Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Week!
We’ll start blogging again on Monday December 2nd
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Week!
We’ll start blogging again on Monday December 2nd
Teilhard’s contribution was far ahead of his times, but science and religion are now catching up, as this post from Teilhard.com notes.
One of the great contributions that Teilhard de Chardin made to Christian theology is his reconciliation of traditional Christian theology with evolutionary biology. Science has continued to advance. Discoveries in the past 100 years, from the Big Bang to particle physics provide additional evidence in support of the monotheistic belief that there is an intelligent Creator of the Universe. Moreover, the strange world physics of quantum mechanics also supports the notion that this Creator is relational, similar to the Christian belief in the Trinity.
I am not a scientist and do not pretend to understand anything more than the basics of quantum physics. However, George Farahat of the blog Today’s Questions does have background in quantum physics and did a great job of synthesizing quantum physics and the triune God in a recent blogpost. I encourage you to read the entire post here, but set forth below is an extended excerpt:
“In 2007, I gave a lecture on evidence in the cosmos for the God of Christians. It was precisely based on quantum physics. Nothing has changed since then other than the fact that we are now aware of many more facts in human behavior, the accelerating rate of the development and deployment of information technology, the development of life on earth for billions of years with its challenges, and more knowledge on the intricate nature of the expanding cosmos. Those who wish to remain in their simple faith and ignore scientific advances may well find themselves surrounded by questions from their friends, children or grandchildren: Why do you still believe?
In this post, I survey a number of human disciplines to show that the probabilities of quantum physics are at the core of every action in the cosmos. Cases in each discipline will be examined but due to space limitation only one publication will be referenced.”
The holy grail of the criminal justice system is a data base that will determine future criminality or predict violence—I worked on a research program trying to develop violence predictive tools in the 1970s—but it has not yet been found, primarily because human beings possess free will and are moved by the value they perceive as forthcoming from acts they have an opportunity to commit and criminals are almost purely opportunistic; but hope springs eternal, as this story from GCN reports.
The same type of analytics software police use to try to predict where crimes might occur or who is likely to commit them is also being used by prisons to help determine who isn’t likely to commit a crime — thereby hastening their parole.
At least 15 states, looking to cut costs on incarceration, now require their prison systems to use some form of risk assessment tool in evaluating inmates, and many of them are turning to predictive analytics software that looks for patterns based on a variety of factors, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The software programs, intended to complement rather than replace traditional parole assessments, measure factors such as inmates’ age when first convicted, education, whether they think their conviction was justified and whether they’re married, the Journal said. Some programs measure 50 to 100 factors overall, in contrast to the relative handful weighed by parole boards, many of whose members are political appointees without much or any training in criminology.
Adding software-driven assessments — which also can help determine the extent of supervision a parolee will require — appears to be having an effect. The Journal said populations in state and federal prisons fell by 1 percent in 2011 and appear to have fallen further in 2012, according to reports available. And that’s at least partly because of a drop in recidivism: the percentage of parolees going back to prison dropped from 15 percent in 2006 to 12 percent in 2011.
One such program is Compas (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions), made by Northpointe, a criminal justice research and consulting company. Compas, used in Michigan, New York and other states, combines standard risk factors such as criminal history with other dynamic data in calculating an inmate’s probability of breaking parole, according to the company. It also allows for inmate interviews to be included in an assessment.
I wanted to touch again on the subject of evil within the criminal/carceral world as many who have trouble understanding human evil have never been in a position to know criminals as they are among themselves, in prison or on the streets, where their free choice resulting from their human free will, reveals the evil behind so much of the criminal/carceral world.
One of the best sources to help understand this is a book I ask all people who are involved in prison ministry to read and study, Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition (2004) by Dr. Stanton E. Samenow, a clinical psychologist who has worked with criminals for decades, wherein he addressed the myth that criminals come from certain types of neighborhoods, families, or other life circumstances:
“What is clear is that criminals come from a wide variety of backgrounds—from the inner city, suburbia, rural areas, and small towns, and from any religious, racial, or ethnic group. They may grow up in close-knit families, unstable homes, or foster homes. They may be grade school dropouts or college graduates, unemployed drifters or corporate executives. In most cases they have brothers, sisters, and next-door neighbors who grew up under similar circumstances but did not become criminals.
