Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Have a wonderful Memorial Day!

A very nice reflection on this day’s meaning from Mark Helprin in the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“In American military cemeteries all over the world, seemingly endless rows of whitened grave markers stand largely unvisited and in silence. The gardeners tend the lawns, one section at a time. Even at the famous sites, tourism is inconstant. Sunsets and dawns, winter nights, softly falling snow, and gorgeous summer mornings mainly find the graves and those who lie within them protected in eternal tranquility. Now and then a visitor linked by love, blood, or both will come to make that connection with the dead that only love can sustain.

“Sometimes you see them, quiet in some neglected corner beneath the trees or on a field above the sea, but numbers and time make this the exception. If not completely forgotten, the vast ranks of Civil War dead are now primarily the object of genealogy and historians, as the fathers and mothers, women, children, and brothers who loved them are now long gone. As it is for everyone else it is for the dead of all the wars, and neither proclamations nor holidays nor children innocently placing flags can cure it.

“Nonetheless, a universal connection links every living American with those who have fallen or will fall in American wars and overrides the lapses in sustaining and honoring their memories. We are and shall be connected to them by debt and obligation. Though if by and large we ignore the debt we owe to those who fell at Saratoga, Antietam, the Marne, the Pointe du Hoc, and a thousand other places and more, our lives and everything we value are the ledger in which it is indelibly recorded. And even if we fail in the obligation, it is clear and it remains.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

In the Public Square

The experience of Catholics in the American public square is remembered in this article from George Weigel.

An excerpt.

“At the time of the American Revolution, Catholics accounted for less than 1 percent of the population of the 13 colonies – a tiny population clustered primarily in my native Maryland and a few counties of Pennsylvania. Yet within a few decades of the founding, the great tides of European immigration that began to wash onto the shores of the new nation – those "huddled masses yearning to breathe free," as they are memorialized on the Statue of Liberty – brought millions of Catholics to the New World: at first, Irish and Germans; later, Italians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Ruthenians, and many others who wove their lives and aspirations into the rich ethnic tapestry of American democracy. Those 19th-century immigrants felt the sting of anti-Catholic prejudice, even anti-Catholic violence. But notwithstanding that bigotry – which historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. once described to the dean of U.S. Catholic historians, Fr. John Tracy Ellis, as the deepest prejudice in the history of the American people – Catholics have, I believe, almost always felt at home in these United States.

“We have felt at home because we have thrived here; with the exception of immigrant Jews, no religious group has prospered more in America than has the Catholic community. Yet Catholic "at-homeness" in the United States has had a deeper philosophical and moral texture. One of the great Catholic students of American democracy, Fr. John Courtney Murray, described that side of the Catholic experience of America in these terms, in We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition, a book published just a half-century ago:

“Catholic participation in the American consensus has been full and free, unreserved and unembarrassed, because the contents of this consensus – the ethical and political principles drawn from the tradition of natural law – approve themselves to the Catholic intelligence and conscience. Where this kind of language is talked, the Catholic joins the conversation with complete ease. It is his language. The ideas expressed are native to his universe of discourse. Even the accent, being American, suits his tongue.

“There are many grave question of public policy to be debated in America today: the question of the legal protection of innocent human life from conception until natural death; the question of long-term strategy and morally sustainable tactics in the war against Islamist jihadism; the questions of how we attend to the sick and how we manage immigration; the question of fitting public-policy ends to fiscal means; the question of building an appropriate regulatory structure around the biotech revolution so that the new genetic knowledge leads to genuine human flourishing rather than to a stunted and manufactured humanity; the list goes on and on. Indeed, the very question of what should be on "the public-policy agenda," and what ought to be left to the private and independent sectors, is being as vigorously contested in our country today as at any time since the Great Depression and the New Deal. Yet amid all this churning, the gravest question for our public culture is the question of whether what Father Murray called the "American consensus" – that ensemble of "ethical and political principles drawn from the tradition of natural law" – still holds.

“There are reasons to be concerned.

“This past October, in the heat of a political campaign, the nation's political newspaper of record, the Washington Post, ran an editorial condemning what it termed the "extremist views" of a candidate for attorney general of Virginia who had suggested that the natural moral law was still a useful guide to public policy. The Post, determined to nail down the claim that homosexuality is the equivalent of race for purposes of U.S. civil-rights law, deplored this as "a retrofit [of] the old language of racism, bias, and intolerance in a new context." The Post's claim was, to adopt its language, "extremist," suggesting as it did that the label "bigot" ought to be applied to notable historical personalities who had appealed to the natural moral law in causes the Post would presumably regard as admirable: figures such as Thomas Jefferson, staking America's claim to independent nationhood on "self evident" moral truths derived from "the laws of nature"; or Martin Luther King Jr., arguing in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" that "an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law"; or Pope John Paul II, who, at the United Nations in 1995, suggested that the truths of the natural moral law – "the moral logic which is built into human life," as he put it – could serve as a universal "grammar" enabling cross-cultural dialogue.”

Saturday, May 29, 2010

OSV & Prison Ministry

The Our Sunday Visitor News Weekly (subscription required) had an In Focus special on Prison Ministry in the May 23, 2010 issue where the Lampstand Foundation was profiled.

The In Focus special is an excellent criminal justice overview presentation and one sorely needed by the American Church as she struggles to come to terms with the huge problems embodied in the American criminal justice system.

As the clearly acknowledged expert on the wages of sin and in the confrontation of evil in the world, the Catholic Church should be in the forefront of this work and articles like this will encourage that leadership.

The opening article is free to visitors.

An excerpt.

“This week our In Focus tackles the thorny moral and social issues surrounding our prison system.

“Most people would agree the system is broken. The United States holds the dubious record of being the country with the most people behind bars and the highest percentage of people behind bars.

“That’s a major drain on our economy, families and communities. It also raises a host of ethical concerns. Is our prison policy driven by more than simply a desire to mete out justice and protect society from dangerous people?

“Some experts think so. They say there’s been a shift in recent decades in our country toward a sense of anger, fear, vindictiveness toward prisoners. And that even Catholics have been caught up in the national mood.

“It’s pretty easy to check your own emotional state by simply naming some of the favorite villains of the day and observing your reaction. “Bernie Madoff.” “Osama bin Laden.” String ’em high? Or sincere desire and solicitude that they’ll come in contact with God’s mercy and that, God willing, we’ll spend eternity with them?

“To be honest, I usually find myself coming up short on these tests. But it is worth stopping and reflecting about our attitudes toward prisoners — a sort of examination of conscience — and not only because Christ himself told us that we can find him in the prisoner (see Mt 25:36).

“One of the seven corporal works of mercy in the Catholic tradition is visiting those in prison.

“In some ways, visiting prisoners may be the work of mercy par excellence. Consider how well it pairs with a number of the spiritual works of mercy: “to instruct the ignorant” ... “to counsel the doubtful” ... “to admonish sinners” ... “to bear wrongs patiently” ... “to forgive offenses willingly.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

New Translation of the Roman Missal

Restoring the tradition and beauty lost through confused readings of Vatican II, the new translation of the missal—due to be released at Pentecost 2011—is eagerly awaited, as reported by The Australian.

An excerpt.

“A NEW translation of the mass soon to be celebrated by more than 100 million English-speaking Catholics reaches back to church tradition, replacing the more colloquial and dumbed-down liturgy that was adopted by the Vatican 40 years ago.

“The Weekend Australian today provides an exclusive and comprehensive preview of the changes, which are the biggest revision since Pope Paul VI approved the current Roman Missal in 1969 after the Second Vatican Council. In style, the new translation of the mass is reverential and traditional, restoring emphasis on the transcendent and the sacred, and replacing words such as "happy" with "blessed" and phrases such as "this is" with "behold".

“It revives a classical style of liturgical language rarely heard for 40 years, using such words and phrases as: oblation, implore, consubstantial, serene and kindly countenance, spotless victim, divine majesty, holy and venerable, and "command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high".

“Cardinal George Pell said the new mass had a "different cadence" to the translation of the Roman Missal that two generations of Australian Catholics grew up with, and which was a "bit dumbed-down".

