Monday, February 28, 2011

Major Change in American Catholic Leadership

As reported by the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

“Cardinal Roger Mahony walked slowly across the sanctuary of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, leaning softly on his shepherd's staff as he completed one of his last public acts as archbishop of Los Angeles. Passing the altar on one side and his assembled bishops on the other, he finally reached the man who was taking over his position as head of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese.

“Mahony handed the crooked staff, known as a crosier, to Archbishop Jose Gomez, symbolizing one of the most ancient traditions of the church, the transfer of authority from one bishop to another.

"It makes me want to cry," whispered Yolie Ramos to her husband, Manny. The Ramoses were seated in the transept to the right of the altar, among about 3,500 Catholic faithful who packed the cathedral on Sunday for the first of two Masses that ceremonially passed the staff.

“The ceremonies fell on Mahony's 75th birthday, the day he was obligated to submit his letter of resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. That was done by fax, and a letter from the pope was expected to be faxed back on Tuesday, at which point Gomez officially will become archbishop of Los Angeles.

“In recognition of the demographic changes that have transformed the archdiocese in the 25 years since Mahony became archbishop in late 1985, the first Mass was conducted in English, the second in Spanish. It seemed a fitting end for a cardinal who dedicated much of his career to the cause of Latino immigrants and a fitting beginning for an archbishop, Gomez, who is an immigrant from Mexico.

“In his homily Gomez paid tribute to Mahony and brought the audience to its feet in a standing ovation when he said to the cardinal: "So, thank you very much. Muchas gracias. Well done, good and faithful servant."

“He then led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday."

“The transition marks the end of a tumultuous quarter-century during which Mahony earned a reputation as a progressive prelate dedicated to immigrant rights, economic justice and an expanded role for women and the laity — and then saw that record sullied by a scandal that led to a $660-million settlement with victims of sexual abuse by priests.

“Many wonder what it will mean to have an archbishop who was ordained in Opus Dei, a Catholic organization that takes a traditional approach and has a reputation — ill-deserved, its supporters insist — for secrecy and association with the political right.

“Gomez has said he will build on Mahony's accomplishments and is "inspired by his love for the immigrant, for the stranger in our midst," a reminder that he shares his predecessor's dedication to immigration reform.”

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Programs That Work

Many of the nonprofit organizations that are primarily funded by government are seeing their funds shrink or at worst, disappear, as government struggles with less revenue.

This article from Governing suggests ways to determine what programs work before reducing or removing funding, which is a very good idea.

An excerpt.

“Nearly all states have imposed some level of budget cuts -- some quite deep -- since the recession began in 2008. But very few have established systematic ways of sorting programs that are working from those that aren't.

“That's problematic. Without a serious evaluation of program effectiveness, politics tend to dictate important budget decisions, and arguments over stakeholder interests and political palatability drown out important questions of real-world impact.

“As a result, states and cities respond to record budget shortfalls with across-the-board cuts, and some vital public services end up on the chopping block unnecessarily.

“That's why we've developed the "Reviewing What Works" tools, a process for evaluating the effectiveness of government programs. They are part of a Center for American Progress report entitled The Secret to Programs that Work.

“The key to the Reviewing What Works approach is an interagency assessment of effectiveness with specific, concrete steps to compare various programs. The tools include a series of basic questions that should be asked of every existing program: What impact has it had on the problem it's trying to solve? How does it compare to other programs with similar goals? Is it well run?

“Given the grim budget picture, statehouses need to focus on cost effectiveness.

"Openly measuring the performance of our public institutions, and communicating that performance to citizens, has never been more important," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said at Governing magazine's annual Outlook in the States and Localities conference. "The states that win will be the states that...manage for results."

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Feminist Church

This is an excellent article about the feminist nature of the Catholic Church, from America magazine.

An excerpt.

“About 13 years ago, I presented a paper at a conference on “Women’s Health and Human Rights” at the Vatican. A highlight of the event was a special audience for the conference participants with Pope John Paul II. To the surprise and delight of his listeners, he benignly proclaimed, “Io sono il Papa feminista,” “I am the feminist pope.”

“He meant it. In 1988, Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic letter “Mulieris Dignitatem” or “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.” Repeatedly he called for the development of a “new feminism” designed to honor and celebrate the “feminine genius” in all walks of life, in the world of work as well as the domestic world.

“If feminism is ultimately about affirming the dignity and well-being of women, the Roman Catholic Church as a whole is a feminist church in many crucial ways. It has done an enormous amount of good for women, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, in precarious circumstances throughout the world. To take only one example, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Gender & Women runs programs around the world that help women organize into cooperatives for the production and marketing of goods; it also provides shelters for basic needs, educational programs in literacy and training in business knowledge and empowerment.

“At the same time, it is safe to say that many people do not share the late pope’s easy association of feminism and the papacy. In fact, there are some—among both secular feminists and Catholic feminists—who would bristle at the association. Secular feminists have frequently decried Catholicism as being opposed to the flourishing of women, particularly by its opposition to contraception and abortion. And officials in the Vatican have regularly published broad denunciations of feminism, castigating its destructive effects on society and the family, particularly upon children, both born and unborn.

“Catholic women can sometimes find themselves caught in the middle, loving their church and their faith but dispirited by occasional statements that suggest that the Vatican views them as disordered or defiled simply because they are women. Last July the Vatican caused a public relations firestorm after its announcement of two grave crimes under canon law: sexual abuse by members of the clergy and the attempt to ordain a woman. Even women who support the church’s restriction of the priesthood to males winced at the decision to group these two acts in the same document.

