Friday, April 30, 2010

Walking the Walk

In all areas of life, it is a principle crucial for being effective, either as an organization, an individual or a universal church, as discussed in this article from Catholic Culture.

An excerpt.

“In addition to raising questions about Church-State relations with respect to ecclesiastical persons who have committed crimes (see When Should a Bishop Expose a Priest to Civil Authority), the Castrillon Hoyos affair demonstrates the degree to which the episcopal culture around the world reflects the curial culture in Rome. One step down, the same principle—that the rest of the Church largely reflects the episcopal culture—is demonstrated by Bishop Lawrence Brandt’s exceptional refusal to allow dissident nuns to advertise for vocations in his diocesan media. The sad truth is that, over the past generation or so, ecclesiastical culture from the very top down has been strong on talking the talk. But as for walking the walk, well, not so much.

“When I refer to “walking the walk” I am talking about effective administrative discipline, which is the primary means any organization uses to ensure that it properly reflects its mission at every level. In my past commentaries on the need for discipline in the Church, I have frequently mentioned that Pope John Paul was not an effective administrative disciplinarian. I don’t expect great men—even saintly great men—to be good at everything, and it does seem clear that John Paul II left Benedict XVI with a considerably larger number of bishops around the world who are likely to respond properly to disciplinary instructions in the future. God alone can judge whether John Paul II did all he could have done. But the fact remains that administrative discipline was seldom effectively utilized during his pontificate….

“Slowly, ever so slowly, the culture of saying the right thing at the highest levels in the Church is being replaced by a culture of doing the right thing. This is evidenced most often now by the increasing number of positive disciplinary steps taken by various bishops in their own dioceses, steps which mirror the new culture higher up. Unfortunately, things are tougher outside the diocesan structure. Many religious orders are so far gone that it is uncertain whether they can be brought back or will have to be jettisoned. What Rome will do about women religious in the United States, or the Jesuits internationally, or any number of other religious groups which possess their own internal hierarchical authority, remains to be seen. But it is clear that the ecclesiastical culture is beginning to change.

“It is unquestionable that the great achievements of John Paul II—his ability to project a remarkably attractive personality through the mass media, his tireless teaching on every subject imaginable, his generally superior episcopal appointments (compared with his predecessors), his inspiration of an increasingly militant laity as well as a new cadre of committed young priests—all established a firmer foundation for this transformation from talk to action. But for whatever combination of reasons, John Paul was not generally able to make the transition himself. It is somewhat ironic that the elderly and supremely professorial Joseph Ratzinger is now emerging as the first pope in fifty years to move beyond talking the talk and actually begin to walk the administrative walk. The two high profile areas in which this progress is most evident are the handling of sexual abuse and the liturgy.”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Prisoners as Extraordinary Ministers

From Our Sunday Visitor (subscription required) comes an interesting question and answer.

"Question: I am an inmate in a state correctional institution. I find it scandalous that some inmates are allowed to be extraordinary ministers of holy Communion at Mass. Is it really acceptable to have inmates act as extraordinary ministers? After all, none of us is here for anything noble.

— Name withheld, Waymart, Pa.

"Answer: If there is a real need for them, such that Communion would be unduly prolonged without them, then the Church generally allows for the use of extraordinary ministers of holy Communion at Mass. Accordingly, such ministers might be necessary at Masses in a prison if the Catholic population is very large.

"In general, those who are chosen to be extraordinary ministers of holy Communion must be people of solid faith, have a firm belief in the Eucharist, be regular participants in the liturgical life of the Church and — not least — be people in good standing in the community and recognized as among those who live out the Faith in their daily lives.

"Can prisoners who have committed crimes fulfill the requirements for being an extraordinary minister? I suggest they can. If a prisoner has truly repented of his or her crime, seeks to live the Christian life within prison, and is accepted by his or her fellow Catholics in the prison as a model inmate and a man or woman of virtue, then there would be no good reason not to depute him or her as an extraordinary minister.

"You say that you find it scandalous that some inmates are extraordinary ministers in your correctional facility. Your objection would certainly be valid if the people chosen for the ministry of Communion did not fulfill the requirements I just outlined. But if they do fulfill them, then it is important to recognize that Christ calls broken and imperfect people to do his ministry in the world — in prisons, as well. Express your thoughts to the Catholic chaplain in charge, and he may be able to relieve your concern."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

John Paul II & the Divine

A great article about the many events occurring in the life—and death—of our great pope, and from the early days of the Church, from Inside Catholic.

An excerpt.

“When Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, there were any number of fascinating coincidences that surrounded his death. They were the sort of things that make you go "hmm" and (if one is a wobbly agnostic) begin to suspect that maybe You Know Who has His hand in things after all.

“For instance, John Paul managed to go to his reward in the one sliver of time that tied together Easter, Fatima, and the Divine Mercy Feast that he himself had established (he died on Saturday evening, the Vigil of the Feast of the Divine Mercy, which falls in the Octave of Easter). Given the movable nature of the Easter feast (not to mention the moveable nature of First Saturdays, a devotion associated with the apparitions of our Lady of Fatima), this is as impressive a bit of chance, if chance it was, as you could ask for. However, like so much about his papacy, one does get the sense that such a theatrical gesture must have pleased him as he approached the Pearly Gates. It had everything: It tied together Our Lady of Fatima (on whose feast day he was shot, May 13, 1981), as well as the Third Secret of Fatima (which, in part, concerned the shooting), as well as St. Faustina, a fellow Pole whose private revelation concerning the Divine Mercy so appealed to John Paul, the author of Dives in Misericordia.

“And the weirdness doesn't end there. Seekers of signs will also find that there was a partial eclipse on the day of his funeral: God flying the flag at half staff. Nor is that all -- for it also turns out John Paul was born during a solar eclipse, too.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Prisoner Monks?

This brief note from Our Sunday Visitor (subscription required) is very interesting and opens up many possibilities.

“An April 5 BBC News report puts a new spin on the term “prison ministry.”

“It turns out some convicted criminals in the country of Georgia are getting the chance to live as Orthodox monks instead of serving out their terms in prison. The impetus for this program is to avoid prison overcrowding. The convicts participate in the life of the monastery, praying, eating and doing chores.

“Lots of the other prisoners want to do this,” one convict told the BBC. “When I was leaving prison the others were saying, ‘I wish we could come and spend time with the monks.’ So I’m certainly happy here.”

“Perhaps time in prayer and contemplation will help reform the convicts. Still, a monastery is not just an alternative to a prison, but, as Pope Benedict XVI pointed out in a 2007 visit to an Austrian abbey, a “spiritual oasis” where monastics remind us of the “ultimate reason why life is worth living: God and his unfathomable love.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sexual Abuse in the Church, A Key Resource

The book, After Asceticism: Sex, Prayer and Deviant Priests, by the Linacre Institute, has been added to others recommended as resources for understanding sexual abuse in the Church posted on previously.

This book fills in a missing piece of the issue by probing deeply into the movement of the priests of the Church—during the mid-twentieth century—away from the traditional asceticism practiced by its saints; an asceticism strengthening the priest against sin and whose rewards were reflected most notably by Pope Pius XII among the popes under which the Church has gone astray over the past 60 years, a waywardness against which he fought so mightily and a battle slowly being revealed as his cause for sainthood moves forward.

Two excerpts.

“The heart of the spiritual life is a spiritual union with God, and this union constitutes a type of friendship. In a theory of friendship, three factors require close attention: love, insight, and zeal. Philosophers such as Aristotle note that the foundation of true friendship is the mutual love between the two friends, which depends at a minimum upon the cardinal virtues of temperance, courage, justice and prudence. Once the friendship is established, the communication between the friends will nurture the relationship. Hence the psychology of the ascetic must be directed to enhancing communication between man and God and limiting those things that interfere with this communication.” (p. 157)

“We draw three important lessons from this doctrine. First, the aspiring ascetic who has not cultivated a friendship with the Lord has failed to achieve the primary benefit of the practices of self-denial. Without keeping their proper purpose in mind, the ascetical practices will result at best in a barren life, but more likely in self-deception or even the destruction of true religion in the person. This further suggests that the disintegration of asceticism may be signaled by ascetical abuse, or by its insidious dissolution. Either way, persons with no zeal for maintaining their friendship with God will not long persevere in the practice of self-denial without doing harm to themselves or to others. Of course, we would suggest that the dissolution of ascetical discipline may not occur all at once, and in most cases, is probably gradual and insidious. In fact, the complete surrender of one’s chastity may be the final moment of a process that began many months or years previously. (This observation would be consistent with the finding that most abusive priests were many years past their seminary training when the first abuse incident occurred.)” (p. 160)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Noonan on the Church Scandal

Her column in the Wall Street Journal is excellent, a must read, and… truth trumps loyalty.

