Palm Sunday with Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

His powerful reflection on this day, from The Catholic Thing, which is also found in the magnificent book he wrote, Life of Christ (pp. 272-276); an absolutely must have volume for your library.

An excerpt.

It was the month of Nisan. The Book of Exodus ordered that in this month the Paschal Lamb was to be selected, and four days later was to be taken to the place where it was to be sacrificed. On Palm Sunday, the Lamb was chosen by popular acclaim in Jerusalem; on Good Friday He was sacrificed.

His last Sabbath Our Lord spent in Bethany with Lazarus and his sisters. News was now circulated that Our Lord was coming into Jerusalem. In preparation for His entrance, He sent two of His disciples into the village, where they were told they would find a colt tethered, on which no man had ridden. They were to untie it and bring it to Him. “And if anybody asks you, Why are you untying it? This must be your answer, The Lord hath need of it.” (Lk 19:31)

Perhaps no greater paradox was ever written than this – on the one hand the sovereignty of the Lord, and on the other His “need.” This combination of Divinity and dependence, of possession and poverty was the consequence of the Word becoming flesh. Truly, He who was rich became poor for our sakes, that we might be rich. He borrowed a boat from a fisherman from which to preach; He borrowed barley loaves and fishes from a boy to feed the multitude; He borrowed a grave from which He would rise; and now He borrowed an ass on which to enter Jerusalem. Sometimes God pre-empts and requisitions the things of man, as if to remind him that everything is a gift from Him. It is sufficient for those who know Him to hear: “The Lord hath need of it.”

As He approached the city, a “great multitude” came to meet Him; among them were not only the citizens but also those who had come up for the feast and, of course, the Pharisees. The Roman authorities also were on the alert during great feasts lest there be an insurrection. On all previous occasions, Our Lord rejected the false enthusiasm of the people, fled the spotlight of publicity, and avoided anything that savored of display.

At one time: “He strictly forbade them to tell any man That He, Jesus, was the Christ.” (Mt. 16:20)

When He raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead: “He laid a strict charge on them, To let nobody hear of this.” (Mk 5:43)

 After revealing the glory of His Divinity in the Transfiguration: “He warned them not to tell anyone what they had seen, Until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” (Mk. 9:8)

When the multitudes, after the miracle of the loaves, sought to make Him King: “He withdrew on to the hillside all alone.” (Jn 6:15)

When His relatives asked Him to go to Jerusalem and publicly astound the festival with miracles, He said: “My Hour is not yet come.” (Jn. 7:6)

But the entrance into Jerusalem was so public, that even the Pharisees said: “Look, the whole world has turned aside to follow Him.” (Jn. 12:19)

All this was in opposition to His usual manner. Before He dampened all their enthusiasms; now He kindled them. Why?

Because His “Hour” had come. It was time now for Him to make the last public affirmation of His claims. He knew it would lead to Calvary, and His Ascension and the establishment of His Kingdom on earth. Once He acknowledged their praise, then there were only two courses open to the city: confess Him as did Peter, or else crucify. Either He was their King, or else they would have no king but Caesar. No Galilean seacoast or mountaintop, but the royal city on the Passover was the best time to make His last proclamation.

He drew attention to His Kingship in two ways, first by the fulfillment of a prophecy familiar to the people, and second by the tributes of Divinity which He accepted as His own.

Matthew explicitly states that the solemn procession was to fulfill the prophecy made by Zacharias years before: “Tell the daughter of Sion, Behold Thy King is coming to Thee, Humbly riding on an ass.” (Mt. 21:5) The prophecy came from God through a prophet, and now God Himself was bringing it to fulfillment.

The prophecy of Zacharias was meant to contrast the majesty and the humility of the Savior. As one looks at the ancient sculptured slabs of Assyria and Babylon, the murals of Egypt, the tombs of the Persians, and the scrolls of the Roman columns, one is struck by the majesty of kings riding in triumph on horses or in chariots, and sometimes over the prostrate bodies of their foes. In contrast to this, here is One Who comes triumphant upon an ass.

