In America, being Catholic poses no risk, but not so in Venezuela, where the only institution against tyranny is the Church, as reported by this article from The Catholic Thing.
“When Hugo Chavez was sworn in as president of Venezuela in February 1997, he was hailed as the true successor to Latin American freedom fighter, Simon Bolivar. Notables including Sean Penn, Harry Belafonte, Oliver Stone, and Noam Chomsky shouted from rooftops that Chavez was a visionary who would restore prosperity and return power to the people. And they applauded his claim that the United States is “the most evil regime that has ever existed.”
“These useful idiots have turned a blind eye to the fact that Chavez is a depraved Marxist totalitarian whose heroes are Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. They have also ignored that he supports global terrorism, has provided sanctuary to the Colombian terrorist group FARC, and has pledged, “that nothing will stop us” from acquiring nuclear power.
“A misogynist, who claimed former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice found him irresistible, Chavez has been described by his long-term mistress and mother of his child as a “typical narcissist dictator.” “Ego” Chavez, as dissenters refer to him, has been called “Der Narziss von Caracas” by Die Zeit foreign correspondent Reiner Luyken and a “Narcissist-Leninist” by The Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer.
“Since taking office Chavez has destroyed what was considered the most stable Latin American democratic country. A 300-page 2010 report issued by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission accused Chavez of massive violations of human rights, the destruction of democratic principles such as the separation of powers, judicial review of acts of state, and the rule of law over the will of the president. The report concluded that there are “persistent threats and violations of human rights involving political participation, freedom of thought and expression, right to life, personal security and personal integrity and liberty.”
“During his tenure, national literacy has gone up only 1 percent and crime is rampant. Homicide rates have increased 90 percent between 1998 and 2005 and 91 percent of murders are never solved. At 57 murders per 100,000 people, Venezuela’s homicide rate is the world’s highest. Not included in these statistics are the thousands who are killed annually “resisting authority.”
“The Index of Economic Freedom study of 157 countries places Venezuela in 148th place. Transparency International rates Venezuela as one of the world’s most corrupt nations.
“Throughout his reign of terror, the major thorn in Chavez’s side has been the hierarchy of Venezuela’s Roman Catholic Church. Venezuela, a nation of 25 million, is 90 percent Catholic and recent polling indicates that 80 percent of the population is supportive of the Church and regards it as trustworthy.
“The bishops have instructed their flocks that Chavez’s brand of socialism is not compatible with the social teachings of the Church. In October 2006, Archbishop Diego Rafael Padrón Sanchez of Cumana declared: “Chavez’s so-called twenty-first century socialism has already been polarizing the country for seven years. People are for him or against him, but nevertheless, they have remained poor.”
1) Pope Benedict XVI wrote about their role, as noted on p. 44 of the Lampstand book on capital punishment, Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support:
“…the Holy Father 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)
2) He again spoke about their proper role, as reported by Catholic News Service.
“Vatican City, Nov 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) — A national conference of Catholic bishops exists so that pastors of the Church might “share the fatigue of their labors.” But, according to Pope Benedict XVI, those national conferences can never substitute for an individual bishop’s authority and duty to guide his people.
“The pope turned a Nov. 15 address to a group of bishops from Brazil into a lesson on the function of the bishops’ conference.
“The Catholic bishops of the world are divided into bishops’ conferences depending on their geographic locations and language groups. For example, the more than 400 bishops of the United States, form the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; the English and Welsh bishops are combined into a single bishops’ conference.
“Since the Second Vatican Council (1963-1965), some critics have argued that bishops’ conferences have assumed too much influence in the lives of local churches and in some cases have diminished the authority of local bishops.
“In his address, Pope Benedict reminded the Brazilian Church leaders that “the counselors and structures of the episcopal conference exist to serve the bishops, not to replace them.”
Though Americans traditionally bash France (once the heart of the Church) for much worth bashing lately, there is one tradition that stands — reminding us of why we did admire them so, once — and it is reported in this article from American Spectator.
“One of the more heroic feats of nearly 75 years of French socialism is to have made “work” a particularly nasty four-letter word, something to be avoided like very sin.
