Sunday, February 28, 2010

Abundance & Scarcity

In the culture of death built upon the ancient teachings of dissent and embodied in the modern platform of deep ecology, it is a world of scarcity, and the biggest problem is too many humans.

In the culture of life, built upon the ancient teachings of the Catholic Church, it is a world of abundance, and the biggest problem is a lack of vision.

In the seminal 1982 book by Rodger Charles, S.J. & Drostan Maclaren, O.P. The Social Teaching of Vatican II: Its Origin and Development, the human capacity of our planet is noted:

"…the evidence is that sufficient food and resources are available (and will continue to be available in the future if past experience, the only rational basis for prediction, is anything to go by) to meet the needs of increase in the world’s population in the foreseeable future. This being so, the present concern with controlling population by practically any means can only be regarded as a panic reaction. Already the wilder predictions of doomsters have been proved wrong. Paul Ehrlich predicted in 1968 that hundreds of millions would starve to death in the 1970’s. Disaster on that scale did not take place—and starvation where it occurs is usually a result of human mismanagement. So far from being incapable of supporting present and future population, a responsible official of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations has reckoned that the world’s resources would enable food production to be increased by a factor of 50 over the next century if proper steps were taken. This figure exceeds Colin Clark’s estimation that the world’s potential agricultural and forest land could supply 47 billion at American and 157 billion at Asian standards. [in his book Population Growth and Land Use (London, 1977, p.153]” (Rodger & Maclaren, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, pp.346-347)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Behind the Scenes

There is an excellent trio of stories in this article from the Harvard’s journalism center, Nieman Reports, about reporting on crime stories in depth.

An excerpt from the first story.

“In terms of trauma, the crime beat takes a different toll from some others. It’s one thing to be a war correspondent; people acknowledge that you’ve been through a whole lot. But the crime beat is often thrown on real young people and then day after day after day it chips away at them. It’s an insidious kind of numbness and little horrors that are witnessed over and over again. People cope very differently, but I’d say that the way we cover this story also affects how much trauma we’re going to experience. You can look at it as a story about how we have the innocent victim here and this horrible person over here who is a murderer or rapist. If a reporter follows that paradigm, and it probably suits the majority of reporters, they can go home and sleep at night. In fact, you’ll probably leave work early if you’re just going to write that story—good guys, bad guys. But good reporters know it’s not that simple.

“Every time there’s a gang shooting, two families, at least, are ripped apart. There are the parents of the victim who’ve lost their son or daughter and the parents of another child who’s about to go do life in prison. Very often it’s only a very fine line of fate between the two that decides which one is which. This good guy/bad guy innocent victim thing is completely blurry. And often in the same family there are victims of violence and perpetrators of it; sometimes this is the same person. So to cover this responsibly we have to dig deep. We cannot just tell the cops’ side of the story. And it’s even too easy to cover the victims’ side of the story.

“Let me give an example of how a more rounded approach can help a community, or at least get it started on a different road. We covered a gang shooting with a 19-year-old kid named Little Mando in Salinas. It was a murder in a bar, gang-related, execution style, and that is how it played out in the papers and on the television. But my co-reporter George Sánchez and I started digging around on the perpetrator’s side of the story and found out that this kid was literally raised in a gang. Since he was nine years old he was smoking pot and committing robberies; his first armed robbery was when he was 12. Everyone in this family raised him to be part of this.

“As we started doing stories about his life, we’d hear people in the community asking, “Well, gee, did Armando Frias have a choice? He was raised in this. How could he be anything else than what he was?” Other people would say, “Yeah, of course he had a choice. We have free will. There were kids faced with worse things than Armando who walked away.”

“I asked Armando if he had a choice. He said he did. But then he’d tell me that everyone in his family looked at him as soon as he was born and said, “You’re going to be just like your father. You’re going to be just like your father.” And his first words when I met him were, “I always wanted to be just like my father.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Prayers of the Cloistered

These powerful prayers, as reported by the Catholic Anchor, provide spiritual back-up to all of the faithful in the world and especially to apostolates.

An excerpt.

“On a recent snowy morning, Blessed Sacrament Monastery in Anchorage looked especially quiet. There were no cars in the parking lot, and only a small sign on the building gave evidence of the Catholic cloister.

“But inside the hushed monastery, live a handful of cloistered nuns who are about the work of saving the world.

“They are members of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, a cloistered religious order that was first established in 1807 in France by Blessed Mary Magdalene of the Incarnation. The order operates 85 monasteries worldwide — all are dedicated to the perpetual adoration of the Eucharistic Christ.

“Focused on Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, each nun spends her life praying and sacrificing for the good of the church and the salvation of souls.

“In a rare interview, the superior of the Alaska monastery Mother Maria de la Milagrosa spoke with the Catholic Anchor about the tremendous but largely unseen life inside a cloistered monastery.

“Speaking in her native Spanish and with the aid of an interpreter, she gave the interview from behind a metal grille in a visiting room near the monastery’s chapel.


“Motivated by the love of God, the nuns are “planting the seed for the good of souls,” Mother Maria explained. In that quiet work, rising like farmers before the rest of the world for long days, they trust God to yield a harvest which they might never see in their lifetimes.

“It is a life of faith,” in the sequestered world of the monastery, Mother Maria continued. “We don’t see the fruits, but we believe the Word of God that he will draw them out.”

“Speaking of the nuns’ mostly hidden existence, Mother Maria called it a “testimony that God is here and we live only for him.”

“It is possible to live only for God,” she stressed.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vatican Announcement on 2010 Pontifical Yearbook

"VATICAN CITY, 20 FEB 2010 (VIS) - This morning, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and Archbishop Fernando Filoni, substitute for General Affairs, presented the Holy Father with the 2010 edition of the "Annuario Pontificio" or pontifical yearbook. Also present were the officials responsible for compiling and printing the volume.

"A note concerning the presentation highlights some of the facts contained in the new volume. In 2009, the Pope erected eight new episcopal sees and one territorial prelature. Furthermore, a territorial prelature was elevated to the rank of diocese, and three prefectures to that of apostolic vicariate. A total of 169 new bishops were appointed.

"The number of Catholics in the world increased from around 1,147 million in 2007 to 1,166 million in 2008, an increase of nineteen million faithful which corresponds to a growth of 1.7 percent.

"The note also indicates that the number of bishops grew between 2007 and 2008 from 4,946 to 5,002. As for priests, both regular and diocesan, their numbers have increased over the last nine years from 405,178 in 2000 to 409,166 in 2008, although their distribution differs considerably from continent to continent. While numbers of priestly vocations are growing in Africa, Asia and America, and remain stationary in Oceania, in Europe they have dropped from 51.5 percent to 47.1 percent of the total.