“In order to sort out the convergences and divergences between Catholicism and secular feminism, there must be nuanced historical, cultural and geographic studies. The tensions between the two are not the same in the United States as they are in sub-Saharan Africa, for example. At the same time, nuanced, rigorous, comparative analysis of the normative frameworks of Catholicism and feminism sorely needs to be undertaken.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Neighborhoods & Social Connection, Part II

Following up on yesterday’s post, this article from Chiesa examining the current revolts in the Middle East, validates the new global community that is growing as the web grows.

An excerpt.

“But the revolt that is inflaming the Arab countries today, from Egypt to Yemen, is not going up against foreign powers: Israel, the United States, the West. Much less against the Christians. The enemies are internal, they are tyrannical regimes. The demands are simple. The first of the revolts, in Tunisia, stemmed from inflation in the price of bread.

“Khaled Fouad Allam, an Algerian with Italian citizenship, professor of Islamic studies at the universities of Trieste and Urbino, has explained to the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference, "Avvenire," that the protagonists of the current revolt are the young generations:

"The young people between 18 and 30 have a religious practice of a devotional type. Islam is no longer seen as the solution, as would probably have been the case ten or fifteen years ago. The young no longer believe that the Qur'an will give them work, as their fathers might have believed. They are believers and practitioners, but they do not have any ideological baggage. From Yemen to Algeria, we aren't hearing any religious slogans."

“And again:

"Then there is the aspect of globalization: a global awareness of democracy is developing. A young man from Algiers who corresponds over the internet with a friend in Rome asks himself why in the world there is freedom on the other side of the Mediterranean, but not in his country. This creates a very powerful sentiment. What counts is not computer technology in itself, but its effect, which is an acceleration of the maturation of awareness."

“The revolt does not show any precise direction. It does not have leaders. It does not have great organizations. "It will take a long time," Allam warns. Without predictable results.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Neighborhoods & Social Connection

Bemoaning the loss of the neighborhoods of the past, as this article from America does, forgets that the new neighborhoods are planetary, religious, intellectual and ideological, animated by the vast neighborhood of the web.

Though many struggle to come to terms with this universal neighborhood, wishing to revert to the past, it is impossible.

If we have learned anything in our human history, it is that the motion is always about change and the future, mostly anguished about, but irrevocable nonetheless.

The greatest neighborhood, with ever growing relevance as the traditional physical one continues to diminish, is the spiritual one of the universal Church emanating from a multitude of physical buildings from which the Mass and dogma of the Church continue to be practiced as they were two thousand years ago, which a Catholic magazine certainly knows about.

An excerpt.

“While Americans were trying to make sense of the mass shooting in Tucson last month, public debate was renewed on the ban of automatic weapons, the need for improved mental health referral and the vitriolic political atmosphere. Philip Rucker of The Washington Post, however, pointed in a different direction. “He didn’t know most of his neighbors,” Mr. Rucker wrote in a description that could apply just as much to Jared Loughner, the loner who took six lives, as to the resident Mr. Rucker was interviewing. “Socially, everyone keeps to themselves,” the neighbor of Loughner’s admitted.

“Individualism has always been prized in the United States for the blessings it confers: freedom for persons to define themselves as they wish and to explore the world on their own terms. But there is also a serious downside, never as vividly evident as it was in Tucson when one individual ran wild a few weeks ago, or in the 24 other mass shootings that have taken place in the past decade, or the 43 during the 1990s, or the 32 during the 1980s.

“If the Constitution enshrines the rights of the individual, the history of this nation qualified them by building in a social dimension. Every New England village had a town hall in which people met to debate local issues, and there were clubs and organizations that people joined to educate or entertain themselves. These affiliations did not cancel the American pursuit of individuality, but they modified it by generating a sense of the social self—an understanding that each person is in part a product of society and is also responsible to society.

“Even as the United States evolved from a nation of farmsteads and rural communities into a network of large cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Americans did not lose a sense of the social self. The grange halls may have vanished, but people somehow found a sense of community within the large urban setting. In the early postwar years, the neighborhood was a buffer against the anonymity of the metropolis. Stickball games in the street, conversations with neighbors sitting on their front porches or stoops, butcher shops in which customers were on a first-name basis with the man behind the counter, a policeman who greeted everyone as he walked his beat and gossips who took the measure of everyone—all were familiar features of the old neighborhood. It was a time when people in the neighborhood had a claim on, even if not a high regard for, one another.

“The neighborhood and the sense of social self that it nourished survived the rise of technology, the development of new means of transportation and communication, the migration from rural farms, the growth of large cities and the shrinking size of the family. The decline of the social self, then, is not the direct result of technology or the changes it wrought.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Death Penalty Profiles

In a wonderful—but gruesome—public service, the Orange County Register is profiling all of the murders on death row sentenced by Orange County judges.

The introduction to the series is here, the next two profiles are here, profiles three and four here, five and six here.

To read more of the series just type oc death row in their search.

An excerpt from the introduction.

“When serial killer Rodney James Alcala was hustled off to death row at San Quentin State Prison in April, he joined 57 other killers condemned to die by Orange County judges.

“The Orange County list begins with John Galen Davenport, who was sentenced in 1981 for a vicious torture, rape and murder a year earlier. He is still appealing his case 30 years later.

“Alcala – the latest addition – would have been in front of Davenport on the list had his original death sentence in 1980 for kidnapping and murdering a 12-year-old Huntington Beach girl remained intact.

“But that conviction and death sentence was reversed on appeal (as was a 1986 conviction and death sentence). Alcala has been in the court system ever since, and his appeal of his third death sentence is just getting started.

