Saturday, April 30, 2011

Capital Punishment Abolition

It was abolished in Illinois and apparently, according to this story from the Chicago Sun Times, it backfired.

An excerpt.

“The ink is long dry on Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature to the law abolishing the death penalty. The abolitionists had their celebrations. Now, however, it appears repeal has claimed its first victim.

“Jitka Vesel, 36, was stalked and murdered by a rejected boyfriend from Canada who, before killing her, did research to determine that Illinois had ended the death penalty, according to DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin.

“Dmitry Smirnov, 20, of British Columbia, met Vesel three years ago through an Internet dating site, moved to the Chicago area but returned to Canada after she ended their brief relationship. From there, Smirnov harassed Vesel, returning to the United States two weeks ago, buying a handgun in Seattle, gluing a GPS device to Vesel’s car to stalk her and surprising her in Oak Brook on Wednesday, when “he began shooting, he reloaded and he shot her some more,” Berlin said.

“During a videotaped interrogation by police, Smirnov said “he researched whether Illinois still had the death penalty and he researched it as recently as the morning of the murder,” Berlin said.

“Opponents of capital punishment argue it has no deterrent effect. A dozen academic studies demonstrated the deterrence value of capital punishment; other studies rejected that finding. But Vesel’s murder, the prosecutor said, “is not an academic study, this is an actual case, which I would argue is proof that the death penalty is a deterrent.”

“Abolitionists may argue Smirnov would have killed Vesel no matter what. Berlin said Smirnov wasn’t specifically asked that question. “If we still had a death penalty, would he still have gone through with it? The answer to that is just speculation,” Berlin told me. “But certainly there’s an argument to be made that he may not have gone through with it if he was that concerned about the status of the death penalty.”

Friday, April 29, 2011

Catholic Schools

Their history in America predates the American Revolution, but they are now struggling, as this article from National Affairs reports.

An excerpt.

“To imagine what America would look like without Catholic schools, it is useful to consider that our republic has never been without them — for these schools long pre-date the American founding.

“In 1606, in what is now St. Augustine, Florida, the Franciscan Order founded the first Catholic school on what would eventually become American shores, in order "to teach children Christian doctrine, reading, and writing." At first, expansion was slow: As education historians Thomas Hunt and James Carper note, in the 1600s and 1700s, schooling in America was unsystematic, unregulated, and discontinuous; though some colonies required children to be educated, families and churches developed schools organically, and those schools reflected the preferences and traditions particular to their communities.

“Catholic religious orders took the lead in developing secondary schools. In 1677, Jesuits founded a preparatory school for boys in Newtown, Maryland; their second was established in Bohemia Manor, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, in the 1740s. The Sisters of Saint Ursula founded the Ursuline Academy for girls in largely Catholic New Orleans in 1727.

“In the early 1800s, parochial schools — those affiliated with parishes — emerged and became the foundation for Catholic elementary schools. During this time, however, Catholics comprised only about 3% of America's population. Though the number of Catholics in the United States grew with the Louisiana Purchase, the nation and its schools were still overwhelmingly Protestant. Moreover, the Church in the United States was still small and organizationally primitive, with few priests and churches and even fewer resources. So Catholics operated a relatively small number of schools, mostly in Maryland and Pennsylvania, states with traditions of religious toleration.

“In the first decades of the 19th century, the few Catholic schools that did exist often received public support, typically from local governments. But concerns over government aid to religious institutions, as well as growing anti-immigrant sentiment, brought these arrangements to an end. They also played a part in the emergence of government-funded "common schools," the predecessors of today's public-school system. Designed to counter what some saw as objectionable influences — immigration, religious and ethnic diversification, and urbanization — and to provide a standard education to all students, common schools aimed to advance both education and assimilation. They grew rapidly and enrolled significant numbers of the nation's children; consequently, in the decades before the Civil War, there were still only about 200 Catholic schools nationwide.

“But the waves of immigrants that swept to America's shores in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th would have major implications for American education, particularly Catholic schools. Urban public-school systems, still in their formative years, quickly became overwhelmed by the massive influx of students. In 1881, New York had to refuse admission to nearly 10,000 children because the city lacked classroom space; in Chicago in 1886, had all students reported for school as required, there would have been room for only one-third of them.

“But it wasn't merely that additional schools were needed; it was that new schools willing and able to serve these particular young Americans were needed. Nearly all of the approximately 17 million immigrants who entered the United States between 1850 and 1900 came from Europe, and many from predominantly Catholic countries like Italy and Ireland. By the turn of the 20th century, America had become 16% Catholic.

“During this era, anti-immigrant bigotry spread and intensified and, in some places, received the government's imprimatur. Nebraska and Hawaii passed legislation restricting schools' ability to teach foreign languages. Illinois and Wisconsin enacted laws banning any education in foreign languages, thus effectively dismantling the states' German Catholic and Lutheran parochial schools. Oregon passed laws requiring students to attend public schools — a direct assault on the right of families, Catholic or otherwise, to educate their children as they saw fit. And at the federal level, former speaker of the House James G. Blaine introduced a constitutional amendment in 1875 that would have strictly forbidden any government funding of schools run by "any religious sect." The Maine congressman's proposal passed overwhelmingly in the House — by a vote of 180 to seven — but was defeated narrowly in the Senate. Within 15 years, however, 29 states had "Blaine Amendments" in their own constitutions.

“As government officials were closing off alternatives to public education, they were also giving Catholic families good reason to want to distance themselves from government-run schools. Non-denominational Protestantism was a cornerstone of many public schools; Bible-reading was often mandatory (usually from a Protestant Bible). Some textbooks even contained anti-Catholic material.

“Across the nation, these developments convinced many Catholics that their sons and daughters required schools of their own. Education historian Diane Ravitch notes that New York City's Catholic clergy moved to protect children from "Protestant propaganda" by discouraging them from attending the city's public schools. In 1884, at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, bishops required all parishes to establish schools and required all Catholic parents to have their children attend them.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

British Rehabilitation Program Makes Matters Worse

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

An excerpt.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sexual Abusing Bishop Gives Interview

Some are saying the sexual abuse scandal will destroy the credibility of the Church for generations, and reading this story from the Catholic News Agency, both about the interview and the bishop’s reaction, shows why that may very well be true.

The descriptive tone the Holy Father took just prior to beocming pope, when he described the sexual abuse in the Church as "filth", is much more appropriate than expressing "shock".

An excerpt.