How Pilate, if he was looking out of his fortress that Sunday, must have been amused by the ridiculous spectacle of a man being proclaimed as a King, and yet seated on the beast that was the symbol of the outcast – a fitting vehicle for one riding into the jaws of death! If He had entered into the city with regal pomp in the manner of conquerors, He would have given occasion to believe that He was a political Messias. But the circumstance He chose validated His claim that His Kingdom was not of this world. There is no suggestion that this pauper King was a rival of Caesar.

Retrieved March 29, 2015 from http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2015/03/29/a-sunday-in-nisan/

Question Authority

It is the most cogent praxis emanating from the Sixties, and is in full bloom in the Catholic Church in England, as reported by the UK Spectator; and showing that, when standing on traditional teaching, priests—and laity—should question authority when it appears to be going off the rails.

An excerpt.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has slapped down nearly 500 priests who signed a letter to the Catholic Herald expressing concern about the Synod on the Family this October, which is to debate sensitive questions of sexual morality. This is a significant blunder by the Cardinal that exposes both the inflexibility of his leadership style and – certainly in the case of some of the priests – lack of confidence in his stewardship of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Here’s today’s Catholic Herald report:

Priests should not conduct a debate about the October Family Synod through the press, Cardinal Nichols has said, following the publication of a letter signed by hundreds of priests, urging the synod to issue a ‘clear and firm proclamation’ upholding Church teaching on marriage.

In the letter, signed by almost 500 priests and published in this week’s Catholic Herald, they write: ‘We wish, as Catholic priests, to re-state our unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the Word of God and taught by the Church’s Magisterium for two millennia.’

In a statement, a spokesman for Cardinal Nichols said that the press was not the medium for conducting dialogue of this sort.

‘Every priest in England and Wales has been asked to reflect on the Synod discussion. It is my understanding that this has been taken up in every diocese, and that channels of communication have been established,’ the statement said.

‘The pastoral experience and concern of all priests in these matters are of great importance and are welcomed by the Bishops. Pope Francis has asked for a period of spiritual discernment. This dialogue, between a priest and his bishop, is not best conducted through the press.’

This is an unwise – but entirely characteristic – move by Cardinal Nichols. Here are some thoughts that spring to mind:

  1. The Cardinal refers to ‘channels of communication’ that, in reality, are either blocked or permit only one-way traffic. I wouldn’t dream of calling a Prince of the Church a control freak, but if Nichols were a politician – a painfully on-message Labour junior minister from Merseyside, say – the cap would fit. The idea that the Bishops of England and Wales ‘welcome’ any views that don’t coincide with theirs is laughable. On this issue they’ve decided to align themselves with Pope Francis’s opinions on Communion for the divorced and homosexuality. The fact that these opinions are inchoate and elusive doesn’t trouble them because the same could be said of their own jargon-rich waffle. Cardinal Nichols is impressively fluent in ‘bishopese’; what distinguishes him from his colleagues is his quietly effective suppression of dissent. On this occasion, however, it hasn’t been so effective. Priests who normally play by the rules were so worried by the Anglican-style chaos of last October’s Synod on the Family (the first of two) that they felt they had no alternative but to speak openly.
  2. What Cardinal Nichols did not say, though I suspect he’s aware of it, is that many priests were told by those ‘welcoming’ channels of communication not to sign the letter. As one signatory told the Herald, ‘there has been a certain amount of pressure not to sign the letter and indeed a degree of intimidation from some senior Churchmen’. Without this arm-twisting there would have been many more signatories. So the problem is bigger than it appears.
  3. The Cardinal’s anger is directed not just at the priests but also at the press for publishing their letter. Obviously he doesn’t like me, and you wouldn’t expect him to, but he shows little interest in Catholic newspapers that, as it happens, bite their tongues and resist opportunities to criticise him out of loyalty to the Church. He is not rude to journalists but he can be aggressively patronising and it never occurs to him that devout Catholic writers might help him to spread his message. Whatever that is. The situation is doubly frustrating for the media because His Eminence appears to have taken a solemn vow not to say anything remotely memorable in public. At least you can’t accuse Pope Francis of that. To make matters even worse, Nichols employs an infuriatingly inept and ill-informed press office.