An excerpt.

“The great second wave of church scandals appears this week to be settling down. In the Vatican they're likely thinking "the worst is over" and "we've weathered the storm." Is that good? Not to this Catholic. The more relaxed the institution, the less likely it will reform.

“Let's look at the first wave. Eight years ago, on April 19, 2002, I wrote in these pages of the American church scandal, calling it calamitous, a threat to the standing and reputation of the entire church. Sexual abuse by priests "was the heart of the scandal, but at the same time only the start of the scandal": the rest was what might be called the racketeering dimension. Lawsuits had been brought charging that the church as an institution acted to cover up criminal behavior by misleading, lying and withholding facts. The most celebrated cases in 2002 were in Boston, where a judge had forced the release of 11,000 pages of church documents showing the abusive actions of priests and detailing then-Archbishop Bernard F. Law's attempts to hide the crimes. The Boston scandal generated hundreds of lawsuits, cost hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and judgments, and included famous and blood-chilling cases—the repeat sexual abuser Father John Geoghan, who molested scores of boys and girls and was repeatedly transferred, was assigned to a parish in Waltham where he became too familiar with children in a public pool; Cardinal Law claimed he was probably "proselytizing."

“In the piece I criticized Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then archbishop of Washington, who had suggested to the Washington Post that the scandal was media-driven, that journalists are having "a heyday." Then came the it-wasn't-so-bad defense: The bishop of Joliet, Ill., Joseph Imesch, said that while priests who sexually abuse children should lose their jobs, priests who sexually abuse adolescents and teenagers have a "quirk" and can be treated and continue as priests.

“Really, he called it a quirk.

“Does any of this, the finger-pointing and blame-gaming, sound familiar? Isn't it what we've been hearing the past few weeks?

“At the end of the piece I called on the pope, John Paul II, to begin to show the seriousness of the church's efforts to admit, heal and repair by taking the miter from Cardinal Law's head and the ring from his finger and retiring him: "Send a message to those in the church who need to hear it, that covering up, going along, and paying off victims is over. That careerism is over, and Christianity is back."

“The piece didn't go over well in the American church, or the Vatican. One interesting response came from Cardinal Law himself, whom I ran into a year later in Rome. "We don't need friends of the church turning on the church at such a difficult time," he said. "We need loyalty when the church is going through a tough time."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Evaluation of Reentry Programs

There are many instances in the media of programs that appear to be successful and while some may be for a short time and for singular reasons, the evidence as determined by rigorous evaluation has still not identified large scale and replicable programs that reduce recidivism at a statistical level high enough to be able to effectively challenge the current 60-70% national recidivism rate; and indeed, some programs actually make the problem worse.

1) James Q. Wilson describes rigorous evaluation in the text he co-edited with Joan Petersilia, Crime: Public Policies for Crime Control.

An excerpt.

“There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of crime-prevention programs under way. Many may work (and, of course, all their leaders think they work). But which actually work can only be determined by a rigorous evaluation. Not many have been evaluated in this way. A rigorous evaluation requires four things to be done: First, people must be assigned randomly to either the prevention program or a control group. Random assignment virtually eliminates the chance that those in the program will differ in some unknown way from those not in it. Random assignment is better than trying to match people in the two because we probably will not know (or even be able to observe) all the ways by which they should be matched. Second, the prevention must actually be applied. Sometimes people are enrolled in a program but do not in fact get the planned treatment. Third, the positive benefit, if any, of the program must last for at least one year after the program ends. It is not hard to change people while they are in a program; what is difficult is to make the change last afterward. Fourth, if the program produces a positive effect (that is, people in it are less likely to commit crimes that similar ones not in it), that program should be evaluated again in a different location. Some programs will work once because they are run by exceptional people or in a community that facilitates its success; the critical test is to see if they will run when tried elsewhere using different people. (p. 553)

2) Traditional service-based rehabilitation programs have been in use for the past several decades and including the more recent faith-based efforts, they have a dismal record of success, noted by Farabee (2005):

“I wish it were otherwise, but scientific evidence is sorely lacking to support the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs for criminal offenders. It is similarly lacking to support the effectiveness of most programs aimed at treating conditions that exacerbate crime, such as substance abuse and dependence. Although a limited menu of behavioral and pharmacological treatments have shown small to moderate effects among offenders when administered under controlled research conditions, those effects tend to decline rapidly soon after criminal justice supervision is withdrawn. Moreover, these empirically validated interventions are almost entirely unavailable to offenders in day-to-day practice. The vast majority of services for offenders and substance abusers in this country are group-based, peer-administered, and loosely modeled on an amalgam of psycho-educational and twelve-step principles. Typically, the “ingredients” or “mechanisms of action” of these interventions are so vaguely defined as to be essentially unmeasurable, unverifiable, and unfalsifiable. And because the interventions are rarely, if ever, standardized or systemized, they are delivered quite differently across different programs, making it nearly impossible to discern the effects of such an elusive target.” (Farabee, D. (2005). Rethinking rehabilitation: Why can’t we reform our criminals?. Washington D.C.: AEI Press. p. ix)

3) A recent example of a traditionally designed rehabilitation program actually making things worse is reported by Wilson (2007) regarding Project Greenlight, a well-funded and closely evaluated—rare for the field—reentry effort that failed spectacularly:

“Project Greenlight participants showed worse outcomes for every type of recidivism at 6 and 12 months after release. The chart “Percent of Participants Who Recidivated at 6 and 12 Months” shows the percentage of each group that experienced any kind of arrest (misdemeanor or felony), felony arrest only, and parole revocation. It is especially noteworthy—because it is statistically significant—that the overall arrest rate for the Project Greenlight group was 10 percent higher than that for the TSP group at 12 months postrelease (34 percent versus 24 percent). Also statistically significant is the 12 percent more parole revocations experienced by the Project Greenlight group than the UPS group at 12 months postrelease (25 percent versus 13 percent).

“Several findings of the evaluation were at odds with program expectations. Most notably, Project Greenlight participants’ postrelease outcomes were significantly worse than those of the TSP and UPS groups. The evaluation found that the Project Greenlight program had no effect on the interim outcomes that it was designed to address—including housing, employment, and parole—and that Project Greenlight participants fared significantly worse than the two control groups in rearrest and parole revocation rates at the 1-year mark. In addition, although Project Greenlight participants displayed greater knowledge of parole conditions, showed more positive attitudes toward parole, received more service referrals, and reported greater contact with service providers after release, none of these translated into better outcomes.” (Habilitation or Harm: Project Greenlight and the Potential Consequences of Correctional Programming, by James A. Wilson, Ph.D.)

4) Another recent and much more costly example of making things worse, by California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation—$1 billion for all prisoner and parolee programs since 1989, and $278 million of that for in-prison programs—was reported by the Office of the Inspector General (2007):

“According to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, more than 36,000 of the state’s 172,500 inmates—21 percent of the adult prison population—are serving prison terms for drug offenses. An even higher percentage reportedly has underlying substance abuse problems. A recent University of California study estimated that 42 percent of California inmates have a “high need” for alcohol treatment and 56 percent have a high need for drug treatment. Recidivism rates for California inmates in general continue to be among the highest in the country.

"In a 60-page special review released Wednesday, the Office of the Inspector General reported that numerous university studies of the state’s in-prison substance abuse programs conducted over the past nine years consistently show no difference in recidivism rates between inmates who participated in the programs and those who received no substance abuse treatment. One five-year University of California, Los Angeles, study of the state’s two largest in-prison programs found, in fact, that the 12-month recidivism rates for inmates who received in-prison treatment was slightly higher than that of a control group." Office of the Inspector General, Sacramento, California, February 21, 2007 Press Release “The states substance abuse treatment program for inmates do not reduce recidivism, yet cost the state $143 million per year” , pp. 1-2 italicized in original)

5) Another recent evaluation of a major reentry effort making things worse: the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative, funded at $100 million dollars, which worked with criminals inside of prison and out, showed that results for the adult males revealed that the program actually made the problem worse.

