Friday, August 31, 2018

What can tenured and tenure-line faculty do to support adjuncts? by Sarah Ellen Zarrow

“…What can tenured and tenure-lined faculty do to support adjuncts? Actions to encourage structural change might include the following:

§  Join the union and the American Association of University Professors. Advocate for adjunct unionization and representation.

§  Educate yourselves on union laws in your state and attend a protest or rally in support of local unions.

§  Openly support adjunct unionization. Write (or sign) a letter of support and deliver that letter to your administration.

§  Address adjunct concerns with your professional organization. Most organizations send out a member survey after the large annual conference. Might your university not subsidize adjunct travel costs? Suggest that your professional organization offer generous, multiple funds for adjuncts, not for extra professional development workshops but simply for attending the meeting. Maybe give these funds on a rolling basis so as not to create an onerous application process?

§  Observe whether adjuncts have representation in your professional organization’s leadership. Are adjunct concerns considered frequently and publicly or are panels about 'the adjunct experience' given the last time slot?

§  In department meetings, recognize, out loud, that not every department member is there. Decisions made in department meetings affect teaching-only faculty, who rarely have a voice in department culture but who may teach a majority of the students in the department -- or who may fulfill your department’s service course obligations to the university.
Although actions that might change structural conditions, if successful, will offer the most long-term benefit to adjuncts (other than doing away with adjunctification as a whole, which might be the ultimate solution but seems unattainable), I would have benefited enormously from the following interpersonal ones, as well:

§  Offer adjunct faculty the same physical resources as tenured and tenure-line faculty. Having a working printer, copier code and business cards is not only a way to help adjuncts feel at home in the department; such resources also make a real impact upon adjuncts’ professional lives.

§  Ask adjuncts about their research and teaching with the idea that they might actually teach you something. They may have published articles and books, and especially if they have worked on other campuses and you have not (or have not for a long time), they may well have a better perspective on pedagogical interventions, assessment and course organization.

§  Invite adjuncts to speak about their research. And, of course, pay them to do so (travel and an honorarium). Promote their work whenever possible to the faculty.

§  Compensate adjuncts for their time outside the classroom. An 'inviting' culture does not feel inviting when some people at the meeting are worried about how to pay for their ride home, since it will be too dark at the end of the meeting to bike.

§  Punch up. Adjuncts and tenure-track faculty, especially minorities and women, have similar interests in the university structure. Humanities departments are hit by some of the same forces that keep adjuncts in subservient positions. Complaining is normal, but complain up, not down. Adjuncts are not your audience; they can be your allies” (A Formal Adjunct Looks Back by Sarah Ellen Zarrow, Inside HigherEd, Aug. 24, 2018). 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

“Trump says journalists are the ‘enemy of the people’” by the Sun-Times Editorial Board

“He couldn’t be more wrong, and we are sure you know it... We are, at the Sun-Times, the enemy of unchecked authority and undeserved privilege. We are the enemy of self-entitlement. We are the enemy of the notion that the only way up is to hold somebody else down.

“We are the enemy of nothing but ‘thoughts and prayers’ when children are slaughtered. We are the enemy of faked-up outrage. We are the enemy of deadly streets and violent gangs. We are the enemy of thugs who shoot into crowds.

“We are the enemy of the societal failings of our city and country that have shaped the thugs and given them space. We are the enemy, that is to say, of dead-end jobs and no jobs, bad schools, racism, bad parenting and people who look away.

“We are the friend, though, of so much more. That’s why [on August 15th] we join[ed] some 350 newspapers across the country, led by The Boston Globe, in promoting freedom of the press in light of Trump’s attacks on reporters.

“We are the friend of righteous anger and real tears. We are the friend of real solutions, like tougher gun laws and better schools.

“We are the friend of the teacher who never gives up, of the small business owner who hires ex-offenders, of the bus driver who makes every last stop, of the architect who designs a beautiful building, and of the bricklayer and ironworker who build it. We are the enemy of bad policing. But we are the friend of every good cop, which is most cops.

“We are the friend of an open lakefront, a clean Chicago Riverexcellent middle linebackers and deep-dish pizza. Above all, we are the enemy of bad journalism, and we commit ourselves each day to practicing the best journalism. We do our best to tell our city’s story, the sum total of every Chicagoan’s story, straight and fair, come what may. So it has been, and so it always will be.