"Among the pastoral workers who assist bishops and priests in their activities, female religious constitute by far the largest group. In the year 2000 they numbered 801,185 but this figure fell to 739,067 in 2008. They are most heavily represented in Europe and America (respectively, 40.9 percent and 27.5 percent of the total), and the greatest losses were on those continents and in Oceania, while in Africa and Asia their numbers grow by 21.2 percent and 16.4 percent respectively. Although this helps to counterbalance the abovementioned losses it does not cancel them out, the notes says.

"The number of candidates to the priesthood has also grown slightly, from 115,919 in 2007 to 117,024 in 2008. Here too the different continents show a different evolution: Africa, Asia and Oceania grew by, respectively, 3.6 percent, 4.4 percent and 6.5 percent. Europe registered a fall of some 4.3 percent, while the situation in America remained unchanged."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chair of Peter

Monday was the feast day of the Chair of Peter, our Holy Father, and the posting by American Catholic reminds us of the history of the purely human occupant of this seat created by God to lead the Church on earth.

An excerpt.

“This feast commemorates Christ’s choosing Peter to sit in his place as the servant-authority of the whole Church.

“After the “lost weekend” of pain, doubt and self-torment, Peter hears the Good News. Angels at the tomb say to Magdalene, “The Lord has risen! Go, tell his disciples and Peter.” John relates that when he and Peter ran to the tomb, the younger outraced the older, then waited for him. Peter entered, saw the wrappings on the ground, the headpiece rolled up in a place by itself. John saw and believed. But he adds a reminder: “..[T]hey did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9). They went home. There the slowly exploding, impossible idea became reality. Jesus appeared to them as they waited fearfully behind locked doors. “Peace be with you,” he said (John 20:21b), and they rejoiced.

“The Pentecost event completed Peter’s experience of the risen Christ. “...[T]hey were all filled with the holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4a) and began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them.

“Only then can Peter fulfill the task Jesus had given him: “... [O]nce you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). He at once becomes the spokesman for the Twelve about their experience of the Holy Spirit—before the civil authorities who wished to quash their preaching, before the council of Jerusalem, for the community in the problem of Ananias and Sapphira. He is the first to preach the Good News to the Gentiles. The healing power of Jesus in him is well attested: the raising of Tabitha from the dead, the cure of the crippled beggar. People carry the sick into the streets so that when Peter passed his shadow might fall on them.

“Even a saint experiences difficulty in Christian living. When Peter stopped eating with Gentile converts because he did not want to wound the sensibilities of Jewish Christians, Paul says, “...I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong.... [T]hey were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel...” (Galatians 2:11b, 14a).”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Innocence Commissions

The concept, as being utilized in North Carolina and reported by the Raleigh News Observer, is an excellent idea.

In a world of human error—which in the criminal justice system can be disastrous—any back-up to the system that is effective, is something that should be replicated.

An excerpt.

“RALEIGH -- As Greg Taylor finds his way back into a changed world 17 years after being wrongfully convicted of murder, the fledgling state agency that made his freedom possible is adjusting to a different way of life, too.

“The phones have been ringing constantly at the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission since it won its historic first case last week. Dozens of e-mail messages have come in to the seven-member staff on behalf of people who think they, too, have been wrongfully convicted.

"This just shows that the process the state created works," Executive Director Kendra Montgomery-Blinn said Friday. "I think we're going to see commissions in other states now."

“The Innocence Inquiry Commission, the first of its kind in the country, was created in 2006 after several high-profile cases of wrongful convictions raised questions about the criminal justice system. The wrongfully convicted can appeal their verdicts, but their claims generally are limited to technical problems at the trial level, not claims of innocence. The commission has legal authority and powers to delve into such claims and then put them before a panel of judges that can grant immediate freedom.

"The reason we created this was because we all knew the legal system operates under the presumption of guilt once you're convicted," said Richard Rosen, a UNC-Chapel Hill law professor who helped create the commission. "This is a safety valve."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bishops & Leadership

The character of organizations very often devolves from the character of their leadership and for several decades the leadership of the American Catholic Church has been largely absent; resulting in the wolves running free as horribly witnessed through the sexual abuse scandals still unfolding, and the decades-long aligning with secular interests which degraded the staunch stand for Catholic teaching traditionally marking the episcopacy.

Human life International notes a refreshing change, and we should always remember that Peter asks us to pray for our bishops that they may lead the Church in full communion with him.

An excerpt.

“Ought we rejoice in Lent? Well, Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon, has given us the absolute best reason to rejoice in a penitential season: he yanked the title "Catholic" from a hospital in his diocese that refuses actually to be Catholic. What a refreshing development in episcopal leadership! In fact, Lent is probably the perfect time for such an act to take place because it is an exercise of discipline and courage, which we love to see in our prelates. Bishops who are true shepherds, and not politicians, strengthen us and enliven our faith - thank you, Bishop Vasa!...

“In serving an international mission like HLI, I have a privileged chance to see many bishops around the world who actually do the right thing when the terms of their office require it, and their churches are generally vibrant and faithful because of their strong leadership. There are just a handful of bishops in the technologically-sophisticated western world, however, who exhibit the resolute moral courage that is required to remove the title of "Catholic" from an institution that is in rebellion against the authentic Faith; even fewer who have the guts to discipline a public figure who betrays the Faith in favor of his own leftist values. (Vice President Joe Biden, by the way, appeared in public on Wednesday with ashes on his forehead....) Yet, there is a growing trend in the United States toward greater episcopal strength and orthodoxy, and we have to applaud it when we see it because these bishops will be severely attacked and will need our support.”

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Compstat Works

Following up on yesterday’s post, this article from City Journal examines the latest attack on Comstat—or Compstat—and demolishes it in the process.

An excerpt.

“The crime analysis and accountability system known as Compstat, developed by the New York Police Department in 1994, is the most revolutionary public-sector achievement of the last quarter-century. Since its inception, Compstat has driven crime in New York down an astounding 77 percent; veterans of the Compstat-era NYPD who have gone on to run police departments elsewhere have replicated its successes. Other government agencies, both in New York and nationally, have applied the Compstat model to their own operations, using minutely analyzed data to hold managers accountable for everything from improvements in public health to decreases in welfare dependency to road repairs.