"The previous translators seemed a bit embarrassed to refer to angels, sacrifice and perpetual virginity," Australia's senior Catholic cleric said.

"They went softly on sin and redemption."

“The new translation places a heavier emphasis on Christ's sacrifice and underlines the dependence of individuals on God. In one of the most controversial changes, the words of the consecration in the mass specify that Christ shed his blood "for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins", rather than "for all" as the present translation puts it.

“Cardinal Pell said the change reflected the official Latin version of the Roman Missal, and although Christ died for everybody, this would remind worshippers of the need for personal repentance.

“In the creed, the faithful will now say "I believe" rather than "we believe", emphasising the importance of personal belief.

“Most of the changes are in the parts of the mass said by priests, with changes in the laity's responses deliberately kept to a minimum to avoid confusion.

“A new Latin edition of the missal was published under Pope John Paul II in 2002, and the next step was to produce authentic vernacular translations.

“After a major education program that will start later this year and is already under way for priests in some dioceses, the new translation is likely to be introduced from Pentecost Sunday in June next year.

“Several DVDs have already been produced to explain the changes across the English-speaking Catholic world.

“The translation, which has taken more than eight years to prepare, was written by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, which is chaired by Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds in northern England.

“The project was guided and overseen by the Vox Clara (clear voice) committee of cardinals and bishops from the US, Canada, Britain, Ireland, India, Africa and the Caribbean.

“Vox Clara was chaired by Cardinal Pell.”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Confused Order ?

A major lay order in the Church appears—in this article from Catholic Culture—to be more politically correct than dogmatically correct, a situation not that unusual in the American Church.

An excerpt.

“Knights are--or should be--men oriented toward a mission, and there is no mission more noble than the defense of innocent people who cannot defend themselves. In contemporary American society the defense of human life--the protection of the unborn--is a quest tailor-made for men with strong sense of Christian mission and chivalry.

“The Knights of Columbus are, and always have been, strongly supportive of the right to life in their public statements. So it has long been a mystery to me why the K of C allows some politicians to continue their membership even while those politicians promote legalized abortion: in flagrant defiance of the teachings of their Church and the public statements of their fraternity….

“If the Knights of Columbus are engaged in mounting a serious crusade--not merely in putting together a congenial social network or a successful insurance business--they must adopt some serious internal discipline. It's impossible to fight a crusade effectively as long as enemies are welcome within your own ranks.

“From time to time a friend asks me why I've never expressed interest in joining the K of C. Now you know why. Let me know when they get serious.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Announcement: Pope Writes to Prisoners

20 May 10 – Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI has called on prisoners to remember the ‘inner freedom’ that comes from ‘rejoicing in the Lord’. His words of advise and comfort are contained in a message that he wrote to prisoners in Malta during his April visit to the Mediterranean island, that was published Thursday.

In fact, the last of Pope Benedict XVI’s public event’s in Malta was a meeting with young people. A group of young offenders were invited to participate, and indeed, contribute to the questions that were posed to the Holy Father. The first speaker, representing those young people who feel in some way marginalised by the Church, spoke of “those young people who, like me, do not fit comfortably into stereo-typed roles”.

This he said “is due to various factors among them: either because we have experienced substance abuse; or because we are experiencing the misfortune of broken or dysfunctional families; or because we are of a different sexual orientation; among us are also our immigrant brothers and sisters, all of us in some way or another have encountered experiences that have estranged us from the Church”.

In his message to the men and women serving terms for offences in prison Pope Benedict responds with the words of St Paul, who first brought the faith to Malta:

“Dear Friends,

I have received the message that you sent me and would like to convey to you my deep appreciation for the sentiments that you expressed and for the support of your prayers.

During this visit to the Maltese islands, I come as a Pastor to greet all the people in the name of the Lord. Be assured that I shall be especially mindful of those who suffer in any way – the sick, the elderly, the housebound, and those like yourselves who are in prison. I pray that you will draw comfort from the knowledge that you share in the condition of Saint Paul himself, who, although a prisoner, had the inner freedom to “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil 4:10), knowing that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8: 38-39).

With these sentiments, I assure you of my spiritual closeness. Invoking upon you and your loved ones the intercession of Saint Paul, Apostle of Malta, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord”.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Good Catholic Story

Some good press for a change, from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

An excerpt.

“Here's something you don't read every day: a positive story about the Catholic Church. Amid the media brimstone and penitential outpourings, much of organized Catholicism proceeds with its mission. This is one corner of that mission that is helping young men and women.

“On June 10, Cristo Rey High School in East Harlem will graduate all of its 50 seniors. All come from families near or below the poverty level. All will attend college. Most were accepted into seven colleges.

“Begun in 1996 with the goal of making its students ready to attend college, the Cristo Rey Network now has 24 high schools teaching some 6,000 students in the U.S.—in big cities like Chicago, L.A. and New York; in Sacramento, Portland, Waukegan, Detroit and elsewhere. Virtually all the students in the network's schools are Latino or African-American. St. Martin de Porres High School in Cleveland, my hometown, is near St. Clair Avenue and 55th Street, a hard neighborhood. Its college-acceptance rate this year was also 100%.

“The Cristo Rey system is often associated with the Jesuits, because they started the first school on Chicago's Lower West Side. But the system's operation and support now includes many Catholic orders and communities: the Congregation of the Passion, Dominican Sisters, Sisters of Charity, the Christian Brothers, the Clerics of St. Viator, the Basilian Fathers, the Salesians, the Vincentians—29 in all. There is no requirement that applying students be Catholic. About 60% are.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

Announcement: Violent Crime Down, FBI Reports

For Immediate Release
May 24, 2010 Washington D.C.

FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691

FBI Releases Preliminary Annual Crime Statistics for 2009

Preliminary 2009 statistics indicate that violent crime in the nation decreased 5.5 percent and property crime declined 4.9 percent when compared with data from 2008, according to the FBI’s Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report, which was released today. Data in the report came from 13,237 law enforcement agencies that submitted six to 12 months of data in both 2008 and 2009.

Violent Crime

 All four violent crime offenses—murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—declined nationwide in 2009 when compared with 2008 data. Robbery dropped 8.1 percent, murder decreased 7.2 percent, aggravated assault declined 4.2 percent, and forcible rape decreased 3.1 percent.
 Violent crime fell in all city groupings. The largest decrease, 7.5 percent, was in cities with populations ranging from 500,000 to 999,999 inhabitants. Violent crime declined 4.0 percent in the nation’s metropolitan counties and 3.0 percent in nonmetropolitan counties.
 Cities with 25,000 to 49,999 inhabitants were the only city population group to report an increase in the number of murders, 5.3 percent. The number of murders in the nation’s nonmetropolitan counties also rose, 1.8 percent.
 Forcible rape trends dropped in all city population groups. The largest decrease was 7.3 percent in cities of less than 10,000 residents. Metropolitan counties reported a 3.7 percent decline in the number of rapes, but the number of rapes reported in nonmetropolitan counties rose slightly, 0.3 percent.
 All population groups reported decreases in the volume of robbery in 2009. Of the city groups, cities with populations of 100,000 to 249,999 had the largest decrease at 10.3 percent. Metropolitan counties reported a 6.7 percent drop in robberies; nonmetropolitan counties reported a 0.7 percent decline.
 The number of aggravated assaults declined in all population groups, with cities of 500,000 to 999,999 inhabitants reporting a 6.3 percent decrease. Aggravated assaults declined 3.7 percent in nonmetropolitan counties and 3.0 percent in metropolitan counties.
 All four regions in the nation showed decreases in violent crime in 2009 when compared with data from 2008. Violent crime decreased 6.6 percent in the South, 5.6 percent in the West, 4.6 percent in the Midwest, and 3.5 percent in the Northeast.