“The Chicago Sun, precursor to the Sun-Times, was founded 77 years ago for the explicit purpose of standing up for working men and women — ‘the people.’

“…It felt the pain of the men and woman standing in soup lines. It championed pretty much everything Col. Robert McCormick’s Tribune despised: the rights of unions, Social Security, a minimum wage, the dignity of immigrants and a progressive income tax…

“Trump calls journalists the ‘enemy of the people,’ but there’s hardly any news in that. Politicians in a jam always beat up on the media. The difference is one of degree. Trump has all but incited violence against reporters at his rallies…

“We firmly believe most Americans know that Trump is talking nonsense, whatever they might tell the pollsters. We firmly believe they understand that a free society is impossible without a free press. For their sake — for the sake of ‘the people’ — we will do our job” (Chicago Sun-Times). 

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

From Dave Urbanek, Director of Communications for Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois

“A recent guest view by the Illinois Policy Institute in the Aug. 22 edition of The State Journal-Register about public pensions in Illinois purported to lay out a case to prove that ‘pension reform for Illinois is essential, not impossible’ and then suggested various reforms.

“However, that opinion column only exposed some common misconceptions about the actions that have been taken to overhaul the way public pensions are financed in Illinois. In the last eight years, Illinois has done more than almost any other state to reform its public pensions.

“It is incorrect to claim that the high costs currently paid by state and local governments for teacher and public employee pensions are the result of ever-increasing salaries and benefits. The cost is high because Illinois leaders throughout the 20th century consistently underfunded public pension systems so they could spend more tax dollars on other priorities.

“Since 1939, Illinois officials have never once set aside enough money to fully fund the state’s pension promises. As a result, Illinois now carries an unfunded pension liability of $129 billion. Currently, 75 percent of the $8.7 billion Illinois is slated to pay for pensions in fiscal year 2019 is dedicated to the unfunded liability, not the actual cost of benefits.

“If pensions had been properly funded over the last 80 years, the state appropriation for pensions would be an estimated $2.2 billion. That’s a difference — a savings — of $6.5 billion, without even discussing the cost of benefits.

“The guest view also outlined a four-point program to ‘reform’ public pensions in Illinois. Three of the four proposals already are law in Illinois.

“The first, a change in the Illinois Constitution’s Pension Protection Clause to allow ‘unearned future benefits’ to be altered, has never survived the legislative process. Yet, even if the state constitution were changed in this way, it would not reduce the $129 billion unfunded liability. Those benefits already have been earned and still have to be paid.

“The second — ‘raising the retirement ages for younger workers’ — was enacted in 2010 as part of the Tier 2 benefit structure.

“The third — ‘capping maximum pensionable salary’ — has been part of state law since 1979. In fact, there are two caps for younger workers because Tier 2 imposes a separate cap on pensionable wages.

“The fourth — ‘doing away with guaranteed permanent benefit increases in favor of a true cost-of-living adjustment pegged to inflation’ — was enacted in 2010. In fact, the cap on the Tier 2 annual increase is stricter because it is one-half the rate of inflation.

“In addition, since 2010 Illinois officials have passed laws that gradually phase out all state financial support of teacher and government worker pensions. By design, Tier 2 members ‘overpay.’ They fund 100 percent of their benefits and subsidize Tier 1 benefits with their payroll contributions. Tier 3 benefits, when implemented, also will be fully funded by members and school districts. In the future, after the last Tier 1 pension is paid, the state will not pay a dime for any Tier 2 or Tier 3 pensions” (The State Journal-Register, August 28, 2018).

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Facebook Discussion Regarding God and Human Suffering

Glen BrownSome people say “to believe that God exists is to believe that one stands in some relation to God’s existence, such that God’s existence is itself the reason for one’s belief”; these non-theists choose not to make a leap from reason and/or bewilderment to an invocation of the supernatural when confronted with the injustice of predatory, egregious acts. And though non-theists do not have a belief in God's existence, most of them have moral and ethical convictions, nonetheless. They know where the notion of right and wrong comes from. When they find out about an institution that is complicit with heinous crimes against innocent children, they want moral and legal justice and not more prayers, penance and fasting.   

