Friday, October 29, 2010

A Five-Hour ‘Tavern Check’

Below, Kevin Kelly relates an eyewitness account of what has turned out to have been an unprecedented non-workplace immigration raid in Kansas City. Previous parts of this series are linked below the story:

By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Patrons of a troubled nightclub that was the scene of a joint raid by Kansas City police and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were held inside the club for up to five hours while the federal agents checked their fingerprints on an ICE computer for outstanding immigration warrants, according to a witness.

Speaking to The Catholic Key on the condition of anonymity for fear of further reprisals, a man who was detained and fingerprinted inside the club but charged with no crime said he was not allowed to leave for nearly four hours.

A friend who was with him at the Club Oasis, 2805 Southwest Blvd., when the raid began shortly before midnight Oct. 24 was not released until 5 a.m. Oct. 25.

The source, who speaks English with a heavy accent, said that both he and his friend were given written instructions to appear for a hearing Oct. 26 at the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Platte County, near Kansas City International Airport.

Another Latino, who spoke English without an accent, was allowed to leave shortly after the raid began after showing police an out-of-state driver’s license, the source said.

The source said that at least 200 patrons were inside Club Oasis when the raid began. He said that at least 100 of them were given the instructions to appear at the office in Platte County and charged with no other offense.

Suzanne Gladney, immigration attorney for Legal Aid of Western Missouri, confirmed that at least 60 Club Oasis patrons appeared at the Citizenship and Immigration Services office as directed. She said more people were issued the written instructions to appear, but could not say how many.

“I think we are talking between 60 and 100 people,” Gladney said.

Those people were in addition to the 23 people who were arrested and taken into police custody at the club that night, Gladney said.

Private immigration attorney Angela Ferguson said that the number of people who appeared apparently overwhelmed the Citizenship and Immigration Office.

“They were surprised,” she said. “They had to call the (ICE) officer who issued the instructions at his home and tell him to get over there.”

Ferguson said the people who reported were separated into smaller groups and given new dates to report.
Kansas City police continue to characterize the Club Oasis raid as a routine “tavern check” at a nightclub that had been the subject of numerous police calls.

On his Internet blog, Kansas City Police Chief James Corwin called the Club Oasis action one of 324 “tavern checks” that local police have made in 2010.

He also said that the Club Oasis check “by far yielded the greatest amount of arrests and drugs recovered.”

Corwin listed 28 violations charged against patrons or employees of the Club Oasis — four arrests for drug possession, four arrests for underage drinking, 13 arrests of people who had previously been deported, four arrests of people with outstanding deportation warrants, and three arrests of people who are under deportation proceedings for a past criminal history.

Both Ferguson and Gladney said that the people ordered to report later then released were not arrested and not charged with any other offense.

Corwin described a tavern check on his blog, Chief Corwin’s blog, in a post entitled “Club Oasis tavern check.”

“During such a check, detectives enter a business that is licensed to serve alcohol and check the IDs of all patrons to ensure that the establishment is conforming to the law. The IDs of all patrons are checked to see if they have any warrants,” Corwin wrote.

“The Vice section conducts about 30 tavern checks a month and has done 324 so far this year,” he said.

The anonymous source told The Catholic Key that there were some 200 people inside Club Oasis when Kansas City police, identified by markings on black flak jackets, appeared and secured all exits.

“We were just partying and dancing. There was no trouble that night,” the source said.

“They came in and turned off the music. Then they told everyone that they were going to check everybody’s identification,” he said.

He said that people began to panic, and two people tried to leave before a police officer “pointed a weapon at them, it looked like a rifle” and ordered them to stay.

A Club Oasis employee tried to calm the crowd, the source said.

“He told us not to worry, that all they (police) were going to look for was underage drinkers,” the source said.
At about that time, agents wearing jackets with “ICE” on the back entered the club with electronic equipment, which the source said was “computers.”

The source said that both Kansas City police and ICE agents made a quick check of identification, and told about half the people that they could leave.

One of them was the man who spoke unaccented English, the source said.

“He showed them (an out-of-state) driver’s license, and they told him he could go,” he said. “They must have believed he was American.”

The source said that he also showed his driver’s license.

“I showed them, but they asked me if I had my papers. I told them no, so they told me to stay,” he said.

One by one, he said, the approximately 100 people remaining in the club were fingerprinted electronically, and their fingerprints checked against a database.

“They had a computer,” he said. “You put your fingers on it and your picture would show up if you had been deported.”

The process, he said, took hours. When he was finally checked at about 3:30 a.m., the check showed no warrants against him and he was released. But he was still given instructions to appear at the Citizenship and Immigration Services office on Oct. 26.

A friend was one of the last to be checked, the source said. “He told me he couldn’t leave until 5 in the morning,” he said.

The source said he took Oct. 26 off work and reported to the office as instructed.

“A lot of people came to the place,” the source said. “They only took us in about 20 at a time, and they told us to come back later.”

He was given another instruction to appear in November, the source said.

The source said that he knows it is common for ICE agents to check for immigration status and work permits of employees at businesses.

“But this was a club,” he said. “We didn’t know they could do that.”

View part one of this series - ICE Presence at Club Raid Raises Questions

And part twoMore to Kansas City Tavern Check than Reported

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More to Kansas City Tavern Check than Reported

Below, Kevin Kelly continues to report and comment on the recent tavern check at Club Oasis. He includes information on 60+ “orders to appear” issued by ICE to patrons not accused of crimes – information which has eluded other reports. Tomorrow, Kelly will interview one of the patrons so ordered:

Let’s be clear. Whatever else the Oct. 25 midnight raid at the Club Oasis was, it also appears very much to be an immigration raid.

Kansas City Police Chief James Corwin, in his Internet blog, called it a “tavern check” at a nightclub that had been the scene of numerous calls to police. He cited 68 calls for police service to Club Oasis, located on Southwest Boulevard on Kansas City’s West side, since May 2009, and another 99 police calls to “addresses immediately adjacent to the club.”

“These have included multiple shootings, fights, thefts, traffic obstructions and more,” the chief wrote.

Well and good. That is not in dispute. During the raid, according to the chief, four underage drinkers were busted, and an apparently unlicensed security guard and three others were arrested for possession of cocaine. In addition, the club owner was cited for allowing the underage drinkers, and two other security guards were arrested for not having licenses.

This is great police work and a community service.