“Now, however, a survey of retired NYPD commanders by two criminologists purports to cast doubt on the wisdom of Compstat. Compstat has undermined the reliability of the NYPD’s crime-reporting system, say former John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Eli Silverman and Molloy College professor John Eterno. Weekly meetings in which top brass grill precinct commanders about crime on their watch place too much pressure on the commanders, resulting in data manipulation, the professors charge. “Those people in the Compstat era . . . felt less pressure to maintain the integrity of the crime statistics,” Eterno told the New York Times. “The system provides an incentive for pushing the envelope,” Silverman added. Silverman and Eterno anonymously asked several hundred retired NYPD captains if they were “aware” of instances of commanders changing crime data. About half of the survey respondents (157 of 309) said that they were aware of changes to crime reports. A follow-up question asked whether the changes were ethically appropriate. Of the 160 respondents who answered, 22.5 percent thought that the changes were ethical, while 53.8 percent believed that the changes were highly unethical.

“Critics of the NYPD have seized gleefully on the study, which has not yet been publicly released. The New York Times obligingly wrote it up on its front page and followed up with several articles on the topic.

“NYPD foes can put away their party hats. Nothing in the survey discredits Compstat or its crime-fighting accomplishments. Eterno’s claim about a decreased emphasis on crime-data integrity in the Compstat era is demonstrably false. It is ludicrous to suggest that a department where the top brass did not even get crime data until six months after the crime and then did nothing with them—as was the case in the pre-Compstat era—cared more about the accuracy of crime statistics than one in which every deployment decision is made based on the minute-by-minute reality of crime on the streets. Nor does the study, which has several design flaws, cast any doubt on the city’s record-breaking crime drop. Given the enormous efforts that the NYPD makes to ensure the validity of its statistics, the study ultimately comes down to a dangerous argument against accountability systems per se.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Broken Windows & Comstat, The Beginning

Broken windows—or quality of life—policing, mandates that even the lowest level crime is addressed, like the broken windows in abandoned buildings, as blight leads to criminal penetration.

Broken windows policing led to Comstat, the idea of crime mapping and focusing resources at points of highest crime, which seems so logical, but had never been done.

It was done by a New York City transit cop, who ultimately became second in command to the Commissioner, and their development and deployment of Comstat has revolutionized policing in America.

Here is an interview with that transit cop.

An excerpt.

“Short of stature -- about 5-foot-7 -- and rotund, 46-year-old Jack Maple is given to wearing two-tone shoes, striped shirts, bow-ties and a homburg hat. But don't let his taste in clothing fool you. He cut his stylistic teeth in New York City's hot lunch spots, while cutting his professional teeth underground, in what New York's finest derisively refer to as the caves.

“The caves are the New York subways -- once considered as dangerous a place as any in the world. In the 1980s, Maple was an aggressive transit cop who moved up to the rank of transit lieutenant. When he got tired of responding to crime instead of fighting it, he went home and put his unschooled but analytical mind to work.

"I called them the Charts of the Future. On 55 feet of wall space, I mapped every train station in New York City and every train," Maple recently explained. "Then I used crayons to mark every violent crime, robbery and grand larceny that occurred. I mapped the solved vs. the unsolved."

“Later, when William Bratton was hired by the Transit Police to cut crime, Maple showed him the charts, and between 1990 and 1992 they cut felonies in the caves by 27 percent and robberies by a third.

“In 1994, when Bratton was appointed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to head the NYPD, the new commissioner made the flamboyant Maple his second-in-command. The move, likened to promoting a Navy ensign to admiral, ruffled many feathers. But using computerized Charts of the Future, precinct commanders were held accountable for crimes in their area. For the first time that anyone could remember, crime in New York City began to decline.

“COMSTAT was born. COMSTAT is a process by which crime statistics are collected, computerized, mapped and disseminated quickly. Officers are held responsible for the crime in their areas, and all crimes, including the "quality of life" infractions like loitering or public intoxication, are pursued aggressively. The program has become the talk of squad rooms nationwide.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Anglicans Becoming Catholics

In what will possibly become a flood, the stream of Anglicans seeking union with the Church grows, as this story from the Telegraph notes.

An excerpt.

“Forward in Faith Australia, part of the Anglo-Catholic group that also has members in Britain and America, is setting up a working party guided by a Catholic bishop to work out how its followers can cross over to Rome.

“It is believed to be the first group within the Anglican church to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s unprecedented offer for disaffected members of the Communion to convert en masse while retaining parts of their spiritual heritage.

“So far only the Traditional Anglican Communion, which has already broken away from the 70 million-strong Anglican Communion, has declared that its members will become Catholics under the Apostolic Constitution.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Priestly Vocations

This is a beautiful message of the power of witness in encouraging vocations from the Holy Father, excerpts from his message for the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, from the Vatican News Service.

An excerpt.

VATICAN CITY, 16 FEB 2010 (VIS) - "Witness Awakens Vocations" is the title of the Pope's message for the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations that will be celebrated on 25 April - Good Shepherd Sunday - the Fourth Sunday of Easter. Here follow excerpts from the document:

"The fruitfulness of our efforts to promote vocations depends primarily on God's free action, yet, as pastoral experience confirms, it is also helped by the quality and depth of the personal and communal witness of those who have already answered the Lord's call to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life, for their witness is then able to awaken in others a desire to respond generously to Christ's call."

"In the Old Testament the prophets knew that they were called to witness by their own lives to the message they proclaimed, and were prepared to face misunderstanding, rejection and persecution. (.) In the fullness of time, Jesus, sent by the Father, would bear witness to the love of God for all human beings, without distinction, with particular attention to the least ones, sinners, the outcast and the poor. Jesus is the supreme Witness to God and to his concern for the salvation of all."

"Similarly the calling of Peter, (.) occurred through the witness of his brother Andrew (.). This was also the case for Nathanael, Bartholomew, thanks to the witness of yet another disciple, Philip (.). God's free and gracious initiative encounters and challenges the human responsibility of all those who accept his invitation to become, through their own witness, the instruments of his divine call. This occurs in the Church even today: the Lord makes use of the witness of priests who are faithful to their mission in order to awaken new priestly and religious vocations for the service of the People of God."

"A fundamental element, one which can be seen in every vocation to the priesthood and the consecrated life, is friendship with Christ. (.) If the priest is a "man of God", one who belongs to God and helps others to know and love him, he cannot fail to cultivate a deep intimacy with God, abiding in his love and making space to hear his Word."

"In following Jesus, everyone called to a life of special consecration must do his utmost to testify that he has given himself completely to God. This is the source of his ability to give himself in turn to those whom Providence entrusts to him in his pastoral ministry with complete, constant and faithful devotion, (.) enabling them too to become open to meeting Christ, so that his Word may become a light to their footsteps. The story of every vocation is almost always intertwined with the testimony of a priest who joyfully lives the gift of himself to his brothers and sisters for the sake of the Kingdom of God."

