Category: Public Policy

Following up on my blog from last Friday: Laura Bush mentioned Strake Jesuit Prep in her remarks last night to the annual Boehner-Kennedy Dinner, which raises money for DC Catholic schools. Here’s an excerpt:

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Catholic-school teachers and principals can be proud of their students, who are living the values that they’ve been taught …

At Strake Jesuit High School in Houston, the administration initially planned on welcoming 50 students from Jesuit High School in New Orleans. Now Strake is hosting more than 400 New Orleans students.

With Hurricane Rita bearing down on Houston, Strake may need assistance in turn.

Blog author: abradley
Thursday, September 22, 2005
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George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949, long before the PC came along. Tiny cameras were not available and Big Brother typically had to be physically watching you (either in person or from a stationary camera) to catch you at a crime (the book was political of course, and not technological). Either way, Big Brother always was watching you. Now we have PCs, the Internet, tiny cameras everywhere and available to all. And of course, Big Brother wants to see everything.

Although I hate writing about how the modern world reflects more and more what we see described in Orwell’s novel (Wikipedia suggests that “Orwell is reported to have said that the book described what he saw as the actual situation in the United Kingdom in 1948″), it seems fitting to remind people of the dangers of allowing too much access to information. PC PRO published a news item today talking about some ideas the European Commission has:

The European Commission has accepted proposals to log details of all telephone, email and Internet traffic in an attempt to combat terrorism and serious crime.

The proposals, which are designed to harmonise data retention practices across the EU, will need the backing of all 25 member states. However some states believe they have been watered down in response to pressure from telecommunications firms and civil rights groups.

If these proposals are the watered down version, I shudder to think what the original proposals might have been! Just wait for the proposals to flow when we all have RFID tags “to make purchasing goods at the grocercy store easier” surgically inserted at birth.

Blog author: jspalink
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
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Jennifer Roback Morse, senior fellow in economics at the Acton Institute, examines the response to Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of Alexis de Tocqueville. Americans, de Tocqueville observed, tend not to wait around for the government to give them guidance on how to run their lives and communities. Says Roback Morse: “Meanwhile, our French friends, I mean our Louisiana politicians, are still standing there with their arms folded, tapping their feet and waiting for federal funds to rebuild the city.”

Read the full commentary here.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
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The Bible has a lot to say about what it means to be a “neighbor.” School officials in Fulton County, Ga., may have finally begun to come to some understanding of this concept.

Until earlier this week, county officials had threatened to use the power of eminent domain to force the private Jewish Weber School to sell a 19-acre lot so that a new public elementary school could be built. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, “When Weber officials said they had no desire to sell the site, Fulton indicated in a strongly worded letter that unless Weber agreed by Monday to sell the property, the school board would use eminent domain to obtain it.”

When the Monday deadline approached, and Weber School refused to capitulate, the county officials did an about-face: “On Monday, Fulton Schools Superintendent James Wilson told Weber board president Steve Berman in writing and by phone that the district would no longer pursue the Weber property and that he regretted the misunderstanding.”

“It is in our interest to be a good neighbor,” he said.

What’s a good first step to being a good neighbor? “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17 NIV)

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
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Nigerian priest shot dead at checkpoint for ‘refusing to pay bribe’

Port Harcourt (ENI). The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) says that the Rev. Emmanuel Akpan was shot dead at a checkpoint manned by both police and army members for refusing to pay them a bribe. “Rev. Akpan was returning from Aba town when he was killed by police and military personnel at the checking point, over his refusal to give them bribe,” said the Rev. Bayo Odukoya in issuing a statement on behalf of the Niger Delta diocese of the Anglican Church.

Interesting survey finding highlighted on the Heritage Foundation’s web site:

Compared with peers who expressed a great deal of confidence in the federal government, those who reported having “hardly any confidence” in the federal government were 20 percentage points more likely to volunteer for a charity.

Blog author: mvandermaas
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
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Rich Lowry:

It is the other flood: The outpouring of concern for the poor of New Orleans. According to nearly every journalist in America, our consciousness has been raised about the invisible scourge of poverty in this country, and nothing is too much to ask when addressing the plight of the disadvantaged evacuees of New Orleans. They should get every form of aid possible — except, that is, assistance that might help give them more control over their lives.

Acton Institute’s Center for Effective Compassion is offering an intensive one-day event in Ft. Myers, Fla., on Oct 28, where nonprofits and community leaders will get practical, how-to skills to help them increase the “return on investment” for charity programs. Foundation grantees, grassroots community and faith-based service providers, students and volunteers won’t want to miss this event. Read more about the event here.

