Friday, September 30, 2011

Defining Rape Accurately

This is very good news, as reported by the New York Times, that one of the most horrific of crimes—which we feel deserves a capital punishment sanction option—will now be defined more accurately than it has been.

An excerpt.

“Many law enforcement officials and advocates for women say that this underreporting misleads the public about the prevalence of rape and results in fewer federal, state and local resources being devoted to catching rapists and helping rape victims. Rape crisis centers are among groups that cite the federal figures in applying for private and public financing.

“The public has the right to know about the prevalence of crime and violent crime in our communities, and we know that data drives practices, resources, policies and programs,” said Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia, whose office has campaigned to get the F.B.I. to change its definition of sexual assault. “It’s critical that we strive to have accurate information about this.”

“Ms. Tracy spoke Friday at a meeting in Washington, organized by the Police Executive Research Forum, that brought together police chiefs, sex-crime investigators, federal officials and advocates to discuss the limitations of the federal definition and the wider issue of local police departments’ not adequately investigating rape.

“According to the 2010 Uniform Crime Report, released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week, there were 84,767 sexual assaults in the United States last year, a 5 percent drop from 2009.

“The definition of rape used by the F.B.I. — “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will” — was written more than 80 years ago. The yearly report on violent crime, which uses data provided voluntarily by the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies, is widely cited as an indicator of national crime trends.

“But that definition, critics say, does not take into account sexual-assault cases that involve anal or oral penetration or penetration with an object, cases where the victims were drugged or under the influence of alcohol or cases with male victims. As a result, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in the yearly federal accounting.

“The data that are reported to the public come from this definition, and sadly, it portrays a very, very distorted picture,” said Susan B. Carbon, director of the Office on Violence Against Women, part of the Department of Justice. “It’s the message that we’re sending to victims, and if you don’t fit that very narrow definition, you weren’t a victim and your rape didn’t count.”

“Steve Anderson, chief of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, said that the F.B.I.’s definition created a double standard for police departments.

“We prosecute by one criteria, but we report by another criteria,” Chief Anderson said. “The only people who have a true picture of what’s going on are the people in the sex-crimes unit.”

“In Chicago, the Police Department recorded close to 1,400 sexual assaults in 2010, according to the department’s Web site. But none of these appeared in the federal crime report because Chicago’s broader definition of rape is not accepted by the F.B.I.

“The New York Police Department reported 1,369 rapes, but only 1,036 — the ones that fit the federal definition — were entered in the federal figures. And in Elizabeth Township, Pa., the sexual assault of a woman last year was widely discussed by residents. Yet according to the F.B.I.’s report, no rapes were reported in Elizabeth in 2010.”

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Peter in Germany

In a timely follow-up to yesterday’s post, this article by George Weigel about the Pope’s visit to Germany—reminding Germans of their religious heritage—is superb.

An excerpt.

“Americans exhausted by adolescent chants of "Pass this bill!" and the rest of the rhetorical detritus of the 2012 pre-campaign might go to the Vatican web site, click on Pope Benedict XVI, and spend a half-hour reading through the texts of the Holy Father's recent visit to his German homeland. It's amazing how refreshing it can be to listen to an intelligent and compassionate adult after weeks slogging through the slough of sound-bites crafted from focus-group hissy fits.

“For, despite the fact that a lot of the mainstream media long ago decided that Benedict XVI was a non-story (save for when he was being accused, ludicrously, of responsibility for the sexual abuse of the young), the 84-year-old pope has, in six years, established himself as perhaps the world's premier adult, at least among major international figures. He tells the truth to the roiled worlds of Islam about the imperative of finding Islamic warrants for religious freedom and the separation of religious and political power in a just state. He tells the truth to the United Nations about the irreducible moral core of world politics and economics. He tells the truth to Great Britain about the necessity of nurturing the human ecology that makes democracy possible (and does so in the place where Thomas More was condemned).

“And he does all of this without hectoring and without scolding. Rather, this elderly Bavarian, who is indisputably one of the most learned men on the planet, draws upon a deep and broad knowledge of the taproots of Western civilization, which he deploys rhetorically through the skills of a master-teacher in order to invite others into a deeper apprehension of the truth.

“It's not snap, crackle, and pop; it's something far more nourishing. And it draws. Benedict XVI drew somewhere between 1.5 million young people to Madrid in August for World Youth Day, a massive event that got precious little media attention, especially when compared to the slavish coverage of a few thousand young hellions trashing the streets of Britain earlier in the month. And he drew large and receptive crowds in his native Germany this past week, despite the carping of such disgruntled former colleagues as Prof. Hans Küng, who told Der Spiegel that Benedict was responsible for the "Putinization of the Catholic Church", which was rather thick, coming as it did from the Aaron Burr of the Catholic revolution that never was.

“But I digress.


