Capital Punishment in California

I believe deeply in capital punishment to the extent of writing a book about it: Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support,

This article from the Association of District Attorneys examines capital punishment in California.

An excerpt.

The world contains extremely dangerous and evil people who cannot be deterred by threat of incarceration.  I’m not talking about the average gang murder or robbery gone bad.  I am talking about the people who rape infants to death, who kidnap, torture, rape and murder children, who target police officers in the line of duty, who kill not just one, but a half dozen or dozen or more innocent victims in serial and mass murders.  These people are the reason why California still needs a death penalty.

If the punishment for one murder is life in prison, how do you punish someone for three murders or five murders?  How do you deter a prisoner serving a life sentence from killing a fellow inmate or guard if there is no additional penalty?  How can no-additional-punishment for additional murders be justice for victims?

You may be wondering what happened to California’s death penalty.  Seventeen of the 750 inmates on death row have completed all their appeals and are eligible to be executed.  So what’s the problem?   The problem is that the state does not have an execution protocol.  The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has not bothered to enact a new regulation so that they can resume executions after the last protocol was invalidated by a state court judge.

Despite the 2014 vote by a majority of Californians to keep the death penalty, the CDCR and the Governor’s office have effectively been nullifying the law by failing to enact a regulation by which to enforce that law.  While the CDCR details the history of the death penalty on their website, they fail to acknowledge that  a draft of a protocol for the single-drug method of execution that the state was requested to switch to by a Federal Court Judge has been sitting on the desk of the CDCR for over a year now, gathering dust.

It is easy to see why Governor Brown would be reluctant to put the state in a position to resume executions.  With 17 inmates having exhausted all appeals, it would put Governor Brown in the awkward position of being an anti-death penalty governor who executed the most condemned inmates of any governor in state history. The Governor can’t even grant most of them clemency since the State Constitution prohibits the Governor from granting clemency to a person “twice convicted of a felony.” So, instead of carrying out the law, the Governor is asking the Legislature for $3.2 million to open nearly 100 more cells on death row.

A lawsuit filed by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation on behalf of crime victims, Bradley Winchell and Kermit Alexander pressed the issue and led to a settlement that will hopefully put the state in a position to resume executions in a year or two. The last execution in California occurred in 2006.   The settlement requires CDCR to begin promulgating an execution protocol within 120 days of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Glossip v. Gross.

Retrieved July 31, 2015 from

School in Jail

I have always been a big proponent of education as a rehabilitative tool, and this program reported by Governing Magazine appears to be doing some good.

An excerpt.

Last week, President Obama visited a federal prison in Oklahoma to highlight his push to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system. There’s certainly plenty of room for improvement, and the San Francisco County sheriff’s office is addressing one particularly difficult aspect of the problem with an innovative approach to reducing recidivism and helping inmates reintegrate into society.

Building on data showing that inmates who earn a high school diploma are much less likely to land back in jail, back in 2003 the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD) sought and received a charter to open a high school for adult inmates in a county jail. Today Five Keys Charter School remains the country’s only charter school operated by a sheriff’s department.

Having the charter allowed the department to design content and a school structure to meet the complex needs of incarcerated students. The curriculum includes a focus on “restorative justice” — working to repair the harm caused by criminal behavior — as well as conflict-resolution techniques designed to help inmates avoid violence.

In 2008, SFSD applied for and was granted two additional charters: one that allowed it to expand to a downtown facility that houses women and a second to open an independent study division for former inmates to work independently and meet with a teacher once or twice a week. Five Keys also expanded from a high school to a comprehensive K-12 school because, while some students were relatively close to earning a high school diploma, most needed longer-term intervention.

And in an unprecedented cooperative effort, in 2012 the program expanded into the Los Angeles County jails, where the program operates under a contract with Five Keys. Today the program is in all of the Los Angeles and San Francisco county jails and also has more than 30 community campuses. In all, it serves more than 8,000 current and former inmates each year.

The results are impressive. California’s overall recidivism rate is 68 percent; for Five Keys students, it’s 28 percent. During the 2013-14 school year, 58 percent of Five Keys students improved their reading ability by an average of two grade levels; 59 percent improved their math skills by the same degree. The average annual rate of inmate-on-inmate crime is 12 percent in the county jails, but it’s only 2 percent for those in the educational programs.

