Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Labor, Unions, & Work

In 1776, King Louis XVI of France revealed that he understood the natural right of the individual to work, which had little to do with labor unions, as reported in this article from The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

“Winston Churchill was brought back resoundingly to power in the General Election of 1950, and he remarked on the conceit of the opposing party in appropriating the name “Labour”: For “they are not the only ones who work in this country.”

“As we approach Labor Day, it seems curious that the day has come to celebrate the place and strength of labor unions. In recent years, unions have been disappearing from manufacturing and private industry; they have held on and grown mainly with jobs in the government, sustained by their political clout. By 2010, the union membership in government had come to exceed the membership in private industry (7.6 million, as against 7.1 million employees). But what is more curious is the way in which the “rights of workers” have been identified with the rights of unions –and radically detached, then, from the understanding of the “natural right” to work.

“That understanding was put forth with a rare clarity and force by political authority with – of all things – a proclamation by Louis XVI in 1776. The king’s edict was drafted by Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, the estimable minister of finance and a prime defender of a liberal order in the economy and the polity. The purpose of the edict was to break the special privileges of guilds, trading companies, and other monopolies, including the government itself, in controlling access to employment.

“The edict would explicitly reject the premise that the means of making a living are the property, presumptively, of the state. These schemes of regulation brought their advantages for the privileged, but this “illusion” of benefits, said the monarch, concealed “the infraction of natural right.” He rejected the notion that “the right to work was a royal privilege which the king might sell, and that his subjects were bound to purchase from him”: “God in giving to man wants and desires rendering labor necessary for their satisfaction, conferred the right to labor upon all men, and this property is the first, most sacred, and imprescriptible of all.

“A little more than a century later, Leo XIII would fill out the moral grounding of that understanding in Rerum Novarum (1891). The Holy Father warned against socialist schemes that would do away with private property, so that “individual possessions should become the property of all, to be administered by the state.” The working man himself, he said, would be among “the first to suffer.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Laity’s Expertise

One of the strongest calls from the Holy Father is that of encouraging the laity to lead in areas where their competence and expertise outweighs that of the priests and religious of the Church, as expressed in the Apostolic Exhortation of John Paul II, Christifideles Laici which teaches us that:

“In the context of Church mission, then, the Lord entrusts a great part of the responsibility to the lay faithful, in communion with all other members of the People of God. This fact, fully understood by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, recurred with renewed clarity and increased vigor in all the works of the Synod: "Indeed, Pastors know how much the lay faithful contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they themselves were not established by Christ to undertake alone the entire saving mission of the Church towards the world, but they understand that it is their exalted office to be shepherds of the lay faithful and also to recognize the latter's services and charisms that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one heart" (italics in original)

And as ratified by Canon Law:

“Can. 215 The Christian faithful are at liberty freely to found and direct associations for purposes of charity or piety or for the promotion of the Christian vocation in the world and to hold meetings for the common pursuit of these purposes.

“Can. 216 Since they participate in the mission of the Church, all the Christian faithful have the right to promote or sustain apostolic action even by their own undertakings, according to their own state and condition. Nevertheless, no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.”

There are, as noted by the modern spiritual classic, The Soul of the Apostolate, places in the world “to which no priest had access”.

“It is very certain that the primitive Church, as we have already hinted, knew how to organize magnificent and numerous shock troops, in the midst of the faithful, and their virtues both struck the pagans with astonishment and excited the admiration of honest souls, even those most prejudiced against Christianity by their principles, their traditions, and their social background. Conversions were the result, even in circles to which no priest had access.” (p. 163)

This is clearly true in the area of criminal justice, where the organized American Catholic hierarchical leadership has made costly blunders through the uninformed expression of opinions and policy suggestions whose adoption can present a great danger to the innocent.

Such is the case with this latest foray into criminal justice politics, as reported by California Catholic Daily.

An excerpt.

“A group of about 50 people gathered at the headquarters of the California Catholic Conference in Sacramento yesterday morning and then marched to the state capitol, where others joined them in a vigil to support of a bill that would allow judges to reconsider life without parole sentences meted out to juvenile criminals.

“The bill in question, SB 9, by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would allow judges to review the cases of juveniles sentenced to life without parole after they have served 15 years of their sentence. Judges would be permitted to re-sentence such juveniles to a new sentence of 25 years to life, which would mean they could be considered for parole and perhaps not spend the rest of their lives in prison.

“According to Yee, his bill requires that juvenile offenders sentenced to life without parole show remorse and progress toward rehabilitation before being allowed to submit a petition for consideration of the new sentence.

“The bill has the strong backing of the California Catholic Conference, the political action arm of the state’s bishops.

“Sentencing a teenager to prison with no opportunity for parole completely eliminates any possibility of rehabilitation,” the bishops said in a statement on SB 9. “Young people should have a chance to turn their lives around.”

“The bill, already approved by the state Senate, passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Aug. 17, and is scheduled for a vote in the state Assembly this week. If it passes, it would then go to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

“There is no question that youth who commit crimes should be held accountable -- but in a way that reflects their age and their capacity for rehabilitation,” said the Catholic Legislative Network in an Aug. 22 email. “SB 9 recognizes that young people have the capacity to change and should have access to the rehabilitative tools to do so.” (The Catholic Legislative Network operates under the auspices of the California Catholic Conference.)”

Fortunately, this effort failed, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

An excerpt.

“A bill that would have allowed juvenile offenders sentenced to life without parole the chance to pursue freedom after a quarter-century in prison narrowly failed to pass the state Assembly Thursday.

“In an hourlong floor debate, Republicans seemed to sway wavering Democrats by recounting details of vicious rapes and brutal killings.

“Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, argued that the bill was about much more than "whether we're going to give people a chance at redemption." He said it's about teens like Scott Dyleski, convicted of "slaughtering" his Lafayette neighbor in 2005, so he could steal her credit cards and buy marijuana. Right after the vicious crime, Donnelly noted, the 16-year-old had sex with his girlfriend.

“Senate Bill 9 "is sending a signal we don't actually value life," Donnelly added. "If you take a life, then the least we can do is say you have to give up yours, whether it's life in prison, or the death penalty."

“The bill by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was backed by human rights advocates and child psychiatrists. It was approved by the full Senate and supported by all but a handful of key Assembly Democrats.

“In a dramatic twist, although Yee counted 40 votes late in the day -- one shy of passage -- his failure to convince enough Democrats ultimately doomed the bill in a 36-36 vote, with eight members abstaining when the final roll was called.”

