Friday, July 29, 2011

Mass Decorum

One of the reasons, among several, that I feel more comfortable in the Latin Mass—the Extraordinary Form— is that there is a notably deeper quiet and degree of respect for the holiness within the church during Mass compared with that at the Ordinary Mass.

Everyone dresses modestly and I have never heard anyone speaking above a whisper at the Latin Mass, yet at the other, it happened daily.

This article from the Catholic News Agency addresses that.

An excerpt.

“Today, a very casual attitude pervades all our social interactions. Proper church etiquette, like all civil behavior, suffers greatly in our day. The way that we dress for church is casual. Sometimes more suited for the sports field or beach! Our observance of silence is casual as well. Not infrequently people chew gum in church, keep their cell phones on and talk during the liturgy.

“The way that we behave in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament has changed much in the last two generations. Genuflecting when coming before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle is rarely done. At funerals and weddings, as some come to receive Holy Communion, they stop and chat with others instead of approaching the Lord in prayerful recollection. In some places, reverence to the Eucharist is withheld when the mandated rituals of purification of the sacred vessels after Communion are laid aside for a more casual disposal of the fragments of the Eucharist and the remains of the Precious Blood.

“To begin, when we come to church, we are not coming to just an ordinary building. We are entering a sacred place. Yes, the church is, first of all, the People of God “made one as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one and … the temple of God built with living stones, in which the Father is worshiped in spirit and in truth” (Order of the Dedication of a Church, ch. II, 1). Nonetheless, the church building is made holy not simply by the worshiping community, but by the very Presence of God.

“Nothing so becomes a church as silence and good order. Noise belongs to theatres…and market-places: but [in church]…there should be stillness, and quiet and calm reflection, and a haven of much repose” (St. John Chrysostom). We are not attending a performance. We are participating in liturgy, the very worship of God. In church, we are most visibly before God. Even our dress should acknowledge this. As St. Cyprian once said, “The dress of the body should not discredit the good of the soul.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Beautiful Reflection

In our ministry with criminals, we too often forget the beauty of the founder of our Church by being caught up with the Word, but it is a beauty to behold as we are reminded by this article, The Beauty of Christ from the Catholic News Agency.

An excerpt.

“In what sense can we speak of the beauty of Christ? In the next few reflections, this topic will receive our focus. When something beautiful reveals itself to you, whether animate or inanimate, and you perceive it as beautiful, you allow yourself to be drawn to it. You are transported from your self to the beautiful. You may be in a stationery position, but your attention is captured by the beautiful thing. This dynamic movement, uniting your very self with the beautiful, has made you a better person for that experience. The common parlance refers to it an ‘aha’ experience. Experience with the beautiful prepares us for the encounter with the beauty of Christ. Not so with ugliness unless an artist like Shakespeare is portraying evil personified in a masterful way. The Bard’s depiction of ugliness urges us to repudiate it.

“Most assuredly, ugliness and pornography, like beauty, fascinate the eye. But unlike beauty, they prowl about to lure us into their wiles. We fix our gaze on an ugly or horrific thing, but its purpose is singular: to debase and drag us down until we are ashamed and embarrassed for having engaged in the activity. They can never prepare us for an encounter with the beauty of Christ. So saturated is the culture with offensive images that we fail to see that they weaken our ability to enjoy beauty. Vulgar media that include most sitcoms, soaps, talk shows, and TV commercials, are antithetical to an encounter with the beauty of Christ.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Communion Rails

In a wonderful sign of a slow return to liturgical tradition, they are coming back, as this article from the Catholic News Agency reports.

An excerpt.

“Why are Catholic churches/parishes bringing back communion rails?

“Not all Catholic churches are bringing back communion rails, nor are many, but – it is evident - some are. Broadly speaking, we are watching the pendulum of liturgical reform – which was accelerated by the Second Vatican Council – swing back in the other direction, with the approval and encouragement of our Holy Father Benedict XVI, and in response to a true “sensus fidelium” (the public opinion of the faithful), who yearn for a greater reverence for the Holy Eucharist. It has been noted by some commentators that receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue is more in keeping with the liturgical tradition of the Church. I think it’s pointless to ask if it’s more reverent, because what counts most is to be in a state of grace and prepared with fervent desires to be united to Christ.

