Friday, June 12, 2015

The False Dichotomy Between 'Social Justice' and Catholic Purity

Last November, Michael Voris, Catholic traditionalist media agitator (as many would say) produced this feature on the topic of social justice:



And Voris is not alone in this "thinking" among traditionalist, conservative, and orthodox counterculture Catholics in America today. According to Anthony Annett, who wrote in the Catholic left-of-center journal, Commonweal:
...I would contend that few American Catholics in the modern era have surrendered more to the spirit of the age—the age of Reagan and the resurgence of free-market liberalism and aggressive militarism—than George Weigel.

For decades now, Weigel has been a thorn in the side of authentic Catholic social teaching, seeking to baptize economic liberalism and American exceptionalism with the waters of the Catholic faith. Alongside fellow travelers like Richard John Neuhaus and Michael Novak, he has been peddling the idea that Centesimus Annus—John Paul II’s landmark social encyclical from 1991—represented a decisive break with the past, a significant development of doctrine that saw the Church fully embrace capitalism and free market economics. A simple reading of the encyclical itself exposes the hollowness of such a claim. Yet Weigel et al actually produced an abridged version of the encyclical, which managed to remove the passages that went against their radical reading. Not exactly the height of honesty.

...Weigel sprung back into action with the release of Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate in 2009, which was a profound reflection on the maladies of the modern global economy. This time, Weigel found it too difficult to expunge the offending elements, so he invented his own “encyclical exegesis”—calling on readers to distinguish the authentic “gold pen” of the pope and the false “red pen” of the leftists associated with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

...To add insult to injury, Weigel’s prudential analysis has so often been profoundly wrong. He fails to make the connection between the “liberationist” economic policies he espouses and the consequent breakdown in trust, social capital, and community bonds—to say nothing of financial instability and collapse. He fails to understand that the European financial crisis has little to do with the “welfare state”, and that the countries in northern Europe with the strongest social protections are also the healthiest economically. He fails to appreciate the gravity of the environmental crisis, and his free market zealotry and his nationalism preclude him from accepting that the government and the international community have vital roles to play. (emphasis mine)

...Nowhere has he been more wrong than with the Iraq war. This marks the true nadir of Weigel’s career. Completely ignoring his beloved John Paul II, Weigel engaged in mental gymnastics with the just war teaching, twisting and contorting it to defend the indefensible—the unprovoked “preventive” invasion and occupation of Iraq...This set in motion a catastrophic train of events, including the utter annihilation of the ancient Christian community in Iraq. Not only did Weigel once again provide cheap intellectual cover for his political overlords, but he has never taken any personal responsibility whatsoever for the evil consequences that flowed from his dreadful advice. Aren’t Republicans supposed to be big on personal responsibility? (emphasis mine)

...He also doesn’t shy away from getting nasty and personal. I’ve already mentioned his mockery of Cardinal’s Turkson’s office in the context of Caritas in Veritate. He did the same thing when Justice and Peace issued its financial reform document in 2011, opining that it came from the “lower echelons of the Roman Curia”. And in the context of the recent symposium on climate change, he refers to the distinguished chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences/ Social Sciences as “a third-tier Vatican official with a taste for gauchiste politics and self-promotion”.

This is offensive stuff, and it’s time to draw the line. It’s time to stop taking George Weigel seriously, because his analysis is profoundly unserious. He is a relic of an undistinguished time, a leading instigator of a terrible ecclesial experiment. It’s time to change direction, and chart a new—but actually more traditional—course.
Some strong words, both ways. But where does the Official Church stand on the much-maligned matter of social justice? Writing in the New Oxford Review, a conservative/traditional Catholic magazine, Thomas Storck provides this perspective:
One area in which such confusion has been created during these years is that of the Church’s social doctrine. There are many reasons for this, one being that the doctrine was not well known or well received in some quarters even before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Another reason is that, as American society has become more politically polarized since the 1970s, in the minds of some Catholics anything that seems to call into question the fundamental justice of the American capitalist system is suspect. Take, for example, the term “social justice.” Pope Pius XI introduced this term into Catholic teaching in his encyclical Studiorum Ducem (1923). He later made extensive use of it in two landmark encyclicals, Quadragesimo Anno (1931) and Divini Redemptoris (1937). Subsequent popes have used it on a regular basis. But for some Catholics this term has the sound of an innovation, even a departure from Catholic doctrine. Of course, this is silly, for social justice is a legitimate development of the doctrine of the virtues dating back to Aristotle and is nowhere near being a new teaching. It is simply a new name given to a certain aspect of what was once known as “legal justice.” But for many who are not aware of the Aristotelian and Thomistic distinctions between the various forms of justice, “social justice” has a strange, foreign-sounding, socialist ring to it. Where did it come from, they might wonder. Unfortunately, there are too few around who can explain its origin or that it is simply a logical extension of age-old Catholic teaching on justice. Even among those who claim to champion social justice there are not many who could define it according to the mind of the Church

...Take another phrase, “preferential option for the poor.” Admittedly, this term does not have the pedigree of the earlier one, for it originated in 1968 and was coined by the superior general of the Society of Jesus, not by a pope. St. John Paul II, however, employed the phrase in his encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991), wherein he explained that the concept “is not limited to material poverty, since it is well known that there are many other forms of poverty, especially in modern society — not only economic but cultural and spiritual poverty as well. The Church’s love for the poor, which is essential for her and a part of her constant tradition, impels her to give attention to a world in which poverty is threatening to assume massive proportions” (no. 57).

...I can hear someone object, but almsgiving is voluntary, and that means one can give when one wants and however much (or little) one wants. No one can compel others to give, especially not the government. Too often, say these critics, present-day crusaders for social justice and a preferential option for the poor want to compel such aid, which surely is an act of theft.

As in the case of social justice, we must gently tell such critics that they are mistaken. Although voluntary almsgiving will certainly always be a necessary part of a Christian’s duty, both the duty and the justice of state aid to the poor have deep roots in Catholic history and doctrine, and have been expressly taught at least since Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891), and even more clearly by Pius XI and later popes. One of the reasons the state’s duty of aiding the poor was not set forth in the same manner in earlier times was that the notion of the state as something separate from the monarch’s personal household was not fully articulated. Christian kings and nobles always gave alms, and no one questioned whether the funds they used belonged to them personally or to the government or to the commonwealth as a whole, as there was no clear distinction between these. The notion that money raised by the king through taxation could not be used for the poor would have been seen as preposterous to our Catholic ancestors.

...Today one can find Catholics with a zeal for social justice and for the poor who ignore most of the rest of Catholic teaching on faith and morals; similarly, one can find Catholics with a zeal for correct doctrine and good personal morals who ignore the Church’s heritage of care for the poor and her zeal for justice. Both camps might learn from each other, for to be an authentic and orthodox Catholic absolutely requires adherence to all that the Church sets forth for us to believe and do. The Catholic who ignores or belittles social justice is as much a cafeteria Catholic as is he who ignores or belittles teachings on sexual morality. When, one wonders, will the majority of Catholics finally learn that we cannot pick and choose among the Church’s teachings, and that the political divisions of the world have no place in the household of God?
Worth noting is Storck's reply to a letter to the editor further criticizing social justice in the July-August 2014 edition:
...Charity toward the poor and an apostolate for social justice are two distinct things, but the Church has generally been distinguished in both of these areas. With regard to the latter, from at least the 1930s on, Catholics maintained a robust apostolate of social justice, featuring labor priests (priests assigned to minister to the labor movement who in some cases actively aided unions in strikes), the beginnings of the Catholic Worker movement, and above all, the encyclicals of popes such as Pius XI, who were not afraid of harshly criticizing the capitalist economic system. How I’d love to see a return to those days! Today, on the other hand, many Catholics seem to think that we must choose between “religious exercises and devotions” or social justice, but our fathers in the faith knew better, knew indeed that they are intimately connected. The first without the second is a false and empty religion; the second without the first is mere social work or political activity...Mr. Borger [the letter writer] appears to have an incomplete understanding of Catholic social doctrine. It is not a matter of a “European preference for a planned, centrally controlled economy,” as he suggests... But unfortunately I fear that Mr. Borger’s difficulty goes beyond a simple misunderstanding. He seems determined to cling to his economic ideas, even if they can be shown to differ from those of the Church. He goes on to say that conservative Catholics believe that the U.S. has “done very well with economic freedom, and they oppose any scheme, even if it comes from the Vatican, that compromises that freedom. If that makes conservative Catholics like me who subscribe to this viewpoint ‘cafeteria Catholics,’ as Storck charges, then so be it.”

