St. Catherine of Siena

This is her feast day, a towering figure in the Church, made a Doctor of the Church by Paul VI; (I wrote about her in my book: Women in the Church, St. Catherine of Sienna, Fr. Teilhard de Chardin, & Criminal Reformation) and this information about her comes from Franciscan Media.

An excerpt.

Lived: (1347-1380) | Feast Day: Friday, April 29, 2016

The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ. What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time.

She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful and intensely religious person. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation.

She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer and austerity. Gradually a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious. An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life. Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs. Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ. She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374.

Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope. She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope

In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides. Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Urban VI and the unity of the Church. She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony. She died surrounded by her “children” and was canonized in 1461.

Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church. In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy. Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970. Her spiritual testament is found in The Dialogue.

Just War Theory

Well, according to Catholic tradition, it is quite a bit more than a theory, as George Weigel’s magisterial work, Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace makes clear; still, this murmuring about a new look at it, perhaps even resulting in a definitive encyclical, is good news.

An excerpt from the article in the Catholic Herald.

Encyclical on just war theory ‘plausible’, says cardinal

Cardinal Peter Turkson has called for a ‘broad and deeply felt’ debate on just war theory

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has called for a “broad and deeply felt” debate on the question of just war theory and said a papal encyclical on the issue was possible. He also said that proposals to drop the concept of just war were “legitimate”.

Cardinal Turkson spoke to the Sunday Times after a conference sponsored by Pax Christi International, the Catholic peace movement, and the Vatican’s justice and peace office, earlier this month. At the conclusion of the conference participants called for the Catholic Church to renounce its just war doctrine and for Pope Francis to write an encyclical on nonviolence and “just peace.”

In a closing statement, attendees at the conference said that too often the doctrine had been used to justify and endorse military action rather than prevent it.

Cardinal Turkson said he hoped “the debate on these issues, now as pressing as ever, will continue.”

“Too often the ‘just war theory’ has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war, and it can undermine efforts to develop alternative capacities and tools for conflict to be overcome and transformed,” he said.

“Repeatedly, participants who lived in areas of conflict said, ‘We are tired of war.’”

He added that Pax Christi’s proposal “is very legitimate” and that “in the worldwide Catholic network, it is an important voice among many.”

“Pope Francis is working for collegiality, following the teaching of Vatican Council II,” said Cardinal Turkson. “It will be of utmost importance to initiate a broad, open, qualified, deeply felt and widespread debate. A possible encyclical is plausible only as the fruit of much dialogue, not as a starting point.”

Church teaching has long allowed for “just wars” — the use of force to stop an unjust aggression — as long as certain conditions are met. They include that other peaceful means have been exhausted, that the force is appropriate and won’t produce worse effects, and that there is a reasonable chance for success.

Sexual Abuse Goes On & On

No wonder so many people see the Catholic Church as corrupt when horrors like this continue, as reported by SNAP Network, and thank God for their apostolate.

An excerpt.

Statement by Joelle Casteix of Orange County, SNAP volunteer western regional director, 949 322 7434,

A San Diego priest who vanished after pleading guilty to committing “sexual battery” against and “unlawful sexual touching” of a teenager has just been put in charge of three Oklahoma churches apparently with no warning to parishioners.

This is a stunningly irresponsible and hurtful move by both Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley and by San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy.

In 2012, Fr. Jose Alexis Davila was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to stay away from a 19-year-old he victimized in the San Diego Diocese. Catholic officials there were harshly criticized for putting him back in a parish after he admitted his guilt.

Later that year, Fr. Alexis Davila was gone.

But late last month, Coakley said he was putting Fr. Alexis Davila at three Oklahoma parishes. Since December 2015, Fr. Alexis Davila has apparently worked at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Lawton, OK.

San Diego Catholic officials should insist that Fr. Alexis Davila be put him in a remote, secure, independent and professionally run treatment center for sex offenders. Bishop McElroy aggressively use parish bulletins, church websites and pulpit announcements to seek out others who may have information or suspicions about Fr. Alexis Davila and who may be able

We realize that Bishop McElroy wasn’t overseeing the San Diego diocese when Fr. Alexis Davila committed his offenses. But he has a moral and civic duty to see if there are others in his flock who are still suffering from the cleric’s crimes.

The bishop will probably say that Fr. Alexis Davila officially belongs to some other diocese now. That’s a cop-out. San Diego Catholic officials can’t wash their hands of criminal clergy just by sending them down the road.


New York Chaos

New York City has turned its back on the crime fighting policies that turned it from one of the most unsafe cities in the 1990s to one of the safest in the 2000s, and it is beginning to show, as this article from City Journal elaborates.

An excerpt.