“For some time the Pope and many others concerned with the Liturgy have been calling for a “hermeneutic of continuity” with respect to liturgical reform, understanding that treasures which have been passed down to us through the ages should not be discarded rashly.

“For the record, according to Church documents currently in effect which regulate such things – the Code of Canon Law, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the U.S. Bishop’s church architecture document “Built of Living Stones” – communion rails are not mentioned, so there is neither prohibition nor mandate to have communion rails.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Prison Mentors

Lifers mentoring new prisoners is a terrific idea, as reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune; but it is only terrific if the lifers involved have become truly reformed while in prison, otherwise it’s a deeper immersion into the criminal/carceral world.

An excerpt.

"Walking back to his dormitory at the Angola prison from the auto shop every day, Christopher Fauria passes grizzled men in wheelchairs who have grown old at Angola and almost certainly will die there.

"Fauria, 34, is determined not to become one of them. He is an inmate too, but a short-termer, sentenced to a new program called Re-entry Court that uses lifers to teach young convicts everything from welding to anger management to being a better father, in hopes that this will be their last time behind bars.

"Having these skills, witnessing what goes on here, I don't want to be in this situation no more," said Fauria, who has several previous drug convictions and pleaded guilty to a burglary charge last October. "I have nine kids. I can't afford to come back here."

"Re-entry Court was spearheaded by two Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judges, Arthur Hunter and Laurie White, who were tired of handing down prison sentences to offenders who would emerge no better than when they went in, unable to find a job upon release and likely to commit more crimes.

"Since last summer, Hunter and White have ordered about 40 nonviolent offenders with relatively short sentences to serve their time at Angola state penitentiary under the tutelage of inmate mentors. Those without high school degrees earn their GEDs.
All get certified in a trade and spend evenings in "life skills" classes while constantly being prodded by the older inmates to pull up their pants, stop cursing and respect others.

"Every instructor in the program, from the auto shop supervisor to the man in charge of the substance abuse class, is a long-term inmate who will live the rest of his life at Angola, barring a reprieve from the usually stingy parole or pardon boards.
The trump card in their teaching arsenal: "Don't end up like me."

"It is too soon to say whether most participants will stay out of trouble once back in New Orleans. But both mentors and mentees say the program has been life-changing. Mentors have a rare chance to exert a positive influence on the outside world."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Protecting the Public

Individual rights should always be protected, but banning the public from using an individual's past criminal behavior to make a judgement about them should not, but it continues to be an effort for many, as this story from Mercury News reports.

An excerpt.

“SAN FRANCISCO -- This city, known for its tolerance, has banned housing and employment discrimination against gays, lesbians and minority groups -- but a new plan to add ex-convicts to that list has some people saying officials are going too far.

“Under a proposal before the city's Human Rights Commission, private employers and landlords would be prohibited from disqualifying applicants because they have been convicted of a crime or been arrested.

“Proponents say that with California under orders to reduce its prison population, such a plan is necessary to help former inmates reintegrate and reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses. Others, however, say that business owners have a right to be cautious in order to protect themselves and others.

“Similar policies have been implemented by several states and more than 20 local governments across the nation.

“San Francisco's proposal was floated by the city's Reentry Council -- a group that helps adult convicts leaving jail or prison and includes representatives from the District Attorney's Office, the police department and the sheriff's department.

“Public Defender Jeff Adachi, whose office is also represented on the council, said the panel found that employers and landlords were increasingly using background checks and eliminating candidates with criminal records.

“What we saw then is really a revolving door," he said. "A person would be released from custody, not be able to secure housing, not be able to find a job and wind up back in the (prison) system."

“One in four adults in California -- about 7 million people -- has a misdemeanor or felony arrest or conviction record, according to the Reentry Council. In addition, the state is under federal orders to reduce its prison population by more than 20 percent over the next two years.

“Adachi said these factors add particular importance to removing barriers to employment and housing.

“However, David Wasserman, a board member with the San Francisco Apartment Association, said courts have made it clear that owners are responsible for any harm caused by their tenants.

"The concern with this proposal is that you rent to a person because you have to, and then that person ends up assaulting a tenant or a person in the building," he said. "Owners should be able to decide whether the person poses a risk to tenants.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

Prison Success & Rehabilitation Failure

Imprisonment is the only documented response to crime that actually reduces crime across the board, as noted by Conklin …”13 to 54 per cent of the decline in crime rates in the 1990’s was due to growth of the prison population…” John E. Conklin (2003). Why Crime Rates Fell. New York: Pearson Education, Inc. (p. 95).