On top of all that, as they ran the identifications of the estimated (according to police) 100 patrons inside the bar, police discovered 13 patrons who had been deported before and were back in the United States, four who had been ordered to leave and had outstanding federal warrants against them, and three more with criminal histories who were not legal residents.

Again, good and valuable police work.

But here is a number that hasn’t been reported. According to Suzanne Gladney, immigration attorney for Legal Aid of Western Missouri, 60 people showed up two days later at the Platte County office for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for “further processing” as they were ordered to do by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents permanently assigned to the Kansas City Department’s Gang Squad who were involved the Club Oasis raid.

Gladney stressed that she could not say whether the 60 were formally cited for immigration violations.

“They were given a piece of paper and told to report for further processing,” she said.

Gladney also said that the 60 were just those who reported as instructed, and could not say how many others might have been so ordered at the raid.

“I think we are talking between 60 and 100,” she said.

So here is the tally from the Club Oasis raid:

- Four arrests for drug possession.
- Four arrests for underage drinking.
- Thirteen arrests for re-entering the United States after deportation.
- Three arrests for being in the United States with a criminal arrests.
- 60 to 100 orders to appear for “further processing” by federal immigration officials.

“Tavern check”? Yes it was. “Immigration raid”? Well . . .

Vietnamese Man Saves Kids from Abortion by Adopting – 80 of Them!

What it says. And he makes $180 a month. He also rescues the bodies of aborted children from clinics and buries them in a cemetery he's built. There are 9,000 children buried there. And he’s Catholic.

The man raises the children as his own, but will return them to the mothers if they want them back. There is much amazing about this story, but what struck me is that the news report is entirely respectful.

When I googled this man, I found that his story made the rounds in 2008. I didn’t see it – apologies if you did. Much more can be found out about him in this 2008 report. Now watch this amazing video.

H/T What Does Mike Think?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Soft Underbelly of Success - Thoughts on 'The Social Network'

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key comes Santiago Ramos’ take on The Social Network:

The Soft Underbelly of Success
By Santiago Ramos


The Social Network
DIR David Fincher
SCR Aaron Sorkin, based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara
TheSocialNetwork
Aaron Sorkin is one of the few screenwriters in Hollywood who can stir as much interest among moviegoers as a director. In a movie written by Sorkin you can always expect a few things: smart, ping-pong like dialogue (often during Sorkin’s famous walk-and-talks), a detailed picture of the inner workings of a complicated profession, and a celebration of a distinctively American manifestation of excellence. Thus we get the inner workings of highly articulate policy wonks from Washington in The West Wing and Charlie Wilson’s War, and the life of a team of socially-conscious TV comedy writers in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

What Sorkin celebrates in those scripts is a unique combination of power and intelligence which we call “success.” His characters go to the top schools, and their intelligence takes them on a life trajectory of both personal achievement and altruism. They are always idealistic, often wealthy, and sometimes, in Sorkin’s lesser moments, preachy.

The founding of Facebook, then, is a natural subject for such a writer. Sorkin’s screenplay was inspired by Ben Mezrich’s recent book, The Accidental Billionaires, which tries to piece together the early gestation of an internet company which has seduced millions of people into joining its network. Sorkin portrays Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jason Eisenberg), the computer science student who developed Facebook from his dorm at Harvard, as a recovering nerd blossoming into an eccentric genius, who nevertheless bears the tragic flaw of being a serial betrayer of his closest friends (he is a jerk to his girlfriend in the opening scene of the film, and later on we discover what happens between him and his best friend, Economics major Eduardo Saverin, played by Andrew Garfield).

This flaw, however, exposes a wound in Zuckerberg which makes him a special Sorkin character. The Social Network shows us the soft underbelly of success.

Before we talk about the soft underbelly, let’s cover the success. Eduardo made 300 thousand dollars betting on oil futures in the summer between his freshmen and sophomore year of college. Zuckerberg had, as a high school student, already developed a program which caught the eye of Microsoft. (Instead of selling it to them, he chose to make it available for free on the internet. He knew he was meant for greater things.) Zuckerberg’s three roommates are skillful programmers with uncanny powers of concentration. The drama begins when Zuckerberg is dumped by his girlfriend. He retreats to his dorm and sublimates his anger into writing a program which he calls “Facemash,” taking the photos of Harvard female students and placing them on the internet for evaluation by their male peers. The site gets 22,000 hits that very night.

This success catches the eye of a pair of identical twin students named Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, representatives of the elite Ivy League WASP ancien regime, who would like to add web entrepreneurship to their resume which already lists excellence in academics and rowing. They ask Zuckerberg if he would be willing to write the programming for “Harvard Connect,” a sort of online Who’s Who for those with harvard.edu email addresses. Zuckerberg is at first lured by the idea of being able to join the Winklevoss’s elite social world. But he soon realizes that the Winklevosses aren’t thinking big enough. He evades them, breaks the promise he made to them, and decides to found Facebook instead.

The film is told through a series of flashbacks as both Eduardo and the Winklevosses testify against Zuckerberg in a couple of hearings which take place a few years after the founding of Facebook. All of them have legitimate grounds for suing Zuckerberg, but those grounds cannot tarnish Zuckerberg’s place in history. When Zuckerberg idly stares outside the window during a hearing, the opposing counsel asks him: “Do you think I deserve your attention?” Zuckerberg responds:

“I think if your clients want to stand on my shoulders and call themselves tall they have a right to give it a try. But there’s no requirement that I enjoy being here… You have part of my attention, the minimum amount needed. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook where my employees and I are doing things that no one in this room…are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.”

When Beethoven told Goethe that the Emperor should bow to them, his arrogance seemed justifiable because he wrote the Ninth Symphony and Goethe wrote Faust. But Facebook doesn’t stack up against either of those achievements, and Zuckerberg’s auto-celebration appears to be the celebration of magnanimity without content. Yet without such greatness or almost greatness, we couldn’t fully appreciate the soft underbelly.

Zuckerberg’s big speech doesn’t capture everything essential about himself. Sorkin’s character is more interesting than that. Zuckerberg is not only the creator of Facebook: he is also a user. The heartbreak which gave tortured birth to Facemash and Facebook doesn’t fully go away. Neither does the tenderness that Zuckerberg feels for Eduardo, who, we are told over and over again, is Zuckerberg’s “only friend.”