"…I absolutely renounce all higher harmony. It is not worth one little tear of even that one tormented child who beat her chest with her little fist and prayed to ‘dear God’ in a stinking outhouse with her unredeemed tears! It's not worth it, because her tears remain unredeemed. They must be redeemed, otherwise there can be no harmony. But how, how will you redeem them? Is it possible? Can they be redeemed by being avenged? But what do I care if the tormentors are in hell? What can hell set right here, if these ones have already been tormented? And where is the harmony, if there is hell? …And if the sufferings of children goes to make up the sum of suffering needed to buy truth, then I assert beforehand that the whole truth is not worth such a price…” (Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990. p. 245).

Richard Angelo Sasso: The vast majority deists/theists are rabidly furious about the sexual abuse of children. None of us condone it. The Pope is constrained by his leadership of an institution that he cannot control in its entirety. He cannot simply pull it all down in a flare of fury.

A long-held Christian belief is that unearned suffering is redemptive. Dostoevsky believed that himself. The character articulating those thoughts you quote is meant to illustrate the meaninglessly of a life without a deity.

“Without God all things are permissible,” Fyodor wrote elsewhere. Without a deity, any attempt to establish “moral and legal justice” at best simply depends on a human institution or at worst trusts a human intuition.

I do not know if there is God, especially the CHRISTIAN one. But a world without him is no better than with him and perhaps a great deal worse. Suffering for its own sake seems even more pointless.

Glen Brown: I always thought it interesting that Ivan’s argument in Rebellion and the Grand Inquisitor was stronger than his brother’s.

Richard Angelo Sasso: Sort of like Milton’s Lucifer/Satan.

Glen Brown: Yes, Paradise Lost. Though it is not about the Problem of Evil.

Richard Angelo Sasso: I made an in depth investigation of this in my younger years and I’ve been pretty sure there’s a higher power and he/she/it probably wants as little to do with organized religion as possible.

Glen Brown: Dostoevsky's Christian Orthodox is evident in Crime & Punishment, especially at the end of the novel.

Richard Angelo Sasso:  He was a tortured soul. As was Tolstoy.

Glen Brown: It seems to me that Dostoevsky’s main character, Ivan, chooses to search for answers to inexplicable moral questions. He cannot accept the notion that suffering in the world is justified because it promotes the ultimate state of happiness or, in other words, suffering as our means of enlightenment. His questions in The Brothers Karamazov are both explicitly expressed or implied. Such questions might be what kind of moral philosophy (or Divine Justice) condemns every child to inherit the sin of an assumed ancestor? If God wanted to forgive sins, why not just forgive them? Why such needless suffering of innocent children to reveal knowledge of good and evil? How does innocent suffering serve the moral improvement of mankind? If such suffering prevails here on earth, do we have reason to suppose that goodness predominates elsewhere? Isn't Divine Justice (or Divine Evil for that matter) disproportionate to any evil on earth anyway?

Richard Angelo Sasso: Human suffering remains the single challenge to theology.

Glen Brown: Yes, human suffering personified by the syllogism of the "Problem of Evil" has been considered the most powerful objection to traditional mono-theism. It is an argument against a "benevolent" and "omnipotent" creator.

Elie Wiesel would have also understood Dostoevsky’s fictional character’s objections to indifferent suffering. Wiesel attested during WWII, just like the children of Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, and America can today… what needless suffering truly is. Wiesel also realized that people who have a belief in God believe it is something to preserve and one that must not be challenged, even though it is in conflict with the ideals of truth seeking, moral reasoning and logic, and a belief in God’s superior compassion and power.

Richard Angelo Sasso: Yes, but the reverse argument is equally troubling: Must everything be perfect in this life for there to be a God? What would the acceptable threshold be? A head cold? A flat tire? A bad case of gout? And is the suffering we visit on one another through free will a count against a God?

Glen Brown: "Must everything be perfect in this life for there to be a God?": Yes, if God is omnipotent and benevolent, there would be no suffering, innocent children for an imaginary sin. "And is the suffering we visit on one another through free will a count against a God?": Yes, if God is omnipotent and benevolent, evil would not exist.

Richard Angelo Sasso: And would we even recognize such a world? There are ways of thinking of a good and powerful God that do not entail absolutist visions.

Glen Brown: Is it logical for us to believe that a God created the entire vast universe and then created man and woman on earth and gave them free will, but its chief concern is whether we worship it or not because our sins have some sort of cosmic significance in this vast universe that contains billions of galaxies, each galaxy with billions of stars, and each star perhaps with a planetary system and other possible life forms? Does that seem logical? Once again, if God wanted to test mankind in order to forgive their sins, why not just forgive them?