“Cumulative rearrest rates were calculated for 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 21, and 24 months after release. SVORI program participants were less likely to have an officially recorded rearrest during the 24-month period after release. The differences were small and not significant for the men. … By 24 months post-release, the reincarceration rate for adult male SVORI program participants was about 8% higher than the non-SVORI rate (42%, as opposed to 39%)” (p. 125)

6) Regarding faith based efforts: The April 2009 report from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, Evidence-Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Crime and Criminal Justice Costs: Implications in Washington State, notes that of the five faith-based programs they examined there was a zero percent change in crime outcomes, also noting that there were “too few evaluations to date.” p. 188 (p.19 in pdf file)

7) Another example of making things worse comes from Florida State University’s L. Fairhurst(2006) commenting on Mears, D. P., Roman, C. G., Wolff, A., & Buck, J., Faith-based efforts to improve prisoner reentry: Assessing the logic and evidence, Journal of Criminal Justice, 2006 August, Vol. 34 Iss. 4, pp. 351-367.

“The fundamental flaw in all the studies: the absence of a clear, consistent operational definition of "faith-based." Is it, for example, nonprofit organizations with religious affiliations delivering secular services such as vocational and drug counseling—or is it individual faith volunteers conducting Bible classes with prisoners? Furthermore, where gains were declared, it was unclear which practices or combinations of secular and religious components generated them.

“Regardless of the definitions and measurements used and the manner in which findings were presented, the review found few studies that had generated data credible enough to justify public support—or outright rejection—of faith-based programming.

“As an example, Mears cites the Prison Fellowship Ministries, founded by Charles Colson, the former Nixon aide who became a born-again Christian while imprisoned for his part in the Watergate scandal. Colson has touted the success of his ministries based on studies that show lower recidivism rates among participants. However, Mears noted that the studies focused only on inmates who completed the program, while comparing its recidivism rates to those of all participants—including dropouts—of selected secular programs.

“In fact, if recidivism rates in Colson's programs were revised to include all participants, "graduates" or not, results would be worse than those for the comparison groups.
Where successes might be construed to exist, it's unclear what to credit—the computer and life skills classes or its fundamentalist Christian doctrine. Where recidivism increases among its program participants, did faith-based programming play a part by leading some inmates to believe that ultimate responsibility for their actions lies with God, not them? Like arguments that faith-based programs decrease recidivism, this possibility remains to be demonstrated empirically.” FSU News: Faith-based prison programs claim to reduce recidivism, but there's little evidence, says FSU research. L. Fairhurst (2006)

8) A recent community program designed to reduce crime, has apparently increased it, as this Rand Report indicates.

An excerpt from the Rand Research Brief.

“One Vision work is performed by an executive director, a program director, five area managers, and more than 40 community coordinators, and supported by a data manager. Most staff members were raised in and therefore are intimate with inner-city street life and the “code of the street.

“RAND Corporation and Michigan State University researchers assessed the effects of the program in three areas of Pittsburgh: Northside, the Hill District, and Southside....

“The researchers measured changes in homicide, aggravated assaults, and gun assaults before and after the intervention, controlling for neighborhood attributes, seasonal effects, and trends over time. Rather than finding that One Vision was associated with a measurable reduction in violence, they found the program to have no effect on homicide rates and to be associated with increases in aggravated assaults and gun assaults in all three areas."

(9) Scared Straight Programs

These programs, designed to prevent delinquency, which were clearly debunked in the past, are attempting a comeback, but the research is clear, they are a failure and actually make the situation worse, as this meta-evaluation reveals Scared Straight” and Other Juvenile Awareness Programs for Preventing Juvenile Delinquency (Last Updated, April 2004) By Anthony Petrosino, Carolyn Turpin Petrosino, John Buehler (p. 6)[at the jump type “scared straight” into the search panel for the report]

An excerpt.

“Programs like 'Scared Straight' involve organized visits to prison facilities by juvenile delinquents or children at risk for becoming delinquent. The programs are designed to deter participants from future offending by providing first-hand observations of prison life and interaction with adult inmates. Results of this review indicate that not only does it fail to deter crime but it actually leads to more offending behavior. Government officials permitting this program need to adopt rigorous evaluation to ensure that they are not causing more harm to the very citizens they pledge to protect.”

(10) London, England's Diamond Initiative Program

England produces another in a long line of programs designed by public leadership in America and abroad, which actually increases recidivism among the participants rather than reducing it, as reported by the London Evening Standard.

An excerpt.

“A flagship Met police scheme to cut crime among convicts freed from jail has had no impact on the reoffending rate, an official study revealed today.

“The £11 million "Diamond Initiative" was set up to rehabilitate serial offenders by offering them help with problems such as drug and alcohol misuse, housing, debt and unemployment after their release.

“Scotland Yard chiefs hoped that the scheme, which focused on criminals freed after sentences of 12 months or less, would lead to a significant drop in reoffending and help to deliver the "rehabilitation revolution" wanted by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.

“An official analysis of the project has found, however, that 42.4 per cent of participants committed new crimes within a year of leaving jail - almost identical to the 41.6 per cent reoffending rate among a similar group of convicts who received no special help after being freed….

“In all, a total of 556 crimes were committed by 156 of the offenders asked to join the Diamond scheme. That compares with the 446 offences committed by 136 criminals among the similarly sized "control" sample of freed convicts.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

Prison Drug Abuse Programs Shrinking

While budgetary issues obviously play a part, as reported by the Houston Chronicle, the major reason may be that the programs do not work, as posted about previously.

Studies reporting success should be examined for the rigor of their evaluation, which should include third party evaluators, using a control group, and random selection—of sufficient numbers—and examining results after proper length of time away from program (3 years is a minimal standard).

An excerpt from the Houston article.

“DALLAS — When John Patrick Barton was in prison on his third drunken driving conviction, he was not among the thousands of inmates nationwide who undergo alcohol and drug treatment behind bars each year.

“Fifteen months later and out of prison, Barton is accused of driving drunk again. This time, authorities say he plowed his car into another, killing a woman and her teenage daughter in a Dallas suburb on Easter.

“Barton's case has turned into a rallying cry in Texas, where state officials have proposed slashing more than $23 million from in-prison treatment programs. These types of programs — many already stretched thin — are increasingly endangered as shrinking budgets force several states to consider cuts to treatment for drug users, drunken drivers and sex offenders.

“Though Barton was never ordered to undergo alcohol treatment after his third drunken driving offense, those opposed to the proposed cuts to the nation's second largest prison system are using his case as an example of what they fear will happen if treatment programs are trimmed.

"People say, 'How can you afford to (fund) this?'" said Texas Sen. John Whitmire, chair of the senate's criminal justice committee. "My comeback is, 'How can you afford not to?'"

“Studies have shown offenders with substance abuse problems are more likely to return to prison without treatment. Yet only 11 percent of the nation's inmates with substance abuse problems receive treatment during incarceration, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

“Several states have already decided to reduce in-prison treatment programs that are often required as a condition of parole and can sometimes lead to early release from prison. In some cases, experts say, offenders may end up serving more of their prison sentence if budget cuts make it difficult to receive treatment.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Catholic Schools Work

Which is why they are often funded very well (though sometimes not) even by atheists, as this story from the Philanthropy Roundtable magazine notes.

An excerpt.

“Robert W. Wilson speaks with a calm, almost gentle, voice. With his wire rim glasses and closely cropped gray beard, Wilson could easily be mistaken for a senior professor at a small liberal arts college. But Wilson is not an academic. He is a legendarily successful Wall Street investor. Retired since 1986, the 83-year-old Wilson now devotes much of his time to philanthropy.

“Among his many achievements, Wilson is the single largest benefactor of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York. Since 2007, he has donated over $30 million to inner-city Catholic education.

“He is also an atheist.

