Luther Honored by Vatican

This is really another one of those ‘Say What!’ moments, too often noted in the institutional Catholic Church, as reported by LifeSite News, or it could be a clever strategy to reunify her, let’s hope it’s the latter.

An excerpt.

The Vatican office charged with issuing stamps, known as the Philatelic and Numismatic Office, confirmed Tuesday to LifeSiteNews that Luther, who broke away from the Catholic Church in a schism 500 years ago, will be celebrated with a postage stamp in 2017. The office is in charge of the annual commission of stamps, coins, and other commemorative medals.

The Vatican regularly issues such memorabilia for special events, including papal trips and holy years. Honoring Luther and the Protestant Reformation is an unlikely choice, trumping other significant events in the Catholic Church such as the 100-year anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima and the 300-year anniversary of our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil.

Major events such as Christmas, Easter, the Holy Year of Mercy, and the World Meeting of Families have also merited a commemorative stamp. In the time before a Papal election, when the seat of Peter is vacant, the Philatelic and Numismatic office issues a “Sede Vacante” stamp.

Usually if individuals are commemorated on stamps they are saints, such as Teresa of Calcutta, John Paul II, and Pope John XXIII, who most recently were honored with stamps.

While the Vatican has in the past collaborated with other national post offices to create stamps that are not of explicitly religious content, such as Charlie Chaplain or the fall of the Berlin wall, the Luther stamp has an undeniable religious connotation linked with much hostility to the Catholic Church.

In 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 theses against the Catholic Church and began what thereafter has been known as the Reformation, leading to a schism in the Church. This was followed by the formation of Protestant denominations that later spilled into other countries, fueled by others such as John Calvin and Jan Hus. The confessional war that followed, the “Thirty Years’ War,” with its 10 million deaths was known to be the bloodiest war in Europe until World War I.

Luther, an Augustinian monk, was excommunicated in 1521 by Pope Leo X with the papal bull, Decet Romanum Pontificem. At age 41, he married Katharina von Bora, a run-away Cistercian nun of 26 years.

Pope Francis was criticized in the fall for his trip to Lund, Sweden for a commemoration of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary. He held an ecumenical event with Lutherans in the Vatican on October 13 with a statue of Martin Luther displayed. He has also suggested an openness to some Lutherans receiving the Eucharist. A Vatican office under his direction recently referred to Luther as a “witness to the Gospel.”

St. John the Beloved Theologian

Another reminder of the very special place in Catholicism of Saint John from Crisis Magazine.

An excerpt.

In class the other day, sensing that the attention span of my students was about to snap, I took immediate action, and suggested a Composition of Place to try and jump-start whatever lay hidden under the hood.

“Suppose you had just popped into the chapel to pray,” I said, “and reaching for your bible you discover that most of the New Testament had disappeared. Only the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel remained. Would that be enough to establish Christianity?”

Since timing is everything, I waited a moment or two, letting the loss of all but a few hundred words of Holy Writ sink in, then told them that, of course, those few words written by the Beloved Apostle himself, John the son of Zebedee, who reclined his head upon the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper, would furnish quite enough evidence on which to found the faith and the hope and the love of Christianity.

There were several audible gasps (always a sign of life), so I went on, telling them that one could do worse than to begin with the one whom pious tradition speaks of as the clear-eyed eagle, who saw more deeply into the things of God than any man living. In a stirring tribute paid to the author of what St. Clement of Alexandria has called “the spiritual gospel,” the lofty movements of whose soul have lifted him far beyond the reach of mortal men, St. Augustine writes:

He soared beyond the flesh, soared beyond the earth which he trod, beyond the seas which he saw, beyond the air where birds fly; soared beyond the sun, beyond the moon and the stars, beyond all spirits which are unseen, beyond his own intelligence and the very reason of his thinking soul.

Having heaped such praise upon him, Augustine then wants to know what John saw. What discoveries awaited him on the far side? If the movement of our world tends, as the poet T.S. Eliot reminds us, “In appetency, on its metalled ways / Of time past and time future,” what enabled him to escape? What did John see?

