Abolishing Capital Punishment Degrades Justice

An excellent article from The Federalist.

An excerpt.

A recent Pew survey shows that a majority of Americans favor capital punishment, with Christians leading the way. It is not just Republican-leaning white evangelicals: a majority of American Catholics support the death penalty, despite the pope’s objections. Tradition seems to be on the side of the laity here, although in the interest of ecumenical harmony I shall not recount the details of the Catholic Magisterium’s previous enthusiasm for executions.

Nonetheless, last year there was a significant (by the standards of Catholic intellectual circles) dust-up over a book by Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette that offers a Catholic defense of capital punishment. Public Discourse published articles by E. Christian Brugger (1, 2) and Christopher Tollefsen (1, 2) that relied on the so-called new natural law theory to argue that capital punishment is intrinsically immoral. These essays, and Feser’s responses (1, 2, 3), have some Catholic inside-baseball elements, but their broader claims against the death penalty are meant to be binding for all Christians, and even for all rational persons.

Meanwhile, in Commonweal, which vies with the Jesuit magazine America to be the voice of left-wing Catholicism in this country, Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart provided an alternative critique of capital punishment that reaches back to the early days of the church and Christian radicalism. These arguments are made in good faith, and merit engagement from those they seek to persuade, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant.

Thus, although a Protestant jumping into a Catholic or Orthodox theological debate is usually as welcome as a streaker running through a team’s scrimmage, I shall respond to their broad claims metaphorically dousing myself in orange paint and sprinting onto the field.

The Two Big Death Penalty Criticisms

There are two distinct, and largely incompatible, criticisms of the death penalty. The first, advanced by the new natural lawyers, is that moral reason shows the death penalty is unjust because it directly and intentionally harms the basic human good of life. The second, made by Hart, is that although the death penalty may accord with natural justice, Christians must live according to Christ’s radical teachings without any public-private distinction—Christians must forgo state violence and seek mercy for even the worst murderers.

Despite their differences, these arguments overlap in several significant ways. Both seek more than a unified Catholic (or Orthodox) teaching on capital punishment. The new natural lawyers present their case as one of philosophical reason, knowable by all rational persons regardless of religious belief. Hart makes his case to all Christians, asserting that “no Christian who truly understands his or her faith can possibly defend the practice of capital punishment.”

Those making such broad claims insulate themselves against directly engaging the merits of the death penalty. To effectively critique the new natural lawyers in a fashion they will acknowledge requires engaging with their entire system. This is a worthy project, but it is also a book-length one. Shorter critiques, such as this one, can only be partial and preliminary. Likewise, addressing Hart requires extended discussion of the relationship between Christ’s radical teachings and the responsibilities Christians in public office have—if Christians should be in government at all.

Both Hart and the new natural lawyers sidestep this question of responsibility, which explains why Augustine is largely absent from their contributions to the current debate. Yet they are undoubtedly familiar with Augustine’s consideration of a judge who, in ignorance, may bring the full brutal force of Roman law against the innocent, torturing and even condemning them.

He wrote, “If such darkness shrouds social life, will a wise judge take his seat on the bench or no? Beyond question he will. For human society, which he thinks it a wickedness to abandon, constrains him and compels him to this duty.” But while the judge may be guiltless (he injures from ignorance, not malice), his happiness will be marred by the “misery of these necessities” and if he is pious he will cry to God to be delivered from them.

This passage does not contain any definitive teaching that is binding on Catholics, let alone other Christians, nor does it directly address the death penalty. Indeed, its primary purpose was to illustrate the miseries of earthly life. Yet it introduces an axis of theological and philosophical reflection that Hart and the new natural lawyers have abandoned—that of responsibility and our duties to the necessities of our fellow men with whom we share this life.

Hart simply disavows such responsibilities if they conflict with what he takes to be Christ’s commands, writing that, “On the whole, the Gospel is probably not a very good formula for protecting public safety.” Likewise, the new natural lawyers dismiss any concern for the consequences of following the moral absolutes they believe their system provides. For example, during the Cold War, they insisted on unilateral nuclear disarmament even though they thought it would likely lead to worldwide communist tyranny. They have also argued that it is always wrong to lie, even to save Jews from the Nazis (their example, not mine).

Retrieved June 21, 2018 from https://thefederalist.com/2018/06/21/abolishing-death-penalty-degrades-justice-mercy/

 

Older is Often Happier

Though off topic, this is nice to know, as this article from City Journal explains.