Key speakers include Rev. John Nunes, pastor of Dallas-based St. Paul’s Lutheran Church; Carol McLaughlin, chief programs officer at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation; Craig Folk, a partner with the Fort Myers accounting firm Miller, Helms & Folk, and Karen Woods, executive director at Acton’s Center for Effective Compassion. The event press release is available here.

Blog author: jballor
Monday, September 19, 2005
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Government is the only arena in which I can readily see that incompetence and failure, often of the staggeringly ignominious variety, is “punished” with an increase of funding and influence. Many others have observed this phenomena, perhaps most pervasive in the public education system. As we all know, the problem is always a lack of funds.

But we find the same twisted logic at work following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The inadequacy of government at all levels, with most of the focus on the federal, is not leading some to the obvious criticism of the size, complexity, and bureaucracy of government. Instead, we are seeing the contrary call, to increase the size of the government. As Anne Applebaum writes in The Washington Post, a number of figures, including German chancellor Gerhard Schrr, see the problem as too little government, not too much.

Applebaum rightly takes this statist interpretation of events to task, as she writes of the pervasiveness and effectiveness of relief efforts by elements of civil society. While “it is true that the worst failures of the past two weeks have been big government failures,” she observes, “The biggest successes, by contrast, have come out of this country’s incredibly vibrant, amazingly diverse and fantastically generous civil society. Sooner or later, it will be impossible not to draw political lessons from that paradox.”

The political lesson should not be that more government is the answer, but rather a more focused and efficient government. The increase in government should be qualitative, not quantitative. It remains to be seen which will prevail: the axiomatic big government logic (perhaps manifested in an increased FEMA budget!), or common-sense conclusions about the scope and necessary limits of government power.

Deal W. Hudson of the Morley Institute reports on an address by a Vatican official. The story is also reported here:

Vatican Official Explains What Makes a School Catholic

His name is one you should know. Archbishop J. Michael Miller is the Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education in the Vatican. That means he helps oversee Catholic education from kindergarten to college and graduate school throughout the world.

I met with the self-effacing Archbishop over breakfast before his lecture at a Conference on Catholic education co-sponsored by the Catholic University of America and the Solidarity Association of Atlanta, Georgia. He left the presidency of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas to take his post sixteen months ago. After arriving, Miller was “surprised to discover that only twenty Episcopal conferences in the world had approved ordinances implementing Ex Corde Ecclesiae.”

When asked if the situation was improving he was upbeat, “Canada and Australia are close to finishing their ordinances and India and Mexico have them well underway.”

But there is better news. Since the publication of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, over 1,300 new institutions have been created in India. An abundance of new growth is also found in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa, Mexico, and Chile. “Overall the future looks promising,” he adds, “because of new growth in Catholic institutions where they are most badly needed.” All the data, he says, is chronicled in a new book published by his Congregation, unfortunately only in Italian.

Miller’s address to the conference turns out to be the finest I have ever heard on Catholic education. His words belied the blandness of the title, “The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Education.” Rather than citing text upon text from Vatican documents, he cut to the heart of the matter, telling the audience that he wanted to answer the question, “How do you know if a school is really Catholic.”

He offered the following five benchmarks of a Catholic education as the essence of Vatican teaching on education. Miller called them the “marks of a Catholic education.”

Although these criteria apply mainly to K through 12 education, Miller insisted they could easily be adapted to college and university education by the addition of a criterion on excellence in scholarship.

A Catholic school should be:

1. “Inspired by a supernatural vision.” Schools are about preparing students for “heavenly citizenship.”

2. “Founded on a Christian anthropology.” Education is the “perfection of children as images of God.”

3. “Animated by communion and community.” Schools should have the collaboration, interaction, and environment that “safe-guards the priority of the person.”

4. “Imbued with the Catholic worldview across the curriculum,” Catholic education should “transform the way we see reality.”

5. “A place where committed Catholics teach.” Catholic teachers should themselves be “witnesses for Christ.”

Archbishop Miller has real world experience in Catholic education. As president of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, he helped to make a good Catholic university into an excellent one – a university that deserves to be included on any short list of faith based Catholic colleges and universities.

Good Catholic schools grow from the “bottom up, not from the top down,” Miller concluded. Wherever you find a good Catholic school you will find leaders behind it who have a “genuine Catholic vision of education.”

At the beginning of the conference the present Chair of the USCCB Committee on Education, Bishop Bernard J. Harrington, congratulated the co-sponsors, saying it was the first meeting of its kind on Catholic education in the United States. Harrington mentioned other conferences that were being planned in the near future. We can hope that Archbishop Miller’s list of benchmarks will be the starting point of future discussions on Catholic education. Such clarity is as rare as it is bold.