Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Week!
We’ll start blogging again on Monday December 1st
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Week!
We’ll start blogging again on Monday December 1st
An excellent and quick read summary from the Crime & Consequences Blog, of why we need to keep criminals in prison for their court determined time, rather than seeking ways to reduce prison time, as is currently happening in all too many state and federal prison systems.
A number of people have asked me to post the script of my remarks at the Federalist Society’s National Convention last week. I am happy to do so below:
Two facts about crime and sentencing dwarf everything else we have learned over the past 50 years: When we have more prison we have less crime, and when we have less prison, we have more crime.
Two generations ago, in the Sixties and Seventies, we made much less use of prison. We had a sentencing system with no guidelines and few mandatory minimum terms. We convinced ourselves that rehabilitation works, and that we could trust judges with nearly unlimited discretion.
We got something for our trouble — a national crime wave. In the two decades after 1960, crime increased by over 300%. Whole neighborhoods in our major cities became free-fire zones, largely because of the gunplay associated with drug dealing. There were nearly 450 murders a week.
Under Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department, all this changed. We embraced stern, determinate sentencing. For some serious offenses — firearms trafficking, and drugs including heroin and meth — Congress adopted mandatory minimums below which even the most willful or naive judge could not go. States followed suit, and the prison population swelled.
But the country got something in exchange for the reforms that made sentencing serious and honest. From the early Nineties to the present day, we have enjoyed a reduction in crime to levels not seen since the Baby Boomers were in grade school.
Crime has dropped fifty percent.
There are more than 4,000,000 fewer serious crimes per year in America now than there were a generation ago. Not all this is because of the increased use of prison. James Q. Wilson and others found that about a quarter of it is. Other measures, such as more police, more targeted policing, and improved private security have also contributed, but increased incarceration is a major factor. A fortune in costs to potential crime victims has been saved, and enormous human suffering averted, because of the tens of thousands of crimes incarcerated criminals did not have the chance commit.
Retrieved November 19, 2014 from http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2014/11/the-conversation-among-conserv.html#more
Fr. Teilhard de Chardin teaches us a vital lesson about the magnetism of the Church in an evolutionary age in his 1965 book Science sand Christ; a lesson completely applicable to criminal/carceral reformation.
These evolutionary views have entered much more deeply into our psychology than is commonly believed, and under their influence a particular type of religious requirement has asserted itself in mankind. Both because of our intellectual apprehension of Nature in movement and because of our corresponding appetite for action, we can no longer accept any control of our activity that is not directed to the fulfillment of a world that includes us integrally in its consummation. The free, thinking, energy released by the earth can no longer be dominated by the ideal of any established order that has to be accepted and preserved. Morality and religion (like the entire social order) have ceased to be for us a static: if they are to appeal to us, and save us, they must be a dynamic.
‘We no longer want a religion of regulation: but we dream of a religion of conquest.’ In saying that, we have, without realizing it, taken a great step towards belief, cutting across and rising above our modern lack of faith. It has become a commonplace to designate western civilization as materialist—the civilization which is the focus point of the new mankind. Nothing could be more unjust. The West has overthrown many idols. But, by its discovery of the dimensions and forward momentum of the universe, it has set in motion a powerful mysticism. For we can properly speak of it as a mysticism, in that we have been aroused by physics and history to the consciousness of a tangible immensity, and so can conceive no values, can take delight in nothing, except our arduous identification with the fulfillment of that immensity.
Chardin, P.T.d. (1965). Science and Christ. ( R. Hague, Trans.) New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, Publishers. (pp. 102-103)
Keep this in mind reading this story from Chiesa.
ROME, November 19, 2014 – With the mastery for which it is known all over the world, the Washington-based Pew Research Center has conducted a survey on a massive scale that gives substance to a fact that was already known in general terms, the startling decline of Catholic membership in the Latin American subcontinent:
Religion in Latin America. Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region
In the geographical area that is used today to indicate the new center of mass of the worldwide Catholic Church, midway through the last century almost the entirety of the population, 94 percent, was made up of Catholics. And still in 1970 Catholics were in the overwhelming majority, at 92 percent.