Well, at least Mr. Borger is honest. He makes no bones about his willingness to be a dissenting Catholic. Need more be said? For myself, I make no apologies for adhering to all the teachings of the Church. But for Mr. Borger, America, and not the Church, seems to be his primary loyalty. All I can add is that I hope Mr. Borger will not be too surprised when he is joined in his dissent from Catholic teaching by others — proponents of abortion and same-sex “marriage,” for example — who also delight in American freedom and who, like Mr. Borger, find their deepest identity as Americans, not Catholics...
The rise of 20th century atheist Communism prioritized the focus on free markets for many religious people in the U.S. But even John Paul II was able to stay grounded as Communists had advanced, but were ultimately defeated in his native Eastern Europe. Before Communism was (Protestant) Calvinism, which ultimately flourished in the states by the 18th century. People were free, but were on their own to make their own way. The need for alms meant lack of work ethic, which was among the worst vices. This became part of the American spirit's DNA, and is prime to the libertarians and current G.O.P., thus, what's popularly "conservative." So in the "logic" of guys like Voris, Weigel, the letter writer above, and even certain younger "traditional" priests I've known, the suppression of social justice -- which is indeed more in line with today's Democrats (but also many European right-of-center groups) -- both in the Church and in society, will actually help restore the Church to her former glory. As Voris thunders, it's all about "saving souls," nothing else. But how do you save souls -- starting with your own -- if as a spokesman for TRUE Catholic teaching, you rip apart well-established Papal teaching -- that preceded Vatican II?? Truly thinking with the Church would be a start.

Conformity and Passivity Among America's Younger Generation

Dr. Bruce Levine is one of my very most favorite psychologists. You'll see why, as he wrote:
...Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said “No.” Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?

1. Student-Loan Debt: Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt. Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt. During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt. In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life.

2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance. In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.” Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the legendary organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.” Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010); a major reason for this, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).

3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy: Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.” A generation ago, the problem of compulsory schooling as a vehicle for an authoritarian society was widely discussed, but as this problem has gotten worse, it is seldom discussed. The nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and that they are impotent to affect their situation. A teacher can lecture about democracy, but schools are essentially undemocratic places, and so democracy is not what is instilled in students. Jonathan Kozol in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home focused on how school breaks us from courageous actions. Kozol explains how our schools teach us a kind of “inert concern” in which “caring”—in and of itself and without risking the consequences of actual action—is considered “ethical.” School teaches us that we are “moral and mature” if we politely assert our concerns, but the essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.

4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top”: The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society. Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of test creators; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and challenging and resisting illegitimate authority. In a more democratic and less authoritarian society, one would evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher not by corporatocracy-sanctioned standardized tests but by asking students, parents, and a community if a teacher is inspiring students to be more curious, to read more, to learn independently, to enjoy thinking critically, to question authorities, and to challenge illegitimate authorities.

5. Shaming Young People Who Take Education—But Not Their Schooling—Seriously. In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but this is good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.” However, the more schooling Americans get, the more politically ignorant they are of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class. In the 1880s and 1890s, American farmers with little or no schooling created a Populist movement that organized America’s largest-scale working people’s cooperative, formed a People’s Party that received 8 percent of the vote in 1892 presidential election, designed a “subtreasury” plan (that had it been implemented would have allowed easier credit for farmers and broke the power of large banks) and sent 40,000 lecturers across America to articulate it, and evidenced all kinds of sophisticated political ideas, strategies and tactics absent today from America’s well-schooled population. Today, Americans who lack college degrees are increasingly shamed as “losers”; however, Gore Vidal and George Carlin, two of America’s most astute and articulate critics of the corporatocracy, never went to college, and Carlin dropped out of school in the ninth grade.

6. The Normalization of Surveillance: The fear of being surveilled makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s e-mail and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance because, beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes. Increasingly, I talk with young people who lack the confidence that they can even pull off a party when their parents are out of town, and so how much confidence are they going to have about pulling off a democratic movement below the radar of authorities?

7. Television: In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone. American children average eight hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use). Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards). Television is a “dream come true” for an authoritarian society: those with the most money own most of what people see; fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy; TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities; and regardless of the programming, TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically. While playing a video games is not as zombifying as passively viewing TV, such games have become for many boys and young men their only experience of potency, and this “virtual potency” is certainly no threat to the ruling elite.

8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism: American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking. While some progressives are fond of calling fundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism. Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways. Fundamentalist consumerism destroys self-reliance, creating people who feel completely dependent on others and who are thus more likely to turn over decision-making power to authorities, the precise mind-set that the ruling elite loves to see. A fundamentalist consumer culture legitimizes advertising, propaganda, and all kinds of manipulations, including lies; and when a society gives legitimacy to lies and manipulativeness, it destroys the capacity of people to trust one another and form democratic movements. Fundamentalist consumerism also promotes self-absorption, which makes it difficult for the solidarity necessary for democratic movements.
See the link here.

More status-quo conformity in the Sweet Land of Liberty, I guess. But what does this translate into, more or less? Here's one major aspect.
So what's the intellectual net effect on this generation? See for yourself.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Proposed White House Council on Boys and Men

One facet of today's activism for equality between men and women is the campaign to establish a White House Council on Boys and Men. Warren Farrell, Ph.D., author of the seminal Myth of Male Power (1993) and Father and Child Reunion (2001) (among other works) is leading the formation of this council, to function in a presidential advisory capacity. It remains to be seen whether any major presidential candidate -- let alone any presidential administration -- will adopt this Council, as its eye is firmly planted on the wellbeing of the other half of society (since the White House currently has its Council on Girls and Women already set up). Since I'm not a part of the Council myself, I'll let Dr. Farrell do the explaining:



As Dr. Farrell recalls his few moments with President Johnson, I recall my relatively brief interview face to face with Dr. Farrell himself, seated in the very living room pictured in the video above, five years ago this month.

Should this campaign be about a competition between girls and women vs. boys and men? Obviously, no! And that's precisely why this proposal deserves more than a fair hearing. According to the executive summary on Council's web page:

"The Commission identifies problems at a crisis level in five areas: education, emotional health, physical health, father involvement and work."

That's right -- CRISIS LEVEL. Not decline, not areas of concern. But a crisis.
Now men's right's activism in general, and the less abrasive-sounding "gender equity movement" has disproportionally focused on father's rights (i.e., involvement) for the last 30 to 40 years. Campaigning against men paying alimony and child support to former wives who essentially "own" the children and have various levels of legal sanction to deny access to the fathers (thus leading to fatherlessness) has long been the movement's thrust. But it has not gained its well-deserved attention, by way of media attention and legal reform, in the decades that date rape, sexual harassment, and wage gaps were presumably weighing against women, and were all the craze for Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams (and a vast array of other major media and cultural figures). But even as men's activism (which seemingly hasn't quite gained the visibility in the U.S. that it has elsewhere in the Anglosphere) still heavily places its efforts into lobbying for shared custodial rights for fathers -- still a much unresolved issue -- decay in the lots of boys and men has taken shape in the other major life areas as well.


Given what has become this blog's populist bent, I'm going to hone in on the Council's fifth component, work, a lengthy excerpt enumerated on the Council's web page (and mostly listed below). Any of my further comments will be in italics at the bottom.
Item. One of every five men 25 to 54 isn’t working.

Item. Half of African-American young men ages 20-24 is jobless.