“Brussels, Belgium, Apr 15, 2011 / 01:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Belgian bishops' conference acknowledged its astonishment over an interview with Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who admitted he sexually abused two of his nephews.

“The bishops expressed “shock” in their statement and distanced themselves from the April 14 television interview with former Bishop of Bruges, Belgium.

“Bishop Vangheluwe resigned last year after admitting to sexual abusing his nephew over a 13-year period, from the time the boy was five. In the recent interview, he revealed that he also abused a second nephew.

“It had nothing to do with sexuality,” Vangheluwe stated. “I don't have the impression at all that I am a pedophile.”

“It began as a game with the boys,” he added.

“The bishops' conference responded April 15 stating that “(t)he interview is extremely offensive to the victims, their families and all who face the problem of sexual abuse.”

“It is slap in the face to the faithful as well. Everyone, ourselves included, is undoubtedly upset and troubled.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Professional Criminals are Smart

As this article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, but some, of course, are not; but I continue to be perplexed by the reality that most of the reentry programs being foisted on funding sources operate on the assumption that all criminals are not smart, one of reasons the programs have a pronounced record of failure, noted earlier on our blog.

An excerpt from the Atlanta Journal Constitution article.

“NEWARK, N.J. — The package surprised even veteran law enforcement officials used to seeing all kinds of contraband smuggled into prisons: It was a child's coloring book, dedicated "to daddy" and mailed to a New Jersey inmate, with crayon-colored scribbling made from a paste containing drugs.

“The discovery of the book last month prompted the Cape May County sheriff to warn others in law enforcement that smuggling techniques were reaching new levels.

“In Pennsylvania last month, prosecutors disrupted a prescription drug smuggling ring that was mailing narcotics into prisons concealed under postage stamps.

“And in Clifton, N.J., police once uncovered a drug-smuggling operation under the guise of an importer bringing fresh flowers from South America in cardboard boxes that, when shredded and mixed with a solution, dissolved into liquid heroin.

“Experts say even as surveillance equipment, airport scanning technology and cargo X-rays modernize, drug-smuggling techniques are keeping pace.

"It's a question of building a better mousetrap," said Deirdre Fedkenheuer, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Corrections Department. "Somebody's going to always try and think of a new way."

“It's been more than a decade since sending food to prisoners was prohibited, but today, drugs, weapons and cell phones still find their way behind bars, according to Fedkenheuer. New Jersey's prison system has added dogs trained not only to sniff drugs, but to detect the odor of cell phones as well, which are banned.

“It's not only prison smuggling that gets creative, according to U.S. Customs officials. Smugglers try all sorts of techniques to bring contraband into the country by air, sea and land.

“Smuggling drugs into the U.S. has been going on as long as there's been a market for illegal substances, according to John Saleh, a Customs and Border Protection officer based in New York.

"The drug industry, drug trafficking, is a billion-dollar or trillion-dollar business," Saleh said. "It's a business that makes money, so they're very cunning in their ways of masking something, or smuggling something in so they can make a profit."

“In the past two months alone, inventory confiscated at New York-area airports and ports included opium concealed in porcelain cat figurines, cocaine in bags of freeze-dried coffee, drugs built into the railings of a suitcase, sewn into pants, molded into sneakers, concealed in clothing hangers or packed into the console of a Nintendo Wii video game system.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

King of Kings

Having just watched the 1927 movie for the first time—it is the greatest depiction of the life of Christ I have ever seen—this article in the Wall Street Journal noting its impact on others was illuminatingly reinforcing .

An excerpt.

“…Cecil B. DeMille's "The King of Kings,"… viewership was estimated at over 800 million people by 1959. Because it was produced as a silent film, Protestant and Catholic missionaries alike were able to use it for decades to share the Gospel with non-English-speaking peoples. According to DeMille's autobiography, during the Korean War Madame Chiang Kai-shek sent an emissary to DeMille seeking a copy of the film to show in P.O.W. camps.

“The most powerful story related by DeMille about the influence of "The King of Kings" involved a Polish man named William E. Wallner. Living in Danzig (today Gdansk), Wallner saw "The King of Kings" in 1928. Greatly moved, he decided to devote his life to Christian ministry.

“By 1939, Wallner was leading a Lutheran parish in Prague. Shortly after Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia, a doctor in Wallner's parish was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Wallner shared with DeMille how the doctor, a Jewish convert to Christianity, encouraged his fellow prisoners "to die bravely, with faith in their hearts." As a result, the doctor became a target of Gestapo officers.

“Although struck with an iron rod until one of his arms had to be amputated, the doctor would not be quieted. Finally, as DeMille's autobiography recounts, "one Gestapo officer beat the doctor's head against a stone wall until blood was streaming down his face." Holding a mirror before the doctor, the Gestapo officer sneered: "Take a look at yourself. Now you look like your Jewish Christ."

“Lifting his remaining hand up, the doctor exclaimed, "Lord [Jesus], never in my life have I received such honor—to resemble You." Those would be his last words on Earth.

“Distraught by the doctor's proclamation, the Gestapo officer sought out Wallner that night. "Could Pastor Wallner help him, free him from the terrible burden of his guilt?"

“After praying with him, Wallner advised, "Perhaps God let you kill that good man to bring you to the foot of the Cross, where you can help others." The Gestapo officer returned to the concentration camp. And through the aid of Wallner and the Czech underground, he worked to free many Jews over the years that followed.

“On July 30, 1957, Wallner met with DeMille and spoke about the impact "The King of Kings" had on his life and all who came in contact with him. Wallner ended his account to DeMille by declaring: "If it were not for 'The King of Kings,' I would not be a Lutheran pastor, and 350 Jewish children would have died in the ditches."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

In our community a procession will wind through downtown, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

“Sacramento-area members of the lay Catholic movement Community and Liberation will take the observance to the streets of the capital city today. "We go through the city where people are working," said Katie Eason, an organizer of the Way of the Cross event.

“The procession will begin at 9 a.m. in Crocker Park at N and Third streets, and end about 11:15 on the steps of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at 11th and K streets. This is the 11th year that the group has sponsored the walk through downtown.

“Led by two or three individuals who will take turns carrying a wooden cross, an anticipated 100 to 150 participants will walk in silence but stop at four "stations" along the way to sing and read from the Gospel, as well as the works of poets.

“The procession, a family-oriented event, will arrive at the cathedral in time for the traditional noon Good Friday service.”