“In his September 22 address to the Bundestag, Benedict spoke some home truths to his countrymen who, like many of their European Union compatriots, have forgotten a great deal about the cultural foundations of the West - foundations that are essential in supporting the political edifice of human rights and the rule of law. Contemporary Europe imagines that it can sustain its democratic politics with resources drawn from the continental Enlightenment and its intellectual heirs; Benedict XVI takes a longer and deeper view. And in a setting that inevitably conjures up memories of the vile anti-Semitism that led to the Shoah of European Jewry, Joseph Ratzinger boldly reached back into the Hebrew Bible to teach a lesson to politicians about their vocation: “In the First Books of Kings, it is recounted that God invited the young King Solomon, on his accession to the throne, to make a request. What will the young ruler ask for at this important moment? Success - wealth - long life - destruction of his enemies? He chooses none of these things. Instead he asks for a listening heart so that he may...discern between good and evil. (cf. 1 Kings 3.9). Through this story, the Bible wants to tell us what should ultimately matter for a politician. His fundamental criterion and the motivation for his work...must not be success, and certainly not material gain. Politics must be a striving for justice....Naturally a politician will seek success, without which he would have no opportunity for effective political action at all. Yet success [must be] subordinated to the criterion of justice, to the will to do what is right, and to the understanding of what is right...‘Without justice, what else is the State but a great band of robbers?,' as Saint Augustine once said...”

“And from that patristic vantage point in 5th-century North Africa, Benedict did not hesitate to connect the dots to the bloody 20th-century drama in which he and so many of his audience were caught up: "We Germans know from our own experience that these words are no empty specter. We have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the State became an instrument for destroying right - a highly organized band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We Hold These Truths

It is one of the most remarkable books from an American Catholic theologian—We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition, by John Courtney Murray, S. J. (1960)—ever written, and I was reminded of that in the new issue of The Catholic Social Science Review, the journal of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, where, in introducing a symposium on Murray’s book, Kenneth L. Grasso (2011) wrote:

“…I would suggest that the task of understanding and critically engaging its far ranging, complex, and subtle argument remains among the most important pieces of unfinished business facing American Catholic thought.” (Getting Murray Right, in The Catholic Social Science Review: Volume XVI, (p. 85)

And, in rereading Murray, I came across this:

“Perhaps one day the noble many-storied mansion of democracy will be dismantled, leveled to the dimensions of a flat majoritarianism, which is no mansion but a barn, perhaps even a tool shed in which the weapons of tyranny may be forged. Perhaps there will one day be wide dissent even from the political principles which emerge from natural law, as well as dissent from the constellation of ideas that have historically undergirded these principles—the idea that government has a moral basis; that the universal moral law is the foundation of society; that the legal order of society—that is, the state—is subject to judgment by a law that is not statistical but inherent in the nature of man; that the eternal reason of God is the ultimate origin of all law; that this nation in all its aspects—as a society, a state, an ordered and free relationship between governors and governed—is under God. The possibility that widespread dissent from these principles should develop is not foreclosed. If that evil day should come, the results would introduce one more paradox into history. The Catholic community would still be speaking in the ethical and political idiom familiar to them as it was familiar to their fathers, both the Fathers of the Church and the Fathers of the American Republic. The guardianship of the original American consensus, based on the Western heritage, would have passed to the Catholic community, within which the heritage was elaborated long before America was. And it would be for others, not Catholics, to ask themselves whether they still shared the consensus which first fashioned the American people into a body politic and determined the structure of its fundamental law." (1960) Sheed and Ward, New York. (pp. 42-43)

This hearkens back to the first post of this blog in 2007 commenting on a book written 47 years after Murrays’.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Capital Punishment Abolition Movement

Its latest manifestation comes from a group of American Catholic academics, who support the abolition statement posted by Catholic Moral Theology.

And regarding the specifics of the Davis case leading off the abolitionist’s plea, an article in the UK Telegraph has some devastating comments, which should have been more covered by the American press.

An excerpt.

“There are few subjects that provoke as much smug condescension and shallow anti-Americanism as the death penalty in the United States. And the “debate” over the execution in Georgia last Wednesday of Troy Davis, 42, convicted of the 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer, marked a new low.

“The sheer emotionalism and partisanship of much of the coverage of the case in Britain was an embarrassment. On virtually no other subject could you find facts presented so selectively, conclusions so sweeping and reasoning so simplistic.

“American campaigners against the death penalty know the buttons to press. Thus, we have statements like that from Thomas Ruffin, a lawyer for Davis, who said that Georgia had “legally lynched a brave, a good and indeed, an innocent man”.

“We saw “I am Troy Davis” T-shirts being worn as far afield as London, the message being that Davis was somehow plucked randomly from the streets and arbitrarily condemned, perhaps because he was black.

“Unfortunately, little about the Davis case fits this naïve picture. A jury of seven blacks and five whites found that Davis, who had a street name of “Rah”, standing for “Rough As Hell”, had been pistol-whipping a homeless man in a Burger King car park and had shot MacPhail dead when he intervened.

“Again and again, courts confirmed the Davis conviction as being on legally solid ground. Lynchings were carried out by racist mobs rushing to judgement, dragging their quarry out to string them up from a tree. To describe a two-decade legal process that twice went to the highest court in the land as a “lynching” is to try to strip the word of all meaning.

“Last year, the Supreme Court took the extraordinary step of directing that a District Judge...hold fresh hearings because seven out of nine eyewitnesses had supposedly recanted their testimony.