An excerpt.

The mid-life crisis is a cliché: balding, paunchy man in red sports car, frantically trying to convince himself that women still find him attractive. Implicit in the word “crisis” is a sudden change. You wake up some day in your forties to realize that you are no longer young. The resulting angst—it’s all straight downhill to death from here—nudges people to do crazy things.

The truth is more complex, writes Jonathan Rauch in his new book, The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50. Across cultures and demographics, people’s life satisfaction declines in their forties. It is rarely a crisis, though; it’s more of a malaise. But then a funny thing happens around age 50. Mood bottoms out and begins to climb. Indeed, people in their sixties and seventies report themselves as being far happier than they ever imagined they’d be. As people live longer, these happy golden decades represent a major opportunity. “We are in the process of adding perhaps two decades to the most satisfying and pro-social period of life,” Rauch writes. “It is a gift the likes of which mankind has never known before”—if society is willing to seize it, and if people can make it through the trough of the happiness curve. (Not all can, as recent high-profile suicides remind us, though fortunately most midlife unhappiness does not develop into clinical depression.)

Perhaps because happiness seems like a fluffy subject, Rauch spends the bulk of his book meticulously presenting evidence for the existence of a U-shaped happiness curve over people’s lifespans. He argues that it has little to do with external circumstances. Big-data analysis of reported happiness levels reveals this curve in countries with diverse cultures and levels of development. Even primates go through a mid-life dip in mood (as measured by their keepers). Since apes aren’t subject to a youth-glorifying commercial culture, this suggests a biological basis for the phenomenon.

The general thought is that young people are wired to be strivers. They are, like the young man in Thomas Cole’s famous series of paintings, The Voyage of Life, reaching toward castles in the sky. But at some point, this tendency to external, upward comparison catches up with everybody. You realize that you’re not going to achieve everything you thought you would. Or—more insidiously—you have achieved much of what you thought you would, but your brain creates other desires, seemingly just to torment you.

Rauch reports going through such a slump himself, and his own story makes for the most compelling part of the book. In his forties, he had a life his twentysomething self could only dream about. Not only was he working as a journalist and winning awards, he was happily partnered and later married, a relationship largely accepted by neighbors in a way a young gay man growing up decades ago would not have thought possible. So why wasn’t he happier? “I felt ashamed of my ingratitude and embarrassed by my dissatisfaction,” he writes. He wasn’t clinically depressed, just chronically unhappy, a fact that he largely kept to himself. And yet at some point, the fog began to lift. Despite objective reasons to be unhappy—his parents’ deaths, his magazine job disappearing—“my obsessive habit of comparing myself with others, always to my own disadvantage, diminished,” he writes. He had emerged on the other side of the curve and was able to throw himself into new work and to enjoying relationships.

With Rauch’s mental journey mirrored in larger social statistics, the takeaway is that the midlife slump is “completely normal and natural. Like teething or adolescence, it is a healthy if sometimes painful transition, and it serves a purpose by equipping you for a new stage of life,” he writes. As older people become less focused on their own striving, they become more ready to serve society. With people experiencing good health well into their seventies (or later), this is a great opportunity for society to change the narrative of aging: stop glorifying the golf course, and instead make it easier to plug into mentoring and volunteering opportunities.

Retrieved June 18, 2018 from https://www.city-journal.org/html/older-better-15973.html

Stanford Prison Experiment was a Lie

And the harm caused by the fake narrative generated by the experiment is incalculable

The whole sad story is reported in Medium, a must read.

An excerpt.

The Lifespan of a Lie

The most famous psychology study of all time was a sham. Why can’t we escape the Stanford Prison Experiment?

It was late in the evening of August 16th, 1971, and twenty-two-year-old Douglas Korpi, a slim, short-statured Berkeley graduate with a mop of pale, shaggy hair, was locked in a dark closet in the basement of the Stanford psychology department, naked beneath a thin white smock bearing the number 8612, screaming his head off.

“I mean, Jesus Christ, I’m burning up inside!” he yelled, kicking furiously at the door. “Don’t you know? I want to get out! This is all fucked up inside! I can’t stand another night! I just can’t take it anymore!”

It was a defining moment in what has become perhaps the best-known psychology study of all time. Whether you learned about Philip Zimbardo’s famous “Stanford Prison Experiment” in an introductory psych class or just absorbed it from the cultural ether, you’ve probably heard the basic story.