Retrieved March 27, 2015 from http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2015/03/cardinal-nichols-attempts-to-silence-faithful-priests-this-will-backfire/

Church Martiality

This is a state of warriorhood vital for the Catholic Church to embrace within the leadership if it is ever to resonate within the universal Church and the recent appointment by Pope Francis of Cardinal George Pell to help clean up the Roman Curia, as George Weigel writes, is a great example of it.

An excerpt.

Shortly after George Pell was named Archbishop of Melbourne, he instituted several reforms at the archdiocesan seminary, including daily Mass and the daily celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, both of which had fallen by the wayside in the preceding years. The seminary faculty, enthusiastic proponents of Catholic Lite, thought to call the archbishop’s bluff and informed him that, were he to persist in such draconian measures, they would resign en masse.

The archbishop thanked them for the courtesy of giving him a heads-up, accepted their resignations on the spot, and got on with the reform of the Melbourne seminary—and of the rest of the archdiocese.

The defenders of the status quo in the Vatican may have been unaware of this episode when they recently tried to take down the man chosen by Pope Francis to clean up the financial mess the Argentinian pope inherited two years ago. Like their predecessors in Melbourne, the leaders of a nasty campaign of personal accusation against Cardinal Pell, conducted by leaks to the ever-sleazy Italian media, failed. I hope that failure will be a lesson to such scoundrels in the future: don’t mess with a former Australian rules football star who likes contact sports. That may be hope-against-hope. But we are obliged to believe that conversion, even among curialists native to the boot-shaped peninsula, is not beyond the power of God’s grace.

Pope Francis was elected by a conclave determined that the next pontificate should clean up what Msgr. Ronald Knox used to call the “engine room” of the Barque of Peter. In the ensuing two years, there’s not been a whole lot of progress in curial reform. The striking exception to that rule is the result of the pope’s most successful reformist appointment: that of George Pell as head of a new super-dicastery in the Roman Curia, the Secretariat for the Economy, with a mandate to make the Vatican “boringly successful” as a “model of good financial practices,” as Cardinal Pell likes to tell reporters.

Retrieved March 26, 2015 from http://eppc.org/publications/the-indomitable-and-effective-cardinal-pell/

 

Capital Punishment

This time, a supporter of abolishing capital punishment, takes the pope to task for his weak arguments for abolishment, from Catholic Culture.

An excerpt.

Full disclosure: I oppose the use of the death penalty in America today, for prudential reasons that I may explain in another essay. When Pope Francis said execution is always inadmissible, I was not dismayed by his conclusion. But I was dismayed by the logic he used to reach that conclusion.

”For the rule of law, the death penalty represents a failure,” the Holy Father told the International Commission against the Death Penalty. Perhaps so. In an ideal world, all criminals would be fully rehabilitated; they would pay their debts to society and become productive members of society. For that matter, in an ideal world there would be no criminals. But we do not live in an ideal world. Sometimes the system fails, and sometimes criminals remain dangerous to society despite our best efforts to rehabilitate them.

If capital punishment is excluded, then the most dangerous criminals must be kept behind bars indefinitely. Pope Francis argues that the death penalty is unnecessary because the prisoners on Death Row are no longer a threat to society; he says that their “current ability to cause harm is not current, as it has been neutralized—they are already deprived of their liberty.” But that statement is simply inaccurate. Even if we set aside the possibility that an imprisoned killer could escape and terrorize the general population, we should not ignore the threat that a vicious criminal poses to his fellow inmates and to prison guards. Brutal and unrepentant convicts make prison life less humane, and thereby make it more difficult to rehabilitate less serious offenders.