“Davis’s lawyers declined to put two of those witnesses on the stand, making their affidavits of almost no value. Judge William Moore, a President Bill Clinton appointee, found that of the five others, two did not in fact alter their original evidence and two lacked any credibility. He found that one, a jailhouse snitch, had genuinely recanted – but that it had been clear in the original trial he was a liar.”

The perspective we keep hearing about capital punishment from the American media, may cause us to wonder: "How can they get it so wrong?" but Catholics who expect the media to be on the side of the angels, does not understand Catholic teaching erected on the gospel proclamation: “and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.” (Luke 2:34)

Pope John Paul II wrote a wonderful book on this: Sign of Contradiction.

Our organization supports capital punishment and we have published a book about it, Capital Punishment and Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support, excerpts of which are on our website.

Catholics have always understood the need to confront evil, and the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church, expressed through the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2266-#2267) and our Church’s greatest theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote concerning capital punishment:

“When, however, they fall into very great wickedness, and become incurable, we ought no longer to show them friendliness. It is for this reason that both Divine and human laws command such like sinners to be put to death, because there is greater likelihood of their harming others than of their mending their ways. Nevertheless the judge puts this into effect, not out of hatred for the sinners, but out of the love of charity, by reason of which he prefers the public good to the life of the individual. Moreover the death inflicted by the judge profits the sinner, if he be converted, unto the expiation of his crime; and, if he be not converted, it profits so as to put an end to the sin, because the sinner is thus deprived of the power to sin any more.”

Summa Theologica. (1948). Second Part of the Second Part: Question 25, Article 6, Reply to Objection 2.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Evangelization in the Marxist Desert

Europe, once the very soul of Christendom, has become largely atheist, but the Church has not given up on her, nor will she ever, as this story from Chiesa reports.

An excerpt.

“ROME, September 21, 2011 – "Where God is, there is the future": this is the title that Benedict XVI wanted to give to his third visit to Germany, which begins tomorrow.

“Pope Benedict has stated repeatedly that the "priority" of this pontificate is to bring men closer to God. But the case of Germany makes this urgency of his all the more compelling.

“The former East Germany, together with Estonia and the Czech Republic, is the area of Europe where atheists are most numerous, and the non-baptized are in the majority…

“A book was recently released in Germany, published by GerthMedien, that analyzes the decline of Christianity in this country in very straightforward terms….

“The theater of the report is Chemnitz, formerly Karl-Marx-Stadt, one of the cities most barren of faith in the already vastly dechristianized former East Germany.

“The protagonists of the renewed evangelization are a few families of Neocatechumenal Catholics, who have gone there as missionaries from other European countries.


by Marina Corradi

“Outside the sun is still high in the sky, in summertime, but at eight o'clock in the evening the streets are already semi-deserted. We are in Chemnitz, at 29 Theater Strasse, in an old building that has just been remodeled and still smells like fresh plaster. What strikes you the most about the Neocatechumenal families, when you see them together as they are this evening, is the children: six couples, each with nine or twelve or even fourteen kids. There are about seventy of them in all, teenagers or recently married. And you look at their faces, at their twinkling eyes, and think: how amazing, and what richness we have lost, we Europeans with just the one child, while from the room next door comes the demanding cry of one of the first grandchildren.

“It is moving, the little crowd of young Christians this evening in Chemnitz, formerly Karl-Marx-Stadt. Because in this corner of the former German Democratic Republic, civilization was born, in the year 1136, from a handful of Benedictine monks who founded an abbey, bringing in their wake Christian families who lived around the convent and cleared the forests for farmland, and those families also had about a dozen children apiece.

“Can the story begin again, when it seems finished? You ask yourself this in this silent and spent city, where one out of every four inhabitants is elderly, and the only children of broken families are alone. Here the people turn around and look if a Neocatechumenal family goes out with even half of its children. And if a classmate happens to come over for lunch, he takes a picture of the crowded table with his cellphone, in disbelief.”

Friday, September 23, 2011

Priest’s Model

St. John Vianney was one of the greatest priests of the Church, and this article from The Catholic Thing reminds us why.

The collected sermons of this saint are available and a must read, as fresh and potent today as when they were preached.

An excerpt from The Catholic Thing article.

“Saint John Vianney (1786-1859) was the curé of the parish of Ars in France and, because of his simple but great gifts as a pastor, was made the Patron of Priests and Parish Priests. I try to read his biography each year and am regularly struck by some of the features of his daily life.

“The reason for my fascination is that he was a pastor before the wholesale professionalization of the clergy. So he spent more time in his parish church than anywhere else. But he was not a desk jockey, although there were certainly some among the pastors of his circle.

“The church building back then had not yet become a place of limited use. Rather it was like the courtyard of God, much after the fashion of the vision in Isaiah: “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1) There were people crowding in to pray at all hours of the day or night. They were coming for grace and truth. The good pastor was right there in the middle of that crowd.