Property Crime

 All property crime offenses—burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft—decreased in 2009 when compared with 2008 data. Motor vehicle theft showed the largest drop in volume at 17.2 percent, larceny-thefts declined 4.2 percent, and burglaries decreased 1.7 percent.
 The nation’s largest cities, one million or more inhabitants, reported the greatest decrease, 7.9 percent, in property crime overall. Of the city groupings, this population group also reported the biggest decreases in the offenses that comprise property crime: a 21.1 percent drop in motor vehicle theft, a 5.7 percent decline in burglary, and a 5.5 percent decrease in larceny-theft. In the nation’s nonmetropolitan counties, larceny-thefts fell 9.5 percent; in metropolitan counties, larceny-thefts declined 5.9 percent.
 The only population group to indicate a rise in any type of property crime was in nonmetropolitan counties, where burglary rose 0.5 percent.
 In comparing 2008 data and 2009 data by region, law enforcement agencies in the West reported the biggest decline in property crime, with a decrease of 6.8 percent. Property crime declined 5.6 percent in the Midwest, 5.3 percent in the Northeast, and 3.2 percent in the South.


 Arson offenses, which are tracked separately from other property crimes, declined 10.4 percent nationwide. All population groups reported decreases in the volume of arson offenses. In addition, arson fell in all four of the nation’s regions: 11.6 percent in the West, 10.6 percent in the South, 9.2 percent in the Midwest, and 8.6 percent in the Northeast.

The complete 2009 Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report is available exclusively at

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Friars from the Bronx

Catholic friars from one of the toughest neighborhoods in the US are doing some good in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Ireland, as reported in the Irish Central News.

An excerpt.

“Since the beginning of the decade the Moyross estate in Limerick City has been a battle-ground for vicious gangland criminals.

“Violent crime stalked the streets, making everyday life a nightmare.

“But now, the estate is being turned around by a group of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, from the Bronx, New York.

“The Moyross estate was built in the late 1970s and is home to 5,500 residents. The vast majority of householders are local authority tenants.

“Back in 2006, crime in Moyross was at its peak. The most famous incident took place when two innocent children who were sitting in their mother’s car were nearly burnt to death when three teenagers petrol bombed the vehicle. Violence was an everyday threat on the estate.

“In 2007, the monks opened the friary in the troubled estate and over the past four years they have seen a vast improvement in the standard of living in the people living in the surrounding area.

“Brother Shawn O’Connor said the monks' "primary purpose" was to "take care of the spiritual and material needs of the people, to give them a real sense of hope and a sense of knowledge that God cares for them and loves them."

“Brother O’Connor is impressed by the changes that he has witnessed.

"We have seen quite a few changes. The biggest we have seen is with the people and the way they live their daily lives," said Brother O'Connor.

"Neighbors told us when we first moved in there, that (their) kids wouldn't play on the street very much or else with great caution. Now they are out there almost every day. I don't think anyone thinks anything of it to let their kids go out and safely play in the streets. That is one change, I don't know if that has anything specifically to do with us.

"It's gotten quieter there certainly, I know that. Obviously there are still things going on that everybody knows aren't so good. But there haven't been big violent events or things of that nature.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The World & The Church

In the clamor of the world demanding that the Church conform to its mandates—an eternal demand now emanating again—the bark of Peter throughout the 2,000 year history of the institutional Church has largely stayed on course, and during this present time of worldly demands has done so admirably, under the wise guidance of a great pope.

This excellent article from The Catholic Thing addresses that.

An excerpt.

“The great modern theologian Henri de Lubac S.J., once wrote: “The supernatural good that the [Church] serves in this world is something that reaches its totality in the invisible order and finds its consummation in the eternal.” (Splendor of the Church) This good news about the Church is important to keep in mind in light of the other news we are hearing these days. Supporters ask the Church to hire a media relations firm while opponents insist that the Church reform itself – which somehow they think involves married and female priests, and the abandonment of the Church’s teaching authority, all of which have nothing to do with the problems at hand.

“The pope and the bishops have to act in ways that acknowledge and respond to the legitimate concerns of people outside the Church, yet never lose site of the eternal goal. Benedict XVI certainly understands this dual historical mission. The visit to Malta, for example, offered one of many occasions for him to meet with the victims of clerical abuse and to weep with them – but also to be present as the pastor of the flock. The recent days in Portugal have shown that he grasps the problem and is able to articulate it at greater depth than anyone on the public stage.

“Now all real Catholics are quite aware of human failings. They know that the City of God and the City of Man meet – and compete – in our hearts. The human condition requires us to live justly, despite this dramatic tension, until the end of our lives. The same tension can be found in Church organization, from the Vatican down to every diocese and parish. History is made in the very thick of the drama of decisions, in cooperating with grace and truth. True character emerges in this process.

“Though few realize it, Benedict has already implemented the needed changes in procedures, beginning in 2002 when, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was tasked with dealing with child abuse in the Church. He has met with victims face-to-face during many of his visits and will do so again and again. He has pushed bishops to get their houses in order. But the attacks on the Church and on Benedict personally have increased, not due to a rise in cases (the numbers are the lowest in decades), but for quite other reasons.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

Love & Dogma

In this great article from Catholic Education Resource Center, we are reminded that, rather than the Church of eternal love many wish the Catholic Church to be, it is a Church whose centrality of eternal love is built upon a foundation of eternal dogma, "doctrine taught by the Church to be believed by all the faithful as part of divine revelation." Modern Catholic Dictionary, John A. Hardon, S.J.

An excerpt.

“A recent column in the Sunday New York Times rehashed this worn cliché: the author asserted that in his global travels he has encountered "two Catholic Churches." One is "obsessed with dogma and rules and distracted from social justice;" the other is made of unheralded acts of charity and selflessness by religious missionaries and relief organizations. For this author the second church is clearly the right one; after all, "Jesus himself focused on the needy rather than dogma."

“This false dichotomy is at root an attack against faith, and it is nothing new. The Roman emperor Julian the Apostate despised Christianity and created his own religion as a rival; to win support from those impressed by genuine Christian charity he required his own priests to aid the poor. Thomas Jefferson, skeptical of religious mysteries, crafted his own version of the New Testament, which omitted all mention of miracles while showcasing Jesus' good deeds. The New York Times' charge has the same objective: by alleging that dogma impedes charity, it offers subtle encouragement to see aid to the poor as the only kind of religion needful – for secularists.

“Sacred Scripture proclaims that God is love, and Jesus specifically left one commandment: love one another. In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate Pope Benedict XVI calls love "God's greatest gift to humanity," and he places love at the center of the Church's mission. Why not, then, dispense with all the doctrines of divine mysteries – and those rules about behavior and morality – and just love and do good works as each one sees fit?

“To begin with, we had some experience of radically secular experiments in the twentieth century, and they weren't pretty.

“And besides, Jesus did not focus on the needy to the neglect of dogma. The opposite is the case: Jesus focused on the needy precisely because He was the true and living embodiment of dogma, which is nothing other than teachings about God. Jesus, called rabbi – teacher – from the beginning of His ministry through His resurrection from the dead, became man to teach that God is love of His very essence, and that we are to love in order to participate in God's inner life. Doctrine (Church teachings) and dogma (definitive explanations of the content of revelation) are not dead letters that sap vitality from believers; rather they are intelligible formulations that express real, living mysteries. Doctrine breathes life into the Church and the souls of believers by articulating the many dimensions of the one reason for our being – God. Through its solid teaching about God, doctrine gives powerful impetus to good works.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rice Lectures at Notre Dame

Dr. Charles E. Rice, Professor Emeritus, Notre Dame Law School, delivered a bracing commencement speech at Christendom College on May 15th, posted to Ignatius Insight.

An excerpt.

“When President O'Donnell asked me to give this address, I expressed one concern: "Will there be a protest? And will you prosecute the protestors? Or at least 88 of them?" He made no commitment. I accepted anyway.

“So what can I tell you? This is a time of crises. The economy is a mess, the culture is a mess, the government is out of control. And, in the last three years, Notre Dame lost 21 football games. But this is a great time for us to be here, especially you graduates of this superbly Catholic college. This is so because the remedy for the general meltdown today is found only in Christ and in the teachings of the Catholic Church. Let's talk bluntly about our situation and what you can do about it.