“I remember the first time I had lunch with Cardinal Egan,” says Wilson, a touch impishly. “We were finishing up, and he said, ‘Well, now that you’ve given all this money to our schools, I should try to convert you.’ I said to him, ‘Well, Cardinal, if you do, I suppose I should try to convert you. The only problem is that if I succeed, you’ll lose your job.’”

“Wilson belongs to an elite order: non-Catholic donors who are the patron saints of inner-city Catholic schools.

“It Was Just a Form Letter”

“I never gave money to educational institutions until 2007,” says Wilson. “Most of the rich people I know were already giving a lot of money to education—charter schools, private schools, colleges, universities. I decided that there were plenty of people in this field. I chose to direct my resources elsewhere.”

“Wilson plans to give away 70 percent of his net worth before he dies. “My primary interest has been conservation,” Wilson told in December 2007. He is drawn to “the idea that but for my money, this building or piece of land or that animal would be gone.” Wilson describes himself as a “substantial donor” to the World Monuments Fund, the Nature Conservancy, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Over the last 10 years, his contributions to charity have totaled about $500 million; to reach his goal, he believes he will need to give away another $100 million or so.

“Wilson’s philanthropy is born of a fortune he earned in a long and storied career on Wall Street. He started investing in 1949 with a $15,000 loan from his parents. Middling returns marred his first years. Around 1963, he began investing in jet aircraft technology and commercial carriers. From there, he enjoyed a series of spectacular successes. By the time he retired at age 59, he was worth $225 million.

“Wilson was a masterful hedger whose career has been compared to those of George Soros and Warren Buffett. “Wilson’s investment strategy was to go both long and short,” notes financial author Brett Fromson. “Long because he believed in the long-term future of America, and short because he never wanted to be wiped out in a downturn.” “I was always net long,” adds Wilson, “because I never wanted to get up in the morning hoping that things would be getting worse.”

“Catholic schools were brought to Wilson’s attention by what must be history’s most outrageously successful direct-mail fundraising letter. “I got this letter from Susan George, the executive director of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund,” Wilson explains. “It was just a form letter from a mass mailing. It pointed out how little Catholic schools cost per student—and how superior their results are.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Israel & America III

The Catholic Church’s connection with the Jewish people is unbreakable—regardless of the troubles historically suffered—as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, "the first to hear the Word of God." The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ", "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable." #839

Consequently, the connection faithful Catholics have with the state of Israel—the sanctuary and home of the Jewish people—must remain strong.

America, as the only major strategic partner of Israel, has a special role to play in helping to protect this strong—but still fragile—state, and it is incumbent upon all Catholics to ensure the partnership remains strong.

Caroline Glick, author of the important book, Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad, comments on the relationship in this insightful blog post.

An excerpt.

“Israel's status as the US's most vital ally in the Middle East has been so widely recognized for so long that over the years, Israeli and American leaders alike have felt it unnecessary to explain what it is about the alliance that makes it so important for the US.

“Today, as the Obama administration is openly distancing the US from Israel while giving the impression that Israel is a strategic impediment to the administration's attempts to strengthen its relations with the Arab world, recalling why Israel is the US's most important ally in the Middle East has become a matter of some urgency.

“Much is made of the fact that Israel is a democracy. But we seldom consider why the fact that Israel is a representative democracy matters. The fact that Israel is a democracy means that its alliance with America reflects the will of the Israeli people. As such, it remains constant regardless of who is power in Jerusalem.

“All of the US's other alliances in the Middle East are with authoritarian regimes whose people do not share the pro-American views of their leaders. The death of leaders or other political developments are liable to bring about rapid and dramatic changes in their relations with the US.

“For instance, until 1979, Iran was one of the US's closest strategic allies in the region. Owing to the gap between the Iranian people and their leadership, the Islamic revolution put an end to the US-Iran alliance.

“Egypt flipped from a bitter foe to an ally of the US when Gamal Abdel Nasser died in 1969. Octogenarian President Hosni Mubarak's encroaching death is liable to cause a similar shift in the opposite direction.

“Instability in the Hashemite kingdom in Jordan and the Saudi regime could transform those countries from allies to adversaries.

“Only Israel, where the government reflects the will of the people is a reliable, permanent US ally.

“America reaps the benefits of its alliance with Israel every day. As the US suffers from chronic intelligence gaps, Israel remains the US's most reliable source for accurate intelligence on the US's enemies in the region.

“Israel is the US's only ally in the Middle East that always fights its own battles. Indeed, Israel has never asked the US for direct military assistance in time of war. Since the US and Israel share the same regional foes, when Israel is called upon to fight its enemies, its successes redound to the US's benefit.”

(highlighting in original)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Impact of Sexual Abuse Issue on the Holy Father

This is a wonderful and insightful interview in the National Catholic Register, with Monica Applewhite, a foremost expert in sexual abuse, who: “helped create an accreditation system for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men to hold them accountable to the highest standards of child protection,” and she presents the impact of the tragedy in a somewhat different context than most have.

An excerpt

“In dealing with this issue, you’ve really seen the dark side of humanity and individuals within the Church. You’re still Catholic, aren’t you? How has it impacted your faith?

“This is a question I actually get fairly often. Even though much of my adult life has been spent dealing with sexual abuse in the Church and other organizations, I’m still Catholic.

“I will share with you that at first it wasn’t easy. I spent about three years struggling with what I learned about the Church … how people were hurt by those they trusted, how leaders would not listen and members of their communities turned away from the ones who had been hurt.

“The saddest part for me was being turned away myself in the beginning when I offered to help. That was very painful. I cannot say it ever affected my feelings of closeness with God, but I felt an emotional distance from the Church as an organization.

“It was my work with religious communities that started me on the road back to the Church. I began working with religious and spending whole weeks living in their communities, coming to know the work that they did, listening to the ways in which their ministries touched the lives of so many people.

“Through this work with religious, the work with victims of abuse, and the development of response systems, I began to feel close to the Church again, to fall back in love. This time was different though.

“I don’t think I have a trace of “infatuation” with the Church. I love it like you love your spouse after 40 years of marriage. I love it in its faults and failings. I love it all the more for the intensity of its humanness; perfection is not part of the bargain.

“Once, a few years ago, a religious community set up a graveside service for a survivor of abuse who wanted closure. His perpetrator was deceased. We walked a long way to the cemetery. There, we prayed and let him read his letter. All of us cried and held hands. I think we each cried for different reasons.

“Yes, my work has forced me to face the dark side of humanity and the Church, but it has also allowed me to witness grace and beauty in those moments when we need it most.

“Do you think this is going to end up defining Benedict’s papacy?

“Perhaps, but not in a negative way. Now that so much information is coming forward I believe two things will happen. First, we will all be privy to the information we need in order to understand how much Pope Benedict’s resolve and commitment have already changed the system within our Church. We needed a pope that did not mind being considered “tough” and that is what we have. Instead of change happening “behind the scenes,” we will know about it. Second, all of the media attention and worldwide interest will give Pope Benedict just the political opportunity and leverage he needs to change the Church culture of silence and protection throughout the world much faster. He won’t have to “sell” change in the way he would have if this had not happened. Many of the barriers he has encountered for more than a decade will be broken down. I believe this will solidify his legacy as the agent of change and restoration of the Church for which he would want to be remembered.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weigel on the Holy Father

From First Things, a great overview of the machinations occurring around the sex abuse in the Church, and the holy grace under pressure marking our Holy Father’s response, now and in the past.

An excerpt.

“On March 25, the New York Times published a now thoroughly discredited front-page story suggesting that Joseph Ratzinger, while prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had willfully impeded sanctions against a clerical sexual abuser in Milwaukee who had preyed on the deaf children in his care.

“Taking that date, and that calumny against Benedict XVI, as an arbitrary American ground zero in the latest round of assaults depicting the Catholic Church as a Rome-based global criminal conspiracy of perverts and their enablers, where do things stand, two and a half weeks into what at first seemed poised to become a scandal as devastating as the Catholic Church in America’s Long Lent of eight years ago?

“It’s not 2002. During the Long Lent, the press played an important role in dragging into the light of day awful things the Church had failed to confront, or had confronted ineptly. The shame of that period still stings, as do the wounds suffered by victims. Yet 2010 is not 2002, and that is in large measure due to 2002.