Item. Many of the jobs lost in the recession (e.g., manufacturing, construction) aren’t coming back.

The recession was dubbed a “mancession” because 78% of jobs lost were held by men. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, men’s unemployment rate in September 2010 was 22% higher than women’s—one of the largest gaps since the government began collecting such data. And employment for minority men and male blue-collar workers without a college education has been dropping dramatically.

The future does not bode well for men’s employment. While women are more likely to hold jobs in stable sectors that are more recession-proof, like health and education (averaging 75% women), men are more likely to hold jobs in sectors that are outsourced overseas—such as computer technology and Internet-based jobs. In the past, the problem was a man’s job going nowhere; in the future, the problem is men’s jobs going elsewhere.

The good news is that the fields women dominate are in growth mode: healthcare and social assistance are expected to grow by 24%; employment in public and private educational services is anticipated to grow by 12%. The bad news is that the fields men dominate are either in decline or especially vulnerable to recessions—such as construction and manufacturing.

Theoretically, some would say it should make no difference whether a woman or man earns the family’s money. In reality, though, few women choose husbands reading Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus in the unemployment line. A man with little earning potential is less likely to find a wife, more likely to find himself divorced, and, once divorced, more likely to feel disconnected from his children. And as mentioned above, unemployed men commit suicide at twice the rate of employed men. An unemployed man is everyone’s loss. (emphasis mine)

Making Work Work: the Council’s Role

Those of our sons who might formerly have prepared for assembly line work are finding their skills are replaced not only by outsourcing but also by automation. In areas as diverse as advanced medical devices to wind turbines, a White House Council on Boys and Men can help these boys prepare instead for the type of demand employers need for the future: “people who can operate sophisticated computerized machinery, follow complex blueprints and demonstrate higher math proficiency than was previously required of the typical assembly line worker.” A first step is restoring vocation to education.

Restoring Vocation to Education. The decrease in vocational and technical education in high schools has left many boys who are less academically inclined feeling there is nothing they are good at. With no sense of purpose, and low self-esteem, they drop out of school—and life.

Two new Obama Administration initiatives look promising: the High Growth Job Training Initiative, which is designed to prepare more people for success in advanced manufacturing, aerospace, biotechnology, energy, geospatial technology and automotive; and the Green Career-Technical Programs initiative, a five-state pilot program that will prepare students for careers in wind and solar energy, transportation, and waste management.

The Council would co-ordinate these new efforts with the best of current programs such as The Green Hounds Academy at California’s Atascadero High School that prepares students for sustainability careers (while building their skills in math, science, and technology) and that of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Technology Centers That Work, where students learn academics in the context of a technology-centric career of a student’s choice.

Study Successes in Other Countries.

Item. In Japan, 23% of high school graduates study at vocational schools; 99.6% of them find employment after graduation.

Japan’s vocational schools are part of its higher education system, but many of its students enter the program without having completed high school.

Finland and Germany have also developed models that bear examining. In Finland, 38% of students go to vocational school after completing their compulsory education (usually around age 17).

More than two million German students attend its vocational schools. Germany’s program is distinctive in that students spend part of the week in school and part in an apprenticeship. It is a joint effort of government, unions, companies, and chambers of commerce. Students are paid a modest stipend.

The Council’s review of such programs might focus on creating a blueprint for their adaptation to U.S. culture and needs.

Expanding the Concept of Man’s Work. As the nation shifts from a manufacturing to a service/knowledge economy, health and education are growing sectors. Just as we have supported our daughters to enter STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, a White House Council can co-ordinate efforts to prepare boys in what might be called HE (health and education) careers (instead of health and education being, in effect, “she” careers). Preparing our sons to be elementary school teachers, for example, serves four purposes: our children get a balance of male and female teachers; our sons are trained for more stable careers; our sons our trained for careers giving them more preparation to raise children; our children’s families will have more confidence to exercise the flexibility of a dad raising children.

Just as “man’s work” now includes more women as a result of pro-active efforts like scholarships for women in math, science and technology, so integrating men into female- dominated fields such as nursing and social work, may require parallel efforts for boys and men. The Council might devote special attention to fields such as social work in which the very mission of the profession—helping families—requires equal sensitivity to both genders. A starting place would be the balancing of social work programs with equal numbers of men— especially men with leadership experience in the communities they will be serving.

“Team executive positions.” “Men’s work” was built on the male-as-sole-breadwinner model in which the most successful men, whether CEOs or MDs, had responsibilities they fulfilled for to up to 90-hour weeks. Increasingly men want more time with their family, and many companies see that a good home life benefits work life. Companies that value these men— and their female equivalents— but that also want to compete globally, will need to re-invent the infrastructure of a top-level-executive position. For example, instead of one person handling global demands 24/7 until, as the Japanese say, he or she experiences “Karoshi” (“death by overwork”), the executive position is shared by a team of men and women, allowing each individual to work fewer hours but the team to be “on it” globally 24/7, using technology to communicate on selected overlapping hours. Such innovations would need the support of educational changes such as MBA courses in “teamwork training” educating teams to co- ordinate communication about one function.

Suicide Prevention. Whether in a hazardous job or a management position, when a man is in fear of losing his job he is often in fear of a domino effect—a job loss leading to the loss of his wife’s respect to the loss of his marriage and potentially the ability to see his children. When combined with his propensity to suppress these feelings rather than express them, it is apparent why unemployed men commit suicide at twice the rate of employed men. A White House Council can identify the best programs in progress, such as Working Minds, to, for example, expand their mission to help MBA programs teach future managers to look under men’s masks to discover the symptoms of suicide; work with Human Resource Divisions to detect the signs of depression and suicide; work with unemployment agencies to know how to handle signs of depression and suicide among unemployed men; and identify co-operative ventures with churches to help men have a safe haven and hope.

Communications Skills Programs at Work. Similar to the way in which male-dominated work places created Human Resources (HR) divisions to maximize women’s potential, in the female-dominated HE (Health and Education) fields, Human Resource divisions can assist women to maximize men’s potential. This is long overdue since the responsibilities of men in the workplace over centuries evolved methods of accountability (e.g., hierarchies) and communicating (sport analogies; sexual jokes as ice-breakers; wit-covered put-downs to test for humility) that, even when they served a purpose, were never properly articulated to women. The Council can provide leadership for the next generation’s HR mandate to include communicating what men didn’t: women can’t hear what men don’t say.

Beyond gender dialogue is the need for both sexes to be better trained in the handling of feedback that is not positive, so fewer workers feel they are “walking on eggshells,” and there is less need for gossip as a substitute for communication. The more complex communication becomes, the nation that is the pioneer of listening to criticism non-defensively will have a global advantage.

Examining Boys’ Motivation to Work. A White House Council would examine why young men are pulling back from the very essence of what used to be male: passionate motivation to succeed at work, school and life.

Coordinate with Women. Since families that succeed in the future will be more likely to have both our sons and daughters able to “row on both sides of the boat” (both sexes able to raise money and raise children) there is a need to co-ordinate the efforts on behalf of girls and women with the efforts of this Council on behalf of boys and men. This includes going beyond government programs, and finding the best of what exists rather than re-inventing the wheel. For example, the program Are You Man Enough to Be a Nurse? attempts to increase the number of male nurses; and programs at IBM and Deloitte & Touche help both genders communicate...

Conclusion: the Future of our Sons and their Work

Nothing has defined men more than work. Nothing has confined men more than work. Nothing has made men more worthy of women than work. And nothing has made men’s parents more proud than their son’s success at work. Men’s work has created monuments to men. Men’s work has created straight-jackets for men.

Perhaps the most significant human accomplishment in the U.S. during the past half-century is our new awareness that defining women in one way left women confined to one way. For women, that “one way” was being a mother. We replaced that with an era of multi-option women: married women with children had more permission to work full-time; be a mom full- time; or do some combination of both. Yet one of our great accomplishments has been to retain the value of mothering, expand its flexibility (child care at work), and use technology to support women’s flexibility.