Facebook is great but greatness is not enough. The soft underbelly of success is the need we have for affection, which is a need exploited, but not fulfilled, by the program which has made Zuckerberg a quiet billionaire.

Santiago Ramos has written for First Things, Commonweal, Image Journal, Traces, and the Kansas City weekly, The Pitch. He is currently pursuing graduate studies in Boston College.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ICE Presence at Club Raid Raises Questions

This is, oddly I think, not that big a news story in Kansas City right now. It appears that in the course of a legitimate police raid on a problem night club, ICE officers requested identification and cited persons for immigration violations who were not themselves suspects in a crime. Here we see an “approach” by law enforcement that seems to go even beyond the Arizona statute, ie., Hispanics merely in proximity to people suspected of other offenses are asked for their papers. This in a city whose Council officially rejected the Arizona statute and whose police force has previously rejected such tactics.

The presence of ICE raises a lot of questions and I’m grateful to our associate editor for putting together this story quickly on our production day. He gets a lot of information that’s been ignored elsewhere. We’ll certainly have follow-up. From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

Nightclub raid raises question about police policy on immigration

By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — A joint raid at a trouble spot nightclub on the city’s West Side has threatened efforts to build trust between the Latino community and the Kansas City Police Department.

The raid, which occurred shortly before midnight Oct. 24 at the Club Oasis, 2845 Southwest Blvd., was conducted jointly between officers of the police department’s vice squad and agents of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

According to police, at least 100 persons were inside the club. Police arrested or cited at least 20 people, including a security guard allegedly in possession of cocaine, and three minors under the legal drinking age.

News reports said that ICE agents arrested 15 people for being in the United States in violation of U.S. immigration codes. But the number of people cited at the club may be much higher.

Jude Huntz, director of the Diocesan Human Rights Office, said that attorneys for Legal Aid of Western Missouri told him that 20 people cited by ICE at the club had sought their help on Oct. 25, the day after the raid.

Private immigration attorney Angela Ferguson told the Catholic Key about 10 people cited in the raid had sought her help.

Ferguson said that those cited were ordered to report to U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Custom and Immigration Services office near Kansas City International Airport on Oct. 26.

“Those are just the people seeking legal help,” Huntz said. “How many more didn’t seek help or are choosing to flee the area? That’s what we don’t know.”

Club Oasis has been the source of numerous complaints to police concerning alleged drug trafficking, underage drinking and shootings, including a reported Oct. 10 parking lot gun battle involving a vehicle theft.

Ferguson said the people she spoke with told her that ICE agents and Kansas City police entered the club together shortly before midnight and ordered all people inside to divide themselves in two groups.

“They announced that people with documents (proving legal residency) should go to one side of the room, and people without documents should go to the other side,” she said.

Ferguson said she had no issues with police raiding Club Oasis when they have probable cause to believe that criminal activity is taking place. But she also noted that the vast majority of citations and arrests at the raid were not for violations of criminal law, but for violations of civil immigration code.

“There is a real concern with that club, and we want police to catch criminals,” Ferguson said. “But there were many people there who were detained and apprehended for not having papers.”

Ferguson also questioned why Kansas City police were accompanied by ICE agents on this particular raid.

“I’m guessing it was because it was a Latino joint. Why else would Immigration be there?” she said.

That raised concerns for her of what other places that draw crowds of Latino people might be targeted.

“What if they started going to churches after Mass? What if Immigration started showing up at soccer games? What kind of community do we want to live in?” she said.

Christian Brother Jim Krause, pastoral associate at St. Anthony Parish in Kansas City’s northeast neighborhood which also has a large Latino population, said that the parish’s Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO) organizing network has worked for several years to build trust between the community and the Kansas City Police Department, particularly the East Patrol Division.

Brother Jim noted that the Club Oasis raid occurred in the department’s West Patrol Division, but that CCO would be collecting more information in meetings with top police officials.

He also noted that Police Chief James Corwin said at a CCO action in June that it is the policy of his department not to detain people solely on immigration charges unless there was a felony crime involved.

Brother Jim said that assurance was important as a way to encourage victims to report crimes, regardless of the victims’ immigration status.

“People who come from the Third World do not have a good record of cooperation with police,” Brother Jim said. “They are the victims of all kinds of crime because they are afraid to talk to police for fear that they will be reported to Immigration. The criminals know that, and they are emboldened by it.”

Brother Jim said CCO will be working to prevent the Club Oasis raid from destroying the trust that has been building with the department’s East Patrol Division, which he said has been exemplary.

“They have said they will not call ICE on people unless there is criminal activity involved,” he said. “If that is the policy, then that is the policy. What we would like to see in the West Patrol Division is if they would like to follow the lead of the East Patrol Division.”

Huntz, however, also questioned the presence of ICE agents in the Club Oasis raid.

“The club in question has had lots of trouble and those are legitimate police matters,” Huntz said. “Why ICE had to be brought in is not clear to me.”

Huntz also said that the raid underscores how broken the U.S. immigration system is and why the U.S. bishops are pressing hard for comprehensive reform.

“The larger issue is that most people enter the country legally and they are still here on expired visas because they lost their jobs or they couldn’t keep up with the expense of keeping up their visas,” he said.

“We need to find a way to keep them in the process (toward legal residency and citizenship) without the threat of deportation hanging over their heads,” he said.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ninth Circuit Lets Stand San Francisco Condemnation of Catholicism

Last Friday, an eleven-member panel of the Ninth Circuit Court dismissed a claim by Catholics in San Francisco that the City Board of Supervisors violated the Establishment Clause when they denounced Church teaching and urged the Archbishop of San Francisco to defy the Vatican. A little background is warranted.

Early in 2006, Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a statement clarifying that Church agencies should not place children for adoption with same-sex couples. The statement had particular significance for Levada’s former Archdiocese of San Francisco, whose Catholic Charities agency had been placing children for adoption with same-sex couples.

In response to Cardinal Levada’s statement, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution denouncing the Vatican’s foreign meddling, demanding Levada retract his “hateful,” “insulting,” “discriminatory,” “callous”  and ignorant directive, and urging current San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer and Catholic Charities “to defy all discriminatory directives of Cardinal Levada.” Members of the Board of Supervisors also threatened to remove funding from Catholic Charities’ other programs unless they did defy the Vatican (The City was not funding the adoption program at Catholic Charities).

