Saturday, October 31, 2015

Items of Interest: Week of Dominica XXII Post Pentecosten

Amid calls for reform, a look at stats – and stories – from the US prison system
by Matt Hadro (Catholic News Agency). «We need to move away from this mentality of punishment for its own sake and look at smarter sentencing, smarter ways of doing incarceration that in the end, not only protect society, but also lift up human life and dignity.»

Under the radar: The Democratic Party is in dire straits
By Stephen Schneck (U.S. Catholic). «The crisis facing the Democratic Party is real. Current party leadership is hardly reassuring. Unless the party can develop new leaders able to rise above the temptations of identity politics and base-mobilizing campaigns, unless it can reorient itself to its roots in the working class, immigrants, and needs of the economically disadvantaged, unless it can free itself from the chokehold of its own special interests and become again the party of the public interest and effective governance, then the future for the Democratic Party in America is pretty bleak.»

The Text and the Context
by Robert Royal (The Catholic Thing). «The Final Report is a tolerable text, especially for something produced by a committee of 270. If it had been passed under the papacy of John Paul II, it would have raised little, if any, alarm. But in a context of mutual suspicion and anger, what is tolerable may become intolerable.»

Divorce is not a mortal sin
by Fr. Paul Keller, C.M.F. (U.S. Catholic). «Looking back at all the debates that took place before, during, and after the Synod on the Family, the most serious and most common misrepresentation of Catholic Church teaching is the claim that those who have divorced and remarried are not allowed to receive communion because they are in a state of mortal sin.»

Porn for the Privileged
by Melinda Selmys (First Things). «[M]any feminists who enter the sex industry do so out of a sincere desire to enter into solidarity with their stigmatized, marginalized, and exploited sisters. The problem is that, in the process, they end up appropriating for themselves the right to tell the sex-worker's story—and the story that they tell comes from an atypical experience of sex work that is voluntarily undertaken, relatively sanitized, and easily abandoned...Men don't go to peep shows so that they can self-critically reflect on women's sexuality and the politics of desire. To ignore this is not an act of radical female autonomy, it's an act of dangerous and narcissistic irresponsibility.»

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Items of Interest: Week of Dominica XXI Post Pentecosten

Doctor Zhivago and American Conservatism
by Benjamin Musachio (National Review). «Pasternak’s novel played a role in sorting out Birchers from mainstream conservatives.»

The Truth about Mass Incarceration
by Stephanos Bibas (National Review). «American criminal justice has drifted away from its moral roots. The Left has forgotten how to blame and punish, and too often the Right has forgotten how to forgive. Over-imprisonment is wrong, but not because wrongdoers are blameless victims of a white-supremacist conspiracy. It is wrong because state coercion excessively disrupts work, families, and communities, the building blocks of society, with too little benefit to show for it. Our strategies for deterring crime not only fail to work on short-sighted, impulsive criminals, but harden them into careerists. Criminals deserve punishment, but it is wise as well as humane to temper justice with mercy.»

Catholic Integralism and the Social Kingship of Christ
by Gabriel Sanchez (The Josias). «Contrary to popular belief, Catholic integralism—or what I shall refer to simply as “integralism” for the duration of this essay—is not first and foremost a political program. For the integral understanding of Christianity begins first with the supernatural society established by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, namely the Corpus Mysticum, the Holy Catholic Church, which transcends the temporal sphere and has for its end the salvation of souls. By carrying out its mission in the world, the Catholic Church possesses indirect power over the temporal sphere which is exercised for the good of souls. This indirect power in no way sullies the Church’s divine mission nor dilutes it by way of overextension since the civil authority retains at all times direct power over temporal matters.»

Christianity and the West
by Wolfhart Pannenberg (First Things). «Contrary to what some Protestants had thought, a Christian culture is not a plausible alternative to the ecclesial form of Christianity. If it ever was, it is no longer. There is no alternative to the Church. The further the secularist dominance of the general culture advances, the more clearly the Church, in clear distinction from that culture, emerges as the reference point of Christian existence. The Church takes the form of particular local congregations and of the universal communion of all Christians. These forms of ecclesial allegiance are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, only as they strengthen one another can the Christian community face with confidence the challenges that are ever more strongly posed by both the secular culture and the competing claims of other religions. Thus have we been brought by an ambiguous past to face with confidence an uncertain future.»