Now it is time for the parallel process to take place for our sons. Replacing the era of the one- option man (being valued only if he works full-time) with an era of multi-option men: for example, if our son is married with children, demonstrating respect if he: works full-time; fathers full-time; or does some combination of both.

One of the great accomplishments of the next era must be to retain the high value of men as workers, and also use technology to support men’s flexibility as workers.

A Council would explore the impact of imparting to our sons that pay is not about power, but that controlling his life is real power. It would help parents, mentors and teachers to guide our sons to consider, prior to our son choosing a career, that few men say on their death bed “I wish I spent more time at work;” and few of their children will go to a psychologist saying “I didn’t get enough money from my dad.” The gift of giving our sons a glimpse of life’s blueprint is the gift of fewer male mid-life crises and more life long marriages; fewer alcoholic dads, and more devoted dads.

Being a great man, like being a great woman, is creating the work-life balance that is appropriate to his personality, cognizant of the trade-offs of each decision, and true to the commitments he makes as he takes the journey from boy to man.
NOTE: These concepts and areas will be greatly expounded upon in my own male-female/men's rights book (with my own insights). Over the years, Dr. Farrell has pointed to discrimination against men in areas of education and health care -- both generally female-dominated. I believe this discrimination may be expanding into other fields as well, as human resources agents are mostly women and see their fellow females as more obedient to orders, likely to follow rules, etc. Men have always been more likely to be more pioneering, which can cause trouble in today's hyper-conformist American corporate environment. As for VOC TECH: on its face, this seems to pose a contradiction. Voc tech programs are usually high school and/or apprentice-based, not so much a part of formal higher education -- and are already very male dominated in a number of technical/industrial areas. We read above that we need more voc-tech. But young men who are already in voc tech training are obviously not counted among the female-dominant four-year college population, and this is "bad" for men. Lower college matriculation is much the subject of the Council's "Component 1." (see its web page). So what gives? As broadly outlined above, this proposal would RIGHTFULLY raise voc tech education to a whole new realm, expanding it more into higher education with newer, more advanced, scientifically-based technical curricula (though perhaps not likely into a standard, four-year bachelor's degree format). Raising Voc Tech's status will likely mean diverting existing educational resources into it (hopefully away from useless college majors). If in Japan, men are expected to work and be providers, the necessary tools and framework are at their disposal. But not in female-centric America -- and that's exactly what a list like the one above demonstrates.

As David Wessel wrote in the Wall Street Journal back in May 2010:
Americans have worried for decades that the economy won't produce enough jobs. But the economy always provided. As farm jobs were eliminated by mechanization, factories hired more. As factories increased productivity and moved work offshore, more Americans got jobs in health care and other services. And the economists said to all those who had been worried about perennial, persistent unemployment: We told you so!

Yet nothing in the textbooks says that the supply and demand for workers will intersect at a wage that is socially acceptable. At the high end, demand for skilled workers and those who rely on their brains will return when the economy does. At the other end, jobs in restaurants, nursing homes and health clubs—the jobs that are hard to automate or outsource—will come back, too.

In the middle, there will be some jobs for workers without much education, for the plumbers, electricians and software technicians. But not enough to go around.

Men who in an earlier era would have been making good money on the assembly line are, and will be, working security or greeting at Wal-Mart, jobs that almost anyone can do and thus jobs that don't pay well. (emphasis mine)
I think that the Council's list (above) speaks for itself, including the item concerning boys' motivation to work (or not work). How much support is society giving to men to make a decent living? There seems to be somewhat of an emerging internal debate on this, however: Dr. Leonard Sax, author of the 2007 book, "Boys Adrift," devoted an entire chapter in his book entitled, "End Result: Failure to Launch." It was a summary of a 2006 Washington Post article he penned about male underachievement (and its echoes in pop culture), and a subsequent live chat between Dr. Sax and a number of readers: based upon his replies to many of the reader comments, it became clear that Dr. Sax believes that many young adult men (especially those who live with their parents for free past the age of 21 or so) CHOOSE the easy life, taking advantage of doting mothers who clean up and cook for them, and the fact that they no longer have to provide for women (who can attain careers and resources of their own). If these "boys" would rather play video games than do undesirable jobs (that theoretically would still provide a gainful enough living, with opportunities widely available in today's market) and be self-sufficient, as Sax postulates, wouldn't that render most of the Council's points about men and work as "excuses" for male underachievement? So men can make it working at Wal-Mart, after all? Unfortunately, Dr. Sax is on the commission for the Council on Men and Boys. Wouldn't the lack of adequate training opportunities, the discrimination, the sheer lack of gainful jobs, and sheer degradation by women objectifying men over their wallets more than suffice as explanations for men not fulfilling their potential in too many cases?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

LATEST ARTICLE: Young Adulthood in the Catholic Church



In light of much other activity, I neglected to mention my latest article published in the Berkeley, CA-based New Oxford Review. It is entitled, "Who Are the Millennial Catholics?" and is found here. The journal's paywall is still up, but if interested in reading the entire article, email the editor, Pieter Vree, at pietervree@newoxfordreview.org.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Independence in Today's American, Status-Quo Authority Society


This past Independence (i.e. 4th of July) weekend earlier this month, I thought about the value and meaning of being in a free society. But my reflecting didn't go too far beyond reports and commentaries that we, as the people, and as the reputed greatest democracy on planet Earth, are trending AWAY from personal liberties, and towards a far more dense culture of conformity.


Let me be clear from the jump: I'm not saying modern America is comparable to life even in today's Russia under the regime of Alexander Putin, or China's continued controlling regime, and certainly not like Arab and Muslim societies under Sharia Law. But based on the premises of our own founding, the grounds have clearly shifted, according to this research:

The idea that personal liberty defines America is deeply rooted, and shared across the political spectrum. The lifestyle radicals of the ’60s saw themselves as heirs to this American tradition of self-expression; today, it energizes the Tea Party movement, marching to defend individual liberty from the smothering grasp of European-style collectivism.

But are Americans really so uniquely individualistic? Are we, for example, more committed individualists than people in those socialist-looking nations of Europe? The answer appears to be no.

For many years now, researchers worldwide have been conducting surveys to compare the values of people in different countries. And when it comes to questions about how much the respondents value the individual against the collective — that is, how much they give priority to individual interest over the demand of groups, or personal conscience over the orders of authority — Americans consistently answer in a way that favors the group over the individual. In fact, we are more likely to favor the group than Europeans are.

Surprising as it may sound, Americans are much more likely than Europeans to say that employees should follow a boss’s orders even if the boss is wrong; to say that children “must” love their parents; and to believe that parents have a duty to sacrifice themselves for their children. We are more likely to defer to church leaders and to insist on abiding by the law. Though Americans do score high on a couple of aspects of individualism, especially where it concerns government intervening in the market, in general we are likelier than Europeans to believe that individuals should go along and get along. (emphasis mine)

...The International Social Survey Programme, or ISSP, and the World Value Surveys, or WVS, are probably the longest-running, most reliable such projects. Starting with just a handful of countries, both now pose the same questions to respondents from dozens of nations.

Their findings suggest that in several major areas, Americans are clearly less individualistic than western Europeans. One topic pits individual conscience against the demands of the state. In 2006, the ISSP asked the question “In general, would you say that people should obey the law without exception, or are there exceptional occasions on which people should follow their consciences even if it means breaking the law?” At 45 percent, Americans were the least likely out of nine nationalities to say that people should at least on occasion follow their consciences — far fewer than, for example, the Swedes (70 percent) and the French (78 percent). Similarly, in 2003, Americans turned out to be the most likely to embrace the statement “People should support their country even if the country is in the wrong.” (emphasis mine)

But here's the upshot:

American individualism is far more complex than our national myths, or the soap-box rhetoric of right and left, would have it. It is not individualism in the libertarian sense, the idea that the individual comes before any group and that personal freedom comes before any allegiance to authority. Research suggests that Americans do adhere to a particular strain of liberty — one that emerged in the New World — in which freedom to choose your allegiance is tempered by the expectation that you won’t stray from the values of the group you choose.