Retrieved July 28, 2015 from

St. Ignatius Loyola

As reported by Saint of the Day, today is the feast day of the founder of the Jesuits, who have played an important role in my conversion to Catholicism as I studied their works, obtained my two college degrees from a Jesuit university—University of San Francisco—and was baptized at a Jesuit Parish.

The teaching of the founders of the two great Catholic orders—Jesuits and Opus Dei— still form the basic fabric of my faith and inform this apostolate.

An excerpt from Saint of the Day.

The founder of the Jesuits was on his way to military fame and fortune when a cannon ball shattered his leg. Because there were no books of romance on hand during his convalescence, Ignatius whiled away the time reading a life of Christ and lives of the saints. His conscience was deeply touched, and a long, painful turning to Christ began. Having seen the Mother of God in a vision, he made a pilgrimage to her shrine at Montserrat (near Barcelona). He remained for almost a year at nearby Manresa, sometimes with the Dominicans, sometimes in a pauper’s hospice, often in a cave in the hills praying. After a period of great peace of mind, he went through a harrowing trial of scruples. There was no comfort in anything—prayer, fasting, sacraments, penance. At length, his peace of mind returned.

It was during this year of conversion that Ignatius began to write down material that later became his greatest work, the Spiritual Exercises.

He finally achieved his purpose of going to the Holy Land, but could not remain, as he planned, because of the hostility of the Turks. He spent the next 11 years in various European universities, studying with great difficulty, beginning almost as a child. Like many others, his orthodoxy was questioned; Ignatius was twice jailed for brief periods.

In 1534, at the age of 43, he and six others (one of whom was St. Francis Xavier, December 2) vowed to live in poverty and chastity and to go to the Holy Land. If this became impossible, they vowed to offer themselves to the apostolic service of the pope. The latter became the only choice. Four years later Ignatius made the association permanent. The new Society of Jesus was approved by Paul III, and Ignatius was elected to serve as the first general.

When companions were sent on various missions by the pope, Ignatius remained in Rome, consolidating the new venture, but still finding time to found homes for orphans, catechumens and penitents. He founded the Roman College, intended to be the model of all other colleges of the Society.

Ignatius was a true mystic. He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of Christianity—the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist. His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, ad majorem Dei gloriam—“for the greater glory of God.” In his concept, obedience was to be the prominent virtue, to assure the effectiveness and mobility of his men. All activity was to be guided by a true love of the Church and unconditional obedience to the Holy Father, for which reason all professed members took a fourth vow to go wherever the pope should send them for the salvation of souls.

Retrieved July 31, 2015 from

Review of Laudato Si

This is an excellent review from the Wanderer Newspaper.

An excerpt.

In his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, Pope Francis, after pointing to a “very solid scientific consensus” indicating that “we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system,” added that there are “certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus” and that the “Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. I want to encourage an honest and open debate, so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.”

It would be out of line for me to raise suspicions about the sincerity of the Pope’s recommendation for an honest debate on this matter. I can’t read his mind. My problem is that Laudato Si reads as if it is in agreement with Al Gore’s contention that global warming is “settled science” — and therefore not a proper topic for the “honest and open debate” that the Pope is calling for.

Is it unfair of me to say that? Consider the reaction to the encyclical from two of its most ardent supporters, Commonweal and the Jesuits’ America. These publications praise Laudato Si precisely because they are convinced it did not shrink from making the case that man-made climate change is settled science requiring a national and international political call to action.

America’s editorial on July 6 praises Laudato Si for bringing religion “decisively” into the “climate change debate,” for its “deep critique of the global capitalist system and, perhaps most radically, of the absolutist notion of private property,” for its conclusion that it “will be impossible to sustain life on this planet if we all expect to live according to the dictates of first-world consumer culture.”

America’s editors praise the encyclical for pointing out the evil of making the poor pay “the price for” the “ecological malfeasance” of the industrial powers, as well as the threat to the “abundant species that inhabit this planet” because of mankind’s obsession with technology and economic growth.

In turn, Commonweal praises Francis for bringing the influence of the Church to bear, in the words of the encyclical, in support of the “very solid scientific consensus” that supports the reality of global warming caused by “the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides, and others) released mainly as a result of human activity,” all of which has made the “Earth, our home, look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

Rather than warn Francis of exceeding his authority by venturing into scientific and economic theory, Commonweal’s editors urge the Pope to call for the developed nations of the world to bear “the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources” by standing firmly behind those who favor “cap-and-trade legislation” to achieve that end.