The Catholic Thing offers a wonderful reflection on this most sacred day.

“I learned at a young age about the importance and uniqueness of Good Friday. It was the only day of the year that my father worked only a half day: “Jesus died at 3:00 p.m., I came home early in honor of Him.” Each year we attended the Good Friday liturgy as a family, which was memorable for its nuances in the standard ritual, but it never captivated my imagination. It was not until I was an undergraduate that I discovered, thanks to a kind professor, a sort of Good Friday devotion to center my contemplation of the incomprehensible: the empty tabernacle.

“It’s a striking image: the doors of the tabernacle are wide open, exposing a gaping void. Therein our Lord once dwelled in his body, blood, soul, and divinity, beckoning the wearied and burdened to throw their cares upon Him. On other occasions, before entering and exiting our pew, we did Him homage by genuflecting toward this abode, perhaps catching a glimpse of the sanctuary lamp that burned as a reminder of His presence. But not today. The lamp has been extinguished, the doors thrown open, the tabernacle emptied, the church stripped. “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:13) The empty tabernacle declares to all what happened on this day: our Lord has died to save us from our sins.

“All morning the tabernacle lays open, for Jesus is no longer present there. He has given Himself over to cruel men who are leading Him to death. It’s a familiar but always fresh story: the trial and interrogation, the scourging, the jeering and spitting, the crowning of thorns, the hysteria of the crowds, the vacillations of Pilate, the slow march to Golgotha. There at high noon Jesus was nailed to a cross, the electric chair of ancient Rome, between two bandits. For three hours, His body was suspended from the hard wood, pouring out His blood for our salvation. Then, at the very moment that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple, the true Lamb of God cries out one final time and breathes His last.

“Our Good Friday liturgy takes its start at this moment, as the priest prostrates himself in an act of mourning and sorrow. Our solemn prayers and recollections continue as the tabernacle remains open and empty. The previous night Jesus gave us His body and blood in the Eucharist so that, in communion with Him always, we might have life, and have it abundantly. Today we are reminded that the gift of the Eucharist is a real sacrifice that cost our Lord His life. There is no Mass – no sacramental re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice – because today we commemorate the actual sacrifice. The Mass applies the fruits of Christ’s sacrifice to our souls, but today in our grief, we instead relive Christ’s sacrifice along with Him.”

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Father on the Triduum

As reported by the Vatican Information Service.

“VATICAN CITY, 20 APR 2011 (VIS) - In this morning's general audience, celebrated in St. Peter's Square, the Pope spoke on the Easter Triduum, "the three holy days in which the Church commemorates the mystery of Jesus' passion, death, and resurrection".

“Benedict XVI explained that "Holy Thursday is the day that commemorates the institution of the Eucharist and ministerial priesthood. In the morning, each diocesan community, with their bishop, meets at their cathedral church to celebrate the Chrism Mass. ... Priestly vows are also renewed."

"In the afternoon of Holy Thursday", he continued, "the Easter Triduum truly begins, with the remembrance of the Last Supper at which Jesus instituted the commemoration of his Passion, fulfilling the Jewish paschal ritual. ... Jesus washes the feet of his apostles, inviting them to love one another as He loved them, giving His life for them. Repeating this gesture in the liturgy, we are also called to actively bear witness to our Redeemer's love".

“The Holy Father recalled that Holy Thursday "ends with Eucharistic adoration, in memory of the Lord's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. ... Aware of his imminent death on the cross, he felt a great sorrow".

“Referring to the somnolence of the apostles who accompanied Jesus to the Mount of Olives, the Pope noted that "it was the insensibility for God that makes us insensitive to evil". With his death(the chalice that he had to drink from)., the Lord "felt all the suffering of humanity". His will was subordinated to the will of the Father, his natural will transformed into a 'yes' to God's will".

“Entering into the will of God, he added, "is not slavery but an entering into truth, love, and the good. It is directing our will toward God". The act at Gethsemane is that "Jesus, with his anguish, charged with the drama of humanity, with our suffering and our poverty, transforms it into the will of God and thus opens the gate of heaven".

“Later, referring to Good Friday, the Pope said that this day commemorates "the Lord's passion and death. We adore the crucified Christ, participating in his suffering with our penitence and fasting".

"Finally, on the night of Holy Saturday, we celebrate the solemn Easter Vigil at which is announced Christ's resurrection, his definitive victory over death, which challenges us to be new persons in Him".

“The Holy Father highlighted that "the standard that guided each of Jesus' decisions during his entire life was his firm desire to love the Father and be faithful to Him. ... On reliving the Holy Triduum", he concluded, "we make ourselves available to welcome God's will into our lives, aware that our true good, the path of our lives, is found in His will. May the Virgin Mother guide us along this path and grant us her divine Son's grace to be able to dedicate our lives, in the love of Jesus, to the service of others".

“During his greetings to the groups present at today's audience, the Pope addressed the 3,000 students participating in the International UNIV Congress sponsored by the Opus Dei prelature. "I hope", he said, "that these Roman days will be the occasion for you to rediscover the person of Christ and a strong ecclesial experience, so that you may return home inspired by the desire to witness to the mercy of the heavenly Father. May your lives thus realize what St. Josemaria Escriva described: "Your bearing and conversation were such that, on seeing or hearing you, people would say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ".
AG/ VIS 20110420 (590)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mary at the Crucifixion

A wonderful reflection from Opus Dei.

An excerpt.

“Almost three years have gone by since Jesus’ first miracle, in Cana of Galilee. The Gospel hardly mentions our Lady during that long interval. On some occasions, she may have been part of the group of women who accompanied Christ on his journeys (cf. Lk 8:1-3). Nevertheless, the evangelists mention his Mother’s presence only once, when she came to see Jesus accompanied by other relatives. Unable to enter the house where Jesus was because of the large crowd, they announced their presence and asked to see him. Our Lord’s response was eloquent: Who is my mother and who are my brethren?” And looking at those seated around him, he said: Here are my mother and my brethren, for whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother (Mk 3:33-35). This was the highest praise possible of our Lady, the person who best fulfilled the heavenly Father’s will.

“The silence of the Gospels leads us to assume (as Pope John Paul II said in his Marian catechesis) that our Lady ordinarily did not accompany her Son on his travels around Palestine. Mary followed Him from afar, even as she was spiritually united to Him at every moment, much closer than the disciples and the holy women. In any case, John makes clear that she was in Jerusalem during her Son’s final Passover. Our Lady may have been in the Holy City on similar occasions, but the evangelist only now expressly mentions it, and in the context of the Redemptive Sacrifice: Beside the Cross of Jesus were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene (Jn 19:25). Right after this John records the words Christ spoke to his Mother and to him—words of immense significance.