“We are living through a transformation of our federal government. A one-party regime, the leader of which was elected with 54 percent of the Catholic vote, is substituting for the free economy and limited government a centralized command system of potentially unlimited jurisdiction and power. Its takeover of health care, against the manifest will of the people, not only funds elective abortions and endangers the elderly and conscience rights. It was enacted in disregard of legislative process and by a level of bribery, coercion and deception that was as open as it was unprecedented.

“To find a comparable example of the rapid concentration of executive power by a legally installed regime, we have to go back to 1933. Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor on January 30. Over the next few weeks he consolidated his power. The decisive event was the Reichstag's approval of the Enabling Act on March 23, 1933, by which it ceded full and irrevocable powers to Hitler. That was the point of no return. The Enabling Act received the needed two-thirds vote only because it was supported by the Catholic party, the Centre Party.[1] Our "Health Care Reform," enacted with the decisive support of Catholic members of both houses of Congress, may be the Enabling Act of our time in the control it cedes to government over the lives of the people. It includes the federal takeover of student aid. What do student loans have to do with health care? The common denominator is control. No student will be able to get a federally guaranteed educational loan without the consent of a federal bureaucrat. This opens the way to make political loyalty a test for educational advancement, as it was in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. This confirms the wisdom of Christendom's decision to forego all federal aid.

“Unlike Germany in 1933, we have legal means of redress. I am proud to say I am a Tea Party guy. In November, the reaction may dislodge the Congressional arm of the ruling class. But that reaction will be only temporary unless we go to the source of the evil. The root problem is not political or economic. It is religious. And that is where you come in. "The social crisis," said Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, "happens when we elect people to rule over us who are immoral. .... [P]eople who don't have a moral bearing to elect other moral people, elect immoral politicians to serve over them.... So immoral lifestyles produce immoral leaders."[2] In other words, we elect immoral, rather than moral, people because we have lost the ability, or the desire, to tell the difference. The answer, said Fr. Euteneuer, is "to turn back to God. ... What we need is a conversion of heart."

“We rightly urge fidelity to the Constitution. But no paper charter can survive the disappearance of the morality that produced it. In 2001, thirteen days after 9/11, Pope John Paul II, in Kazakhstan, cautioned the leaders of that Islamic republic against a "slavish conformity" to Western culture which is in a "deepening human, spiritual and moral impoverishment" caused by "the fatal attempt to secure the good of humanity by eliminating God, the Supreme Good."

“You graduates will enter a culture in which the intentional infliction of death upon the innocent is widely seen as an optional problem-solving technique. The Columbine shootings set a precedent. If you have a grievance against your classmates, fellow employees or IRS agents, the answer is to blow them away. Legalized abortion is the prime example of murder as a problem solver. And the execution of someone like Terri Schiavo occurs routinely, without public notice, when the family and caregivers agree to withhold food and water because it is time for the patient to "die with dignity." The separation of morality from killing has counterparts in the separation of morality from economics, from sex and from personal decisions in general.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Crime & Race

Heather McDonald, absolutely one of the best writers in the country on criminal justice and public safety issues, has penned another superb article.

An excerpt.

“The New York Times’s front page story this week on the New York Police Department and its allegedly racist stop-and-frisk practices follows a well-worn template: give specific racial breakdowns for every aspect of police behavior, but refer to racial crime rates only in the most attenuated of terms. Disclosing crime rates—the proper benchmark against which police behavior must be measured—would demolish a cornerstone of the Times’s worldview: that the New York Police Department, like police departments across America, oppresses the city’s black population with unjustified racial tactics.

“This week’s story, written by Al Baker, began with what the Times thinks is a shocking disparity: “Blacks and Latinos were nine times as likely as whites to be stopped by the police in New York City in 2009, but, once stopped, were no more likely to be arrested.” (The fact that blacks, Hispanics, and whites are arrested at the same rate after a stop undercuts, rather than supports, the thesis of racially biased policing, but more on that later.)…

“Here are the crime data that the Times doesn’t want its readers to know: blacks committed 66 percent of all violent crimes in the first half of 2009 (though they were only 55 percent of all stops and only 23 percent of the city’s population). Blacks committed 80 percent of all shootings in the first half of 2009. Together, blacks and Hispanics committed 98 percent of all shootings. Blacks committed nearly 70 percent of all robberies. Whites, by contrast, committed 5 percent of all violent crimes in the first half of 2009, though they are 35 percent of the city’s population (and were 10 percent of all stops). They committed 1.8 percent of all shootings and less than 5 percent of all robberies. The face of violent crime in New York, in other words, like in every other large American city, is almost exclusively black and brown. Any given violent crime is 13 times more likely to be committed by a black than by a white perpetrator—a fact that would have been useful to include in the Times’s lead, which stated that “Blacks and Latinos were nine times as likely as whites to be stopped.” These crime data are not some artifact that the police devise out of their skewed racial mindset. They are what the victims of those crimes—the vast majority of whom are minority themselves—report to the police.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sex Offenders

Our fourth guiding criminal justice principle is: Capital punishment is an appropriate response to the criminal evil of murder, rape, and pedophilia.

Yesterday's ruling by the Supreme Court that certain sexual offenders can be held in prison beyond their sentences, as reported by the Washington Post, is a welcome one.

An excerpt.

“WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal officials can indefinitely hold inmates considered "sexually dangerous" after their prison terms are complete.

“The high court in a 7-2 judgment reversed a lower court decision that said Congress overstepped its authority in allowing indefinite detentions of considered "sexually dangerous."

"The statute is a 'necessary and proper' means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned but who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others," said Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the majority opinion.

“President George W. Bush in 2006 signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which authorized the civil commitment of sexually dangerous federal inmates.”

Monday, May 17, 2010

DDT, Malaria & the Religion of the Self

The fact that the best weapon against malaria, which still kills almost a milion people every year, is DDT, is well-known, but the reasons why the environmental movement still calls for its ban so strenuously, has been little explored.

This bracing article from The Catholic Thing changes that.

An excerpt.

“Perhaps it is just an unhappy irony that one of the most hallowed days on the environmental activist’s calendar, last month’s Earth Day, falls so uncomfortably close to the much less covered Malaria Day. The same impulse that spawned the former retards efforts to control the latter. That might be too soft a way of putting it: environmentalists’ insistence upon taking the pesticide DDT – simply the best anti-malarial weapon available – off the table has resulted in tens of millions of vulnerable people dying in faraway lands; basic application of DDT could have prevented this.

“This is a case study par excellence of the need to see our duties towards the environment and the application of technology, as Benedict XVI insists in Caritas in Veritatis, in light of the paramount importance of human life itself. Getting that right is one reason why everyone – even non-Catholics – would profit from Benedict’s approach to environmental issues.

“DDT was originally quarantined because Rachel Carlson’s influential 1962 book Silent Spring alleged that the chemical was harming wildlife, the environment, and human health – unsubstantiated claims whose residual effects linger to this day. The World Health Organization announced last year, after sanctioning a brief and successful return to DDT use, that it is now aiming for “its total phase-out by the early 2020s if not sooner." A “zero DDT world” is WHO’s objective – as if DDT did harm, and as if there were other equally effective means of fighting malaria. Meanwhile, malaria still kills almost one million people a year. …

“The egocentrism of those who shudder at the thought of utilizing “chemicals” such as DDT for philanthropic purposes of vector control comes into sharper relief when they express no concern about the environmental impact of artificial contraception. The pill – ingested by millions of women on a daily basis – harms the environment. DDT in the quantity necessary for malaria control does not. The pill causes cancer; DDT does not.”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cardinal Newman & Religious Liberalism

I have only recently begun studying the work of this wonderful Catholic and his famous speech after receiving notice that he was to be a cardinal is, in its brevity and cogency, something to be read, as noted in this article from The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt from the speech.

“Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. {65} Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternise together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them. Since, then, religion is so personal a peculiarity and so private a possession, we must of necessity ignore it in the intercourse of man with man. If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you? It is as impertinent to think about a man's religion as about his sources of income or his management of his family. Religion is in no sense the bond of society.”

An excerpt from The Catholic Thing article.