"A third aspect which necessarily characterizes the priest and the consecrated person is a life of communion. (.) In a particular way the priest must be a man of communion, open to all, capable of gathering into one the pilgrim flock which the goodness of the Lord has entrusted to him, helping to overcome divisions, to heal rifts, to settle conflicts and misunderstandings, and to forgive offences."

"[I]f young people see priests who appear distant and sad, they will hardly feel encouraged to follow their example. They will remain hesitant if they are led to think that this is the life of a priest. Instead, they need to see the example of a communion of life which can reveal to them the beauty of being a priest."

"It can be said that priestly vocations are born of contact with priests, as a sort of precious legacy handed down by word, example and a whole way of life."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Catholicism & Politics in the US

There has been a strong undercurrent of thought over the past several years that the animating principles guiding American conservatism are primarily Catholic, specifically from Catholic social teaching.

This was commented on in our first blog, and an article from Catholic World Report deepens the discussion.

An excerpt.

“This year will mark a great opportunity for conservatives,” said the voice over the radio, by which he meant that one style of politician wholly committed to the cramped secular vision of man would triumph over another style of politician committed to the same thing. Which caused me to consider that any new conservatism in America will be Catholic, or Christian at least, in both its looking forward to the kingdom of God and its gratitude for the gifts of the past, or it will not be at all.

“What would such a conservatism look like? I suggest the following, at the least.

It must be rooted in natural piety. Our schoolchildren these days know next to nothing about the heroes of their native land, flawed though these heroes certainly were. They know little enough about the place where they live, as their days are devoured by the institutional school and the place-denying un-world of the television and the Internet. They are taught to dissociate themselves, in pride, from the narrow prejudices of their parents, thus enabling them all the more easily to absorb the narrow prejudices of their keepers in the schools and in the media.

“The result of all this dissociation is that we hardly have citizens at all, who take pride in their localities and exert themselves to preserve them and pass their beauty along to the next generation. We have instead a mass of rootless people, isolated in time—since they come from nowhere in particular, and are going nowhere but to the place where their untrained wills must lead them—and alienated from one another. We must remember that piety is a natural virtue before it has been baptized; it is a deeply human thing to love one’s place merely because it is one’s own, and to cherish memories of those who dwelt in it before and helped to make it what it is.

It must recognize zones of authority. Libertarianism is, I am afraid, a false friend. It assumes that my freedom is defined by what others cannot legitimately prevent me from doing: from learning how to play the violin, if I so choose (to use Isaiah Berlin’s example), or, far more sinister, from destroying the offspring in the womb. But that is a cramped view of freedom, and assumes that the relationship between freedom and authority is adversarial.

“For authority is not opposed to freedom; it is rather its precondition. We can divine this from the suggestive Latin etymology: the “auctor” is one who gives increase. When, for example, the child cheerfully obeys his father, he liberates himself from both the unruliness of his youthful appetites and from the distractions with which the world besets him. He becomes a responsible young man capable of shingling a roof, or changing the oil in the car, or kneeling before the Lord in humble and exalting prayer.

“The family, for instance, ought to be an area of freedom from state intrusion not, principally, because the individuals in it should be allowed to do as they please within the bounds of the civil law, nor even because the family can accomplish what the state cannot, but because it is in itself an area of law-giving and law-abiding. It has its own authority, which demands respect. The school, the parish, the neighborhood, the city, the workplace, the football team, indeed all free associations of human beings—both those that arise by nature and those that men create and choose—should be afforded freedom, not as part of a Madisonian compromise among competing factions, but as an acknowledgment by the state of what is after all human reality.

“Such a vision would, paradoxically, help deliver the freedom which libertarians long for while grounding it in the virtue of obedience and breaking the terrible reduction of human life to the conflict between individual will and state control.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

National Crime Commission

This new look at crime is moving through the process—we’ve posted on it before, here and here—and while it never hurts to examine public policy in light of new realities, it can be restrictive to enter that examination with uninformed assumptions, as expressed in this editorial from the New York Times.

As most criminal justice professionals realize, the reason prisons and jails are full (rather than "too many" being there) is because of broken-windows policing and three-strikes sentencing, two of the best criminal justice advances of the past several decades.

An excerpt.

“The nation’s criminal justice system is in need of an overhaul. This is particularly true of its incarceration policies. Too many people are being put behind bars who do not need to be there, at great cost to the states, and not enough attention is being paid to helping released prisoners re-enter society.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee recently voted to create a blue-ribbon commission to study the justice system and offer reforms. The bill’s main sponsor was Jim Webb, a Democrat of Virginia who is one of the Senate’s more thoughtful voices on crime and punishment.

“Among the issues the commission would study is why the United States has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world. Prisons are filled with a large number of nonviolent offenders, including minor drug offenders. In many cases, it would be more humane, economical and effective to provide drug treatment and mental health alternatives.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bush Doctrine & Catholic Teaching II

The narrative drumbeat of the George W. Bush presidency as a failure is built on political expediency informed by socialistic wishful thinking, rather than reality (as previously posted) and the closeness exhibited between Pope Benedict and President Bush during their time together in Washington DC and the Vatican, is built on reality, and part of the reason for that closeness is embodied in Caritas in Veritate, where the Holy Father relates Paul VI’s vision—and his—to the Bush Doctrine of spreading freedom.

An excerpt.

"21. Paul VI had an articulated vision of development. He understood the term to indicate the goal of rescuing peoples, first and foremost, from hunger, deprivation, endemic diseases and illiteracy. From the economic point of view, this meant their active participation, on equal terms, in the international economic process; from the social point of view, it meant their evolution into educated societies marked by solidarity; from the political point of view, it meant the consolidation of democratic regimes capable of ensuring freedom and peace. After so many years, as we observe with concern the developments and perspectives of the succession of crises that afflict the world today, we ask to what extent Paul VI's expectations have been fulfilled by the model of development adopted in recent decades. We recognize, therefore, that the Church had good reason to be concerned about the capacity of a purely technological society to set realistic goals and to make good use of the instruments at its disposal. Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty. The economic development that Paul VI hoped to see was meant to produce real growth, of benefit to everyone and genuinely sustainable. It is true that growth has taken place, and it continues to be a positive factor that has lifted billions of people out of misery — recently it has given many countries the possibility of becoming effective players in international politics. Yet it must be acknowledged that this same economic growth has been and continues to be weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems, highlighted even further by the current crisis. This presents us with choices that cannot be postponed concerning nothing less than the destiny of man, who, moreover, cannot prescind from his nature. The technical forces in play, the global interrelations, the damaging effects on the real economy of badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing, large-scale migration of peoples, often provoked by some particular circumstance and then given insufficient attention, the unregulated exploitation of the earth's resources: all this leads us today to reflect on the measures that would be necessary to provide a solution to problems that are not only new in comparison to those addressed by Pope Paul VI, but also, and above all, of decisive impact upon the present and future good of humanity. The different aspects of the crisis, its solutions, and any new development that the future may bring, are increasingly interconnected, they imply one another, they require new efforts of holistic understanding and a new humanistic synthesis. The complexity and gravity of the present economic situation rightly cause us concern, but we must adopt a realistic attitude as we take up with confidence and hope the new responsibilities to which we are called by the prospect of a world in need of profound cultural renewal, a world that needs to rediscover fundamental values on which to build a better future. The current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment, to build on positive experiences and to reject negative ones. The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future. In this spirit, with confidence rather than resignation, it is appropriate to address the difficulties of the present time."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

On Priests III

A document from Vatican II, The Decree of Priestly Training, specifies the continued development and training of priests, surely one of the most important functions of Holy Mother Church.