Will the anti-cop Left please figure out what it wants? For more than a decade, activists have demanded the end of proactive policing, claiming that it was racist. Pedestrian stops—otherwise known as stop, question, and frisk—were attacked as a bigoted oppression of minority communities. In March 2015, for example, the ACLU of Illinois accused the Chicago Police Department of “targeting” minorities because stops are “disproportionately concentrated in the black community.”

Equally vilified was Broken Windows policing, which responds to low-level offenses such as graffiti, disorderly conduct, and turnstile jumping. Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King launched a petition after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, demanding that Attorney General Eric Holder “meet with local black and brown youth across the country who are dealing with ‘Zero Tolerance’ and ‘Broken Windows’ policing.”

Well, the police got the message. In response to the incessant accusations of racism and the heightened hostility in the streets that has followed the Michael Brown shooting, officers have pulled back from making investigatory stops and enforcing low-level offenses in many urban areas. As a result, violent crime in cities with large black populations has shot up—homicides in the largest 50 cities rose nearly 17 percent in 2015. And the Left is once again denouncing the police—this time for not doing enough policing. King now accuses police in Chicago of not “doing their job,” as a result of which “people are dying.” Stops in Chicago are down nearly 90 percent this year through the end of March, compared with the same period in 2015; shootings were up 78 percent and homicides up 62 percent through April 10. Over 100 people were shot in the first ten days of 2016. King scoffs at the suggestion that a new 70-question street-stop form imposed on the CPD by the ACLU is partly responsible for the drop-off in engagement. If American police “refuse to do their jobs [i.e., make stops] when more paperwork is required,” he retorts, “it’s symptomatic of an entirely broken system in need of an overhaul.” This is the same King who as recently as October fumed that “nothing happening in this country appears to be slowing [the police] down.”

Let’s examine the dilemma imposed on cops by activists like King. On March 25, two groups of youths were fighting on a street corner on Chicago’s West Side. If Chicago officers had dispersed them and questioned anyone who seemed to be harboring a gun, a Black Lives Matter sympathizer would have seen only racial harassment. The ACLU would have logged any documented stops into its stop database in preparation for its next racial profiling lawsuit; the Justice Department, which is now investigating the Chicago Police Department for racism, would have also tallied the stops as evidence of bias. But the police did not move in on March 25, and one of the teens started shooting at his rivals. The gunslinger hit 13-year-old Zarriel Trotter, an innocent bystander; the bullet entered Trotter’s back near his spine and punctured his intestines. As of early April, the police were still searching for the shooter. “It gets scarier out here every day,” a classmate of Zarriel’s told the Chicago Tribune. “Young people in Chicago can’t go outside without knowing whether they will be the next person fired at.”

Sexual Abusive Priest Co-Founder of Home for Pregnant Teens

You can’t make this stuff up, from WXYZ Detroit

An excerpt.

DETROIT (WXYZ) – Father Kenneth Kaucheck was forced to resign from the priesthood 7 years ago over a decades old allegation of sexual misconduct.

He was accused of carrying on a relationship with a 16-year-old girl he was counseling at a Clawson parish back in 1976.

The Archdiocese of Detroit barred Kaucheck from public ministry.

While the teen was of age in 1976—and thus—the priest never charged with a crime, it still violated church protocol and raised concerns.

Paula Schnoblen is with the Macomb County based group Turning Point, which advocates for victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

She and others were shocked to learn Father Kaucheck has been quietly surrounding himself with troubled teenage girls.

He is co-founder, Director of Development and on the board of directors at Gianna House. an Eastpointe based ministry for pregnant teens.

He is overseeing the building of a boarding house of sorts where girls and their newborns will live.

Questionable considering his past some say.

The Archdiocese is taking it a step further.

They consider this a violation of the restrictions placed on his ministry. The violation will be addressed by clergy at the Vatican, officials told 7 Action News.

We attempted to talk to Kaucheck at the Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Bloomfield Hills where he is said to reside. We were told by staff—no comment. And we should film their beautiful grounds instead.

The priest still retains his title and continues to be paid by the Catholic Church. The Vatican will be charged with determining a punishment if he is found guilty of violating the restrictions put on him, according to the Archdiocese. That could include stripping him of his title and living expenses.


Cardinal Burke on Amoris Laetitia

This excellent article from the National Catholic Register should be the end of the argument about this, but of course it won’t; but it sure was for me.

Another very important and related point are the comments by the last three popes that they would like to see capital punishment abolished—for those comments also are of no relevance to the accepted teaching of the Church that there are certain crimes for which the life of the criminal is demanded, about which I wrote a book.

The key sentence, as it relates to Amoris Laetitia and capital punishment, is highlighted in the final paragraph of the excerpt.

An excerpt from the Register article.

REGISTER EXCLUSIVE: Cardinal Burke says a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, ‘by its very nature, does not propose new doctrine and discipline, but applies the perennial doctrine and discipline to the situation of the world at the time.’