“Superior Court judges in the Santa Ana courthouse have been adding Orange County convicts to death row for 31 years.


“The Orange County Register has compiled summaries of each of the 58 killers, detailing their crimes, their victims and the state of their appeals.

“The Register will begin publishing that list, two at a time, beginning Monday on

“The first death-penalty trial of 2011 in Orange County is under way before Superior Court Judge John D. Conley.

“Reputed gang member Stephenson Choi Kim, 31, could receive a death sentence if he is convicted of first-degree murder of Venus Hyun during a gang shooting in 2004, if the jury also finds that the slaying was committed during the "special circumstance" of killing for the benefit of his gang, and if the jury finds that death is the more appropriate punishment than life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“And then Conley would have to agree with the jury's decision and impose a death sentence.

“Orange County has more death row inmates now (58) than any other county except Los Angeles (with 220) and Riverside (70), according to the California Department of Corrections. San Diego (41) is a distant fourth, followed by San Bernardino (37) and Sacramento (35).”

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sisters of Mary

The wonderful order who runs the school in our parish—noted in the last two paragraphs of the excerpt—is planning to build a priory that will last 200 years, as reported in this article from California Catholic Daily.

An excerpt.

“The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, plan to construct a $30 million priory on a 38-acre parcel of land in Loomis capable of accommodating 100 sisters.

“With the extraordinary rate of vocations coming to the Dominican Sisters of Mary, the building of a new priory is a timely response and a tremendous opportunity to expand the teaching apostolate of the community,” says a statement on ‘Our California Expansion’ on the order’s website.

“The land on which the new priory will be built was donated to the sisters by Fred and Joan Cordova, which permitted the order to open a mission in Loomis in 2007.

“Sister Mary Samuel Handwerker, who is overseeing the construction project, told the Loomis News the new priory will be a two-story, 135,000-square-foot structure with a chapel in the California Mission style of architecture.

“We’re going to build something that will last 200 years,” Sister Mary Samuel told the newspaper. “Most of the property will remain in a natural state.”

“Because of the price tag – an estimated $30 million – the priory will probably be built in phases as money is raised, Sister Mary Samuel told the News.

“After receiving permission from Bishop William K. Weigand to send Sisters to teach within the Diocese of Sacramento, the Sisters accepted the 38-acre land donation in Loomis for a future priory,” says the statement on the order’s website. “Upon receiving an invitation by Bishop Jaime Soto to administer and teach in a diocesan school, the community assumed the administration of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary school in the fall of 2010.”

“Five Sisters presently serve as a principal and four teachers at the Sacramento school,” the statement continues. “Three additional Sisters are continuing the community’s presence in Loomis by working on expansion plans and fundraising through a new branch of the Sisters’ Mission Advancement Office.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

More Catholic Priests

As this article from the Catholic News Agency notes, the growth has been good, and recently, even better.

An excerpt.

“Vatican City, Feb 11, 2011 / 05:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- There are more than 5,000 more Catholic priests globally in 2009 than there were in 1999, according to official Church statistics.

“The Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano newspaper anticipated the news from the soon-to-be released 2009 almanac prepared by the Vatican’s Central Office of Church Statistics.

“The statistics reveal that there were 410,593 priests in the world in 2009 compared to 405,009 in 1999. The number of diocesan priests among these increased by over 10,000 while the number of those belonging to religious orders fell by nearly 5,000.

“In North America, as well as Europe and Oceania, the numbers decreased for both diocesan and religious priests. Africa and Asia, however, brought up the overall figures with a more than 30 percent increase on both continents.

“Europe still has nearly half of the world’s priests, but the “old continent” is gradually losing weight on the world stage.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Solidarity & Subsidiarity

Two important aspects of the social teaching of the Church—both of which are deeply connected to nonprofit work—that have been traditionally misunderstood, which this article from Catholic Culture examines.

An excerpt.

“Over the past generation or so, there has been a serious flaw in the implementation of Catholic social thought in the United States. Most bishops and other Catholic leaders have promoted big government solutions to social problems with little thought to the negative consequences of subordinating every aspect of the social order to the power of the State. Although this is slowly beginning to change as our Bishops find themselves in an increasingly adversarial relationship with government on strict moral grounds, it is important to observe that this long-time default position has been derived from a false understanding of the Catholic principle of solidarity.

“Many have confused solidarity with the adoption of governmental social programs. But in his social encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict identified this as an error when he wrote: “Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone, and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State” (38). He also discussed the propensity to rely on large, impersonal institutions, which can never be a substitute for solidarity:

“Unfortunately, too much confidence was placed in those institutions, as if they were able to deliver the desired objective automatically. In reality, institutions by themselves are not enough, because integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone. (11)

“It is necessary to emphasize this point: Human development involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity. Yet this free assumption of responsibility in solidarity is precisely what is lacking when we turn to government to implement broad social solutions.

“In fact, a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity requires engagement with another key Catholic social principle, namely subsidiarity. The meaning of subsidiarity is that things should be done on the lowest level possible, and that if assistance is needed from higher levels of organization, the higher levels should, whenever possible, assist the lower levels rather than replace them. Subsidiarity is essential to human dignity because it ensures that people are directly involved in the solutions to their problems, and that these solutions are implemented and controlled at the levels “closest to home”, where they can be influenced or even managed by those most affected.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sainthood for Jacques & Raissa Maritain

Once you begin to delve deeply into the writings and life of this extraordinary couple, it becomes clear that they are indeed saints, and now, from Rome Reports, comes word that a beautification process could soon begin.

The story.