“Here is the eyewitness account of Monsieur La Croix in the church: “What mighty influence did he exercise over his hearers! . . . The multitude was crowded around him; at his feet, on the steps of the altar, on the pavement of the choir, were pressed together persons of every age, sex, and condition . . . all absorbed in breathless attention.” And all to hear a priest giving instruction in catechetics – and doing it daily.

“He was in the church from midnight on to deal with the crowds. The remarkable thing is that the whole day passed in the church, and divided among prayer, instruction, and the sacraments. Of course, the sacrament that occupied the most time was Confession. Observers noted that he spent about sixteen hours a day in confession. This was of course before confession was obliterated by psychologizing and theories about the impossibilities of really sinning.

“When did you last hear a homily on sin? It was the reason for Christ’s death and yet it is an almost unknown category in people’s thought, even Christians. Yet people become less human because of sin. We are watching the whole possibility of humanity trickle away into the sand.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Becoming Catholic

This article from The Catholic Thing captures almost exactly the confusion and lack of knowledge we encountered during the RCIA process we went through several years ago, and it was only because of our ongoing outside study, revealing the powerful truths of the Church so much more effectively than the RCIA classes were, that kept us in to the end.

An excerpt.

“A friend’s father called the other day and announced that, after many years of staying away from the Church, he was finally going to seek instruction in the Catholic faith. It was a moment of tremendous joy for his daughter. And yet the next moment is always the hardest: Where will he get instruction? To whom can we safely send him? Where can an intelligent adult in America today go to get instruction in the faith that won’t send him running away screaming from the Church in agony?

“This is a terrible question to have to ask, but it comes up nearly every time one hears about someone who has decided to come into the Church. Great! But uh-oh, they’ll first have to “get through” the miserable gauntlet of RCIA classes, in which they’ll likely learn next-to-nothing about the Catholic faith, or at least nothing they don’t already know and know in a more adult fashion than they’re likely to have it presented to them. One often hopes for them merely that they can “weather the storm.”…

“My instruction in the faith was dramatically different from the many horror stories I’ve heard since: “The leader of our RCIA class said we don’t have to accept the Immaculate Conception. Does that sound right to you?” Or: “Our RCIA teacher told us not to worry about the Church’s teaching on contraception and homosexual marriage, and that soon they’ll be accepting women priests. Is that true?” No, and no; they’re both wrong. But both stories are all too familiar.

“In too many parishes, “Religious Education” is done by just about anybody in the parish other than a priest, no matter how insignificant their training and no matter how short a time they’ve been Catholic. Why is that? We send young men who want to become priests to four years of training in college-level philosophy and then four more years of training in graduate-level theology. And then, when it comes time to teach people the faith, we call the sweeper in off the streets to raise up the next generation and educate them in the faith. For the most part, the highly trained theologian is nowhere to be seen.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Crime Rates Fall, Experts Stumped

As we have noted before, the reasons are simple, better policing through one form or another of broken windows policing and better incarceration through three strikes sentencing, yet, as this article from the Christian Science Monitor reports, it still confuses experts whose theories that poverty causes crime aren’t working out.

An excerpt.

“In a trend that has some experts "stumped," violent crime in 2010 dropped 6 percent from the year before – the fourth consecutive annual decline, according a report released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“The numbers come as the housing market remains stagnant and unemployment remains persistently high – conditions that might lead to a rise in crime. Moreover, most law enforcement agencies throughout the US are undergoing budget cuts, with 1 percent fewer law-enforcement officers on the streets today than there were in 2008, the FBI data say.

“In this light, the continued decline in violent crime is forcing some criminologists to reexamine the what might be the causes of crime. “It will be years before we get the answer, if we do, to what’s going on right now,” says William Pridemore, a criminal justice professor at Indiana University in Bloomington. “Criminologists have been pretty stumped.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Better Policing

In a variation of broken windows policing, this technique also seems to reduce crime, as reported by The Atlantic Cities.

An excerpt.

“Partnering with criminologists from George Mason University, a team led by Sacramento Police Sergeant Renée Mitchell identified 42 “hotspots”—street corners that attracted the highest percentages of violent crime in California’s second most violent city.

“As part of a 90-day study conducted between February and May this year, Mitchell and her team assigned officers to visit a randomized rotation of three or four of these hotspots for 12 to 16 minutes apiece during shifts. That meant police would inhabit Sacramento’s most dangerous corners about every two hours. The officers were told to be “highly visible” during these visits—to step outside patrol cars, to talk with people.

“This was a change for Sacramento police. It focused on places to target rather than specific crimes, and relied on data rather than police instinct. The results, Mitchell says, were striking.

“Part I” crimes—which include violent offenses such as murder, rape and robbery, as well as property crimes such as burglary and vehicle theft—decreased by 25 percent in these hotspots. Calls for service decreased by nearly 8 percent. And these successes cost the city only $75,000, Mitchell says, less than one percent of the Sacramento Police Department’s $116 million annual budget this year.

“We’ve known for a long time that we were going to have to find ways to police more efficiently,” she says. “Now we know we can do that without a spike in crime.”