Piehl & Useem wrote…”Crime rates did fall, due in part to the expanded use of prisons.” Anne Morrison Piehl & Bert Useem (2011). Prisons, in Crime & Public Policy, Edited by James Q. Wilson & Joan Petersilia, New York: Oxford University Press, (p.551).

Rehabilitation programs are a failure virtually across the board (with the exception of a slight success shown by cognitive behavioral efforts) and if the public was clearly informed of this by public leadership, the polls would show a different result than that reported by the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

“Cash-strapped Californians would rather ease "third-strike" penalties for some criminals and accept felons as neighbors than dig deeper into their pockets to relieve prison overcrowding, a new poll shows.

“In the wake of a court order that the state move more than 33,000 inmates out of its packed prisons, an overwhelming number of voters oppose higher taxes — as well as cuts in key state services — to pay for more lockup space.

“The survey, by The Times and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, shows a clear shift in attitude by residents forced to confront the cost of tough sentencing laws passed in recent decades.

“The poll canvassed 1,507 registered California voters between July 6 and July 17, about six weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an earlier court order requiring the inmate numbers to be cut. It was conducted by two firms in the Washington, D.C., area: Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic firm, and American Viewpoint, a Republican firm. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.52 percentage points.

“The ailing economy far outweighs crime as the top concern for most people today, the pollsters said. That, along with the court order, could help explain voters' new receptivity to changes long sought by prisoner-rights advocates:

“— More than 60% of respondents, including majorities among Democrats, Republicans and those who declined to state a party preference, said they would support reducing life sentences for third strike offenders convicted of property crimes such as burglary, auto theft and shoplifting.

“— Nearly 70% said they would sanction the early release of some low-level offenders whose crimes did not involve violence.

“— About 80% said they approve of keeping low-level, nonviolent offenders in county custody — including jails, home detention or parole — instead of sending them to state prisons. The same percentage favors paroling inmates who are paralyzed, in comas or so debilitated by advanced disease that they no longer pose a threat to public safety.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Spirit of Catholicism

This is the title of a remarkable book by Karl Adam, published in 1935, a book that played a major role in the education of Pope Benedict XVI.

I would highly recommend it being added to your library for its clarity.

One excerpt.

“The Church’s doctrine of justification is based upon the presupposition that man is not only called to a natural end, to the fulfillment of his natural being, to the development of his natural powers and aptitudes, but also beyond that, to a supernatural elevation of his being which entirely surpasses all created aptitudes and powers, to sonship with God, to participation in the divine life itself. Such is the central fact of the glad tidings of Christianity: “To as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12)”

Adam, K. (1935). The Spirit of Catholicism, New York: MacMillan Company. (pp.204-205)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Poverty in America

It is not what the vast social services industry—of nonprofits and government—portray, according to this report from The Heritage Foundation.

An excerpt, with links at the jump.

“Abstract: For decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that over 30 million Americans were living in “poverty,” but the bureau’s definition of poverty differs widely from that held by most Americans. In fact, other government surveys show that most of the persons whom the government defines as “in poverty” are not poor in any ordinary sense of the term. The overwhelming majority of the poor have air conditioning, cable TV, and a host of other modern amenities. They are well housed, have an adequate and reasonably steady supply of food, and have met their other basic needs, including medical care. Some poor Americans do experience significant hardships, including temporary food shortages or inadequate housing, but these individuals are a minority within the overall poverty population. Poverty remains an issue of serious social concern, but accurate information about that problem is essential in crafting wise public policy. Exaggeration and misinformation about poverty obscure the nature, extent, and causes of real material deprivation, thereby hampering the development of well-targeted, effective programs to reduce the problem.

“Each year for the past two decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that over 30 million Americans were living in “poverty.” In recent years, the Census has reported that one in seven Americans are poor. But what does it mean to be “poor” in America? How poor are America’s poor?

“For most Americans, the word “poverty” suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. For example, the Poverty Pulse poll taken by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development asked the general public: “How would you describe being poor in the U.S.?” The overwhelming majority of responses focused on homelessness, hunger or not being able to eat properly, and not being able to meet basic needs.[1] That perception is bolstered by news stories about poverty that routinely feature homelessness and hunger.