“Seeing our Lord’s words here, at the supreme moment of the Redemption, as simply the concern of a son for the care of his mother he is leaving behind, would mean missing the essential point. Rather we find here one of the keys for understanding our Lady’s role in the work of salvation. Already in Cana Jesus had made it clear that Mary’s maternal mission in Nazareth, during the years of his hidden life, would be prolonged in the new family of his Church. Recent studies in Mariology stress (as the ordinary magisterium of the Church has also affirmed) that we have before us here a “revelation scene” typical of the fourth Gospel, the “Gospel of signs” par excellence. Jesus addresses his Mother as “woman,” as at Cana of Galilee, and says with reference to the beloved disciple: Woman, behold your son! (Jn 19:26). Then looking at John, Christ says: Behold your mother! (Jn 19:27).

“Neither Mary nor John is addressed by their name. Mary is the new Eve who, united to the new Adam and subordinate to Him, is called to incorporate her maternal mediation into the work of the redemption. And the evangelist is present there as the faithful disciple, representing all those who will come to believe in Christ until the end of time. Our Lord’s words—words of God and therefore creative words like those at the beginning of the world—do what they signify. From that moment, Mary is made Mother of all who will come to the Church: Mater Ecclesiae, as Paul VI called her at the close of Vatican Council II. Her womb will be fruitful with a new motherhood, one that is spiritual but real. And it will be a painful one, because the prophecy of the old man Simeon is being fulfilled to the letter: a sword will pierce through your own soul also (Lk 2:35).”

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week

A very nice reflection from yesterday’s edition of The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

“And so today the week without compare since the creation of the world begins. Suffering, death, resurrection – all of it strange, even the resurrection tough to take in, given how it comes about. You can see that in the way the apostles are still stunned, for no little time, despite the empty tomb. Instead of regarding it all as a foregone and familiar conclusion, we’d do well ourselves to stay a while with that uncertainty and astonishment at the mysterious events of Holy Week.

“The title above is from Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth, which helpfully unfolds the Gospel from Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, without trying to explain it away with some rationalist system. (It’s the anniversary of his election as pope tomorrow, by the way, another thing to be grateful for.) There is no fully explaining God’s saving action in history. All the Easter bunnies and candy baskets in the world cannot obscure that fact, though they’ve tried. Unlike Christmas, there is no way to reduce this season to a warm and fuzzy, feel-good holiday. And yet Christians think it the most important event in the life of the cosmos.

“That irreducible strangeness is one reason why, in these latter days, Easter is barely covered in the media. A few oddities maybe: some Philippine village where they actually crucify (without killing) a volunteer; the Oberammergau Passion Play, which may or may not still be anti-Semitic; the latest “archaeological” discovery by some film producer, which of course explodes the whole Christian story and, by strange coincidence, confirms modern anti-Christian beliefs.

“Under the circumstances, a believer is tempted simply to push it all away and withdraw. But Christ didn’t come into the world for a private séance with a few elect souls. He came into the world to save the world. And in a way, it’s a salubrious thing to reflect on how implausible our belief seems to that world, lest we turn this singular and challenging event into a merely comforting story.

“The comfort comes eventually, but to go there too quickly means passing over the cost, which really amounts to thinking God could have done this great thing – overcoming sin and death – without the bloody prelude.

“Let me confess: I do not entirely understand the need for that. St. Peter seems not to have either and been impatient with it at first. The great St. Anselm tried to explain in Cur Deus Homo? (“Why did God become man?”). The answer: to save us. But there’s a deeper question. The Catechism says: he loved us so much that he became a humble creature like us, willing to suffer, die, and be buried to redeem us.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

Movies & Faith

As a devoted fan of movies with a moral base, I especially enjoyed this article from Catholic World Report, about several new movies appearing to be such.

An excerpt.

“In the recently released movie The Adjustment Bureau, Matt Damon plays a man who “gets a glimpse behind a curtain” that he “wasn’t supposed to know existed.” What he discovers is that the lives of men are governed by a master plan—a plan that is facilitated by superhuman figures who walk among us, intervening where necessary to keep our feet on the appointed path.

The Adjustment Bureau is Damon’s second peek behind the curtain in the last several months. In Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood, Damon plays a gifted psychic who is apparently able to communicate with the departed loved ones of anyone he touches. Near-death experiences of a realm of light inhabited by the souls of the departed are another theme: Hereafter opens with one such experience, and a supporting character claims to have gathered evidence from countless such cases supporting the existence of an afterlife.

The Adjustment Bureau and Hereafter are among a remarkable number of recent and upcoming Hollywood films in some way invoking themes of spirituality, religion, or belief. I am not including foreign films like Of Gods and Men, Xavier Beauvois’ extraordinary French film about the 1996 massacre of French Trappist monks living in Algeria, now playing in limited release. Nor do I mean Christian-produced indies like The Grace Card or Courageous, from the creators of Fireproof. (There Be Dragons, Roland Joffé’s upcoming drama depicting events in the life of St. Josemaría Escriva, is a blend of these two categories—part indie, part foreign film.) I am referring primarily to mainstream entertainment with big-name stars distributed by the major Hollywood studios. 2010 was particularly rife with such Hollywood religiosity, quantitatively if not necessarily qualitatively.

“The year opened with a pair of dim-witted quasi-religious apocalyptic thrillers. In The Book of Eli, Denzel Washington wanders a postapocalyptic wasteland on a mission from God to save the last copy of the King James Bible while keeping it from those who would use it to create a false religion. Legion imagines God losing faith in mankind and sending angelic hosts to wipe out humanity, prompting Michael to rebel, defending humanity against Gabriel and his forces.

“Hymnody, gospel music, and scriptural quotations showed up in more than one film. The Coen brothers’ critically and popularly acclaimed remake True Grit opens with a citation from Proverbs, and the characters’ dialogue is peppered with allusions to scriptural and biblical themes. The score makes use of several hymns, notably “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” sung over the end credits by Iris DeMent, but also “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and others. (The celebrated indie Winter’s Bone, a film with more than a few thematic links to True Grit

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Jail Population Decreases

As reported by this press release from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

An excerpt.