Moreover:

The nature of individualism is complex, however, and there are at least a couple of ways that Americans in the ISSP and similar surveys do appear more individualistic than Europeans. For one, Americans are usually the most likely to say that individuals determine their own fates. What happens to you is your own doing, not the product of external circumstances. For Americans, things are the way they are because individuals made choices.

Yeah, in other words, take "personal responsibility" and don't have a "bad attitude" about whatever goes wrong for you. Don't think in any way of blaming the authority structure that has you under its foot. Things are the way they are -- period.

And what does this give us to celebrate as (a clearly emasculated) nation and society? Besides copious economic opportunity today and a wonderful free market enabling it, not a whole hell of a lot. Perhaps how there's less crime than there used to be, and how we're so much safer? While I'm on this anti-authority kick, consider this growing problem, outlined on The American Conservative blog:

Here are seven reasons why police misconduct is a systemic problem, not “a few bad apples”:

1. Many departments don’t provide adequate training in nonviolent solutions.

This is particularly obvious when it comes to dealing with family pets. “Police kill family dog” is practically its own subgenre of police brutality reports, and most of these cases—like the story of the Minnesota children who were made to sit, handcuffed, next to their dead and bleeding pet—are all too preventable. Some police departments have begun to train their officers to deal more appropriately with pets, but Thomas Aveni of the Police Policy Studies Council, a police consulting firm, says it’s still extremely rare. In the absence of this training, police are less likely to view violence as a last resort.

2. Standards for what constitutes brutality vary widely.

“Excess is in the eyes of the beholder,” explains William Terrill, a former police officer and professor of criminal justice at Michigan State. “To one officer ‘objectively reasonable’ means that if you don’t give me your license, I get to use soft hands, and in another town the same resistance means I can pull you through the car window, [or] I can tase you.” The special deference police are widely given in American culture feeds this inconsistency of standards, producing something of a legal Wild West. While national legislation would likely only complicate matters further, local or state-wide ballot propositions should allow the public—not the police—to define reasonable use of force.

3. Consequences for misconduct are minimal.

In central New Jersey, for instance, 99 percent of police brutality complaints are never investigated. Nor can that be explained away as stereotypical New Jersey corruption. Only one out of every three accused cops are convicted nationwide, while the conviction rate for civilians is literally double that. In Chicago, the numbers are even more skewed: There were 10,000 abuse complaints filed against the Chicago PD between 2002 and 2004, and just 19 of them ”resulted in meaningful disciplinary action.” On a national level, upwards of 95 percent of police misconduct cases referred for federal prosecution are declined by prosecutors because, as reported in USA Today, juries “are conditioned to believe cops, and victims’ credibility is often challenged.” Failure to remedy this police/civilian double standard cultivates an abuse-friendly legal environment.

4. Settlements are shifted to taxpayers.

Those officers who are found guilty of brutality typically find the settlement to their victims paid from city coffers. Research from Human Rights Watch reveals that in some places, taxpayers “are paying three times for officers who repeatedly commit abuses: once to cover their salaries while they commit abuses; next to pay settlements or civil jury awards against officers; and a third time through payments into police ‘defense’ funds provided by the cities.” In larger cities, these settlements easily cost the public tens of millions of dollars annually while removing a substantial incentive against police misconduct.

5. Minorities are unfairly targeted.

“Simply put,” says University of Florida law professor Katheryn K. Russell, “the public face of a police brutality victim is a young man who is Black or Latino.” In this case, research suggests perception matches reality. To give a particularly striking example, one Florida city’s “stop and frisk” policy has been explicitly aimed at all black men. Since 2008, this has led to 99,980 stops which did not produce an arrest in a city with a population of just 110,000. One man alone was stopped 258 times at his job in four years, and arrested for trespassing while working on 62 occasions. Failure to address this issue communicates to police that minorities are a safe target for abuse.

6. Police are increasingly militarized.

During President Obama’s gun control push, he argued that “weapons of war have no place on our streets;” but as Radley Balko has amply documented in his 2013 book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, local police are often equipped with weapons powerful enough to conquer a small country. Police use of highly armed SWAT teams has risen by 1,500 percent in the last two decades, and many police departments have cultivated an “us vs. them” mentality toward the public they ostensibly serve. Although possession of these weapons does not cause misconduct, as the old saying goes, when you have a hammer everything begins to look like a nail.

7. Police themselves say misconduct is remarkably widespread.

Here’s the real clincher. A Department of Justice study revealed that a whopping 84 percent of police officers report that they’ve seen colleagues use excessive force on civilians, and 61 percent admit they don’t always report “even serious criminal violations that involve abuse of authority by fellow officers.”

This self-reporting moves us well beyond anecdote into the realm of data: Police brutality is a pervasive problem, exacerbated by systemic failures to curb it. That’s not to say that every officer is ill-intentioned or abusive, but it is to suggest that the common assumption that police are generally using their authority in a trustworthy manner merits serious reconsideration. As John Adams wrote to Jefferson, “Power always thinks it has a great soul,” and it cannot be trusted if left unchecked.

More American heroism to be proud of, I suppose. The above list refers to AMERICAN police forces, by the way, not those in New Zealand or Western Europe.

So I suppose we can just keep on celebrating ourselves with those burgers and dogs on the grill, and perhaps some fireworks (where you won't get cuffed and stuffed in a police cruiser for lighting them, that is).

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rhode Island's Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church's Filthy History (and the filth of the American Church in general...)


Early last November, the Rev. Father Bernard A. Healey, present pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, posted photos on the parish web site of the church sign, with its trademark crimson outline with gold lettering, blown face down by a wind gust.

Located in the affluent, bayside town of East Greenwich, a suburb minutes south of Providence via I-95 and Route 4, Our Lady of Mercy (O.L.M.) Church is the spiritual home to over 2,000 area households. Its adjacent Our Lady of Mercy School educates students, grades K-8, from the parish and surrounding communities.

Having lived on either side of town of East Greenwich, R.I. for almost my entire life, I was a parishioner at O.L.M. for 15 years, from 1997 to 2012. Long before then, I attended the O.L.M. parish regional grammar school for grades one and two, from fall 1985 through spring 1987. By my late youth in the late 1990's, I was attracted by the comparatively solemn, traditional-styled liturgies and choir music that the parish had adopted in its liturgies (this would become one of the church's "selling points" among area congregations). While never featuring the totally traditional, altar-pushed-back, pre-Second Vatican Council Mass entirely in Latin, its celebrations occasionally included rituals and customs somewhat uncommon in post-1960s Catholicism, leading me to a deeper level of fascination with the faith. For most of my years at O.L.M., I never quite fathomed what else this seeming spiritual hamlet – in some ways apparently so removed from the wicked, everyday world with all of its celebratory beauty and splendor – truly represented.


The church’s trademark sign being blown over by gusts of wind indicated that a choppy storm was upon this parish, very soon.

At some point in either 2010 or 2011, I was curious about the why the pastor, the late Rev. Monsignor John W. Lolio had still not set up a parish web page. Most other parishes had begun doing so in the late 90s, and O.L.M., a particularly large parish, and the spiritual home of the sitting Rhode Island governor in the 2000s, Donald Carcieri, was unfamiliar to even many lifelong Catholics from either end of this very small state. So I performed a google search for “Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I.”

The search instantly revealed the stories of Helen McGonigle and Jeff Thomas. As two O.L.M. grammar school students in the late 1960s, both were molested and repeatedly raped by the Irish missionary priest, Father Brendan Smyth. Formerly assigned to O.L.M. parish from the mid to late 1960s, Smyth had long garnered international notoriety. The following Northern Irish Television Network broadcast -- which clearly features the Rhode Island church -- demonstrates this:

EXTREME VIEWER WARNING IS IN ORDER:



See also this CNN report, also featuring O.L.M.