What’s the Real Problem with Payday Loans?
by Joe Carter (Acton Institute). «If you’re middle class and think of it in terms of interest rate, that repayment cost sounds appalling usurious. And it is. But as the poor will tell you, man does not live on APR alone. Having to pay an extra $120 was cheaper than having to find a new place to live. Yes, it was a bad deal. But it was better than all my other choices. I didn’t agree to the loan because I was bad at a math; I did it because I was desperate. And the payday lending company was more than willing to take advantage of my desperation.»

Friday, October 16, 2015

Items of Interest: Week of Dominica XX Post Pentecosten

Social Deviancy: A Medieval Approach
by Guy Geltner ( «Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, European cities witnessed a growth of what are sometimes called marginalizing institutions and spaces – hospitals, brothels, leper-houses, prisons, and Jewish quarters. Historians have often cited this development in order to illustrate the persecuting mentality that allegedly characterized a Europe coming into its own: an increasingly introspective society seeking self-definition and, so the arguments runs, closing its ranks to religious outsiders, such as Jews and heretics, as well as to internal Others, from homosexuals and lepers, to prostitutes, to the physically and mentally ill. Seen in this light, medieval society appears to have failed yet another moral test set to it by its modern heirs. The available evidence supports a different reading, however, one that stresses the semi-inclusiveness of institutions benefiting those at the dawn, twilight, and shadow of life. From this revised perspective, the choice to create facilities such as brothels and prisons within cities and to govern them responsibly constitutes a high – rather than low – benchmark of medieval adaptation to social and religious heterogeneity and the growing presence of at-risk populations. In the parlance of modern public health, medieval city councils adopted a strategy of harm reduction.»

Power in the Church? Women Have Always Had It
by Elizabeth Scalia (Aletia). «The fact is, for all of the talk about how oppressive the church has been for women, there has been no other institution in history which has given women such free reign to create, explore, discover, serve, manage, build, expand, usually with very little help from the coffers of the diocese in which they worked, and largely without intrusion on the part of the male hierarchy...Almost from its inception, the church has been a force and fomenter of feminine self-actualization. One is hard-pressed to name a single institution on the planet, other than the Catholic Church, which would have allowed women to simply run with their heads, be who they were born to be, and accomplish great things.»

Science is Often Flawed. It's Time We Embraced That.
by Julia Belluz and Steven Hoffman (Vox). «‹We need to change what the starting assumption ought to be. If it's provisionality rather than truth, we need to build in the checks and balances around that.› As such efforts — like the reproducibility projects, or post-publication peer review — gain traction, the scientific community is waking up to that fact. Now the rest of us need to.»

The Color of Debt: How Collection Suits Squeeze Black Neighborhoods
by Paul Kiel and Annie Waldman, ProPublica (Truthout). «[W]hen ProPublica attempted to measure, for the first time, the prevalence of judgments stemming from these suits, a clear pattern emerged: they were massed in black neighborhoods. The disparity was not merely because black families earn less than white families. Our analysis of five years of court judgments from three metropolitan areas - St. Louis, Chicago and Newark - showed that even accounting for income, the rate of judgments was twice as high in mostly black neighborhoods as it was in mostly white ones. These findings could suggest racial bias by lenders or collectors. But we found that there is another explanation: That generations of discrimination have left black families with grossly fewer resources to draw on when they come under financial pressure.»

«Spiritual Friendship» and Ministering to the Same-Sex Attracted
by Rachel Lu (Catholic World Report). «The ‹Spiritual Friendship› bloggers are the most visible spokesmen for what it means to be orthodox Christians and gay, but elements of their approach are inconsistent, and can hamper those genuinely anxious to help.»

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Items of Interest: Week of Dominica XIX Post Pentecosten

When Is It Okay to Disobey? Catholics and Civil Disobedience
by Fr. Frank Pavone (Catholic Answers). «How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. . . . One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.»