But then came the collapse. Today the proportion of Catholics is 23 points lower, at 69 percent of the population. The negative record belongs to Honduras, where Catholics have dropped to under half, from 94 to 46 percent. To get an idea of how sharp the decline has been, it should be enough to think that it has taken place entirely within the time span of the episcopal ministry of Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the eight cardinals called by Pope Francis to assist him in the governance of the universal Church.
The collapse in the number of Catholics has been accompanied everywhere by the exuberant growth of “evangelical” and Pentecostal Christians, of Protestant descent. This was known too, but the Pew Research Center has highlighted that those who are passing from one membership to another are not usually the most lukewarm in their faith, but the most fervent.
The converts to the “evangelical” communities turn out, in fact, to be much more dynamic in propagating the Christian faith. And there is also a difference in helping the poor. While the Catholics assist them and that’s it, the “evangelicals” are not only more active in works of charity, but also do not miss the opportunity to preach the Christian faith to the poor.
There is also a great discrepancy in religious practice. In Argentina, for example, the “evangelicals” who put great emphasis on religion in their lives, pray every day and go to church every week are 41 percent, while the Catholics are just 9 percent and take last place in the rankings together with Chile and secularized Uruguay.
The survey of the Pew Research Center also demonstrates that converts from Catholicism to the “evangelical” communities are not drawn by greater leniency on the matters of abortion or homosexuality.
The reality is the opposite. Those most resolute in opposing abortion and marriage between persons of the same-sex are found among the neo-Protestants, not among the Catholics.
In Argentina, for example, more than half of Catholics, 53 percent, say they are in favor of homosexual “marriage,” which is already legal in that country. While among the neo-Protestants those in favor are 32 percent.
The survey of the Pew Research Center is a must-read, rich as it is in data on this epochal phenomenon.
Retrieved November 19, 2014 from http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350924?eng=y
At times, like now, when it appears that the affairs of the world are spinning uncontrollably, horribly, and in an even worse direction; it is a time to remember our faith, and the words of the Angelic Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote in his Summa Theologica:
I answer that, Certain ancient philosophers denied the government of the world, saying that all things happened by chance. But such an opinion can be refuted as impossible in two ways.
First, by observation of things themselves: for we observe that in nature things happen always or nearly always for the best; which would not be the case unless some sort of providence directed nature towards good as an end; which is to govern. Wherefore the unfailing order we observe in things is a sign of their being governed; for instance, if we enter a well-ordered house we gather therefrom the intention of him that put it in order, …
Secondly, this is clear from a consideration of Divine goodness, which, as we have said above (44, 4; 65, 2), was the cause of the production of things in existence. For as “it belongs to the best to produce the best,” it is not fitting that the supreme goodness of God should produce things without giving them their perfection. Now a thing’s ultimate perfection consists in the attainment of its end. Therefore it belongs to the Divine goodness, as it brought things into existence, so to lead them to their end: and this is to govern.
Retrieved November 18, 2014 from http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1103.htm#article1
This is the best Catholic movie I have watched, which understands that the prime spiritual reality is that which is congruent with our mind and our heart, our intellect and our compassion, our soul; but, make sure you get the director’s cut.
A 2005 review from the Catholic News Service is at http://www.catholicnews.com/data/movies/05mv544.htm
Another liberal website about criminal justice—joining the numerous others while conservative sites can be counted on one hand—has begun promoting the standard story that American crime is largely a result of a tough childhood and a rotten society, as reported by the New York Times.
The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization focused on the American criminal justice system and led by Bill Keller, a former executive editor of The New York Times, went live this weekend, the latest in a crop of start-ups seeking a place in an increasingly fragmented journalism landscape.
Mr. Keller has swapped the bustling corridors of The Times for a small office suite on the 25th floor of a Midtown Manhattan building, packed, on a recent afternoon, with some of the project’s 25 full-time employees.
On Saturday, The Washington Post published an investigative report by Ken Armstrong for the Marshall Project on legal delays that jeopardize death row prisoners’ appeals.