Nothing in Laudato Si, or anything I have read coming from the Vatican since its release, leads me to think that Rome has objections to the conclusions that America and Commonweal have drawn from the encyclical. Quite the contrary.

Which leads me to ask what Rome’s reaction would be to the column by Steve Mosher in the July 5 edition of the New York Post. Would the Pope agree that Catholics should be free to cite Mosher’s findings as part of the “honest and open debate” over Laudato Si? Or are we, as a matter of faith and morals, obliged to side with America and Commonweal, in opposition to Mosher?

Mosher calls our attention to the encyclical’s claim that we are now in an “environmental crisis,” with the “the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air, and in all forms of life.” Also to its contention that the planet faces a “serious problem” because of the “the quality of water available to the poor,” which is “constantly diminishing.”

Mosher’s objection is that “according to the Millennium Development Goals 2014 Report, ‘Access to an improved drinking water source became a reality for 2.3 billion people’ over the past 20 years. This United Nations report rightly celebrates the fact that its target of halving the proportion of people without access to an improved drinking water source was achieved in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.”

What about Laudato Si’s concern over “the loss of biodiversity, brought on by human beings killing off other species at an alarming rate…the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity.”

Mosher writes that “the evidence does not support this claim. While many species have seen their natural habitats reduced, the Convention on Biological Diversity set a goal of setting aside 17 percent of global terrestrial areas and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020 as nature preserves. The good news is that such preserves currently include some 14.6 percent of the earth’s land surface area and 9.7 percent of its coastal marine areas. This means we are already very close to achieving our internationally agreed upon goal of protecting biodiversity and reducing anthropogenic species extinction in this way.”

In other words, “There is no need for panic.”

Retrieved July 27, 2015 from

Letting Criminals Go

A great article linked at the Crime & Consequences Blog.

An excerpt.

Jason Riley has this piece in the WSJ  with the above title:

Why the fate of criminals should matter more than the fate of crime victims is a question that went largely unasked, let alone answered, during last week’s bipartisan celebration of President Obama’s decision to release dozens of individuals from prison and push for looser sentencing guidelines.

*                                      *                                      *

Higher black incarceration rates reflect higher black crime rates, but like many liberal critics of “mass incarceration” the president would rather focus on the behavior of police and prosecutors, not the behavior of the young black men responsible for so much lawbreaking. Not surprisingly, the poor and working-class blacks who are the primary victims of black criminality tend to have different priorities.

*                                      *                                      *

Occasionally, an honest liberal, like the one who taught Mr. Obama at Harvard Law School, will state the obvious. “The most lethal danger facing African Americans in their daily lives,” wrote Prof. Randall Kennedy in these pages 21 years ago, “is not white, racist officials of the state, but private, violent criminals, typically black, who attack those most vulnerable to them without regard for racial identity.”

Mr. Obama sprinkled his speech with repeated references to the “nonviolent” and “low-level” offenders we presumably lock up for too long and are safe to release early. But the record of predicting which convicts will turn a new leaf is nothing to brag about. A 2002 Justice Department report tracked the three-year recidivism rate of 91,000 “nonviolent” property offenders who had been released nationally in 1994. Among those released, “21.9% were rearrested for violent crimes, including 726 murders, 637 rapes, 5,735 robberies, and 12,475 assaults,” wrote Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. “Interestingly, car thieves, which represented just over 10% of all the offenders released, were rearrested for committing more than 1/3 of the murders and a disproportionate number of other violent crimes.”

Retrieved July 2015 from

The Angelic Doctor

St. Thomas Aquinas’ influence on the Catholic Church has been, and is now, deep and eternal, for he expressed truths sublime and beautiful within the prodigious output of his fairly short life, and his influence on the modern church is examined in this fine article from D.Q. McInerny.

St. Thomas’ work played a major role in my conversion, especially through the works of Jacques & Raissa Maritain, the book Liturgy & Contemplation (available in whole online, lucky us) being the most sublime example.

An excerpt from the article by McInerny.

An excerpt.