An excerpt.

“Animated by the spirit of Christ, this sacred synod is fully aware that the desired renewal of the whole Church depends to a great extent on the ministry of its priests. It proclaims the extreme importance of priestly training and lays down certain basic principles by which those regulations may be strengthened which long use has shown to be sound and by which those new elements can be added which correspond to the constitutions and decrees of this sacred council and to the changed conditions of our times. Because of the very unity of the Catholic priesthood this priestly formation is necessary for all priests, diocesan and religious and of every rite. Wherefore, while these prescriptions directly concern the diocesan clergy, they are to be appropriately adapted to all.


“1. Since only general laws can be made where there exists a wide variety of nations and regions, a special "program of priestly training" is to be undertaken by each country or rite. It must be set up by the episcopal conferences, revised from time to time and approved by the Apostolic See. In this way will the universal laws be adapted to the particular circumstances of the times and localities so that the priestly training will always be in tune with the pastoral needs of those regions in which the ministry is to be exercised.


“2. The duty of fostering vocations pertains to the whole Christian community, which should exercise it above all by a fully Christian life. The principal contributors to this are the families which, animated by the spirit of faith and love and by the sense of duty, become a kind of initial seminary, and the parishes in whose rich life the young people take part. Teachers and all those who are in any way in charge of the training of boys and young men, especially Catholic associations, should carefully guide the young people entrusted to them so that these will recognize and freely accept a divine vocation. All priests especially are to manifest an apostolic zeal in fostering vocations and are to attract the interest of youths to the priesthood by their own life lived in a humble and industrious manner and in a happy spirit as well as by mutual priestly charity and fraternal sharing of labor.

“Bishops on the other hand are to encourage their flock to promote vocations and should be concerned with coordinating all forces in a united effort to this end. As fathers, moreover, they must assist without stint those whom they have judged to be called to the Lord's work.

“The effective union of the whole people of God in fostering vocations is the proper response to the action of Divine Providence which confers the fitting gifts on those men divinely chosen to participate in the hierarchical priesthood of Christ and helps them by His grace. Moreover, this same Providence charges the legitimate ministers of the Church to call forward and to consecrate with the sign of the Holy Spirit to the worship of God and to the service of the Church those candidates whose fitness has been acknowledged and who have sought so great an office with the right intention and with full freedom.

“The sacred synod commends first of all the traditional means of common effort, such as urgent prayer, Christian penance and a constantly more intensive training of the faithful by preaching, by catechetical instructions or by the many media of social communication that will show forth the need, the nature and the importance of the priestly vocation. The synod moreover orders that the entire pastoral activity of fostering vocations be methodically and coherently planned and, with equal prudence and zeal, fostered by those organizations for promoting vocations which, in accord with the appropriate pontifical documents, have already been or will be set up in the territory of individual dioceses, regions or countries. Also, no opportune aids are to be overlooked which modern Psychological and sociological research has brought to light.

“The work of fostering vocations should, in a spirit of openness, transcend the limits of individual dioceses, countries, religious families and rites. Looking to the needs of the universal Church, it should provide aid particularly for those regions in which workers for the Lord's vineyard are being requested more urgently.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This approach, which has shown some positive results, was used in a 20 year follow-up study, with a control group, and counting even those who had dropped out of the program—all excellent (and rarely used) evaluative techniques—and the results are good; though tempered somewhat, as it was used for misdemeanors as well as felonies, and used solely within a therapeutic community drug treatment program.

The research can be downloaded here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Costa Rican President Praises Church

In this article from the Catholic News Agency, the newly elected—and first woman—president responds to the congratulations extended to her from the country’s prelate.

An excerpt.

“Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Urena of Costa Rica sent his greetings to the country’s first female president, Laura Chinchilla, reminding her of the need for collaboration between the Church and the State. The new president responded by expressing her commitment to defending and promoting Christian values.

“Radio Fides, the official radio station of the Archdiocese of San Jose, released a phone conversation between the archbishop and the president-elect. The prelate congratulated Chinchilla adding that he was proud she would become “the first female president to lead us in the executive branch...My prayer is with you.”…

“For her part, Chinchilla responded, “I am grateful for the gestures of the Catholic Church in the creation of a climate of harmony...I will always be appreciative of the Church’s advice, which is welcome.”

“She thanked the archbishop for his words, which she said were “very heartfelt and based on the social doctrine of the Church.”

“The latest papal encyclical (Caritas in veritate) sheds much light on this,” she added.

“Chinchilla also expressed her commitment to the “defense of the truth and the values the Church proclaims. I will strive to keep them at the center of my administration.”

“Let us ask for strength of our patroness, Our Lady of the Angels,” said Chinchilla, who then traveled to the shrine to give thanks for her election victory.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Narrative Disruptions

Governing social narratives tend to crowd out contrary ideas. The narrative that trying to get teenagers to abstain from sex as a strategy to reduce pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease, is a waste of time, just got its wake-up-call.

A recent study reveals that abstinence education actually works, as commented on by The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

“Dramatic” understates the conclusions reached by this new exercise in social science. Led by Dr. John B. Jemmott III of the University of Pennsylvania, researchers tracked 662 African-American students at urban middle schools to reach a result utterly subversive of the secular wisdom about kids and sex: only about a third of the students who attended an abstinence-only class started having sex within the next twenty-four months, compared to half who did after being assigned to other health classes (including, suggestively enough, a “safer-sex” class).

“Just how significant is this research, the first peer-reviewed study suggesting that abstinence education might work after all? “Landmark,” as the Washington Post put it. Or consider the word applied by the head of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy—a source, incidentally, that no one would accuse of being in the pope’s pocket: “game-changing.” Say what you want about the literary merit of its title: “Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence-Only Intervention over 24 Months” has not only galvanized the expected religious and other groups shouted down for years with the feverish incantation that “abstinence doesn’t work.” It has also garnered preliminary respect from some unexpected and significant places.