“Despite a multitude of differences in their backgrounds and crime patterns, criminals are alike in one way: how they think. A gun-toting, uneducated criminal off the streets of Southeast Washington D.C., and a crooked Georgetown business executive are extremely similar in their view of themselves and the world. This is not to deny individual differences among criminals in their aesthetic tastes, sexual practices, religious observance, or favorite sports teams. But all regard the world as a chessboard over which they have total control, and they perceive people as pawns to be pushed around at will. Trust, love, loyalty, and team-work are incompatible with their way of life. They scorn and exploit people who are kind, trusting, hardworking, and honest. Toward a few, they are sentimental but rarely considerate. Some of their most altruistic acts have sinister motives.” (p. 12)
And, in reference to drug or alcohol use as a determinant Dr. Samenow writes: “The criminal is far more addicted to a way of life than to a particular substance.” (p.xvii)
This is a very accurate description of the personal narrative within the criminal/carceral world.
The myth surrounding his assassination has been pretty deeply embedded but the truth is still, that he was killed by a communist, as this story from the Wall Street Journal reminds us.
It has been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was cut down on the streets of Dallas by rifle shots fired by Lee Harvey Oswald, a self-described Marxist, defector to the Soviet Union, and admirer of Fidel Castro. The evidence condemning Oswald was overwhelming.
The bullets that killed President Kennedy were fired from his rifle, which was found in the warehouse where he worked and where he was seen moments before the shooting. Witnesses on the street saw a man firing shots from a window in that building and immediately summoned police to provide a description. Forty-five minutes later a policeman stopped Oswald in another section of the city to question him about the shooting. Oswald killed him with four quick shots from his pistol as the policeman stepped from his squad car. He then fled to a nearby movie theater where he was captured (still carrying the pistol).
Yet opinion polls suggest that 75% of American adults believe that JFK was the victim of a conspiracy. Most of the popular books published on the murder have argued for one or another conspiracy theory, with the CIA, FBI, organized crime or right-wing businessmen cast as the villains. Why does the Kennedy assassination still provoke so much controversy?…
Ironically, U.S. leaders adopted a line similar to the one pushed by the Soviet Union and communist groups around the world. They likewise blamed the “far right” for the assassination. A Soviet spokesman said that, “Senator [ Barry ] Goldwater and other extremists on the right could not escape moral responsibility for the president’s death.”
These were the myths that grew up around the assassination and, strangely enough, they are still widely believed. A new book, “Dallas 1963,” put out by a respected publishing house, traces the assassination to “a climate of hatred” created by right-wing businessmen, religious leaders and media moguls.
The facts are that President Kennedy was a martyr in the Cold War struggle against communism. The assassin was a communist and not a bigot or a right-winger. Oswald defected from the U.S. to the Soviet Union in 1959, vowing when he did so that he could no longer live under a capitalist system. He returned to the U.S. with his Russian wife in 1962, disappointed with life under Soviet communism but without giving up his Marxist beliefs or his hatred of the U.S. By 1963, Oswald had transferred his political allegiance to Castro’s communist regime in Cuba.
An extensive look from City Journal at probably one of the worst judicial driven criminal justice strategies ever, which is releasing criminals to the streets and causing crime rates to rise and more innocent people being victimized, well documented by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.
An excerpt from the City Journal article.
In 2009, three federal judges in California issued what Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has dubbed “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history.” The state, announced the judges, must release upward of 46,000 prisoners within two years. The injunction was the culmination of two decades of nonstop litigation by prisoner advocates, who argued that the poor health care in California prisons violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Since that 2009 release order, California has added well over $1 billion in new prison health-care facilities; correctional experts have declared the state’s inmate care among the nation’s best; and the prison population has dropped by more inmates than are housed in all but a few states. The state has radically reconfigured its criminal-justice system to comply with the court order. Yet the judicial triumvirate shows no signs of relinquishing its hold on the prisons, despite repeated requests from Governor Jerry Brown to do so. The struggle between Brown and the federal judiciary is the most dramatic constitutional battle in years. Time will tell if California’s recent sharp increase in crime is one consequence of the judicial intervention.