Two Catholic citizens of San Francisco joined the Catholic League in filing suit against the Board of Supervisors claiming their resolution violated the Establishment Clause by, among other things, sending a message of official state disapproval of Catholic teaching and entangling itself with the internal affairs of a church.

The case was dismissed by a district court, a three member panel of the Ninth Circuit and now, finally by the Ninth Circuit en banc by 8-3. Five members of the court found that the Catholic citizens had no standing, three that they had standing but no valid claim, and three that they had standing and a valid claim. Here’s what the last three succinctly found in dissent:

…a mere message of disapproval, even in the absence of any coercion, suffices for an Establishment Clause violation . . .The “message” in the resolution [that] a Catholic doctrine duly communicated by the part of the Catholic church in charge of clarifying doctrine is “hateful,” “defamatory,” “insulting,” “callous,” and “discriminatory,” showing “insensitivity and ignorance,” the Catholic Church is a hateful foreign meddler in San Francisco’s affairs, the Catholic Church ought to “withdraw” its religious directive, and the local archbishop should defy his superior’s directive. This is indeed a “message of . . . disapproval.” And that is all it takes for it to be unconstitutional.

As to the entanglement issue, the dissent found:

San Francisco entangles itself with the Catholic hierarchy when it urges the local archbishop to defy the cardinal. It is a dramatic entanglement to resolve that the Cardinal “as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” should withdraw his directive. The Catholic Church, like the myriad other religions that have adherents in San Francisco, is entitled to develop and propagate its faith without assistance and direction from government.

Seems straightforward to me, but on the Ninth Circuit sense is held by only a minority of three. There are several other positions on the jurisprudence of the Establishment Clause in the court’s opinion, including this bizarre finding:

We would have a different case on our hands had the defendants called upon Cardinal Levada to recant his views on transubstantiation, or had urged Orthodox Jews to abandon the laws of kashrut, or Mormons their taboo of alcohol. Those matters of religious dogma are not within the secular arena in the way that same-sex marriage and adoption are.

Translated, your freedom of religion encompasses all the superstitious voodoo you care to indulge in, but you may not have a religious dogma at variance with something the City cares about – like sex.

Daniel Piedra with the Thomas More Law Center which represented the plaintiffs said the center will ask the Supreme Court to review the dismissal. If that happens, the Supreme Court could issue a writ ordering the lower court to re-evaluate the case based on the Establishment Clause. As stated above, five of the members didn’t even touch the merits of the case leaving a 3-3 division on the actual Constitutional issue.

“The current jurisprudence on the Establishment Clause is an absolute mess,” Piedra said. “There is no coherent principle,” he said, a fact evident within the Ninth Circuit’s three-way opinion in this case.

For more information, see this report by Gibbons Cooney at California Catholic Daily and check out his blog.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Fall of Don Draper

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:
Season4 The Fall of Don Draper
Season 4 Finale of Mad Men
By Santiago Ramos
“I know what you want,” Don Draper’s paid escort says to him in the first episode of the fourth season of Mad Men, which ended this past Sunday. Sometimes, in the movies, prostitutes are the key to a mysterious man’s heart, but the writers of Mad Men have skirted past that cliché. Instead, they have made their hero’s heart impenetrable. For four seasons, we have seen Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a wealthy and successful family man and advertising genius, slalom from mistress to mistress and rise from being the creative director of one ad agency, to a full partner of another. More than that, in this last season, Don is celebrated by admirers as being a sort of artist, a cross between Hemingway and a 1960s art-film director, because of an award-winning ad that he created for a floor polish product called Glo-Coat.
Before season 4 began, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote that “After three seasons of Mad Men, I have absolutely no idea what Don Draper’s intentions are.” At the time, I thought Douthat raised a legitimate question. I kept returning to it in my mind as I watched the fourth season these past few months—as I watched, that is, the aftermath of Don Draper’s broken marriage, his feeble efforts to connect with his children, and the several business crises which his agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, suffers throughout its second year of business.
After last Sunday’s season finale, which culminates with Don’s marriage proposal to his young French Canadian secretary, Megan Calvais (Jessica Pare), I made an earnest attempt to resolve Douthat’s question. Here are my answers.
1. If Don Draper wants anything, it is nothing mysterious or unique—it is what any human being wants. That is, love, shelter, stability, happiness. (“Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness!” he says in the pilot episode of the series.)
2. Don Draper is no longer aware that he is a human being with such wants.
3. His paid escort friend, as world-wise as she is portrayed as being on the show, doesn’t really know Don. Not because she doesn’t know what he wants, but because he no longer knows what he wants.
4. Don has become completely swallowed up by the universe of his own advertisements.
The last point is not as outlandish as it might sound. What I mean is that Don has allowed his real problems and desires to become deceived by the types of promises that advertising makes—promises that appeal to your very real human heart, and offer you something you can buy. Something not very real, and less than true—a product that distracts you instead of fulfilling you. Don is an expert at crafting such advertising, and now he has become his own customer.
Throughout the season, a couple of characters have tried to offer Don something true. Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton), the woman who, more than his real mother, has offered Don something like maternal love, says to Don exactly what he needs to hear: “I know everything about you, and I still love you.” I know, in other words, all the things that keep you from sleeping at night, and fuel your desire for whiskey—and I still love you. Faye Miller (Cara Buono), the market research consultant who becomes Don’s lover midway through the season, offers him not only the affection and stability he needs, but also the truth about what he should do. Don is able to confess his secrets to her, and she returns with calm and with reality: You need to become a normal, real person.
But he rejects it all and becomes a cliché. He marries his secretary, whom he hardly knows apart from a couple of trysts. It is a romance completely unpolluted by good sense. The agency he works for is on the brink of collapse, and it is kept afloat not by his own work, but by that of his younger protégé, Peggy. Anna Draper, by the season finale, has already passed away, and Don abruptly, over the phone, breaks up with Faye. His tethers to the real world have become unhooked.
Don is not an artist, but a dreamer. An artist tells the truth, and Don runs away from the truth.
The main drawback to painting such a comprehensive picture of a brilliant man’s slow process of dehumanization is that he becomes boring. The brilliant advertising pitches that we saw Don present during the first couple of seasons of the show are no longer there. Don now merely repeats himself: his schtick about nostalgia as being the way to the consumer’s wallet feels laughable in the dawn of the cultural upheaval of the 1960s. I have no idea where the writers will take the show next, but if they are planning a happy ending for Don Draper, they will by necessity have to see him suffer through a reawakening from the illusions that Draper has created for himself.
Santiago Ramos has written for First Things, Commonweal, Image Journal, Traces, and the Kansas City weekly, The Pitch. He is currently pursuing graduate studies in Boston College.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kansas City has Two of America’s Top 50 Catholic High Schools

And five of them are in Missouri. Congratulations to Pius X and Sion! From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

st piusX HighSchool By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Dioceses celebrate when one school makes the Acton Institute’s Catholic High School Honor Roll.