“Which is exactly why the contrary cries of “not really” and “no way” and “yes-but” rippling immediately through the rest of the secular chatter in the study’s wake are so very interesting. Sara Kliff, a blogger for Newsweek, summarized this weirdly obstreperous reaction in a single title: “The New Abstinence-Education Study is Good News. So Why are Liberals Freaking Out about It?”

“Good question. And as long as we’re asking, how about this deeper one: Why was abstinence education fought tooth and nail by secularists in the first place?”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis Works

The Catholic News Service reports from the Vatican that the reason religious orders are dying, is that they have become too secular.

An excerpt.

“VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A top Vatican official said religious orders today are in a "crisis" caused in part by the adoption of a secularist mentality and the abandonment of traditional practices.

“Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said the problems go deeper than the drastic drop in the numbers of religious men and women.

"The crisis experienced by certain religious communities, especially in Western Europe and North America, reflects the more profound crisis of European and American society. All this has dried up the sources that for centuries have nourished consecrated and missionary life in the church," Cardinal Rode said in a talk delivered Feb. 3 in Naples, Italy.

"The secularized culture has penetrated into the minds and hearts of some consecrated persons and some communities, where it is seen as an opening to modernity and a way of approaching the contemporary world," he said.”

What Makes a Good Priest?

A recent book by Michael Rose profiling ten great priests, Priest: Portraits of Ten Good Men Serving the Church Today, summed up what it takes to be a good priest, which would apply to all religious.

“In one way or another, each of the priests in the preceding chapters touched on many of the issues pertinent to the crisis that the priesthood faces today. One common thread that runs throughout each priest’s comments is that the problems in the priesthood will not be solved by redefining or eliminating the priesthood—as some commentators have been urging for decades. The priesthood is not the problem. It is abuse within the ranks of the priesthood, burning like a brush fire, that is more often than not the true problem.

“The solution must be rooted in fidelity to the Church’s teaching, on faith and morals especially. In other words, one of the prerequisites to a strong, effective priesthood is orthodoxy, that is, a strong belief in adherence to the Christian doctrines as taught by the Catholic Church. (You’d think this should go without saying, but at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it nonetheless remains to some ears a controversial assertion.)

“Building on this basic prerequisite is orthopraxis, that is, putting into practice what one believes.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Brocken Windows Policing, Bad Stats?

This article from the New York Times reports that many former police administrators are saying that there was manipulation of the statistics that led to the dramatic decrease in crime rates during the 1990's; though the New York Police Department responds that the survey is not fully credible and other surveys indicate the statistics are accurate.

An excerpt.

“More than a hundred retired New York Police Department captains and higher-ranking officers said in a survey that the intense pressure to produce annual crime reductions led some supervisors and precinct commanders to manipulate crime statistics, according to two criminologists studying the department.

“The retired members of the force reported that they were aware over the years of instances of “ethically inappropriate” changes to complaints of crimes in the seven categories measured by the department’s signature CompStat program, according to a summary of the results of the survey and interviews with the researchers who conducted it.

“The totals for those seven so-called major index crimes are provided to the F.B.I., whose reports on crime trends have been used by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to favorably compare New York to other cities and to portray it as a profoundly safer place, an assessment that the summary does not contradict.

“In interviews with the criminologists, other retired senior officers cited examples of what the researchers believe was a periodic practice among some precinct commanders and supervisors: checking eBay, other Web sites, catalogs or other sources to find prices for items that had been reported stolen that were lower than the value provided by the crime victim. They would then use the lower values to reduce reported grand larcenies — felony thefts valued at more than $1,000, which are recorded as index crimes under CompStat — to misdemeanors, which are not, the researchers said.

“Others also said that precinct commanders or aides they dispatched sometimes went to crime scenes to persuade victims not to file complaints or to urge them to change their accounts in ways that could result in the downgrading of offenses to lesser crimes, the researchers said.

“Those people in the CompStat era felt enormous pressure to downgrade index crime, which determines the crime rate, and at the same time they felt less pressure to maintain the integrity of the crime statistics,” said John A. Eterno, one of the researchers and a retired New York City police captain.

“His colleague, Eli B. Silverman, added, “As one person said, the system provides an incentive for pushing the envelope.”

“The Police Department disputed the survey’s findings, questioned its methodology and pointed to other reviews of the CompStat process that it said supported its position.

“The survey, which involved an anonymous questionnaire, was done in coordination with the union representing most of the senior officers in the department. The questionnaires were sent to 1,200 retired captains and more-senior officers; 491 responded, including 323 who retired from the department after 1995, the first full year that the agency, then under William J. Bratton, used CompStat. It is based on the scrupulous tracking of crime complaints and a mix of mapping crime trends, identifying trouble spots and holding precinct commanders directly responsible for attacking those problems.

“The survey has its limitations. It is unclear exactly when the retired senior officers left the department, making it impossible to say whether any alleged manipulations came early on or had developed over years and across more than one mayoral administration. The CompStat approach has been widely replicated across the country and has been credited with improving police work in many cities.”

Monday, February 8, 2010

Papal Lenten Message

Here is an excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s 2010 Lenten Message about justice and injustice.

Justice: “dare cuique suum"

“First of all, I want to consider the meaning of the term “justice,” which in common usage implies “to render to every man his due,” according to the famous expression of Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the third century. In reality, however, this classical definition does not specify what “due” is to be rendered to each person. What man needs most cannot be guaranteed to him by law. In order to live life to the full, something more intimate is necessary that can be granted only as a gift: we could say that man lives by that love which only God can communicate since He created the human person in His image and likeness. Material goods are certainly useful and required – indeed Jesus Himself was concerned to heal the sick, feed the crowds that followed Him and surely condemns the indifference that even today forces hundreds of millions into death through lack of food, water and medicine – yet “distributive” justice does not render to the human being the totality of his “due.” Just as man needs bread, so does man have even more need of God. Saint Augustine notes: if “justice is that virtue which gives every one his due ... where, then, is the justice of man, when he deserts the true God?” (De civitate Dei, XIX, 21).

What is the Cause of Injustice?