“February 8, 2011. The sainthood process is a lengthy procedure. It's even longer and more complicated when you are dealing with the sainthood of a couple, like these two French intellectuals. Born into a Protestant family, Jacques Maritain and his wife, Raissa, a Russian Jewish émigré, converted to Catholicism, after studying the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Their sainthood would serve as an enduring example of a holy marriage.

“They met in 1900 at the Sorbonne in Paris. Together they searched for life's truths through philosophy. Every time they pondered a philosophical notion, they thought they had come closer to the truth, only to find that they had converted themselves into what Raissa Maritain called a “metaphysical opium”. It was this desperation that led them to consider suicide.

“The truth that they were looking for was described in the philosophical christian studies of Saint Thomas Aquinas and this is the main reason why they converted to Catholicism.

Víctor Soldevila
Pont. John Paul II Institute on Marriage and Family

That unrelenting pursuit of the truth of God from an intellectual standpoint and how they met with friends, in the same search, at times from different points of view, but always with this longing to find the Truth of God. Who is God? And doing so as a couple. That is, not only him as a teacher, but also her as a true intellectual in this search.

Mons. Jean Laffitte
Pontifical Council for Families

More than 50 people, celebrities, artists, writers converted themselves at their own homes. They met once a week at home with these artists and writers and friends talked about all issues. They had spiritually fruitful intellectual thought.”

"The relationship they lived in their marriage was also reflected in their philosophical reasoning. Raissa Maritain completed the entries that her husband Jacques made. This profound quest for deep, theological and philosophical answers to the main questions surrounding faith, is the main reason why this couple is being considered for sainthood.

Víctor Soldevila
Pont. John Paul II Institute on Marriage and Family

In couple life, John Paul II spoke of conjugal love. It's in this dedication to another that God reveals Himself. The measure of this dedication to another is based on the divine life in the sacraments in the life of the Church, like this dedication to another that there creates a structure, a building block of holiness that is very different, depending on each person.”

A building block of holiness that might just lead this couple to the altar in marriage once more.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Clerical Sexual Abuse Charges

In the continuing scandal involving the Catholic Church, a recent Philadelphia grand jury reports more horrible acts by priests, covered-up by a diocesan official, as reported by the Washington Post; and there is another story, from the New York Times, about the sexual abuse problems of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands.

This will continue to be one of the major impediments to criminal conversions unless there is a deep understanding that it is not the institutional Church governed by men who have been susceptible to the rule of Satan since the beginning, that one is converted to, but the eternal Church, and here the rule is “With Peter, To Christ, Through Mary.”

An excerpt from the Washington Post story.

“PHILADELPHIA -- Two Roman Catholic priests, a former priest and a Catholic school teacher were charged Thursday with raping young boys, while a former high-ranking church official was accused of transferring problem priests to new parishes without warning anyone of prior sex-abuse complaints.

“The charges stemmed from a two-year grand jury investigation into priest abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the second such inquiry in the city.

“In the rare, if not unprecedented, move, the grand jury charged Monsignor William Lynn with endangering children in his role as secretary for clergy under former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

“Lynn, 60, had a duty to protect children in the five-county archdiocese and refer priests with known sexual problems for rehabilitation or prosecution, District Attorney Seth Williams said in announcing the charges.

"He instead lied to parishioners and went out of his way to reassign priests without telling pastors or principals . that they were pedophiles," Williams said.

“Lynn's defense lawyer said the two endangerment counts should not apply because Lynn did not have any children under his care. He also questioned the merits of the counts, which carry a maximum 14-year prison term.

"We certainly don't concede for a moment that he knew he was putting children at risk," lawyer Tom Bergstrom told The Associated Press.

“While American dioceses have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to abuse victims to settle civil lawsuits in recent years, criminal charges in clergy sex abuse cases have been rare.

“People who were molested as children often wait for decades before gaining the courage to come forward - usually long after the statute of limitation for criminal charges has run out. A small number of accused clergy have been prosecuted and convicted since 2002, when the clergy sex abuse crisis erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston. However, no bishop or church administrator has been taken to trial over their failures to protect children from accused priests.

“Lynn featured prominently in a scathing 2005 grand jury report that found 63 priests in the Philadelphia archdiocese had been credibly accused of child sexual assault over several decades while local church officials turned a blind eye. Frustrated prosecutors then concluded, though, that they could not file any criminal charges because the statute of limitations on the crimes had expired.

“Pennsylvania has since revised laws to give child sex-assault victims more time to report abuse, while the archdiocese under Cardinal Justin Rigali has pledged to refer credible complaints to law enforcement."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cell Phones & Capital Punishment

One of the major reasons given by Catholics involved in the capital punishment abolition movement is that current prison technology protects the innocent from the aggressor, as the Catechism—note highlighted section—states:

“2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

“If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

“Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (highlighting added)

However, as reported by National Public Radio, prison technology is not adequate to protect the innocent from the aggressor, as the proliferation of cell phones in the hands of prisoners increases, enabling them to reach out.

An excerpt.

“By all accounts, California prison inmates are keeping up with technology. Using smart phones, they are texting, surfing the Web and even posting videos to YouTube.

“One inmate even shot and narrated a video on his cell phone camera while guards tried to put down a riot; Sacramento TV station KCRA aired the footage last year.

"I gotta go right now," the prisoner-narrator says on the video before he abruptly signs off.

“Thousands of these phones have been found, hidden under bunks or even in inmates' pockets. The prisons say it's dangerous because convicts can use the phones to stay in touch with other criminals. But California has yet to find a way to stop them.

'A Lucrative Football'

"It's really frightening that they would be able to post video from a phone," says Joe Baumann, a correctional officer at the the California Rehabilitation Center, a state prison in Norco. He says 10 to 15 phones are found each week. They're smuggled in in all sorts of ingenious ways.