After the wind storm last November, came this series of reports on Providence's WJAR-TV Channel 10, the local NBC affiliate. The I-Team discovered that apparently, the Diocese -- under the leadership of Most Reverend Bishop Thomas J. Tobin -- has been referring claims of priestly impropriety to the Rhode Island State Police. In making this discovery, I-Team reporter Katie Davis obtained many of the diocese's reports to the authorities -- 45 letters with names of the accused, their accusers, and many other identifying details, all REDACTED.
So what's the rub in all of this?: As the Diocese made these reports to the state police over the course of a decade, they failed to inform the people of the Diocese simultaneously -- as is now standard under American Church policy -- of these allegations. And even then, reporter Katie Davis states:

Helen McGonigle grew up in East Greenwich where she says she was sexually abused over a four-year period in the 1960s at Our Lady of Mercy by a priest visiting Rhode Island from Ireland.
The priest was the Most Rev. Brendan Smyth, a notorious pedophile. Smyth was convicted on more than 140 counts of child molestation and died in prison in Ireland in 1997.
McGonigle said she reported her abuse to the church in 2006.
But when she read the letters uncovered by the I-Team, she found no record of her case being reported to state police.
"If they're doing it selectively, that's not right. That's absolutely not right. They have to do it in all cases, and not selectively," she said.
Bishop Thomas Tobin declined to sit down with the I-Team for an on-camera interview. But in a written statement, the diocese says all credible allegations of child sexual abuse are reported to law enforcement and that no priest credibly accused of sexual abuse is still working for the diocese in any capacity...

Given this, who the hell knows (outside of the Providence diocesan chancery) if all, most, or only some of the claims against priests, living or deceased, are being referred for investigation to state authorities. As Ms. McGonigle suggested, it certainly seems as though the diocese makes these law enforcement referrals selectively.

McGonigle (herself a trained attorney) and Thomas are suing to have the state's statute of limitations extended, in order to seek compensatory damages from the Diocese.

And let's put it this way: Brendan Smyth irrefutably went down in history as one of THE WORLD'S MOST NOTORIOUS PRIEST ABUSERS. He found himself at home in a local parish in Rhode Island that, by all indications, to this very day, HAS NOT DISCLOSED DIRECTLY, to the impacted community, the reality of Smyth's defilements of then-young children in the school, inside the actual church, and within the rectory. Just take a look at the church's elaborate web site (linked above at the top), which includes a lengthy page devoted to the parish's history. How unspeakably despicable and ruthless of them! It shows utter callousness toward the (known) victims from East Greenwich. And it CERTAINLY makes one wonder WHAT ELSE (indeed, with Smyth being long dead, apparently along with others now being reported to the R.I. State Police -- certainly then none of their rights must be protected if long ago deceased) church authorities are hiding: Obviously, bringing out the mere fact that sex abuse had occurred anywhere -- even several decades ago -- always makes people extremely weary, to say the least.

And the fact that they STILL cannot talk about it at O.L.M. Parish -- 45 years later??? Even in the face of ultra-sordid international media exposure -- with film crews literally camped out right on the church's front doorstep?????

What adds to that dimension is that since November 1999, Our Lady of Mercy has been the on-again, off-again home of the "resident" monsignor, Robert C. Evans, who would ultimately be named by The Vatican as the Providence Diocese's current auxiliary (or assistant) bishop: At that time (2009), he was the pastor of St. Phillip's Church in Greenville, R.I. Upon his initial arrival at O.L.M. Parish, where he would return after his episcopal elevation, then-Monsignor Evans was director of priest personnel for the Providence Diocese, under then-Bishop Robert E. Mulvee.



********************************************************************

By 2003 and 2004, many Catholic and conservative pundits and “intellectuals” declared the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals that erupted in 2002 to be, by and large, completely over. It had been like a massive car and truck pile-up that sparked flames, explosions, and an epic scene, to be witnessed miles away. But now the blazes were extinguished, the smoke and vehicle wreckage had been cleared, most lanes had reopened, and traffic was now flowing smoothly again. There was no getting around the accident having happened in the first place and the (perhaps permanent) damage that was done, as news choppers endlessly hovered over the disaster with cameras zoomed down upon it. It was surely all very nasty.

Likewise, the Boston archdiocese scandals of 2002 were etched into an ugly, and permanent, piece of global Catholic Church history. Boston's then-sitting archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law and his deputies were exposed and backed into the corner with their (figurative) pants down, along with several other American bishops, for covering up and obfuscating the removal of known pederast clergy. At that point, there were only condemnations to be made by faithful pundits like George Weigel, the famed Catholic writer and biographer of John Paul II, and the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic "neo-conservative" intellectual luminary, along with the many television personalities on the Eternal Word Television Network (E.W.T.N.), and even other high-ranking American prelates and clergy. What had been exposed, and had been covered-up for decades, was horrendous and undeniable. Why normal people wouldn’t be mocking the Church, after something like this happened, was even beyond the minds of stalwarts like them. To Father Neuhaus, it all came down to a lack of “fidelity, fidelity, fidelity” – even among some of the most seemingly fervent members of the U.S. hierarchy. That is, Church teachings like celibacy and chastity were never the causes of the scandals -- rather, the failure of some clergy to adhere to these very central tenets was the central pathology.

But within a year or two at most after Cardinal Law's downfall, and countless other exposures (made mostly by secular media outfits) in other dioceses (and among many religious orders as well), Weigel, Neuhaus, Catholic League president William Donohue, and other conservative Catholic notables declared that "the crisis" was "over." Priestly sex abuse in America was history, dead and buried, with the wrongdoings being avenged on the Church's own accord. Aggressive reforms of the seminary system were finally underway to root out deviants well before priestly ordination, and better psychologically equip those being ordained for the challenges of lifetime celibacy.

The American bishops – including many of those who “misguidedly” reappointed offending priests – authorized a new one-strike policy against priests who were credibly accused. This policy would work either retroactively, with priests who had past accusations lodged against them being removed from ministry, and any new accusations against anyone else, prompting their removal as well. The bishops would be paying huge sums of church funds in legal settlements (totaling in the billions) to the litigating abuse survivors, and also commissioning independent auditors to routinely drop in on them and review priest personnel files for any claims of misconduct. Compliance offices were set up in many diocesan chanceries to investigate any new abuse allegation, made by anyone, from any point in time.

This was all very groundbreaking indeed. Not only for the Church, but by comparison to any organization that serves an underage or vulnerable population. No public school system, Protestant denomination, or Boy Scout troop had established a comparable system as thorough, and seemingly so accountable, as had the American Catholic Church, to transparently manage allegations both past and present. If the media should focus specially on the Catholic Church for any reason now, it was for these innovative measures to remedy the abuse problem – rather than focusing on the abuse itself.

According to the faithful punditry, the problem now was solved, and from this point forward, ANY negative media attention to this “crisis,” -- which was no longer really a crisis except for what the media made it out to be -- was only a symptom of the secular world’s ready-to-pounce anti-Catholicism – the REAL work of the Devil. By virtue of the “one strike” policy the American bishop put in place, it was already expected that a handful of priests would still be removed from parish ministry by his Bishop from time to time, based upon old allegations. But this wasn’t to be viewed negatively as far as the Church hierarchy went: they were only demonstrating their “compliance” with the “one-strike” policy, by investigating the allegation and, even above the protestations of the accused and his lay supporters, removing the priest from his ministerial assignment if the claims warranted doing so.

Sounds good, right?

So for many of the truest Catholics, the problem was always less about the pederasty, or the cover-ups, but the mainstream, radical liberal media rage that dragged the Church through the mud over and over. There had always been evil in the Church, they rationalized, but the greater maleficence was the secular media, whose values were so opposed to those of Catholicism. The sex abuse crisis was the press's ultimate means to vanquish the Church from any influence in the public square (i.e., political influence) at best, and more so to silence the Church, and even suppress rudimentary expressions of the Faith.