But Pope Francis seems to exclude even the possibility of lifetime sentences, since he says that a life term maybe “considered as a sort of overt death penalty.” Is he contradicting himself here? Or is he proposing that a serial killer must eventually be released?

In making his case against the death penalty, Pope Francis reasons that execution is unnecessary because the killer has already been apprehended, so there is no danger that he will kill again. But here he assumes that capital punishment has no purpose other than protecting society from someone who poses an immediate threat.

Actually the death penalty (or any criminal penalty) has two other important purposes. First it is intended to deter other potential criminals, putting them on notice that they might pay dearly for their offenses. Second it is intended to show the society’s repugnance toward the crime.

Retrieved March 24, 2015 from http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otn.cfm?id=1082

 

Capital Punishment, NCR Brief

The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) has submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court about the medication used in capital punishment in which they misrepresent Catholic teaching.

The NCR Amicus Brief is here http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/supreme_court_preview/BriefsV5/14-7955_amicus_pet_ncr.authcheckdam.pdf

The opposition the NCR ascribes to capital punishment is from statements by bishop’s conferences (which are not considered dogmatic).

The brief begins noting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s (USCCB) call for abolition; and to put that call in authoritative context, Pope Benedict XVI (when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger) has remarked on the teaching authority status of the episcopal conference:

“The decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are ever more organized, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures. We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function. No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission; its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given by the individual bishops.

“It is a matter of safeguarding the very nature of the Catholic Church, which is based on an episcopal structure and not on a kind of federation of national churches. The national level is not an ecclesial dimension.

Ratzinger, J. Cardinal with Vittorio Messori. (1985). The Ratzinger report: An exclusive interview on the state of the Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. (pp. 59-60)

Dogma is only established when the pope speaks ex cathedral , or in concert with the entire global body of bishops in an ecumencial conference such as Trent or Vatican II; both of which produced Universal Catechisms, binding on the entire Church.

The national Catechisms, such as those for the United States, do not have the same authority.

No pope has spoken ex cathedra on capital punishment and the only recent action with the pope and the global body of bishops meeting in ecumencial conference, is the Catechism of the Catholic Church which clearly supports capital punishment, though noting that if penal conditions ever arise that the aggressor can be stopped from continued aggression, then capital punishment may be allowed to stop.

However, as we see from this article as part of the National Public Radio (NPR) series on Super Max prisons, that situation is not even possible there, which is what most people think of when claiming the aggressor can be stopped in the right penal condition.

An excerpt from the NPR article.

Even locked in isolation, some inmates have managed to find ways to kill each other and assault staff. On a recent afternoon, a half-dozen officers spent an entire day tearing apart the cells in one hallway, searching desperately for a metal binder clip they believed one of the inmates was hiding. Officer Buchanan discovered the paper fastener hidden inside a crack in the concrete wall. It had been sharpened into a deadly razor.

In the cell next door, Sgt. France held up a couple of staples she found.

“They use the staples. They sharpen them to a point, wrap paper around them real tight, and make a spear out of it,” France says. “It will go through the perforations on the cell. They can spear someone with it.”

Isolation Breeds Deadly Ingenuity

Lt. Steve Perez explains that inmates pull out the elastic from their underwear and braid it into a kind of super-powered bow to fire their weapons.

“They can project a spear coming out of there at 800-square-pounds per foot,” Perez said. “And 800 pounds per foot, into your neck, it’ll drive that right in there. And now we’ve got to go in there, and what does he have on it? Does he have feces? HIV? Does he have herpes? TB? Hepatitis? And that’s not unusual.”

Prison officials say that removing the most dangerous gang members and putting them in segregation makes regular prisons safer for the rest of the inmates — and it weakens the gangs.