Soaring beyond all these, beyond his very self, where did he reach, what did he see?

Augustine will answer his own question with the opening words of the Fourth Gospel, those absolutely horizon-shattering words on which everything we know and believe depends:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (1:1-2).

There is no end of instruction, in seems to me, in the fact that the Apostle John, in communicating his vision, will draw upon a few very simple and declarative words, his repeated use of which enables him to express what is finally inexpressible. Words like water, thirst, bread, hunger, light, life, love, grace, glory. All perfectly good, hardworking words, used over and over by a master wordsmith to ensure that the message he’d been commissioned to tell got through to the reader.

And what is that message of which the Fourth Gospel remains the purest expression of New Testament theology? To begin with, it is not like anything to be found in the three synoptic gospels, whose accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ were written much earlier. The shape of John’s gospel, while in no way at variance with the disclosures of the other three, is configured to ends very different from Matthew, Mark, or Luke. His is a testimony concerning all that he had seen and heard, and the story he tells begins far beyond the horizons of this world. Indeed, one might describe the Fourth Gospel as a score of the most exultant music, animated by rhythms transcendent to the entire time/space continuum. Even as those rhythms are destined to resonate precisely from within the human setting. And the author appears not at all shy in letting us in on the score, which lifts us right off the page into realms of purest divinity. Augustine, in his moving panegyric, has certainly caught the tune, telling us that John, in the sheer sweep and sublimity of his music, “soars very high, mounting beyond the darkness of the earth and fixing his gaze on the light of truth.”

Abundance & Scarcity

An excellent article from one of today’s great Catholic thinkers from Catholic World Report.

An excerpt.

I.

Back in the early 1970s, in the heyday of unceasing rancor over Humanae Vitae, a great number of books were published that prophesied disaster for the human race. Among the most famous was Paul Ehrlich’s widely read The Population Bomb. At that time, we were given various apocalyptic scenarios about the end of things caused by our own uncontrolled breeding. We were soon to starve to death. The world, then with a population of around three billion, was running out of food, clothing, gas, and just about everything else. Things could only get worse. Resources were “limited”; no more new ones were imaginable. The Catholic Church was often singled out as contributing to this approaching demise of the human race since she taught that the world was made for man. Her weird stance on human breeding was “irrational”. Her views on marriage and children were said to go against the principles of, you guessed it, “modern science”.

The main group that did not readily buy these forebodings were the economists, or at least the free market ones. (See, for example, John Mueller’s Redeeming Economics and John McNerney’s The Wealth of Persons). Not a few farmers and agrarian biologists also thought that perhaps increasing populations was not such a bad thing. Increased yields in many grains were shown to be quite feasible and soon put into production. India, once a basket case became a bread basket, an exporter of grain and not just an importer of it. Children and youth meant new markets and incentives. They also meant more potential workers who would be both producers and consumers. They were also provided some assurance to the elderly, as the Japanese and Europeans were to find out when they had too few of them. Some folks seemed to know how to respond to these so-called scarcities; others did not. It was something that needed to be both learned and encouraged.

World population proceeded to reach four billion, then five, and now approaches eight billion. If anything, we are better prepared to deal with eight billion than the world was  prepared to meet its needs when the population of the planet was less than half a billion. This is counter-intuitive; many would expect the opposite, especially if they do not really think about it. In fact, the whole socialist agenda was largely a thinking about it in a way that never worked and usually made things worse. The solutions based on empowering governments to deal with it always backfired. Instead of inciting growth and increased quality in things, government control of resources to insure justice invariably produced stagnation and inefficiency. Such a seemingly sensible solution produced something worse; good intentions did not produce good results.