“Despite the ignorance and tendentiousness displayed by too many journalists and commentators in recent weeks (including Catholic commentators seeking another opportunity to revive the Revolution That Never Was—or, in the case of Patrick J. Buchanan, to revive the Golden Age That Never Was), the facts are slowly getting out, thanks in part to the unprecedented studies and audits authorized by the bishops of the United States in the wake of the Long Lent.

“Reasonable people whose perceptions are not warped by the toxin of anti-Catholicism or who are not pursuing other (often financially-driven) agendas now recognize that the Church in the U.S. and Canada has bent enormous efforts towards cleaning up what Cardinal Ratzinger called in 2005 its “filth,” to the point where the Catholic Church today can be empirically shown to be the safest environment for young people and children in North America. The paralyzing drumbeat of one ghastly new story after another that went on all during 2002 has not been repeated. What we now have is, largely, the recycling of old material, usually provided to the press by contingent-fee attorneys whose strategic goal is to build a public “narrative” of conspiracy that will shape American courts’ decisions as to whether the Vatican and its resources can be brought within range of U.S. liability law.

“The realization among serious Catholics that this is not 2002 and that things have changed dramatically since 2002, has led to a far more confident effort to fight back against misrepresentations such as those the Times perpetrated on March 25. There is a danger here: to recognize that this is not 2002 cannot blind us to the fact that there are wounds that remain to be healed, reforms of priestly formation that remain to be completed, bishops whose failures remain to be recognized and dealt with, new norms for the selection of bishops to be implemented, and accounts rendered as to why the Vatican, prior to Ratzinger’s taking control of the issue of clerical sexual abuse in the late 1990s, was sometimes sluggish in its response to scandalous behavior by priests and deficient leadership by bishops.

“Assuming, however, that Benedict XVI has set in motion processes that will lead to all those lingering issues being forcefully addressed, a serious question can now be credibly posed: Are those most vigorously agitating these abuse/misgovernance issues today genuinely interested in the safety of young people and children, or are they using the failures of the past to cripple the moral credibility of the Catholic Church in the present and future? That question would have rightly struck many people as a dodge in 2002. It cannot be credibly regarded as a dodge today, because of what the Church has done since 2002 (and, indeed, since the 1990s, when the plague of abuse within the Church began to recede).”

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Peter’s Homily

A remarkable homily was given by the Holy Father—who, when all others in the Church appear to fail us, remember, "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered." Catechism #882—this past Thursday which has been posted by Chiesa.

An excerpt.

“If it can be said that, even apart from eternal life, from the promised Heaven, it is better to live according to Christian criteria, because living according to truth and love, even if it is under many persecutions, is in itself a good and is better than all the rest, it is precisely this will to live according to the truth and according to love that must also open to all the breadth of God's plan for us, to the courage to have already the joy in anticipation of eternal life, of the ascent following our archegos. And Soter is the Savior, who saves us from ignorance about the last things. The Savior saves us from solitude, he saves us from a void that remains in life without eternity, he saves us by giving us love in its fullness. He is the guide. Christ, the archegos, saves us by giving us the light, giving us the truth, giving us the love of God.

“Let's look at another verse: Christ, the Savior, has given Israel conversion and forgiveness of sins (v. 31) - in the Greek text the term is metanoia - he has given penance and forgiveness of sins. This for me is a very important observation: penance is a grace. There is a tendency in exegesis that says: Jesus in Galilee had announced a grace without condition, absolutely unconditional, therefore also without penance, grace as such, without human preconditions. But this is a false interpretation of grace. Penance is grace; it is a grace that we recognize our sin, it is a grace that we know we need renewal, change, a transformation of our being. Penance, being able to do penance, is the gift of grace. And I must say that we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word penance, it has seemed too harsh to us. Now, under the attacks of the world that speak to us of our sins, we see that being able to do penance is grace. And we see that it is necessary to do penance, that is, to recognize what is wrong in our life, open ourselves to forgiveness, prepare ourselves for forgiveness, allow ourselves to be transformed. The suffering of penance, of purification, of transformation, this suffering is grace, because it is renewal, it is the work of divine mercy. And so these two things that Saint Peter says - penance and forgiveness - correspond to the beginning of the preaching of Jesus: metanoeite, which means be converted (cf. Mk. 1:15). So this is the fundamental point: metanoia is not a private thing, which would seem to be replaced by grace, but metanoia is the arrival of the grace that transforms us.

“And finally a word from the Gospel, where we are told that those who believe will have eternal life (cf. Jn. 3:36). In faith, in this "transformation" that penance gives, in this conversion, in this new way of life, we find life, true life. And here I am reminded of two other texts. In the "Priestly Prayer," the Lord says: this is life, to know you and the one you have consecrated (cf. Jn. 17:3). Knowing the essential, knowing the decisive Person, knowing God and the One he has sent is life, life and knowledge, knowledge of realities that are life. And the other text is the Lord's reply to the Sadducees about the Resurrection, where from the books of Moses the Lord proves the fact of the Resurrection, saying: God is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob (cf. Mt. 22:31-32; Mk. 12:26-27; Lk. 20:37-38). God is not the God of the dead. If God is God of these, they are alive. Those who are written in the name of God participate in the life of God, they live. And so to believe is to be inscribed in the name of God. And so we are alive. Those who belong to the name of God are not dead, they belong to the living God. In this sense we must understand the dynamism of the faith, which is a writing of our name in the name of God, and so an entry into life.

“Let us pray to the Lord that this may happen and that, with our life, we may really know God, so that our names may enter into the name of God, and our existence become true life: eternal life, love and truth.”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Israel & America II

As noted yesterday, this relationship is crucial for many reasons, and the history America has had with the Middle East, around which our relationship with Israel turns, is admirably captured in this magnificent book by Michael Oren—the new Israeli Ambassador to the United States appointed by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009—Power, Faith, Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present.

A good review—from 2007—is from Commentary Magazine.

An excerpt.

“Although the writing of history comes in infinite hues, these are mixed from two primary colors, since the historian, in getting us to understand what happened long ago, can ultimately do it in only one of two ways: by appealing either to the past’s resemblance to the present or else to its contrast with it.

“Michael Oren, the author of the best-selling Six Days of War, a chronicle of the 1967 Israeli-Arab hostilities, has now written a history of American involvement in the Middle East that is emphatically about resemblance. From the earliest days of American independence, Oren’s new book tells us, the United States had to formulate a Middle East policy—and its considerations in doing so, making allowances for the passage of over two centuries since then, were not very different from those that are at work in our own age.

“The first two-thirds of Oren’s book examine an extended period—from the Revolutionary War to America’s entry into World War I—in which the Middle East is not generally thought of as having been much of an American concern. True, every American child learns (or at least did when I went to school) about the Barbary pirates, and who doesn’t know the anthem of the Marine Corps that begins, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli”? But just as even most well-educated Americans would be hard-pressed to explain where the halls of Montezuma were or what the Marines were doing in them, so they would be stumped if asked why American forces were fighting in Libya in the days of Thomas Jefferson, or what was so barbarous about the Barbary Coast. (The answer is: plenty, but that’s not where the name came from; it derived from its inhabitants, the North African Berbers.) Such things seem far removed today from the main currents of American history, let alone from the war in Iraq or the battle against al Qaeda.

“Oren seeks to show that they are not. Indeed, he maintains, the question of how America should deal with naval marauders operating in the service of various North African chieftains in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was not only a major issue at the time. It was also paradigmatic of the ways in which the United States was to react to later encounters with the Arab world and to the threats posed by it to American interests and security.”

Friday, April 16, 2010

Israel & America

The relationship is one of the most enduring and important in the arena of international affairs, which impacts events and ideas far beyond the immediate interaction; and fortunately, it will survive—and perhaps even grow stronger—as a result of the unprecedented events of the past year, as noted in an article from Commentary Magazine.

An excerpt.

“The declaration this morning on the front page of the New York Times that the Obama administration has made an explicit shift in the U.S.-Israel relationship brings to mind words I published in COMMENTARY 10 months ago about the relationship between the United States and Israel in the Age of Obama: “There is no question that we have entered a new era, one that I expect will be characterized by tensions and unpleasantnesses of a kind unseen since the days when George H. W. Bush was president, James A. Baker III was secretary of state, and the hostility toward Israel oozed from both men like sweat from an intrepid colonial traveler’s brow as he journeyed across the Rub-al-Khali.”