“Policing layoffs and corresponding public safety concerns are seemingly everywhere. Sacramento took a hit in June when this year’s budget funded 167 fewer police jobs than it did last year. Meanwhile, Oakland—California’s most violent city – has eliminated 178 police jobs since 2008. And on the East Coast, Camden, New Jersey, the most prominent U.S. example of a high-crime city forced into major police cuts recently, eliminated half its force in January. Miami, Chicago, Cleveland, and even Toronto lately have similar concerns.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Converts & Cradle Catholics

As a convert, I have found the point of this article from the Wall Street Journal—that converts are more evangelical than cradles—to be true, somewhat.

For a convert, the discovery of the teachings of Catholicism is a profound revelation of truth found at last, after years of the wandering search through the mundane and often ridiculous varieties of religious experience in the world; while the cradle Catholic often takes it for granted, especially true for those cradle Catholics who no longer study the teachings of the Church.

An excerpt.

“Do converts to the faith make better evangelists than "cradle Catholics"? Pope Benedict XVI seems to think so. Christians since childhood should "ask forgiveness," the pope told a group of his former theological students recently, "because we bring so little of the light of [Christ's] face to others, and emanate so feebly the certainty that he is, he is present and he is the great and complete reality that we are all awaiting."

“But are Catholics "by birth"—or any believers raised in a religious tradition—indeed less-convincing witnesses, or less motivated, than are converts? Do they have a greater responsibility to live up to the tenets of the faith since they have known Christ from their earliest years? And are they a bigger disappointment to the Mother Church—and the world—when they come up short?

“Benedict himself would certainly qualify as a "cradle Catholic." Joseph Ratzinger was born at home, early on the morning of Holy Saturday in April 1927, into the all-encompassing Catholic culture of small-town Bavaria. Within a few hours of his birth, the infant's mother bundled him up and trudged through an early spring snow to have him baptized at the village parish—the first step on a long but in some ways commonplace life of faith, at least in that day and age.

"I am a perfectly ordinary Christian," he once said of himself, with characteristic modesty. Yet it's hard to argue that Joseph Ratzinger, now the pope, has been anything less than enthusiastic in preaching the gospel. He entered the seminary while still an adolescent and rose from priest to cardinal to pope.

“But is that enough? Over the past 2,000 years, two narratives have competed in the Christian imagination: the ideal of the child raised in a Christian home, growing steadily in faith and virtue, and that of the repentant soul whose clamorous conversion leads heaven to rejoice more than over 99 of the righteous.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

California State Prisoner Transfer, Health Costs

The increased health care costs the Counties will have to absorb from the transfer is an overlooked aspect of the debate, which is examined in this article from RAND.

An excerpt.

“The reality that tens of thousands of California state prisoners may soon be sent to local lockups is beginning to hit home. Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich likens the impending prisoner influx to a "bar scene — a violent bar scene that you saw in 'Star Wars.'"

“That may be overstating the case. But the fact is that the U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering California to reduce its prison population by 30,000 — to be achieved in part by having more low-level offenders serve their time in county jails — is going to have serious repercussions.

“The most obvious may be, as Antonovich alluded to, public safety. Jails, many of which are already overcrowded, are likely to become more crowded, and they often lack the capacity to provide the rehabilitative services needed by this population. Local criminal justice systems are also likely to come under additional strain.

“And there's another consequence that hasn't been talked about as much: The strain on local budgets of trying to meet the healthcare needs of this population. The chief reason the court ordered a reduction in the prison population was the failure of the state to meet the basic medical needs of prisoners. Can strapped local governments really do any better?

“Many of those incarcerated, whether in state prisons or county jails, have significant medical, mental health and drug treatment needs that counties are ill-equipped to handle. Many also have chronic conditions or infectious diseases that need to be treated and managed. And of course these prisoners ultimately return to our communities, bringing their medical needs to places where the healthcare safety net is fraying at best.

“The problems the prisoners contend with are serious. It is well known that California prisoners tend to be disproportionately sicker on average than the California population. The Rand Corp.'s ongoing study on the public health implications of prisoner reentry has found that 18% of California inmates report having been diagnosed with hypertension, 8% with cardiac problems and 5% with diabetes — all chronic conditions that require medical management.

“Moreover, 13% reported having been diagnosed with tuberculosis, 13% with hepatitis and 9% with sexually transmitted diseases. If left untreated, such infectious diseases have implications for the public health of the communities to which ex-offenders will return.”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Memories, Loss, & Joy

In this touching column from The Catholic Thing about living in and leaving Manhattan, the focus on life with others in bars and restaurants as foundational memories, caused me some reflection on similar memories, but for me, those foundational memories are of home and family.

The small duplex in Arden Park where my wife and I met and lived until our daughter was born, with the huge backyard which we filled with a koi pond with a waterfall into another pond where crawdads and toads were born, a rock enclosed herb garden, and rustic wooden patios providing views of each; and the towering trees that shaded our backyard heaven from the hot Sacramento nights.

The large home in Gold River—where all the homes were the same color, the roads were private and homeowner regulations publicly onerous but secretly loved—where we moved when our daughter was still an infant, right along the American River and big enough for the three of us to spread out, put a playhouse in the much smaller backyard, a horseshoe pit and a big hammock and this is where we brought our first Scottish Deerhound, the lovely dog whose company enriched our lives for so many years.