Monday, August 29, 2011

Queen Mother

A story about the site of the only Church approved Marian shrine in the United States from the National Catholic Register.

An excerpt.

“CHAMPION, Wis. — At the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help outside of Green Bay, Wis., it used to be that the largest crowds came each year for the Aug. 15 outdoor Mass with the bishop. However, according to longtime caretaker of the shrine Karen Tipps, every day is now like the feast of the Assumption.

“There is a night-and-day difference between the summer of 2010 and this summer,” Tipps said. “We are seeing 10 times the number of daily visitors we would typically have in the summer.”

“That’s because last December, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Green Bay’s Bishop David Ricken announced that this shrine was an approved apparition site of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is the only Church-approved Marian apparition site in the United States.

“It was here, in 1859, when the Blessed Mother appeared three times to a young Belgium immigrant, Adele Brise. The message of the Blessed Mother to Adele was to “gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”

“The new rector of the shrine, Father Peter Stryker, hopes that message will continue to inspire pilgrims. Father Stryker and a fellow priest, both members of the Fathers of Mercy, a religious order of priests based in Kentucky, arrived in early July to take over the shrine’s daily operations at the request of Bishop Ricken.

“Both of us feel very welcomed and appreciated here,” said Father Stryker. “The holy traffic has indeed increased during these summer months. We feel honored to be serving at the first and thus far only site of Church-approved Marian apparitions here in the United States.”

Friday, August 26, 2011

Poverty Solution

The quote from the final paragraph in the excerpt: "The best anti-poverty program for children is a stable, intact family," just about says it all, in this article from the Ethics & Public Policy Center.

The excerpt.

“In thinking through the best way to help truly disadvantaged Americans regain access to the American Dream, it's helpful to disaggregate the issue and identify its shifting nature.

“There is, as there has always been, an economic component to poverty and opportunity in America, including growth, access to capital, and mobility. And those things remain crucial. But I want to submit for consideration a proposition which has significant empirical backing: the main driver of poverty in America today has to do with culture, mores, and lifestyle choices, not with economics.

“My former White House colleague Ron Haskins points out that "Census data show that if all Americans finished high school, worked full time at whatever job they then qualified for with their education, and married at the same rate as Americans had married in 1970, the poverty rate would be cut by around 70 percent." The best way to keep open the pathway to the American Dream, then, is through a "success sequence"; graduate from high school, get a job, get married, and then have babies.

“So what can we do to encourage more people to embrace this "success sequence"? By providing children with stable, orderly environments in which to grow up and to strengthen the institutions that shape the character and habits of the young.

“In practical terms, what am I talking about? First and foremost, it means we need more stable, intact families. The theologian Michael Novak once called the family the original and best department of health, education, and welfare. If families fail, other adults can help fill the breach. But it is very nearly impossible for other people and institutions to fully pick up the pieces.

“Children who are raised in broken families are far more likely to drop out of high school, use drugs, commit violent crimes, have children outside of marriage, develop mental health problems, become homeless, drop out of the labor force, go on welfare, and experience poverty. Indeed, the poverty rate for single-parent families is almost six-times the rate for married-couple families. "The best anti-poverty program for children is a stable, intact family," according to former Clinton administration officials William Galston and Elaine Kamarck.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

World Youth Day II

Sandro Magister on Chiesa writes movingly of the just concluded event, which will encourage great hope among the faithful for the continued power of the Catholic Church as a sign of contradiction in the world.

An excerpt.

“ROME, August 24, 2011 – After every one of his voyages outside of Italy, Benedict XVI loves to provide a snapshot of it at the following Wednesday general audience…

“To simple outside observation, these worldwide gatherings also demonstrate distinctive characteristics, which were especially visible in Madrid.

“The first is silence. A prolonged, very intense silence that breaks out at key moments, in a throng of young people that had been exploding with celebration just a moment before.

“The Via Crucis is one of these moments. Another, even more striking, is that of the adoration of the sacred host during the nighttime vigil. A third is that of communion during the concluding Mass.

“Silent adoration of the sacred host is an innovation introduced into the World Youth Days by Benedict XVI. The pope kneels down, and with him hundreds of thousands of young people kneel down on the bare ground. All of them kneeling not to the pope, but to that "our daily bread" who is Jesus.

“The violent stormy downpour in Madrid that preceded Eucharistic adoration made the silence even more striking. And the same thing happened the following morning, at the Mass. The unexpected cancellation of the distribution of communion – for unexplained reasons of security – did not produce disorder and distraction in the endless expanse of young people, but on the contrary a silence of surprising composure and intensity, a mass "spiritual communion" with no known precedent.

“A second distinctive characteristic of this last World Youth Day is the very low average age of the participants, 22.

“This means that many of them were taking part in it for the first time. Their pope is Benedict XV, not John Paul II, whom they knew only as children. They are part of a generation of young and very young people highly exposed to a secularized culture. But at the same time, they are the signal that the questions about God and ultimate destinies are alive and present in this generation as well. And what motivates these young people is precisely these questions, to which a pope like Benedict XVI offers answers that are simple, yet powerfully demanding and attractive.

“The veterans of the World Youth Days were there, in Madrid. But above all among the tens of thousands of volunteers who assisted with the organization. Or among the numerous priests and religious who accompanied the young people, whose vocations germinated during previous World Youth Days. It has been clearly shown that these gatherings are an incubator for the future leadership of Catholic communities around the world.

“A third distinctive characteristic is the projection of these young people "ad extra." They don't have any interest in the battles within the Church to bring it into step with the times. They are light years away from the "cahier de doléances" of some of their older brothers: for married priests, for women priests, for communion for the divorced and remarried, for the popular election of bishops, for democracy in the Church, etcetera etcetera.

“For them, all of this is irrelevant. It is enough for them to be Catholics as Pope Benedict shows and explains to them. Without diversions, without concessions. If we were saved at a high price – the blood of Christ – we must reach just as high in giving our lives as true Christians.

“It is not the internal reorganization of the Church, but passion for the evangelization of the world that motivates these young people.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

World Youth Day

It was stupendous—almost 2 million strong—as this story from Catholic Culture reports.

An excerpt.

“Pope Benedict XVI challenged nearly 2 million young people to be “apostles of the 21st century,” as he closed World Youth Day (WYD) ceremonies in Madrid on August 21.

“There is no reason to lose heart,” the Pope told WYD participants. He assured them that their contemporaries will respond to the Gospel message, as idealistic young people invariably respond “when one proposes to them, in sincerity and truth, an encounter with Jesus Christ.” In the final remarks of his 4-day visit to Spain, the Pontiff said that the WYD participants would return to their own homes as “missionaries of the Gospel.”