“John Henry Newman was in Rome, at the Palazzo della Pigna, on 12 May 1879 (exactly 131 years ago today) when he received the formal message (biglietto) that Leo XIII would make him a cardinal. On the occasion, Newman responded with a famous address known as the “Biglietto” Speech. L’Osservatore Romano, English, reproduced this historical address on April 14, 2010.

“The speech is formal. Newman is surprised. He assumed that he had finished his life’s work. But Pope Leo tells him that, besides his own years of labor, the English Catholics, even Protestants, would be pleased. It would be, Newman thought, “insensible and heartless” to refuse. Somehow, John Henry Cardinal Newman still sounds better than John Henry Newman.

“Newman next recalls what his own work has been about. “For thirty, forty, fifty years, I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion.” Do contemporary liberals in religion shake on reading this sentence? I wonder. Of course not, it is still mostly their quaint faith.”

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Secular Religious Fervor & Film

It has been described before, but this article from City Journal captures it in relation to current events wonderfully.

An excerpt.

“Cast your mind back to January 2009, when Barack Obama became the president of the United States amid much rejoicing. The hosannas—covering the inauguration was “the honor of our lifetimes,” said MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews—by then seemed unsurprising. Over the course of a long campaign, hyperbolic rhetoric had become commonplace, so much so that online wags had started calling Obama “the One”—a reference to the spate of recent science-fiction movies, especially The Matrix, that used that term to designate a messiah.

“It all seems so long ago now, as one contemplates President Obama’s plummeting approval ratings and a suddenly resurgent Republican Party. Yet it’s worth looking closely and seriously at the election-year enthusiasm of media elites and other Obamaphiles, much of which was indeed, as the wags recognized, quasi-religious. The surprising fact is that the American Left, for all its claims to being “reality-based” and secular, is often animated by the passions, motivations, and imagery that one normally associates with religion. The better we understand this religious impulse, the better we will understand liberal America’s likely trajectory in the years to come.

“The first signs of the spiritual zeal that would eventually play a significant part in Obama’s election came not from Washington or Chicago but from Hollywood. Our moviemakers are adept at measuring the zeitgeist of the nation—of its liberal half, anyway—and are a powerful force in shaping it. And for more than a decade, they’ve been churning out what critics call “black-angel” movies. These films feature a white protagonist guided to enlightenment by a black character, usually of divine or supernatural origin or, at the very least, in touch with spiritual experiences that the main character lacks. With the black angel’s help, the white hero finds salvation.

“The genre includes, to name just a few, The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), in which Will Smith—playing a caddie who is really, the film hints, God—restores Matt Damon’s golf game and love life; Bruce Almighty (2003), in which Morgan Freeman, as God, bestows his powers on a manic Jim Carrey; and the awful What Dreams May Come (1998), in which Cuba Gooding, Jr. is a wise soul guiding Robin Williams through the afterlife. These movies have been numerous enough, David Sterritt points out in the Christian Science Monitor, to confuse TV’s buffoonish Homer Simpson: in one episode, “Homer mistook a black man in a white suit for an angelic visitor, all because (according to his embarrassed wife) he’d been seeing too many movies lately.”

Friday, May 14, 2010

Compstat in New Jersey

With the dispersion of the police administrators--trained under the Mayor Giuliani/Police Chief Bratton partnership that drastically reduced crime in New York City several years ago--across the country, the results are being felt, as this article from City Journal notes.

An excerpt.

“In March, Newark, New Jersey—not so long ago dubbed “America’s Most Dangerous City”—celebrated its first homicide-free month in 44 years. Overall, since 2006, Newark has seen its number of shootings cut in half and its murder rate drop by a third. Only Los Angeles boasts more impressive numbers over the same period. The city’s crime turnaround is a testament to Newark mayor Cory Booker and his handpicked police director, Garry McCarthy, and it shows that NYPD-style proactive policing can succeed in even the nation’s most troubled cities.

“When Booker, who is seeking reelection on May 11, first tapped McCarthy from the top echelon of the NYPD to serve as Newark’s police director, the appointment was met with skepticism and even outright hostility. Newark is a notoriously insular place, and the hiring of a white outsider to lead the largely African-American city’s police force was a controversial move. McCarthy, however, soon began to win the trust of community leaders by meeting with them and listening to their concerns. As McCarthy puts it, “No one wants crime down more than the religious and community leaders of Newark; they have been full partners in our success.”

“When McCarthy arrived in Newark in October 2006, the department was a mess and crime was out of control. One in four police officers never left their desks; the department’s gang unit didn’t work weekends. McCarthy began by implementing the now-famous Compstat crime-tracking and accountability system that proved so effective in New York. Via Compstat, McCarthy gained control of the department and pushed resources out onto the streets, directing them to the neighborhoods that needed them the most. McCarthy also brought “Operation Impact” across the Hudson, an initiative that identifies high-crime zones and floods them with new police recruits….

“Many academics still reject the idea that police can control crime. Some have tried to attribute Newark’s crime reduction to various external factors, including dumb luck. But as usual, they overlook the obvious answer: smart police work directed by strong leadership. In fact, McCarthy is just one of more than a dozen former NYPD officials who have taken over police departments across the country, brought with them the strategies and tactics that worked so well in Gotham, and achieved similar results. Most notable is former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, who, as chief of the Los Angeles police from 2002 to 2009, reduced homicides by 58 percent and greatly improved police-community relations.

“This NYPD diaspora is transforming American policing from coast to coast, but nowhere more impressively than in Newark. There were nine shootings in Newark on one of McCarthy’s first days on the job. “I spent the entire day going from shooting to shooting to shooting,” he notes. Today, entire weeks go by without a single shooting. As a result, there is a new feeling of optimism in the city, with stores and restaurants opening up in long-dormant buildings and new condos and parks rising from vacant lots. It’s quite a transformation to behold: “America’s Most Dangerous City” is now leading the country in crime reduction and proving, once again, that, properly led, police can cut crime.”

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Catechism of the Catholic Church

As a convert who went through the RCIA process in 2003, the focus was on the study of the Catechism and we were encouraged to get our own copy; and being the bookish person that I am, I’ve wound up with several copies—including that of the Council of Trent, a copy of the first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church—and recently purchased the pocket version of the second edition for reading in those quiet moments right before mass, a copy of the United States Catechism for Adults, and I also have a hardbound and paperback copy of the full-size standard second edition….yes, I truly love the Catechism.

It is in the Catechism that the full teaching of the Church is most clearly revealed and this article from Homiletic & Pastoral Review reminds us of why it is crucial to study it regularly.

An excerpt.

“I want to raise my voice in defense of dogma. Since the Vatican Council dogma has been neglected, downplayed and even reviled by some theologians. This has been the result of the emphasis on Holy Scripture, because the Council urged preaching at all Masses—mainly with preaching on the readings in the form of a homily. So in a short period of time the scriptural homily replaced the sermon which, before the Council, was primarily an explanation of the Catechism—Creed, sacraments, commandments, with explanations of the Mass and prayer.

“Articles from the Creed were common topics, as also were explanations of how to go to confession and the need to do penance. In those days often Catholics went to confession before they would dare to receive Holy Communion. Basically, priests preached material from the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Scripture was used to prove points, but it was not the main focus of most Catholic preaching.

“What has happened is that, for many theologians and priests, the Bible has replaced the Catechism as the center of concern for both theology and preaching. Recently I heard a Catholic theologian say at a public meeting that theology is interpreting Scripture. There was no mention of the Magisterium of the Church or Tradition.

“Before Vatican II dogma was Ace, moral theology was King, canon law was Queen, and Scripture study was Jack. That certainly was the case at Innsbruck, Austria, where I studied and where both Rahners taught and also the famous liturgist, Josef Jungmann. In the USA before the Council in some theologates moral theology was Ace because priests were being prepared to hear confessions, while preaching was a secondary goal.

“As a result of the emphasis in the seminary on the importance of dogma and morals, priests were well-schooled in those subjects and were prepared to preach on them. There was emphasis on dogma, and also morals, because of the certitude connected with them. Each thesis had a “note” of doctrinal certainty, with the authority of the Church behind it from defined definitions in the previous twenty ecumenical councils.