Then, some 12 or so years ago we moved to the Sierra Oaks cul-de-sac, our home for life, and surely one of the loveliest neighborhoods in Sacramento, with our townhouse backyard with brickwork encasing the gardens, a lovely pool, and our daughter got her own bedroom suite with bathroom and walk-in closet, and short walks to the American River and short drives to the finest restaurants in the region; so centrally located that we can get just about anywhere in less time on the arterial streets than the freeways.

In all of these the memories are of evenings and weekends at home with each other, happily pursuing largely our own pursuits while remaining contentedly together, and spending holidays around the fire, the dinner table feast, barbeque and pool.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Politics of Capital Punishment

It is an issue that represents a dividing line between conservative and liberal Catholics, with liberal Catholics interpreting the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as supporting the abolishment of capital punishment, which it does not; as our book—supporting the many other conservative Catholics reaching the same conclusion—reveals.

It is an issue that also divides conservative and liberal voters, so well captured by this article in the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“Perhaps the most striking statement at last night's Republican presidential debate came not from Rick Perry or Mitt Romney but from the audience, which applauded the preface of one of moderator Brian Williams’ questions. Here's how it looked in the transcript:

“Williams: Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you . . .


“Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?

“Perry answered: "No sir," pointed out that death-row convicts are entitled to extensive appeals, and crisply declared: "In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice."

“Williams then asked Perry to explain the audience's reaction to Williams’ question:

"What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?"

“Although Williams surely did not intend it as such, this question was a gift for Perry, who got to reiterate his position while flattering voters by praising their wisdom: "I think Americans understand justice. I think Americans are clearly, in the vast majority of--of cases, supportive of capital punishment. When you have committed heinous crimes against our citizens--and it's a state-by-state issue, but in the state of Texas, our citizens have made that decision, and they made it clear, and they don't want you to commit those crimes against our citizens. And if you do, you will face the ultimate justice."

“Brian Williams was far from alone in being vexed by the audience's applause. "That crowd cheering for all of Rick Perry's executions was truly creepy," tweeted Glenn Greenwald, an expert on creepiness. "Any crowd that instantly cheers the execution of 234 individuals is a crowd I want to flee, not join," wrote the excitable Andrew Sullivan. "This is the crowd that believes in torture and executions." (Sullivan is hallucinating again. No jurisdiction in America employs torture as a criminal penalty.)”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sexual Abuse & Becoming Catholic

An excellent story from the National Catholic Register by a convert coming into the Church in 2005 when the scandal was raging—reminiscent of our experience as converts in 2004—and why she still became Catholic.

A must read!

An excerpt.

“When people hear that my husband and I began exploring Catholicism in 2005, one of the first questions they often ask is, “What about the sexual abuse scandals? Didn’t that scare you away from the Church?”

“They’re usually surprised when I report that the answer is no; in fact, the scandals and the negative media coverage actually increased my faith in the Church. Here’s why:

“Getting the Facts Straight

“One of the first things I did was to look into the numbers behind the sexual abuse cases. Was I heading into an institution that was filled with sexual predators, as the media would have me believe? I was shocked to find that, by even the most anti-Catholic organizations’ estimates, only about 2 percent of Catholic priests had even been accused of sexual misconduct. And certainly the cover-ups by members of the hierarchy were deplorable, but my research led me to see that that was common in all organizations, not just the Church. To list just one of the many examples, in Washington there were 159 coaches accused of sexual misconduct with minors over a 10-year period. Ninety-eight of them continued to coach or teach. And how did the school hierarchies respond? To quote this article: “When faced with complaints against coaches, school officials often failed to investigate them and sometimes ignored a law requiring them to report suspected abuse to police. Many times, they disregarded a state law requiring them to report misconduct to the state education office. Even after getting caught, many men were allowed to continue coaching because school administrators promised to keep their disciplinary records secret if the coaches simply left. Some districts paid tens of thousands of dollars to get coaches to leave. Other districts hired coaches they knew had records of sexual misconduct.”

“In another example, Carol Shakeshaft and Audrey Cohan looked at 225 cases of abuse by educators in New York City. Shakeshaft reported: “All of the accused admitted sexual abuse of a student, but none of the abusers was reported to the authorities, and only 1 percent lost their license to teach. Only 35 percent suffered negative consequences of any kind, and 39 percent chose to leave their school district, most with positive recommendations. Some were even given an early retirement package.”

“I could go on, but you get the idea. After investigating the issue, I found that, sadly, there is nothing different going on in the Catholic Church than in any organization where men are in contact with children, and that it’s an unfortunate fact of human nature—and not something unique within the Church—that people in hierarchy tend to look the other way when it comes to bad conduct by the people who report to them.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

Vatican II

It is fashionable among many in the Church to lay the blame for the current sexual scandals in the Catholic Church at the feet of Vatican II.

This article from The Catholic Thing leans in that direction.

A deep reading of the history of the Church will reveal that the world’s evil has exerted a strong influence over the faithful since the beginning, and the Church always has to battle the world for their souls.