"We had a case recently where we had a gentlemen pull up to the fence with a football," he says. With a strong arm, the man easily tossed the football over the electrified fence. There were 27 cell phones and chargers stuffed inside the pigskin. Each phone is worth about $1,000 behind bars.

"That's a pretty lucrative football," Baumann says.

“But it's not just outsiders smuggling the thousands of phones into state prisons every year. State analysts say the primary source of unauthorized phones is the prison staff.

“Last year, one guard claimed he made $150,000 smuggling phones. He was fired but never charged with anything.

“Richard Subia, of California's Department of Corrections, says smuggling cell phones to convicts isn't a crime.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

American Manufacturing

Having heard for years about the dwindling ability of America to manufacture anything, it is heartening to read that all of that is generally nonsense, as expressed in this article from the Boston Globe.

An excerpt.

“IN ECONOMICS as in apparel, most fashions come and go. But like the navy blazer or the little black dress, bewailing the decline of American manufacturing never seems to go out of style.

“They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks

"Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back.’’

“So sang Bruce Springsteen in “My Hometown,’’ a hit song from his 1984 album, “Born in the U.S.A.’’ More than a quarter-century later, that sentiment (if not the song) is as popular as ever.

“You know, we don’t manufacture anything anymore in this country,’’ says Donald Trump in an interview with CNNMoney. “We do health care; we do lots of different services. But . . . everything is made in China, for the most part.’’

“The Donald has his idiosyncrasies, but on this issue he is squarely in the mainstream.

“A recent Heartland Monitor survey finds “clear anxiety about the decades-long employment shift away from manufacturing to service jobs,’’ National Journal’s Ron Brownstein reported in December. The “decline of US manufacturing’’ is giving Americans a “sense of economic precariousness’’ — only one in five believe that the United States has the world’s strongest economy, versus nearly half who think China is in the lead. “Near the root of the unease for many of those polled is the worry that the United States no longer makes enough stuff.’’ When asked why US manufacturing jobs have declined, 58 percent cite off-shoring by American companies to take advantage of lower labor costs.

“There’s just one problem with all the gloom and doom about American manufacturing. It’s wrong.

“Americans make more “stuff’’ than any other nation on earth, and by a wide margin. According to the United Nations’ comprehensive database of international economic data, America’s manufacturing output in 2009 (expressed in constant 2005 dollars) was $2.15 trillion. That surpassed China’s output of $1.48 trillion by nearly 46 percent. China’s industries may be booming, but the United States still accounted for 20 percent of the world’s manufacturing output in 2009 — only a hair below its 1990 share of 21 percent.

“The decline, demise, and death of America’s manufacturing sector has been greatly exaggerated,’’ says economist Mark Perry, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “America still makes a ton of stuff, and we make more of it now than ever before in history.’’ In fact, Americans manufactured more goods in 2009 than the Japanese, Germans, British, and Italians — combined.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Recidivism Report

A major new report from the Council of State Governments Justice Center has been released.

While it is primarily another venture in sifting through the debris of past rehabilitative program failure while generating much the same type of service-based approach, the section on place-based reentry focus (broken-windows policing turned into broken-communities treatment) is interesting. (p. 41)

There is also an acknowledgement that the key to successful reentry is changing behavior. (p. 26)

An excerpt from the press release.


“In April 2009, Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) called on the Council of State Governments and the Pew Center on the States to convene state and federal leaders for a summit on the latest knowledge about reducing recidivism and applying the justice reinvestment approach to manage the growth in corrections populations nationwide.

“In January 2010, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, in partnership with the Pew Center on the States, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Public Welfare Foundation hosted the first national summit on justice reinvestment. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressmen Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Adam Schiff (D-WA) delivered remarks at the summit. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered remarks via a previously taped message. The summit was attended by a broad cross-section of leaders in government and criminal justice who expressed interest in learning about data-driven, fiscally responsible policies and practices that can increase public safety and reduce recidivism and spending on corrections.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

US Bishops & Death Penalty

US bishops following the guidance of the politically liberal secular world is not a new phenomena.

It characterized the Cardinal Bernardin machine written about recently by George Weigel in his article for First Things The End of the Bernardin Era: The rise, dominance, and decline of a culturally accommodating Catholicism” — in which he concluded: “The Bernardin Era was one of institutional maintenance and bureaucratic expansion in which a liberal consensus dominated both the internal life of the Church and the Church’s address to public policy.”

It has manifested itself in the call for abolition of the death penalty—recently arising in Ohio, as reported by the Associated Press (AP), in opposition to traditional Catholic teaching, which Lampstand has published a book about, with excerpts on our website.

An excerpt from the AP story.

“COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati and Bishop Frederick Campbell of Columbus are among 10 Catholic church leaders in Ohio who have signed a statement urging the state to stop using the death penalty, weeks after an Ohio Supreme Court justice issued the same call.

“Ohio put eight people to death last year, the most since 1949, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

“The statement signed by the Catholic bishops said they believe capital punishment is wrong in nearly all cases and that "just punishment can occur without resorting to the death penalty."

“Former state prisons director Terry Collins and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer also recently called for an end to capital punishment in Ohio. Pfeifer, a Republican, helped write Ohio's death penalty law and was one of its leading proponents as a state legislator in the 1970s and 1980s, but he said it's being used in cases for which it wasn't intended.