“Presents data on numbers of jails as well as analyzes patterns of growth and decline in jail populations. These statistical tables include data on rated capacity of jails, percent of capacity occupied, and capacity added. They provide estimates of admissions to jails and detail the volume of movement among the jail population. This web document also includes total numbers for jail inmates by sex, race, and Hispanic origin. Standard errors for jail estimates are included.

“Highlights include the following:
• Between midyear 2009 and midyear 2010, the confined inmate population in county and city jails (748,728) declined by 2.4% (18,706 inmates).
• On June 30, 2010, adults represented 99% of all jail inmates. Males accounted for 87.7%, and females accounted for 12.3%.
• The estimated rated capacity for all jail jurisdictions at midyear 2010 reached 866,974 beds, an increase of 2.0% (17,079 beds) from midyear 2009.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

Recidivism Rates, 3 & 20 Years Out

A new study reported by this news release from the Pew Center on the States, notes a recidivism rate of around 40% three years after release, but when evaluated for longer periods, as reported by the Commercial Appeal concerning a study which looked at recidivism rates over a twenty year period, it is double that.

For several reasons (one being the higher probability of closer supervision during the intial release period) the three year time frame for evaluating recidivism is virtually worthless as a basis for polcy decisions, but using an 8-10 year period isn't.

1) An excerpt from the Pew Center.

“April 13, 2011 — More than four in ten offenders nationwide return to state prison within three years of their release despite a massive increase in state spending on prisons, according to a Pew report.

“States today spend more than $50 billion a year on corrections, yet recidivism rates remain stubbornly high. As the slumping economy forces states to do more with less, policy makers are looking for a better public safety return on their corrections dollars.

“While overall figures are discouraging, the report highlights the strategies that three states— Michigan, Missouri and Oregon— have employed to reduce returns to prison.”

2) An excerpt from the Commercial Appeal

“The numbers are part of a 20-year study that shows recidivism is far worse than statistics usually indicate. It is the only study done over such a long period of time, tracking inmates who were first jailed at the correction center between 1987 and 1991, says psychologist Dr. Greg Little.

“Little and psychologist Dr. Kenneth Robinson, founders of Correctional Counseling Inc., were trying out a new treatment program in 1987 and began tracking inmates to compare their results with those of inmates who went through only standard counseling. They followed each inmate, recording every re-arrest and every re-incarceration.

“Tennessee Department of Correction studies show recidivism rates of about 51 percent over a three-year period, and national studies show recidivism averages of roughly 65 percent over three years. But Little and Robinson say the numbers keep going up over time, and the numbers are higher because most studies don't count re-incarcerations that took place in other states or in courts other than the original case. For instance, an inmate released on state probation or parole is seldom counted as a recidivist if later jailed for a federal crime.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Canadian Catholics Leave Liberal Politicians

As reported by iPolitics, one hopes it is a trend that moves south as more orthodox Cathoics realize that supporting a political ideology that advocates for abortion is not good.

An excerpt.

“Catholic voters, once a pillar of support that helped keep the Liberals a dominant force in Canadian politics, have steadily shifted their allegiances in recent years so that the party can no longer count on their votes.

“Two separate studies conclude that the crumbling Catholic vote has played a significant role in Liberal decline in the last three elections.

“It was a substantial and very damaging loss,” said Elisabeth Gidengil, a McGill University professor and author of Dominance and Decline, an upcoming book about the fall of the Liberal party.

“Catholics, along with visible minorities, have traditionally been one of the great pillars of the Liberal vote.”

“The defection of immigrants from the Liberal party has been well documented in the last few years, but the Catholic shift has been mainly confined to the Catholic press.

“Gidengil, one of several authors of a 2009 academic analysis of the last four federal elections, said Catholic support for the Liberals dropped dramatically from 54 per cent in the 2000 election to 30 per cent in 2008. The data came from the expansive Canadian Election Study, an ongoing survey of voting behaviour.

“The Conservatives, the main benefactors, surpassed the Liberals in 2008 by capturing 40 per cent of the Catholic vote.

“A separate analysis by Angus Reid Strategies, based on a survey of voters in the 2004, 2006 and 2008 elections, also found that Catholics have steadily shifted to the Conservatives.

“If I were the Liberals I’d be horrified that I alienated a big chunk of the base,” said Andrew Grenville, an Angus Reid chief research officer.

“I don’t know if they (Catholics) are at the stage where they want to forgive and forget or whether it’s over.”

“Catholics make up 44 per cent of the Canadian population (nearly 15 million people), making it by far the most dominant religion.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sexual Abuse in the Church

The Catholic League took out a full page ad in the New York Times Monday April 11, 2011 about the sexual abuse crisis in the American Church, though, if you have 25% of cases that are pedophilia and 75% that are homosexual (see last paragraph of excerpt), your problem is with both, when those who are to help the faithful instead prey on them, which is satanic evil from an institution that stands for divine goodness.

Pray for our Church.

An excerpt.


“When the Boston Globe exposed massive wrongdoing in the Boston Archdiocese in 2002, Catholics were understandably angry. And when more horror stories surfaced elsewhere, we were furious. But now our anger is turning on those who are distorting the truth about priestly sexual abuse. That some are exploiting this issue for ideological and financial profit seems plain.

“Every time a new wave of accusations surfaces in one diocese, not coincidentally we see a spike in accusations in other dioceses. What is not often reported is that the vast majority of new accusations extend back decades. For example, for the first quarter of this year, 80 percent of the cases of alleged abuse involve incidences that occurred before 2000.

“In March, an 80 year-old man came forward in St. Louis claiming he was abused 70 years ago by a priest who has been dead for a half century. This is not an anomaly: the same phenomenon has happened in other dioceses. Unfortunately, too often bishops have been quick to settle, thus inspiring more claims. When $225,000 is dished out to a Michigan man who claims he was abused in the 1950s by a priest who died in 1983—and the diocese admits the accusation is unsubstantiated—it encourages fraud.

“A common belief, fostered by the media, is that there is a widespread sexual abuse problem in the Catholic Church today. The evidence is to the contrary: In 2004, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice issued its landmark study and found that most of the abuse occurred during the heyday of the sexual revolution, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. What we are hearing about today are almost all old cases. To wit: from 2005 to 2009, the average number of new credible accusations made against over 40,000 priests was 8.6. This is a tribute to the reform efforts that have taken place: 5 million children and 2 million adults have gone through a safe environment program. Indeed, there is no religious, or secular, institution that can match this record, either in terms of the low rate of abuse or the extensiveness of a training program.