The secular media and even some Catholic media are describing the recently issued post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, “Love in the Family,” as a revolution in the Church, as a radical departure from the teaching and practice of the Church, up to now, regarding marriage and the family.

Such a view of the document is both a source of wonder and confusion to the faithful and potentially a source of scandal, not only for the faithful but for others of goodwill who look to Christ and his Church to teach and reflect in practice the truth regarding marriage and its fruit, family life, the first cell of the life of the Church and of every society.

It is also a disservice to the nature of the document as the fruit of the Synod of Bishops, a meeting of bishops representing the universal Church “to assist the Roman pontiff with their counsel in the preservation and growth of faith and morals and in the observance and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline and to consider questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world” (Canon 342). In other words, it would be a contradiction of the work of the Synod of Bishops to set in motion confusion regarding what the Church teaches, safeguards and fosters by her discipline.

The only key to the correct interpretation of Amoris Laetitia is the constant teaching of the Church and her discipline that safeguards and fosters this teaching. Pope Francis makes clear, from the beginning, that the post-synodal apostolic exhortation is not an act of the magisterium (3). The very form of the document confirms the same. It is written as a reflection of the Holy Father on the work of the last two sessions of the Synod of Bishops. For instance, in Chapter Eight, which some wish to interpret as the proposal of a new discipline with obvious implications for the

Church’s doctrine, Pope Francis, citing his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, declares:

I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, “always does what good she can, even if in the process her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street” (308).

In other words, the Holy Father is proposing what he personally believes is the will of Christ for his Church, but he does not intend to impose his point of view, nor to condemn those who insist on what he calls “a more rigorous pastoral care.” The personal, that is, non-magisterial, nature of the document is also evident in the fact that the references cited are principally the final report of the 2015 session of the Synod of Bishops and the addresses and homilies of Pope Francis himself. There is no consistent effort to relate the text, in general, or these citations to the magisterium, the Fathers of the Church and other proven authors.

What is more, as noted above, a document which is the fruit of the Synod of Bishops must always be read in the light of the purpose of the synod itself, namely, to safeguard and foster what the Church has always taught and practiced in accord with her teaching.

In other words, a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, by its very nature, does not propose new doctrine and discipline, but applies the perennial doctrine and discipline to the situation of the world at the time.

How, then, is the document to be received? First of all, it should be received with the profound respect owed to the Roman pontiff as the Vicar of Christ, in the words of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity of both the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful” (Lumen Gentium, 23). Certain commentators confuse such respect with a supposed obligation to “believe with divine and Catholic faith” (Canon 750, § 1) everything contained in the document. But the Catholic Church, while insisting on the respect owed to the Petrine office as instituted by Our Lord himself, has never held that every utterance of the Successor of St. Peter should be received as part of her infallible magisterium.

Science to be Trusted?

Hopefully yes, in most cases, but according to this article, there are some serious problems out there, from First Things.

An excerpt.

The problem with ­science is that so much of it simply isn’t. Last summer, the Open Science Collaboration announced that it had tried to replicate one hundred published psychology experiments sampled from three of the most prestigious journals in the field. Scientific claims rest on the idea that experiments repeated under nearly identical conditions ought to yield approximately the same results, but until very recently, very few had bothered to check in a systematic way whether this was actually the case. The OSC was the biggest attempt yet to check a field’s results, and the most shocking. In many cases, they had used original experimental materials, and sometimes even performed the experiments under the guidance of the original researchers. Of the studies that had originally reported positive results, an astonishing 65 percent failed to show statistical significance on replication, and many of the remainder showed greatly reduced effect sizes.

Their findings made the news, and quickly became a club with which to bash the social sciences. But the problem isn’t just with psychology. There’s an ­unspoken rule in the pharmaceutical industry that half of all academic biomedical research will ultimately prove false, and in 2011 a group of researchers at Bayer decided to test it. Looking at sixty-seven recent drug discovery projects based on preclinical cancer biology research, they found that in more than 75 percent of cases the published data did not match up with their in-house attempts to replicate. These were not studies published in fly-by-night oncology journals, but blockbuster research featured in Science, Nature, Cell, and the like. The Bayer researchers were drowning in bad studies, and it was to this, in part, that they attributed the mysteriously declining yields of drug pipelines. Perhaps so many of these new drugs fail to have an effect because the basic research on which their development was based isn’t valid.

When a study fails to replicate, there are two possible interpretations. The first is that, unbeknownst to the investigators, there was a real difference in experimental setup between the original investigation and the failed replication. These are colloquially referred to as “wallpaper effects,” the joke being that the experiment was affected by the color of the wallpaper in the room. This is the happiest possible explanation for failure to reproduce: It means that both experiments have revealed facts about the universe, and we now have the opportunity to learn what the difference was between them and to incorporate a new and subtler distinction into our theories.