In 1879, the second year of his pontificate, Pope Leo XIII issued Aeterni Patris, an encyclical that launched what was to become a singularly important event in the modern history of the Catholic Church: the Thomistic renewal, also known as the Neo-Scholastic revival. A renewal, or revival, was very much in order, because at the time Pope Leo wrote his encyclical Thomistic philosophy was, by and large, in a rather sickly condition, and had been for a good many years. Though there had been periods in the past when Thomism had the status of a philosophy whose influence was both potent and pervasive, this was not the case in the latter decades of the nineteenth century. But that state of affairs was to change dramatically with the publication of Aeterni Patris. The encyclical had the salutary effect of restoring some sorely needed vitality to Thomism, and within the span of two decades the philosophy became the animating core of a movement whose repercussions were felt throughout the Church. Few encyclicals have elicited the kind of immediate, positive response from the faithful that Aeterni Patris did….

The English title of Aeterni Patris is “The Restoration of Christian Philosophy.” A genuinely Christian philosophy would of course be just that philosophy which would support and inform a sound theology, and the thought of St. Thomas, Pope Leo makes clear, should serve as its centerpiece or core. But it is well to note that, for all the emphasis he gives to St. Thomas, the Pope is not advocating a narrow or exclusive Thomism. He makes no simple equation between Christian philosophy and Thomistic philosophy. If Thomism can be said to function as the core of a Christian philosophy, that core should be thought of as packaged within a larger and more comprehensive philosophical system — Scholasticism — by which it is nourished, and divorced from which its very intelligibility becomes problematic. By the time St. Thomas arrived on the scene in the thirteenth century, a rich philosophical tradition was already in place, and Leo XIII clearly wanted to see the effective reconstitution of everything that was best in Scholasticism, especially because of its foundational realist orientation. But the pontiff’s vision included yet more; it was, so to speak, philosophically all-embracing. He was calling for a Christian philosophy that would be reflective of, and integral to, what he refers to as the perennial philosophy. What might that be? The perennial philosophy can be generally described as the most comprehensive of sound philosophies, the sound philosophy that takes into account, preserves, and transmits every intellectually sound proposition that has ever been formulated by any particular thinker or any particular philosophical system. Put another way, the perennial philosophy is simply the sum total, the treasury, of those foundational and timeless truths at which man has arrived, in the East and the West, over the entire course of human history. In his regard for the perennial philosophy, Leo reflects an attitude toward truth typical of Thomas himself. Friar Thomas, guided by the conviction that all truth has its ultimate source in God, believed therefore that the truth should be gratefully garnered wherever it might be found.

Retrieved July 21, 2015 from

Liberal Politicians at Vatican

And, from America, not one Republican conservative—as reported by Catholic Culture—at the climate change summit, which is another word on the sign labeling the Holy Father.

An excerpt.

If we had the name of a Republican politician who was invited to attend last week’s Vatican conference on climate change and human trafficking—any Republican, just one Republican—we might feel just a bit better about the result. But the strongly partisan cast of the final statement that issued from that conference, together with the strongly partisan cast of characters in attendance, creates the impression that this event was not so much a conference as a political rally.

California’s Governor Jerry Brown was there. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was there. Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh was there. But among the American pols in attendance, not a single Republican could be found.

The Vatican conference was organized to follow up on the papal encyclical Laudato Si’. So were the organizers looking for sympathetic politicians, who were known to share the views of Pope Francis on key public issues? Not likely; among the American participants, Governor Brown and Mayors di Blasio and Walsh (all baptized Catholics) all favor legal abortion on demand and same-sex marriage. They are clearly not in sympathy with the pro-life message woven through the encyclical.

Yes, all three of those American politicians agree with the Pope about the scientific case for climate change. Governor Brown thinks that skeptics about climate change should be dismissed as troglodytes. (It’s enlightening that Brown, who is so very certain on that issue, isn’t sure whether or not he wants to be described as a Catholic.)

To be fair, most big-city mayors in the US are Democrats. If the Vatican just issued invitations to the mayors of the largest 20 or 30 cities in the country, the results would no doubt produce a Democratic majority. But if the conference organizers wanted to maintain at least a semblance of political balance, they might have stretched a bit, to include a few American politicians who were not big-city mayors. After all, they included Governor Brown.

Unfortunately, we have good reason to believe that the organizers were not interested in political balance. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which sponsored the event, is led by Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, who demonstrated a shocking ignorance of American political realities in a June statement suggesting that oil corporations, through the Tea Party, a stirring up opposition to Vatican initiatives. Insofar as Bishop Sanchez Sorondo dismissed the concerns of pro-lifers about the political alliances he is forming, it would not be surprising that he sees no point in reaching out to Republican politicians who might wish to work with the Vatican.

Retrieved July 25, 2015 from


Second Chance, In the Kitchen

A very nice story from the Daily Signal about a reentry program in Washington DC.