But when two make it?

“It is incredible that there are two high schools in Kansas City earning this honor in one year,” said Dr. Dan Peters, diocesan school superintendent.

Peters came to St. Pius X High School Oct. 15 to present a certificate recognizing the award to principal Joe Monachino Jr. and the entire St. Pius X faculty.

Also earning a spot among Acton’s honor roll of the 50 best Catholic high schools in the nation was Notre Dame de Sion High school, a private Catholic academy for young women in south Kansas City.

“This is national recognition that St. Pius and Notre Dame de Sion are exceptional schools,” Peter said after the pre-game ceremony before the football game against Cameron High School.

“It shows the effort that the schools have made for academic excellence, clear Catholic identity, and service to the community,” he said.

Bishop Robert W. Finn also congratulated both schools.

“I am very proud of all the Catholic high schools in our diocese,” he said.

“For St. Pius X and Notre Dame de Sion, recognition from the Acton Institute is particularly meaningful because it confirms that we integrate the Catholic faith into the fabric of our schools and continue to set benchmarks for moral and academic formation.”

The Acton Institute, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., announced its first honor roll in 2004. This year marks the first time that any Catholic high school in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has been honored.

Three other Missouri Catholic high schools earned the award. They were Notre Dame Regional High School in Cape Girardeau and Springfield Catholic High School, both in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, and St. Vincent High School in Perryville in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Monachino and Sion Principal Michelle Olson were also bursting with pride.

“This is the culmination of the hard work of our students, teachers, parents and alumni,” said Monachino, whose school has seen millions of dollars worth of capital improvements from its “Education for Life” campaign.

“Receiving a national honor for our academic excellence, Catholic identity and civic education confirms that we are succeeding in our goal to educate each student to their full academic potential as well as enhancing their growth in Catholic values,” he said. “We are proud to provide an education for life to our students.”

The Notre Dame de Sion community has also raised millions of dollars to enhance its physical plant and strengthen a strong academic program.

“Being a college preparatory high school for young women and having this kind of recognition says Notre Dame de Sion High School is among the best in our nation,” Olson said.

“Our young women live the spirit of Sion through their commitment to community service, academic excellence and community involvement,” she said. “Because of our mission, which is rooted in the Catholic faith and the Sisters of Sion, our students are being prepared to live and lead in a religiously and culturally diverse world.”

In order to be recognized, the Acton Institute requires schools to complete three surveys, examining academic excellence, theology curriculum and social studies/civic education. In addition, this year’s process added a social outreach component, demonstrating the school’s service to the community.

As with all Catholic high schools in the diocese, St. Pius X and Notre Dame de Sion require community service hours as a graduation requirement.

At St. Pius, student-led initiatives have included joining the late Manute Bol, a former NBA star, in raising thousands of dollars to build schools in Bol’s native Sudan.

At Sion, students are actively involved in the movement for inter-faith understanding, an extension of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion work in France in World War II to rescue Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust.

According to the Acton Institute, the goal of the national Catholic High School Honor Roll is to “acknowledge those schools that maintain high academic standards, uphold their Catholic identities, and prepare their students to actively engage the world.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

‘A Bright Light in the Dark Evil of Tyranny’

Such was the conscience of Thomas More according to Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. Thomas More’s conscience, how it was formed, and most importantly, how he managed to follow it against nearly unbearable and unanimous opposition, was the topic of Bishop Olmsted’s homily at Kansas City’s Red Mass on Wednesday.

The homily is at once a beautiful tribute to More and an important teaching on the effort and habits required in properly forming and following conscience. “Thomas More knew, from his early twenties, that the greatest threat to freedom of conscience did not come from outside a man but from within his own heart,” Bishop Olmsted said. Read on to see how Thomas More prepared his own heart:

Olmsted2 The Conscience of Thomas More

By Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted

Less than a month ago, on September 17, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI was welcomed at Westminster Hall in London by John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons. In that same hall, nearly 500 years before, on July 1, 1535, John Bercow’s predecessor, Thomas More, was condemned to death on the charge of treason because he refused to recognize Henry VIII, the King of England, as the supreme authority over the Church and over the pope. Recalling that earlier event, our Holy Father spoke of “the dilemma which faced More in those difficult times;” one which he described as “the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God.” I cannot help but think of that historic event of last month as we celebrate this Red Mass in Kansas City, and as we pray for lawyers and statesmen, judges and other public officials.

I thank Archbishop Joseph Naumann and Bishop Robert Finn for their kind invitation and gracious welcome. It is a joy and honor for me to join these courageous successors of the Apostles at this Mass. I am also delighted to return to the heartlands where I grew up and especially to celebrate this Red Mass with the members of the St. Thomas More Society and the distinguished public officials who join us this evening. Thank you for your public service.

Thomas More was a man of quick wit and a judge of impeccable integrity, a statesman of rare abilities and Lord Chancellor of England. Of greater importance to him than these duties were his good friends and especially his wife, his family, and his Catholic faith. But the defining characteristic of Thomas More was his conscience. Pope John Paul II, in his Motu Propio proclaiming St. Thomas More the Patron of Statesmen and politicians, said: “Thomas More witnessed the primacy of truth over power…He died as a martyr because of his passion for truth… for him his moral conscience was a defining voice, the voice of God in his soul.”

At this Red Mass when we honor and pray for lawyers, judges, politicians and others who serve in the legal profession and public office, let us, with the help of the Sacred Scriptures and the personal writings of our patron saint, consider the role of conscience in the life of a follower of Christ, especially one called to serve in public office. Perhaps it’s best to begin at the end.