“Catholic dogma gives the student certitude about what the Church holds and also offers different levels of certitude, for example: a defined dogma, a matter of Catholic faith (de fide catholica), theologically certain, common opinion and so forth.

“Scripture study, on the other hand, does not offer the certitude that dogma does. Yes, the text of the Bible is without error, but every text has to be interpreted and that is where the problem is. As you know, there are thousands of different interpretations of the meaning of passages in the Bible. The “sola scriptura” of the Protestants has resulted in thousands of different Protestant groups. Books on the Bible offer the opinions of the author, but they do not give you certitude. And the famous scholars often disagree with each other about the meaning. Only the Magisterium of the Church can give you certitude and the Church has defined the meaning of only a few passages of the Bible, such as Rom. 5:12-21 and James 5:13-15. Perhaps the problem here is that too many Protestant opinions have crept into the Catholic Church and too many Catholic scholars are seeking approval from Protestants.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Consecrated Religious

With the lapse of so many orders into the New Age chaos of the 1960s-70s it is heartening to remember that it is part of an ancient process the Church has gone through many times before--of decadence and ultimate renewal--as noted by this article from Catholic Education Resource Center.

An excerpt.

“He worked closely with Mother Teresa in encouraging Religious sisters whose own communities had lapsed into some of the follies of the social chaos of the 1960s and '70s. Some of those communities sadly never recovered from that confusion. Many became disoriented in their theology and spirituality, keeping at best a tenuous relationship to Catholicism.

“One recent consequence was the ill-advised decision of some Religious to ignore our bishops by endorsing the present government's health-care legislation. Groups such as Network and the Catholic Health Care Association preferred Caesar's coin to maintaining a prophetic witness to the dignity of life according to Catholic principles. Thirty pieces of silver in inflation-adjusted dollars are still thirty pieces of silver. That great reformer of conventual life, St. Teresa of Avila, once prayed, "How is it, Lord, that we are cowards in everything, save in opposing Thee?" Actually, the number of Religious who lost their way is not as great as some publicity has claimed, and the orthodox Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, established in 1992, has said that they "believe the bishops' position is the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church."…

“Happily, if there is a natural selection in biology, there is certainly a supernatural selection in Religious life. While communities of Religious who opted for some vague New Age spirituality are aging and looking more like decaying infirmaries themselves, new Orders are forming with young and vibrant vocations. The cycle of decadence and renewal is part of the organic life of the Church and, while exacting a sad cost to souls, is also the engine of great hope.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sex Offenders & Capital Punishment

The fourth guiding criminal justice principle of the Lampstand Foundation is: Capital punishment is an appropriate response to the criminal evil of murder, rape, and pedophilia.

The reason for it being included as a guiding principle is the knowledge—noted in this story from the Kansas City Star—of the almost certain recidivistic behavior of certain types of sex-offenders when they are released from prison.

An excerpt.

“The twice-convicted sex offender has been charged in four more sexual assaults and is being investigated in five others — all of them strikingly similar to those that sent him to prison in the first place.

“It’s distressing for victims to see someone like that get out, ruin people’s lives, get out and ruin more people’s lives,” said Palle Rilinger, the executive director of the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault.

“Predicting future criminal behavior is an inexact science, but statistics tend to show that of all sex offenders…—[those] who have been convicted multiple times of attacking strangers — are among the most likely to commit new sex crimes when they get out.

“Past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior,” said Jill Levenson, an associate professor and researcher at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

“When someone has been caught and punished not once, but twice, for the same behavior, that indicates he will not be deterred in the future by the same rules and sanctions, she said.

“Such a person is very likely to continue to commit crimes, Levenson said.”

Monday, May 10, 2010

Prison Ministry

In this month’s issue of the New Oxford Review, there is a very interesting reply from Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer to a letter from a prisoner concerning prison ministry.

An excerpt from Fr. Euteneuer's reply.

“For many years I was involved in prison ministry. In fact, the very first confession I heard -- two days after I was ordained -- was that of a prisoner who was in jail for murder. (He had already confessed the murder in a previous confession.) When prisons receive any real attention from Christians, it is usually from Baptists who take seriously the call to evangelize in the Matthew 25. When Catholics come in, we are usually given minority status. Where the presence of Christians is negligible, Muslims can often be found recruiting aggressively.

“Ultimately, these environments, full of criminals, are also seedbeds for the works of the Evil One and therefore are in dire need of Christian ministry. The idea that a person goes to prison to become "reformed" is an absurdity. Oftentimes they become confirmed in their criminal ways.

“I would ask … anyone in prison ministry, to be of good cheer, fully confident that your work is blessed by God because it is a work that Christ explicitly asked His Church to carry out. If the "official" Church does not pay proper attention to this work of the Gospel, then those in authority will be held accountable before the Judgment Seat of God. Ours, however, is not to agonize over what others are not doing, but to do what we are supposed to do with greater fervor, asking God to sanctify us in the process.

“I would add that prison ministers can and should pray particular prayers in order to increase the effectiveness of their visits to those environments. These are the "binding" prayers that any Christian can pray in the Name of Jesus. The concept of "binding the strong man" derives from Mark 3:27, which speaks of breaking into the house of an evil man after binding him. It is an analogy of how the Holy Spirit works in taking over strongholds of evil. Accordingly, we can pray prayers of binding that will restrict the power of evil in any place and open up spiritual space for the action of grace to enter into men's hearts. We bind always "in the Name of Jesus," naming whatever evil spirit we may sense is present. Mentioned ... were spirits of theft, murder, violence, dissension, apathy, and lack of faith. Certainly there are others.

“In the Name of Jesus, good Christians can bind them all and see God's grace act much more efficiently even in the hearts of criminals. Good Friday showed us that there is hope for everyone: At least one criminal stole Heaven at the last moment of his life.”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Peter’s Work in America

The work of the Holy Father to restore the luster to the tarnished Church leadership in America grows with the added responsibilities of the newly appointed head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, as reported by the Catholic News Agency.

An excerpt.

“Vatican City, May 8, 2010 / 07:31 pm (CNA).- Today the Holy Father named Archbishop Jose H. Gomez as a member of the Special Council for America of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. The responsibility is one of many for the newly appointed head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“The Vatican's announcement of Archbishop Gomez' nomination was accompanied on Saturday by the news of the appointment of the Archbishop of Popayan, Columbia, Ivan Antonio Marin Lopez to the same Council.

“Archbishop Gomez comes into the new position from a background rich with experience in multicultural issues within the U.S. Church. In addition to a variety of other positions and responsibilities he currently holds, he is the chair of the U.S. bishop’s Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America, chair-elect of the Committee on Migration and is a founding member of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (C.A.L.L.).”

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Carceral World

One of the arguments abolitionists use against capital punishment is that the modern prison system is adequate to protect the innocent from the predator.

This article from the Austin Statesman is another in a long series of revelations of the relative ease of controlling outside events from inside.

An excerpt.

“Troubling new details surfaced Wednesday about the depth of illegal smuggling inside Texas' massive prison system, including revealing glimpses into how convicts may be operating drug- and money-laundering rackets with the help of guards and family members.

“The new information surfaced in 20 pages of court filings in Travis County, revealing that authorities are investigating a 21-year-old Waco woman and at least five convicts for alleged organized criminal activity at the Coffield Unit near Palestine in East Texas.

“According to a search-warrant affidavit, investigators listening in on phone calls made by several convicts at Coffield and intercepting ingoing and outgoing mail believe that some convicts are arranging for their family members to deposit money in one another's accounts, with the arranging inmate taking a cut of as much as 25 percent.

“Thousands of dollars were being funneled through the scheme, according to the affidavit. In another intercepted phone call, one convict admitted buying drugs from another convict — and "although he did not observe guards deliver any dope, he knew they had."

“According to the affidavit, the Waco woman "drops the dope off to someone, then the dope is brought into the prison by an unknown person."

“In one instance last month, the affidavit by prison investigator Manuel Fuentes states, a Coffield convict who is believed to be a point man in the alleged smuggling and money-laundering told his mother in a phone call that he would write her with details on how to handle money orders she was depositing into his prison account.