“Organizers of the 26th international WYD celebration had expected up to 1 million participants. But nearly twice that many young people crowded onto the airfield outside Madrid where the Pope presided at a concluding Mass on Sunday.

“As he prepared to board his plane for the return flight to Rome, Pope Benedict thanked all those who had helped to organize the event. He praised the host country, Spain, for its hospitality as well as its long tradition of Catholic faith.

“That Spanish hospitality had been blemished by angry public protests against the Pope’s visit, which occasionally erupted into violence. The anti-papal demonstrators complained that the costs of the papal visit were excessive, particularly at a time of economic difficulties in Spain. Church official replied that the costs of the WYD ceremonies were covered by the income from participants and corporate sponsors. For the government of Spain, the major expenses were for security: expenses that were sharply increased because of the unruly demonstrations.

“One of the most dramatic moments of the 26th WYD came on Saturday evening, August 20, when a violent thunderstorm drenched the young people who had gathered for a prayer vigil at the Madrid airport, and forced the Pope to cut short a talk on the dignity of marriage and the family. Despite the pouring rain and wild winds, which knocked out the public-address system, the Pope refused to leave the site, insisting that he would stay to lead the young crowed in Eucharistic adoration. After the storm passed, he congratulated the young pilgrims for their perseverance.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Capital Punishment Knowledge Gap

The depth of it, considering it is the ultimate sanction to protect the innocent from the evil aggressor, is often astonishing, as noted by the Crime and Consequences blog.

An excerpt, with links at the jump.

“The Concord Monitor has this interview with presidential candidate Ron Paul. He claims to have changed his view on the death penalty based on "study." From what he says, it appears that his study consists of lapping up the anti side's propaganda the way a dog laps up antifreeze, completely unaware it is poison.

“For example, "It's so racist, too. I think more than half the people getting the death penalty are poor blacks."

“What did he study to come up with that gem? The DPIC website?

“We don't have firm numbers on "poor," but we have reams of data on race. As of 12/31/09, the population of death row was 3,173, of whom 1,317 were black. (BJS, Capital Punishment in the United States, 2009, Table 4.) That is 41.5%, significantly less than half, but I won't quibble over the 8.5%. Far more important is the logical leap that this ratio somehow indicates racism.

“What percentage of murderers are black? It runs pretty consistently about half. For 2009 single-offender, single-victim homicides where the race of the offender is known, there were 6,631 total with 3,106 black perpetrators, 46.8%. (Sourcebook of Criminal Statistics, Table 3.129.2009.) Other years are similar.

“Given that the percentage of blacks on death row is about the same (actually a tad less) as the percentage of murderers who are black, how does Paul make the leap to "so racist"? Probably by falling for the Fallacy of the Irrelevant Denominator and comparing the percentage on death row with the general population. But the general population is 99+% nonmurderers and hence irrelevant to a calculation about race and the death penalty.

“You don't have to be a genius to recognize the correct denominator in this problem. You only have to think about it a little. By failing to do so, even while claiming to have studied the problem, Paul demonstrates appalling shallowness of thought.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Doctor of the Church

This eminent title elevates the particularly wise and learned saint above other saints and helps Catholics in their study of Church doctrine/dogma—providing a lamp shedding light for our faith journey—doctrine/dogma being defined by the Catechism's Glossary as:

“Doctrine/Dogma: The revealed teachings of Christ which are proclaimed by the fullest extent of the exercise of the authority of the Church’s Magisterium. The faithful are obliged to believe the truths or dogmas contained in divine Revelation and defined by the Magisterium.”

And within the Catechism it says:

“The dogmas of the faith

88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.

89 There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.

90 The mutual connections between dogmas, and their coherence, can be found in the whole of the Revelation of the mystery of Christ. "In Catholic doctrine there exists an order or hierarchy of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith."

This article from Chiesa reports on a recent awarding of the title to a saint and examines the title historically.

An excerpt.

“VATICAN CITY, August 21, 2011 – Saint John of Avila (1499-1569) will be the 34th doctor proclaimed by the Catholic Church, the first under the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

“The pope made the announcement at the end of the Mass celebrated on the morning of Saturday, August 20, in the cathedral of Madrid, with the seminarians who had gone there for World Youth Day.

“So the title of doctor of the Church has once again been assigned to a man, after being granted consecutively to the first three women in history to bear it: Paul VI invested Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Catherine of Siena with it in 1970; John Paul II gave it to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux in 1997.

“Currently, the practices regarding new doctors of the Church are being examined jointly by the congregation for the causes of saints and the congregation for the doctrine of the faith.

“There is not much official information available on the subject. Some of it was provided by the Jesuit Giandomenico Mucci in the article "The title of doctor of the Church" published in the last issue of 1997 of "La Civiltà Cattolica."

“In it, Mucci, building on theses formulated by the Franciscan Umberto Betti (made a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2007, and deceased two years later), spoke out in favor of granting the title of doctor to martyrs as well, but not to popes.

"Because the title of doctor of the Church," he wrote, "is based specifically on the 'eminens doctrina,' it cannot be concealed under any gift of sanctity possessed by the candidate for the title of doctor. So even a martyr in whom the Church recognizes the 'eminens doctrina' (Ignatius, Irenaeus, Cyprian) can be elevated to the doctorate, despite the different historical practice."

“However, "it seems problematic," Mucci then added, "to grant the title of doctor of the universal Church to a saint who was a Roman pontiff. In fact, the documents of his magisterium are authoritative not because of the 'eminens doctrina' possessed as a personal gift of grace, but by virtue of the office that constituted him supreme pastor and doctor of all the faithful."

“In the same article, Mucci listed the saints and blesseds on the waiting list for the title of doctor.

“Six of them are women: Saint Veronica Giuliani, Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Saint Gertrude of Helfta, Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Blessed Julian of Norwich.

“And twelve are men: in addition to Saint John of Avila, Saint Gregory of Narek, Saint John Bosco, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Saint Lorenzo Giustiniani, Saint Antonino of Florence, Saint Thomas of Villanova, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Saint Bernardino of Siena.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Self Protection for Women

Nothing is more effective for protecting yourself—short of having a black belt in karate—than a gun wielded by someone who can use it and with the time to bring it into action when threatened by an aggressor.

So this story from NPR reporting on the increasing sales of guns to women is a very encouraging sign.

An excerpt.

“For years, gun stores were predominantly patronized by men. But these days, shooting ranges and shops selling firearms are seeing more female customers than ever before, and that has them changing the way they do business.

