, because, through the work of his grace acting by means of his holy servant Francis, the Child Jesus was reawakened in the hearts of many who had forgotten him, and was profoundly impressed in their loving memory" (Vita prima, Fonti Francescane, 86, p. 307).”

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Catholic Environmentalism, Humans First

The environmentalist movement, which takes as its latest crusade the global warming initiative—coming under some amount of new skepticism as the emails from Britain show quite a bit of suppression and creative use of data to support their position—has largely grown from the deep ecology platform, which places nature over humans.

This is the reverse of Catholic environmentalism, as taught by the Church and reaffirmed by Pope Benedict in his World Day of Peace Message.

An excerpt.

“1. At the beginning of this New Year, I wish to offer heartfelt greetings of peace to all Christian communities, international leaders, and people of good will throughout the world. For this XLIII World Day of Peace I have chosen the theme: If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation. Respect for creation is of immense consequence, not least because “creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s works”,[1] and its preservation has now become essential for the pacific coexistence of mankind. Man’s inhumanity to man has given rise to numerous threats to peace and to authentic and integral human development – wars, international and regional conflicts, acts of terrorism, and violations of human rights. Yet no less troubling are the threats arising from the neglect – if not downright misuse – of the earth and the natural goods that God has given us. For this reason, it is imperative that mankind renew and strengthen “that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying”.[2]

“2. In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I noted that integral human development is closely linked to the obligations which flow from man’s relationship with the natural environment. The environment must be seen as God’s gift to all people, and the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations. I also observed that whenever nature, and human beings in particular, are seen merely as products of chance or an evolutionary determinism, our overall sense of responsibility wanes.[3] On the other hand, seeing creation as God’s gift to humanity helps us understand our vocation and worth as human beings. With the Psalmist, we can exclaim with wonder: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you have established; what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps 8:4-5). Contemplating the beauty of creation inspires us to recognize the love of the Creator, that Love which “moves the sun and the other stars”.[4]

“3. Twenty years ago, Pope John Paul II devoted his Message for the World Day of Peace to the theme: Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation. He emphasized our relationship, as God’s creatures, with the universe all around us. “In our day”, he wrote, “there is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened … also by a lack of due respect for nature”. He added that “ecological awareness, rather than being downplayed, needs to be helped to develop and mature, and find fitting expression in concrete programmes and initiatives”.[5] Previous Popes had spoken of the relationship between human beings and the environment. In 1971, for example, on the eightieth anniversary of Leo XIII’s Encyclical Rerum Novarum, Paul VI pointed out that “by an ill-considered exploitation of nature (man) risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation”. He added that “not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace – pollution and refuse, new illnesses and absolute destructive capacity – but the human framework is no longer under man’s control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide-ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family”.[6]

“4. Without entering into the merit of specific technical solutions, the Church is nonetheless concerned, as an “expert in humanity”, to call attention to the relationship between the Creator, human beings and the created order. In 1990 John Paul II had spoken of an “ecological crisis” and, in highlighting its primarily ethical character, pointed to the “urgent moral need for a new solidarity”.[7] His appeal is all the more pressing today, in the face of signs of a growing crisis which it would be irresponsible not to take seriously. Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees”, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.

“5. It should be evident that the ecological crisis cannot be viewed in isolation from other related questions, since it is closely linked to the notion of development itself and our understanding of man in his relationship to others and to the rest of creation. Prudence would thus dictate a profound, long-term review of our model of development, one which would take into consideration the meaning of the economy and its goals with an eye to correcting its malfunctions and misapplications. The ecological health of the planet calls for this, but it is also demanded by the cultural and moral crisis of humanity whose symptoms have for some time been evident in every part of the world.[8] Humanity needs a profound cultural renewal; it needs to rediscover those values which can serve as the solid basis for building a brighter future for all. Our present crises – be they economic, food-related, environmental or social – are ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated. They require us to rethink the path which we are travelling together. Specifically, they call for a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity, with new rules and forms of engagement, one which focuses confidently and courageously on strategies that actually work, while decisively rejecting those that have failed. Only in this way can the current crisis become an opportunity for discernment and new strategic planning.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Capital Punishment

The reduction in the use of capital punishment, as reported by the New York Times, is testament to the increased care being taken to ensure the proper level of legal determination has been exercised concerning guilt and that is a good thing.

However, it would be a bad thing if it ever gets to the point that the criminal justice system refuses to use the capital sanction, as it is the most effective means of protecting the innocent in those cases where its use is clearly warranted.

An excerpt.

“More death row convicts were executed in the United States this year than last, but juries continue to grow more wary of capital punishment, according to a new report.

“Death sentences handed down by judges and juries in 2009 continued a trend of decline for seven years in a row, with 106 projected for the year. That level is down two-thirds from a peak of 328 in 1994, according to the report being released Friday by the Death Penalty Information Center, a research organization that opposes capital punishment.

“This entire decade has been marked by a declining use of the death penalty,” said Richard Dieter, the executive director of the group.

“The sentencing drop was most striking in Texas, which averaged 34 death sentences a year in the 1990s and had 9 this year. Vic Wisner, a former assistant district attorney in Houston, said a “constant media drumbeat” about suspect convictions and exonerations “has really changed the attitude of jurors.”

“Mr. Wisner said that while polls showed continued general support for capital punishment, “there is a real worry by jurors of, ‘I believe in it, but what if we later find out it was someone else and it’s too late to do anything about it?’ ”

“In 2005, Texas juries were given the option of sentencing defendants to life without parole.

“While death sentences are in decline, executions rose in the past year, according to the new report. Fifty-two prisoners have been put to death in 2009, compared with 42 in 2007 and 37 in 2008.”

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Crime Response: Swift, Balanced, & Just

One of our guiding criminal justice principles is: "2) The response to crime should be swift, balanced, and just"; and as this story from the Philadelphia Inquirer reveals, justice that is less, causes many problems.

An excerpt.

“…The two men's violent path from the streets into the courts and back again vividly illustrates the failure of Philadelphia's criminal justice system.