“The Evangelist Mark reports the following words of Jesus, which are inserted within the debate at that time regarding what is pure and impure: “There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him … What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts” (Mk 7, 14-15, 20-21). Beyond the immediate question concerning food, we can detect in the reaction of the Pharisees a permanent temptation within man: to situate the origin of evil in an exterior cause. Many modern ideologies deep down have this presupposition: since injustice comes “from outside,” in order for justice to reign, it is sufficient to remove the exterior causes that prevent it being achieved. This way of thinking – Jesus warns – is ingenuous and shortsighted. Injustice, the fruit of evil, does not have exclusively external roots; its origin lies in the human heart, where the seeds are found of a mysterious cooperation with evil. With bitterness the Psalmist recognises this: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51,7). Indeed, man is weakened by an intense influence, which wounds his capacity to enter into communion with the other. By nature, he is open to sharing freely, but he finds in his being a strange force of gravity that makes him turn in and affirm himself above and against others: this is egoism, the result of original sin. Adam and Eve, seduced by Satan’s lie, snatching the mysterious fruit against the divine command, replaced the logic of trusting in Love with that of suspicion and competition; the logic of receiving and trustfully expecting from the Other with anxiously seizing and doing on one’s own (cf. Gn 3, 1-6), experiencing, as a consequence, a sense of disquiet and uncertainty. How can man free himself from this selfish influence and open himself to love?”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Early Release

The 3rd guiding criminal justice principle of the Lampstand Foundation is:

3) Prison is the most appropriate criminal sanction to protect society and punish the criminal, while allowing the opportunity for criminal reformation.

Prison is an effective sanction for crime which has been used by human beings since ancient times. It serves to protect the public from predatory crime, acts as a deterrence and as incapacitation, and allows the penitential criminal the opportunity--while removed from the community--to reflect upon and correct his criminal behavior.

Early release violates this principle fundamentally, by interfering with the appropriate juridical decision to separate the criminal, for a specific length of time, from the public upon which he has preyed.

As this article from the Sacramento Bee indicates, the results—while not always so—can sometimes be very bad, and the point of incapacitation is to reduce the possibility of sometimes.

An excerpt.

“It was probably just a matter of time. But less than one day?

“Sacramento sheriff's officials say that's how long it took for an inmate who was set free Monday under an early-release plan to be arrested again, this time on a charge of attempted rape.

“The incident prompted immediate outrage from groups opposed to the new state law aimed at reducing prison populations by gradually releasing nonviolent, low-level offenders who earn extra credits for participating in educational and other programs.

"Our greatest fear has occurred almost immediately after the early release of these inmates," said Christine Ward of the Crime Victims Action Alliance.

“But the arrest of Kevin Eugene Peterson less than a day after he was cut loose from the Sacramento County jail also sparked questions over whether counties releasing jail inmates since the law took effect Jan. 25 are interpreting the law correctly.

“It all began Monday evening, when the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department began releasing hundreds of inmates early from the county's jails.

“The state says it has not released any inmates under the new law, which is designed to take effect gradually and only after intense review of each prisoner.

“But Sacramento and other counties have decided the new law allows them to apply good-time credits to inmates retroactively, which led to the release of Peterson 16 days early Monday.

“Peterson was rearrested at about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, when police say he attempted to assault a woman in the 1300 block of North C Street.

“He was booked into the Sacramento County jail at 3:21 p.m. Tuesday on charges of attempted rape, sexual battery, false imprisonment and violating the terms of his probation, records show.”

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Catholic Teaching

The Holy Father talked about the importance of education about Catholic teaching for the religious, and that seems such a given, though the decades long culture of dissent in the ranks of the consecrated life within the American Catholic Church, even at the highest levels, indicates that it is obviously an issue, as the Vatican News Service reports.

An excerpt.

“VATICAN CITY, 3 FEB 2010 (VIS) - In St. Peter's Basilica at 5.30 p.m. yesterday Benedict XVI presided at the celebration of Vespers for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the Day of Consecrated Life.

“The Pope recalled how it was John Paul III who, in 1997, decided that this Day should coincide with the Feast of the Presentation. "In fact", he said, "the oblation of the Son of God - as symbolised by His presentation in the Temple - represents a model for all men and women who consecrate their lives to the Lord.

"This Day", he added, "has a triple aim: firstly, to praise and thank the Lord for the gift of consecrated life; secondly, to promote awareness and respect for consecrated life among all the People of God; and finally, to invite those who have fully dedicated their own lives to the cause of the Gospel to celebrate the marvels the Lord has worked in them".

“The Holy Father then went on to comment on one of the readings from today's liturgy, a passage from the Letter to the Hebrews in which "Christ is presented as the Mediator: He is true God and true man, and therefore truly belongs to the divine and the human worlds", the Pope said. "It is, in fact, only on the basis of this faith, of this profession of faith in Jesus Christ the one and definitive Mediator, that consecrated life has meaning in the Church, a life consecrated to God through Christ. It has meaning only if He truly is the Mediator between God and us, otherwise it would merely be a form of sublimation or evasion".

"Consecrated life", the Pope went on, "is a 'strong' expression of God's and man's reciprocal search for one another. ... Consecrated people, by the very fact of their existence, represent a kind of 'bridge' towards God for everyone they meet. ... This is by virtue of the mediation of Christ, Who was consecrated by the Father. He is the foundation, He Who shared our frailty that we might share in His divine nature".

Friday, February 5, 2010

US Institutional Catholic Leadership

For years, Catholic scholars have been examining and writing about the damages caused by American Catholic institutional leadership that operates from an intellectual base in opposition to Catholic dogma, and nowhere has that scholarship fallen more heavily than on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; which this article from Life Site News continues.

An excerpt.

“Washington, DC, February 2, 2010 ( - A national group that promotes abortion and homosexual rights has deep ties with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, according to a report released Monday.

“Top USCCB executive John Carr held simultaneous leadership roles, creating a conflict of interest, with the USCCB and the radical Center for Community Change.

"The closer we look at the Bishops Conference [staff and programs], the more we find a systemic pattern of cooperation with evil," said Michael Hichborn, American Life League's lead researcher into the USCCB scandal. "The CCC has lodged itself into the highest places of power in the USCCB while working to promote abortion and homosexuality."

“John Carr is the USCCB executive director of the Department of Justice Peace and Human Development which oversees the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). He has been employed by the USCCB since 1987.

“John Carr's relationship with the Center for Community Change goes back at least to 1983, serving in leadership roles from 1999 to 2006 - including as chairman of the board. The Reform CCHD Now report details the organization's promotion of abortion, "reproductive rights" and homosexuality as among the CCC's core advocacy focuses.

“In 2001, while Carr served as both a USCCB exec and CCC leader, the Catholic Bishops Conference funneled $150,000 to the pro-abortion group. The USCCB web site currently promotes the group and officials have spoken at CCC events.

"Strangely, Carr's leadership on the CCC's board shows up on several bios he's submitted for speaking engagements, but the word for word bio on the USCCB web site mysteriously omits that one detail," Hichborn said. "Why?"