At that time, I wrote two books, Human Dignity & Human Numbers and Welcome Number 4,000,000,000 (more recently, there is On Christianity & Prosperity). My thesis was that the birth of new human lives was not a disaster. It was something to rejoice about. This welcome was not merely in a family sense, but also in an economic, political, and cultural sense. This approach seemed to be the way things were supposed to work. Earlier writers such as Locke and Rousseau had understood this value of population long before Malthus came along with his calculus of a world with standing room only. Subsequent writers have often been amused to point out that we could put the whole present eight billion population of the earth into the state of Texas with about as much space between folks as present day New Yorkers enjoy in their neighborhoods. Increasing populations were in fact good, but this possibility depended on what we thought of the family, of children, and of the human ability to meet its own needs by means that actually work and were not intrinsically immoral. Man was not created with all the answers, but with the capacity to find good answers, and this process required a rejection of what did not work.

II.

At the time, I knew the late Julian Simon, whose books, The Ultimate Resource and The Ultimate Resource 2, proposed (along with George Gilder and Herman Kahn) that wealth was not a matter of supposedly available resources based on contemporary estimates of their quantities. Rather, the human mind was the only real source of wealth in the universe. The Arabs sat on pools of oil for centuries with no idea what to do with it. Oil or anything else is only valuable if some use can be found for it. It seemed odd at first sight that people would think that unused raw material was of any value at all. The American Indians, who were said to have had ten square miles of territory for each person when the colonists arrived, actually were not surviving well merely on what they could garner from unimproved nature. An intimate relation is found between human culture and nature. Contrary to some recent sentiments, the world was not intended just to sit there in order for us to admire it or to leave it alone.

At the time, everyone was amused when Simon made a bet with Ehrlich that in the future more—not fewer—resources of every type would be available than when the bet was made. Ehrlich assumed we were rapidly running out of most everything. As I read later, Ehrlich lost and paid the bet. Adequate resources become available when we need them—if we are permitted to figure out how to do so and are allowed to sell them in the market at a profit. Simon’s point was that resources are not merely things in the ground, sea, or air. They are products of mind that only come about when we have need of them.

This point is why the economist Joseph Schumpeter’s famous “entrepreneur” is so important. If someone does not know what to do or how to do something, nothing much will happen. Moreover, to understand the world as a place designed for what man is, we need to have a correct philosophy about what nature and man are in themselves and in their relation to each other. Poverty is mostly caused by bad ideas and lack of virtue, not lack of resources. Many cultures and societies are indeed stagnant because they never learned or never wanted to learn how to be otherwise. This is why cultures ought not simply to remain what they are. They ought to be open to what is the right order of things. Sometimes a little preaching helps.

After the seventies, the population issue seemed to die down. It became clear that resources were not the real problem, nor were babies. Governments, religions, and ideologies were the problem if they did not know or did not want to know how to deal with increasing human numbers. If there is a population problem, it is almost always the result of ideas and government controls that had other purposes than human well-being. In addition, the countries we thought to be the poorest, China and India, suddenly became richer, though with many a dubious anti-human policies still in place. The places where we were told people were starving, were in fact busy coping with smog from their new cars and industries. They had learned how to become rich by imitating enough of those systems that did know how to succeed in improving themselves.

Confusion in the Church

The title of this article in Catholic World Report says it all: “Only a blind man can deny that there is great confusion in the church.”

An excerpt.

“The division among shepherds is the cause of the letter that we wrote to Francis. [The division is] not its effect. Insults and threats of canonical sanctions are unworthy things.” “A Church with little attention to doctrine is not more pastoral, just more ignorant.”

Bologna – “I believe that some things must be clarified. The letter – and the attached dubia – were reflected on at length, for months, and were discussed at length among ourselves. For my part, they were prayed about at length before the Blessed Sacrament.” Cardinal Carlo Caffarra starts by saying this, before beginning a long conversation with Il Foglio on the now famous letter “of the four cardinals” sent to the Pope to ask him for clarification in relation to Amoris Laetitia, the exhortation which summed up the double Synod on the family, and which has unleashed much debate – not always with grace and elegance – [both] inside and outside the Vatican walls. “We were aware that the action we were taking was very serious. Our concerns were twofold. The first was not to scandalize the little ones in the faith. For us pastors, this is a fundamental obligation. The second concern was that no person, whether a believer or not a believer, should be able to find in the letter expressions that even remotely could appear in the slightest lacking in respect towards the Pope. The final text, therefore, is the fruit of quite a lot of revisions: texts [were] revised, rejected, corrected.”