“Yet if poverty means lacking nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, relatively few of the more than 30 million people identified as being “in poverty” by the Census Bureau could be characterized as poor.[2] While material hardship definitely exists in the United States, it is restricted in scope and severity. The average poor person, as defined by the government, has a living standard far higher than the public imagines.

“As scholar James Q. Wilson has stated, “The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.”[3] In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation.[4] “In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

“The home of the typical poor family was not overcrowded and was in good repair. In fact, the typical poor American had more living space than the average European. The typical poor American family was also able to obtain medical care when needed. By its own report, the typical family was not hungry and had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.

“Poor families certainly struggle to make ends meet, but in most cases, they are struggling to pay for air conditioning and the cable TV bill as well as to put food on the table. Their living standards are far different from the images of dire deprivation promoted by activists and the mainstream media.

“Regrettably, annual Census reports not only exaggerate current poverty, but also suggest that the number of poor persons[5] and their living conditions have remained virtually unchanged for four decades or more. In reality, the living conditions of poor Americans have shown significant improvement over time.

“Consumer items that were luxuries or significant purchases for the middle class a few decades ago have become commonplace in poor households. In part, this is caused by a normal downward trend in price following the introduction of a new product. Initially, new products tend to be expensive and available only to the affluent. Over time, prices fall sharply, and the product saturates the entire population, including poor households.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Capital Punishment for Rape

Our organization believes this to be an appropriate sanction, see our fourth guiding criminal justice principle.

The Supreme Court recently disagreed, and an article in the Washington Post, by Charles Lane—whose book on capital punishment was commented on in a previous post—speculates on that decision after reading Jaycee Lee Dugard’s book.

An excerpt from the Post article.

“A Stolen Life , Jaycee Lee Dugard’s harrowing memoir of sexual torture and confinement at the hands of Phillip Garrido, has hit the top of Amazon’s best-seller list. I read it, astonished at her courage and her eloquence — and disgusted at the crimes Garrido, on parole for a previous rape, committed against Dugard for years, starting when she was 11.

“I also wondered how history might have been different if Dugard had escaped from her 18-year hell before the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana, instead of a year after it. This was the case in which the court voted 5-4 to ban the death penalty for raping a child. No future Phillip Garrido need ever fear execution, though many who read Dugard’s book will agree with me that he would richly deserve it.

“At the time, the majority opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy struck me as a mixed salad of moralizing and debatable assertions. Post-Dugard, it’s even less persuasive.

“In previous cases, the Supreme Court banned certain applications of capital punishment partly because a large majority of states had abandoned them, suggesting a “national consensus.” For example, when the court struck down the death penalty for the rape of an adult in 1977 it cited the fact that only Georgia still allowed it.

“In Kennedy v. Louisiana, Justice Kennedy (no relation, obviously) claimed a “national consensus” against the death penalty for raping a child, because only six states allowed it. But they were all post-1995 statutes; under the court’s precedents, the one-way direction of the recent trend argued for their constitutionality.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

Latin Mass, Church within the Church

The Latin Mass parish I attend is a parish of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), one of the orders approved by the Vatican to offer the Latin Mass exclusively, and an FSSP priest wrote a two-part article in 2001, The Spirituality of the Ancient Liturgy, which is in Latin Mass Magazine, and here are the opening paragraphs of part one.

An excerpt.

“Among liturgists and theologians, it is generally considered true that each form of ritual embodies a kind of spirituality which is proper to that ritual. Thus, for example, the Eastern rites tend to emphasize the mysterious aspects of the spiritual life as well as the role of icons in promoting devotion to Our Lord, Our Lady and the saints. The ancient rite of Mass embodies a spirituality and spiritual lessons that can appeal to every generation and time. By ancient ritual is meant that rite which was codified by St. Gregory the Great and which underwent a very slow organic development over the course of centuries. The last missal promulgated that enjoys that organic growth is that of 1962.

“It is the common perception in the Church today that the liturgical development of the medieval period was, in fact, decadent and that we must return to the apostolic and early Church period in order to know what real liturgy is as well as God’s will regarding the liturgy. This is, however, a fundamentally flawed notion. Aside from the fact that modern liturgical experts (and by modern I mean of the last 100 years or so) were not accurate in their understanding of the liturgies of the early Church, the notion that medieval liturgical development was somehow an aberration is really a rejection of what was an authentic development based upon the understanding of the Mass as sacrifice. Moreover, such figures like to harken back to an era when the liturgy was supposedly “pristine,” by which they usually mean that it conformed to their faulty theology of the Mass as a meal.