An excerpt.

For Marianne Ali, life started simply enough.

Born to a big, “pretty normal” family in Glenarden, Md., Ali remembers helping her mother cook dinner for her father and six brothers and sisters each night after school.

She was 17 when she tried heroin for the first time.

Her addiction wasn’t immediate, but it was vicious. She tried repeatedly and failed to get sober.

“I was searching for something,” Ali says. “It took me on a 20-year-long journey into the deep waters of misery. And then I got clean.”

At her lowest point, Ali began supplementing her heroin use with crack cocaine. She found herself going down “so hard and so fast” that she was forced to begin her final attempt at sobriety.

“I often say that if it wasn’t for crack cocaine I could still be using heroin,” Ali says. “I knew that if I didn’t seek help, I was probably going to die out there.”

Post-detox, she entered the Marian House, a long-term transitional home run by Catholic nuns in Baltimore. They referred her to a culinary school that she was able to fund with aid money.

And then, at the suggestion of various caseworkers and volunteers, she landed at D.C. Central Kitchen.

She landed on her feet, she says, for the first time in her life.

Under the Radar, Over the Norm

Just about a five-minute walk from Union Station, Washington’s landmark transportation hub, sits the unassuming D.C. Central Kitchen building, slightly pushed back from the sidewalk. If not for the line of weary-looking men and women camped on the dry grass out front, you might not look twice at the square of faded red bricks. To enter, you literally walk through an alleyway.

But the work happening there, in the cramped operating space of the 26-year-old non-profit, takes staff, volunteers and clients on a transformative journey.

“The Kitchen,” as it’s known, was founded in 1989 by restaurateur turned philanthropist Robert Egger. This month, it will celebrate the graduation of its 100th class of culinary job training program students—men and women with histories of homelessness, incarceration, poverty or simply job frustration that have come to D.C. Central Kitchen either in search of new skills and a fresh start or, sometimes, at the insistence of an exasperated family member or probation officer.

The 14-week-long culinary job training program offered and funded by D.C. Central Kitchen teaches students how to work in a kitchen environment, preparing them for jobs at partner restaurants and hospitality groups in the D.C. area.

It boasts impressive statistics, including a 93 percent job placement rate, a 2 percent recidivism rate among graduates and a cost of $10,000 per student. In contrast, it’s an estimated $50,000 a year to house an incarcerated individual.

Retrieved July 19, 2015 from

Saint Mary Magdalene

Today is her feast day, and here is the epilogue from an online book about her, Life of Saint Mary Magdalene – by Henri Lacordaire 1859 – Translated from the French 2006


The tomb of Mary Magdalene at St. Maximin is the third most important tomb in the world. It comes immediately after the tomb of our Lord at Jerusalem and that of St. Peter at Rome, because the very holy Virgin Mother of God has no tomb amongst men; scarcely touched by death, she was snatched out of his power by the triumph of her Assumption. No more has St. John, the well-beloved disciple, left for the veneration of Christians his bones or his tomb; he has been, by divine permission, removed from this glory, so as to remain as if buried in his own Gospel. There remain then on earth three great tombs: that of the Saviour, removed by barbarians from the free access of our homage, but retaining in servitude the empire of the world; that of the apostle St. Peter, presiding in Rome over the destinies of Christianity, and from the dust, hidden beneath indescribable splendours, seeing and hearing the passage of continuous prayer from one generation to the next; finally, that of Mary Magdalene, less elevated than St. Peter in the hierarchy, but closer to Jesus Christ by her heart, to whom none can dispute the third place amongst the great names of the evangelical age.