Having said all this, Caffarra enters into the matter. “What drove us to this action? A consideration of a general-structural nature and one of a contingent-circumstantial nature. Let us begin with the first. There exists for us cardinals a grave obligation to advise the Pope in the government of the Church. It is a duty, and duties oblige. Concerning [the consideration] of a more contingent nature, moreover, it is a fact – which only a blind man can deny – that there exists in the Church, a great confusion, uncertainty, and insecurity caused by some paragraphs of Amoris laetitia. In recent months, it is happening that on these fundamental questions regarding the sacramental economy (matrimony, confession and Eucharist) and the Christian life, some bishops have said A, others have said the contrary of A, with the intention of interpreting well the same texts.”

And “this is an undeniable fact, because facts are stubborn things, as David Hume said. The way out of this ‘conflict of interpretations’ was recourse to fundamental theological interpretative criteria, using those by which, I think, one can reasonably demonstrate that Amoris laetitia does not contradict Familiaris consortio. Personally, in public meetings with laity and priests, I have always followed this method.” This is not enough, observes the archbishop emeritus of Bologna. “We realized that this epistemological model was not sufficient. The conflict between these two interpretations continued. There was only one way to bring it to an end: to ask the author of the text which is interpreted in two contradictory ways, which [of them] is the correct interpretation. There is no other way. Subsequently, the problem arose of the way by which to appeal to the Pontiff. We chose a way that is very traditional in the Church, the so-called dubia.”

Why? “Because it was an instrument, in the case wherein, according to his sovereign judgment, the Holy Father wanted to respond, which did not require him [to do so] in elaborate or long responses. He only had to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and to defer, as popes have often done, to trusted scholars (in [official] parlance: probati auctores) or to ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to issue a joint declaration with which to explain the Yes or No. It seemed to us the simplest way. The other question which arose was whether to do it in private or in public. We reasoned and agreed that it would be a lack of respect to make everything public right away. So it was done in private, and only once we had obtained certainty that the Holy Father would not respond did we decide to publicize it.”

It is on this one of the points that there is the most discussion, with related controversies of all sorts. Most recently, it was Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the former Holy Office, to judge the publication of the letter mistaken. Caffarra explains: “We interpreted the silence [of Pope Francis] as authorization to continue the theological dispute. And, furthermore, the problem so profoundly involves both the magisterium of the bishops (which, let us not forget, they exercise not by the delegation of the Pope, but by virtue of the sacrament which they have received) and [it involves] the life of the faithful.  Both the one and the other have the right to know. Many [lay] faithful and priests were saying, ‘But you cardinals in a situation like this one have the obligation to intervene with the Holy Father. Otherwise why do you exist if not to assist the Pope in questions so grave as this?’ A scandal on the part of many of the faithful was beginning to grow, as though we cardinals were behaving like the dogs who did not bark about whom the prophet speaks. This is what is behind those two pages.”

 

Crime Up, Real Answers

The real answers come from Heather Mac Donald at City Journal.

An excerpt.

The Black Lives Matter crusade against the police continued to cost lives and destroy civil peace in 2016. Two recent estimates of violent crime in the nation’s largest cities show that murders and shootings remained on an upward trajectory this year, as officers backed off of proactive policing. The Brennan Center for Justice projects that murders in the 30 largest cities will be 14 percent higher in 2016 compared with 2015, a stunning increase coming as it does on top of 2015’s already massive homicide rise, which was 14.5 percent in all cities with populations over 250,000 and 20 percent in cities with populations from 500,000 to 1 million. The Wall Street Journal found that homicides increased in 16 of the 20 largest police departments in 2016. Meanwhile, gun murders of police officers are up 68 percent through December 23, compared with the same period in 2015.