But Jim, a 38-year-old SHU inmate from Long Beach, says that’s wishful thinking. He says that to gang members, being sent to the secure-housing unit is an honor.

“Coming up here was the big thing,” Jim says from inside his cell. “Put in work. Come up here, be with the big homeys. Because this is the only place you’re going to be around the fellas, you know.”

‘You’re a Target Because of the Color of Your Skin’

Jim says gang leaders still control the gangs from within the SHU, mostly by mailing each other letters. And he says if you show up to prison and don’t join the gang of your race, you’ll be a target for the other gangs within days.

Retrieved March 21, 2015 from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5584254

In closing, the amicus brief notes that Catholics belief in the sanctity of life is why capital punishment should be abolished, but they have it backwards.

The sanctity of human life is exactly why capital punishment is and always has been, allowed by the Catholic Church, an argument built on God’s covenant with humans noted in the Catechism:

RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE

The witness of sacred history

2259 In the account of Abel’s murder by his brother Cain, Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man. God declares the wickedness of this fratricide: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.”

2260 The covenant between God and mankind is interwoven with reminders of God’s gift of human life and man’s murderous violence:

For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning. . . . Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.

The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life. This teaching remains necessary for all time.

Retrieved March 23, 2015 from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm#I

This statement “This teaching remains necessary for all time” came from the pope and all the bishops of the world meeting in a ecumenical conference and is dogma, incontrovertible truth.

Capital Punishment

There is an excellent article about capital punishment at Catholic Culture, http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otc.cfm?id=1280

To add to it; there are no secure enough prison facilities to stop murderers from continuing to murder, as this series on Super Max prisons—which are the facilities most think of when thinking about secure enough— done by NPR in 2006 reveals.

This is an issue we covered extensively in our book on capital punishment, Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support, published in 2009. Each one of our books is a response to a likely objection to Catholicism that will be encountered when doing ministry to professional criminals; and for links to all of the Lampstand books which are available at Amazon, go to http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=david+h+lukenbill

An excerpt from the NPR series.

Even locked in isolation, some inmates have managed to find ways to kill each other and assault staff. On a recent afternoon, a half-dozen officers spent an entire day tearing apart the cells in one hallway, searching desperately for a metal binder clip they believed one of the inmates was hiding. Officer Buchanan discovered the paper fastener hidden inside a crack in the concrete wall. It had been sharpened into a deadly razor.

In the cell next door, Sgt. France held up a couple of staples she found.

“They use the staples. They sharpen them to a point, wrap paper around them real tight, and make a spear out of it,” France says. “It will go through the perforations on the cell. They can spear someone with it.”

Isolation Breeds Deadly Ingenuity

Lt. Steve Perez explains that inmates pull out the elastic from their underwear and braid it into a kind of super-powered bow to fire their weapons.

“They can project a spear coming out of there at 800-square-pounds per foot,” Perez said. “And 800 pounds per foot, into your neck, it’ll drive that right in there. And now we’ve got to go in there, and what does he have on it? Does he have feces? HIV? Does he have herpes? TB? Hepatitis? And that’s not unusual.”

Prison officials say that removing the most dangerous gang members and putting them in segregation makes regular prisons safer for the rest of the inmates — and it weakens the gangs.

But Jim, a 38-year-old SHU inmate from Long Beach, says that’s wishful thinking. He says that to gang members, being sent to the secure-housing unit is an honor.

“Coming up here was the big thing,” Jim says from inside his cell. “Put in work. Come up here, be with the big homeys. Because this is the only place you’re going to be around the fellas, you know.”

‘You’re a Target Because of the Color of Your Skin’

Jim says gang leaders still control the gangs from within the SHU, mostly by mailing each other letters. And he says if you show up to prison and don’t join the gang of your race, you’ll be a target for the other gangs within days.