The Marshall Project published two articles this summer and fall, but it has primarily focused on building its team. Twenty of the 25 full-time employees are journalists, including specialists in data and graphics. There are correspondents in Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Austin, Tex., and Seattle, said Mr. Keller and the Marshall Project’s founder, Neil Barsky, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal who later pursued a career in finance. It has raised about 60 percent of its $10 million target, which represents a budget for two years, from groups including the Ford Foundation.
Over the past several weeks I have been reading three works of former Catholic nun, Karen Armstrong: Islam: A Short History; The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness & Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence.
Ms. Armstrong is a superb thinker and writer and her book on Islam is the best I have read on the subject, capturing the approach taken by the Catholic Church and many other observers, that Islam is a great religion, as beset with the struggles between the unorthodox and the orthodox as any of the major religions, including Catholicism; but because Catholicism has a hierarchical management structure the unorthodox are usually sanctioned in some way; whereas Islam has no such structure.
Her memoir, The Spiral Staircase showing how she endured seven very unhappy years as a nun, moved on to graduate work at the academy and became a scholar of theology and writer; losing her Catholic faith, but discovering the essential truth in religion, compassion, and building a rich life on that insight; is also a great read, though I suspect that having given up on a personal God and a personal relationship with God, will eventually be changed as her continued study and prayer leads her back to the Pilgrim Church of her youth, which she will embrace, blemishes and all.
Fields of Blood is also excellent, and captures today’s turmoil in the context of history and politics, just a great read.
Here is the link to her page on Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Karen-Armstrong/e/B000AQ72VE/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1415924906&sr=8-2-ent
In my book on the subject, Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support, published in 2009, I wrote:
“Capital punishment as a way of protecting the innocent is one of the central issues in the social teaching of the Church, but the ambiguity about it—particularly in the United States—over the past several decades after two millennia of certainty, places the credibility of the teaching itself at risk, and that negatively impacts the Church’s social teaching as an effective tool for criminal transformation, further risking the immortal souls of those who are lost and whose being found largely relies on the constancy of the teaching of the Catholic Church, on eternally walking the eternal talking.” (p. 11)
This article from First Things also notes the ambiguity of recent statements by the Holy Father about capital punishment and Catholic teaching.
Pope Francis recently gave a speech to the International Association of Penal Law advocating for the improvement of prison conditions and reiterating pleas made by his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI for an end to the death penalty.
Francis, however, went further than either of his predecessors by extending Catholic critiques of capital punishment to life sentences, which he condemned as the “death penalty in disguise.” His comments have reopened debates in Italy about life sentences (nearby countries such as Spain and Portugal have abolished them) and prompted Catholic bishops in the Philippines to denounce life sentencing as “inhuman.”
Those of us who lean conservatively where criminal justice is concerned would do well to take to heart the Pope’s critique of the “vengeful trend which permeates society” and reflect on how our attitudes toward convicts line up with the teaching of Scripture. “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them,” the author of the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us (Heb 13:3).
The Pope’s comments should provoke a searching examination of conscience in the United States, which incarcerates a larger proportion of its population than any other country in the world. A country in which 80,000 people languish (many unnecessarily) in the psychological hell of solitary confinement should listen to a Pope who brands as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” the practice of placing prisoners in a situation where they “lack contact with other human beings.”
That said, it is difficult to see how opposition to life imprisonment in principle could be a legitimate development of Catholic teaching. The Catholic Church has long upheld the right of a society to remove serious offenders from the community. If an offense is serious enough to warrant permanent removal from the community, this can be done either through the deprivation of life (capital punishment) or liberty (life without parole). In a 1952 allocution, Pope Pius XII taught:
In the case of the death penalty the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. Rather public authority limits itself to depriving the offender of the good of life in expiation for his guilt, after he, through his crime, deprived himself of his own right to life.
Retrieved November 5, 2014 from http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/11/the-pope-and-the-problem-of-punishment
James Carroll, writing in the New York Times, reminds us of the eternal bond.
So what can a modern person believe about Jesus? There are intellectual obstacles to faith. The church has always shaped what it believes in terms drawn from the prevailing worldview, but history is the record of one worldview yielding to the next — from Ptolemy and Aquinas to Copernicus and Darwin to Einstein and Hubble.
More than a century ago, the church was thrown for a loop by the mind of modernity, and even now struggles to assimilate the established ideas that change is essential to the human condition; that truth is always seen from a particular point of view; that all language about God falls short of God.