“It is a system that all too often fails to punish violent criminals, fails to protect witnesses, fails to catch thousands of fugitives, fails to decide cases on their merits - fails to provide justice.

“In America's most violent big city, people accused of serious crimes are escaping conviction with stunning regularity, an Inquirer investigation has found.

“Philadelphia defendants walk free on all charges in nearly two-thirds of violent-crime cases. Among large urban counties, Philadelphia has the nation's lowest felony-conviction rate.

“Only one in 10 people charged with gun assaults is convicted of that charge, the newspaper found.

“Only two in 10 accused armed robbers are found guilty of armed robbery.

“Only one in four accused rapists is found guilty of rape.

“The data also show that people charged with assaults with a gun escape conviction more often than those who use fists or knives. Of people arrested for possession of illegal handguns, almost half go free.

“Nationally, prosecutors in big cities win felony convictions in half of violent-crime cases, according to federal studies. In Philadelphia, prosecutors win only 20 percent.

“In a comprehensive analysis of the Philadelphia criminal courts, The Inquirer traced the outcomes of 31,000 criminal court cases filed in 2006, 2007, and 2008, tracking their dispositions through early this year. The results go a long way toward explaining the violence on city streets.

“For three consecutive years, Philadelphia has had the highest violent-crime rate among the nation's 10 largest cities, FBI figures show. It has the highest rate for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Unifier Pope

There is a terrific article about Pope Benedict XVI and his recent work to unify the Church at the American Spectator.

An excerpt.

“…The present pope may not go down as the Great Unifier, exactly. He's likely what people today call "too divisive" to pull that off, and it's hard to see why he would want to. Benedict knows how to use divisions to great effect. He takes Christ's statement from the Gospel of Matthew, "I did not come to bring peace but a sword," quite seriously.

“When a group of traditionalist Episcopalians held a conference in Dallas in 2003 to talk about breaking away from the U.S. Episcopal Church over its increasing liberal drift, then Cardinal Ratzinger sent them a message egging them on. He assured them of his "heartfelt prayers" and said that the "significance of your meeting is sensed far beyond [Dallas] and even in this city, from which Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ's Gospel in England." According to Dairmaid MacCulloch, writing in the Guardian, when the delegates heard this, "There was wild applause."

“In fact, the pope's recent actions with the Anglicans mirrored an earlier act of his papacy that was also hugely controversial but that was seen by outsiders mostly as a family squabble with some ugly repercussions. It involved the Society of Saint Pius X. These were traditionalist Catholic priests who, because of the reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council and especially the de facto suppression of the Latin Mass, formed a rebel sect within the Church.

“The Society's late founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was eventually excommunicated when the aging prince of the Church ordained four new bishops to continue his work in 1988, in defiance of the explicit orders of John Paul II. Millions of otherwise loyal Catholics, especially in France, attended the Society's beautiful, ancient Mass because they had a hard time finding it anywhere else.

“As head of the CDF, Benedict pleaded with Lefebvre not to ordain more rebel bishops, but didn't succeed. As pope, he moved to reincorporate the Society into the Church, first, by issuing a universal indult in July 2008 mandating that bishops allow the Latin Mass in their dioceses, and, second, in January 2009, by lifting the excommunications of the four men that Lefebvre ordained bishops. This wouldn't have raised too many eyebrows outside the Church but for the fact that one of those men, Richard Williamson, turned out to be a Holocaust denier and a 9/11 "truther" conspiracy theorist.

“The press had a field day with that one. But there was another story lurking beneath the obvious scandal. Benedict's Latin Mass decree greatly increased the rights of the faithful against their sometimes imperious bishops. Now, a bishop has to explicitly prohibit the Latin Mass, give a good reason for doing so, and risk losing an appeal to Rome. That ended the need for a Society of Pius X as an outside agitator.

“Now, Rome wants more priests trained to perform the Latin Mass, and it wants those parishioners back who had turned to the Society for its ceremony. So it swallowed hard and lifted those excommunications and is in talks to bring the Society's priests back in. If talks stall, expect Benedict to personally intervene.”

Friday, December 18, 2009

Capital Punishment and Pedophiles

One of the criminal justice guiding principles of the Lampstand Foundation, from our website, is:

4) Capital punishment is an appropriate response to the criminal evil of murder, rape, and pedophilia.

Capital punishment is often the only effective social method available to protect the innocent and applied with dispatch after legal review of the crimes charged and determining the fitness of its application, should be considered an appropriate sentence for murderers, rapists, and pedophiles; who, knowing the time of their death, are able, with certainty of their remaining time to do so, seek God's forgiveness.

From the Vatican Catechism (2007):

"2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor."

As of May 2008, five states have approved the use of capital punishment in child rape cases; Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.

An excerpt from an article in the Buffalo News about a 100 year old pedophile soon to be released from prison.

“Everything that pedophile Theodore Sypnier has to show for his 100 years on Earth is packed in a single duffel bag as he prepares to begin a new chapter in life: freedom.

“It's a chapter that prosecutors, judges and others who know him never wanted - or expected - to see written.

“New York's oldest registered sex offender is scheduled to move by week's end out of a Buffalo halfway house for released inmates and into a place of his own, after completing his latest term in state prison for molesting little girls.

“The judge who sentenced him said at the time that she expected him to die behind bars.

“But 10 years after his last arrest, as Sypnier prepared to shed the closely monitored lifestyle of the halfway house, its director warned that the spry and active Sypnier has not changed from the manipulator who used his grandfatherly charm to snare and rape victims as young as 4.

"Whether he's 100 or 101 or 105, the same person that was committing these crimes 10, 25, 30 years ago still exists today and has an unrepentant heart," said the Rev. Terry King, director of Grace House, which has twice taken Sypnier in from prison. "He is someone that we as parents, as members of the community, any community, really need to fear."

“Six months after marking his 100th birthday in the Groveland Correctional Facility - becoming the first New York inmate to reach the milestone while incarcerated- the retired telephone company worker now says he wants to get to know the youngest members of a family that has disowned him.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Climategate and Galileo

Whenever the Church and science is discussed, the Inquisition and Galileo enters to virtually shut down the idea that the Church has anything worthwhile to say regarding science, but it does; and to begin with, what happened to Galileo was hardly what is happening to the scientists skeptical of Climategate, as this article from The Catholic Thing notes.