“The point here is not to give a history lesson, but to explain that one of the premises on which this essay is based is that the ancient rite of Mass is actually the product of the hand of God Who used saints throughout history to develop it according to His holy intention. The desire to reject our liturgical patrimony seems to me to be in fact a desire to reject those things which God has done. Insofar as it is the work of God and the saints, the liturgy embodies certain spiritual principles in the very nature of the ritual that are worthy of reflection. Obviously, we cannot exhaust them all, so we shall limit the discussion to four: 1) the awareness of our sinfulness, 2) the need for self-denial, 3) perfection in virtue and 4) certain aspects about prayer. All of these are essential elements of any sound spiritual life.”

Friday, July 15, 2011

Revolutionary France Tried to Destroy the Church

A little over two hundred years ago, during the French Revolution, the revolutionaries did everything they could to destroy the Catholic Church, and in this reflection of Bastille Day, which was yesterday, The Catholic Thing examines that period.

An excerpt.

“Today, July 14, is Bastille Day, the commemoration of the revolution that brought down France’s Ancien Régime and led to the establishment of a new order that promised to totally refashion society.

“Unlike the American Revolution, which was fought to conserve rights and maintain political order, the French Revolution destroyed the fabric of French society. No aspect of human life was untouched. The Committee of Public Safety – influenced by Rousseau – claimed that to convert the oppressed French nation to democracy, “you must entirely refashion a people whom you wish to make free, destroy its’ prejudices, alter its habits, limit its necessities, root up its vices, purify its desires.”

“To achieve this end, the new rational state, whose primary ideological plank was that the sovereignty of “the people” is unlimited, attempted to eliminate French traditions, norms, and religious beliefs.

“The revolutionary governing bodies were particularly determined to destroy every vestige of the Roman Catholic Church because France was hailed by Rome as the Church’s “eldest daughter” and the monarch had dedicated “our person, our state, our crown and our subjects” to the Blessed Virgin.

“The Constituent Assembly began the campaign against the Church by stating in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, “no body or individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.” In other words the Church could no longer have any say in public matters. The secular state would now have the final word over every aspect of human and social life.

“Next, the government abrogated the 1516 Concordat that defined France’s relationship with the Vicar of Christ. Financial and diplomatic relations with the papacy ceased. In the name of freedom, all monastic vows were suspended and in February 1790, legislation was approved to suppress the monasteries and confiscate their properties.

“The Civil Constitution of the Clergy, passed on July 12, 1790, decreed that the priesthood was a civil body and all bishops and priests were to be selected by the people and paid by the state. The pope was to have no say in the matter. In addition, clerics had to swear an oath of loyalty to the French Constitution. Dissidents had to resign their ministries and many were prosecuted as criminals. Lay Catholics loyal to the pope were treated as rebels and traitors.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Daily Practice & Latin Mass

A little over three years ago—June 9, 2008—I began a regime of daily mass, praying the rosary, and other daily devotions that have greatly strengthened my internal life and during that time I have attended daily mass at our home parish, very close to home, and another parish a bit further away.

Both were joys to attend, but my heart was yearning for the Latin Mass I had been attending on Sundays prior to beginning the daily practice in 2008, which I had hoped to see begin at either parish after Pope Benedicts opening up of it, as the local parish offering it daily—which we had been attending on Sundays—was a substantial drive away for daily use.

However, as we approach yet another changing of the missal in November, I have embraced the extra drive to fulfill my heart with the beauty and solemnity of the Latin Mass, encouraged to do so after rereading Romano Amerio, the great Swiss scholar of the Catholic Church, from his seminal book, Iota Unum, concerning the change resulting from Vatican II, that of the orientation of the mass.

An excerpt.