Writes Weigel:
For the crisis of sexual abuse and episcopal malfeasance has been seized upon by the Church’s enemies to cripple it, morally and financially, and to cripple its leaders. That was the subtext in Boston in 2002 (where the effort was aided by Catholics who want to turn Catholicism into high-church Congregationalism, preferably with themselves in charge).

But then 2010 came along, and the Irish church abuse scandals broke open. It wasn’t just Brendan Smyth, who was convicted in Ireland in 1994, after all (though he can still claim recognition as among the worst of priestly pederasty AND pedophilia, anywhere). But dozens of other clerics who were reasonably very guilty of underage abuse came to the fore. Several bishops resigned at the request of Pope Benedict XVI, and Archbishop Martin of Dublin became a louder, more vociferous critic of the Church on this issue than perhaps any member of the American hierarchy was in the decade before. By this time, The Vatican had fully conceded the longstanding allegations of seminarian molestation against Marcal Maciel, founder of the stalwart Legionaries of Christ religious order, to be entirely true. But it was also revealed that Maciel fathered multiple children over the years – then molesting them as well.

In the now-famous book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, Light of the World (Ignatius Press, 2010), the now pope-emeritus stated the following:

"There was no overlooking the fact that what guided this press campaign was not only a sincere desire for truth, but…some pleasure in exposing the Church and…discrediting her. All that notwithstanding: one thing was always clear…we must be grateful for every disclosure. The truth…is the number-one value. And finally, the media could not have reported in this way had there not been evil in the Church herself…Even the press formerly did not take up such matters; the mentality back then was different." (Benedict XVI, Light of the World pp. 27-28, emphasis mine).

But the faithful Catholic media in America, from tuning in to Relevant Radio, watching the Eternal Word Television Network (E.W.T.N.) or flipping through the National Catholic Register newsweekly, or scrolling online publications like Catholic World Report and Crisis, HARDLY lends to the impression of gratefulness for ANY disclosure that could POSSIBLY, in any way, further reflect poorly on the American hierarchy. George Weigel said it most succinctly: the secular media are “scoundrels.” But who here is going against the will of the Pope? Who here is being hyper-hypocritical? How many "faithful" Catholic publications were the first to break open the reality of any priestly or episcopal wrongdoings??? That is, with the exception of selectively singling out a few of the liberals in the hierarchy they already disapproved of.

As Weigel commentated in The Philadelphia Inquirer (April 11, 2010):

"Far more than the public schools, far more than the teachers’ unions, far more than other organizations that regularly work with young people, and far more than countries that turn a blind eye on sex trafficking and childhood prostitution, the Catholic Church has addressed what Pope Benedict XVI has called the “filth” in its own house.
Catholicism has cleaned house in America, where the church is likely the country’s safest environment for young people today (there were six credible cases of abuse reported in 2009: six too many, but remarkably low in a community of some 68 million members)…
…That the church has too often failed to address past problems of abusive clergy has been frankly admitted by everyone from Popes John Paul II and Benedict to the U.S. bishops in 2002. In 2001, the Vatican put in place new measures that enabled the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI) to deal more swiftly and decisively with clerical abusers. Those procedures are fully operational, and Benedict is determined to make them work – and to change any remaining sectors of the church that resist dealing with the church’s “filth.” Recent reporting on Catholic sexual-abuse problems, however, has frequently been factually inaccurate and irresponsible.
It is charged that the church threatens whistle-blowers with excommunication; that is not true..."

Apparently, ongoing episodes like the pederast cover-ups of, and the possible personal homosexual misconduct by the current Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis, and cases like this one in New Jersey count as the Bishops' "house cleaning." Then there's this from the (albeit quite left-wing) National Catholic Reporter, which was among the first (of any) media outfit in the U.S. to expose Maciel:

The yearly audit of U.S. Catholic dioceses' compliance with national measures to report and prevent clergy sexual abuse found a decline in the number of reported cases of abuse from July 2012 to June 2013 but also cited concerns about the limited scope of the auditors' abilities...During the finding period -- July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013 -- 857 survivors of clergy sexual abuse reported 936 allegations of abuse in 191 dioceses, the audit reports, a decline from the 921 survivors who reported abuse in the previous audit period...In the recent report, 472 allegations were deemed by the audit "unable to be proven"; 223 had an investigation ongoing; 136 were deemed "substantiated"; 78 "unsubstantiated"; and 27 had not yet been investigated. Abuse allegations were dated from the 1920s to the present...The bishops' conference is mandated to conduct the audit under their "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," adopted in 2002 following explosive press coverage of clergy sexual abuse cases. Bishops, while strongly encouraged to participate, cannot be required to do so as national conferences are not granted oversight authority of individual bishops by the Vatican or the church's canon law...The reports do not mention the two clergy sexual abuse cases that garnered the most attention in the last year: In St. Paul, Minn., where an archdiocesan chancellor resigned in April 2013 saying allegations went unreported in the diocese; and in Newark, N.J., where an archdiocesan priest was arrested in May 2013 for maintaining contact with children despite a court agreement not to do so....(emphasis mine)
Sounds like a Swiffer mop being used to "clean" a clogged sewer.

Indeed, Pope Benedict displayed that determination (unlike his sainted predecessor, for the most part), but did he continue to badmouth the media for raising the "unfair" stink? Weigel (who even wrote the preface to the English edition of Light of the World) sure does, including his protracted defense of the Legion's founder, Maciel. The innate fallacy of Weigel's "reasoning" is comparing the negative publicity between the Catholic Church and non-religious entities like public schools and the Boy Scouts.

That inane comparison between the levels of (sacred versus secular) organizational bad-publicity, based on sex abuse claims, was seemingly pioneered by Catholic author Dave Pierre, who launched this diatribe against the WJAR-TV investigation from last November. Pierre's sentiment about the Channel 10 series was snidely echoed by liturgical doyenne Father John Zuhlsdorf. But these individuals are both pretty extreme clericalists, and hardly hide the fact. Pierre thunders away:

...while WJAR reporter Katie Davis proudly proclaimed the papers as "detailing sexual abuse by Rhode Island Roman Catholic priests," what is most noteworthy about the documents is the large number of bogus accusations and outright attempts of fraud against the Church, none of which was mentioned by Davis.

Media credence and mental illness

The documents contain a number of claims which are clearly untrue and even preposterous:
◾an "obviously troubled individual" made "numerous calls" to the diocese claiming that a priest who had never been accused of anything was "a pedophile and had killed a young boy and buried him on the church property" (doc);...
...◾a woman under intense mental health treatment for nearly two decades came forward to make a claim of abuse of "unwanted and unsolicited hugging and kissing" by a priest back in the 1960s (doc);
Davis apparently embraced all of the allegations she read without expressing even an ounce of skepticism.
And days after airing her original story about the documents, Davis then presented a bizarre claim from a man in his 60s who did not report his allegation of abuse until 2013, nearly 48 years after he said it took place.
...The man also went on to claim, "People have asked me, would you rather have had that happen or gotten bitten by a shark? I'd rather have been bitten by a shark."
Think about that last one. Who on earth would ever ask such a odd question? Yet Davis enthusiastically embraced the man's claims without a hint of skepticism or even an attempt to fact check his claim.
And what of the priest whom this man accused of abusing him nearly a half a century ago? Well, we don't know, as he died a quarter century ago, in 1988, and is thus unable to defend himself or his reputation, a matter of little concern to Davis.

The ultimate counter-narrative story

The prevalence of false accusations against Catholic priests are much, much more common than the public has been led to believe. As we have recorded in the past, some abuse claims against priests are so blatantly bogus that one wonders what rational person would ever believe them.
But don't expect anytime soon a media story on false accusations against priests, as few in the journalistic community are ever brave enough to buck the trend and pursue a counter-narrative story...