“Revelations of John Carr's involvement in the Center for Community Change come only months after members of the Reform CCHD Now coalition, including American Life League, uncovered 31 CCHD grantees partnered with the CCC.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Probation Officers & Guns

This article from the Silicon Valley Mercury News, examines the discussion about whether probation officers should be armed—as they wish to be—or not, as some criminal justice researchers suggest they shouldn’t be; as it would interfere with their rehabilitative role.

As in most cases involving this dichotomy, the ones on the ground—in this case the probation officers—should be given the largest role in the decision-making, as they are in closer touch with what is actually occurring within the relationship between probation officer and probationer.

An excerpt.

“Santa Clara County may soon equip a select group of probation officers with firearms for the first time — a move the probation chief describes as necessary for the protection of her employees.

“The push to arm probation officers who supervise more than 700 of the most serious juvenile and adult offenders returned to their communities has brought strong criticism from some justice experts. They say the overwhelming presence of a gun undercuts the officers' critical role connecting ex-offenders with treatment, jobs and education while they monitor the terms of their probation — a vital part of the job which is part-cop, part-social worker.

“But so far, union members and local elected officials appear to support the change.

"Probation officers have several roles and certainly rehabilitation is the first and foremost," said Sheila Mitchell, the chief probation officer who could make the decision on her own but is seeking broader approval in public meetings beginning this week. "It's a pretty serious thing to arm officers, so of course we're going to make sure we have the support of supervisors and the county executive before we move forward with arming."

“Santa Clara County officials say theirs is the last large urban county in California to arm at least some probation officers, following a spate of policy shifts in the last decade. San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin have added firearms to some officers' arsenal, but San Francisco's juvenile probation department has declined to arm officers.

“Mitchell's plan has been considered for two years, following a change in state law that gave counties the responsibility for supervising juvenile offenders leaving state prisons on parole. Although there are currently just 31 such parolees released or soon to be released to Santa Clara County, Mitchell said the prospect caused her to reconsider the department's long-standing practice of conducting field work unarmed. No significant injury or death prompted the change.

"I don't think it will increase public safety, but it will certainly aid public safety," Mitchell said of her proposal to arm about 10 percent of the department's 330 officers who oversee the highest-risk clients.

“Nonetheless, prominent criminal justice researchers reacted with alarm to the proposal. Barry Krisberg — a senior fellow at Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law whom Mitchell recently hired to analyze county ranch programs — called the plan a "very bad idea that should be avoided at all costs."

“Krisberg said police officers are armed and play strictly a law-enforcement role. But probation officers, who have the critical job of helping ex-cons reconnect with society, need a markedly different approach, he said.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

St Joan & Europe

When you think about the story of St Joan of Arc, who saved France; and then today see Europe, led by France, renouncing her Catholic roots, it perplexes the mind that history can so easily be brushed aside; but that is the way of humanity, is it not.

The 1948 movie, Joan of Arc, starring Ingrid Bergman, restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive to its original-length of 146 minutes is magnificent.

In this post from the Catholic Key blog, Vienna Archbishop Cardinal Schonborn, despairs about the old world, but is renewed by what is happening in the new.

An excerpt.

“Reflecting on the Gospel of Luke when the adulation of Christ by his hometown, Nazareth, suddenly turns to a desire to throw Him off a cliff, Vienna Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schonborn said, “Sometimes I have the impression that what we are living now in Europe is exactly described in this scene. We are Nazareth.”

“Cardinal Schonborn’s remarks came during a Jan. 31 homily St. Benedict’s Abbey Church on the campus of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. The Cardinal had been invited by Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann. While there, Cardinal Schonborn visited with a new foundation of the Little Sisters of the

“Lamb of which he is episcopal patron and gave a major lecture at Benedictine College. The executive editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church also received the Cross of the Order of St. Benedict from Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis.

“While Cardinal Schonborn’s homily began with a dark vision of the state of faith in Europe, it ended citing signs of hope springing up there and in the New World, including Benedictine College where, he said, the Church is “blossoming again.”

“We are Nazareth

“We have to listen to Jesus,” the cardinal said. “We have to meditate: every single gesture, every single word, his behavior, his attitude . . . And then ask the Holy Spirit” to help us understand.

“It’s not easy,” Cardinal Schonborn said. “Often I want to ask Jesus ‘Why? Why do you shock people instead of being kind to them?” Cardinal Schonborn said that what Jesus did in the synagogue in the day’s Gospel “is so contrary to all P.R. rules.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sexual Abuse in Ireland

In an appropriately titled article—The Wolves Roamed Freely— from Catholic World Report, the situation unraveling in Ireland within the Catholic Church regarding sexual abuse by priests and bishops is horribly reminiscent of what has been happening in our own country.

As ugly as it is for us to study this issue, as I’ve posted before, we must, as it removes the blinders from the tendency—in our deep love for Holy Mother Church—to ignore the evil that can arise, even within the sanctuary.

An excerpt.

“For almost two decades, the Catholic Church in Ireland has struggled to come to terms with a punishing litany of revelations about sexual misconduct by priests and religious. The crisis continues to envelop Irish Catholicism and recent judicial reports have led to the resignation of four bishops, public squabbling by members of the hierarchy, and a promise of structural reform from the Vatican.

“In 1992, the enigmatic bishop of Galway, Eamon Casey, was forced to step down after it emerged that he had fathered a child with an American divorcée some 20 years earlier and was using diocesan funds to pay for the upkeep of his son. Bishop Casey fled to Ecuador and his scandal was to mark the beginning of a long dark night for Catholic Ireland.

“The recently published reports of two separate judicial commissions have shone a light on a deep rot and corruption at the heart of Irish Catholicism. The report of the Child Abuse Commission, chaired by Justice Seán Ryan, found that sexual abuse was “endemic” in Church-run care homes and juvenile institutions. The Dublin Report, chaired by Justice Yvonne Murphy, revealed that Church leaders had put the avoidance of scandal and the reputation of the Church ahead of the needs of victims of abuse.

“The reports’ findings are a blow to ordinary Catholics. Paddy McCrory, a Dublin-based Catholic youth worker at an inner-city parish, is struggling to help young people make sense of it all. “It’s like one kick in the stomach after another, just when you think you’re making some progress and young people are seeing the value of living the Catholic faith the rug is pulled out from under you time and time again,” he said.”

Monday, February 1, 2010

St. John Bosco

This great saint worked to save the lives and strengthen the religious character of orphaned boys, and that work led to the creation of one of the largest religious orders in the Catholic Church.

His feast day was yesterday and here is an excerpt from American Catholic.

“John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.

“Encouraged during his youth to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.

“After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, John opened the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoemaking and tailoring.

“By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. His interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.

“John’s preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in retaining young priests. In 1854 he and his followers informally banded together under Francis de Sales.

“With Pope Pius IX’s encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.”