Zimbardo, a young Stanford psychology professor, built a mock jail in the basement of Jordan Hall and stocked it with nine “prisoners,” and nine “guards,” all male, college-age respondents to a newspaper ad who were assigned their roles at random and paid a generous daily wage to participate. The senior prison “staff” consisted of Zimbardo himself and a handful of his students.

The study was supposed to last for two weeks, but after Zimbardo’s girlfriend stopped by six days in and witnessed the conditions in the “Stanford County Jail,” she convinced him to shut it down. Since then, the tale of guards run amok and terrified prisoners breaking down one by one has become world-famous, a cultural touchstone that’s been the subject of books, documentaries, and feature films — even an episode of Veronica Mars.

The SPE is often used to teach the lesson that our behavior is profoundly affected by the social roles and situations in which we find ourselves. But its deeper, more disturbing implication is that we all have a wellspring of potential sadism lurking within us, waiting to be tapped by circumstance. It has been invoked to explain the massacre at My Lai during the Vietnam War, the Armenian genocide, and the horrors of the Holocaust. And the ultimate symbol of the agony that man helplessly inflicts on his brother is Korpi’s famous breakdown, set off after only 36 hours by the cruelty of his peers.

There’s just one problem: Korpi’s breakdown was a sham.

“Anybody who is a clinician would know that I was faking,” he told me last summer, in the first extensive interview he has granted in years. “If you listen to the tape, it’s not subtle. I’m not that good at acting. I mean, I think I do a fairly good job, but I’m more hysterical than psychotic.”

Now a forensic psychologist himself, Korpi told me his dramatic performance in the SPE was indeed inspired by fear, but not of abusive guards. Instead, he was worried about failing to get into grad school.

Retrieved June 18, 2018 from https://medium.com/s/trustissues/the-lifespan-of-a-lie-d869212b1f62

Being Catholic

As a convert, I have never taken the Church for granted nor failed to defend it—and I am talking about the supernatural Church here, not necessarily the institutional Church which, as formed and administered by humans, sins regularly—and this article from Catholic Culture by Dr. Jeff Mirus is exceptional, a must read.

An excerpt.

I’ve written recently about the deliberate exclusion of informed religious faith as an influence in the political and social life of the West (see “Time to give the lie to a culture in denial” and “Dangerous! Both religious exclusion and religious common cause”). Since Catholicism is unique in basing itself on a manifest public Revelation from God, complete with a Divinely ordained authority to secure the authentic transmission of that Revelation over time, we must address this exclusion. How might we counter the powerful errors in our culture, manifested both privately and publicly, which contradict what any person of good will can know that God has taught?

One common approach to the problem is to demand freedom of religion or, even more extensively, freedom of conscience. While it is true that there can be no coercion in religious belief, claims for religious liberty and freedom of conscience in the West today are often merely stop-gap measures to prevent a State which specifically authorizes grave evils from coercing everyone to participate in those evils. In other words, having failed to win the political battle in favor of just laws, we fall back on Western notions of liberty of conscience in the hope of being exempted from the program.

As a tactic this may have occasional merit, but it further erodes the Catholic (or authentically Christian) position through an unspoken willingness to suspend opposition to evil as long as we can be exempted from direct participation in it by virtue of our peculiarity. The success of this approach depends in large part on our being perceived as an insignificant minority, so insignificant that the State can afford to humor us, much as it does the Amish in their enclaves or Native Americans on their reservations. This tactic is not immoral in itself, but it is primarily defensive and self-interested. It does not make a serious claim on our public life for the common good.

Another common approach is simply to move on to the next battle after each loss. In one sense this is inevitable, but it is a common related error to assume that, once a particular moral battle has been lost, we must accept the contrary state of affairs so as not to appear either shrill or disrespectful of the democratic process. Nor is this approach confined to public or political issues. We do this in our own families and among our own friends as well. Once people have severed yet another tie with the true and the good, we take it for granted that we must leave them alone in their errors. In this context, I sometimes wonder how often we even remember to continue to pray for errant friends and family members.

As I mentioned, in one sense this is inevitable. A wise person knows when his moral position has been decisively rejected (whether politically or personally), and he would be foolish indeed to continue to fight in the same way the particular battle that has now been lost. Yet too often the acceptance of one sort of defeat can cause us to withdraw entirely, to cease bearing witness, or even to refuse to remain active in those services of love which not only can soften hearts but “will heap burning coals” upon the heads of those who, in the matter at hand, have become our enemies (Rm 12:20). Authentic love, in other words, can force others to look inward, triggering a sense of shame.