Retrieved March 21, 2015 from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5584254

The Aging Out of Crime Myth

Though, as this story from the New York Times reports, the statistics show that criminals do reach a certain age where they no longer commit crimes, my experience is that the main reason older professional—excluding rapists, pedophiles, and informers—criminals do not get caught is because they become smarter; so building a sentencing policy on that will result, in my opinion, in more crime.

Criminal justice practitioners have been coming up with these type of arguments for decades, but still have not been able to produce a program that actually reduces recidivism, because, they do not understand criminals, especially professional criminals who commit the majority of crimes in America.

An excerpt from the Times article.

DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV is facing the death penalty or life in prison for the Boston Marathon bombing. But what if, instead, the maximum prison sentence were just 21 years?

That was the sentence that Anders Behring Breivik received in 2012 after killing 77 people, most of them teenagers attending a summer program, in Norway in 2011. It was the harshest sentence available. That doesn’t mean Mr. Breivik will ever walk free. Judges will be able to sentence him to an unlimited number of five-year extensions if he is still deemed a risk to the public in 2033, when he is 53.

The idea of a 21-year sentence for mass murder and terrorism may seem radically lenient in the United States, where life without parole is often presented as a humane alternative to the death penalty. Yet in testimony last week to a congressional task force on reforming the federal prison system, Marc Mauer, the director of the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group, suggested exactly that approach. He made the case for a 20-year cap on federal prison terms with an option for parole boards or judges to add more time if necessary to protect the public.

Such a policy would “control costs” in a system that is now 40 percent over capacity, Mr. Mauer told the task force, and would “bring the United States more in line with other industrialized nations.”

This proposal has little chance of becoming law. But a compelling case can be made for it nonetheless. Research by American social scientists shows that all but the most exceptional criminals, even violent ones, mature out of lawbreaking before middle age, meaning that long sentences do little to prevent crime.

Homicide and drug-arrest rates peak at age 19, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, while arrest rates for forcible rape peak at 18. Some crimes, such as vandalism, crest even earlier, at age 16, while arrest rates for forgery, fraud and embezzlement peak in the early 20s. For most of the crimes the F.B.I. tracks, more than half of all offenders will be arrested by the time they are 30.

And criminal careers do not last very long. Research by the criminologist Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon and colleagues has found that for the eight serious crimes closely tracked by the F.B.I. — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, arson and car theft — five to 10 years is the typical duration that adults commit these crimes, as measured by arrests.

Property criminals, like burglars and car thieves, tend to stop in their 20s, while violent criminals are more likely to continue into their early 30s. Drug-crime careers can be lengthier, stretching into the mid-30s, yet long sentences have had little effect on the drug trade. “When you lock up a rapist, you take his rapes off the street. When you lock up a drug seller, you recruit a replacement,” Professor Blumstein said.

Retrieved March 20, 2015 from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/sunday-review/too-old-to-commit-crime.html?emc=edit_tnt_20150320&nlid=21745381&tntemail0=y

Insight from the New York Times

Though the author hastily points out no normal person reads the NYT, so I guess that makes our family special since we subscribe to the Sunday NYT (best Sunday paper we’ve found), and we get the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition on Saturday, but it is a poor imitation, except for the Opinion section, of the Sunday NYT.

Anyway, this article from Crisis Magazine is pretty good.

An excerpt.

I do not normally read the New York Times. No normal person normally does. But every once in a while I make an exception. Which is also a normal thing to do. The article I read astonished me, especially the following passage:

America had a great political idea, but it had a small religious idea. The spiritual vision was not wide enough for the breadth and variety of brotherhood that was to be established among men…. The nation arose not with unity of philosophy but with variety in fanaticism; with sects built on special dogmas or on the denial of special dogmas, on something that was not merely private judgment but particular judgment.

I have never seen packed so tightly so complete an explanation of the development of America’s religious history that also explains its cultural history.