“In one brand-new shooting range at Eagle Gun in Concord, N.C., shots from Sharon Skoff's handgun boom behind glass that separates the range from the rest of the shop.

"I just refuse to be a victim if I possibly can in life," Skoff says. "I actually went and got my concealed permit a couple months ago so I can carry."

“Skoff, a 47-year-old flight attendant, says she shoots because she's scared.

"If you listen to the news at night, all you hear are women in parking lots — someone coming up, or threatening them for their purse or threatening their life, or raping [them]," she says.

“A Huge Emerging Market

“Store owner Mike Threadgill says there was a time when women like Skoff would have been out of place. Not anymore.

"The ladies are bringing in a lot of the money for the business," Threadgill says. "And if they do that, then I want to cater to them."

“Rachel Parsons, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, says women are a huge emerging market. What's happening at Eagle Gun is happening at shops all over, she says.

“The latest data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation shows gun store owners reported a 73 percent increase in female customers in 2009 from the year before. Parsons says the trend is even being reflected by the number of guns made just for women.

"You see firearms being developed that have smaller grips to fit a woman's hand," Parson says. "Maybe they're pink, or maybe they have pearl grips. And they're a little bit less intimidating."

“The NRA says it's also organizing more hunting excursions for women than ever before. And the spike in sales is not just a North Carolina phenomenon. In Texas last year, almost 30,000 women obtained a concealed carry permit. Georgia has also seen an increase.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

California’s Prisoner Shift to Counties Increase Crime?

Yes, that is the considered opinion of most informed professionals, as in this press release from the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, and beginning to arise in the popular press, as in this story from the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt from the Times story.

“Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday condemned Sacramento's cost-cutting decision to keep some state prisoners in local lockups and have parolees be supervised by county agencies, asserting that both would lead to an increase in crime.

“While discussing a prisoner transition plan submitted by Sheriff Lee Baca, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said he expected county jails to quickly run out of space if they must continue to handle the 7,000 low-level felons that courts normally send to state prison each year. The already-strained county Probation Department will also see an increase in probationers it must oversee.

"It's a system that's meant to fail," Antonovich said, "and who is it going to fail? Every neighborhood, every community where these people are going to be running around....It's a Pandora's box. It's the bar scene — a violent bar scene that you saw in 'Star Wars' — except they're all crazy and nuts."

“Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky noted that the problem started when state legislators decided "to dump their financial woes on us. This is going to impact crime adversely in communities, without a doubt."

“Because of the state's continuing budget and prison overcrowding crisis, on Oct. 1 California will begin shifting some low-level nonviolent offenders from the state prison and parole system to its 58 county jails and probation departments.

“Antonovich said it is likely that Los Angeles County will run out of jail beds unless it "uses other models of supervisions such as electronic monitoring, work furloughs, weekenders and GPS tracking."

"It's irresponsible for us to turn around and dump these [prisoners] into our communities with an ankle bracelet and hope they don't re-offend," Antonovich said. Without finding a way to increase prison time, Antonovich said, "I believe we'll have a spike in crime."

“In the meantime, sheriff's officials expressed worry over how state parolees would be transferred over to the county probation system. Currently, when inmates are released from state prison and transferred to the state parole system, they are given $200 so they can buy themselves a bus ticket home with instructions to contact a state parole officer within two business days.

“But county authorities say that system could allow just-released prisoners to flee without making contact with a county probation officer. Baca is proposing that the state turn over Los Angeles-bound inmates to county jailers just before they are released, so they can be given a mental evaluation and linked with nonprofit groups able to help them adjust to life after prison.

“Baca's proposal seeks to help released prisoners adopt a law-abiding lifestyle, sheriff's officials said.

“Supervisor Gloria Molina, however, cautioned against the county taking on an added responsibility, and said she was worried about risking lawsuits should something go wrong.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just War

It is—in relation to the work of the Lampstand Foundation—one of the most important systems of Catholic doctrine, because it forms the foundation of the Catholic teaching that evil must be confronted, and this article from The Catholic Thing is a reflection on that.

An excerpt.

“In describing my 2004 book about chivalry, a reviewer wrote that I am “one of those unassuming personalities who is quietly ready for all emergencies. A liberal who became a conservative, a secularized Protestant who became a Catholic, an intellectual who has plunged into the business world, a gentle man . . .” – and then he made mention of my martial-arts training. I blushed when I read it, but not because I’m humble.

“I was embarrassed by what I knew to be true about me, and he did not: I’m an angry man. I have a secret enemies list, and the martial-arts training – which I’m still doing (in modified form and in moderation) – is a way of expiating a certain amount of existential rage: indeed, the heavy bag I pummel in the gym represents one or another of my antagonists. Gentle man? Not by a truly Christian measure. (I will note that “gentle,” back when it got melded with “man,” had the original meaning of “polished,” as a sword might be. A sharp-edged man who fought his way to lands and titles was said to have been “gentled.”)

“I haven’t been terribly hard on myself about the anger, because in my experience, neither guilt nor shame is a particularly effective means of breaking free of either spiritual or psychological restraints. At one point in my life, I read much of the wonderfully peculiar work of the Dutch philosopher Spinoza (d. 1677), who at one point in his Ethics writes (and I paraphrase from memory): Once we have had a clear and distinct idea about a passion, it ceases to be a passion. By “passion” he meant a sin or an illusion. And it is ever more clear to me that to love Jesus Christ – to have clear and distinct knowledge of the incarnate God – is finally to be free of anger. No doubt I could write the same about the other deadly sins, but my concern here is with ira: rage, fury, wrath.

“Not all anger is wrong, of course. Aristotle thought lack of anger or insufficient anger was at times a fault. Detachment is a great virtue, but it’s hard to imagine being so disinterested that we feel no anger about abortion or child abuse or any other grave injustice. And as W. H. Auden wrote: “Anger, even when it is sinful, has one virtue: it overcomes sloth.” Anger is a tool, like a one iron in your golf bag. You may not use it often, but it’s there when you need a long, straight shot. Then you put it back in the bag.

“In this regard, the example of Jesus cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem is often cited – appositely, I believe. Our Lord certainly did not feel rage, which is anger exploded into destructive sinfulness, but neither did He speak sweet reason to the buyers and sellers who had turned His Father’s house into a den of thieves. He drove them out. He whipped them. He loved them too. But to do the driving and the whipping, as I have tended to, without the loving is to give back to a reckless and violent world its mirror image.