A reading of the 11th century Book of Gomorrah by St. Peter Damian about the scourge of sexual abuse in the Church at that time, reveals that, and a two part review of it noting the current connections, is available online: Part 1 and Part 2.

An excerpt from The Catholic Thing article.

“When he was cardinal of Krakow and the diocese faced a problem, Karol Wojtyla used to ask those working with him: “What is the truth of faith that sheds light on this problem?” He was head of a large diocese and yet he could work from the mind of the Church. In contrast, there are the memorable words of Cardinal Cushing (1895-1970), archbishop of Boston, to Catholic political leaders: “If your constituents want this legislation, vote for it.”

“A blank check for Catholic politicians – and by extension for every other Catholic – to go with what society believes rather than what the Church believes. And Cardinal Cushing was not the only one. Archbishop Wojtyła, on the other hand, made his starting point the teaching of the Church. His stance had a consistency – one of the reasons for his journey to sainthood – that needs to be recovered in the United States….

“The damage of uncritically going along with societal thinking is vast and almost unimaginable, given how many decades it has continued, largely unopposed, in America. At the very least, such thinking has deeply fragmented the Church, so that while we have one group working very hard to think with the mind of the Church, we have another confused and misled because this cardinal, or that senator, or a bishop or a priest is giving away the farm.

“And finally, there is a group working to make sure that the Church only teaches what is approved by secular culture – although why we would need yet another organization to promote that culture is beyond me. The great scandal of the fractures of the Church in the twentieth century has gone mostly unanswered and unchallenged, and no heads have rolled.

“Thinking with the mind of the Church would, for example, have nipped many of the sex scandals in the bud. Clergy who did things like that could not possibly continue in ministry. It is entirely irrelevant if the personnel director does not “understand” the culprit’s behavior. The actions are violations of the moral law and the Church can act on those grounds. It does not have to wait for psychological studies.

“But of course this would take unshakeable faith in the Church, and that faith was a casualty of a wrong reading of Vatican II. Having faith in the Church would have saved two billion dollars in payouts to victims, which could have been used to help the poor – whose patrimony it is.”

Friday, September 9, 2011

State Prisoner Transfers to Counties

Is a horrible idea and the Los Angeles District Attorney nails it, in this article in the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

“Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said a new state law to force counties, instead of the state, to jail non-violent felons is a “horribly flawed plan” that would increase crime on the streets.

“Public safety will be seriously jeopardized,” Cooley said Tuesday. “We’re not kidding. There will be tens of thousands of people let out all over California, who would otherwise be incarcerated…. I’ve been predicting ... that there will be a spike in crime.

"The state Legislature is abandoning their highest-priority core mission in terms of public safety, shifting it to the counties. And it is a bait and switch. They had a big fiscal problem, so they’re abandoning a core mission and the county’s going to pick up the pieces, and the public is going to pay the price,” Cooley told reporters outside the L.A. County Hall of Administration.

“Cooley said there’s not enough room in the county jails to house felons who would otherwise go to state prison. Already, county jails are being forced to release their own inmates early.

“Officials estimate that in Los Angeles County, about 7,500 non-serious, non-sexual and non-violent felons who would have gone to state prison will instead stay in county custody.

“Cooley’s comments come as the county Board of Supervisors is finalizing plans on how to handle the state felons in the county system. The state law will go into effect Oct. 1.

“A couple of supervisors cited some minor problems in the plan, and requested that a countywide committee, led by Probation chief Donald Blevins, resolve them and return it to the supervisors for final approval.

“Sheriff Lee Baca, however, told reporters he didn’t know if the state’s plan would lead to an increase in crime.

“That is an unpredictable reality. We don’t know. There’s a lot of reasons to believe it could go up. But there’s also a need for us to be cautious about that point of view and weigh it against how effective law enforcement can be integrated into this plan,” Baca said.

“The biggest challenge, Baca said, would be the felons, who will stay in county custody instead of going to state prison, beginning Oct. 1.

“The buildup of that population is going to be the challenging part,” Baca said.”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

American Bishops & American Catholicism

A bracing call from Catholic Culture to U.S. Bishops to remember their failure in protecting the Church from dissident theologians within the Church in the past, and not allow the failure to continue into the future.

An excerpt.

“Fr. Thomas Weinandy caught my eye last week when he complained of a “crisis” in Catholic theology characterized by a rejection of Catholic faith and morals. Fr. Weinandy is the chief staff aide to the US bishops’ committee on doctrine. What are we to say about this crisis?

“The first and most important thing to say is that the crisis is of the bishops’ own making. I do not claim that the profound secularization of culture which has eroded Catholic theology on every side is primarily the fault of the bishops, but it is certainly their fault—including the fault of Rome herself—that a pitched battle was not waged in the 1960’s to keep Catholic universities and colleges from succumbing to this secular spirit. For the institutions of Catholic higher education are in fact the collective seat of theological studies, and what Fr. Weinandy rightly calls “a radical divide over the central tenets of the Catholic faith and the Church’s fundamental moral tradition” would far better have been nipped in the bud than allowed, for now nearly fifty years, to grow from strength to strength.