And, speaking of God, in what way, actually, can Jesus be said to be divine? A scientifically minded believer wants to discard that notion, but before he does, he should remember that if Jesus were not regarded as somehow divine almost from the start of his movement, we would never have heard of him. And if faith in the divinity of Jesus is left behind because it fails the test of contemporary thought, Jesus will ultimately be forgotten. Is it possible that contemporary thought can learn from this old article of faith? What if the so-called divinity of Jesus lays bare not so much the mystery of God as the majesty of what it is to be human?
But, in addition to intellectual barriers, there are moral obstacles to faith in Jesus, too — not just the blatant sins of the church like sex abuse or misogyny, but also sacrosanct core traditions of Christianity that turn out to be grotesque distortions of who Jesus was.
Chief among these is the way in which the full and permanent Jewishness of Jesus was forgotten, so much so that his story is told in the Gospels themselves as a story of Jesus against the Jews, as if he were not one of them. Against the way Christians often remember it, Jesus did not proclaim a New Testament God of love against an Old Testament God of judgment (which girds the anti-Jewish bipolarity of grace versus law; generosity versus greed; mercy versus revenge). Rather, as a Shema-reciting son of Israel, he proclaimed the one God, whose judgment comes as love.
Imagined as a zealot who attacked the Temple, Jesus, on the contrary, surely revered the Temple, along with his fellow Jews. If, as scholars assume, he caused a disturbance there, it was almost certainly in defense of the place, not in opposition to it. The narrative denouement of this conflicted misremembering occurred in the 20th century, when the anti-Semitism of Nazism laid bare the ultimate meaning of the church’s religious anti-Judaism.
The horrified reckoning after the Holocaust was the beginning of the Christian reform that remains the church’s unfinished moral imperative to this day.
Retrieved November 9, 2014 from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/opinion/sunday/can-i-stay-with-the-church.html?ref=opinion&_r=0
A very nice article in America Magazine which touches on the importance of Catholics & Jews coming closer together; as, after all, we are essentially of the same faith.
Soon after the death of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in December 1972, America devoted an entire issue to his life and work. The idea for the special issue, published on March 10, 1973, came from John C. Haughey, S.J., an associate editor, who explained that anyone who knew Rabbi Heschel “sensed the depth of his exposure to the Presence of God.” The same point appeared in the editorial that introduced the special issue: “No Christian who ever entered into conversation with Professor Heschel came away without having been spiritually enriched and strengthened.”
Pope Francis never met Rabbi Heschel, and although he is known to own a number of books by Heschel, it is not clear to what extent he has studied Heschel’s thought. Nonetheless, he may have been indirectly “spiritually enriched and strengthened” by Rabbi Heschel. A few connections between the men point in this direction. Take, for example, the testimony of Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina, one of Pope Francis’ closest friends. Rabbi Skorka accompanied Francis to the Holy Land in May, and in 2010 they co-authored a book, On Heaven and Earth. About the conversations that became that book, Rabbi Skorka, who claimed Rabbi Heschel as a “formative spiritual guide,” has said that the spirit of Rabbi Heschel guided his dialogue with Francis. “In our live dialogue, one drew from the other,” Skorka explained in an email message to Rabbi Alexander Even-Chen. “In this manner, Francis undoubtedly drew spiritually from Heschel.”
Another connection exists through Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer (1930-93), one of Rabbi Heschel’s most devoted students, who became the most influential rabbi in Argentina while Jorge Mario Bergoglio served as the provincial superior of the Jesuits there (1973-79) and then as rector of the Jesuit university and seminary in San Miguel, outside Buenos Aires. Rabbi Meyer inspired not only Jews but also Christians. He was passionate about spreading Abraham Heschel’s approach to Judaism and once said he felt that Rabbi Heschel had “accompanied” him during his 25 years in Argentina.
In light of these connections, we decided to probe what Pope Francis has said and written about topics central to the religious worldview of Rabbi Heschel. We found that Francis has a strong affinity for a number of the rabbi’s core ideas.
Retrieved November 3, 2014 from http://americamagazine.org/issue/interfaith-affinity