“Prophetic? Perhaps, but if you wish to credit me with visionary foresight, I have to confess that the reports of President Obama’s conduct toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their deliberately unphotographed White House meeting in March still came as a cold shock to me. We still don’t know quite what happened, but it appears that the president came into the room with a list of unilateral demands, that he grew impatient with Netanyahu’s answers, and that he left unceremoniously by claiming he was going to have dinner with his wife and kids but that he would “be around” in case the prime minister “changed” his tune.

“Even if the meeting was only half as confrontational and chilly as the reports indicated, it would still represent a display of rudeness and high-handedness unprecedented in the annals of American diplomacy. But since the target of Obama’s startling behavior was Israel, something especially complicated was at work. The president’s conduct was so extreme that it would be unthinkable for him to act in such a fashion toward the leader of any other nation, friend or foe. Obama knows that Israel needs the United States so much it is in no position to complain—particularly since the president was supposedly still in a snit over the ham-handed revelation in Israel, in the midst of Vice President Biden’s March visit, of the construction of 1,600 new housing units in Jerusalem.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Whither Thou II

During the time when sexual abuse of the faithful by priests and bishops is tormenting the Church, the fact that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops still carries on its website the name of the Milwaukee archbishop—Rembert G. Weakland, who wrote a book, A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop, admitting and defending his several homosexual affairs, which was published in June 2009—is astounding.

Weakland’s case is commented on in an editorial from Catholic World Report in July of 2009.

Pray for the Holy Father, bishops, priests, and nuns, always.

An excerpt.

“It sounds like an over-the-top Tom Wolfe novel: a successor to the apostles conducts an affair with a male graduate student, is accused of “date rape” and emotional harm by said student, and raids the collection basket of the faithful to hush the student up, then, as the bishop settles into a cushy retirement, he pens a “coming out” memoir in praise of homosexual behavior, all the while retaining the canonical rights and privileges of a retired archbishop and receiving pats on the back from fellow clergy.

“Alas, this is no racy and risible fiction; it is the real story of Archbishop Rembert Weakland. The retired archbishop of Milwaukee released June 15 his autobiography, A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop. In it he admits to several affairs with men, crowns himself the first voluntarily “out” bishop, and argues that the Church should endorse the “physical, genital expression” of homosexuality, as he put it to the New York Times in May.

“If we say our God is an all-loving god,” he said to the Times, “how do you explain that at any given time probably 400 million living on the planet at one time would be gay? Are the religions of the world, as does Catholicism, saying to those hundreds of millions of people, you have to pass your whole life without any physical, genital expression of that love?”

“Weakland gave this interview to the Times, by the way, from the “Archbishop Weakland Center, which houses the archdiocesan cathedral offices in downtown Milwaukee.” This small snapshot of episcopal decadence—an openly “gay” bishop spouting heresy while sitting in a diocesan office still named in his honor—would be amusing if it weren’t so sad and scandalous.

“If Church officials worried about the corruption and perdition of souls as much as they fret about “tolerance” and “collegiality,” they would end this disgusting farce and suspend Weakland’s faculties. Instead, they sit on their hands as Weakland, outfitted in his priestly collar, grants interviews to news outlets about the glories of mortal sin.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Whither Thou

It has been difficult for Catholics in the United States to keep track of the social teaching of their faith via the proclamations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which are often more confusing than clarifying.

This is why individual study is so important--relying on the Holy Father and the Catechism--as this 2008 article from the New Oxford Review noted.

Pray for the Holy Father, our bishops, priests, and nuns, always.

An excerpt.

“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a new document on November 14, 2007, to guide Catholic voters in the upcoming elections. It is titled "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States" -- and if you think the title is long, wait till you get a load of the full text. It has 90 sections, runs 43 pages long, and is exceedingly wordy and verbose (the bane of editors!). As can be expected from a document approved by the full body of the USCCB -- liberals, moderates, and conservatives -- by a margin of 221-4, it runs all over the map, touches on myriad topics, and suffers from information overload -- no easy accomplishment in our information era.

“What makes this document so maddening is that it buries the burning political issues of the day under an avalanche of lesser considerations. The bishops say, "Intrinsically evil actions...must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia" (#22). So far, so good. And then, "Human cloning and destructive research on human embryos are also intrinsically evil" (#23). O.K., fine. But then the bishops say, "Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity such as genocide, torture, racism and the targeting of non-combatants in acts of terror or war can never be justified" (#23). Wait a minute -- are the bishops saying that racism is an intrinsic evil?

“Now, the NOR is opposed to racism, but it cannot be put on a par with intrinsically evil acts such as abortion and targeting of non-combatants, which are murder. Nowhere does the Catechism call racism an intrinsic evil.

“Elsewhere, the bishops say, "Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes...a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues..." (#29). Racism, immigration policy, and lack of health care are serious issues, but they are not on the same immoral plane as the death penalty, unjust war, and war crimes, which involve the direct taking of life. The bishops' inclusion of racism only serves to dilute the moral imperative to defend human life.

“The bishops even go so far as to say, "A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or racism..." (#34). Now the bishops are drawing an equivalence between abortion, the violation of the fundamental right to life that has resulted in over 50 million abortions in the U.S. since 1973, and racism, a term they neglect to define and which really isn't a major theme in this election.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wormholes, Dark Energy & Creation Theories

I was once enamored of such astronomical wonders—though remain a devout fan of science fiction/fantasy movies—and the endless creation theories that attended them, but once discovering the truth of creation, and through long study realizing how much more sense it made than any of the secular versions floating around, there still remains some curiosity about the latest brain twisters the secularists have come up with, and this one from Science Magazine is interesting.

An excerpt.

“A long time ago, in a universe much larger than our own, a giant star collapsed. Its implosion crammed so much mass and energy together that it created a wormhole to another universe. And inside this wormhole, our own universe was born. It may seem fantastic, but a theoretical physicist claims that such a scenario could help answer some of the most perplexing questions in cosmology.

“A number of facets about our universe don't make sense. One is gravity. Scientists can't construct a mathematical formula that unites gravity with the three other basic forces of nature: the strong and weak nuclear forces and electromagnetism. Another problem is dark energy, the mysterious phenomenon that seems to be expanding our universe at an accelerating rate, even though gravity should be contracting it or at least slowing the expansion.

“These conundrums may be a result of stopping the search for the riddle of the cosmos at the big bang, says Nikodem Poplawski of Indiana University in Bloomington. The big bang theory holds that our universe began as a single point—or singularity—about 13.7 billion years ago that has been expanding outward ever since. Perhaps, Poplawski argues, we need to consider that something existed before the big bang that gave rise to it.

“Enter the wormhole. According to Poplawski's calculations, the collapse of a giant star in another universe could have created a wormhole, a space-time conduit to another universe. Between these two openings, conditions could have developed that were similar to those we associate with the big bang, and therefore our universe could have formed within the wormhole.

“Such a scenario could address the quandaries about gravity and the expanding universe. If another universe existed before our own, gravity could be traced back to a point where it did unite with the nuclear forces and electromagnetism. And if our universe is now expanding toward the other end of the wormhole, this movement—rather than the elusive dark energy—could account for our expanding universe.”

Monday, April 12, 2010

Comstat & Baltimore

As reported in the Baltimore Sun, the city is moving away from the most effective policing tool developed in years, and the results—over the next few years—should be revealing.

An excerpt.

“The Baltimore Police Department has suspended a statistics-based management tool that has been a hallmark of the department for more than a decade, saying weekly information-sharing meetings had grown "stale" and "laborious."

“Using numbers and maps to spot problem areas, connect incidents and discuss tactics, police commanders and investigators had gathered in a room each Thursday for years as part of a process called Comstat. The concept has become a national law enforcement standard, and it was the inspiration for Gov. Martin O'Malley's acclaimed numbers-driven management programs.

“But the meetings have been criticized by some officers who say they often devolve into browbeatings. Commanders often take a day or more to compile thick binders of information and are holed up for hours memorizing facts so as not to be caught off-guard. Confrontations are frequent.