Here, perhaps, at the close of our work, one asks oneself why the divine Master of Souls has chosen as the one to love Him more than anyone else a poor sinner, and bequeathed her to us as the most moving example of holiness. The reason is not difficult to discover: innocence is a drop of water in the world, repentance is the ocean that envelops it and saves it. It was worthy of God’s bounty to elevate repentance as high as possible, and that is why, in the Old as in the New Testament, he has put before us a perfect model of the rehabilitation caused by penitence, David and Mary Magdalene. David, one would have thought, could not be surpassed, his character having been sketched with such tenderness and depth. Simple shepherd boy, keeping his flock on the hillsides of Bethlehem, he became a soldier in the face of an insult done to the God of his country, to Jehovah. His sling brought down the blasphemer, and, all radiant from his victory, he won in a day the people’s heart. But jealousy, the companion of heroism, did not delay in interposing between glory and his person. The King himself envied David’s youth, and, tormented by foreknowledge of David’s future greatness, brooded during fits of sinister melancholy over means of killing him. It was then that David, in order to appease him, stirred for the first time the chords of the harp that would sing all God’s mysteries and echo in the hearts of future generations. Poetry would blend with courage in his destiny, and friendship, misfortune and religion joining in, this young man mounted at last the throne that would forever be called the throne of David. There, at the peak of his good fortune, blessed by God more than were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, predestined ancestor of Christ, he falls suddenly into adultery, betrayal and murder. Happy fall, because it made of the culprit the immortal king of peace, and has given to us all, sinners coming after him, tears for our faults and the tones of voice to carry our tears to the presence of God. Who amongst Christians has not wept with David? Who has not found in his poetry the unction for which his heart craved? Even the Gospels have not been able to efface the impress of the Psalms, and this king dishonoured by crime is at every moment the father of our virtues.

Such was in the Old Testament the model of repentance, and nobody, assuredly, could have foreseen what God would do in the New to put beside Jesus Christ another and more divine figure of penitence. He succeeded nevertheless in so doing. Mary Magdalene is a simple woman with no other history except that of her sinfulness; she has neither the sword, nor the sceptre, nor the harp, nor the eye of the prophet; she is a sinner like the rest. She spoke only once in the Gospels, at the tomb of the Master, and her words are without distinction. But first of all she is a woman, that is to say the being in whom the mark of defilement is the most irremediable, and this difference between the Old and New Testaments is in itself alone a sublime step forward in mercy. It is no longer the man who is redeemed by repentance, but the woman. No woman, marked by vice, had been rendered great before Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ alone has done it. And holding to his word, he has patiently followed the sinner through the ages, to safeguard her glory, resuscitate her and rejuvenate her for ever. David sang his repentance in unequalled lines of verse, and this poetry made him immortal. As for Mary Magdalene, she has only had her tears, but they fell on the feet of the Saviour; she only had a vase of perfume, but this perfume embalmed the body of the Son of God. The simplicity is even grander here, the tenderness more profound; it is no longer a man who weeps and who loves, it is a woman, a woman who has seen God, who has recognized Him, and who, comparing his infinite purity to the degradation to which she has descended, has not doubted that it is possible for her to be forgiven because of the depth of her love. Humble and hidden away after finding grace, she did not go far from those feet that purified her. She only makes use of her new acquaintance with Christ to follow and to serve him. She follows him all the way to the Cross and all the way to the tomb. Separated from the Master, the sole object of her life, she goes far from the places where she lived with him, and, looking for a shelter from the last vestiges of the world, she buries herself in an unknown cave, with her memories and her soul. Only the angels can discover her there, and they bring to her from above the invisible manna that causes ecstasy and the separation of the soul from the body. She dies finally of love, while receiving, from a bishop sent by God, the sacred body of the Son of God.

What is there left to say now? The places, so famous and so venerated, that I have described – this grotto, this tomb, this crypt, this basilica, this monastery, this whole collection of monuments that nature and grace, Time and princes have raised up to the glory of Mary Magdalene – all that is still standing, but poor, naked, desolate, covered with the scars of a century that delighted in ruin as others delighted in building up. One ascends to the Sainte-Baume only by steps of broken stone, between crumbling walls; the chamber of the kings of France has disappeared, and the humblest pilgrim finds barely a shelter to rest himself from his journey. Today, the hospice has only holes in the rocks where the beams of the structure once were supported; the convent, hastily restored, offers to the monks only cells separated by planks, and these that they share with the stranger. Between these two ruins opens up the grotto of penitence, itself empty of the ornaments bestowed on it by the secular piety of people and prince. The splendid lamps that once lit it shine only by the dazzling silence of which Tacitus speaks. Unremarkable marbles make up the chapel of the saint, and behind the altar, on the mysterious rock where her vigils and ecstasies took place, rests semi-recumbent a profane statue unworthy to the first degree of the majesty of the spot, over whose memories it casts a pall of sadness.