“For decades, assorted handouts have multiplied and overlapped, along with ever more generous, extended-and flagrantly abused-unemployment compensation. Labor legislation required employers to grant longer, and still longer, paid vacations, now up to five weeks and counting. Doctrinaire leftism topped off its campaign against the country’s once-proud work ethic with a signal victory in the 1980s, when President François Mitterrand pushed through laws lowering the retirement age from 65 to 60 and limiting the legal work week to 35 hours. With these sops to radical socialist mullahs, many highly qualified senior professionals were sidelined, to the detriment of the French economy, and every other week became a three-day weekend….
“And yet, defying the corrupting zeitgeist, there exists still a small, tight-knit band of brothers who find personal satisfaction in a job well done. These few good men who take pride in careful workmanship are a happy anomaly not only in France, but in our “quick ‘n’ easy” Western societies in general.
“They are les Compagnons, heirs of the rigorous stonemasons, carpenters, and other craftsmen who festooned ancient France with cathedrals and châteaux. Along with the redoubtable French Academy, the Compagnons, numbering around 10,000, are one of the country’s rare institutions to have survived revolutions, religious persecution, and, perhaps most remarkable, modern time-and-motion studies. Steeped in the ritual and methods of medieval craft guilds, these lovers of la belle ouvrage make a cult of manual work. To hear them tell it, they rub their hands with relish at the prospect of another hard nut to crack. “For us it’s never a chore to go to work,” Serge Mory, a young compagnon carpenter in Paris, told me. “The tougher and more complex the problem on the job, the more we look forward to solving it.”
“When 19th-century industrialization dehumanized work and devalued traditional craft trades, the Compagnons were momentarily caught in a time warp. Since then they have adjusted. Compagnon boilermakers now shape sheet metal, coachbuilders do automobile bodywork, saddle makers painstakingly stitch fine upholstery. Compagnons leaven most of France’s big projects, from restoring Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre, to boring the Channel tunnel and making rocket engines for the Ariane satellite launcher.
“Today the three Compagnon groups that comprise France’s craft guilds train apprentices in nearly a hundred trades. What they all have in common is an idea: manual work is a noble calling as worthy as tapping on a computer keyboard in an office. The notion is hardly new, of course. In the fifth century B.C., the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras held that “man thinks because he has a hand.”
“But besides the satisfaction of making things well, there is an ethical dimension. “Being a Compagnon is about brotherhood and sharing,” Laurent Bastard, curator of France’s Guild Museum beside the Loire River in Tours, told me. “If the Compagnons thrive today, it’s not only because they teach a trade better than anyone else, but because they inculcate a moral reference point that’s lacking among most young people.”
Getting good data that can determine success has always been difficult from programs that work to change behavior, as it is not always easy to measure behavior change — though programs working with criminals have arrest records — especially within the two or three year window most nonprofits interact with clients.
This article from the Foundation Center explores the issue.
“There’s no question that the need for better data is on the minds of just about everyone who is working to address seemingly intractable social problems. If you run a nonprofit, you’ve undoubtedly felt the push from funders to demonstrate the impact of your programs. If you’re a foundation program officer or an individual donor, you are probably looking for data that enable you to compare programs and choose the most effective ones. And in today’s tough economic climate, government leaders at the local, state, and federal levels are urgently seeking ways to use data to make better use of increasingly limited resources.
“Fortunately, we’re on the brink of a sea change in how we generate and use data to address social problems — and change is exactly what we need. Although significant data on social issues exist, much of it is not publicly available or is not action oriented. Indeed, quality information about nonprofit performance is scarce and not typically standardized to make it possible to compare organizations working on the same issue. As a result, we don’t know whether the billions of dollars invested annually in nonprofit organizations by the public and private sectors is achieving the desired results — or any results at all.
“The enormous potential to improve the quality of and access to information is analogous to the information revolution that took place in the private sector during the twentieth century. The first stage of that revolution was inaugurated by Section 13 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which required publicly traded companies to file annual reports (known as 10Ks) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The information revolution continued with the rise of the tech sector in the United States in the late 1970s. Back then, tech start-ups were growing rapidly. Many investors, however, lacked data about industry trends, which companies were “hot,” and how those companies were performing on a comparative level. One of the innovations that helped provide more transparency at the time was the development of an independent financial research industry. Reports, conferences, and advice began to be offered by the likes of the Yankee Group, Forrester, and Gartner Research. That information, in turn, provided investors with the insights they needed to make informed investment decisions and greatly increased the amount of growth capital available to tech companies, both young and established.