An excerpt.

“If we wanted to add a twentieth-century name to the list of prophets, I would nominate Robert Nisbet (1914-1996), who would not be surprised by recent revelations that an elite group of global-warming experts have been reckless with their "science" and ruthless towards their scientific peers.

“I refer to the scandal that broke at the disclosure of private e-mails among leading climatologists connected to the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, one of the nerve centers for global warming studies. As former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson summarizes the preliminary evidence for the London Times: "(a) the scientists have been manipulating the raw temperature figures to show a relentlessly rising global warming trend; (b) they have consistently refused outsiders access to the raw data; (c) the scientists have been trying to avoid freedom of information requests; and (d) they have been discussing ways to prevent papers by dissenting scientists being published in learned journals."

“But the problem these e-mails uncovered goes beyond the discussion currently under way in Copenhagen and even the whole global-warming debate.

“Nisbet, a sociologist by training and historian by temperament – but no Catholic, or even much of a believer – warned of such abuses in an essay debunking the Enlightenment myth that the Catholic Church brutally oppressed Galileo. Our own time, Nisbet insisted, has seen much worse:

“Probably more scientists have been adversely affected – estopped altogether from a given line of research, guided, shaped, propelled, decelerated, forced into nonpublication, secrecy, turned down for funds or promotion, and barred from access to laboratory space or archives – because of defiance of conventional wisdom in America since World War II . . . than existed in the whole of the world in Galileo's day.

“Early on, Nisbet adds, Galileo told his friend Kepler that he was censoring himself for "fear not of ecclesiastical but of scientific-scholarly opinion." As Galileo's views became known, the first public protests arose from "jealous and apprehensive university professors," not from clerical quarters. When Galileo's friend Pope Urban VIII reluctantly allowed a trial by the Inquisition (headed by another Galileo supporter), the great man's nemesis was no churchman but a fellow scientist.

“Most important for our purposes is Galileo's fate after his enemies forced the Inquisition to find him "guilty" of Copernican teachings. Though made to take a pro forma oath of recantation, he was not imprisoned. Instead, he was given "house arrest" at his wealthy patron's estate where he had long conducted most of his research. He lived for years, and far from being daunted or suppressed, he produced some of his most important writings, "was in constant communication with the leading scientific lights of Italy and all Europe," and had "as many students as he wished" to assist him and continue his work after his death.

“Contrast Galileo's flourishing in the seventeenth century, funded by the private sector, with the situation of scientists in our day. They face governments that grow grander and more controlling by the minute, as well as an academic climate in which the disinterested search for truth withers in the cold glare of skepticism, relativism, and materialism.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

US Health Care Reform and Catholic Organizations

The scenario—rife with politics unaligned with Catholic teaching—is unwrapped by Anne Hendershott in Catholic World Report.

An excerpt.

“The battle over health care reform promises to be the most expensive one ever waged in Congress, as armies of lobbyists advance on Washington to demand that new legislation reflect their interests. Recognizing the high stakes involved, hospitals, drug companies, unions, and a host of health care providers ranging from medical device makers to Planned Parenthood have spent nearly $400 million on lobbying. All have a vested interest in “fixing” health care to their advantage.

“One of the most visible activists involved in shaping health care reform is Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association (CHA), an advocacy organization that represents the interests of Catholic hospitals and large Catholic health care organizations throughout the country. Catholic hospitals and health care facilities pay dues to the CHA, whose stated mission is “to promote the Catholic Church’s ministry in health care and to respond to the members’ need to practice quality health care in the communities where they serve.”

“In an attempt to fulfill this mission, Sr. Keehan has been out on the front lines advocating for health care reform from the earliest days of the Obama administration. On what side of the debate Sr. Keehan’s CHA falls, however, has been unclear and a source of concern given that all reform proposals before November permitted an expansion of abortion rights.

“Throughout the summer of 2009, the CHA created confusion by issuing unclear communications and producing videos that appeared to many people to be supportive of the president’s health care plans.

“The CHA’s communications were so unclear that throughout the month of August, most media outlets reported that the CHA unequivocally supported President Obama’s health care plan. David D. Kirkpatrick, a New York Times reporter, was so convinced that the CHA and Catholic Charities USA strongly supported the president’s health plan that he published an article on August 28 declaring just that. Although the New York Times corrected that article on its website on August 29, claiming that its reporter “overstated the support of Catholic Charities and the Catholic Health Association for the president’s plans,” the Times maintains in the revised article that “both organizations have supported his [the president’s] overall approach.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


The relation of leftist politics to Catholicism in the United States has been well documented, and it has impacted virtually all of the manifestations of the institutional American Church. We have posted on it before here, here, and here.

This article from The New Atlantis looks at leftist politics, global warming, and climategate.

An excerpt.

"For years, the left has spun the debate over global warming in the starkest Manichean terms. Those who disagree with the scientific and policy orthodoxy have been maligned as greedy capitalists bent on raping the earth of its natural resources for cheap material gain; they have been cast as the benighted enemies of reason itself. Efforts to publicly challenge the science behind global warming have too often resulted in professional and political character assassination. To be skeptical about the fashionable scientific and policy platform aggressively advocated by the mainstream media and self-indulgently championed by the Hollywood elite is nothing less than an “assault on reason,” to borrow Al Gore’s hyperbolic rhetoric. In predictably technocratic fashion, the left has claimed its own peculiar position as the only scientifically legitimate one—everything else reduces to craven interest, manifest dishonesty, or antiquarian faith.