"I think the time's right on this one," he said last month. "You have Republicans in every direction. . With that political configuration, it would be the most opportune time to seriously debate and discuss whether or not we have the death penalty."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Liberation Theology, Still Hanging Around

It has been, and sadly, continues to be, a very corrosive movement within the Church, though it was addressed magisterially by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the 1980’s with two documents authored by then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI: Instruction on Certain Aspects of “The Theology of Liberation" in 1984, and Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation in 1986.

In this article from Catholic News, an archbishop relates his encounter with it, which almost drove him from the priesthood.

An excerpt.

“VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Brazilian archbishop who now heads the congregation for religious said he almost abandoned the seminary and the Catholic Church because of the ideological excesses that emerged in the early years of liberation theology.

"Personally, I lived with a lot of anguish during the years of the birth of liberation theology," Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Feb. 2.

“In January, Pope Benedict XVI appointed the former archbishop of Brasilia to head the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

“The 63-year-old archbishop said he was studying theology in Rome when the liberation theology movement was building in Latin America, and it was at that time that "I came very close to abandoning my priestly vocation and even the church."

“But a strong relationship with the Focolare movement and a dedication to its spirituality of unity "saved me," he said.

“Archbishop Braz de Aviz said he appreciated that liberation theology promoted the preferential option for the poor, which represents "the church's sincere and responsible concern for the vast phenomenon of social exclusion."

“But while liberation theology, which saw a strong tie between the spiritual liberation from sin and the need for temporal liberation from poverty and social ills, had positive elements, there were tendencies that needed correction, he said.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prepared two documents in the 1980s "correcting issues linked to using the Marxist method in the interpretation of reality," he said. Christians must understand the option for the poor as a religious obligation and not part of an ideology, he said.”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Europe & the Death Penalty

Charles Lane, author of an excellent book about the death penalty Stay of Execution: Saving the Death Penalty from Itself—profiled in an earlier post—has penned this interesting death penalty article in the Washington Post.

An excerpt.

“According to political stereotypes, Europeans are worldly, realistic moral relativists while Americans, with our "exceptionalism" and periodic crusades to democratize the world, are comparatively idealistic. On one issue, though, the roles are reversed. America retains the death penalty, with all of its gloomy assumptions about human nature and grim moral trade-offs. Europe, by contrast, views it as immoral per se, a violation of human rights and basic human dignity. No country that practices capital punishment can be a member of the European Union.

“I don't happen to agree that the issue is quite so black and white, and even wrote a small book to explain why. Still, I try to accept Europe's moral absolutism on the death penalty in good faith -- the criminological equivalent of pacifism, not a cheap anti-American posture. Europe's hectoring may even benefit the United States, to the extent that it forces us to confront the very real imperfections in our system.

“But just when I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, some Europeans go and do something irresponsible like restricting the export of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, to the United States -- because some death penalty states use it in lethal injections. Not only is this gesture unlikely to prevent any executions -- it actually could put the lives and health of innocent Americans at risk.

“Here's why. Sodium thiopental has long been a mainstay of general anesthesia; the World Health Organization lists it as an "essential medicine" for any health-care system. In the United States, a newer drug, propofol, has mostly -- but not entirely -- replaced thiopental. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, sodium thiopental "is still considered a first-line anesthetic in many cases including those involving geriatric, neurologic, cardiovascular and obstetric patients, for whom the side effects of other medications could lead to serious complications."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Opus Dei Film

In wonderful news from Spero News, the film on the founder's life will come out this spring.

An excerpt.

"Due out on May 6 is 'There be Dragons,' a fictionalized account of the life of Josemaria Escriva - a Spanish priest who in the cauldron of the political and social upheavals of mid-20th century Spain was to found the Catholic movement known as Opus Dei.

"The film, which some may see as a rejoinder to the sensational 'DaVinci Code,' which sought to demonize Opus Dei, follows the life of young Josemaria and his erstwhile friend Manolo as they choose different paths as Europe rages in the fight between the Communist, Fascist, Anarchist, and Christian perspectives.

"There is lots of action in the film, besides beautiful costuming and cinematography shot on location in Spain and Argentina. Versimilitude is lent also by period music that will be familiar especially to any one who knows about the bloody Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s. An international cast, that includes cameos from Geraldine Chaplin and Derek Jacobi (who starred in 'I,Claudius'), spoke well to this movie buff and others who saw a pre-release cut. One viewer, Devin Donnelly of Michigan, said "I loved it. It is on par with other films directed by Roland Joffe. I can't wait for its release." Joffe is the director of 'Dragons' as he was for one of the best films of the 1980s, 'The Mission,' which starred Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro."

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Scared Straight Fails

In this story from the Baltimore Sun, the research results from past scared straight efforts—proving the program concept is a failure, actually making the problem worse in some cases—are meant to discourage those who are trying to rebirth the effort.

This effort has been added to our compilation of failed reentry programs in the April 24, 2010 blog post.

An excerpt from the Baltimore Sun article.

“Scared straight" programs have long been wildly popular in this country as a get-tough response to juvenile crime. They typically involve bringing at-risk youths into an adult prison, where they are confronted — in shocking and brutal fashion — by adult inmates. These programs may include tours of the facility and personal stories from prisoners and may even integrate the youths into the prison population for up to a day. Experiencing the harsh reality of life behind bars is thought to deter kids from a life of crime by frightening them into changing their behavior.

“The A&E Network is currently airing "Beyond Scared Straight," a series highlighting four of these programs across the country. A recent episode followed five youths who were brought to the Maryland Correctional Institution at Jessup, which houses more than 1,000 inmates. These youths came face to face with what the A&E website described as "menacing inmates, including convicted murderers, [who] surround the kids and taunt them." The network portrays such programs as effective in keeping youths from becoming lifelong criminals.