California has long been the epicenter of prison litigation. But for cataclysmic force and sheer staying power, nothing beats two massive and now inextricably intertwined class-action lawsuits. The Prison Law Office, California’s leading prisoner-rights organization, filed a suit in 1990 arguing that the mental health care provided to the state’s mentally ill inmates violated the U.S. Constitution. A second Prison Law Office suit in 2001 extended the argument to the entire prison health-care system. Hundreds of judicial orders have flown forth from these two cases, specifying such management arcana as bed planning. Each order was preceded by a furious exchange of motions between the plaintiffs’ attorneys and the state, and was followed by more dueling motions over compliance. Taxpayers pick up both sides’ legal bills, which, from 1997 to 2009 alone, excluding payments to experts, cost $38 million.
In this story from the Wall Street Journal, some Protestant churches are already doing it and other considering it; and in a strange way, it does appear to make sense.
The argument for it is seemingly legitimate—see last paragraph of the excerpt—even resonates somewhat in a Catholic world where, against the wishes of the Latin Mass community, lay people are allowed to give communion to worshippers, while the Latin Mass specifies only the priest having the authority to do so.
A North Carolina church’s new plans for breaking bread are also breaking with its denomination’s wishes.
Central United Methodist Church in Concord, northeast of Charlotte, earlier this year said it would launch a “virtual campus” complete with streaming services, webcam Bible study, counseling via live chat and a dedicated online pastor.
The church also planned for virtual users to be able to regularly take Holy Communion when it is being offered during services: Online users can simply grab some grape juice and any bread or crackers they have in the house, and consume them after the pastor, in the sanctuary, blesses the juice and bread as representing the blood and body of Christ.
The practice, common in many evangelical churches, could help make Christianity more accessible, especially to young people who read the Bible on an app, if at all, the century-old church says. “We believe that God is not bound by space and time,” said the Rev. Andy Langford, Central’s senior pastor. “We believe that when we bless the bread and the cup in one place, if there are others who are worshiping with us, God will bless that bread and cup wherever they are.”
A very nice reflection from The Catholic Thing.
Rome these past days has had a certain soft autumnal cast. The skies are gold and blue, as at other times of the year here, but the air is cool. The leaves on the trees don’t change into bright colors, the way they do in more northerly climes, before they fall. They go quickly from green to brown or gray, and then stand with a somber, subdued dignity over an Eternal City.
The only thing that seems to contradict this quiet contraction towards winter is the gathering of starlings, millions of them swirling above the Tiber River and nowhere else, especially at dusk, when they race around noisy and alive, feeding on food not visible to human eyes. At some point, they’ll head south together, to Sicily maybe, or even to Africa.
At this time of the year in Rome, the controversies swirling around the Church seem to fade back quite naturally into the large flow of millennia. I heard the other day from a reliable Italian friend, who had heard from a reliable Italian friend of his own inside the Vatican Curia, that a “new document” is going to be issued soon, probably in the next few weeks. Contents uncertain: maybe bio-ethics, gay marriage, some of the other issues roiling the Church.
It may be. And it may be that it will give another spur to worldwide media speculations about where the papacy of Pope Francis is likely to take things. I don’t know.
I’m here to give some lectures at one of the pontifical universities. And I’ll be talking more myself with people here about ecclesial controversies. But for the moment, it’s been helpful to be here without bothering too much about all that. And to be reminded that, for good and ill, Rome seems, beyond all human calculation, to endure. And even, in its way, to work.
I usually go to Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s – the music is beautiful and, for me, it has made a difference, several times, to pray and receive Communion over the bones of the first pope. Personal experience aside, however, we’re so familiar with the story that it’s difficult to imagine how a fisherman from a backwater in the Middle East came to the imperial capital and changed the course of the world. But so it was.
Newt Gingrich and Ralph Reed, two of the smartest political thinkers around the intersection of religion and politics says the GOP should emulate Pope Francis, which would be a very smart thing to do, but, given the current cast of leaders among them, probably not going to happen, but this story from National Journal is really worth a read.
For his party to survive, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich believes the GOP needs to broaden its appeal beyond “the infamous 47 percent.” Conservative activist Ralph Reed would rebrand the Republican Party as a force of compassion – feed the poor and clothe the naked. Republican strategist John Feehery says the GOP craves a populist leader – “a happy warrior.”
