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.”