“The letter never left the prison through the regular mail, the affidavit states, and the investigator said he "believes that (the convict) received assistance from a (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) employee to deliver the letter" to the Waco woman, who authorities believe was acting as a go-between in the scheme.”

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sex Abuse in the Church

An excellent article from the Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

An excerpt.

“We live in a culture that celebrates progressive liberation from sexual taboos and constraints. The sexual transgressions of days gone by have been rapidly refashioned into the conventional sexualities of today; even more risqué sexualities like sadomasochism and polyamory are well on their way to becoming packaged and mainstreamed for popular consumption. But there are glaring exceptions to this trend, particularly when sexual relations involve abuse or exploitation. More to the point, contemporary culture now displays acutely heightened moral indignation toward one area of sexual transgression, the abuse and exploitation of children.

“In Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America, historian Philip Jenkins documents a veritable “revolution” in our moral response to child sexual abuse. There was a time when child molesters were brushed off with dismissive smirks and tawdry jokes. However, today, moral horror, not condescending humor, marks the public response to child abuse. Furthermore, in sharp contrast to more traditional patterns of concealment and strict confidentiality, recent social developments have created a climate more disposed to the disclosure of abuse. Jenkins seems to view this growing public indignation with a certain amount of intellectual cynicism, but our heightened moral sensitivity does resonate with what we now know of the deep harm experienced by victims of abuse.

“In the midst of these moral realignments, the Catholic Church appears to be caught in a deadly cultural cross-fire. The Church is widely mocked for its attempts to resist the ongoing liberalization of sexuality. At the same time, the Church has become the focus for intense public outrage insofar as it is perceived to be the showcase for the one form of sexual transgression that contemporary culture, with all its free-wheeling sexual transgressiveness, decisively condemns as beyond the moral pale.

“Some maintain the sense of “crisis” is largely manufactured, a product of a media frenzy that taps into deep strains of anti-Catholicism within modern culture. In “How Pedophilia Lost Its Cool,” Mary Eberstadt suggests that our hot indignation over pedophilia only began to truly flare up when this long-standing deviance became publicly associated with, and contaminated by, the bad name of “Catholicism.” In order to fuel their “hate-fest on the Catholic Church,” Eberstadt argues, liberal elites were forced to take up the cause of pedophilia bashing.

“There can be no doubt that various forms of anti-Catholicism eagerly consume the ongoing revelations of clerical sex abuse. But an all-too-generous flow of transgressions has been feeding these prejudices. The crisis, with its twin chasms of clerical abuse and episcopal cover-up, now seems to be expanding to global proportions. Recently, the Irish Church was shaken by two major reports documenting histories of criminal sexual abuse, complicity and concealment. Allegations of abuse are breaking out across Europe. In his pastoral letter to Irish Catholics Pope Benedict XVI concluded that the current crisis has “obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing”—a stunning assessment of the depth of the ecclesial devastation caused by clerical abuse.

“The growing distress over the ecclesial proportions of this crisis may even obscure attention to its dark roots. To some extent, labels like “child abuse” or “clerical abuse” do not adequately communicate the bitter evil inflicted on children. In the Irish Times, Mary Raftery opened her coverage of the “Dublin Report” with brutal images of the brew of sex, sadism and sacrilege that goes under the name of “child abuse” which are too horrific to be repeated. Graphic depictions of abuse shock and horrify, but, like images of genocide, they do force us to confront the actual trauma endured by victims. Whether wielding a sacred object, or in persona Christi, clerical abuse defiles the most profound boundaries of faith, trust, love and intimacy in a child’s life. What is the message of the crucified Christ in the face of such desecrations?

“The Church’s response to this evolving crisis has been, at least, disturbing. John Allen argues persuasively that we are in the midst of a major course correction with the papacy of Benedict XVI. On numerous fronts Benedict has pressed for a far more aggressive response to the abuse crisis than his predecessor. In his pastoral letter to Irish Catholics Benedict XVI argues that a post-Vatican II ecclesial culture of lax spirituality, misplaced concern for scandal and reputation, and poor canonical enforcement undermined traditional moral and juridical disciplines (art. 4). He lays blame at the feet of the Irish bishops for “grave errors of judgment” and grievous failures “to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse” (art. 11). However, the initial response to the letter by victims and commentators has been mixed. Nagging concerns continue to be raised about the Vatican’s role in contributing to a culture of concealment, the minimal outreach to victims of abuse, and an over-reliance on the internal disciplines of canon law.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Satanic Confusion

Satan—the loud voice of the world compared to the still small voice of Christ—has always had an easy time confusing humans about the truth, even when it is so clearly right in front of them, and in this time of massive information bouncing around the world at the speed of light, his task is often that much easier.

All the more reason for daily spiritual practice that involves prayer, communion, contemplation, or study that keeps us connected to the ways of the Church founded by the Way and the Truth and the Life.

Here is a marvelous book—The Line Through the Heart: Natural Law as Fact, Theory, and Sign of Contradiction, by J. Budziszewski, to add to your study time.

Professor Budziszewski is one of the very few Catholic thinkers who understand the traditional teaching of the Church supporting capital punishment, and one chapter of his book is devoted to that.

His ideas served as a valuable reference in our book, Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support.

We are very fortunate that the preface to his book is posted to the website of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

An excerpt.

“This book is about natural law – about the foundational principles of good and evil inscribed in created human nature. Although it reflects a single point of view, no one could fail to notice that it was put together from essays written at different times. For that reason, it may be helpful to say something about how the chapters fit together. To summarize them would be too much like giving away the ending of a novel. I do think that I ought to "motivate" them. Before even that, the design of the book should be explained, since I may seem to have given birth to Siamese twins – a short book about ethics, joined at the hip with another short book about politics. No, the two parts do make a single book.

“One excuse for connecting them is that the study of politics is a branch of the study of ethics. This old claim strikes most people as impractical and unrealistic, not to say bizarre. On the contrary, it is utterly hardheaded. What could be more impractical and unrealistic than to imagine that a bad man can be a great statesman, or that a people can have a wholly different government than it deserves?1 We may look at the matter from another side too. Ethics is the study of the good, and even a corrupt government rests on some corrupt idea of the good – for example, that the good is gaining power, amassing wealth, or protecting the position of the privileged. The politics of an age may rest on a crumbling foundation derived from a mistaken ethics, but it will have an ethical foundation.

“The second excuse for the structure of the book is that it offers a connecting term between its two parts: the concept of law. The foundational principles of good and evil are the natural or moral law; of regime design, constitutional law; and of day-to-day legislative enactment, ordinary law. Some people will consider this emphasis a good and timely thing. After all, despite what Pope Benedict XVI has aptly called the dictatorship of relativism, the natural law tradition is enjoying a certain renewal and refreshment. Other people will consider it a bad and untimely thing. I cannot help that; with two short exceptions, which I take up shortly, the rest of my excuse must be the rest of the book. But this brings us back to the chapters. …

“I anticipate that some readers of the sixth chapter may be surprised by the seventh, "Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice." A fashion on my own side of the question of human personhood is to say that it is always wrong to take life – that abortion, capital punishment, just war, and presumably self-defense are each wrong, always wrong, and wrong for all the same reasons. Against this "seamless garment" view, I defend the older tradition that the evil of murder lies in taking innocent life. Abortion, therefore, is different than the others. In particular, capital punishment has a necessary though limited place – not despite the sacredness of life, but because of it. Some thinkers in my own communion mistakenly plead the authority of the Church against this view. On the contrary, the papal magisterium has lately emphasized not that capital punishment is always wrong, but that under rightly ordered institutions it should be rare. And surely this teaching is true. Its much-neglected corollary is the importance of seeing to it that our institutions are ordered rightly. Presently, the various parts of the system of justice work at cross-purposes.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Comstat Works

Comstat—sometimes referred to as Compstat—policing, blogged on before, which grew out of the broken windows theory of policing, works; and this story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reveals its continued success.

An excerpt.

“As recently as three years ago, Milwaukee police officials were analyzing crime trends by reading printed incident reports and sticking pushpins representing weeks-old crimes into maps.

