Government, Pay for Success

This sounds like a good approach for reentry programs, as reported by Governing Magazine.

An excerpt.

Nobody likes to pay taxes, but I suspect that most people would find it a little easier to take if they knew their tax dollars were funding the achievement of concrete public goals. That’s the idea behind “pay-for-success” programs that have been launched during the last year in Illinois, Massachusetts and New York state and are being developed or considered in several others.

Under these programs, government outlines a set of specific goals in areas such as mental illness, homelessness or preventive health care. Private investors and philanthropic organizations then finance the work of nonprofits to deliver cost-effective, evidence-based social services on behalf of the state. The investors receive “success payments” only if the desired results are achieved.

Last December, New York became the first state to launch a pay-for-success program. There, the goal was to reduce recidivism among 2,000 recently released prison inmates. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch raised the bulk of the investment capital for the $13.5 million initiative. For them to get a return on their investment, the program must either reduce recidivism by at least 8 percent or increase the rate of employment for released prisoners by at least 5 percent compared to historic averages. If the investors achieve their performance goals, reduced prison and public assistance costs will save New York taxpayers $7.8 million.

Illinois is using pay for success to improve placement outcomes and reduce re-arrests for young people involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Massachusetts is employing the model to improve employment outcomes and post-secondary degree attainment among participants in adult basic education. The Obama administration has also gotten into the act, funding a model project in Ohio and committing $500 million to fund other state and local pay-for-success programs.

California is the latest state seeking to launch a pay-for-success program. A bill that has passed the state Senate and is awaiting action in the Assembly would create a pilot program beginning next year under which the director of the state’s Office of Planning and Research would identify and submit potential “social impact partnerships’ to the legislature for its consideration each year between 2015 and 2020, when the pilot would sunset. Seed money would come from a Social Innovation Financing Trust Fund. As in other states, investors would be paid only if the desired goals are achieved.

Retrieved August 21, 2014 from

Old Mass/New Mass

I enjoy both, but vastly prefer the Old; and only enjoy the New when delivered with proper sanctity, and enjoy it even more when, for some reason or other—usually during flu season—the sign of peace is omitted.

But, as a convert, nothing warms my heart more than the beautiful symphonic movements of the Latin Mass which are so conducive to the inner prayer so congruent with Mass; while the movements of the New Mass are often jerky and non-melodious, generally disruptive to interior worship.

This article from Catholic World Report is excellent.

An excerpt.

After Pope Paul VI introduced the Novus Ordo Mass in 1969, the older form of the Roman rite—sometimes known as the Tridentine Mass, the Old Mass, the Traditional Latin Mass, and, more recently, the Extraordinary Form—virtually disappeared from many dioceses. Its celebration was severely restricted, if not banned outright, and became a source of controversy.

A yearning among some for the older form of the Mass, coupled with decisions by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, led to its wider use and to a de-stigmatizing of its celebration over the years. The most significant of these decisions was Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which declared that any priest may celebrate the older form of the Mass on his own without special permission from a bishop. Today, attendees of Extraordinary Form Masses are often younger Catholics, as the number of older Catholics who remained devoted to the pre-1969 Mass dwindles.

Catholic World Report spoke to four priests who regularly celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, each of whom has spent most of his life attending, and most of his priesthood celebrating, the Novus Ordo.

“Both forms can coexist”

Father Mark Mazza served for many years as pastor of Star of the Sea Church, near the Golden Gate Bridge in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and as chaplain for the Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco. He recently began a six-month medical leave.

Ordained a priest in 1980, Father Mazza had celebrated the Novus Ordo for more than 30 years when San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone asked him to begin a regular Extraordinary Form Mass at the parish in 2012. He agreed, and spent several months learning its precise rubrics.

From an early age, Father Mazza lamented the end of the celebration of the older form of the Mass in many dioceses after the Second Vatican Council. “I always thought it was a great loss, even when I was a child,” he said. “We had celebrated it for so many centuries, and it went into eclipse. It’s a beautiful part of our faith life that we never should have lost.”

He’s quickly become comfortable celebrating the Extraordinary Form, and plans to continue celebrating it privately while on medical leave. “I really like it,” he explains. “It has a mystical, contemplative, and mysterious quality, with its use of Latin, the gestures, the position of the altar, and the prayers, which are more ornate than we have today. I find myself saying the traditional Mass more often than the Ordinary Form.”