“As a rule, and over the course of my life (all of it as a nominal Christian, most of it as a Catholic), I have not loved my enemies. I have sometimes hit them square on the chin. When my sons were old enough to hear or watch adventure stories, there was almost always a scene in which the hero has the drop on the villain, has him in his sights, then has a moment of doubt and lets the bad man live. I’d close the book, hit the mute or the pause button. The boys would look over at me, and after a while they didn’t have to wait for me to say it, they would recite: “Always take the shot.”

“But that’s a literary/cinematic reaction, empirically based on the fact that ten times out of ten the bad guy ends up shooting the good guy or his lady friend or in some way comes back near the end to create havoc – all because our hero hadn’t earlier been more pragmatic. Maybe there’s a Scripture passage to be cited in support. If so, I don’t know it, but I will quote the great Scot philosopher Adam Smith (d. 1790): Kindness toward the guilty is cruelty to the innocent. This is why Catholics have just-war theory.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Church & The World

It is—and has always been—a struggle for Catholics and those approaching Catholicism, to be able to differentiate between the two and keep the faith with the former while dealing with the corruption of the latter, too often impacting the former.

In this article from Catholic Culture, the dilemma is examined.

An excerpt.

“I never cease to be amazed by two kinds of reactions to the positions we take on On the one hand, some people react to our explanation or defense of Catholic doctrine as if we are articulating just another personal opinion. On the other hand, some react to our suggestions for political, social or economic development as if they are dogmatic errors which must be rejected at all costs. Truth to tell, both reactions very often come from the same people.

“These reactions indicate a deep misunderstanding of what it means to be Catholic coupled with a tendency to take one’s cues from prevailing cultural ideas rather than from the Church herself. For the Church teaches infallibly in matters of faith and morals (commonly called Catholic doctrine). But in matters of political, social or economic development, she can teach authoritatively only at the level of guiding principles, and not at the level of practical proposals, mechanisms and policies. Therefore, the only reasonable approach for a Catholic is to assent to Catholic doctrine without argument while accepting the legitimacy of disagreement over specific proposals for political, social and economic development.

“The former is guaranteed by God Himself; the latter must be evaluated prudentially on two counts: First, the degree to which a proposal accords with the principles of Catholic social teaching; second, the degree to which it can actually be expected to accomplish its goals. But when people assert that doctrine is a matter of opinion while specific social strategies can be dogmatically approved or rejected, then we are no longer dealing with a Catholic mind. Only the person whose mind and attachments are primarily formed by the world will relativize doctrine and absolutize politics.

“A similar error can occur in our evaluation of the Church herself, for the Church has both human and Divine elements, both fallible and infallible. For example, if a Catholic is willing to cooperate with grace, Catholic doctrine and the sacraments infallibly engender holiness, but the Church’s administrative programs bear fruit only according to their prudential matching of the right action to the right situation, and the behavior of individual Churchmen bears fruit according to its conformity with Christ. For this reason, when we dislike or react negatively to particular programs and policies or to things that particular Churchmen have done, we react with a Catholic mindset only if we distinguish such things from the essential holiness of the Church herself.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Corrupted System

In a story—from the Philadelphia Inquirer—feeding the Marxist narrative so favored by many criminologists in the academy, of a corrupt system filling jails and prisons rather than criminals making individual choices, the judge at the heart of the corruption gets a well-deserved sentence.

An excerpt.

“SCRANTON - As his moment of sentencing drew near Thursday, former Luzerne County Court Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. was still trying to minimize his crimes. No way, he said, had he sold "kids for cash."

“The prosecutor would have none of it.

"In essence, Mr. Ciavarella's argument is, 'I was not selling kids retail,' " Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon A.D. Zubrod said. "We agree with that. He was selling them wholesale."

“Minutes later, U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik slammed Ciavarella, 61, with 28 years in prison. It appeared to be the longest federal prison sentence ever given in a U.S. political corruption case.

“In the Scranton area, Ciavarella was a key target among many in a sweeping and still-ongoing federal corruption probe. Prosecutors have brought charges against nearly 30 officials, including two other judges, numerous court officials, a former state senator, school board members, and county officials.

“Ciavarella, mild-appearing with metal-frame glasses and thinning hair, showed no emotion as his punishment was announced. He chose to begin serving his time immediately, not requesting the grace period of several weeks or months that many defendants seek before reporting for imprisonment.

“His lawyers pledged to appeal his sentence, saying they might argue it violates the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual" punishment. Even with time off for good behavior, Ciavarella is likely looking at a quarter-century in prison.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dissident Priest Being Dismissed

The priest who has made a career of going around the country agitating for Call to Action type causes—he made a stop at our former parish—has finally been called to account, as reported by the National Catholic Register.

An excerpt.

“COLUMBUS, Ga. (CNA) —The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers have notified Father Roy Bourgeois he will be dismissed from their order unless he renounces his “defiant stance” against Catholic teaching on the ordination of women.

“Denver-based canon lawyer J.D. Flynn said the continuing disciplinary action against the excommunicated priest is about restoring justice and repairing scandal.

“The issue is that Father Bourgeois is in a position of public ministry in the Church. He is perceived to be speaking for the Church. When he says things which aren’t consistent with what we know to be true, it can lead people into sinfulness,” Flynn told CNA on Aug. 9.

“When the sacraments are simulated, we are all wounded by that,” he added. “All of us in the Church suffer when we lose clarity about the sacraments and run into error. No priest should be permitted to lead us into error.”

“Flynn said the disciplinary action is “really about the Church trying to make clear that a person who is leading us into sinfulness is not acting as minister of the Church.”

“Father Bourgeois is a human-rights activist who founded the group SOA Watch, which monitors the U.S. government’s training of military personnel in Latin America. He was excommunicated in 2008 for participating in an attempted ordination of a woman to the priesthood at a Unitarian church in Lexington, Ky.

“Maryknoll superior general Father Edward Dougherty, in a July 27 letter, warned Father Bourgeois of his imminent dismissal on the grounds that he had shown “obstinate disobedience” to his superiors in violation of his oath about a “grave matter.” The letter also cited his “diffusion of teachings” opposed to the “definitive teaching of John Paul II and the magisterium of the Catholic Church” as well as the “grave scandal” he has caused to the people of God, to the Church, and to many Maryknoll priests and brothers.

“The order gave the priest 15 days after receiving the letter to renounce publicly his stand on women’s ordination, or face dismissal.

“Father Bourgeois’ Aug. 8 reply said that Catholic Church teaching “excludes women from the priesthood” and “defies both faith and reason and cannot stand up to scrutiny.” He said the teaching is “rooted in sexism,” which “like racism, is a sin.”