“On a recent Monday morning, however, members of the department's command staff gathered at their daily meeting and - using laptop computers and wall-mounted flat-screen TVs - reviewed interactive maps tracking crimes that had occurred just hours earlier.

“Those maps are available to officers in squad cars and department leaders alike. When combined with data on the activity of officers, from traffic stops to arrests, it provides a picture of how well crime-fighting strategies are being executed - and working.

“Department officials say a new commitment to technology is a key factor behind police statistics that show a 40.2% drop in reported violent crime in Milwaukee for the first quarter of 2010 when compared with the first quarter three years ago.

"We weren't being proactive," Assistant Police Chief James Harpole said. "We were being reactive to the data. Today, we try to get out in front of the data."

“The shift came rapidly for a department that historically has struggled to keep up with new technology.

“Within the last five years, previous computer systems meant to identify problematic officers and track crime both failed to work properly. The department is still wrestling with a digital radio system that became operational about five years later than projected, has run nearly $3 million over budget and is still generating complaints.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Immigration: One Catholic Perspective

As the subject heats up due to the passing of a law in Arizona, here is an excellent article from The Catholic Thing that presents the balanced approach, woven through the social teaching of the Church, one would hope Catholic leadership would espouse rather than politically inspired comments.

An excerpt.

“A seminarian I know, if you can believe this, spent several years after college in Arizona with the U.S. Border Patrol. He decided to enter the seminary after an uncle – a Jesuit – died. The only way he could really help people coming across the border illegally, he realized, was as a priest himself. Yet I have also heard him talk matter-of-factly about drug smugglers spraying Border Patrol agents with automatic weapons. He’s deeply sympathetic to illegals, but also aware that border problems run the gamut from hoards of largely harmless poor people to quite dangerous criminals, and everything in between.

“I wish our political class and some of our bishops were as realistic about the situation. The new Arizonan law on immigration is bad for many reasons, not least that it puts law enforcement officers in an impossible situation of guessing who might be illegal. Bad, but hardly the “Nazi” tactics that L.A.’s Cardinal Mahony called them recently (L.A.’s Latino mayor absurdly added that Latinos are “the Jews of the twenty-first century”). It’s not “racist” either – Arizona as the new Selma, Alabama, opined racial ambulance chaser Jesse Jackson. There’s evidence that Arizonans want to see more legal immigration. But it is a desperate effort to get someone somewhere to stop talking and do something about conditions intolerable to 70 percent of Arizonans. I suspect a fair slice of the other 30 percent also believe something, just not this, is needed to avert a crisis.

“On this issue, the Church ought to be especially careful with her moral authority, which ought to include moral clarity. Cardinal Mahoney’s recently designated successor, Archbishop José Gomez, issued a letter on immigration after he took over in San Antonio. He repeated Church teaching about the dignity of all people, even illegals, and our responsibilities towards them. But he wrote that we have to understand the anger many Americans feel at illegals breaking the law and causing multiple problems. Archbishop Gomez is Mexican-born and favors comprehensive immigration reform. But clearly he does not feel a need to ingratiate himself with Hispanic Catholics.”

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Church & the Roman Empire

I have been reading The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon, the Folio Society edition, and recently read this wonderful description of the formative roots of the Church.

“From the beginning of the world an uninterrupted series of predictions had announced and prepared the long-expected coming of the Messiah, who, in compliance with the gross apprehensions of the Jews, had been more frequently represented under the character of a King and Conqueror, than under that of a Prophet, a Martyr, and the Son of God. By his expiatory sacrifice the imperfect sacrifices of the temple were at once consummated and abolished. The ceremonial law, which consisted only of types and figures, was succeeded by a pure and spiritual worship, equally adopted to all climates, as well as to every condition of mankind; and to the initiation of blood, was substituted a more harmless initiation of water. The promise of divine favour, instead of being partially confined to the posterity of Abraham, was universally proposed to the freeman and the slave, to the Greek and to the barbarian, to the Jew and to the Gentile. Every privilege that could raise the proselyte from earth to heaven, that could exalt his devotion, secure his happiness, or even gratify that secret pride which, under the semblance of devotion, insinuates itself into the human heart, was still reserved for the members of the Christian Church; but at the same time all mankind was permitted, and even solicited, to accept the glorious distinction, which was not only proffered as a favour, but imposed as an obligation. It became the most sacred duty of a new convert to diffuse among his friends and relations the inestimable blessing which he had received, and to warn them against a refusal that would be severely punished as a criminal disobedience to the will of a benevolent but all-powerful Deity. (Volume II, p. 97)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Pilgrim Way

An editorial in America magazine reminds us of the sometimes sinful, but always redemptive, history of the people of the Church.

An excerpt.

“As a church we are a pilgrim people making our way together through history. Like Chaucer’s companions on the road to Canterbury, we have a variety of tales to tell and not all are edifying. The latest waves of the crisis of clerical sexual abuse of minors have made Catholics keenly aware that even in high places we are a company of sinners as well as saints, of fallible human beings as well as faithful followers of Jesus—everyone in need of the forgiveness Jesus proclaimed. That forgiveness is one of the religious experiences that binds us to one another along our pilgrim way.

“The rituals of confession and repentance remain among the most identifiable practices of Catholic life. Their centrality to the Catholic imagination has made the reluctance of the hierarchy to acknowledge successive revelations of molestation all the more painful for us all. The church’s identity as a community of forgiven sinners makes particularly credible the demands by victims for public confession and open reconciliation. Even the church’s most bitter critics have been unwitting witnesses to that Christian duty. That same Catholic sensibility made the recent encounter between Pope Benedict and the victims of abuse in Malta both necessary and affecting.

“The church has known dark times: domination by emperors, co-optation by feudal militarism and modern colonialism, gangland struggles by Roman families for control of the papacy, coercion of heretics and wars of religion. Still, we members of the church make pilgrimage together in hope that the church may be the visible expression in history of humanity’s new life in Christ. To us Jesus is the embodiment of fullest humanity and the model of its most appealing morality. Pope Benedict’s planned visit on July 4 to the tomb of St. Celestine V, a hermit who was elected pope and then resigned the papacy, will hold up for view a penitent form of Christian life marked by meekness, prayer and self-sacrifice, close to the pattern of Jesus that Christians strive to imitate.

“One reason Catholics love the church is that it fosters just that sort of holiness. Even as the secular world exposes the hypocrisy of church officials, it acknowledges implicitly that the followers of Christ hold themselves to a “higher law” and try to practice a more demanding love. Some believe that calling is humanly impossible; others, even if they allow the Gospel little direct claim on their own lives, are disappointed upon failing to find holiness where they always presumed it might be found in a moment of need. But Catholics love the church because here we have companions who do strain, in their stumbling ways, to lead their lives by the light of the Sermon on the Mount.”

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Jail & Prison Food

It is generally pretty bad, but an innovative and entrepreneurial move to allow prisoners to order in, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, makes it better, while making good sense and some money.

An excerpt.

“In a bid to raise cash and keep the peace in crowded jails, wardens nationwide are offering inmates the chance to order meatball subs, cheeseburgers, chicken parmesan—even a "Pizza and Wings Party Pack," complete with celery, blue cheese and a Pepsi.

“The program goes beyond the old-fashioned prison commissary, with its cup-a-soups and bags of chips, and it can be quite lucrative for corrections departments.

"We have to be creative in tough fiscal times," said Edwin G. Buss, commissioner of Indiana's Department of Correction.

“But critics worry the service will trigger jealousies, promote unhealthy diets and coddle prisoners.

“The service, launched in 2006 by food-service giant Aramark Corp., took off in the past two years amid the recession. Inmates—or, more often, their relatives—place orders on Aramark's "iCare" Web site. The company tailors its menus to each jail's rules.

“Prices generally run $7 to $12 for a hot meal and $20 to $100 for a junk-food box filled with beef jerky, iced cookies, vanilla cappuccino or other goodies not available in the commissary.

“The Indiana state prison system is on track to make more than $2 million this year on sales from the service. In San Antonio, Texas, the Bexar County jail, which makes 45 cents on every dollar in sales, projects its revenue could hit $500,000.”