“Unfortunately, the research tells us otherwise: "scared straight" is not only ineffective but is potentially harmful. And it may run counter to the law.

“Anthony Petrosino and a team of researchers from the Campbell Collaboration, [at the jump type “scared straight” into the search panel for the report] an international research network, analyzed the findings from evaluations of nine scared straight-type programs. In contrast to the claims of proponents, Mr. Petrosino and his colleagues found that these programs did not deter teenage participants from offending; in fact, they were more likely to offend in the future. Across the evaluated programs, participants were up to 28 percent more likely to offend than youths who didn't participate. To add insult to injury, a number of youths reported to evaluators that adult inmates sexually propositioned them and tried to steal their belongings. Not only was scared straight found not to deter criminal behavior, the study strongly suggested the program caused harm.”

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Catholic State

This is an interesting article from Zenit, proposing the construction of a Catholic state (devoutly to be wished) to resolve many of the problems inherent in our current modern liberal governmental structures.

The author Thaddeus Kozinski, who wrote a signficant work on the subject, is interviewed.

An excerpt.

“LANDER, Wyoming, JAN. 27, 2011 ( Benedict XVI, echoing his predecessor, has repeatedly exhorted the Catholic faithful and all persons of good will to live their freedom in accordance with truth and the common good.

“The need to live "love in truth" is especially important in "liberal" societies -- representative democracies, republics, and constitutional monarchies -- lest they degenerate into a "thinly disguised totalitarianism" governed by a "dictatorship of relativism."

“As the problem of maintaining public order in pluralistic societies continues to vex political theorists, some are rethinking the modern liberal project. They believe the time is right to reconsider both the assumptions on which such a political order is based, as well as the ability of Catholic teaching and the natural law to be an effective guidepost in supposedly liberal polities.

“One such political philosopher is Thaddeus Kozinski, an assistant professor of humanities, philosophy, and theology at Wyoming Catholic College and the author of "The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism: And Why Philosophers Can't Solve It" (Rowman &Littlefield), a book Aidan Nichols, OP says makes a "sophisticated, cumulative case for the moral limitations and metaphysical bankruptcy of liberal political philosophy."

“Kozinski explained to ZENIT why a "confessional" state, that is, one in which Catholicism is the official religion, is necessary to provide a proper foundation for human flourishing.

ZENIT: What is religious pluralism? Why is it a political problem?

“Kozinksi: Religious pluralism describes a political community in which citizens hold diverse and sometimes irreconcilable worldviews. It is the situation of most contemporary nation-states in the West ever since the seventeenth century.

“Religious pluralism is a political problem because politics is fundamentally about how human beings organize their lives together to achieve what they consider their individual good and the common good.

“If we can't agree about the good, then we have a serious political problem, and merely privatizing and de-politicizing our disagreements isn't a solution.”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Government & Catholic Nonprofits

The Catholic Church essentially began the institutional charitable effort in Western civilization—as recounted in the book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, which notes: “The Catholic Church invented charity as we know it in the West.” (p. 170)—and their work today remains crucial, as reported by this article from America.

An excerpt.

“Whether measured by annual revenues, number of employees or the market value of property holdings, the nonprofit sector has grown dramatically in recent decades. Indeed, it has grown faster than either the public sector or the business sector.

“Today, with over a trillion dollars a year in revenues, hundreds of thousands of nonprofit organizations of all sorts and sizes qualify under federal, state and local laws for multiple tax benefits. Nonprofit organizations pay no property taxes. Their donors may get federal tax deductions. Their members (like students at private colleges) may get tax-funded grants or vouchers (like loans to pay college tuition). And their leaders may apply for government aid or compete for government contracts to fund employees’ salaries or to cover certain operating expenses.

“What would it cost Uncle Sam to replace Catholic agencies?

“As the fiscal crisis, which first showed itself in 2007, continues, ever more federal, state and local policymakers in both parties are asking tough but timely questions about the nonprofit sector: How much does it lighten local property tax coffers and reduce federal tax revenues? What is the total tab for all the tax-funded subsidies? And what does the wider public actually get in return for all the tax breaks and government funding?

“Studies are underway, but nobody knows for sure what the results will be. Yet no matter what the research ultimately shows, public pressure for accountability will continue to grow as more media attention is focused on corruption scandals involving nonprofits and as the public sees and hears more about nonprofit executives who make really big bucks (like the many private university presidents with million-dollar-plus annual compensation packages).

“Already some city governments have experimented with payment in lieu of taxes or so-called PILOT arrangements, by which properties owned by large nonprofit organizations are taxed at a rate higher than zero but lower than the same properties would be taxed were they owned by a for-profit firm. And at the federal level, nonprofit hospitals in particular have come in for ever-greater scrutiny of their balance sheets, executive pay and service to low-income communities.

“Grandstanding politicians and sensationalizing journalists can quickly turn legitimate concerns about accountability or performance into a three-ring circus. But, putting that prospect to one side, do nonprofit leaders have more to hope or to fear from calls demanding that they justify their tax-exempted properties and tax-subsidized personnel or programs?

“At least where most Catholic nonprofit organizations are concerned, I would say there should be hope: Catholic nonprofit organizations are second to none when it comes to predictably and reliably producing benefits for nonmembers, wider communities and the public at large.”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Threshold of Hope

As a result of reading this great column by Fr. James Schall in The Catholic Thing, I went back and began rereading the wonderful book by Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, and rediscovered, as did Fr. Schall, the brilliancy and elegance of John Paul’s writing.

There is so much wealth in this small volume, and this excerpt about Buddhism is an example.