"However, maintaining this self-serving narrative just got a lot harder. In the last few days, the cause of climate alarmism took a big hit when more than a thousand e-mails exchanged by scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) suddenly surfaced online. These e-mails were published by the computer hackers who apparently stole them, a crime that should be investigated and prosecuted. But notwithstanding the e-mails’ route to publication, their actual content is extraordinary. These behind-the-scenes discussions among leading global-warming exponents are remarkable both in their candor and in their sheer contempt for scientific objectivity. There can be little doubt after even a casual perusal that the scientific case for global warming and the policy that springs from it are based upon a volatile combination of political ideology, unapologetic mendacity, and simmering contempt for even the best-intentioned disagreement. Especially in anticipation of the major climate summit taking place in Copenhagen next month, the significance of this explosive disclosure is hard to underestimate. According to climatologist Patrick J. Michaels, “This is not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud.”

"The evidence of scientific dishonesty supplied by these communications is so copious it’s hard to know where to begin an attempt to describe them. Many of the e-mails brazenly discuss the manipulation of scientific data either to provide the appearance of greater support for global warming science or to undermine the claims of skeptics. For example, CRU scholar Timothy J. Osborn explicitly describes how data can be reconfigured so that evidence of an apparent cooling period disappears. His colleague Tom Wigley discusses recasting the data on sea-surface temperatures so that the results seem considerably warmer but also scientifically plausible. The director of CRU, Phil Jones, brags about his use of eminent climatologist Michael Mann’s “Nature trick” which deliberately confuses scientific data to “hide the decline” in current temperatures.

"Other e-mails openly encourage the suppression of data that could prove difficult to repudiate. Michael Mann provides strategic advice on how to deal with a journal, Geophysical Research Letters, that seems to be open to publishing views that dissent from climate orthodoxy. In an e-mail to Phil Jones, Mann also expresses his desire to “contain” the very inconvenient truth of the Medieval Warm Period, so important in overthrowing Mann’s classic “Hockey Stick” model of anthropogenic warming, even though he admits they don’t have an appropriate model to do that legitimately.

"Public spokesmen for the global warming agenda constantly claim a near-universal consensus within the scientific community supporting their position, but these private exchanges often reveal serious personal reservations regarding what they really know and how confident they are in the statistical models they rely upon. In an e-mail to several prominent climate scientists (including Mann and Jones), Kevin E. Trenberth, one of the leading contributors to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, offers this confession: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.” In another e-mail, Trenberth admits climatologists have a limited understanding of where our energy ultimately goes, what the effects of cloud formation might have on the entire issue, and expresses doubts about the efficacy of geoengineering to provide any substantive relief, again saying that the gaps in the scientific knowledge amount to “a travesty.” All of this a far cry from the strident claims about unimpeachable evidence and demonstrable theory that usually emanates from these quarters."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Catholic Politicians

In a clear rejection of the default policy of many public leaders claiming that, though they may oppose a policy—like abortion—privately, but not being able to impose their values on others in the public arena, this article from Zenit clarifies Church teaching on this issue.

An excerpt.

“NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, DEC. 7, 2009 ( For decades, Americans have been subjected to the arguments of certain Catholic politicians who argued that while "personally opposed" to unjust policies like abortion, they were nonetheless unwilling to "impose" that view on the rest of the country.

“The argument was disingenuous, premised on the fact that somehow a "Catholic" conscience had to be put to the side in the public square.

“Now, the very people who argued that they couldn't bring their private conscience into a secular public square are poised to use the law to impose a particular view on their fellow Catholics.

“By working and voting to include abortion coverage in health care legislation, several Catholic politicians stand at the precipice of being the deciding votes in forcing a particular immoral view on their fellow Catholics, by forcing them to fund abortion through their tax dollars.

“While professing that they cannot impose their conscience on anyone else, these politicians seem to have little hesitation about imposing a political view -- one they claim to oppose in principle -- on the consciences of their fellow Catholics.

“Far from Kennedy

“Catholic politicians willing to forsake their own consciences and impose a directly anti-Catholic view on others have come a long way from the legacy of American history's highest profile Catholic statesman, John F. Kennedy, who while discussing his role as a Catholic and candidate for president said: "If the time should ever come -- and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible -- when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same."

“And while some might consider that Catholic politicians have disagreed with the public policy recommendations of their bishops in a variety of areas, the key is this: Many issues are prudential and open to reasonable disagreement; but the inalienable right to life in the context of abortion is not -- it is fundamental and it may not be compromised.

“As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- now Benedict XVI -- noted about Catholic politicians in 2004: "Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion."

“He added: "While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Reentry Chaos

In an attempt to bring some order to a failing reentry system, cities are taking the lead and as reported by the Manhattan Institute, some small successes are being seen, and, in one case, the focus on immediate employment will help some prisoners who are not committed criminals.

It is committed criminals who commit the highest proportion of crimes and consequently, represent the most important social locus for rehabilitative success.

An excerpt.

“More than 700,000 prisoners will be released in the United States this year. Tragically, some two-thirds will wind up back behind bars. Improving on that record is of crucial importance, especially to cities and the mayors who lead them. The numbers are telling. Nearly 40,000 people are released to Philadelphia annually from federal and state prisons or local jails. At any given time, approximately 12,500 parolees are under mandatory supervision in Baltimore. Dallas handles the release of 400-600 newly-released prisoners every month.

“This wave of returning ex-offenders is a long-brewing side effect of the stepped-up law enforcement and tougher drug laws of the 1980s—imaginative reforms which helped bring down crime rates and contributed to the rebirth of cities such as New York.

“Today, the challenge has changed: returning ex-offenders need the right assistance—and incentives—to avoid returning to lives of crime.

“Cities are often expected to take on that job. In Newark, NJ, for instance, it is not unusual for ex-offenders to walk right in to city hall looking for help. Finding a job is almost always at the top of the list.

“But cities typically have neither an independent agency with a mandate to handle prisoner reentry nor a budget to support such efforts. That's a symptom of a larger problem. In contrast with most government functions—from public health to public assistance—there is no one agency charged with, and accountable for, the job of helping ex-offenders become successful, law-abiding citizens. State corrections departments' authority and interest extends only as far as the prison gate. Parole and probation systems devote many of their resources to identifying new offenses (or technical violations) and returning those in their charge to jail. Police departments understandably focus on arresting law-breakers, not working with other agencies to share information about parolees. Social service providers operating under state or county contracts are frequently evaluated by the quantity of services they provide, rather than whether the cases they manage result in positive outcomes. No one part of government ever seems to be in charge.