“An altar facing the congregation presents serious difficulties. If, as often happens, it stands in front of the tabernacle, then the celebrant most unbecomingly turns his back on the Blessed Sacrament in order to face the people. This arrangement recalls the “abomination” deplored in Ezekiel 8:16 [And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord; and behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, worshipping the sun toward the east.] where the priests sacrifice with their backs turned to the Sancta Sanctorum, the Holy of Holies. The unsuitability of this arrangement is all the more obvious when one considers that under the Old Law the Sancta Sanctorum was merely a prefigurations of what was to come, whereas in a Catholic church we are dealing with the Sanctissimum; the Holy One Himself. Again, it should be remembered that pulpits were built at the side of the nave so the preacher would not have to turn his back on the host, and during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, if there was to be a sermon, the host and monstrance were veiled, as it was held to be irreverent even to be in sight of the Sacrament without directing one’s attention to it.

“But apart from questions of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament, the celebration of Mass facing the congregation has specific difficulties of its own. The spaces in which we move have an emotional and symbolic significance; common space, within which all material bodies exist, is divided not only by physical objects but by non-physical meanings that are the basis of symbolism, which in its turn provides the intelligible face of the sacred. For example, forwards means hope, and backwards means something suspect; the right is favorable, the left unfortunate; high signifies divine, low signifies evil; straight is truth, oblique is uncertainty, etc. Thus in the liturgy too, the placing and arrangement of persons and things has an underlying meaning that either does or does not conform to the sacred realities involved. For the priest to turn his face to the people and the people to face the priest during the most sacred parts of the ceremony expresses a completely different ethos from that which prevailed when they both faced the same way. This face to face celebration breaks the symbolic unanimity of the whole assembly. As Mass was usually celebrated in the pre-conciliar period, priest and people were all of them turned towards a God who is symbolically before and above them all. These positions reflect a hierarchical arrangement and a theocentric orientation; they look God-ward. In the new “back-front” Mass, both people and priest are turned towards man, in an anthropocentric arrangement. The united sense of the Church is spoiled, because the God towards whom the people are turned stands, as it were, in the opposite place to the God whom the priest is facing. The priest’s right also becomes the people’s left. The celebrant stands before a God on whom the people turn their back, and vice versa. Of course one can ignore this arrangement of persons and concentrate instead on the host upon the altar, but it is nonetheless natural for human piety to proceed figuratively and to think of people in symbolic places. As I have said then, the united sense of the Church is spoiled by face to face celebration, because the Church’s sense of worship depends on a united looking towards God, and not upon its members contemplating one another. The Church is reduced to a closed community of human beings, when by nature it is really a community directed outwards beyond itself, towards a single transcendent point.”

Romano Amerio. (1996). Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century. Kansas City: Sarto House. (pp. 646-647).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Social Teaching of the Church

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have made significant contributions to the teaching, and helped dramatically in the interpretation of Vatican II, as outlined by George Weigel in this article.

An excerpt.

“A year ago, my subject would probably have struck some as counter-intuitive, implausible, even absurd: why would an octogenarian German theologian with little practical experience of political and economic life have anything interesting or important to say about "the future of the West"? Pope Benedict XVI's Westminster Hall address last September ought to have put paid to at least some of that cynicism. For as many Britons conceded after last September's papal visit, the elderly German theologian had indeed given the United Kingdom, and the rest of the West, a lot to think about in his reflections on the relationship between the health of a culture, and the health of the democratic institutions that culture must sustain.

“And that, in turn, should focus our attention on the font of wisdom from which Pope Benedict drew in analysing the current cultural situation of the Western democracies: the social doctrine of the Catholic Church as it has developed from Leo XIII—the last pope of the 19th century and the first pope of the 20th—through John Paul II, the last pope of the 20th century and the first pope of the 21st. Benedict has, of course, made his own distinctive contributions to this evolving body of thought; but before exploring those themes, a brief sketch of the Catholicism that has emerged during the period following Leo XIII, and that is struggling to come to full maturity today, will help orient the distinctively Benedictine reflections on society, culture, politics, and economics that follow.

“Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI represent the full flowering of a renaissance in Catholic thought that began with Pope Leo XIII, who, after his election to the papacy in 1878, sought an engagement with modern intellectual and cultural life through distinctively Catholic methods. The Leonine Catholic renaissance flourished in the mid-20th century in philosophical, theological, liturgical, historical and biblical studies. Those studies in turn paved the intellectual way to the Second Vatican Council, and shaped its deliberations between 1962 and 1965. The Second Vatican Council was unique, however, in that it did not provide keys for its proper interpretation: it wrote no creeds, legislated no canons, defined no doctrines, condemned no heresies—all the things other ecumenical councils had done in order to provide keys for their interpretation. Absent such keys, the nature and terms of Vatican II's achievement were sharply, even bitterly, contested in the years immediately following the Council's conclusion. As a result, the evangelical energy that Blessed John XXIII had intended his council to ignite—the determination to bring the Gospel of God's passionate love for the world to the world through a two-way dialogue with the world—was dissipated.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cop With a Heart Using his Head

The historical traditional essence of public safety work, beyond the immediately obvious one of protecting the public, is doing all you can to ensure a public safety problem you encounter creates a solution you can offer.

This story from the Tampa Bay News notes one cop’s work in that regard.

An excerpt.

“Deputy Steven Donaldson wants the homeless to be uncomfortable on the street.

“He doesn't pass out blankets, doesn't get them food.

“Maybe that will motivate them, he says.

“Still, this Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy may be one of their greatest advocates.

“Over the course of the past year, the 44-year-old Town 'N Country native, the middle child of three boys, has turned his patrol job into one that focuses solely on helping the homeless get shelter.

“He's an unlikely source of help. He calls himself conservative, says he's no social worker, no bleeding heart. He hates bureaucracy and prefers a business plan.

“Yet this deputy spends all of his working hours driving down West Hillsborough streets doing anything he can to get the homeless off the streets.

"I'm not trying to be philanthropic," he explains. "I'm solving a problem."

“For 15 years as a patrol deputy, he dealt with homeless calls: disturbances, trespassing, public consumption of alcohol. Every arrest required paperwork and a trip to the jail.

“But within days, the offender would often be back on the street, doing the same thing — a classic "revolving door," Donaldson says.

"I don't have a particular affection for homeless people," he says. "I have a particular grievance toward wasting my time."

“Now, he knows most of the homeless people in the Town 'N Country area by name. He visits them regularly and asks them what they need to get off the street.

“He mediates quarrels, pushes them to apply for jobs and fills out Social Security applications for the disabled.

“He calls it simply the "homeless initiative."

“So far, he says, he's gotten 52 off the street.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

John Corapi

Or as we have known him for years, Fr. Corapi; has made a significant move in his life, but we pray that underneath all of the controversy and lawsuits, his extraordinary speaking out in defense of the Catholic Church and traditional teaching will continue, at some point.

His rather dark background equip him—better than most—to recognize and confront evil decisively, and if that will now occur as a lay person speaking, he can be as effective, I would think, as he was as a priest preaching.

The claims and counterclaims leave this writer unable to determine what actually is the truth of the matters leading to his choice to separate from the priesthood, but I am not prone to ascribe the type of dark, ulterior motives to the video and verbal posts Corapi has released as have many others; seeing in them a response of a shaken man who has lost a bulwark of his identity and must rebuild it.

His faith and passion for the Church seems unabated (though that for the hierarchy less so, a position many lay people share) and should, ultimately, see him through, for which we should all pray, that such a warrior for the Church will not lose his way.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Goose for Dinner

Anytime the wasting of good food can be stopped by directing it to aid the poor—or, as in this case, the homeless—it is a great strategy, reflective of the social teaching of the Catholic Church

This article, as reported from the Washington Post, tells of such a case.

An excerpt.

“An overburden of the fowl is causing quite a foul problem at New York City airports.

“Sully would be pleased. After all, it was a flock of geese that forced him to skillfully land his US Airways jet in the Hudson River in 2009. Just after takeoff from LaGuardia, the plane he was piloting struck a flock of Canada geese, leading to a loss of engine power. With this testament to the danger of geese taking shelter near airports, New York City officials have hatched a unique plan to both get rid of the geese and solve hunger.

“They're helping the hungry, one pesky goose at a time. The city will pay for a company to round up geese that they deem to be dangerously close to jetways. After the birds are captured, they'll be shipped off to Pennsylvania food banks to feed the hungry. New York chose Pennsylvania as the recipient of its slaughtered geese, according to the New York Times, because they already have a system in place for processing and distributing the meat.

"Rather than disposing of them in landfills, we wanted to make sure they do not go to waste," New York's Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said. The city garnered criticism last year for gassing geese and letting the carcasses rot in landfills, wasting tons of meat.”

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Right to Life

The continued efforts to allow physician assisted suicide (as great a horror as physician assisted abortion) is making headway, and the strong response from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is very welcome, and well-analyzed in this Culture of Life article.