Medium-sized cities that don’t show up in the Brennan Center or Wall Street Journal analyses are also in distress. Cleveland’s murder numbers, for example, are up again in 2016 over 2015, which, with a 15 percent spike over 2014, was already one of the deadliest years in a decade. By early December 2016, Richmond had logged a 40 percent increase in homicides over 2015, making this year Richmond’s deadliest in a decade. And even in some cities where homicides decreased modestly over the previous year’s violent crime surge, the drop may simply reflect the vagaries of emergency-room treatment, ambulance speeds, and gangbangers’ shooting skills. Non-fatal shootings are up in Baltimore, though homicides are down slightly compared with 2015. Measured on a per capita basis, 2016 will still be Baltimore’s second deadliest year in its history.

The media, academia, and some police officials are again twisting themselves into knots to deny that depolicing is responsible for the ongoing violent-crime increase. None of their alternative explanations fits the timing. The Wall Street Journal cites Yale sociologist Andrew Papachristos for the proposition that the demolition of Chicago’s massive public-housing projects is resulting in more gang violence today: “What we are seeing now is more ‘mom and pop’ type of activity,” he says. But the last of the projects went down in 2011. Chicago’s homicides dropped significantly in 2013 and 2014. It was only in 2015, as race riots and virulent anti-cop protests spread across the country and as Chicago cops went “fetal,” in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s words, that Chicago’s homicides and shootings started spiking.

The Brennan Center cites “long-term socioeconomic problems (high poverty, unemployment, and racial segregation)” for the 2016 violent crime increase, the same explanation it gave last year for the 2015 crime spike. But such “long-term socioeconomic problems” have not worsened in the last two years. In implicit recognition of that fact, the Brennan Center this year has added an ad hoc supplemental explanation: cities with high poverty “are more prone to short-term spikes in crime,” the Brennan researchers allege without evidence. But last year’s national homicide increase was not some typical short-term blip; it was the largest in nearly 50 years. Virtually every population tranche of cities experienced it. The Brennan Center also cites “gang violence” as a cause of the rising violence in Chicago—a circular explanation.

University of Missouri, St. Louis, criminologist Richard Rosenfeld continues to propose that a loss in police legitimacy has made residents of high-crime areas less willing to cooperate with the police in solving crimes, and more likely to turn to retaliatory shootings in search of justice. But the no-snitch ethic has been the code of the streets for decades in minority areas. The young men who are gunning each other down in black ghettos at elevated rates were no more likely three years ago to fulfill their civic duties by helping solve shootings. What has changed is their likelihood of getting stopped and questioned by the police as they hang out on the corner; with the police backing off, they are more likely to carry and use guns.

Pope Pius XII

Several decades after being smeared by Communist disinformation, the greatest pope of the last 150 years is finally getting his due from the secular press, as this story from the Catholic Herald reports.

An excerpt.

Major historians such as Sir Martin Gilbert have demolished the myths first perpetrated by the Soviet Union

“Fake News”, about which we hear so much at the moment, is as old as human communication itself. It’s fuelled by Original Sin, and its birth and growth is hardly a surprise to the Church. For if anyone has felt the sting of fake news – with all its menacing consequences – it has been practising Catholics.

As Rodney Stark amply documents in his work, Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History, few institutions have been the victim of “fake news” more often than the Roman Catholic Church. 

Just one of many examples is the scurrilous campaign to defame Pope Pius XII. At the end of the Second World War, Pius was praised for his moral leadership, strong opposition to Nazism, and interventions which saved many persecuted Jews.

Not long after the fall of the Third Reich, however, a new world struggle emerged, between Christianity and Communism. “In this case, legends grew,” wrote historian Owen Chadwick in The Tablet, and “propaganda fostered them – propaganda in the first instance by Stalin’s men in the Cold War, when the Vatican appeared to be part of the American anti-Communist alliance and Stalin wished to shatter the Pope’s reputation … Stalin had a political need to make this Pope contemptible.”