“He said the instruction to recant is “telling me to lie and say I do not believe that God calls both men and women to the priesthood.”

“This I cannot do; therefore, I will not recant,” he said.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Good & Evil in the Press

A powerful analysis by Victor Davis Hanson, of a recent murder and how the local press covered it, and what that says about America in the 21st Century.

An excerpt.

“Quite often a brief news story sums up the collective pathologies of postmodern American society. Here is a recent tragic news item from my local paper, followed by some commentary:

“Police call slaying of Hanford woman a random act
Posted at 6:04 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, 2011
By Paula Lloyd / The Fresno Bee

“A woman found slain at a Hanford car wash this week was killed randomly when a 17-year-old gang member happened to see her while taking a walk, Hanford police said Thursday.

“Denise McVay was washing her car — something she did several times a week — early Tuesday morning before work.

“The teen was wandering the streets after leaving a party when he saw McVay at the Royal Car Wash on Garner Avenue at about 5 a.m. and decided to kill her, police said.

“The teen “simply wanted to kill somebody that night” and McVay, 49, was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Capt. Parker Sever said. “It was a purely random act.”

“The teen stabbed McVay several times and slit her throat.

“The teen took McVay’s money and her car, Sever said, and drove to the home of a fellow gang member, Mauricio Ortiz, 18, of Hanford. Sever said the teen was covered with blood and told Ortiz what he had done.

“Ortiz helped him ditch the car at Tachi Palace Casino and went with him to Visalia Mall, where the teen used McVay’s money to buy clean clothes, Sever said.

“The teen, whose name was not released because of his age, was booked into the Kings County Juvenile Center on suspicion of murder. Ortiz was booked into the Kings County Jail on suspicion of being an accessory after the fact.

Hanson's commentary begins here, an excerpt:

“Walk through this story to learn something about our confused American society. First, note the discrepancy between the employed Ms. McVay — washing her car in the early morning hours on her way to work, apparently intent on having a clean automobile when she arrived — and the unidentified youth who, we are told at first, was “taking a walk,” later expanded into “wandering the streets after leaving a party.” How did we go so nonchalantly in a mere two paragraphs from “taking a walk” to “wandering the streets after leaving a party”?

“In our present society, an able-bodied young man of 17 has leisure to walk about at 5 a.m. after a night of partying, while a hard-working woman squeezes in such an early morning moment to wash her car in order to appear presentable at work.

“Note, furthermore, that our society has no compunction about letting the world know the identity of Ms. Denise McVay, who was horribly murdered and left dead on the pavement of a car wash. But it is worried that we might learn the name of the “17-year-old gang member,” also known as an anonymous “teen.” Yet why are we, as a society, more sensitive to disclosing the identity of a gang-member and suspected killer than of a slain productive worker?

“In the transition from a shame culture to a guilt culture, America has become a confused society that values the sensitivities of the felonious living far more than respect for the law-abiding dead. Could it not simply waive anonymity protocols in cases of capital crimes? If 16- or 17-year-old would-be murderers knew that their names, addresses, and photos would be published on commission of a crime, would that create any deterrence to their viciousness — or at least provide solace to the community that barbaric killers do not slide so easily through the special exemptions afforded to immature “teens”?”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Liturgy & Sexual Abuse

A very interesting article from the Catholic News Agency speculating about the possible connection.

We know that much of modern life has been a search for constancy and authenticity; especially since the cultural ferment of the 1960's.

For Catholics, it is found in the Latin Mass.

An excerpt.

“As debate surrounding the recently published John Jay Report (Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010) continues, more and more Catholics are coming to the unavoidable conclusion (contrary to “official findings”) that the overwhelming majority of abuse cases were directly related to homosexuality.

“One may further deduce that the historical spike in such incidents also likely coincided with an increase in the relative number of homosexual men in the priesthood - a proposition too unsavory (not to mention too politically incorrect) for many to acknowledge.

“Those who are willing to look at the situation with eyes opened wide are left to ponder, not just the aforementioned abuse crisis, but also the broader implications of homosexuality in the priesthood.

“I would submit that the impact of homosexual priests has perhaps been brought to bear in a particularly profound way in the liturgical life of the Church, and I would ask the reader to keep in mind as we proceed the warning issued by St. Paul, “Know you not that a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump?” (1 Cor. 5:6)

“Let’s begin by considering that the priest who celebrates Holy Mass does so in persona Christi – in the person of Christ – such that he “does nothing of his own power” when he carries out his liturgical duties; rather, it is the Lord Himself who is present and active in offering the Holy Sacrifice (cf St. John Chrysostom – Homily on the Holy Pentecost).

“Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, is uniquely present and made visible to the faithful in the person of the ordained minister at Holy Mass (cf Sacrosanctum Concilium - 7) – a reality that compels the celebrating priest to personally surrender to Christ after the example of St. John the Baptist who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

“The cleric who suffers with homosexuality, however, will necessarily find this liturgical submission-of-self a most challenging proposition.

“Psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a consultant to the Vatican Congregation for Clergy and a leading expert with more than 35 years of clinical experience treating priests and others who suffer with Same Sex Attraction (SSA), said in a recent interview with regard to homosexuality in the priesthood, “Narcissism – a personality disorder in which an insatiable need for admiration often leads to attention-seeking behavior – is prevalent among men who struggle with homosexuality. This conflict results in a need to draw attention to his own personality in the liturgy rather than to surrender his personal identity in favor of Christ.”…

“According to Dr. Fitzgibbons, “The insecurity inherent to SSA could also predispose the homosexual cleric to seek the approval of the laity by treating the liturgy as performance or by otherwise calling attention to himself. Furthermore, the underlying anger and disdain for authority that is also endemic to homosexuality could lead to rebelliousness and a determination to ‘do his own thing’ with the liturgy.”…

“Prior to Vatican II, Holy Mass was commonly celebrated in Latin in the ad oreintem posture in which both priest and people faced east, even if only a “liturgical east.” As such, the personality (and underlying emotional health) of the priest was of little consequence in the celebration, and so “losing himself” in order to make room for Christ in the liturgy was far more easily accomplished by the priest than it is today.

“In the Novus Ordo, however, the priest most commonly offers Holy Mass in the vernacular versus populum (facing the people) wherein his personality (and at times his emotional health) is unavoidably on display. Aware of the impact that his liturgical persona can have on the experience of the assembled faithful, the priest often feels tremendous pressure to draw upon his personal resources to “perform” his duties in a compelling way. Even in the best of circumstances, it is quite natural for the priest to feel moved to so meet the expectant eyes and ears of the faithful such as they are ever cast upon him in the newly configured rite.”