“The Buddhist doctrine of salvation constitutes the central point, or rather the only point, of this system. Nevertheless, both the Buddhist tradition and the methods deriving from it have an almost exclusively negative soteriology.

“The “enlightenment” experienced by Buddha comes down to the conviction that the world is bad, that it is the source of evil and of suffering for man. To liberate oneself from this evil, one must free oneself from this world, necessitating a break with the ties that join us to external reality—ties existing in our human nature, in our psyche, in our bodies. The more we are liberated from these ties, the more we become indifferent to what is in the world, and the more we are freed from suffering, from the evil that has its source in the world.

“Do we draw near to God in this way? This is not mentioned in the “enlightenment” conveyed by Buddha. Buddhism is in large measure an “atheistic” system. We do not free ourselves from evil through the good that comes from God, we liberate ourselves only through detachment from the world, which is bad. The fullness of such a detachment is not union with God, but what is called nirvana, a state of perfect indifference with regard to the world. To save oneself means, above all, to free oneself from evil by becoming indifferent to the world, which is the source of evil. This is the culmination of the spiritual process.

“At various times, attempts to link this method with the Christian mystics have been made—whether it is with those from northern Europe (Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, Ruysbroeck) or the later Spanish mystics (Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross). But when Saint John of the Cross, in the Ascent of Mount Carmel and in the Dark Night of the Soul, speaks of the need for purification, for detachment from the world of the senses, he does not conceive of that detachment as an end in itself. “To arrive at what now you do not enjoy, you must go where you do not enjoy. To reach what you do not know, you must go where you do not know. To come into possession of what you do not have, you must go where you have nothing.” (Ascent of Mount Carmel, 1. 13. 11). In Eastern Asia these classic texts of Saint John of the Cross have been, at times, interpreted as a confirmation of Eastern ascetic methods. But this Doctor of the Church does not merely propose detachment from the world. He proposes detachment from the world in order to unite oneself to that which is outside of the world—by this I do not mean nirvana, but a personal God. Union with Him comes about not only through purification, but through love.

Carmelite mysticism begins at the point where the reflections of Buddha end, together with his instructions for the spiritual life. In the active and passive purification of the human soul, in those specific nights of the senses and the spirit, Saint John of the Cross sees, above all, the preparation necessary for the human soul to be permeated with the living flame of love.” (pp. 85-87)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Joan of Arc

The life of one of the greatest warrior saints of the Church is reflected upon by the Holy Father, as reported by the Vatican Information Service.

In a notable aside to those familiar with the work of the Lampstand Foundation, her wrongful trial and execution was nullified by Pope Callixtus III, namesake of the first criminal to become a pope, who also became a saint, St. Callixtus, (also spelled Callistus) in 218.

An excerpt from VIS.

“VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2011 (VIS) - During this morning's general audience, celebrated in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 3,000 people, Holy Father dedicated his catechesis to St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431), whom he described as "one of the 'strong women' who, at the end of the Middle Ages, fearlessly brought the splendid light of the Gospel into the complex events of history".

“The life of Joan of Arc, who was born into a prosperous peasant family, took place in the context of the conflict between France and England known as the Hundred Years War. At the age of thirteen, "through the 'voice' of St. Michael the Archangel, Joan felt herself called by the Lord to intensify her Christian life and to act personally to free her people".

“She made a vow of virginity and redoubled her prayers, participating in sacramental life with renewed energy. "This young French peasant girl's compassion and commitment in the face of her people's suffering were made even more intense through her mystical relationship with God. One of the most original aspects of her sanctity was this bond between mystical experience and political mission". said Benedict XVI.

“Joan's activities began in early 1429 when, overcoming all obstacles, she managed to meet with the French Dauphin, the future King Charles VII. He had her examined by theologians of the University of Poitiers who "delivered a positive judgment, they discovered nothing bad in her, and found her to be a good Christian".

“On 22 March of that year Joan dictated a letter to the King of England and his men, who were laying siege to the city of Orleans. "Hers was a proposal of authentic and just peace between two Christian peoples, in the light of the names of Jesus and Mary", said the Holy Father. But the offer was rejected and Joan had to fight for the liberation of the city. Another culminating moment of her endeavours came on 17 July 1429 when King Charles was crowned in Reims.

“Joan's passion began on 23 May 1430 when she fell into the hands of her enemies at Compiegne and was taken to the city of Rouen. There a long and dramatic trial was held which concluded with her being condemned to death on 30 May 1431.

“The trial was presided by two ecclesiastical judges, Bishop Pierre Cauchon and the inquisitor Jean le Maistre, but in fact it was conducted by a group of theologians from the University of Paris. These "French ecclesiastics, having made political choices opposed to those of Joan, were predisposed to hold negative views of her person and mission. The trial was a dark page in the history of sanctity, but also a shining page in the mystery of the Church which is, ... 'at the same time holy and always in need of being purified'".

“Unlike the saintly theologians who illuminated the University of Paris, such as St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Duns Scotus, ... the judges were theologians who lacked the charity and humility to see the work of God in this young girl. Jesus' words come to mind, according to which the mysteries of God are revealed to those who have the hearts of children, but hidden from the wise and intelligent. Thus Joan's judges were radically incapable of understanding her, of seeing the beauty of her soul", the Pope said.

“Joan died at the stake on 30 May 1431, holding a crucifix in her hands and invoking the name of Jesus. Twenty-five years later a trial of nullification, instituted by Pope Callixtus III, "concluded with a solemn sentence nullifying the condemnation and ... highlighting Joan of Arc's innocence and perfect faithfulness to the Church. Much later, in 1920, she was canonised by Pope Benedict XV".