The Soviet propaganda against Pius was expanded by playwright Rolf Hochhuth, author of the 1963 play, The Deputy, which bitterly caricatured Pius as silent and indifferent during the Holocaust. Hochhuth energized an anti-papal campaign which reached a crescendo with the publication of John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope (1999).

Though the allegations against Pius XII were ably answered by eminent historians like Chadwick and Sir Martin Gilbert—as well as first-hand witnesses who worked with Pius to combat Nazism and the Holocaust – the campaign against him had a damaging effect. As Chadwick lamented: “It is still believed by many people that Pope Pius XII was a friend of the Nazis, or that he said nothing at all against racial mass murder during the War.”

Those people apparently included a BBC reporter who, during Pope Francis’s visit to Auschwitz in July, told viewers: “Silence was the response of the Catholic Church when Nazi Germany demonised Jewish people and then attempted to eradicate Jews from Europe.”

But now something remarkable has happened. After strong protests from concerned Catholics, led by Lord Alton and Fr Leo Chamberlain, the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) has found that the report “did not give due weight to public statements by successive Popes or the efforts made on the instructions of Pius XII to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution, and perpetuated a view which is at odds with the balance of evidence.”

While this correction might seem like brief and passing news, for those of us who’ve fought to clear the good name of Pius XII, it constitutes a major victory.

After years of protesting outrageously slanted reports and documentaries on Pius XII’s alleged complicity in the Holocaust – and having our heavily-documented rebuttals ignored – here, at last, was progress.

Another ‘Mass Incarceration’ Report

From the Brennan Center, a liberal think tank helping promote the misleading narrative that the United States incarcerates too many people though our recent past policing and incarceration policies have resulted in the biggest reduction in crime rates over the past few decades.

Here is an excerpt from the study, virtually wrong on all counts; and reading my analysis of the mass incarceration narrative should help clarify that.

An excerpt from the study.

While mass incarceration has emerged as an urgent national issue to be addressed, the reforms currently offered are dwarfed by the scale of the problem. The country needs bolder solutions.

How can we significantly cut the prison population while still keeping the country safe? This report puts forth one answer to that question. Our path forward is not offered as the only answer or as an absolute. Rather, it is meant to provide a starting point for a broader discussion about how the country can rethink and revamp the outdated sentencing edifice of the last four decades.

This report is the product of three years of research conducted by one of the nation’s leading criminologists, experienced criminal justice lawyers, and statistical researchers. First, we conducted an in-depth examination of the federal and state criminal codes, as well as the convictions and sentences of the nationwide prison population (1.46 million prisoners serving time for 370 different crime categories) to estimate how many people are currently incarcerated without a sufficient public safety rationale. We find that alternatives to incarceration are more effective and just penalties for many lower-level crimes. We also find that prison sentences can safely be shortened for a discrete set of more serious crimes.

Second, based on these findings, we propose a new, alternative framework for sentencing grounded in the science of public safety and rehabilitation.

Many have argued that regimented sentencing laws should be eliminated and replaced with broad judicial discretion. Others counter that this would reinstate a system wherein judges are free to deliver vastly divergent sentences for the same crime, potentially exacerbating racial disparities and perpetuating the tradition of harsh sentences.

This report proposes a new solution, building on these past proposals. We advocate that today’s sentencing laws should change to provide default sentences that are proportional to the specific crime committed and in line with social science research, instead of based on conjecture. These defaults should mandate sentences of alternatives to incarceration for lower-level crimes. For some other crimes that warrant incarceration, they should mandate shorter sentences. Judges should have discretion to depart from these defaults in special circumstances, such as a defendant’s criminal history, mental health or addiction issues, or specifics of the crime committed. This approach is grounded in the premise that the first principle of 21st century sentencing should be to protect public safety, and that sentences should levy the most effective, proportional, and cost-efficient sanction to achieve that goal. It aims to create more uniform sentences and reduce disparities, while preserving judicial discretion when needed.