Father Mazza noted that according to Pope Benedict, the “Old Mass” is not a separate rite, but part of a single rite with two forms, the Ordinary and the Extraordinary. “I believe it doesn’t have to be either-or, but that both forms can coexist together,” he says.

The Extraordinary Form Mass at Star of the Sea draws as many as 200 attendees on weekends, of all ethnic groups. The high cost of living in San Francisco has been a drawback, Father Mazza noted, as few young families can afford city life. He said, “We have a lot of churches in the city but we need people to fill them.”

The reaction of Father Mazza’s fellow clergy in the city to his promotion of the Extraordinary Form has been mixed. Many are supportive, he says, but others oppose it as “contrary to the Second Vatican Council.” “They’d like to see it banned,” he says. Archbishop Cordileone has been a big supporter, he noted, and will come to the parish on September 14 to celebrate a Pontifical High Mass.

Retrieved August 20, 2014 from

Traditional Sisters

There has been a lot of news about the nontraditional sisters, the Leaders Conference of Women Religious in the Catholic world lately; and there is surely a need for and a place for, the work that they do, but whether it is in the Church is debatable.

What is not debatable is the other order of leaders of women religious, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.

Here is a bit about these traditional habit-wearing sisters whose place within the Church is strong and growing, while that of the LCWR is weak and shrinking.

An excerpt.

June 13, 2013, marked the 21st anniversary of the approval given by the Church for the formation of a new group of major superiors of women religious, officially titled the “Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious of the United States” which, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, entrusted itself to the patronage of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church. With the canonical approval of Pope John Paul II and the Church, this Council was accorded the status and privileges granted other already existing national conferences of Major Superiors of women religious.

Comprised of major superiors and their vicars (assistants to the major superiors), CMSWR serves as a channel for mutual support in sustaining among member communities the transcendent nature of religious life and the centrality of common life, common prayer, community-based apostolates, religious obedience and the witness to consecration and poverty by a garb that is both common and simple (cf. Essential Elements, May 31, 1983).

Of importance also, is the support, collaboration and guidance of our Holy Father, the Church and the American Bishops which energize our CMSWR religious to continue working for the flowering of consecrated life, to enthusiastically live their vocation as women in the Church and to be joyful instruments of the new evangelization.

Retrieved August 19, 2014 from

And here is the link to their latest newsletter,

Sexual Abuse & SNAP

SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, is a wonderful organization that keeps the pressure on the Church to deal with sexual abuse within its priestly ranks effectively.

I have been following them for several years, and they are an organization to keep in touch with for the absolutely amazing work they do.

Many critics claim they are anti-Catholic, but, from what I’ve seen, they area anti-sexual abuse by priests and pro-children.

Here is an excerpt about how they were formed.

An excerpt.

SNAP all began with one person. Barbara Blaine founded SNAP in 1988 after years of pain, depression and shame. She was abused as an 8th grade child by a Toledo, Ohio priest who taught in the catholic school she attended. Years later, her pleas for help from Toledo’s bishop fell on deaf ears. Barbara realized that survivors of clergy abuse could help each other and, by mid 1988, she had built a network of about two dozen victims. By early 1989 several survivors had struck up friendships, held regular telephone conversations and exchanged letters. In 1991, the very first SNAP Meeting was held at the Holiday Inn, Chicago.

At a subsequent meeting in San Francisco in 1992, Barbara met David Clohessy, a survivor who was abused by a priest in Jefferson City, Missouri. David had repressed the memory of his abuse for years before becoming a quintessential member of SNAP and a lifelong colleague and friend to Barbara. SNAP was already a growing and well-established organization when Barbara and David began to notice specific patterns in the way church officials had responded when abuse was disclosed to them. Rarely, if ever, did a church official admit to knowing of other survivors. They made empty promises such as a written apology or no longer permitting a predator to work in ministry. So, in November 1992, SNAP members travelled to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington D.C. At first, bishops refused to see them. Finally, only three agreed to meet with SNAP members and to listen to their stories. The bishops said they would take what they learned “under consideration.” The following spring, in New Orleans, not a single bishop came to one of SNAP’s designated listening sessions. The media, however, did. In November 1993, SNAP leaders from several cities travelled to Chicago to hold the organizations first ever national press conference. When, in 2002, the Boston Globe ran 850 stories about pedophile priests, the sheer numbers of victims coming forward to SNAP asking for support was overwhelming. SNAP took on a small staff to help manage the constant influx of requests and, in 2003, SNAP opened its national office in Chicago.