In the final weeks before he was put to death for refusing to subscribe the Oath of Supremacy demanded by King Henry VIII, nearly everyone in England, his peers, his foes and his friends, even the vast majority of the bishops and priests of his country, lined up on the side opposed to Thomas More. Lord Audley, his successor as Chancellor of England, called him ‘a foolish scrupulous ass;” King Henry screamed that he was “a traitor.” His own wife Lady Alice openly opposed her husband’s “scruple of conscience.” Even his beloved daughter Meg, his closest and dearest confidante in the last years of his life, failed to understand her father, and repeatedly tried to convince him to change his stand. This was what weighed heaviest on his heart, the fact that his own wife and all his children could not understand and openly disagreed with his decision. How, then, did he remain steadfast to the end? How did he remain true to his conscience in the face of such a barrage of scorn and pleading and tears, and in view of the dire consequences of his stand? To answer that, we need to go back to his early years when he was a student of the law in London.

His ultimate decision was determined a long time before his imprisonment in the Tower of London and his execution nearby. It was the consequence of years of searching God’s will and striving to develop the virtues to be able, in good times and in bad, to be guided by truth and love. His conscience was founded on a lifelong habit of daily prayer and sacrifice.

In his biography of Thomas More, Professor Gerard B. Wegemer describes More’s first four years after leaving home to begin his law studies (p. 15), “During these years, More worked at developing his prayer life and achieving self-mastery…As a result, he began the spiritual practices he would maintain for the rest of his life. Until the time of his imprisonment, he started each day with private prayer, study and Mass…He also limited the number of hours he slept, fasted regularly, and strove to teach his quick tongue to seek charity rather than victory.” Thomas More knew, from his early twenties, that the greatest threat to freedom of conscience did not come from outside a man but from within his own heart. That freedom had to be won anew, day after day, through the discipline of self-sacrifice, ongoing conversion and prayer. Freedom of conscience required freedom from self-deception, freedom from fear, and freedom from pride.

It is instructive to recall that Thomas More’s first book was not about the law but about the spiritual life. In it, he gives the following instruction on how to pray (Idem, 21), “I care not how long or how short your prayer is, and how effectual, how ardent, how interrupted and broken with sighs...if you desire to be secure from the snares of the devil, from the storms of this world, from the hands of your enemies; if you long to be acceptable to God; if you covet everlasting happiness—then let no day pass without at least once presenting yourself to God in prayer, falling down before Him flat on the ground with a humble affection and a devout mind; not merely with your lips, but from the innermost recesses of your heart, crying out these words of the prophet: ‘The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not, but in your mercy remember me because of your goodness [Ps 25:7).”

His daily prayer was built around the Eucharist and the Sacred Scriptures. Without a doubt, then, he read and prayed over God’s word to us at this Red Mass; and used these inspired words to examine his conscience. In our First Reading, the Epistle to the Galatians (5:18-25), St. Paul contrasts “the works of the flesh” with “the fruit of the Spirit”. He writes: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

“In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.”

As St. Paul makes clear, as Thomas More knew well, and as we experience in our own lives, every human being is engaged in a spiritual battle, a struggle between the flesh and the spirit, i.e. between earthly desires that lead to the works of darkness, and eternal realities that lead upward to the light of truth and love. Thomas More, from his first days in law school, prepared himself for this battle and waged it from morning to night until the day he died.

He was convinced that to be a good lawyer he needed first to be a good man. He needed to excel in his knowledge of the law and his practice of argumentation; but even more he needed to excel in virtue and integrity. The same virtues that helped him grow in love also helped him to serve in the courtroom, to lead in the public square, and to offer sound advice to the king. A clear and well formed conscience allowed him the freedom to choose what was right and to reject what was wrong, both personally and professionally.

When one’s heart is set upon the things of this world then it lacks the freedom to put persons above things, and to decide on the basis of truth and charity; it wants only what will benefit itself.

On the other hand, the person with a well formed conscience, while aware of the ever present possibility of selfishness, grows ever more capable of receiving good advice, of remembering solid moral principles and of applying those principles to the duties at hand. Any person who is free from fear and from pride is capable of living the truth in love.

Recall with me, for a moment, the Church’s teaching on conscience. We read in Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes (#16), “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment…His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”

Our conscience is so closely linked to our dignity as a person that we are obliged to follow it, even if it is erroneous. In other words, our integrity requires that we do what we think is right, even if in reality our thinking is wrong. This is why Thomas More could honestly tell his daughter Meg that it was important that she follow her conscience even when it disagreed with his.

He also knew, however, that when we act on an erroneous conscience, even if done in good faith and thus without subjective guilt for the sin, harm still results, and we and others will suffer the consequences. Objectively evil acts always cause harm, even when there is no subjective guilt. This is why we have the grave obligation to form our conscience in accord with the truth. Our knowledge of what is true helps us to realize those good things which ought to be pursued and those evil things which ought to be rejected. Thus, conscience is closely connected to prudence by which we can know what is good and also the right means of pursuing it.

We may be tempted to think that a good conscience, while being important for one’s personal life, makes little difference in the public square. Thomas More would totally disagree. His conscience was a bright light in the dark evil of tyranny that Henry VIII and his sycophant collaborators brought over England 500 years ago.

What is it that shapes history? Is it political and economic forces? Is it military might or terrorism? Or is it something much closer to the question of conscience. John Paul II, who witnessed firsthand the totalitarian ravages of Nazi terror and Communist oppression, was convinced that these powerful regimes, built on lies and brut force, could not last. For all their frightening power and catastrophic violence, they had nothing within them that could endure the test of time. Culture, the late Holy Father contended, is what shapes history through the ages and stands the test of time. By culture, he meant what men and women cherish and honor, what they believe and worship, what gives their lives meaning and is worth dying for, what they discover and hold to in conscience—that is what forms and transforms culture. In other words, people of conscience shape history.

An intellectual colleague and old friend of John Paul II, Father Jozef Tischner, when speaking of the impact of the Polish pope’s first pastoral visit to his homeland as Successor of St. Peter and the subsequent emergence of the Solidarity movement, described it as a “huge forest planted by awakened consciences.”

My dear brothers and sister in Christ, all who serve others in public office and through the legal, judicial and political processes, I urge you to follow the example of Thomas More, to be men and women of conscience. We find ourselves today immersed in a media-hyped, pop culture that claims to be free and that prides itself on “choice”; but it refuses to give due attention to the consequences of the choice or to the actual dependencies and addictions that run rampant in society and create havoc around us—things like alcoholism and drug abuse, unfettered greed, pornography, contraception and abortion.