The sources of conviction

But something more is needed. I would suggest that even in a hostile culture we must become known not only as emissaries of love in a comfortable sense but also as emissaries of intelligent conviction—as emissaries of truth.

In my previous essays I emphasized the objective public character of Christian Revelation and the consequent objective public character of the moral and doctrinal authority of the Catholic Church—claims that no other institution on earth can (or even does) make. The various opinions, philosophical schools, and religions of the world may deserve a fair hearing, but they are not all equally valid. Most consist of distinctive errors, lies or even fantasies dressing up a remarkably limited number of natural insights. All of these conflict in notable ways with God’s self-disclosure through the natural law, which we can know by reason, and/or with His formal Revelation in Jesus Christ, which is protected through time by the Church Christ established.

Therefore we cannot afford to accept today’s secular myths, or even to accord equal value to today’s religious myths. We cannot accept the demanded denial of Catholicism’s claim to convey clearly the true and the good as known from the God without whom there would be no reality at all. Instead we must fearlessly challenge others in both private and public situations to give an account of why they believe what they do, and to consider whether their own grounds of belief have any real merit. Our approach must be this:

Look, I can tell you exactly WHY this course of action or this law is evil rather than good. I can explain the matter with reasons drawn from the very nature of things. And if we cannot follow the natural argument, I will tell you what God has revealed about this while demonstrating that this revelation was both public and eminently credible. Now, can you give any rational account of the source and cogency of your own ideas?

Retrieved June 15, 2018 from https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/articles.cfm?id=747

 

Heaven is Real, So is Hell

A bracing article by Susan Potts from the Remnant Newspaper.

An excerpt.

In the days before the Changes, nobody used words like liturgy or eucharist or reconciliation. It was Mass and Holy Communion and Confession. Simple, straightforward words. Everyone knew what they meant. We didn’t talk about rubrics, and most laypeople didn’t know about ambos and aspersoria and thuribles. That was the priest’s business. Like a doctor, he had his professional lexicon, and it was really not our concern. We just followed along, confident that we were being led to Heaven.

That’s what we talked about then, Heaven and Purgatory, and what we had to do to reach the one and shorten the other. We shuddered to think about Hell, and so we didn’t talk about it much either. We just set about working out our salvation with fear and trembling, like St. Paul told us to do. All for the love of Jesus, the Glory of God, and the Salvation of souls, we used to say.

But you hardly ever hear about salvation anymore. The subject just doesn’t come up. Don’t you wonder why? Are Catholics that sure of Heaven, or is something else going on?

I think it’s the something else. There is a deep-seated reluctance in them to broach the subject. Something holds them back. It’s not that they’re silent. There’s plenty of vapid talk out there. But if you cut through the empty words and look below the surface of the mush that passes for theology, you’ll find the obstacle.

It’s a triple-walled mental block.

First, people don’t know what Heaven is anymore. Second, they don’t know what’s a sin and what’s not. And third, they don’t know what to do about that troublesome doctrine, Extra Ecclesia Nulla Salus. These three things make it nearly impossible to talk about salvation.

Consider the first obstacle. Too many years of agnostic priests and professors telling us that we don’t really know anything about Heaven has dampened supernatural faith and hope. Nothing seems clear. Questions aren’t answered; doubts are not dispelled. Retreats, religious education lectures, and classroom discussions often go something like this:

“Is Heaven a place?” a student asks.

The pedant-in-charge shakes his head, but says nothing. He strokes his chin and lowers his lids, pondering the question. Everyone waits.

“It is a state of being,” he says at last, carefully, as if he were imparting a deep truth.

The student persists. “But what does that mean?”

“We’re not really sure.”

The student sighs. He turns his head, looks out the window, and never brings it up again.

I’ve heard this sort of thing too many times. No sooner spoken, but the words evaporate, portentous as thin smoke. Nothing adheres to the mind; nothing cleaves to the soul.

Enough of this nonsense. Of course Heaven is a place, and those in authority should say so, loud and clear. What this supernatural place is like is beyond our imagination, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. It is above nature, incorruptible; its substance endures forever.

I mean, come on, if Heaven is not a place, then where is Our Lord? What does He see through His beautiful eyes, and what does He touch with his Wounded Hands? And just where is Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, she who was assumed body and soul into Heaven?