“Penn State professor Philip Jenkins has studied this problem for years. After looking at the John Jay data, which studied priestly sexual abuse from 1950-2002, he found that “of the 4,392 accused priests, almost 56 percent faced only one misconduct allegation, and at least some of these would certainly vanish under detailed scrutiny.” Moreover, Jenkins wrote that “Out of 100,000 priests active in the U.S. in this half-century, a cadre of just 149 individuals—one priest out of every 750—accounted for over a quarter of all allegations of clergy abuse.” In other words, almost all priests have never had anything to do with sexual molestation.

“The refrain that child rape is a reality in the Church is twice wrong: let’s get it straight—they weren’t children and they weren’t raped. We know from the John Jay study that most of the victims have been adolescents, and that the most common abuse has been inappropriate touching (inexcusable though this is, it is not rape). The Boston Globe correctly said of the John Jay report that “more than three-quarters of the victims were post pubescent, meaning the abuse did not meet the clinical definition of pedophilia.” In other words, the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Controlling Outside Crime From Inside

A central aspect in the advocacy of Catholic capital punishment abolitionists is the assumption that modern penal technology—such as super-max prisons—are adequate to keep the aggressor from harming the innocent, addressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“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."
(Italicization added)

However, the illegal use of communication technology by prisoners, in even the most secure of prisons, has sharply reduced the opportunity to “defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor”.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the difficulty prison officials are having controlling the use of cell phones.

An excerpt.

“Frustrated by the state's inability to prevent thousands of illicit cellphone calls made by inmates from its prisons, California's corrections chief is seeking help from an industry that has a big financial interest in his cause.

"Prisons Secretary Matthew Cate said he will offer a deal to companies that bid for the next contract to provide phone service for state inmates: Install costly equipment that will block cellphone calls and see profits surge as prisoners use authorized services to connect with the outside world.

"If cellphones are inoperable, the company will make more money," Cate said in a recent interview.

"Prisoners are supposed to use pay phones mounted on the walls of their housing units to call people outside. They are charged collect call rates, and the conversations are recorded and monitored by prison staff. But the proliferation of smuggled cellphones in recent years has reduced use of the authorized phones and the ability to monitor them, and officials say they cannot afford the technology to block cellular signals.

"The contract for inmate phone service is up for renewal. Cate wants the winning bidder to pay the estimated $16.5 million to $33 million that it would cost to install "managed access" systems in all 33 state prisons.

"In one day earlier this year, a test of the system intercepted more than 4,000 attempts to place calls, send text messages and access the Internet from smuggled cellphones at a single prison, said California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Paul Verke. He would not reveal which prison, citing security concerns."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reformed Criminal, Wasn’t

In a story reported by the Milwaukee Star Tribune, an ageless story that keeps being retold, a criminal who had appeared to be reformed, wasn’t.

It is the type of story which all too often happens and which germinated Lampstand's second benchmark and relates to the third—see our website—which Lampstand uses to determine true reformation from false in identifying deep knowledge leaders of community criminal transformative programs.

An excerpt from the Star Tribune story.

“MIAMI - Convicted conman Barry Minkow, a famed carpet cleaning entrepreneur who served prison time for fleecing investors out of millions in the 1980s, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a new fraud charge that potentially cost homebuilder Lennar Corp. more than half a billion dollars in lost stock value.

“In hopes of reducing his possible five-year prison sentence, Minkow is also cooperating in an FBI investigation into a California developer allegedly involved in the Lennar scheme, according to Minkow's lawyer Alvin Entin.

"It's real, it's substantial," Entin said at a plea hearing in federal court. "We have already turned over thousands of pages of documents to the government."

“Following his first prison stretch, Minkow became a pastor in San Diego and also a valued FBI informant who helped ferret out phony business deals through the Fraud Discovery Institute he founded.

“The developer in the Lennar case, identified in court papers as Nicolas Marsch III of San Diego, has not been charged. Through his attorney, Marsch said he had no knowledge of Minkow's attempt to manipulate Lennar's stock price but insisted he was hired only to investigate purported Lennar misconduct.

“According to court documents, Marsch in 2006 began a campaign to force Lennar to pay him some $39 million stemming from a California land deal. This included writing letters to Lennar's board of directors — among them, University of Miami President Donna Shalala — claiming Marsch would "air (Lennar's) dirty little secrets" if the money wasn't paid.

“After Minkow was brought on board, according to court papers, he was able to issue press releases, emails and YouTube videos claiming Lennar was beset by fraudulent accounting, misappropriation of company funds and other corporate malfeasance. One Internet site used the name "lenn-ron" in an attempt to compare Lennar to the failed and corrupt Enron Corp.

“All false, Minkow admitted in court Wednesday, and geared to pressure the company to pay Marsch.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hollywood & Pope John Paul II

Yes, there is a connection, as this article from the Catholic News Agency reveals.

An excerpt.

“Culver City, Calif., Apr 2, 2011 / 06:08 pm (CNA).- Holy Wood Acting Studio had its grand opening on March 25 to begin its mission to create talented actors with the “emotional and spiritual maturity” to endure the challenges in their careers.

“The opening of Holy Wood Acting Studio represents a new era for the entertainment industry, an era where actors will not only thrill audiences with amazing performances, but also inspire them through moral, intellectual, and spiritual integrity,” the Culver City, Calif. studio said in a statement.

“Participants at the event helped create an inspiring and exciting atmosphere they hope will set the tone for many years of actor training and personal development, the studio said.

“Attendees included Fr. Willy Raymond, president of Family Theater Productions, and actor Navid Negahban of “The Stoning of Soraya M.” and “Charlie Wilson’s War.”…

“The studio’s operational director Max Espinosa opened the event, explaining the aim of the studio is to prepare students to be both successful actors and complete human beings.

“He noted the “Four Pillars” of the study program: Acting, Personal Growth and Development, Leadership, and Health and Fitness. These are combined with Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to produce actors who are masters of the craft and masters of themselves.

“Holy Wood Studio is unique in its incorporation of the late Pope’s approach to spirituality. He emphasized the individual dignity and complementary roles of men and women, while showing how the drama of romantic love can only find fulfillment in marriage.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Former Criminal Helps Other Criminals

A nice story from the New York Times about a housing program for released prisoners in New York managed by a former criminal, and part of an organization, The Fortune Society, developed and managed by former criminals.

An excerpt.