The “great political idea” is obviously democracy and the “self-evident” truth that all men are created equal and that their basic rights come from God. Democracy means self-government, the ability to rule oneself, which is everyone’s right and responsibility. Self-government literally means self-control. Self-government does not mean doing whatever you want, rather it means controlling whatever you do. But the control does not come from some outside force, it comes from yourself. Self-restraint is the essence of protecting your own freedom and everyone else’s because self-restraint is what prevents us from trampling on anyone else’s rights. And the natural consequence of self-restraint is self-respect, remembering our own and everyone else’s dignity. Self-control is one of the fruits of the spirit described by St. Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. Thus, a nation of self-government would be a nation of self-control and self-respect.

If what I just described does not look anything like America today, that is because the founding fathers’ great political idea of self-rule was not accompanied by a great religious idea.

America, of course, was not founded as a Catholic nation. It was founded as a Protestant nation that would not declare its religion but would attempt to maintain a freedom of religion. All well and good as far as that goes. But Protestantism is not a unifying philosophy. If it is unified by anything, it is anti-Catholicism. It is defined by its continued “protest” against the authority of the Catholic Church. But freedom of religion must tolerate even Catholicism, thus eroding any unity in a Protestant philosophy that is already not unified. It starts broken and continues to break apart. The Protestants who broke away from the Catholic Church then broke away from each other. America has had a genius for breeding one new sect after another. A “sect” is a section, and each section is smaller and narrower. Even if a section grew, as did the Baptist and the Mormon sects, it was still narrow, because it had broken off from something bigger and broader than itself.

Each sect was founded on a certain fanaticism that would turn around and attack everything that was not itself, which caused continual disruption in the culture around it. For instance, the Puritans attacked basic pleasures that sparked a backlash that has rippled across American history right to the present moment. Even as Puritan fanatics retreated to their separate little chapels, waiting for the Second Coming, they condemned cigarettes and beer as from the devil. They alienated themselves, they were completely out-of-touch with wholesome salt-of-the-earth citizens who had an innocent enjoyment of cigarettes and beer, and who subsequently dismissed all religion as an institution that only wants to take away cigarettes and beer. But the latest attacks on cigarettes and beer don’t come any more from religious sects, but from secular sects. The religion is gone, only the fanaticism remains. And those who hold these “particular judgments” want to make them universal. And so all the fanaticisms clash and the culture falls into chaos because there is no unifying philosophy.

One persistent fanaticism that prevents unity is the idea that you cannot mix politics and religion. But as a matter of fact, you cannot help mixing them. A good political idea can only be sustained by a good religious idea. Justice cannot be sustained unless it is divinely ordained and permanent, and not subject to human whims and societal trends.

Retrieved March 19, 2015 from http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/great-political-ideas-sustained-great-religious-ideas

Capital Punishment is Traditional Catholic Teaching

Which fact is difficult to discern among the many calls from bishops, popes and Catholic news outlets calling for its abolition; but, in response to the latest abolition call, the superb article from The Catholic Thing summarizes the source of the traditional teaching supporting capital punishment.

The tradition of support for capital punishment by the Church is also surveyed in the Lampstand book:  Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support. For links to all Lampstand books at Amazon go to http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=david+h+lukenbill

An excerpt from the Catholic Thing article.

A group of Catholic publishers recently issued a joint statement urging an end to capital punishment. I have great respect for all of them – I have written for all of them at one point or another. I disagree with them on this issue, however. And it may be good to give some background about why I and many others disagree.

Most importantly, the Catholic Church’s Magisterium does not and never has advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty. The U.S. bishops have conceded that Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the state has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime. Even the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin – hardly a conservative – never stated that every criminal has a right to continue living, nor did he deny that the state has the right in some cases to execute the guilty. St. John Paul II, although opposed to most applications of the death penalty, thought the same.

Let’s hear what St. Augustine had to say on this topic: “ . . . there are some exceptions made by the divine authority to its own law, that men may not be put to death. These exceptions are of two kinds, being justified either by a general law, or by a special commission granted for a time to some individual. And in this latter case, he to whom authority is delegated, and who is but the sword in the hand of him who uses it, is not himself responsible for the death he deals. And, accordingly, they who have waged war in obedience to the divine command, or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, You shall not kill.” (City of God, Bk I, 21)

Augustine also said that capital punishment protects those who are undergoing it from further sinning, which might continue if their life went on.