Today SNAP is the largest, oldest and most active self-help group for clergy sex abuse victims, whether assaulted by ministers, priests, nuns or rabbis. SNAP is a confidential, safe place for wounded men and women to be heard, supported and healed. SNAP works tirelessly to achieve two goals: to heal the wounded and to protect the vulnerable. The organization has more than 10,000 members and support groups meet in over 60 cities across the U.S. and the world.

Retrieved August 18, 2014 from

The Holy Father & the Holy See

An excellent article from Fortune Magazine revealing the managerial chops of the Holy Father, great reading.

An excerpt.

The new pope wanted to talk about money. That was the message that went out to a group of seven prominent financiers—major Catholics all—from around the world in the summer of 2013. Barely five months after the shocking resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis had summoned them to assemble at the seat of holy power, the Vatican. They knew their general assignment: to create a plan to restructure the Vatican’s scandal-plagued finances. And like Catholics everywhere, they knew that Francis had already signaled that he was a new kind of pontiff, a “people’s pope” who championed charity and tolerance over dogma. Still, they didn’t know what to expect when they arrived at the Vatican for a meeting with the pope on the first Saturday in August. How interested was he in finance, really? And how serious was he about changing business as usual inside the Vatican?

A major hint came from a change in tradition upon their arrival: The visitors didn’t report to the Apostolic Palace, the Renaissance showplace where for centuries past popes had received visitors in high style. Instead they entered Vatican City on the other side of the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square and took a 150-yard stroll through the hilly enclave to the new pope’s place of business—Casa Santa Marta, a five-story limestone guesthouse that could be mistaken for a newish hotel. There they were ushered into a nondescript meeting room on the first floor with no paintings or religious ornaments and took their seats around a conference table. The members—including Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, ex-chief of asset-management giant Invesco in Europe; Jochen Messemer, a top executive at ERGO, a large German insurer; and George Yeo, former foreign minister of Singapore—chatted nervously as they waited.

After 15 minutes, Pope Francis entered the room—and got right down to business. Attired in a simple white cassock and plain metal cross, he took his place standing at the head of the table. With little preamble, he began outlining his strategic vision, in an approach described by one participant as “highly managerial.” Speaking in fluent Italian and taking frequent pauses while a translator repeated his words in English, the pope explained to the group that for his spiritual message to be credible, the Vatican’s finances must be credible as well. After centuries of secrecy and intrigue, it was time to open the books to the faithful. Strict rules and protocols must be adopted to end the cycle of scandals that had plagued the Vatican in recent years.

Francis declared that sound financial management was a pillar of his greatest mission: aiding the poor and underprivileged. That mission was endangered by volatile, unpredictable budgets that careened from modest surpluses to steep deficits. The Vatican’s inept practices had inhibited giving, he explained, and had to stop. “When the administration is fat, it’s unhealthy,” he said. Francis wanted a leaner, more efficient Vatican administration that would be solidly “self-sustaining.” That, he said, would free up more money for his charities. “You are the experts,” the pope said, “and I trust you. Now I want solutions to these problems, and I want them as soon as possible.” With that, Francis left the group to figure out the details.

Retrieved August 15, 2014 from

Analysis of a Powerful Talk from the LCWR Assembly

I’ve been reading the talk by Sister Nancy Schreck delivered yesterday, and it is indeed an excellent talk of spiritual insight, explaining why the LCWR is standing firm in their way of being Church against the calls from the Vatican to change.

Of the many arguments put forth by LCWR, this is surely the most cogent, however, the most powerful argument against what they are doing is that other young Catholic women are not joining their orders; but are joining traditional orders.

Perhaps the reason young Catholic women are not joining LCWR is because the way of life being modeled is a way of life easily lived without joining; whereas the way of life of the traditional orders can only be lived within them.

Sacrifice is always a central element of a strong faith-commitment.

The talk is at

A definite must read, and another must read on it is from Catholic World Report, by Ann Carey.

An excerpt.

“We have been so changed that we are no longer at home in the culture and church in which we find ourselves.”

This quotation from the keynote address (PDF) of Franciscan Sister Nancy Schreck to the August 12-15 annual assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is startling, considering that it comes from a vowed member of a religious order who is speaking for other sisters. While
Catholics should not feel at home in this modern culture, not feeling at home in the Catholic Church is indeed another matter.