The other interpretation is that the original finding was false. Unfortunately, an ingenious statistical argument shows that this second interpretation is far more likely. First articulated by John Ioannidis, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, this argument proceeds by a simple application of Bayesian statistics. Suppose that there are a hundred and one stones in a certain field. One of them has a diamond inside it, and, luckily, you have a diamond-detecting device that advertises 99 percent accuracy. After an hour or so of moving the device around, examining each stone in turn, suddenly alarms flash and sirens wail while the device is pointed at a promising-looking stone. What is the probability that the stone contains a diamond?

Most would say that if the device advertises 99 percent accuracy, then there is a 99 percent chance that the device is correctly discerning a diamond, and a 1 percent chance that it has given a false positive reading. But consider: Of the one hundred and one stones in the field, only one is truly a diamond. Granted, our machine has a very high probability of correctly declaring it to be a diamond. But there are many more diamond-free stones, and while the machine only has a 1 percent chance of falsely declaring each of them to be a diamond, there are a hundred of them. So if we were to wave the detector over every stone in the field, it would, on average, sound twice—once for the real diamond, and once when a false reading was triggered by a stone. If we know only that the alarm has sounded, these two possibilities are roughly equally probable, giving us an approximately 50 percent chance that the stone really contains a diamond.

This is a simplified version of the argument that Ioannidis applies to the process of science itself. The stones in the field are the set of all possible testable hypotheses, the diamond is a hypothesized connection or effect that happens to be true, and the diamond-detecting device is the scientific method. A tremendous amount depends on the proportion of possible hypotheses which turn out to be true, and on the accuracy with which an experiment can discern truth from falsehood. Ioannidis shows that for a wide variety of scientific settings and fields, the values of these two parameters are not at all favorable.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

A powerful story of the love of a mother for her child, from Franciscan Media.

An excerpt.

Lived: (1922-1962) | Feast Day: Thursday, April 28, 2016

In less than 40 years, Gianna Beretta Molla became a pediatric physician, a wife, a mother and a saint!

She was born in Magenta (near Milano) as the 10th of Alberto and Maria Beretta’s 13 children. An active member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Gianna earned degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia and eventually opened a clinic in Mesero. Gianna also enjoyed skiing and mountain climbing.

Shortly before her 1955 marriage to Pietro Molla, Gianna wrote to him: “Love is the most beautiful sentiment that the Lord has put into the soul of men and women.” She and Pietro had three children, Pierluigi, Maria Zita, and Laura.

Early in the pregnancy for her fourth child, doctors discovered that Gianna had both a child and a tumor in her uterus. She allowed the surgeons to remove the tumor but not to perform the complete hysterectomy that they recommended, which would have killed the child. Seven months later, Gianna Emanuela Molla was born. The following week, her mother Gianna died in Monza of complications from childbirth. She is buried in Mesero.

Gianna Emanuela went on to become a physician herself. Gianna Beretta Molla was beatified in 1994 and canonized 10 years later.


Use Eyes to See, Mind to Know

A great post from one of my favorite bloggers, Questions from a Ewe; and everyone should see the movie Spotlight, about the sex abuse by priests in the Boston diocese, and for a much more direct and brutal—but horribly real—look at sex abuse in the Church, every Catholic up-to-it should read Rite of Sodomy: Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church by Randy Engel.

An excerpt from Questions from a Ewe blog.

I recently finished a three month Peace Corps Response assignment in Ghana. Being in Peace Corps required refraining from political commentary and this blog danced along a line regarding that stipulation so I suspended writing during my assignment. However, I’m back.

I actually began writing this article on the plane flying home, having just watched the movie “Spotlight” again. This is the movie about the Boston Globe’s investigative journalism that blew the lid off the systemic nature of the church’s sex abuse scandal.

After spending three months in a culture that has extensive unreported sexual exploitation issues largely facilitated by cultural taboos against pursuing legal action…much like those the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team exposed in the Archdiocese of Boston…I find myself even sadder for the Church than the first time I watched the movie.

The movie ends by listing 203 dioceses around the world that have had major sex abuse scandals exposed. A few more have been exposed since the film’s September, 2015 release. I believe there are probably many, many, many more dioceses that continue enabling abusive priests, especially those in regions with cultural taboos acting as accomplices like in Africa.

Spotlight portrayed the privileged status Boston’s Catholic hierarchy enjoyed which permitted priests to abuse and bishops to cover it up. Beyond even Boston priests’ privilege, many African priests enjoy outright demagogue status. They are untouchable. They are not to be questioned. They are in prime positions to abuse without accountability.  I pray that somehow the lid gets blown off of any sex abuses occurring in African Catholic Churches.


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