“Given the long percolation of Modernism in Catholic theological circles from the late 19th century and the rapid secularization of Western culture in the 1960’s, this battle would have been long and hard. But it is difficult to imagine that it would not now be over, instead of just beginning on far less favorable terrain. The key to victory would have been to make sure that heretics were clearly and forcefully declared to be where they belonged—that is, outside rather than within the Church, so that they could attack Catholic faith and morals only from secular institutions. You may recall that this was finally done with one premier dissenter, Hans Küng, who is no longer permitted to teach theology at any Catholic institution, with the result that nobody any longer cares what he thinks.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Church Triumphant

A very nice reflection reminding us of our history, from The American Catholic blog.

An excerpt.

“One of the swear words common since Vatican II in the Catholic Church is triumphalism. We are to avoid it at all costs, and it is a bad, bad thing. In a small way this makes sense. The Church is both a divine and a human institution. As a divine institution the Church is always victorious and triumphant as result of the Triumph of the Cross, and proceeds serenely through time and eternity. As a human institution the Church consists of we sinful individuals here on Earth, and meets with victories and defeats as she seeks to spread the message of Christ, often on very stony fields indeed. To view the Church here on Earth through rose colored glasses and to assume that simply because the ultimate victory will be claimed by the Church against the Gates of Hell that all is well within the Church is to mistake the Church Triumphant for the Church Militant.

“However, in the place of triumphalism too many Catholics have embraced defeatism, either by assuming that the mission of the Church to all of humanity is hopeless or, much worse, thinking that spreading the Gospel isn’t important because everyone is saved anyway, and the religion they follow is unimportant. Hand in hand with this is the thrusting firmly down the memory hole of most of Church history, teaching and practice before Vatican II. The “fruits” of two generations of Catholics ignorant of the teachings and history of the Catholic Church are plain and dismaying.

“We Catholics have a grand history and we should learn it and teach it to our children. We should teach to them the victories and the defeats of the Church here on Earth, and also teach them that whenever they have reason to thank God, to remember the Te Deum.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Face of Murder

This program, Homicide Watch, is an excellent method for preserving the stories connected to homicide giving the public valuable insight about why capital punishment is sound public policy, and a policy we support.

An excerpt from Homicide Watch's website, About page.

“About Homicide Watch D.C.

“Homicide Watch D.C. launched in late September 2010 as a WordPress blog and was recognized in August 2011 as a notable entry in the 2011 Knight-Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism. We use primary source documents, social networking and original reporting to build one of the nation’s most comprehensive public resources on violent crime.

“The site relaunched in August 2011, adding a custom database to track homicide cases from crime to conviction, building the area’s most complete public resource for the people who need it most: victim’s families, suspects’ families, and all others affected by violent crime in D.C.

“As DC residents, we believe that how people live and die here, and how those deaths are recognized, matters to every one of us. If it matters how someone is killed in Cleveland Park, then it matters how someone is killed in Truxton Circle, Ivy City, Washington Highlands or Georgetown. If we are to understand violent crime in our community, the losses of every family, in every neighborhood must be recognized. And the outcome of every trial -- be it a conviction or an acquittal -- must be recorded.”

Friday, September 2, 2011

Church Sinners & History

I am rereading the amazing book about the Church by H. W. Crocker III, Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, one of two books Lampstand exhorts those engaged in prison ministry to get to those prisoners they are working with, and am once again enthralled with the great sacredness and dismayed with the great sinfulness, permeating the souls of those in Catholic leadership over the centuries, and the steadfastness of the quiet faithful attending mass, performing penance, creating and sustaining the Catholic world.

But through it all, through all of the worldly accommodations, the personal papal failures, the mistaken strategies, the satanic attacks and surrenders to evil, the folly and fear; yet the thunderous promise of Christ stands: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Good Prison Program

Anytime you have prisoners working on something of obvious public benefit, beyond basic custodial work, it is a very good thing, as is this program reported by the Indianapolis Star.

An excerpt.

“PUTNAMVILLE, Ind. -- Ronald Hayne works in silence alongside other prisoners, dusting a lime green bicycle frame with a worn rag.

“He doesn't know whom the mountain bike once belonged to, or who would ride it next. Maybe a child, like one of his sons. He thinks of them often as he works -- at ages 7 and 4, they share their dad's passion for bikes. He will be going home in December.

“But for now, Hayne works in the bike room at the Putnamville Correctional Facility, surrounded by wooden tables, piles of spare parts and an American flag that hangs in the corner.

“Roaring fans swirl the heavy air, already hot at 9 a.m.

“The 26-year-old and four other men were part of a recent work line for Shifting Gears, a partnership of Bicycle Garage Indy, Volunteers of America and the Indiana Department of Correction. The donated bikes are refurbished, then given to nonprofit organizations and distributed to people, young and old.

“The program was originally based at Pendleton Correctional Facility but was moved to Putnamville -- where wider staff oversight was available -- in the spring.

“Hayne was excited when he got word of the move. As a kid growing up in Terre Haute, he worked on freestyle bikes just like the one he cleaned in the bike room. There wasn't much to do in his hometown, he said, so he started his own bike repair shop at home and found a hobby.”