There are almost too many fallacies and distortions in Pierre's analysis of bogusness to know where to begin. For one, stigmatizing mental illness and rendering sex abuse claims "bogus" on that premise -- on behalf of protecting the priesthood, and the One, True Faith -- carries an enormous burden. Besides the lack of charity on its face, just consider how the highly conservative Catholic publishing house, Sophia Institute Press, published The Catholic Guide to Depression in 2012, which was cowritten by a Catholic psychiatrist and a priest. While endorsing modern conventional psychiatry, the book was an all-time bestseller for the publishing house (Sophia Press's market primarily being some of the most devout, practicing Catholics -- surely many clericalist priest defenders "under intense mental health treatment" among them).

As I linked above, many Catholic seminaries now employ mental health personnel full time -- surely for reasons that have nothing to do with monitoring against the deviant sexual behavior that Pierre claims simply doesn't exist among todays clergy or seminarians. Not to mention, the all-time great priest-psychologist and former E.W.T.N. personality, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, who is well known for running a treatment center for Catholic clergy. If mental problems are an automatic disqualifier of one's credibility, as Pierre seemingly postulates, then what now for the rest of the Holy Church?

And most of all, those who were molested usually develop mental illnesses (especially PTSD, which often carries with it repressed memories of the trauma) or major substance disorders as a result. Even Pierre has admitted that SOME priestly malfeasance has occurred at one time or another, which notably includes some true molestation victims. And surely, Pierre wouldn't deny that any priest who gets falsely accused of sexual impropriety (as he claims, ipso facto, to be the case for most or all accusations now) are deeply psychologically wounded as a result of THAT stigma. I wonder if the depressive symptoms that result would cause them to distort certain realities of their distant pasts...

Of course, "we don't know" for certain who's accused, and who's actually guilty. But what we DO KNOW is that Bishops Mulvee, Tobin, and Evans have all concealed multiple allegations, including those deemed credible enough for the state authorities to examine, ignoring Church procedures practiced in most other parts of the U.S. of publicizing accusations that contain credibility. That's the ultimate thrust of this matter. Notice as well how Pierre avoids any mention of Brendan Smyth (highlighted in Katie Davis's reports), and the Bishops' avoidance of discussing that ultra-sordid matter. Who lacks credibility on this one, I wonder?

As for WJAR reporter Katie Davis: I spoke to her after the airings of the first two or three segments. I can attest, first hand, that she's actually quite discerning about what she reports. When I made reference to well-circulated allegations from the past involving another local church figure, including by some active local clergy, she quickly rebuffed the claims as being "unprovable rumors."

Media hype or not, how many accused priests have ever been shown -- in the Church's own juridical system -- to be innocent? Not a whole lot. A priest carries with him both authority and mystique -- and plenty of simple-minded, hypocritical, infantilized, and emotionally stunted people remaining in the pews (though by no means most or all) who believe that he grew virtual, invisible angel wings (and a halo) upon his ordination. Of course, it's priests that get you into Heaven, not yourself and your own practice of virtue! But despite the modes of some Catholic culture (operating as if the priest can 'walk on water'), there is absolutely NOTHING inherent in the Church's current teachings that renders ANY one priest (or bishop) either sinless, and/or beyond criticism for his wrongdoings.

Certain laypeople, led by Dave Pierre and The Catholic League's Bill Donohue -- who's being sued in court for libeling a priest's accuser -- will seemingly say just about anything not only to get credibly accused priests and their deceptive bishops off the hook, but also cast dispersions upon, and incite hatred against most alleged abuse victims.

THEY ARE ACTING IN DISOBEDIENCE TO THE POPES. The secular media is simply doing the dirty work that the Catholic media should have done (and wasn't "brave enough" for), and no doubt still cannot handle to a large extent.

Let us be most mindful of these victims. But also pray and be hopeful that The Vatican, under Pope Francis, holds these bishops accountable for what they fail to do...

Blogger's Update, Sept. 19: I neglected to mention that there are but a few Our Lady of Mercy parishioners who know about the Smyth case. STILL, it's NOT old news, to most people, when a member of the hierarchy, attached to your own home parish, sees fit to keep secret the most heinous of crimes that took place, the fact that victims have killed themselves, the fact that Smyth may have murdered little children and left them around O.L.M.'s cemeteries (refer to articles linked above), the fact that more rape victims of Smyth's locally have not come forward, the fact that the bloody international media has filmed from your damn church's doorstep??? OLD NEWS??? Well let's suppose for a moment that this is "old news." I'll tell you, it may not be long until further matters of interest and sensation, of more recent vintage, will come to light. Anyone who thinks it will be any other way might want to ask the legal experts, in the community, what the anti-S.L.A.P.P. statute represents. I know, everyone who has a beef with some parish, some priest, or Catholicism as a whole, must always refer to those now-"irrelevant" scandals. Sometimes, some people pick and choose which scandals are most relevant to them, I guess.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Michael Fine's Unexpected Crisis


This is unbelievable, and disgraceful.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Twenty-two people died of drug overdoses in Rhode Island during a 13-day period this month — far more than the average for that time period, health officials said Friday...Health officials offered no explanation for the spike in deaths, up from the usual three to four per week. The deaths involved a variety of illicit and prescription drugs and were scattered in 13 cities and towns around the state. Those who died from Jan. 1 through Jan. 13 ranged in age from 20 to 62.
What's more:
Among those who died of overdoses during the past two weeks is a 23-year-old man who was in recovery and relapsed, said Tom Coderre, chief of staff for Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and chairman of RICARES, an addiction recovery advocacy group. Coderre was planning to attend his wake Friday night.“If you have people dying we should be addressing this a little more aggressively,” Coderre said. “It’s like we can’t do anything fast enough.” Of the 22 deaths, 19 were screened with blood tests that found evidence of an overdose. Three cases were presumed overdoses because of “history and things found at the scene,” said Dr. Christina Stanley, chief medical examiner.Of the 19 screened, 13 indicated the presence of the painkiller fentanyl, but not the acetyl fentanyl linked to deaths last June. Other drugs detected included cocaine, opiates, benzodiazepines, methamphetamine, oxycodone and carisoprodol.


The real mystery (if you want to call it that) is this: With all of the mental health/substance abuse providers in the Providence area, fanned out among many clinics but largely concentrated at Butler Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital, why these horrible results? Rhode Island was already becoming known as the number one state for drug use.

Ironically, Dr. Fine, a public official, may already hold the answers to this abysmal situation. The fact is that many of Rhode Island's numerous mental health/substance abuse professionals are inept and corrupt. Most likely, Dr. Fine's health department has received copious complaints about some of them, and inaction has been the result. It seems as though many of these drug abuse victims have been "treated," only for their deaths to result from continued, illicit substance use.

By this time next year, Rhode Island will have a new governor. Let's hope it gets a new health director as well.


CRITICAL UPDATE, April 11:

In the past two and a half months, the total dead from overdoses has risen to 72 as of a week ago. This has attracted national attention, as this San Francisco-based publication demonstrates. It states:

Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services administered the overdose antidote Narcan 328 times between Jan. 1 and mid-March, said health department spokesman James Palmer...Health and public safety officials have taken a number of steps in response. Fine last month issued emergency regulations to make Narcan, also known as naloxone, more widely available, including to law enforcement agencies. The regulations allow the antidote to be prescribed not only to a person experiencing an overdose or at risk of one, but to family members and friends in a position to assist.

Several police departments, including state police and some municipal departments, have begun assigning officers to carry and use Narcan, or have started training.
WOW. Who EVER imagined that, in the seminal hippie subculture land of Haight-Ashbury, that a small, Northeast Corridor enclave would become THE NEWS about THE LATEST drug overdose epidemic? This strongly suggests that not even the Bay area is going through an epidemiological episode quite like Rhode Island's.

A separate but tangential issue is this: while law enforcement officers here in Rhode Island are increasingly carrying and are able to administer Narcan, it wasn't too long ago that some of them dangled the handcuffs at the drug users instead. Beyond the continued failures of the Rhode Island health authorities (72 users dead now, up from 22, even when 22 was a crisis), this tragedy likewise represents a microcosm of failure for the Reagan-Bush-Clinton 'War on Drugs.' No?