“Increasingly, in cities like Newark, Jacksonville, and Chicago, mayors and municipal leaders, knowing that their cities are at risk if the reentry problem is not addressed, are taking steps to organize this disjointed non-system and to hold accountable those who are supposed to be steering former prisoners toward constructive lives. At the heart of this effort is the same strategy that made welfare reform effective in the 1990s: a focus on employment.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Prisoners Data Announcement, USDOJ

Prisoners in 2008

“Presents data on prisoners under jurisdiction of federal or state correctional authorities on December 31, 2008, collected from the National Prisoner Statistics series. This annual report compares changes in the prison population during 2008 to changes from yearend 2000 through yearend 2007. These are the only comprehensive national-level data on prison admissions and releases. Findings cover data on decreasing growth in state and federal prisons through declining admissions and increasing releases; imprisonment rates for prisoners sentenced to more than 1 year by jurisdiction; the number of males and females in prison; age, race, and gender distributions; the number of inmates in custody in state and federal prison and local jails; and custody incarceration rates. The report also includes the count for inmates held within facilities operated by and for the military, U.S. territories, Indian country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and juvenile authorities.

“Highlights include the following:

• The U.S. prison population grew at the slowest rate (0.8%) since 2000, reaching 1,610,446 sentenced prisoners at yearend 2008.
• Growth of the prison population since 2000 (1.8% per year on average) was less than a third of the average annual rate during the 1990s (6.5% per year on average).
• Between 2000 and 2008 the number of blacks in prison declined by 18,400, lowering the imprisonment rate to 3,161 men and 149 women per 100,000 persons in the U.S. resident black population.

“12/09 NCJ 228417

“This report is one in a series. More recent editions may be available. To view a list of all in the series go to the publications page.”

Friday, December 11, 2009

Liberation Theology

This pernicious and seductive dissenting philosophy—emanating from a Marxist analysis—within the Catholic Church has caused great harm, and still weaves its spell over many Catholics, even bishops; and the Holy Father addressed this recently, as reported by Zenit News.

An excerpt.

“VATICAN CITY, DEC. 8, 2009 ( Communities in Brazil still need to get past the divisions caused by Marxist liberation theology, Benedict XVI says.

"The Pope encouraged Brazilian bishops to help heal the wounds left by the materialist theology when he spoke with them Saturday. The bishops -- from Brazil's South 3 and South 4 regions -- were in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

“The Holy Father recalled that last August was the 25th anniversary of the instruction "Libertatis Nuntius," a document he signed as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“The statements notes how there are many currents of "theology of liberation," as liberation is one of the central messages of Revelation, both in the Old as well as the New Testament.

“However, one of these, particularly in the last three decades of the 20th century, took Marxism as its base in an attempt to understand the complex and sometimes scandalous social reality of Latin America. That current became known as Marxist theology of liberation -- many times simply, though erroneously, called liberation theology.

“As the Pope explained to the Brazilian bishops, "its more or less visible consequences, made up of rebellion, division, disagreement, offense and anarchy can still be felt, creating great suffering in your diocesan communities and a serious loss of living energies."

"I implore all those who, in some way, have felt attracted, involved and touched in their interior by certain deceitful principles of liberation theology to take up again that document, receiving the gentle light that it offers with open hands," the Bishop of Rome continued.

“Citing Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI explained how Marxist philosophy cannot underly the Church's faith, but rather, "the unity that the Spirit has put between sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture and the magisterium of the Church in such a reciprocity that the three cannot subsist in an independent way."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Capital Punishment, Details Matter

In the arguments around capital punishment, too often the actual details of the cases that traditionally result in the sentence of death, are not reported.

That lack of information reduces the depth of knowledge people must have to make an informed decision on why we must continue to support the ability of the courts to impose capital punishment, when merited, against the continued call for its abolition, even, unfortunately, by our national bishops conference.

The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (CJLF), an organization with which I was once a board member and continue to support, is one such national organization which ensures that those details are available to the public.

In this recent press release from CJLF, one such case is reviewed.

An excerpt.

“A unanimous United States Supreme Court today vacated a lower court decision which had overturned the death sentence of a Pennsylvania murderer. The decision limits the authority of the lower federal courts to disregard state procedural rules.

“The Court’s decision in Beard v. Kindler is an important victory for the enforcement of the criminal law generally and capital punishment in particular,” said Kent Scheidegger, Legal Director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. The Foundation’s amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief was cited twice in the opinion by Chief Justice Roberts.

“The issue before the court was whether state procedural rules, adopted to prevent manipulation of the legal process, can be brushed aside by federal judges on a subsequent review of the case. The state court had decided that Kindler forfeited many of his claims when he escaped from jail while his motion was pending. In 2008, the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals decided that Pennsylvania’s fugitive forfeiture rule could not be invoked to prevent its review of the murderer’s claims because the rule provides a state judge with the discretion to grant review.

“The California-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation joined Pennsylvania and 25 other states to encourage a decision overturning the lower court’s ruling and clarifying the standard that state procedural rules must meet in order to be respected by federal courts.

“The case involves the conviction and sentence of Joseph Kindler for the kidnap and brutal murder of David Bernstein. In the summer of 1982, Bernstein joined Kindler and Scott Shaw in the burglary of a store in Lower Moreland Township, Pennsylvania. Police stopped the getaway car as the trio tried to flee, but while Bernstein and Shaw were apprehended, Kindler managed to escape. During questioning, Bernstein identified Kindler as the mastermind of the burglary and agreed to testify against both Kindler and Shaw.

“Following Kindler’s arrest and release on bail, Kindler, Shaw and Shaw’s girlfriend, Michelle Raifer, decided to kill Bernstein to prevent his testimony. In the early morning of July 25, Bernstein opened his apartment door to Raifer and Kindler attacked him with a baseball bat. After hitting him in the head with the bat approximately 20 times, Kindler directed Shaw to jab him with an electric prod. Then, Kindler and Shaw dragged the heavily bleeding Bernstein to Raifer’s car. They drove to the Delaware River and threw him in. Discovering that Bernstein was still alive, the two men held him underwater until he drowned. They finally weighted his body down by tying a cinder block to his neck. As they drove back to Kindler’s home, the trio discarded the weapons at various sewer outlets along the way.