They’re not floating in some ethereal mist. We’re talking physical presence here. Someday, when we behold our King and Queen reigning gloriously in Heaven, it’s real faces we’ll see, real voices we’ll hear.

Retrieved June 13, 2018 from https://www.remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/3931-where-have-all-the-catholics-gone

Ministry to Prison Guards

There is an excellent article by Eve Tushnet in America Magazine bringing attention to the humanity of guards which too many in prison ministry either forget, do not accept or do not know.

I spent 12 years (1960s /1970s) in maximum security state and federal prisons and long held the typical criminal’s position regarding guards, but in those 12 years I saw more decent behavior from guards than not, even though I pretty much remained alienated from them due to the situation.

More ministries dedicated to them is something that should be done; and it would be best done by a guard.

An excerpt from America Magazine.

The patron saint of corrections officers, St. Adrian of Nicomedia, is said to have been a Roman officer astonished by the faith and courage of the Christians whose torture he was supervising. Legend has it that he declared himself a Christian and ordered his own name to be added to the list of those facing the death penalty, although he had not even been baptized.

In Acts 16, Sts. Paul and Silas converted their warden after being miraculously freed from their chains; they prevented him from killing himself in shame over their escape.

At the crucifixion, the two people who confessed Jesus as Lord were a fellow prisoner and the centurion assigned to guard them. From the very beginning, Christ came to deliver not only captives but their guards.

And yet today, startlingly few Christian ministries exist to serve those who work in jails and prisons. Chaplains and other Christian volunteers come to visit inmates—following Jesus’ call in Matthew 25:36—but corrections officers are mostly left to handle their spiritual lives on their own. Trained to mistrust others, doing work that is poorly understood and only noticed when it is done wrong, working overtime in an environment of fear, stress and split-second moral decisions, officers show all the signs of people in crisis: high divorce rates, high rates of post-traumatic stress and depression, high rates of substance abuse; several studies have found that their suicide rate is among the highest of any job in the United States.

I spoke with several people who looked back on their corrections work as a time when they were able to make a positive difference. But most people I heard from echoed the assessment of Jeffrey Rude, a chaplain and trainer of corrections officers: “Our staff are hurting, and our staff are desperate.”

Hidden within our contemporary debates about the nature, expanse and injustices of incarceration in the United States are hundreds of thousands of people who took a job. They took the job because they needed work or because they wanted to protect their communities. They came out of the military or out of neighborhoods much like those of the inmates. Some had loved ones behind bars. Others came out of sheltered environments utterly foreign to what they were about to experience.

Officers noted that their job was to watch over people who might be trying to kill them or threatening them or their family members with assault. They work in unpredictable environments, where even elderly or ill people may become violent. They have seen religion used to manipulate, shanks hidden in Bibles. They are often explicitly trained to view inmates with suspicion and even contempt, and yet some put themselves at risk to save inmates’ lives. Officers work grueling hours, sometimes in facilities without adequate heating in the winter or cooling in the summer—an issue of prisoners’ rights but also workers’ rights.

People used words like “thankless,” “unappreciated” or “guilty until proven innocent” to describe their role. Almost all of the officers and former officers I spoke with told stories, unprompted, of fellow officers who had committed suicide.

Many people knew corrections officers who had been raised Christian but no longer went to church. Long, inconvenient hours made churchgoing hard; some former officers said they were anxious in crowds or they’d had painful experiences worshiping alongside inmates’ families. This can be considered fraternization, a security risk and therefore a risk to their jobs. Every single person I talked to mentioned that C.O.s learn to close themselves off from others.

Retrieved June 12, 2018 from https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2018/05/31/you-have-heard-it-said-visit-imprisoned-what-about-their-guards#

 

Sexual Scandal Continues

In what looks like the most damaging report to come out about a state’s problems with abusive priests, this story from Yahoo notes a new report coming out soon.

The institutional Catholic Church—though not the supernatural Catholic Church which stands forever as Christ promised—might never recover from this long nightmare of evil priests raping children.

An excerpt.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The results of a lengthy probe into the handling of sexual abuse claims by Roman Catholic dioceses throughout Pennsylvania, which victim advocates say will be the biggest and most exhaustive ever by a U.S. state, could be made public within weeks.

A statewide grand jury spent nearly two years looking into the abuse scandal, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has said he plans to address the panel’s findings by the end of June.