In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II graphically described how legalized abortion has crippled the ability of many to form their conscience properly. He writes (#58), “The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an unspeakable crime. But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behavior and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness’ (Is 5:20)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus looks the truth in the eye and calls things by their proper name when he confronts the lawyers of his day (Lk 11:46), “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”

Lawyers in Jesus’ days enjoyed special status, were given places of honor at public functions, and dressed in distinctive robes but they used their office to exploit others rather than to serve them. They sought their own advantage rather than the good of their clients. Their public office, intended for service and the common good, became an empty façade rather than a respectable reality. So, out of love rooted in truth, Christ called them to conversion, just as He calls every one of His followers to be converted and live.

A person of conscience welcomes correction that is motivated by love and that is rooted in truth. He wants his life to be built, not on sand but on solid rock.

Thomas More “had to work hard to use the sharp blade of his wit to heal and construct, rather than to injure and dominate… [He] was a great talker and a constant joker. Such qualities can endear, but they can often irritate. When moderated they can become virtues, but when indulged they necessarily cause strife. More also recognized the inordinate strength of his attachment to the comforts and pleasures of life…But the fault that worried him the most was pride. In confronting these weaknesses, More did not try to excuse his faults by calling them virtues. This clarity of judgment led him to decide early in life to train himself with great diligence and care. Otherwise, he realized, he would stand to lose the battles that mattered most.”

John Donne said that Thomas More was “a man of the most tender and delicate conscience that the world saw since Augustine.” Anglican clergyman Jonathan Swift described him as “a person of the greatest virtue this kingdom ever produced.”

G.K. Chesterton wrote, in 1929, “Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death, even perhaps the great moment of his dying; but he is not quite so important as he will be in about a hundred years’ time.” It has been nearly a hundred years since those words were spoken by Chesterton.

Tonight, let us give thanks to God for the example of courage and faith left to us by our patron saint Thomas More, a lawyer, a judge, a public servant, a husband and father, a follower of Christ in fact and not just in name, a martyr for love of God, and a man who remained faithful to the end to a well formed conscience.

(Pic: From left, St. Thomas More Pastor Father Donald P. Farnan, Kansas City in Kansas Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn and Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stewart / Colbert Rallies – The Blurry Borderline

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

The Blurry Borderline
How to Think about the Upcoming Stewart/Colbert Rallies in Washington, DC

By Santiago Ramos

“In the sprawling anarchy of the web, the borderline between fact and fiction has melted awMediaOct15ay.”

So writes Camille Paglia, literary critic and professor, in an article on singer and performer Lady Gaga for the London Sunday Times last month. The point she is making is that the technology which mediates every communication and every entertainment for those of us born after, say, 1980, has deformed our ability to recognize certain things as good and beautiful. Thus we make the mistake of thinking that Gaga’s voice is as good as Janis Joplin’s, or that her dance moves are as skillful as Madonna’s. But the point I want to extract from her argument is something that she says implicitly: that there is a baseline reality against which we can measure our illusions—that even though the borderline has melted away, there are still facts distinguishable from fictions.

When the Colbert Report first aired on Comedy Central in 2005, Stephen Colbert satirized this same dissolving border when he coined the word, “truthiness,” which has since entered the American conversation and been defined by the American Dialect Society as “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.” Again, there is a standard against which to measure our wishes, with the implication that those of us who disrespect the standard are committing violence against good sense. For a political satirist like Colbert, the standard is necessary because it is the standard against which he measures his targets: corrupt politicians, failed promises, and the simple irony of disappointed expectations. The sniper’s targets, when hit, always have to hit the ground.

When Colbert “testified” before Congress last month, however, instead of mocking truthiness, he seemed to further blur the line between fact and fiction by blurring the line between satirist and satirized. During a House Judiciary Committee Hearing on migrant farm labor, Colbert pretended to oppose immigrant labor in order to support it. But as the blogger The Last Psychiatrist pointed out, Colbert was not the only one acting. The members of Congress, too, were playacting, as such a hearing is more for show than it is for real work. The real work of crafting a law gets done without the cameras on. The joke, in a sense, was on those watching.

The risk for Stephen Colbert is, then, that he may help to further blur the line between fact and fiction and, by doing so, sabotage his own profession. Instead of rebelling against the fantasy that has become our politics, he risks becoming incorporated into it. Worse: the powers that be may have found a way to absorb his attack not with censorship, but in a more nefarious way—by diluting its content while maintaining its form.

This is something to keep in mind as we watch—again, as always, on television—the Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart rallies on the National Mall on October 30. (There are actually two rallies, playing off of each other: Stewart’s is “The Rally to Restore Sanity,” while Colbert’s is “The March to Keep Fear Alive.”) The rallies are, of course, a response to Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally, which billed itself as being non-political. Stewart and Colbert are, though left-leaning, non-partisan. It seems that Washington has become a place where people come together to not do politics. Meanwhile, the real politics happens behind the scenes.

The satirist is supposed to straighten our perceptions about ourselves and about the world. Humor is his weapon of choice in part because it relaxes us, allowing us to set aside our pride and look at ourselves more truthfully. When we look at ourselves more truthfully, we admit that we also bend and twist and break the truth about other things. Politicians do this and, more wickedly, do this through language. Thus the natural fodder for the satirist has always been political slogans—be it “Mission Accomplished” or “Hope” or “Change.” These slogans are the Wizard of Oz, and the satirist is eyeing the man behind the curtain.

All of this is something that Colbert and Stewart, as the showmen, and we, as the spectators, should keep in mind. It would be a shame if they return from Washington having unwittingly neglected their crucial task and, instead, further confused the line between fact and fiction—neglecting what Dr. Paglia rightfully signals to be one of the key issues in our culture in our day. It would be a shame if Colbert spends October 30 making a spectacle of himself, when his calling is to make a spectacle of others.

Santiago Ramos has written for First Things, Commonweal, Image Journal, Traces, and the Kansas City weekly, The Pitch. He is currently pursuing graduate studies in Boston College.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bishop Olmsted is coming to Kansas City, Atchison

On Wednesday, October 13, Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted will be homilist at Kansas City’s Red Mass. The Red Mass is sponsored by the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kansas City in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Kansas City-Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The 6:30 p.m. Mass will be held, appropriately enough, at St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City, MO.

Also on Wednesday, Bishop Olmsted will give an 11:00 a.m. presentation on “Life in Christ” at the O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS. The event is free and open to the public.