Our proposed sentencing defaults for each crime weigh four factors:

  • Seriousness: Murder, for instance, should be treated as a far graver crime than writing a bad check.
  • Victim Impact: If a person has been harmed in the commission of a crime, especially physically, weight toward a more serious sentence.
  • Intent: If the actor knowingly and deliberately violated the law, a more severe sanction may be appropriate.
  • Recidivism: Those more likely to reoffend may need more intervention. Our findings and recommendations, determined by applying the four factors above to the prison population, are detailed below. (The rationale for these factors and our full methodology is described in Appendix A.)As depicted in Figure 1, this report finds the following:
  • Our Findings
  • Of the 1.46 million state and federal prisoners, an estimated 39 percent (approximately 576,000 people) are incarcerated with little public safety rationale. They could be more appropriately sentenced to an alternative to prison or a shorter prison stay, with limited impact on public safety. If these prisoners were released, it would result in cost savings of nearly $20 billion per year, and almost $200 billion over 10 years. This sum is enough to employ 270,000 new police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 school teachers. It is greater than the annual budgets of the United States Departments of Commerce and Labor combined.
  • Alternatives to prison are likely more effective sentences for an estimated 364,000 lower-level offenders — about 25 percent of the current prison population. Research shows that prison does little to rehabilitate and can increase recidivism in such cases. Treatment, community service, or probation are more effective. For example, of the nearly 66,000 prisoners whose most severe crime is drug possession, the average sentence is over one year; these offenders would be better sentenced to treatment or other alternatives.
  • An estimated 212,000 prisoners (14 percent of the total population) have already served sufficiently long prison terms and could likely be released within the next year with little risk to public safety. These prisoners are serving time for the more serious crimes that make up 58 percent of today’s prison population — aggravated assault, murder, nonviolent weapons offenses, robbery, serious burglary, and serious drug trafficking.
  • Approximately 79 percent of today’s prisoners suffer from either drug addiction or mental illness, and 40 percent suffer from both.35 Alternative interventions such as treatment could be more effective sanctions for many of these individuals.

Moral Order

A very good article from Crisis Magazine in this time of uncertainty, and when are we not in a time of uncertainty.

Anything that begins with the thought of C.S. Lewis is good, actually, is excellent.

An excerpt.

In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis argued that all the celebratory talk about man’s increasing ability to control nature had a dark side in which some men took control over other men with nature as the instrument. But, so long as the Judeo-Christian understanding of man was dominant, it would be difficult for tyrants to control man by controlling his nature, which was God-given and not under man’s control. However, once the belief that man was created by God, capable of knowing the good, and capable of freely choosing it, or not, was undermined, the abolition of man—as understood in the West—would become possible.

Seventy-five years later, we can see many signs of Lewis’ prophesy becoming reality. All of the sciences of man, animated now by unspoken philosophies of atheism, materialism, and determinism, relentlessly chip away at the foundations of the Judeo-Christian understanding of man under the banner of science, freedom and progress. Such efforts look to show that the choices people make are not really their choices at all, but instead are the result of our genes, brains, culture, or position in society, economy, or history. Any place will do, evidently, so long as the source of who we truly are is not to be found in God, or in man’s free will. The source of who we are must be such that they can be brought under the control of man, so that some men can control other men.

Many of these scientific materialists and social science determinists will balk at the accusation that they are attempting to show free will to be an illusion, or will back away from the logical implications of their investigations should these be pointed out. Nevertheless, the logic is clear: if it can be shown that we are not the authors of our behavior—as all of these efforts are attempting in one way or another to show—then the moral order is abolished. Put another way, if free will is lost, human society is little more than a very noisy ant colony. At that point, it will be reduced to the sort of thing that sociobiologists such as E.O. Wilson could understand.