If from the heights and miseries of the Sainte-Baume we re-descend to St. Maximin, by the same route that the Saint followed to seek her tomb, we will rediscover the same contrast of indigence and splendor. The basilica is solemnly seated on its old ground; it there commands still the admiration of the artist and the homage of the Christian; but, unfinished from its portico onward, it leads us with regret towards the crypt where St. Maximin deposited in alabaster the body of St. Magdalene. The alabaster still exists; beside it are still ranged the burial places that fervent piety planned and constructed near this tomb; but what a state of abandon, what darkness, what sadness of heart in these walls! Happy the catacombs that have had no glory, and that sleep silently wrapped in a mystery that has never been troubled! Here, all recalls the knees that bent on the flagstones; everything is redolent of the antiquity of a veneration that has never been interrupted, and yet it is thought alone that renders it magnificent, and God does not appear there except in the light of the soul. A poor wooden reliquary, given by peasants, covers the head, where the brother of St. Louis, Charles I of Anjou, placed the royal crown of Sicily, and the feet of which Anne of Brittany, twice Queen of France, was sculpted on her knees and in gold. An episcopal hand, it is true, will cover these traces of an unhappy period, and give back to the forehead of Mary Magdalene a part of the splendor that man and the centuries once attached there. But what mournful vestiges there are to repair after that! What miseries to reclothe! What shades to transform!

Oh! wherever you may be, who read these pages, if ever you have known the tears of repentance, or those of love, do not refuse to Mary Magdalene who has wept so much and has loved so much, a drop of this perfume with which she anointed the feet of your Saviour. Do not neglect the grotto where the angels visited her; do not forget the tomb where Jesus Christ removed her from the insults of barbarians to present her to the homage of the Christian centuries; do not disdain this head that survived the rest because God himself touched it with his finger. Bring your tribute, however feeble it may be, to the renovation of one of the greatest and most loved monuments of Christianity; bring to it your faith, your vows, your needs, and let it not be said that France – to whom Jesus Christ wished to confide in Mary Magdalene the guardian of reparation and of love – has been unfaithful to this sacred mission. As for me, who have brought back to the mountain and the basilica, all unworthy though I am, the ancient militia charged by Providence to keep watch there day and night, may I write here my last line, and like Mary Magdalene two days before the Passion, break over the feet of Jesus Christ the frail but faithful vase containing my deepest wishes!

Retrieved July 22, 2015 from

Liberal Criminologists in Turmoil

They are in turmoil over Heather MacDonald’s well researched and solid articles delving into the reasons behind the current rise in crime rates, as this article from the Wall Street Journal notes.

The article.

Academics claim to revere open debate but often recoil when they see the genuine article. Witness the campaign some scholars—loosely defined—are waging against Heather Mac Donald for challenging university pieties about a recent surge in violent crime.

The Manhattan Institute scholar has argued in these pages that political agitation after the Ferguson, Missouri, riots has left many law enforcement officers reluctant to engage in proactive policing, thus contributing to the crime spike in some cities. Ms. Mac Donald’s articles have incurred the wrath of the American Society of Criminology (ASC), the professional organization for academic criminologists.

In a June email to members, Laura Dugan, a professor at the University of Maryland and chair of the outfit’s policy committee, fretted that Ms. Mac Donald’s “misinformed campaign” was “getting a lot of play in the media” and “may have the attention of some key policymakers on the Hill.” She singled out a May 29 Journal feature “The New Nationwide Crime Wave” as an instance of “cherry-picking of the facts.”

The facts—such as a 180% year-to-date increase in the Milwaukee murder rate—are hard to explain away, but Ms. Dugan encouraged the criminologists to try. “So far, there have been a few rebuttals to the ‘Ferguson effect’ claim,” she wrote, “but these may not have enough of a reach.” As an unironic example of “more balanced dialogue,” the professor cited articles from the likes of the left-wing Sentencing Project.

The American Society of Criminology claims to pursue “scholarly, scientific, and professional knowledge,” but a better description of its priorities is one-sided inquiry and activist politics.

Earlier this year former ASC president Joanne Belknap of the University of Colorado at Boulder published a call for “criminology activism” among crime experts, citing their responsibility to “advocate for social and legal justice.” The society’s journal has since shifted toward papers that downplay particular crime trends and emphasize a policy agenda that opposes broken-windows policing or much attention to black-on-black violence. In the process it has abandoned its old role as a forum for a healthy clash of ideas.

We suppose this intellectual panic over Ms. Mac Donald is a tribute to the power of her persuasion and, we hope, of the Journal’s editorial platform. But it’s also a shame to see an academic group that ought to be a forum for scholarly debate descend into hackery.

Retrieved July 16, 2015 from


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