“IN a nod to hue, not heft, Chris Carney christened his 600-pound Treadlok safe “the Leprechaun.” It is nearly the same color as the tattoo of a four-leaf clover on the knuckle of the middle finger of his right hand — a tattoo his mother threatened to scrub off with steel wool after he got it as a defiant ninth grader.

“Back in the day,” which is how he refers to his criminal past, Mr. Carney kept guns, drugs and money in the safe. The guns were for protection and ego, souvenirs of a misbegotten boyhood near Boston that included family hunting trips and the drill team at military school. The money was for a Stuyvesant Town apartment, a Corvette, trips to the Caribbean, top-shelf alcohol, gambling and cocaine. He supplemented his salary as a union painter by stealing from drug dealers and bookies, as a sort of low-life Robin Hood. “I guess I was another criminal’s worst nightmare,” Mr. Carney said.

“After nine years in prison, he retrieved the Leprechaun from storage in 2008. Today, it hulks impressively in the corner of his tiny office at Castle Gardens, an environmentally conscious apartment building in Harlem that serves a fallen-between-the-cracks clientele. The safe holds nothing but pristine keys, hundreds of them, one for every door at the $44 million building where Mr. Carney, 41, a multiple offender and multiple substance abuser in his angry-young-man 20s, became the primary caretaker — and first tenant — last summer.

“The reincarnation of the Leprechaun is fitting for Castle Gardens, a place of redemption: more than half of the building’s 114 units are reserved for the formerly incarcerated or the formerly homeless. A project of the Fortune Society, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping ex-convicts re-enter society, Castle Gardens is next to Fortune Academy, a 62-bed halfway house on Riverside Drive for offenders fresh from prison. It got its nickname, “the Castle,” because it resembles one.

“Mr. Carney landed at the Castle within weeks of his release in 2008, and eager to stay out of jail but spurned by the painters’ union, he started mopping floors and cleaning toilets there and at the Fortune Society’s offices in Long Island City, Queens. He moved out of the halfway house, to Jackson Heights, Queens, and then to the South Bronx. He was promoted to superintendent at the Castle. He got off parole. Be it ever so humble, it was a start, and it was legal.

“A year later, Mr. Carney stood among officials at the Castle Gardens dedication ceremony, all of them holding shovels he had spray-painted a festive shade of gold for the occasion. He had been named superintendent of the new building, with a base salary of $33,000 a year, a staff of four and a rent-free two-bedroom apartment.

“If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told the crowd that September day. “But sometimes you need a second chance to get your priorities straight.”

“Mr. Carney saved a few of the shovels; they are in his office, leaning against the Leprechaun.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

William F. Buckley

In my current focus of study about Catholic thinkers from the early 1900’s, I am reminded, by beginning to peruse the book I bought some time ago by him, Nearer My God: An Autobiography of Faith, how deeply rich is the fabric of Catholic thought emanating from lay Catholics at all periods of the Church’s history; and how inconceivable that Catholics today who proclaim orthodoxy can be anything other than politically conservative in persuasion.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Catholic Theology: Cardinal Dulles’ 15 Points

In this excellent article from The Catholic Thing, they are described.

An excerpt.

“About fifteen years ago, the late Fr. Avery Dulles S.J. (later cardinal) explained “the criteria of Catholic theology” in a speech of the same title to a pre-convention gathering of the Catholic Theological Society of America. Leaving aside the irony of presenting such a topic before that highly resistant audience, the criteria are a succinct statement of the basic requirements of any truly Catholic theology. No surprise there, because Dulles was a master of the clear expression of orthodox Catholic thinking.

“Now theology is simply (or not so simply) faith seeking understanding. We might be explaining points in a catechism class or hearing a homily or reading formal church documents and statements. No matter. The teaching that we hear is theological, if it is any use at all. And it follows certain criteria. The foundation of everything is that “if it wishes to be Catholic, theology adheres to the faith professed by the Catholic Church.” I will follow Dulles’ numbering of the principles that follow from that initial adherence.

“First, when we look at somebody whose thinking claims to be Catholic, we need (1) to see reasoning within the faith. This requirement frames the operation of the individual thinker, however insightful and creative. Yes, human reason can really reach the truth, but only with the light of faith for all of the important matters of human life. Then the object of the thinker’s inquiry is (2) the God who is knowable. We don’t only have vague metaphors to describe God. Instead, we have real analogies that actually tell us something. God is one, true, good, and beautiful. He is Father, Son, and Spirit, and God is really known in Jesus Christ.

“Then too, we must acknowledge (3) the Catholicity of Christ, which is to say that everything came to be through him, “in whom all things hold together, the mighty Word who sustains the world in being.” (Dulles) Fourthly, this truth has a genuine missionary universalism. It actually is the horizon of the meaning of the whole world and needs to be spread to the ends of the earth.

“There is (5) an inescapable ecclesial context to this thinking because, “faith is ecclesial in at least three senses, the Church mediates faith, is perceived in faith and is the Great Believer.” The faith of the Church precedes the faith of the individual believer, and so thinkers serving the Church “cannot make themselves accountable in the first instance to secular communities whether academic, political or ethnic, or the like.”

Monday, April 4, 2011

Neighborhoods, Public Safety, & Social Media

In an excellent use of technology to keep neighborhoods safe, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, using social media to keep track of neighborhood crime and inform fellow residents is a wise strategy.

An excerpt.

“Meet Robert Earl Randall, or "Bobby," as he is known to friends and police.

“Randall, 44, has amassed a 12-page rap sheet that includes arrests on charges of burglary, driving under the influence, possession of controlled substances, impersonation, writing a phony prescription, receiving stolen property and taking a vehicle without permission.

“Last week, found sleeping in a broken-down camper parked next to his mother's house off Opal Lane in the Hagginwood area, he was arrested again as a suspect in two additional burglaries.

"I'm not trying to be a criminal," Randall told Sacramento County sheriff's Sgt. Chris Joachim as he sat handcuffed the patrol car. "I don't want to go to prison."

“Randall is one of the people you lock your doors against. But, increasingly, Sacramento-area residents are deciding that is not enough.

“Some are turning to online crime-tracking tools or creating neighborhood watch groups on the Internet that give them instant access to crimes reported in their neighborhoods and suspicious activity.

“Susanne Burns is one of them. The Carmichael resident decided she had to do something after her home was burglarized last May while her family slept.