“What Francis is doing,” Reed said, “is rebalancing the Catholic Church’s message to stress the pastoral mission of good works and service to people before getting to ideology. What he’s not doing is jettisoning the Catholic doctrine. What about that is not a model for the Republican Party?”
For top Republicans, Catholics in particular, the pontiff’s headline-seizing efforts to reverse negative stereotypes of one of the world’s oldest and most ossified institutions – almost exclusively through symbolic gestures – stands as an example for the GOP. The Republican Party, according to polls, is viewed by many in the United States as insular, intolerant and lacking compassion for the poor while consorting with the rich.
The Catholic Church has the same “brand problem” – and since his election in March, Pope Francis has ruthlessly tackled it. Here are four lessons Republicans should take away from the pope’s early success:
Appeal to the unconverted: The pope has reached out through words and deeds to Muslims, homosexuals, atheists, the disabled and women – groups of people who traditionally feel ostracized or marginalized by the Church. Gingrich compares the pope’s efforts to Jesus Christ, who was “radical in meeting people where they were – washing the feet of his disciples, eating with tax collectors, letting prostitutes wash his feet with expensive oils, engaging with the adulterers at the well.”
The GOP must be as inclusive, said Gingrich, who converted to Roman Catholicism in 2009. “Nobody is off limits.” Writing off 47 percent of Americans who typically vote Democratic, many of them minorities “in its spirit is anathema to a good political leader,” Gingrich said, a slap at 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
“It starts with meeting people where they are,” Reed said of the GOP. “If somebody is hungry, feed them. If somebody is naked, clothe them.”
Make the party more approachable: Pope Francis famously checked himself out of his hotel after his election. He owns a 1984 Renault given to him by an old priest. He stiffs security and mingles in crowds. He cold-calls ordinary people, such as the Italian woman who feared she would not be able to baptize her baby because it was born out of wedlock. “Francis is a happy warrior,” wrote Feehery, “with a vision that focuses on the bigger picture, and he is determined to open the Catholic tent to embrace the world and make believers out of nonbelievers.”
That’s what this article from the New York Times suggests, and though I know virtually nothing about prisons there, I have read a book, A Land Fit for Criminals, about the British criminal justice system and if that is a reflection of the European one, we want nothing to do with it, as this quote from the book demonstrates: “Social scientists, civil servants and Ministers of the Crown have conspired for decades to deceive the public about the state of law and order. The have consistently underestimated the level and severity of crime. They have insisted on the efficacy of methods of crime prevention and control which patently do not work. They have stubbornly persisted with utopian theories of crime, criminality and punishment which fail entirely to take account of human nature and social reality. They have routinely belittled the everyday concerns about crime of the man and woman in the street. They have condescendingly denigrated the genuine understanding of criminality provided by commonsensical experience. They have rubbished the real expertise about law and order—based on daily involvement with the destructive effects of crime—of police officers, magistrates, probation officers and local councilors. Modern criminology constitutes a tissue of pseudo-liberal prejudice and counter-productive phoney knowledge. Contemporary penal policy comprises a vast body of misconceived and nonsensical doctrine which has the effect of exculpating criminals, punishing victims and escalating social collapse.” (p. xi)
An excerpt from the New York Times article.
In February, a group of American corrections officials, judges, prosecutors and public defenders spent a week visiting prisons in Germany and the Netherlands. Those countries incarcerate people at about one-tenth the rate of the United States, for far less time, and under conditions geared toward social reintegration rather than punishment alone.
A new report based on the group’s research suggests that European sentencing and penal practices may provide useful guidance in the growing effort to reform an American prison system buckling under its own weight.
The American and European systems differ in almost every imaginable way, beginning with their underlying rationale for incarceration. Under German law, the primary goal of prison is “to enable prisoners to lead a life of social responsibility free of crime upon release.” Public safety is ensured not simply by separating offenders from society, but by successfully reintegrating them.
To this end, inmates are given a remarkable level of control over their lives and their personal privacy. Some wear their own clothes and prepare their own meals. They interact with staff trained not only in prison security, but in educational theory and conflict management.