“In the nonprofit sector today, by contrast, the only standardized source of information is the 990 tax form. And while the 990 provides financial information, it offers no indication of whether an organization is fulfilling the charitable purpose for which it was awarded tax-exempt status in the first place. Imagine, then, what an information revolution similar to the one that transformed the private sector in the the last quarter of the twentieth century might mean for twenty-first-century efforts to invest in social change. Rigorous and readily available assessments would ensure that “social investors” are able to identify the most successful approaches to our most pressing social issues. Nonprofits with access to better information could use that information to assess their programs and make informed decisions about ways to improve those programs. Funders would be able to more effectively compare programs and select the most promising grantees at every step of the innovation cycle — from early-stage testing of new models to replicating already proven approaches. And collaborations involving the nonprofit, government, and business sectors would be able to use data to help ensure that their efforts resulted in sustained social impact.”
In what is one of many such stories that will be written about the new president of the conference, this one from Catholic World Report is worth a read.
Hopefully, the apparent demise of the influence of the seamless garment concept will eventually lead to a reemergence of the USCCB’s full support — rather than calling for abolition — of capital punishment, (see the Lampstand Foundation’s capital punishment webpage) which has traditionally been and still is, supported by Catholic teaching.
“In the years following Roe v. Wade, the US bishops debated the place of abortion in their agenda. Cardinal John O’Connor of New York argued for giving primacy to the abortion issue, while Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago wanted abortion integrated into a long and dubious list of “threats to life.” The latter view prevailed in the USCCB, and became known as the “Seamless Garment.” The upset election of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan to the USCCB presidency over Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, the media-described Bernardin “protégé,” is a posthumous victory of sorts for O’Connor.
“Not that the Bernardin Left is now powerless in the Church in America. It retains plenty of influence in chanceries and Catholic classrooms across the country, not to mention—as evidenced by the close vote between Dolan and Kicanas—the episcopate itself. But the “Seamless Garment” bishops are running out of steam, stopped not only by their overtly political liberalism, which looks painfully passé in the light of the Democratic Party’s crack-up and the nation’s changing mood, but also by the moral fallout of their doctrinal liberalism.
“Historians will likely note that what ultimately silenced and discredited the “Seamless Garment” bishops was not this or that silly political stance, but the sex abuse scandal. Before it erupted, bishops like Roger Mahony could command an audience on topics like amnesty; after it, their moral authority seemed shot. People were in no mood to be lectured on “justice” from bishops who hadn’t provided any to children in their own dioceses.”
The new Apostolic Exhortation from the Holy Father is excellent, and answers many questions around using the scriptures.
An excerpt from page 94.
“All the baptized are responsible for this proclamation
“Since the entire People of God is a people which has been “sent”, the Synod reaffirmed that “the mission of proclaiming the word of God is the task of all of the disciples of Jesus Christ based on their Baptism”. No believer in Christ can feel dispensed from this responsibility which comes from the fact of our sacramentally belonging to the Body of Christ. A consciousness of this must be revived in every family, parish, community, association and ecclesial movement. The Church, as a mystery of communion, is thus entirely missionary, and everyone, according to his or her proper state in life, is called to give an incisive contribution to the proclamation of Christ.
“Bishops and priests, in accordance with their specific mission, are the first to be called to live a life completely at the service of the word, to proclaim the Gospel, to celebrate the sacraments and to form the faithful in the authentic knowledge of Scripture. Deacons too must feel themselves called to cooperate, in accordance with their specific mission, in this task of evangelization.
“Throughout the Church’s history the consecrated life has been outstanding for explicitly taking up the task of proclaiming and preaching the word of God in the missio ad gentes and in the most difficult situations, for being ever ready to adapt to new situations and for setting out courageously and boldly along fresh paths in meeting new challenges for the effective proclamation of God’s word.
“The laity are called to exercise their own prophetic role, which derives directly from their Baptism, and to bear witness to the Gospel in daily life, wherever they find themselves. In this regard the Synod Fathers expressed “the greatest esteem, gratitude and encouragement for the service to evangelization which so many of the lay faithful, and women in particular, provide with generosity and commitment in their communities throughout the world, following the example of Mary Magdalene, the first witness of the joy of Easter”. The Synod also recognized with gratitude that the ecclesial movements and the new communities are a great force for evangelization in our times and an incentive to the development of new ways of proclaiming the Gospel.”