WHAT TO EXPECT

The grand jury investigated six of the state’s eight dioceses, which collectively minister to more than 1.7 million Catholics. The report is expected to reveal details of widespread abuse and efforts to conceal and protect abusive priests.

A judge’s ruling last week gave the first real details of an investigation that started in July 2016. Judge Norman Krumenacker rejected an effort to delay the report’s release or allow people named in the report to challenge parts of it before its release.

Krumenacker, a Cambria County judge who has been overseeing the grand jury, wrote in his opinion that the investigative body had heard from dozens of witnesses and reviewed over half a million pages of internal documents from diocesan archives. The investigation involved allegations of child sexual abuse, failure of church structures to report it to law enforcement and obstruction of justice by people “associated with the Roman Catholic Church, local public officials and community leaders,” he said.

The report could be groundbreaking, said Terry McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org. Several smaller states, including Maine and New Hampshire— each with one diocese that covers the full state — have issued reports, but no state the size of Pennsylvania has conducted a full accounting, he said.

“You’re going to learn a lot about this crisis that you never knew before,” he said. “Another thing you are going to see in a report of this geographic scope is an accounting of the geographic solution, meaning within the Pennsylvania dioceses there is a certain amount of mobility, and priests who have trouble in one diocese might be transferred to another within the state. There hopefully will be some accounting of that.”

Two priests have been arrested on child sexual abuse charges as a result of the probe, one each in the Erie and Greensburg dioceses. Prosecutors have said one of those priests assaulted a boy more than 20 times as he was serving as an altar boy and would later require the boy to confess the abuse to him.

The overall investigation involves the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

It is unclear whether there will be any other charges filed as a result of the report, because of Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations on child sexual abuse crimes.

Under state law, criminal charges can be filed up to the time the person making the claim of child sexual abuse is 50 years old. Civil claims can be filed for child sexual abuse until the person alleging the abuse turns 30.

Previously release grand jury reports on the other two Pennsylvania dioceses — Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown— advocated a two-year window to allow people alleging long-ago abuse to pursue civil claims. Efforts to pass that legislation have stalled or been blocked.

Rep. Mark Rozzi, who put forward the legislation, said he testified about his own experience of abuse at the hands of a priest in the Allentown diocese. Rozzi said he plans to reintroduce legislation to extend the statute of limitations. The church has said changing the statute of limitations would be unfair to schools and parishes and could be financially crippling.

PREVIOUS GRAND JURIES

In 2005, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office released a scathing grand jury report that said allegations against more than 100 priests and other clergy had been looked into by the panel. The report criticized internal practices of moving priests and not reporting allegations to law enforcement.

In 2011, the office released another report, having instructed a second grand jury to examine whether the diocese had changed its practices. The investigation resulted in several priests and members of the clergy being charged with crimes related to child sexual abuse, including Monsignor William Lynn, who was charged with endangering children for allegedly moving priests from parish to parish instead of removing them or reporting allegations to police.

Retrieved June 11, 2018 from https://www.yahoo.com/news/report-pennsylvania-priest-abuse-most-extensive-yet-145523867.html

 

Remembering the Nuns

A wonderful story from the Remnant Newspaper.

When I go to early mass at Presentation Parish, I am, as a convert, always deeply moved by the presence of the five nuns from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, who are involved with the parish school.

An excerpt.

When I was a little girl, ten years before I became a Catholic, I had enough Christian sense to know that a person was supposed to go to church on Sunday. My parents weren’t that interested…they didn’t think it was necessary…besides there were so many children and Mama didn’t have a hat. But I was determined to go. The church was only a mile or so away; it was walkable.

I persuaded my younger sister to go with me and endured her complaining all the way up Military to Cherry Hill, dragging her across the bridge over the Rouge River, which she was convinced was going to collapse and her life would end before her eighth birthday. But we made it, week after week, stopping halfway at the drug store on Michigan Avenue for Lifesavers and butterscotch drops.

The store was directly across the street from Sacred Heart, the building that would be the site of my reception into the Catholic Church; the place where my beloved Vincent would slip me a note before Mass one Sunday in March, asking me in treasured words to be his queen, and then slipping a diamond ring on my finger. It was the church where we would be married, forty-five years ago, with our families and friends and my entire fourth grade class in attendance

But I didn’t know all that then. All I knew was that Sacred Heart was the most imposing, mysterious, and beautiful church I had ever seen. It had arches and double doors and stained glass windows. It rose high above the busy street, like a Roman matriarch, with a dozen steps or so to the entrance.