So you have two opportunities to hear one of the strongest leaders in our Church this week. I’ll be at both.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Do you know why Catholics don’t care about same-sex marriage?

“Polls conducted between July 21 and Sept. 6 found that a plurality of Catholics -- 46 percent to 42 percent -- approved of allowing gays and lesbians to marry,” reports Catholic News Service. Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto provided a clue as to why so many Catholics aren’t opposed to same sex marriage in a column earlier this month. Excerpt (emphases mine):
Another area where Catholics should do more reflection and cultivate new habits is in the sexual practice of marriage. One habit that has taken hold of many marriages is the use of artificial means of contraception. The prevalence of the practice in and outside of the Catholic community has made contraception the unquestioned default mode of marriage. As a consequence, sexuality and relationships are misunderstood and misused; and their true purpose is misplaced.
These comments are not just about the “pill” or other forms of contraceptives. This is more about the habit of using artificial means. The habit has shaped the hearts and minds of many, especially the young. Marriage is no longer understood as the covenant of love between a man and a woman that creates life, because procreation is no longer associated with sexual intercourse. In this new social situation, many shrug their shoulders and wonder why a sexual relationship between any two people who care for each other cannot be called a marriage.
The comments are just part of a very wide-ranging column from the inaugural issue of the Diocese of Sacramento’s new magazine (link will open a viewer, column is on pgs. 2-3). Throughout the column, Bishop Soto uses Cardinal Newman’s phrase, “round of the day”:
. . .a beautiful metaphor that speaks to the rhythm and rituals that can round our days, keeping our hearts and habits in sync with the creative hand of God’s grace. Our earth revolves around the sun, creating the natural cycle of night and day filled with the rituals of sunrise and sunset, the morning dew with the sweet songs of birds and the evening breeze with the soft aromas of the garden’s blooms. So we can give our heart to the ritual habits that round our day with the love and truth of Jesus. Holiness in this manner is an attractive and persuasive way to change the hearts and minds, as well as the laws, of our land.
Bishop Soto goes on to apply the metaphor to several circumstances, but returning to the above subject, Bishop Soto continues:
The church’s teaching against the use of artificial contraceptives comes from a reverential awe for the “round” of the marriage covenant, where the human family finds life, grace and goodness revealed in the ordinary rituals of the home. The sexual ritual should not be discounted or dismissed from this sacramental view.
The teaching of Natural Family Planning, as a moral and cultural alternative to the contraceptive culture, offers couples the opportunity to appreciate their sexuality, the grace of fertility and a way to unite themselves to the natural bodily rhythms that create life. Pastors and catechists should be more confident in teaching it. Married couples and young people eager to be married should explore this possibility as a gift, not a burden.
Bishop Soto is a treasure and it is good to see his column again after a hiatus during the diocese’ transition from a newspaper to a magazine. Check out their new publication here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Diocese Purchases Downtown Landmark for Diocesan Center

The Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph announced October 1 that it has purchased property in downtown Kansas City for use as a diocesan center. The historic New York Life building at 20 W. Ninth Street will be the future home of diocesan and Catholic Charities offices which are currently spread across three locations in the city.

The 10 story, 140,000 square foot (leasable space) New York Life building dates from 1888 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The $11.7 million contract price includes 565 spaces of secured, covered parking and the adjacent 45,000 square foot Merchants Bank building at 850 Main. Prior owners put $60 million into a complete renovation of the facilities including installation of new mechanical systems about 10 years ago.

Bishop Robert Finn told the Catholic Key that it has been clear for a couple of years that the diocese had outgrown the Chancery building at 300 E. 36th Street. About a dozen Chancery offices are currently in leased space at the Gillham Plaza Building and the main Chancery is in need of reconfiguration for diocesan needs.

“I didn’t want to put a lot of money into this building because I felt that we’ve already outgrown it,” Bishop Finn said.

About six months ago, Catholic Charities asked Bishop Finn for permission to begin to look for a place to relocate their offices. Catholic Charities is currently located at 1112 Broadway and they too have leased space at Gillham Plaza. “It became the occasion to look for a place where all the diocesan offices could be for the next century,” Bishop Finn said.

The diocese had originally considered constructing a diocesan center, but the cost was prohibitive. “Because of the depressed real estate market, we began looking at existing properties,” Bishop Finn said.

Bishop Finn said the diocese had three criteria in selecting a property. It had to be near the Cathedral, have enough space to “accommodate all our needs plus some future growth,” and be at a location “where we’d be identifiable as the face of the Catholic Church in Kansas City.”

In the end, he said, “We were able to acquire a very significant landmark building at a price considerably under it’s appraised value.”

Bishop Finn said he does not regard the purchase “as just the Chancery offices moving. We’re envisioning it as a diocesan center. Catholic Charities which does so much to promote the mission of the Church will be literally working alongside the other works and offices of the Church.”

The presence of a diocesan center at the New York Life Building “also adds to the very meaningful revitalization of downtown Kansas City,” Bishop Finn said.

“Because we’ve had good stewardship of our resources, both in my time and in my predecessors’ time, we will use some of our reserves” to pay for the property with the balance secured by a bank loan, Bishop Finn said.

The diocese intends to sell the Merchants Bank building which is also fully upgraded. In addition, the diocese is actively seeking to lease out 3 floors of the New York Life Building at 14,000 square feet of Class A space each.

“If we are able to sell 850 Main and to lease a meaningful portion of 20 W. Ninth, we’ll actually be in a more efficient operation than we currently have both at the Chancery and Catholic Charities,” Bishop Finn said.

The systems renovation by prior owners should add to that efficiency. In addition to architectural awards, the renovation at 20 W. Ninth has received national awards for energy efficiency, pollution prevention and environmental excellence.

Bishop Finn hopes that diocesan offices will move in to the new property in the Spring of 2011, while it is possible Catholic Charities will move in earlier. The move affects only the Kansas City metro offices of Catholic Charities; satellite locations will remain open.

Additional move in costs will include office build-out and repair of sidewalks and curbs.

The move will allow for “a lot of opportunities for new kinds of services for the diocese and to the community,” Bishop Finn said.

The unified location will allow for diocesan entities to “collaborate more readily and closely,” will have additional meeting and gathering space, a chapel, and potentially, the ability to add classrooms for catechetics and other classes.