"It's a beat-down session," said Robert F. Cherry, president of the Fraternal Order of Police union. "It's become a forum for finger-pointing and just running through a lot of numbers without giving some concrete strategies for fighting crime."

“The concept, known elsewhere as Compstat, drives policing philosophies in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Newark, N.J., as well as in an increasing number of smaller jurisdictions. But Baltimore's potential move away from it comes two months after a study in New York - where the statistical method was developed - showed that more than 100 retired high-ranking officers believed it created intense pressure to manipulate crime figures.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reduce Prisons, Reduce Crime?

In an experiment, as reported by the Detroit News, going against the history of the long-term failure of service based rehabilitation programming, Michigan’s efforts to reduce crime by shutting prisons and focusing more on reentry will—unless a serious effort towards stimulating the internal change required to bring criminals from criminal life to communal life—fail.

That being said, we wish them the very best—while reminding prison closure advocates that the criminal world is expanding, not shrinking.

An excerpt.

“Lansing -- Michigan's prison system has undergone a culture change from locking up law breakers for as long as possible to being more selective about whom to put behind bars, state Corrections Director Patricia Caruso told officials at a prisoner re-entry conference Tuesday.

“The state closed 10 prisons last year and has curbed its inmate population from 51,500 to 45,000 since 2007, Caruso said. The number of women prisoners has been cut by 30 percent. That reverses a build-up trend that lasted a couple of decades.

"We went from a small prison system, a medium system, to a huge prison system because we could," Caruso said. She added there was "no push-back" because communities wanted the jobs that prisons provided and others "didn't have the political will to stop us."

“The two-day conference at the Lansing Center is bringing together government, businesses, social services and faith-based groups that deal with integrating released felons back into society. The Corrections Department has only recently figured out it is part of the state's job to partner with these groups to make prisoner re-entry successful, Caruso said. The department has stepped up a program intended to keep released felons from committing new crimes.

"If we are not focused on get out and stay out, what are we here for?" she asked.

“Michigan has the fifth-largest prison system in the nation, behind four of the largest states -- Texas, California, New York and Florida -- and employs 18,000, or about one-third of all state government employees, Caruso said.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Words and the Work

The work of mission, reaching into yourself and discovering a truth you care enough about to put the rest of your life into bringing it to realization in the public square, is a wonderful way to live--the only way for many of us to live--and using words well in the support of your work, is crucial.

This essay from the Public Discourse is about using words well.

An excerpt.

“Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s new book, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, is a warning against industrialized language prevalent in contemporary America, where words “come to us processed like cheese, depleted of nutrients, flattened and packaged, artificially colored and mass marketed.” To combat this, she advocates a strenuous connoisseurship that insists on “useable, flexible, precise, enlivening language.”

“While the author’s Christian commitment is clear throughout—Caring for Words grew out of her 2004 Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary—the book is focused on the “horizontal” dimension of language, on its primary role as man’s chief social tool. As she puts it, “caring for one another is not entirely separable from caring for words.” The state of English therefore concerns everyone—not just poets and English teachers like herself.

“McEntrye forthrightly identifies the villains: biased journalists and cynical advertisers, entertainers, and politicians. These usual suspects, she says, are the titans of the word industry who have inundated us with cheap language designed not to tell the truth, but to manipulate, evade, or sell. Public language is thus (to adopt McEntyre’s preferred, ecological metaphor) polluted and depleted by “thoughtless hyperbole, unexamined metaphors, slogans and sound bites, grammatical confusion, ungrounded abstractions, overstatement, and blather” which seep malignantly into ordinary speech and thought.

“Polluted and depleted language is obviously an inadequate medium for proper public debate. McEntyre agrees with George Orwell that last use of language leads to foolish thoughts, including foolish thoughts about urgent questions of the common good. When we lose the “subtlety, clarity, and reliability of language, we become more vulnerable to crude exercises of power.”

“McEntyre worries that the prevalence of bad English not only deadens our sensitivity to truth and falsehood but also spoils our taste for language as language, thereby denying us a pleasure “akin to the pleasures of music.” She wants us to be sensitive to euphony, layered meaning and double reference, allusion, ambiguity, and association, to relish words that are “not just meaning or reporting or chronicling or marching in syntactic formation, but performing themselves, sounding, echoing….”

Friday, April 9, 2010

Model Law

As reported in the Columbus Dispatch, the new law in Ohio creates some more common sense legal mandates to protect the public.

An excerpt.

“With the stroke of Gov. Ted Strickland's pen yesterday, experts say Ohio now has some of the best laws in the country to protect the innocent from wrongful convictions and put the right people behind bars.

“Strickland, joined by a handful of men who were exonerated after serving years in prison for crimes they did not commit, signed Senate Bill 77. It sets statewide standards for retaining biological evidence, requires the taking of DNA from anyone arrested on a felony charge and requires new procedures for suspect lineups.

"It's a good day for justice and fairness," said Strickland, flanked by Sen. David Goodman, R-New Albany, and Rep. W. Carlton Weddington, D-Columbus.

“Goodman introduced the bill after a Dispatch investigation in January 2008 exposed widespread shortcomings in Ohio's DNA law, including the derailing of prisoner DNA tests by systemic indifference or hostility….

“In addition to requiring that DNA samples be taken from anyone convicted of a felony after July 1, 2011, the new law:

“• Requires law-enforcement agencies to retain biological evidence for up to 30 years in murder and sexual-assault cases. The limit is five years when a defendant pleads guilty.

“• Opens DNA testing to parolees and those on the sex-offender registry.

“• Mandates blind suspect lineups, in which the officer presiding either does not know the identity of the true suspect or uses a photo-lineup technique in which only the witness can see pictures placed in folders.

“• Gives an incentive for law-enforcement officials to record interrogations.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Attacking Peter

The recent attacks on Peter are merely part of a pattern established at the moment of his ascendency to the papacy--and replicated throughout history since Peter the Apostle was martyred in Rome--as summarized in this article from Chiesa.

An excerpt.

“ROME, April 7, 2010 – The attack striking pope Joseph Ratzinger with the weapon of the scandal posed by priests of his Church is a constant of this pontificate.

“It is a constant because every time, on different terrain, striking Benedict XVI means striking the very man who has worked and is working, on that same terrain, with the greatest foresight, resolve, and success.

“The tempest that followed his lecture in Regensburg on September 12, 2006 was the first of the series. Benedict XVI was accused of being an enemy of Islam, and an incendiary proponent of the clash of civilizations. The very man who with singular clarity and courage had revealed where the ultimate root of violence is found, in an idea of God severed from rationality, and had then told how to overcome it.

“The violence and even killings that followed his words were the sad proof that he was right. But the fact that he had hit the mark was confirmed above all by the progress in dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam that was seen afterward – not in spite of, but because of the lecture in Regensburg – and of which the letter to the pope from the 138 Muslim intellectuals and the visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul were the most evident and promising signs.

“With Benedict XVI, the dialogue between Christianity and Islam, as with the other religions as well, is today proceeding with clearer awareness about what makes distinctions, by virtue of faith, and what can unite, the natural law written by God in the heart of every man.

“A second wave of accusations against Pope Benedict depicts him as an enemy of modern reason, and in particular of its supreme expression, science. The peak of this hostile campaign was reached in January of 2008, when professors forced the pope to cancel a visit to the main university of his diocese, the University of Rome "La Sapienza."

“And yet – as previously in Regensburg and then in Paris at the Collège des Bernardins on September 12, 2008 – the speech that the pope intended to give at the University of Rome was a formidable defense of the indissoluble connection between faith and reason, between truth and freedom: "I do not come to impose the faith, but to call for courage for the truth."

“The paradox is that Benedict XVI is a great "illuminist" in an age in which the truth has so few admirers and doubt is in command, to the point of wanting to silence the truth.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New Los Angeles Archbishop

The new archbishop is a priest of Opus Dei, and it can’t get any better than that.

An excerpt from the story from EWTN News.

“This morning the Holy Father appointed current San Antonio Archbishop Jose H. Gomez as Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles, California, the largest diocese in the United States. The prelate will serve alongside current Cardinal Roger Mahony, and will take over his position when he retires.