As we came out of the drug store and stood at the corner, waiting for the light to change, my sister and I watched the throngs of people filing into the church. The bells were ringing, and the people kept coming. I wished I could follow them inside. But of course I couldn’t. One didn’t choose these things. We had a duty to be Episcopalian.

The light changed, but my sister didn’t move. She was staring across the street.

“Come on,” I said.

She just stood there.

turned to see what she was looking at, and then I saw them. I forget how many. Six, maybe eight, walking in twos toward the church, faces down, their hands hidden in their voluminous sleeves. They seemed to glide across the sidewalk. Were their feet even touching the ground?

My sister stared, transfixed, then turned and looked up at me. Her eyes were huge. “Why don’t we have Blue Angels at our church?” she asked.

I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. Angels. That’s what they looked like. We knew nothing of nuns or priests or religious. We didn’t know the angels were Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, consecrated forever to God. Chosen Brides of Christ. Ignorant of that amazing, beautiful reality, we only knew there was something singular about them, something touching the supernatural. We could feel it.

Two little girls sensed the forgotten truth: Nuns are women set apart. They live in a state higher than the rest of us. That’s what people don’t want to say—that some things and some people are higher than others. Catholics used to understand that better than anyone, but no more. Their perceptions have been flattened, their discernment dulled by a religious Declaration of Independence. They want to believe that everything is the same; that all men are created equal and stay forever equal. Nothing is better than anything else.

Liberté, fraternité, égalité: the universal doctrine of the modern age. It’s so much easier now.

Even in the spiritual realm, the Kingdom of God, they see no distinction, no honor, no hierarchy. Just get in the door. That’s all it is. Heaven is a place of equal opportunity. All rewards are equal. A martyr has no more glory than an adulterer who repents on his deathbed. There is no point to striving, no point to sacrifice, no point to turning from the pleasures of the world.

This, of course, is nuts.

It was the nuns who reminded us otherwise, and without them, Catholic culture withers and dies. We can’t do it alone; the family is not enough. Just as the mother in the home is the heart of the family, the center of devotion and sacrifice; so the sister holds that place on the higher level of religious life. She walks toward Heaven; and we see her commitment, her dedication, her honor.

She is a daily reminder that this life is a journey, a pilgrimage. We have a race to win, and we must not run in circles. She embodies grace and beauty and modesty. She reminds the world of purity and humility. We are bereft without her.

Retrieved May 31, 2108 from https://www.remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/3912-come-back-my-sisters-remembering-the-women-who-educated-america

 

Reentry

A very nice article about a new reentry-focused law in California that seems to be working, from Comstock Magazine.

We wish them well but the record for reentry/rehabilitation programs is not good, see our Rehabilitation: Evaluation of Failure page. https://catholiceye.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/evaluation-of-reentry-programs-3/

An excerpt.

Nine years after the recession drove many tradespeople out of the business, the dearth of skilled construction workers in Northern California seems as permanent as a concrete piling.

“We’re definitely feeling it,” says Brent Perkins, human resource manager at Clark Pacific, which creates fabricated building systems with plants in West Sacramento and Woodland. “Tilt-up, cast-in-place, framing, rough framing, finish carpentry — there’s a big gap.”

About six years ago, Clark Pacific started hiring graduates of an apprenticeship program run by Northern California Construction Training, a nonprofit that teaches building skills to ex-offenders and others. Over six years, Perkins estimates that the company has hired about 75 people with a criminal record. A handful have moved up from production roles into lead, specialist and foreman jobs. None of those they’ve hired has reoffended on the job.

“We’ve found a great workforce with people who had a small bump in the road and need that one chance,” Perkins says.

Giving ex-offenders a better chance at reintegration is behind the California Fair Chance Act, which took effect in January. A wealth of research shows that having a job is the most important factor in cutting recidivism rates. With exceptions for a few types of jobs, the new law forbids businesses with five or more employees from asking applicants about criminal history until late in the hiring process — which could mean big changes in how many employers hire.

A Second Chance

Ashley Volkerts’ earliest memories involve substance abuse. Her parents, who had drug and alcohol problems, let her try her first beer at age 4 and a double shot of tequila at age 8, she says. For her 12th birthday, her mother gave her a pipe loaded with pot. She continued to use as an adult and ultimately got into small-time dealing with an ex-husband.