Monday, August 8, 2011

America’s Catholic Roots

Too many history books proclaim the beginning of modern America happened with the Pilgrim’s arriving on New England’s shores, but the truth is more Catholic and way before the Pilgrims came, as this article from Catholic Culture explains.

An excerpt.

“Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles has called upon Catholics to remember that the roots of America are “Hispanic-Catholic” as well as “Anglo-Protestant.”

“The story of the founding fathers and the truths they held to be self-evident is not the whole story about America,” he told participants at a conference sponsored by the Napa Institute. “The rest of the story starts more than a century before the pilgrims. It starts in the 1520s in Florida and in the 1540s here in California.”

“Long before the Boston Tea Party, Catholic missionaries were celebrating the holy Mass on the soil of this continent,” he continued. “Catholics founded America’s oldest settlement, in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565. Immigrant missionaries were naming this continent’s rivers and mountains and territories for saints, sacraments and articles of the faith.”

Archbishop Gomez added:

“When we forget our country’s roots in the Hispanic-Catholic mission to the new world, we end up with distorted ideas about our national identity. We end up with the idea that Americans are descended from only white Europeans and that our culture is based only on the individualism, work ethic and rule of law that we inherited from our Anglo-Protestant forebears.

“When that has happened in the past it has led to those episodes in our history that we are least proud of — the mistreatment of Native Americans; slavery; the recurring outbreaks of nativism and anti-Catholicism; the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II; the misadventures of “manifest destiny.”

“There are, of course, far more complicated causes behind these moments in our history. But at the root, I think we can see a common factor — a wrongheaded notion that “real Americans” are of some particular race, class, religion or ethnic background.”

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rehabilitation Bonds

An interesting public/private partnership concept from Social Finance.

An excerpt.

“The Social Impact Bond (SIB), a public-private partnership pioneered by our UK-based sister organization, is at the heart of our work. SIBs are an innovative form of financing social outcomes that align the interests of government agencies, private investors, and nonprofit service organizations around specific social outcomes. SIBs leverage private investment capital to pay for early intervention programs delivered by nonprofit service providers. The government agencies pay financial returns to the investors if, when and only to the extent that improved social outcomes are achieved. If measured outcomes do not improve, then the investors do not recover their investment. But, if the outcomes are achieved, the government returns the investors’ principal plus interest equivalent to a specified return.

“The first SIB was offered in September 2010, by Social Finance, Ltd. and the British Ministry of Justice, with the goal of reducing prisoner recidivism at Her Majesty’s Prison Peterborough. Of the 40,200 adults on short term sentences in the UK, an estimated 60% will go on to re-offend within a year of release, at a significant cost to the taxpayer and society. Private investors and foundations invested £5 million (more than $8 million) in the bond to fund intensive counseling, employment, housing, and other support services for recently released prisoners. The program is also designed to reintegrate prisoners over the longer term in their communities. If this initiative reduces re-offending by 7.5%, or more, investors will receive payments from the government that reflect a share of the long-term savings that result from fewer incarcerations. To the extent that recidivism is reduced by more than 7.5%, investors have the potential of earning market-rate financial returns. However, if recidivism rates are not reduced by at least 7.5%, the Ministry would have no financial obligations and the investors would lose their investments.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Recidivism Reduction?

The question to be asked here—based on decades of rehabilitation program failure—in this story from Deseret News, is the drop a result of not sending people back to prison that were normally sent back and are now being sent to programs or an actual drop in their criminal behavior.

If you are just shifting people from one correctional program, prison, to another, drug abuse/mental health treatment, but only count as recidivism those going to prison, then what has really been accomplished?

Until the specific drug abuse/mental health programs have been rigorously evaluated and shows a corresponding result, claims of recidivism reduction may be premature.

That being said, we certainly wish Utah well in their efforts to help criminals.

An excerpt.

“SALT LAKE CITY — More than 50 percent of Utah ex-convicts commit crimes within three years of their release and end up back behind bars, but the most recent figures represent a drop compared to data from the late 1990s, according to a report released Wednesday.

“From 1999 to 2002, 65.8 percent of prisoners ended up back behind bars at some point, but the numbers dropped from 2004 to 2007, to 53.7 percent, according to the report by the Pew Center on the States.

“Jean Nielsen, director of Salt Lake County's Department of Human Services, credits Utah's improvement over the years to an increase in substance abuse programs and resources that help the mentally ill.

"Instead of putting the mentally ill in jail, we have teams of social workers and psychiatrists that help them," Nielsen said. "With education, training, substance abuse programs, various treatment, housing options, and counseling, we want to ensure they have a smooth transition back into society and don't go back to jail."

“Utah's recidivism rate remains above the national average of 43 percent. The Pew Center study showed only marginal improvement in the nation's recidivism rate even as spending on corrections departments increased to about $52 billion annually from around $30 billion a decade ago.

"Despite an enormous escalation in spending, the overall recidivism rates have not budged," said Adam Gelb of the center's Public Safety Performance Project. "A lot of the funding is being put into the wrong places. We know much more than 30 years ago and there are other options such as research-based strategies for non-violent offenders that are more effective."

“About 43 percent of prisoners in the U.S. who were released in 2004 were sent back to prison by 2007, either for a new crime or for violating the conditions of their release, the study found. That number was down from 45 percent during a similar period beginning in 1999.

“One of Utah's biggest challenges, according to Steve Gehrke, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections, is funding for new programs that would lower the recidivism rates.

“Nielsen said those include substance abuse treatments, which have about a five-month waiting list.

"Our biggest cry is for more substance abuse treatment resources," Nielsen said. "Some of these people are recommended for treatment, but we just don't have the resources to support their needs, so they end up back in jail."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cell Phones in Prison

One of the reasons given by the capital punishment abolitionist movement—and even noted in the Catechism—is that current penal technology keeps prisoners from threatening society so effectively, that capital punishment is no longer needed to protect the innocent from the aggressor.

The Catechism says:

“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."

This story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer is but another in a long line of articles noting the complete opposite.

An excerpt.

“Dimorio McDowell transformed his prison cell into a business office with nothing but a mobile phone and a lot of chutzpa.

“From 7 a.m. until midnight, seven days a week, McDowell worked tirelessly building a Cleveland criminal enterprise that did up to $1 million worth of work.

“Want a jumbo flat-screen, but don't have $2,000?