“The family had left vehicles in the driveway to make room for a pre-prom party in the garage. The burglars apparently broke into her husband's truck and used the garage door opener to get inside the garage and then the house.

“When she discovered the burglary, Burns followed the traditional route, setting up a Neighborhood Watch group of homes in her gated community.

"We started emailing and this list grew basically out of control," she said. "It started with me emailing the 22 homes in our little community. It just mushroomed, and I think that's when it hit me."

"It" was the idea of harnessing Facebook. The result is Carmichael Watchgroup, a page on the social networking site that has 342 members and notifies residents of community meetings with the Sheriff's Department, crime-tracking websites and criminal reports.

“News about stolen bikes, garage break-ins and other crimes are posted regularly. At Christmas, video from one home's security cameras was posted showing a burglar breaking into a house and leaving on a bicycle with stolen property.

“Elsewhere, communities from Granite Bay to Natomas have set up email alerts to keep residents abreast of what is going on in their neighborhoods, and several area law enforcement agencies are contracting with companies to put crime data online and make it available to anyone for free.”

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bishops Teaching

It is always refreshing to this convert, to see bishops doing what they are called by God to do, teaching the doctrine of the Church to the faithful, and one always hopes to see it someday become the norm, but sadly, this bishop’s words, as reported by Catholic News Agency, are all too rare.

An excerpt.

“Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 30, 2011 / 05:57 am (CNA).- When bishops and priests are hesitant in exercising their authority, the “father of lies” takes hold of the hearts and minds of the faithful, Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo warned recently.

“One must honestly ask, how many times and years may a Catholic politician vote for the so called ‘right to abortion’ … and still be able to receive Holy Communion?” the bishop said.

“The continual reception of Communion by those who “so visibly contradict and promote a grave evil” creates “grave scandal” and undermines the teaching and governing authority of the Church, he warned. The faithful can interpret these actions as indifference to the teaching of Christ and the Church on the part of those who have “the responsibility to govern.”

“If we honestly pray with the Gospel we can see that hesitancy and non-accountability is not the way of Jesus Christ, but rather it is a failure in the exercise of governance,” Bishop Aquila told a March 18 symposium in Philadelphia about the spirituality and identity of diocesan priests.

“While Jesus provides criteria in Matthew 18 for correcting a brother or sister who sins, the bishop questioned whether Catholics follow this example.

“If these criteria had been followed with those who dissented from Church teaching against contraception in 1968, he asked, “would we still be dealing with the problem today of those who dissent on contraception, abortion, same-sex unions, euthanasia and so many other teachings of the Church?”

“He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s conversation with Peter Seewald in the book “Light of the Word,” where the Pope connected an anti-punishment mentality to the response that some Church officials have had to sexual abuse among clergy.

“The awareness that punishment can be an act of love “ceased to exist,” the Pope said. “This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people.”

“Pope Benedict said that love for the sinner and love for the person harmed are “correctly balanced” when the sinner is punished appropriately.”

Friday, April 1, 2011

Teilhard de Chardin

Though often maligned by Orthodox Catholics over the years, and seeing his books banned, he was spoken of favorably by Pope Benedict XVI, signaling a reassessment—which we blogged about—which is well due, as his works have played a role in many conversions, mine included; and his vision of seeing sanctification coming from work in the world, presaged that of the founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, of one of the most orthodox of Catholic orders, Opus Dei.

An article from America Magazine from March 29, 2005 is a good memorial.

An excerpt.

“Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., died 50 years ago in New York City. At the time, he was widely recognized in U.S. scientific circles for his work on the geology of Asia and his studies of Peking Man. Otherwise, he was virtually unknown. He had written abundantly in philosophy and theology, but church officials had prevented publication, although some of his essays were widely circulated during his lifetime in manuscript form. After his death, friends in Paris did what he had not been permitted to do; they published 13 volumes of his religious writings. By the time the Second Vatican Council began, less than a decade later in 1962, Teilhard had come to be regarded as a saint for the times. But his sanctity was unusual; it showed itself chiefly in a dedication to the world and secular work.

“During World War I, Teilhard was a stretcher-bearer in the French Army and much respected by his fellow soldiers for his indifference to danger. After the war, he returned to the University of Paris to complete his doctoral studies in geology. He approached science as a “religious devotee” and spoke of a “sacred duty of research. We must test every barrier, try every path, plumb every abyss.” To Teilhard, research was a form of adoration, involving its own asceticism. His work took him through blistering heat and icy blizzards, snakes and scorpions, bad food and no food, political instability and exile. Through it all, Teilhard came to be known as “the smiling scientist.” A young Chinese geologist found it “a moving experience to see how much the man could bear.”

“Teilhard was striving for sanctity by working in science, and this effort would require a new understanding of what it means to be holy. The traditional understanding of sanctity regarded secular work as a “spiritual encumbrance” and viewed “the world around us as vanity and ashes.” To come to the things of God required rejection of the things of earth. So says the First Letter of John: “Do not love the world or the things of the world” (2:15). Likewise, St. John of the Cross: “Desire to enter into complete detachment, emptiness, and poverty with respect to everything that is in the world.” Worldly knowledge and secular concerns were thought to lead to pride. “Study to withdraw the love of thy soul from things that be visible, and turn it to things that be invisible,” wrote Thomas à Kempis.

“As the 20th century advanced, seminaries still recommended such texts, but most Christians no longer found in them the expression of a human ideal. Nonetheless, when Teilhard’s Divine Milieu was finally published in 1958, the dedication came as a shock: “For those who love the world.”

“In 1916, in the lulls between battles, Teilhard wrote the first of the essays that would make him famous, “Cosmic Life.” In it he described a communion with earth as a way of attaining communion with God. His theology centered on the Pauline idea of the “body of Christ.” Christians were called on by Paul to see themselves not as separate individuals but as one body. Furthermore, St. Paul’s writing suggested to Teilhard that the “body of Christ” might include the material world, for Christ was progressively uniting all things to become the one in whom “all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Such a unity could be achieved only by building a secular infrastructure. Through work in science, technology, government, education and the unity of peoples, Christians were called to develop the world so that it might be a suitable body for Christ, who would be its soul. Evolution was a building process, and Christians should commit themselves to continue it. “Collaboration in the development of the cosmos,” he wrote, “holds an essential and prime position among the duties of the Christian.” Teilhard suggested that there ought to be a religious community in which people would vow themselves to further the work of the world, a work that would have its own asceticism in its denial of “egotism” and would call for a “supreme renunciation.”