On Resistance: What are the Options?
by James Kalb (Crisis Magazine). «So we shouldn’t burn incense to Caesar, and we shouldn’t participate in abortion or solemnization of same-sex ‹marriage.› But what else shouldn’t we do? The scope of government is much broader than in the past. How far does the right or duty of conscientious objection go when an activist government—and all Western governments are activist—attempts to remake society down to the level of the family in ways at odds with natural law and the common good? To what extent should we treat not just specific acts but large parts of a system designed to advance ‹social reform› as something we must reject and resist?»

The Catholic Church Will Survive: Putting Crises in Perspective
by Thomas L. McDonald (National Catholic Register). «The Church is always in some form of turmoil or another; sometimes great, sometimes minor. Powerful people may try to drive us to the very edge of schism. The faithful will continue to be confused. It was ever thus, from the first day James and John argued about who got to sit in the places of privilege. We were given a divine institution, and we handled it with our usual mix of glory and corruption...Relax. The Church has been through worse.»

Prescience in Morris West’s Vatican Trilogy
by F. J. Rocca (Crisis Magazine). «I was startled to find that, while Morris West had no delusions about the church, which he saw not so much as the representative of, but the incarnation of, his Roman Catholic faith, he spelled out in clear and vibrant terms how faith was not in conflict with the human intellect, but was in fact an integral part of its processes on a very high and complex level. It was then that I began to see the light of my religion and the Church’s value as nothing less than the greatest agent of civilization in all of known history. I still occasionally wandered from the path of my faith, again out of intellectual confusion, but I always returned to it. I attribute that return in part to what I got from Morris West’s books and can attest to the effectiveness of his intellectual and religious authority to influence me in a spiritually salvific way.»

The Remarkable Life of Dorothy Day
by Mike Aquilina (OSV Newsweekly). «She has been called ‘a saint for our time’ — here is the story behind the writer, activist and candidate for sainthood.»

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Items of Interest: Week of Dominica XVIII Post Pentecosten

Is the Latin Mass the Magic Bullet?
by Fr. Dwight Longnecker (Standing on My Head). «The problems in the Catholic church are not due to lack of reverence at Mass. The lack of reverence at Mass is due to the problems in the church.»

On Abstaining from Communion
by Max Lindenman (Diary of a Wimpy Catholic). «It might also be emphasized that abstaining from Communion needn’t represent a complete severance of a Catholic’s relationship to the parish, or the Church as a whole. Non-communicants are welcome to attend Mass, hear the Word and adore the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. My Aunt Betty spent years out of Communion while waiting for the Diocese of Trenton to annul her first marriage. During that time, she continued singing in the choir, and even switched parishes when she determined that her pastor was an idiot – a fairly full ecclesial life.»

Through African Eyes: Resisting America's Cultural Imperialism
by John A. Azumah (First Things). «The African understanding of biblical authority, sex, marriage, and sin may strike my American liberal colleagues as backward and superstitious. Reflecting on the fact that the PC(USA)’s approval of homosexual practice puts her at odds with her African brothers and sisters in Christ, Susan R. Andrews, moderator of the 215th General Assembly of the PC(USA), observed, ‹They [African Christians] are kind of in their adolescence/young-adult stage of moving out into their own independence, yet still figuring out how to be in relationship with us as their parent church.› This paternalism is sadly typical. The ‹inclusive› West operates with an invincible belief in its superiority. Africa is ‹behind.› It’s not coincidental that ‹Westernize› is often used as a synonym for ‹modernize.› We are accustomed to such condescension. We have a great deal of experience with the white man’s burden of telling the whole world what counts as ‹progressive,› ‹advanced,› and ‹modern.› But we have our own judgments of the West and liberal American Christians. Most African Christians acknowledge the church in the West as their ‹parent church.› But we also see it as a dying church.»

The Pope’s Confounding Consistency
by Peter Manseau (The New York Times). «Francis has said he sees the devil at work in the question of marriage equality; Ms. Davis has said her refusal to grant marriage licenses was ‹a heaven or hell decision.› Whatever sets them apart, what the pope and the county clerk ultimately have in common is more than a few moments together in Washington. As his papacy continues, Francis will likely infuriate people on both sides of our political divide, but it won’t be because he’s fickle. Cool or uncool, the pope is consistency itself.»