“Within hours of the killing, police tracked down Raifer’s blood-soaked car, which had been identified by several witnesses. When confronted with evidence implicating her, Raifer confessed, describing how the murder plan was carried out, and directed police to the sewer outlets where the weapons had been discarded.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Immaculate Conception

Yesterday was a Holy Day of Obligation, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and The Catholic Thing captures its holiness beautifully.

An excerpt.

“Catholicism is an adventuresome religion, not designed for dullards, sissies, or the faint-hearted. Actually, it is not a “religion” at all. Religion is about what obliges men to God insofar as they can figure it out with their reason. Religion is a form of “justice.” It differs from justice because we cannot figure out exactly what we “owe” to God.

“God does not “need” anything from us. Imagine a “god” that needs us to give it something! Yet the best things are beyond “owing.” No one who is given something is complete without acknowledging the gift. We human beings are even given what we are. Our very being is a gift to us. Indeed, we are gifts to one another.

“Revelation is what God has informed us about Himself. The only way we know how to relate to God is if God Himself informs us. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Catholicism is based on a fact. God did inform us about Himself and about ourselves. We do not deal with a human invention, but a divine intervention.

“Only when the event of the Incarnation happened can we further try to figure out what it means. And we do try. Faith does seek reason, a reason that is actively reasoning. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, officially defined by Pius IX on December 8, 1854, is part of this seeking understanding.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


A brief look at the conditions in the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado from the Denver Post.

An excerpt.

“It would be easier never to have heard of Tommy Silverstein.

“The convicted bank robber is locked in the federal Supermax in Florence until 2095 for killing two fellow inmates and fatally stabbing a guard.

“I don't defend the former member of the Aryan Brotherhood, considered one of the country's most dangerous prisoners. I'm far less interested in him than in his quarter-century in extreme isolation and in what those conditions mean about us and our system.

“Silverstein, 57, has lived behind bars since age 20. He spent 26 years under a "no human contact order."

“He did a year in a federal pen in Atlanta, where he was permitted no books or clothes. Then came a transfer to Leavenworth, where his 6-by-7-foot basement cell was infested with rats.

“Next, he spent 15 years in another cell at Leavenworth known as the Silverstein Suite. He lived under constant surveillance and the buzz of 24-hour fluorescent lighting.

“Guards refused to speak to him as a way of honoring the guard he killed.

“Silverstein transferred in 2005 to a similar lockdown in the secretive Range 13 at Florence where only one other prisoner, World Trade Center bomber Ramsey Yusef, was housed. Each was locked in cages within cages in the most restrictive unit of the country's highest security prison.

“Silverstein taught himself to read, write and sketch in prison. He never knew how long his isolation would last or what he could do to end it.”

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gang Tours

In a move some call exploitive and some call innovative—both arguments have weight—a group will take tourists on tours of gang neighborhoods in Los Angeles, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

“A group of civic activists, united by faith and a belief that the poor economy in the interior of Los Angeles is a social injustice, is preparing to offer bus tours of some of the grittiest pockets of the city, including decayed public housing, sites of deadly shootouts and streets ravaged by racial unrest.

“After a VIP preview last weekend, L.A. Gang Tours expects to open to the public in January, giving tourists a look at the cradle of the nation's gang culture -- the birthplace of many of the city's gangs, including Crips and Bloods, Florencia 13 and 18th Street.

"This is ground zero for a lot of the bad in this city. It could be ground zero for a lot of the good too," said Alfred Lomas, a former Florencia member who has become a leading gang intervention worker in South Los Angeles and is spearheading the tours. "This is true community empowerment."

“The nonprofit group plans to offer two-hour tours at an initial cost of $65 per adult, with profits funneled back into the community through jobs, "franchised" tours in new areas and micro-loans to inner-city entrepreneurs. Early routes will focus largely on South L.A., with forays through Watts and Florence-Firestone.

“The concept appears to have no equal in L.A. -- for good reason, some might argue. It seems to echo, more than anything, the "slum tours" of such sites as India's Dharavi township and Rio de Janeiro's favelas. Those operations have been lauded as innovative economic tools and mechanisms for humanizing poverty -- and also attacked as exploitative and voyeuristic.”

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Justice, Brains, & Strength

The just use of capital punishment is to crime as nuclear weapons are to just war; they are decisive, evil-ending actions that protect the innocent from the aggressor by removing the aggressor from the earth, and to deny ourselves use of either is to open ourselves to destruction by evil men.

The Lampstand book Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support examines this.

The Mind that is Catholic: Philosophical & Political Essays is the title of an excellent book by James V. Schall, SJ, and here is an excerpt. Fr. Schall understands protecting the innocent’s mandates embedded within Catholic teaching.

“My starting point, then, is rather taken from Maritain’s phrase that “justice, brains, and strength” can and should belong together. We need no collapse before tyranny or terrorism or those who sponsor either. But we must effectively do something about them. “Peace and dialogue” rhetoric do not work in absence of a force component. The more the reality of measured force is present, the more dialogue and peaceful, including religious, means are present. In practice, this “doing” peace must include adequate and intelligent force. The intense concern that the famous “weapons of mass destruction”—and how to make them, how to use them—not fall into the hands of Muslim or other leaders is not fanciful. Every holiday since 9/11, some e-mail arrives warning us of the possible use of “dirty bombs” in some American or world city. That they have not been used, I suspect, is more because those who would use them, and such people exist, have actually been prevented by force. Units who would blow up major installations, if they could, do exist. All they lack are delivery capabilities.