If this is not enough, consider the thoughts of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, on this topic. Citing Exodus 22, which specifies that certain categories of wrongdoers shall not be permitted to live, Aquinas unequivocally states that civil rulers can execute justly to protect the peace of the state. St. Thomas finds frivolous the argument that murderers should be allowed to live in hopes of their repentance, questioning how many innocent people should have to suffer death while waiting for the guilty to repent. While capital punishment is not justifiable as an act of vengeance, according to Aquinas it is justifiable to help secure the safety of the community by removing a dangerous wrongdoer and deterring others from his example; in addition, it is an act of justice, allowing expiation for the wrongdoer’s sin.

Retrieved March 16, 2015 from http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2015/03/16/the-traditional-case-for-capital-punishment/

Homeboy Industries

Homeboy is an excellent program in Los Angeles that reforms criminals and this story from the Catholic Register profiles one success story.

An excerpt.

WASHINGTON — From the very beginning of his life, Hector Verdugo had everything going against him — until, following a prison stint, he received the chance he needed from a Catholic priest.

“My earliest memories are just violence,” Verdugo told a gathering of Catholic activists at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, at a Feb. 9 session dedicated to the Church’s vision of “restorative justice.”

The strikes against Verdugo’s life began before he was born. His mother was a heroin addict; his father died from a heroin overdose a week before Verdugo’s birth. Heroin claimed the life of his grandfather, too. “And so my life began,” Verdugo recalled.

In the East Los Angeles projects, Verdugo grew up in a culture where the gang became his family, because they took an interest in him when others wouldn’t. One of his first memories was picking up a gun hidden in the bushes and the cholos, or homeboys, showing him how to hold it.

“We looked up to them,” he said.

The only prospects (and expectations) people had for him in the projects: a life headed toward juvenile hall as a youth and then to prison as an adult. They gave him just the rules to survive there.

“It’s sad that the neighborhood I go to was preparing me for this,” he said. Prison functioned as a massive drug-networking center, so that when a person left, “you’re coming out with better product and better prices.”

But reading a Time magazine article in prison while high on methamphetamine jolted his conscience to the core: A woman high on meth had killed her baby with a microwave oven. Verdugo had justified selling meth — not to his own neighborhood — across the country to people he didn’t care about: “Klan members” in Tennessee and Kentucky. Except, he couldn’t do it anymore.

“I felt like God spoke to me and he said: ‘You’re doing this, and you’re doing this to my children.’”

 After prison, Verdugo stopped dealing drugs. But the problem he faced — along with many other ex-prisoners — was that he wanted to change, he just didn’t know how. All he knew was dealing drugs, so he struggled to hold a job and was convinced it was just a matter of time before he would end up in front of a judge and back in prison.

More than 600,000 ex-convicts are released annually, but most do not end up rehabilitated and restored in society after prison. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, more than half of prisoners released are arrested within one year. Within three years, two-thirds (67.8%) are rearrested; within five years, 76.6% are back in prison.

But Verdugo’s life took a different turn. A friend put him in touch with Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, run by Father Greg Boyle, where programs including creative writing, poetry, meditation, prayer and therapy helped bring Verdugo healing, purpose and the sense of family he was looking for.

I realized this is what I wanted all my life,” said Verdugo, who serves as Homeboy Industries’ associate executive director.

“God said, ‘You’re in the right place. Be a part of it, and if you don’t like it, be part of the change.’”

According to Homeboy Industries, more than 70% of former gang members and ex-prisoners who have gone through their program are successfully rehabilitated.

Retrieved March 13, 2015 from http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/homeboy-redemption-seeks-to-help-restore-americas-future/

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