An excerpt.

“WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 6, 2011 ( Political advocacy for assisted suicide in the United States dates back to the eugenics movement of the early 20th century and the failed Ohio euthanasia bill of 1906.

“Activists organized themselves in the 1930s around the former Protestant minister Charles Potter (who first abandoned the Baptist and then the Unitarian church because both were too conservative), and formed the Euthanasia Society of America. The movement remained on the social fringe until the 1970s, when the case of Karen Ann Quinlan mobilized its energies.

“The 21-year-old Quinlan was diagnosed in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) after suffering severe brain injury from oxygen deprivation. After several months of ventilator support without improvement, her parents requested that the hospital remove the ventilator and leave her to die.

“The battle was fought in the courts and on the front pages of newspapers throughout the country. Although the central ethical question concerned the removal of life support and not intentional euthanasia, the case became a cause célèbre for the still fringe right-to-die movement, which found its social voice arguing for the inhumanity of forcing disabled patients to linger in their disabilities.

“The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of her parent's petition, and the ventilator was removed in 1976. But because Karen's family continued to feed her, she lived for another nine years. The courts and the country were not yet ready for the "merciful starvation" requests that were bound to follow in the 1990s. And follow they did.

“In 1990, the euthanasia movement mobilized around the family of Nancy Cruzan, a 33-year-old woman diagnosed in a PVS after suffering a brain injury in a terrible car accident. The family petitioned to remove her feeding tube and the U.S. Supreme Court, after some hesitation, ruled in favor of the request. Her starvation lasted for 12 days.

“The liberty to refuse life support was only an interim step for euthanasia activists. All along the goal was full-fledged intentional self-killing legally facilitated by the medical community, or physician assisted suicide (PAS).”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Criminal Justice Reform?

It is billed as that, as this article from the San Diego News about sending more criminals to local jurisdictions rather than to state prison, and this one from the San Francisco Chronicle about changing the three-strikes sentencing; as well as this older effort to abolish capital punishment by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and all indicate a moving away from incapacitation as a criminal deterrent.

A criminal in prison won’t be harming the innocent directly—though if he can get access to a cell phone he can indirectly—and capital punishment removes the particularly horrible criminals from their earthly life and the possibility they may repeat their horrors, as well as providing the deep stimulus facing death can have on seeking redemption.

Unfortunately, too many policy makers—even among Catholic leadership—seem driven by a certain cloudiness of mind, leading them to adopt a pacifistic approach to evil, which renders it supremacy on the ground; rather that a vigorous response to evil, which can render it impotent.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Capital Punishment Support

The fourth guiding criminal justice principle of the Lampstand Foundation is:

4) Capital punishment is an appropriate response to the criminal evil of murder, rape, and pedophilia.

Capital punishment is often the only effective social method available to protect the innocent and applied with dispatch after legal review of the crimes charged and determining the fitness of its application, should be considered an appropriate sentence for murderers, rapists, and pedophiles; who, knowing the time of their death, are able, with certainty of their remaining time to do so, seek God's forgiveness.

From the Vatican Catechism (2007):

"2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor."

Lane (2010) notes: "During the decade beginning in 1997, five states enacted the death penalty for rape of a child--though the Supreme Court struck those laws down in 2008." Lane, C. (2010). Stay of execution: Saving the death penalty from itself. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (p. 66)

The Lampstand article, Capital Punishment and the Constancy of Catholic Social Teaching, is available at Social Justice Review.

A recent survey by Rasmussen Reports finds high support from the American public for capital punishment.

An excerpt, with links at the jump.

“Support for the death penalty remains high, and adults are a bit more confident that capital punishment helps deter crime than they were a year ago.

"The latest Rasmussen Reports national survey shows that 63% of American Adults favor the death penalty, while 25% oppose it. Another 12% are undecided.

“The number of adults who support the death penalty is virtually identical to surveys conducted last June and in November 2009.

“Forty-seven percent (47%) of adults believe the death penalty helps deter crime, but 39% disagree. Fourteen percent (14%) are not sure. Still, Americans are more confident that the death penalty helps deter crime than they were last June, when they were evenly divided on the question. The latest results are similar to those found in late 2009.

“The survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on June 25-26, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.”

Monday, July 4, 2011