“Further, I argue that our main problems are not too much force, but too little. A peaceful world is not a world with no ready forces but one with adequate, responsible, and superior force that is used when necessary. The failure to have or use such forces causes terror and war to grow exponentially. Unused force, when needed at a particular time and place, ceases to be force. But force is meaningless if one does not know that he has an enemy or how this enemy works and thinks. That latter is a spiritual and philosophical, not technical, problem. Many an adequately armed country has been destroyed because it did not recognize its real enemy. Neither is this an argument for force “for force’s sake.” It is an argument for force for justice’s sake. I am not for “eternal peace,” which is a this-worldly myth, but for real peace of actual men in an actual and fallen world. Peace is not a “goal” but a consequence of doing what is right and preventing what is wrong and, yes, knowing the difference between the two." (p. 263)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Witnesses Teach

In this column from The Catholic Thing, words from Pope Paul VI are quoted that ring true—especially in the arena of personal transformation—and the concept that one who has done, can be a much more effective teacher than one who has studied, and the teaching potency of one with both, is even more, in bringing the lost back to the fold, the concept upon which our work at Lampstand is based.

An excerpt from the column.

“Contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, or if he listens to teachers, he does so because they are witnesses.” John Paul II and Benedict XVI have quoted these remarkable words of Paul VI. As Paul’s successors, they know wisdom when they see it. The Church is, of course, no stranger to education. The Catholic intellectual tradition is rich with insights into the nature of learning, but we should expect no less of the very institution that gave us the university.

“I am a college professor and I would like to reflect upon the powerful words of Paul VI from that perspective. It is hard to think of contemporary college professors as “witnesses,” especially when so many of them are reticent to “profess” anything (so why do they merit the term “professor?). One plague of the modern university is the bizarre notion that the teacher ought not to impose his beliefs upon his students. No, indeed! The professor ought rather to be a sophisticated master chef preparing the sumptuous banquet of neutral information.
“With prejudice towards no idea, a kind disposition towards all, and grave objectivity, the professor merely comments upon the relative strengths and weaknesses of each factual morsel comprising the feast of knowledge. Under this model, the uninitiated student, whose tastes are unformed, is left to his appetites – he gravitates towards what he personally finds interesting and meaningful. College thus becomes a type of four-year buffet where the student, safeguarded by the scrupulous “objectivity” of his instructors, makes knowledge and meaning for himself, without fear of interference from those serving him the banquet.

“Such an educational model rejects outright the notion of teacher as witness. Yet in an odd way Paul VI does have advocates in university circles. The intellectually honest among the professoriate know that the notion of the “purely objective” teacher is nonsense. Those who probe into the nature of education quickly conclude that it is simply impossible to “teach from nowhere,” as if the positions and perspectives of the teacher could simply be suspended in a weightless vacuum of objectivity. Further, this notion of pure objectivity in pedagogy treats neither the teacher nor the student with anything resembling the seriousness befitting human persons.”

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Exception Often Becomes the Rule

This is something that most criminal justice professionals know, and the high profile exception of a certain case is matched by many others that occur daily throughout the country, but do not, for whatever reason, reach the level of mass media coverage.

Broken windows policing and three strikes sentencing are two of the most effective public safety measures developed over the past century and deserve continued support and enhancement—when appropriate—rather than censure, as this article from the Christian Science Monitor attempts.

An excerpt.

“The case of the ambush and killing of four police officers in a coffee shop near Seattle on Sunday is exceptionally troubling – emphasis on exceptionally.

“Four police officers shot, execution-style. Their families struggle to recover as they mourn. The suspect, Maurice Clemmons – released from jail just days before the ambush, despite a long history of violent crime and known mental problems. After a massive manhunt, he's dead, too, shot early Tuesday by a policeman investigating a stolen car.

“The extraordinary nature of this crime is why it's captured the nation's attention. But it's also a reason for caution. High-profile crimes have a tendency to rank emotion over reason when it comes to the criminal justice system.

“Remember, for instance, the wrenching story of young Polly Klaas, kidnapped from a slumber party in her California home in 1993 and then murdered. The case served as a catalyst for the state's "three strikes" law, the nation's toughest law for repeat offenders.

“The law has netted violent offenders, but also nonviolent ones, and it has helped swell the state's prison population. In August, with California prisons at nearly twice their capacity, a panel of judges ordered the state to significantly reduce the number of inmates.”

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Evaluation of Nonprofits

The appropriate evaluation of nonprofit service organizations receiving the public’s money, either through donations or government grants, is a crucial step to ensuring those organizations perform their work effectively.

It is an issue of great importance in criminal rehabilitative programs—and relatively simple—as examining arrest records can easily determine recidivist rates for program participants, and funds to pay for regular criminal records search and analysis by an objective third party, should be part of every program.

Advocacy programs—such as Lampstand—are evaluated by the volume, cogency, platforms, and distribution of their advocacy and the information addressing those issues needs to be part of their annual report.

This article from North Carolina comments on the need for oversight of nonprofits.

An excerpt.

“RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina fails to provide enough or consistent oversight to ensure hundreds of millions of dollars disbursed to nonprofits annually from state agencies are used appropriately, a legislative watchdog agency said Monday.

“The report released by the General Assembly's Program Evaluation Division reviewed how agencies tracked $694 million distributed during the 2007-08 fiscal year to nonprofits.

“The report found there's no streamlined process to evaluate if the money is meeting expected outcomes, which means there are varying levels of accountability across state government.

"Right now, we have a game of checkers with no spaces on the board," John Turcotte, the division's director, told lawmakers. "It's just a hodgepodge from agency to agency."

“The Legislature toughened reporting requirements earlier this decade after a state auditor's report questioned expenses by a nonprofit foundation started with help of state funds secured by then-state Sen. Frank Ballance. Ballance ultimately went to federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to divert foundation money to his family and others.

“State agency oversight is important because 94 percent of the 2,758 nonprofits receive or spend less than $500,000 in funds annually, the report said. Under that threshold, the nonprofits only must file annual reports with line-item expenditures but aren't required to document those expenses and or get an outside audit.

"These forms ... may be only worth the value of the paper they're written on," said Carol Ripple, the report's primary author.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Peter is a Revolutionary

In this article from Ignatius Insight, the preface to the book Benedict XVI: An Intimate Portrait, we see a picture of a man who, in the best sense of the Christian, is a revolutionary, and stands, along with all of the faithful, as a true sign of contradiction.