“McDowell and his unsavory team of Cleveland shoppers could fetch a 55-inch TV and anything else you wanted -- stainless steel refrigerator, hardwood flooring, laptop computer -- for half the store price.

“Just give them a few days. McDowell was serving time for credit card fraud at Fort Dix federal prison in New Jersey. But one of his associates would meet you at a Cleveland gas station with the loot.

“Incarceration in the largest U.S. prison was doing nothing to slow down McDowell's life of crime. Then, in October 2009, McDowell accidentally tripped across the path of a small-town Summit County cop.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Priestly Power

The Latin Mass holds to the ancient practice of the administration of the Holy Eucharist, and, in the Latin Mass, only the priest can accomplish this, as taught in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, (1976) McHugh, J. A. & Callan, C. J. (Translators) first published in 1566 by Pope St. Pius V.

An excerpt.

“Only Priests Have Power to Consecrate and Administer the Eucharist

“It must be taught, then, that to priests alone has been given power to consecrate and administer to the faithful, the Holy Eucharist. That this has been the unvarying practice of the Church, that the faithful should receive the Sacrament from the priests, and that the officiating priests should communicate themselves, has been explained by the holy Council of Trent, which has also shown that this practice, as having proceeded from Apostolic tradition, is to be religiously retained, particularly as Christ the Lord has left us an illustrious example thereof, having consecrated His own most sacred Body, and given it to the Apostles with His own hands.” (p. 270)

A very nice reflection about a current priestly ordination from The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

“The sacraments,” said Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “are a kind of contact with God himself. They show that this faith is not a purely spiritual thing, but one that involves community and creates community.” Of the seven sacraments, priestly ordination – and the subsequent first Mass – involves and creates community like no other. Faithful from far and wide across a diocese, some of whom never even having met the ordinandi, come together as contact with God is made: by God’s power individual men are made priests of Jesus Christ forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

“I experienced this moving spiritual dynamic recently when four men in my own diocese celebrated their “marriage” to their bride, the Church. Priestly ordination is the ultimate challenge to secularism’s myopic worldliness: the complete gift of self to an invisible reality that lies beyond the verification of empirical science. The hundreds of faithful who gather at the ordination liturgy and the first Mass come to support the new priests’ commitment to the Transcendent. In the celebration of this sacrament we see firsthand that the Church – contrary to media reports, condemnations by pundits, and even her own self-inflicted wounds – is still alive and committed to the Lord with authentic faith, hope, and love.

“The sheer number of Catholics who pack cathedrals and churches for ordination and first Mass proves that the priesthood is still esteemed, even after a decade of public scrutiny and controversy. The evident joy and approbation that gleam from the faces of the faithful as they lean over for closer views is matched by the smiles on the faces of the new priests, who are supported by dozens of concelebrating priests and fellow seminarians. This combined witness presents the priesthood as a great gift, one not given for the individual but for the good and salvation of all.

“The nature and mission of the priesthood is expressed in the ordination rite and prayers, but it is the following day, when the novus ordinatus offers his first Mass, that the priesthood appears as a gift to the whole Church. This year the first Mass I attended fell on Corpus Christi Sunday, the annual celebration of Christ’s real and continued presence with us in the Eucharist. Offering the Eucharistic sacrifice, according to the Second Vatican Council, is the “principal function” of priests because by it “the work of our redemption is continually carried out.” The Eucharist is the summit and source of the priest’s mission of preaching the Gospel because it brings about primary contact with Christ, the goal of all preaching.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Human Behavior is a Mystery

A good article from the Wall Street Journal about the futility of the scientific pursuit of knowing why humans act the way they do.

An excerpt.

“Theodore Dalrymple worked as a prison doctor and psychiatrist in Britain for 15 years. He's known serial killers, petty thieves and everything in between. As he puts it, with a mischievous grin, "I've probably spent more time in prison than the average murderer."

“It's a beautiful summer day in the south of France, and Dr. Dalrymple is holding forth on what we can—and can't—know about the mind of a mass murderer like the Oslo shooter, Anders Behring Breivik. "I don't think we'll ever understand" what makes a person capable of this kind of premeditated murder, Dr. Dalrymple tells me over lunch. What's more, he says, "we don't even know what it is to understand. At what point do you say, 'Aha! Now I understand!'" he asks.

“Dr. Dalrymple is the pen name of Anthony Daniels, author of more than a dozen books of scathing social commentary on everything from crime to travel to, most recently, what he calls "the toxic cult of sentimentality" in modern society. In his writing and in conversation, he returns frequently to the criminals he's known and treated.

“Your garden-variety convicts, he contends, are much simpler subjects than a man like Breivik. To ask them why they steal, he says, "is like asking you why you have lunch." They want something, so they take it. "And since in Britain," he adds with a smirk, "the state does very little to discourage [thieves]," or to incarcerate them when they are caught, "the question is not why there are so many burglars, but why there are so few."

“A Breivik is a deeper mystery. Of him, "you can say, 'This man is highly narcissistic, paranoid and grandiose,'" and this may lead you to seek reasons for that in his past—"his father disappeared at the age of 15 and so on and so forth." But uncovering such facts doesn't solve the mystery because "whatever you find, you would also find among hundreds or thousands or even millions of people who didn't do what he did." There is, he says, "always a gap between what is to be explained and your alleged explanation. So there's always a mystery, and I think that's going to remain."

“Even so, we find irresistible the urge to understand an atrocity like Breivik's, even as we are repulsed by it. When asked whether we hope thereby to understand something about ourselves, the former prison doctor offers an arch denial: "Well, he doesn't tell me much about me." And then, with a morbid chuckle and wary look—"I can't say for you," before adding: "I suppose the only thing one can say is that he tells us about the range of human possibility. But we knew that already."

“The human impulse to explain the inexplicably horrific is revealing, according to Dr. Dalrymple, in two respects—one personal, one political. First, it says something about us that we feel compelled to explain evil in a way that we don't feel about people's good actions. The discrepancy arises, he says, "because [Jean-Jacques] Rousseau has triumphed," by which he means that "we believe ourselves to be good, and that evil, or bad, is the deviation from what is natural."

“For most of human history, the prevailing view was different. Our intrinsic nature was something to be overcome, restrained and civilized. But Rousseau's view, famously, was that society corrupted man's pristine nature. This is not only wrong, Dr. Dalrymple argues, but it has had profound and baleful effects on society and our attitude toward crime and punishment. For one thing, it has alienated us from responsibility for our own actions. For another, it has reduced our willingness to hold others responsible for theirs.”