“Archbishop Gomez was born in 1951 in Monterrey, Mexico to Dr. José H. Gomez and Esperanza Velasco, both who are now deceased.

“The prelate earned bachelor's degrees in accounting, philosophy and theology and was ordained an Opus Dei priest in 1978. In 1980, he obtained a doctorate in theology from the University of Navarre's Pamplona, Spain campus.

“From 1987 to 1999, then-Father Gomez was in residence at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in San Antonio where he assisted with the parish's pastoral work. It was during this time that he became a regional representative to the National Association of Hispanic Priests (ANSH). In 1995 he was named president, then took on the role of executive director in 1999.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sexual Abuse in the Church

The Church is true and holy, but the people in it—even priests, bishops, and popes—may not be.

The magisterial treatment of sexual abuse is the book by Randy Engel, The Rite of Sodomy: Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church, and two articles published prior to its release focuses on the Book of Gomorrah of St. Peter Damian about an earlier plague of pederasty that struck the Church in the 11th century.

The articles have been posted in two parts, part one beginning with the heading: The Life of St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) and part 2 beginning with the heading: Pope Leo IX -The Precursor of Gregorian Reform.

These articles by Randy Engel present an excellent introduction to the Rite of Sodomy, which every Catholic seeking answers about this evil, should read, as difficult as it is to get through. The smoke of Satan has swirled about the Church, even in the sanctuary.

An earlier post on the subject has additional information.

Pray for Peter and all priests.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Private Prisons

By partnering with the state, private prisons could save the state of California $1.8 billion, according to this study by the Reason Foundation, as reported by this news release from the Howard Jarvis Tax Foundation.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento --- Every inmate in a California prison costs taxpayers over $47,000 a year. Because of the state’s astronomical prison costs, a new Reason Foundation-Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation study finds that California could save $120 million a year for each 5,000 inmates it sends to private prisons in other states. The report details a five-year prison privatization plan that would save California taxpayers $1.8 billion over that span by gradually transferring 25,000 inmates out of state.

“The Reason Foundation-Howard Jarvis report shows California spends three times as much per prisoner as Texas, which has nearly as many inmates. Texas spends $42.54 per inmate each day, while California spends at least $132.98 an inmate every day. Florida, with the third largest inmate population in the country, spends $52.90 a day per inmate.

“Prison privatization is becoming increasingly common in other states. Nearly 130,000 inmates are now housed in private facilities, with Texas sending over 20,000 inmates to them. In 2008, 14 states (Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming) had relocated at least 10 percent of their state prison populations to private-run facilities.

“Simply put: private prisons offer California a huge opportunity to save money,” says Leonard Gilroy, lead author of report and director of government reform at Reason Foundation. “The state’s labor costs and the lack of incentives to reduce costs have created a prison system that is helping wreck the state budget. Our partial privatization plan isn’t going to solve all of the problems, but it can put a big dent in them.”

“Our state cannot afford to continue to spend twice as much on prisoners as other similar states,” said Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “And Californians do not want to see criminals released early because we cannot afford to keep them behind bars. It’s time for new solutions that will keep our citizens safe and not require we break the bank to do it.”

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

He is Risen!

Have a wonderful Easter.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Criminal World

This story from the Reuters News Service reminds us of the increasing sophistication and depth of the criminal world; and of the importance of bringing a corresponding depth to any attempts at criminal reformation, embodied in the Lampstand mission.

An excerpt from Reuters.

“The trouble with moving big amounts of cash, from a criminal’s point of view, is threefold. It’s bulky, it’s heavy and it smells.

“A stash of $1 million in mixed bills weighs around 100 pounds (50 kilos). Specially-trained dogs can sniff out bulk cash in a heartbeat.

“All of which helps to explain why drug cartels and financiers of terrorism appear to have been making increasing use of what FBI chief Robert Mueller calls a shadow banking system.

“Its features include a legal loophole that allows money launderers to get around the requirement that cash or “monetary instruments” (share certificates, travellers’ cheques, money orders etc.) in excess of $10,000 must be declared on entering or leaving the United States.

“It is, however, perfectly legal to carry, say, $50,000 embedded in the magnetic stripes of so-called pre-paid stored-value cards.

“They look like a credit or debit card but are not linked to a bank account, can in many cases be loaded anonymously, are not “monetary instruments” under U.S. law, and were labelled “the ideal instrument for large-scale drug trafficking and money-laundering operations” in a 2006 analysis by the National Drug Intelligence Center.

“It predicted that drug traffickers, narco-terrorists and other criminals would increasingly rely on stored-value cards — “superior to established methods of money laundering” — because they could be used without fear of documentation, identification, law enforcement suspicion or seizure.”

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

In this most holy day of suffering, an excerpt from a book by the Holy Father, while he was still a cardinal, from Ignatius Insight.

An excerpt.

“Seewald: We are used to thinking of suffering as something we try to avoid at all costs. And there is nothing that many societies get more angry about than the Christian idea that one should bear with pain, should endure suffering, should even sometimes give oneself up to it, in order thereby to overcome it. "Suffering", John Paul II believes, "is a part of the mystery of being human." Why is this?

“Cardinal Ratzinger: Today what people have in view is eliminating suffering from the world. For the individual, that means avoiding pain and suffering in whatever way. Yet we must also see that it is in this very way that the world becomes very hard and very cold. Pain is part of being human. Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with it renunciation and pain.

“When we know that the way of love–this exodus, this going out of oneself–is the true way by which man becomes human, then we also understand that suffering is the process through which we mature. Anyone who has inwardly accepted suffering becomes more mature and more understanding of others, becomes more human. Anyone who has consistently avoided suffering does not understand other people; he becomes hard and selfish.

“Love itself is a passion, something we endure. In love experience first a happiness, a general feeling of happiness.

“Yet on the other hand, I am taken out of my comfortable tranquility and have to let myself be reshaped. If we say that suffering is the inner side of love, we then also understand it is so important to learn how to suffer–and why, conversely, the avoidance of suffering renders someone unfit to cope with life. He would be left with an existential emptiness, which could then only be combined with bitterness, with rejection and no longer with any inner acceptance or progress toward maturity.”

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Teilhard de Chardin & the Holy Father

1) Teilhard de Chardin describes the connection between the host and the universe, in a remarkable reflection in his book, Hymn of the Universe.

“I don’t know why it is, but for some time now I have had the impression, as I hold the host in my hands, that between it and me there remains only a thin, barely formed film…

“I live at the heart of a single, unique Element, the Centre of the universe and present in each part of it: personal Love and cosmic Power.

“To attain to him and become merged into his life I have before me the entire universe with its noble struggles, its impassioned quests, its myriads of souls to be healed and made perfect. I can and I must throw myself into the thick of human endeavour, and with no stopping for breath. For the more fully I play my part and the more I bring my efforts to bear on the whole surface of reality, the more also will I attain to Christ and cling close to him.” (pp.53-54)

2) In July of 2009, Pope Benedict mentioned Teilhard:

“The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host.”

3) Soon after that, July 28, 2009, an article by John Allen, noted the Catholic ecological implications.

“Benedict's brief July 24 reference to Teilhard, praising his vision of the entire cosmos as a "living host," can be read on multiple levels…

“The potential implications for environmental theology, however, are likely to generate the greatest interest among Teilhard's fans and foes alike -- and more than a half-century after his death in 1955, the daring Jesuit still has plenty of both. Admirers trumpet Teilhard as a pioneer, harmonizing Christianity with the theory of evolution; critics charge that Teilhard's optimistic view of nature flirts with pantheism….

“Teilhard, who died in 1955 at the age of 73, was a French Jesuit who studied paleontology and participated in the 1920s-era discovery of "Peking Man" in China, a find that seemed to confirm a gradual development in the human species. Teilhard has also been linked to the 1912 discovery of "Piltdown Man" in England, later exposed as a hoax.

“On the basis of his scientific work, Teilhard developed an evolutionary theology asserting that all creation is developing towards an "Omega Point," which he identified with Christ as the Logos, or "Word" of God. In that sense, Teilhard broadened the concept of salvation history to embrace not only individual persons and human culture, but the entire universe. In short order, Teilhard's thought became the obligatory point of departure for any Catholic treatment of the environment.”