Here’s how to make human society fodder for the author of Sociobiology. The first step is to assume, as materialists do, that what we call consciousness, or the “mind,” is generated or caused by the brain. The brain, being nothing but matter, however intricately organized or however large or small it may be, is determined (i.e., comes to exist in a particular state) only as a result of other matter and the forces under which matter operates. Matter, after all, cannot act on its own. It must be acted upon by some force, and reacts to that force according to the laws proper to it. And matter certainly cannot intend, consider, imagine, love, desire, or hate. These are not things matter can do. A brain cannot intend to do something any more than can an adding machine, or a computer. My brain does not get up and walk out of the room. Indeed, it is not even my legs that get up and leave the room. It is I who gets up and walks out. And if there is something right or wrong about my having done so, it is I, not my legs or my brain, that will be rightly praised or blamed for having done so.

Neither our brain nor our legs can gain us admittance into the moral order that is the foundation of human society. By moral order we mean the order of justice, the business of praising and blaming ourselves and others for conduct thought worthy of praise or blame. To live in this distinctly human world means holding and being held accountable for what we do, or do not do, against a standard of right and wrong that we alone do not establish and are not free to ignore without consequences. To participate in a human society at all is to participate in such an order.

Communism, Alive & Well

As this excellent article from Catholic World Report notes, knowledge of Communism is woeful, and, from the perspective of the Lampstand Foundation, completely misunderstood in relation to the ministry to criminals in prison, as I wrote in my book about it:

What is important—in the context of our apostolate work through The Lampstand Foundation—is not the theory of Communism, “to each according to need”, which many may support; but the influence on criminals from the system of government and its practice under Lenin and Stalin in Russia, Mao in China, and the lessor monsters of our world; practice continuing largely unchanged today except as modified within the constrictions created by the ability of global communications about governmental atrocities making it much more difficult to keep such atrocities hidden now than during the last century; and a governing practice diametrically opposed to the sacred doctrine of the Catholic Church, who Communism sees as its most dangerous enemy.

Communism—in addition to the countries under its capture—is experiencing resurgence among young leftists, as Goldberg (2013) writes:

For those too young to remember the Cold War but old enough to be trapped by the Great Recession, Marxism holds new appeal…

It’s too simple to say that Marxism is back, because it never truly went away. In the United States after the fall of the Berlin Wall, though, it was largely confined to university English departments, becoming the stuff of abstruse, inward-looking and jargon-choked cultural critique. Then came the economic crash, Occupy Wall Street, and the ongoing disaster of austerity in Europe. “Around the time of Occupy in particular, a lot of different kinds of lefties, working at mainstream or literary publications, sort of found each other, started talking to each other, and found out who was most interested in class politics,” says Sarah Leonard, the 25-year-old associate editor of Dissent, the social-democratic journal founded almost 60 years ago by Irving Howe. “We have essentially found an old politics that makes sense now.”

In the United States, of course, Marxism remains an intellectual current rather than a mass movement. Certainly, millennials are famously progressive; a much-discussed 2011 Pew poll found that 49 percent of people between 18 and 29 had a favorable view of socialism, while only 46 percent felt positively about capitalism. It’s hard to say exactly what this means—it’s not as if young people are sending Das Kapital racing up the best-seller lists or reconstituting communist cells. Still, it’s been decades since so many young thinkers have been so engaged in imagining a social order not governed by the imperatives of the market. (n.p.)

Encouraging this revival is a new venture by radical publishers Verso, publications called Pocket Communism, offering several new books on the emergence of the new interest in Communism, which can be seen at http://www.versobooks.com/series_collections/11-pocket-communism

Getting our mind wrapped around this historical atheistic evil requires a journey through the virtual hurricane of words used to describe it and another point: Communism is rarely believed in by the leaders of Communist countries as they are totalitarians and their operating narrative is power; but Communism is used as the operating narrative—virtually a faith system, though atheistic—for the people to believe in; important to keep in mind as we wend our way through the intersection of the Church, Communism and Fatima. (pp. 13-14)

Lukenbill, David H. (2013). Catholicism, Communism & Criminal Reformation. Chulu Press: The Lampstand Foundation, Sacramento, California.