A very dangerous way to reduce court dockets, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Twenty-three years later, the woman still trembles when she remembers the attack.
“The man pushed his way into her Kensington house at gunpoint, slapped her so hard her glasses shattered, then forced her to have oral sex.
“The alleged attacker, Francisco Sanchez, fled before trial, but the woman says she never gave up hope that one day he would be tried and convicted.
“I wished all my life that they would catch him,” she said in a recent interview. “I would go to court to testify and do as much as possible to send the man to jail.”
“But in a sweeping move to lower Philadelphia’s staggering tally of 47,000 fugitives, top court officials have quietly dropped criminal charges against Sanchez and more than 19,000 other defendants who skipped court years ago.
“At the urging of Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille and District Attorney Seth Williams, Philadelphia judges closed criminal cases and canceled fugitive bench warrants for thousands of accused drug dealers, drunken drivers, thieves, prostitutes, sex offenders, burglars, and other suspects.
“The withdrawn cases are from 1998 and earlier.
“They were clogging up the system,” said Castille, a former Philadelphia district attorney. “You’re never going to find these people. And if you do, are you going to prosecute them? The answer is no.”
“The woman attacked in Kensington was astounded by the decision.
“How could they erase the case?” she asked after Inquirer reporters told her the criminal charges had been withdrawn. “I was a victim. There were lots of victims. It’s not right.”
“The newspaper also located several Philadelphia bail jumpers around the country and told them their cases had been dismissed.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Reginald Newkirk, who had been facing two drunken-driving charges. Reached at his current home in Watha, N.C., Newkirk was told that the charges had been withdrawn. “I’m glad to hear that.”
“In Newkirk’s 1991 arrests, police determined that his blood-alcohol levels were 0.273 and 0.277 percent – almost three times the legal threshold for intoxication at the time. Asked whether he had been drunk at the time, Newkirk, now 61, replied, “More or less.”
“Another fugitive, Alfred Carter, who fled in 1989 before he was sentenced for a strong-arm robbery, is now living in Washington.”
One of the major arguments for stopping the use of solitary confinement as standard prison practice for all prisoners in the early 20th century was that the practice “drove men mad”.
Now there is a study reporting the opposite, greatly enhancing the discussion, as reported by the Denver Post.
“A controversial study by Colorado’s Corrections Department claims to debunk the widely held theory that solitary confinement harms prisoners.
“Findings seem to show not just a lack of deterioration in mental health after long periods with virtually no human contact, but also, incredibly, some slight improvement.
“The report is being ripped for its methodology. Detractors fear it will prompt Colorado and other states to warehouse more inmates in prolonged isolation.
“It’s garbage in, garbage out,” says Stuart Grassian, the psychiatrist internationally recognized for describing the crippling effects of solitary confinement. “Their approach is fatally flawed.”
“Others — including some notable critics of isolation — defend the study.
“I was certainly surprised by its findings. We all were. But this is a serious piece of research,” says Jamie Fellner, a top lawyer with Human Rights Watch who serves on the state’s advisory board.
“State Corrections chief researcher Maureen O’Keefe has said her office launched the project largely because her department was concerned about being sued for civil-rights violations. Colorado houses 6.2 percent of its prisoners in so-called “administrative segregation,” far more than the national average.
“The state snagged federal funding to spend a year researching the psychological effects of keeping human beings locked up 23 hours a day with almost no social interaction, their food pushed through slots in their doors. The 24th hour is for exercise and showers, also alone.
“The expectation was that prisoners would get worse.
“Instead, the report claims to show the opposite effect — a slight “improvement in psychological well-being across all study groups.” It doesn’t discount emotional distress, yet concludes that solitary confinement didn’t cause it.”
An excerpt from the press release.
“Most Americans support the death penalty in murder cases, but are divided on whether it acts as a deterrent for potential criminals, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.
“The online survey of a representative sample of 1,006 American adults also finds that a high proportion of respondents believe that innocent people have been executed in the United States.
“Across the country, 83 per cent of respondents support punishing homicide with the death penalty, while 13 per cent are opposed. A majority of Americans would also rely on capital punishment to punish rape (62%) and kidnapping (51%), but not armed robbery (40%).”