Yet that quotation and many of the other statements in Sister Schreck’s keynote do help explain why the LCWR has resisted the reform that was ordered two-and-a-half years ago by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and reaffirmed in April 2013 by Pope Francis.

The 2014 LCWR assembly was particularly significant, because the group chose to bestow its annual Outstanding Leadership Award on Sister of St. Joseph Elizabeth Johnson, whose book, Quest for the Living God was cited for doctrinal errors by the US bishops in 2011. And when LCWR leaders made their annual visit to the Vatican this past April, CDF Prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller told them the decision to honor Sister Johnson was “a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the ‘Doctrinal Assessment’” that “further alienates the LCWR from the [United States] bishops as well.”

Cardinal Müller reminded the LCWR leaders that the 2012 mandate included a requirement for the LCWR to clear speakers and honorees with the apostolic delegate charged with implementing the reform, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle. The CDF prefect made clear that requirement must be followed subsequent to the August assembly. So LCWR members had some big decisions to make behind the closed doors of their executive sessions last week, and clues about what was discussed were found only in the public talks given at the assembly.

Rather than indicating any conciliation with the Holy See and the US bishops, the assembly keynote address by Sister Schreck, who was LCWR president in 1995, tried to explain why the LCWR was justified in taking the road it followed, implying that the Holy See had misjudged and misunderstood the LCWR.

Unfortunately, her reasoning was convoluted, confused, and unfounded in many respects, and she indicated that maintaining close ties to the Church was somehow incompatible with service to the poor and marginalized, the only ministry that she seems to believe is worthy of attention by today’s sisters.

Retrieved August 18, 2014 from

Bind Alley Narratives: Crime as a Medical Issue

This article by Heather Mac Donald in City Journal notes one of the latest efforts by the secular left to treat crime with doctors, psychologists and sociologists, instead of police, courts and prisons; and, it will not work any better than their other crime-reduction and rehabilitative ideas.

An excerpt.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is turning to Chicago for lessons in how to combat Gotham’s rising gun violence—Chicago, where black teens kill each other at four times the rate as they do in New York. De Blasio and the city council will spend nearly $13 million on an initiative that treats gun violence primarily as a public-health problem, rather than a law-enforcement one, a concept championed by epidemiologist Gary Slutkin and implemented most famously in the Windy City. The new “Gun Violence Crisis Management System” will send former gang members and social workers into areas that have experienced recent shootings. The “crisis-management” teams contact feuding gang members and try to discourage retaliatory shootings. Equally central to the public-health concept, the teams refer gang members to case-management and other social programs, such as job-training, mental-health, and legal services—precisely the type of efforts that made up the city’s default response to crime before 1994, when the New York Police Department began seriously enforcing the law.

The violence-interrupter program is already operating as a pilot in five NYPD precincts; it will now be expanded to 14. Proponents attribute a 66 percent decrease in shootings in a small area of Crown Heights to the pilot effort. There’s reason to be skeptical about this claim, especially regarding the replicability of such alleged results city-wide. Chicago is simply not an encouraging model of crime reduction, to put it mildly. And the great lesson of New York’s historic crime decline is that the best way to change criminal behavior is to increase the likelihood of apprehension, through data-driven deployment tactics and proactive officer interventions. Social services have a dismal track record of overcoming the effects of family breakdown and a pathological gang culture. Their main effect is to pump taxpayer dollars into feckless “community-based” social-service groups, whose employees are often just a baby-step away in functioning from their clients, but which provide get-out-the-vote footwork for city council members.

Retrieved August 15, 2014 from

Deep Knowledge Leadership

This excellent article in Aleteia—from a deep knowledge leader—examines the power of story, and the personal transformative story of the deep knowledge leader is a central aspect of their apostolate work.

An excerpt.

I once attended a literary salon at which a woman, resolutely atheistic herself, pointed out that atheists have no story. This was a very important point, I realized later: no story versus “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” The Passion Play versus an empty, darkened theater. The Word versus no word.

This is in no way to slam atheists. But it is to marvel at the fact that a story can transport me in a way that no preachy sermon, or scholarly treatise, or op-ed article ever has. Emma Bovary’s wax-covered satin slippers, Hazel Motes’ rat-colored car, Raymond Chandler’s “He was about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food” instantly commit themselves to memory, while abstractions can’t find purchase no matter how hard they try. A friend once told me of watching a documentary about a primitive Indian tribe who had no separate word for yellow and orange and thus could not distinguish, saw no difference, between the two. What we don’t have words for, in other words, we literally can’t see.