An excerpt.

“What is it like to sit opposite a man like Joseph Ratzinger for many hours, alone in a monastery, and discuss things with him, asking a thousand questions?

“We were high up in our monastery, often in reality above the clouds, and there was always something that gave you the feeling there was a good spirit there. At any rate, I came to know Joseph Ratzinger as a great man for patience, as a spiritual master who can give answers. Here was someone who simply understood people, who had retained the liveliness of youth. Someone who did not burn out quickly but in some way remained whole--and most impressive in his attitude of humility, with which he makes small things seem great.

“Joseph Ratzinger is a born teacher, but he did not want to become pope. Even after the conclave, on the loggia of Saint Peter's, his face showed the traces of an inner struggle. And he probably felt like crying, so disturbingly moved was he by the condescension of the great God who entrusted him, at the end of his path, with the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

“The man from Bavaria--contrary to all the projections dumped onto his shoulders--is a revolutionary of the Christian type. Seeking out what was lost and saving it is the constant element in his life. An inconvenient man who can seize on the spirit of the times, who warns people against the aberrations of modern life. Anyone who really wants change, he cries out, needs a change in his consciousness and his personal behavior--anything else is insufficient. Now, as Benedict XVI, the most powerful German at the beginning of the new millennium may offer a new opportunity for Europe and, especially, for his homeland. And Peter's successor has given his own people an exciting motto for this: "We are not working to defend a position of power", he says. "In truth we are working so that the streets of the world may be open for Christ." That would mean, then, something like a "Benedictinizing" of the Catholic Church, a healthy revitalization of mercy, of the origin of the mystery.

“This is an approach based, not on activism or considerations of feasibility, but on faith. And the pontifex in Rome could find himself helped not only by a reawakened longing for meaning and a new consciousness that truth is indispensable, but also by a new generation of young Christians, whose desire is to live out their faith in all its vitality and fullness once more, piously and without inhibitions. "The Church is certainly not old and immobile", declared the new pope enthusiastically; "no--she is young." And it was also untrue, he said, that youth is merely "materialistic and egotistic: young people want an end to be put to injustice. They want inequality to be overcome and for everyone to be given his share of the good things of the world. They want the oppressed to be given their freedom. They want greatness. They desire goodness. And that is why the young ... are once again wide open for Christ."

“And then he added, just like a rebel of earlier times. "Anyone who has come to Christ seeking what is comfortable has indeed come to the wrong address." And, quite certainly, anyone who seeks that with Pope Benedict, too.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Church of the People or of the Pure

Both realities are ever present in the Church, and just as the bishops of our country begin to publically counsel Catholics in the public square who are advocating positions not in conformity with Church teaching, to repent and return to conformity; the bishops in some Latin American countries are bringing children of fallen away Catholics to baptism, as reported in this article from Chiesa; sound reasoning in both cases.

The Catholic Church is a Universal Church, and it is to the sinners Christ came, and are not we all such.

An excerpt from Chiesa.

“Cardinal Bergoglio and other bishops are ordering that baptism not be withheld from those who are far removed from religious practice. Better a Church of the people than one only of the pure. Ratzinger also thinks this way.

“ROME, November 30, 2009 – Two days ago, Benedict XVI received the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, who arrived with their respective delegations to thank the Holy See for the peaceful solution arranged twenty-five years ago by Vatican diplomacy to the territorial dispute between the two countries about sovereignty over the islands south of the Beagle Channel.

“Argentina and Chile, together with Colombia, are the nations in South America in which the Catholic Church is most firmly planted.

“But they are also the ones in which the challenge of secularization is most relentless: in mentality, in customs, and in legal norms. On November 13, a judge in Buenos Aires authorized a "marriage" between persons of the same sex, declaring the articles of the civil code outlawing it unconstitutional. The chief of government of Buenos Aires has taken the side of the judge. And this has provoked a vigorous reaction from the archbishop of the city, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who is also president of the Argentine bishops' conference, a person much loved and respected.

“The Church's response to the challenge of secularization is a decisive test for verifying the success or failure of the pastoral guidelines elaborated for the subcontinent by the meeting of Latin American bishops' conferences held in 2007 in Aparecida.

“Secularization, in fact, erodes what is a typical characteristic of the Catholic Church in these countries: that of being a Church of the people, with the family as the foundational structure and with the baptism of children as a general practice.

“In some parts of Europe, baptizing a child has already become the exception, requiring an unconventional decision. But now, the number of unbaptized infants, children, young people, adults is also rising in Argentina.

“This decline in the practice of baptism is the result of a weakening of family ties and a withdrawal from the Church. Some of the clergy have drawn this conclusion: where they see the signs of faith being extinguished, they maintain that it is right to decline to administer the sacraments.

“But in Argentina today, the Church authorities are moving in the opposite direction.

“Already in 2002, the archdiocese of Buenos Aires and the diocese in the surrounding area had published an instruction urgently recommending the baptism of both children and adults, and explaining how to overcome resistance to the celebration of the rite.

“But now the bishops of the area have returned to the task with a booklet entitled "El bautismo en clave misionera," which reproduces the 2002 instruction and supplements it with other guidelines for parish pastors.

“So beginning this year, the most conscientious pastors are regularly holding "baptism days," on which they administer the sacrament to children and adults in situations of poverty or with broken families, who have been helped to overcome their own uncertainties and those of the people around them.

“Cardinal Bergoglio has explained the meaning of all this in an interview with the international magazine "30 Days":

"The child has no responsibility for the condition of his parents' marriage. The baptism of children can, on the contrary, become a new beginning for the parents. A while ago, I baptized the seven children of one woman, a poor widow who works as a maid and had her children by two different men. I met her on the feast of Saint Cajetan. She said to me, 'Father, I am in mortal sin, I have seven children and have never had them baptized, I don't have the money for the godparents and for the party... I saw her again and after a little catechesis I baptized them in the chapel of the archepiscopal residence. The woman said to me, 'Father, I can't believe it, you make me feel important'. I said to her, 'But madam, what do I have to do with it? It's Jesus who makes you important."