After four stints in jail and ongoing attempts to get clean, Volkerts joined Alcoholics Anonymous last March and has been clean for over a year. But she says getting a job has been just as instrumental to making changes as treatment.

Last October, she was hired at a restaurant in Loomis and has since advanced to manager. “A job gives you a purpose — you have to dress up and show up,” she says. You won’t hear her complain about getting emergency calls to come in for a shift. “It’s great to be depended on. I’m the one who gets called when someone doesn’t show up. I love it,” she says. “Had my employer gone with the person with no criminal record, they wouldn’t have gotten someone who gives great customer service and who totally has the back of the company like I do.”

Titan Gilroy, CEO and owner of Rocklin-based Titans of CNC, says he sees a similar kind of dedication from the employees he’s hired, despite them having a record.

“People are different: There are those who need to stay in prison, and there’s a percentage who aren’t used to hard work. And there’s a big percentage that are so sincere in their effort that they make the best employees. … Employers should look at where [the applicant] is going, not where he’s been — how he makes eye contact, how he shakes a hand. When [employers] do that, they’ll get extreme loyalty,” he says. (Gilroy himself spent time in prison before founding his company in 2005.)

Beyond the potential qualities of ex-inmate hires, state and local governments are looking to financially incentivize companies to be more open-minded. Under the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit, employers who hire and retain people who have significant employment barriers, including convictions, can get up to $9,600 in federal credits. California’s New Employment Credit program targets businesses in areas of high poverty and unemployment by offering tax credits to employers who pay people with a previous felony conviction over 150 percent of the state minimum wage for full-time work — the portion beyond the 150 percent threshold up to a maximum of 350 percent is eligible for a credit. And a joint federal and state effort, the Fidelity Bonding Program, provides free bonding insurance for employers who hire at-risk applicants, including those with a criminal record.

Retrieved May 30, 2018 from https://www.comstocksmag.com/longreads/banning-box?utm_

Recidivism

An excellent article about it from the Crime & Consequences Blog, validating what is, and has long been known, criminals generally remain criminals after prison and/or involvement in virtually all rehabilitation programs.

Rehabilitation: Evaluation of Failure Page https://catholiceye.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/evaluation-of-reentry-programs-3/

An excerpt from the Crime & Consequences post.

Rehabilitation is a beautiful thing.  The story of a person who previously followed a life of crime seeing the light, turning himself around, and becoming a productive and law-abiding member of society warms our hearts.

Regrettably, it is very much the exception, not the rule.  Most criminals released from prison go right back to their old ways.

Criminologists measure recidivism by a new arrest after release.  This measure is imperfect, to put it mildly, because arrest does not equal guilt.  Not all arrested are guilty, and not all guilty are arrested.  Given the low clearance rate for crimes (46% for violent and 18% for property in the 2016 CIUS), the latter problem is the bigger one by far.  That is, the real recidivism rate is much higher than the reported rate because the perpetrator does not get caught for most crimes.

The recidivism rate for a cohort of released criminals also depends on how many years you follow up.  If a researcher-advocate wants a low number, all he has to do is define recidivism for the purpose of the study with a short follow-up period.

Today the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report titled 2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism:  A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014).  The nine-year period is new, and the report confirms what we have known from shorter but varying periods: the longer you follow up, the greater percentage is eventually arrested for a new crime.  At nine years, the percentage not arrested at any time in the follow-up period down to a discouraging 16.6%, only 1 in 6.

Are the people arrested in year 9 but not in years 1–8 people who went straight for 8 years and then fell off the wagon?  Doubtful.  More likely they were just good at evading capture for 8 years but eventually slipped up.

Here are the “highlights” according to BJS, with a comment on each:

  • The 401,288 state prisoners released in 2005 had 1,994,000 arrests during the 9-year period, an average of 5 arrests per released prisoner. Sixty percent of these arrests occurred during years 4 through 9.
  • Five arrests per released prisoner, multiplied by a factor to adjust for the fact that they are only arrested for a fraction of the crimes they commit, is an enormous number of crimes.  The currently popular notion that we can shorten sentences without increasing crimes is just crazy.  Shortening sentences may be the right thing to do in some instances, but we need to approach the question with our eyes wide open as to the cost to the innocent people who will be victimized as a result.
  • An estimated 68% of released prisoners were arrested within 3 years, 79% within 6 years, and 83% within 9 years.
  • If you see a study that defines “recidivism” with a 3-year follow up, throw it in the garbage.  That’s what it is.