Story is of particular interest to me because in a way, my work consists in telling my story. A good memoir, to my mind, springs from having experienced some kind of transformation, coupled with the deep conviction that the change couldn’t have been accomplished by you. Maybe the transformation was wrought by literature. Maybe the transformation was the healing (or refusal to heal) of a childhood wound. Maybe like Jacques Lusseyran, “Blind Hero of the French Resistance,” you started an anti-Nazi youth movement, spent six months at Buchenwald, and survived to write an autobiography called “And There Was Light.” Whatever the transformation consists of, you have to have come to terms with, sufficiently worked the wound through, so that you’ve been brought out of isolation and come back to the human table.

Retrieved August 14, 2014 from

Assyrian Empire and Today

A powerful and intriguing column from Fr. Dwight Longenecker about the tragedy in Iraq.

An excerpt.

Lord Byron’s poem The Destruction of Sennacherib begins with the line, “The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold.”

My friend Paul Thigpen makes the link between the warlords of the Islamic State (IS) and their historic predecessors, the warlike Assyrians.

Two ancient civilizations jockeyed for power in what is now the nation of Iraq: Babylon to the south and Assyria to the North.

The Assyrian Empire was centered on the exact geographical territory that Islamic State now claims–Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq.

Assyria emerged as a territorial state in the 14th century B.C. Its territory covered approximately the northern part of modern Iraq. The first capital of Assyria was Assur, located about 150 miles north of modern Baghdad on the west bank of the Tigris River. The city was named for its national god, Assur, from which the name Assyria is also derived.

While the Babylonian Empire was known for its accomplishments in learning, architecture, and the arts, the Assyrians were known as experts in warfare. Cruel, bloodthirsty and proud, they bragged about their military victories and heartless oppression of their victims.

One early Assyrian king, Assurnarsipal wrote,

I built a pillar over against his gate, and I flayed all the chief men … and I covered the pillar with their skins … some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes. Many captives … I burned with fire … From some I cut off their hands and their fingers, and from others I cut off their noses, their ears … of many I put out the eyes.

Retrieved August 10, 2014 from

Mystic Nuns

As a recent convert, I know few sisters, but of those I have met, this post from Solidarity with Sisters resonates; and Catherine of Siena, quoted below, is a sister whose life exemplified the highest leadership, and had she been a man, would have probably become a pope.

An excerpt.

It’s not radical feminism. It’s not conscious evolution. It’s not a commitment to pastoral ministry over doctrinal righteousness.

The real problem is that LCWR is full of mystics.

Through personal choices that marry contemplation and mission –through decades of rich and prayerful communal discernment—through lifelong formation in the Gospel, theology, and tradition—women religious open themselves to God’s presence. They know God both as Holy Mystery and also “closer to me than I am to myself,” as St. Augustine wrote long ago.

I’m not making this up. This is what I see and what I read and what I have often experienced in friendships with sisters around the country: a commitment to prayer that touches her roots, an openness to God that can be called mystical – with an intertwined commitment to solidarity with people on the margins.

There’s a long and lively history of tension between mysticism and Church officials. It’s exacerbated by the fact that mysticism can be a wellspring of prophecy.

So it’s no surprise that there’s tension between LCWR and the Church hierarchy. Equally, it’s no surprise that LCWR has not used the bully pulpit that the Vatican handed it in April 2012.

Catherine of Siena, great mystic and great activist, Doctor of the Church, has relevant wisdom: “We trust and believe in what we love.” (Dialogue 8) Profound trust in God teaches humility, boldness, and patience.

LCWR’s patience has befuddled many of us in the years since the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment. I think it’s rooted in profound trust in in God’s closeness and in God’s mystery.

The thing about mystics is, they are acutely attentive to God’s call – God’s mission for them. And when they discern it, they act without fear and in the peace of God. While they respect the many voices from all sides that try to tell them what to do, they’re mostly listening for God’s word, either in those voices or elsewhere.

In these years, while many have called for public action, LCWR has been boldly patient. LCWR has been bold in its hope for dialogue. I trust these women religious to be bold in whatever ways they hear God calling them to be.

Retrieved August 10, 2014 from


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