Glen Brown: Richard, I always enjoy our conversations. Right now, I am going to prepare for my General Ethics class.

Richard Angelo Sasso: I’ve drifted toward a pantheist vision of a deity that is not separate from creation, but one with it. I’ve long attended a Unitarian-Universalist church that sees worship as spiritual communion between people and a higher power. And there is no hell.

Suffering is no easier for the non-believer than the believer. If I cannot answer why God allows suffering, the atheist can see no comfort beyond what we can extend to one another.

Of course, the Buddha had some fairly clear thoughts on the nature of sufferings and the way away from them.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Can Trump Be Indicted?

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer, implicated Trump in campaign finance violations. NPR's Ailsa Chang speaks with lawyer Philip Lacovara about whether sitting presidents can be indicted in these situations.
Now when a lawyer admits his client directed him to commit a crime and then pleads guilty to that crime, the client stands a good chance of being indicted himself, unless, of course, that client is now the president of the United States.
With us now to tease all of this out is Philip Allen Lacovara. He was counsel to the special prosecutors who investigated Watergate, and he argued the Nixon tapes case before the Supreme Court. Welcome.
CHANG: So let me just begin by asking you what exactly is the Justice Department's position on indicting a sitting president?
LACOVARA: The Justice Department has taken the position twice that the president is not subject to indictment while in office and that no criminal charges can proceed against him unless he's either removed from office by impeachment or has served out his term.
CHANG: And just to be clear, as a constitutional matter, it's still unresolved whether a sitting president can be indicted, right? This is just a choice the Justice Department made.
LACOVARA: That's right. In the Watergate investigation, we examined that issue quite carefully and reached the conclusion that there is no constitutional bar to indicting a sitting president. It's a matter of discretion whether to file such charges. But the issue is still unresolved because, neither in Watergate, nor in the Clinton years, did any prosecutors press the issue.
CHANG: So why did the Justice Department decide to adopt this categorical policy - not leave it to the department's discretion, but just decide, in all cases, the president - a sitting president should never be indicted?
LACOVARA: They have two basic themes. One is a kind of abstract constitutional theory. Indeed, it's one that the current Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh seems to accept, and that's the so-called unitary executive theory.
CHANG: Tease that out for me.
LACOVARA: It's the notion that all law enforcement resides in the president and that everybody else in the executive branch, including prosecutors, is essentially irrelevant. And the president, therefore, would in effect be prosecuting himself. And they think that that's a bizarre conundrum which the Constitution shouldn't allow.
CHANG: A very expansive view of executive power.
LACOVARA: It is. The other theory is a practical one, and that is that it would be too much of a distraction from the president's important duties as chief executive to force him to defend himself in court.
That argument the Justice Department continues to adhere to, even though in the Paula Jones case, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the exact same argument when President Clinton argued that he shouldn't be allowed to be dragged into court.
CHANG: OK. So while a president is in office, it sounds like it's department policy not to indict him or her. But once the president leaves office, all bets are off.
LACOVARA: All bets are off, indeed. There's only one practical problem that might arise, and that's the statute of limitations.
CHANG: Right.
LACOVARA: For most offenses - federal offenses, there's a five-year statute of limitations. President Trump has already announced that he is running for re-election in 2020. And if he were to be re-elected, his term would not expire until January of 2025, by which time any responsibility for things that he did during the campaign or any obstruction of justice that he may have committed during or preceding the Mueller investigation would be time-barred. And so he would escape culpability entirely.
CHANG: So it's clear that you have thought a lot about this. What do you think? How should transgressions by a sitting president be handled during his presidency?
LACOVARA: For me, the bottom line, as somebody who's been in and around government for five decades, even the president is subject to the law and is equal under the law. And there was an irony in Watergate that President Nixon, but Nixon alone, was pardoned when his co-conspirators all went to prison.
We have, at the moment, the same irony today with Michael Cohen pleading guilty to committing a federal felony. It seems to me a matter of questionable public policy to give the primary malefactor immunity while the subordinate, Michael Cohen, is facing a prison sentence of between four and five years.
CHANG: Why should Cohen take the fall if it's true that he was directed by the president himself to commit the crime?
LACOVARA: Yeah. And I think the bottom line here is that the framers of our Constitution knew how to confer immunities when they wanted to, and they said that members of Congress have a short-term immunity while they're attending legislative sessions. They didn't do that with respect to a president.
The whole purpose of the Revolution and our Constitution was to treat officials of our government as different from the royal in England. And I think they would be astonished at the notion today that the president is somehow immune from criminal prosecution if he violates the norms that apply to everyone else.
CHANG: Philip Allen Lacovara served as counsel to the Watergate special prosecutors. Thank you very much.
LACOVARA: You're very welcome.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Vatican released a letter Monday from Pope Francis directly addressing for the first time the latest accusations of sexual abuse by priests

Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

"If one member suffers, all suffer together with it" (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. 

Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1. If one member suffers...

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. 

But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary's song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: "he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty" (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: "How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ's betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison -- Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)" (Ninth Station).

2. ... all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. 

And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is "a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. 

Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for 'even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light' (2 Cor 11:14)" (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul's exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: "If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. 

I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord's command.1 This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says "never again" to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God's People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualties and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. 2 This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church's authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that "not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people".3
Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say "no" to abuse is to say an emphatic "no" to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that "in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people" (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church's members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. 

The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God's People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For "whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today's world" (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people's sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combating all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience. In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be "a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race" (Lumen Gentium, 1).

"If one member suffers, all suffer together with it", said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son's cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus' side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, "to insist more upon prayer", seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.

Vatican City, 20 August 2018

(CNN) The Vatican released a letter Monday [August 20] from Pope Francis directly addressing for the first time the latest accusations of sexual abuse by priests

Abused and disadvantaged mothers and daughters are being honed into a squad of sharpshooters to save wildlife in the Zambezi valley

“The black metal of the AR-15 rifle has worn silvery and shiny in parts after years of use. More manageable than an AK-47 in close-quarter combat, the weapon is precise enough to bring down an enemy target at 500 metres. Used for decades by anti-poaching units throughout Africa, today this gun is not carried by a typical swaggering male field ranger, this one is cradled securely and proficiently by Vimbai Kumire. ‘This job is not meant just for men,’ she says, ‘but for everyone who is fit and strong.’

“Kumire is a 32-year-old single mother whose husband ran off with a younger woman while she was pregnant with her second child. She is practicing setting up an ambush in the early morning in Zimbabwe’s lower Zambezi Valley, nestling deep into the green undergrowth like a dappled shadow.

“This is Africa’s poaching frontline, and these are not just regular female game rangers. If the team behind Kumire’s new job have anything to do with it, these women are a growing squad of environmental shock troops for a new type of community development offensive.

“According to conservation biologist Victor Muposhi of Chinhoyi University of Technology, the lower Zambezi Valley has lost 11,000 elephants in the past 10 years. But he believes that hiring and training female rangers such as Kumire directly from the local communities is a game-changer.

“‘Developing conservation skills in communities creates more than just jobs,’ says Professor Muposhi. ‘It makes local people directly benefit from the preservation of wildlife.’ And that, he says, can save not only landmark species such as elephants but entire ecosystems.

“Women’s empowerment is at the core of the program, named Akashinga, which means the brave ones. ‘This is a true empowerment program,’ says Muposhi, ‘because you are dealing with a highly vulnerable and damaged group of young ladies.’ Sitting on a rock looking north over one of Africa’s last great wildernesses, Muposhi explains that his early research shows the five-month-old program is helping change these formerly unemployed single mothers into community leaders.

“Primrose Mazliru, 21, stands in the gathering dusk near their camp among the new grass, bright green with the recent rains. Ramrod straight, shoulders back and proud, she smiles despite the vivid scar that runs across her upper lip, where her ex-boyfriend beat her in a drunken rage. ‘I can testify to the power of this program to change my life, and now I have the respect of my community, even as a young single mother,’ she explains.

“Mazliru has already bought a small plot of land with her wages as a field ranger. ‘I don’t need a man in my life to pay my way for me and my child,’ she says, a glint in her eye.

“Like most countries in southern Africa, Zimbabwe uses game management areas around famous national parks such as Victoria Falls or Mana Pools as ‘buffer zones’ to protect the animals. These buffer zones are huge tracts of land much larger than the parks themselves, originally created to benefit the surrounding communities by allowing limited trophy hunting by high-dollar foreign clients such as Walter Palmer, the American dentist who attracted worldwide condemnation after killing Cecil the lion on a hunt in 2015.

“There are no fences between the hunting areas, or between the wildlife and the estimated 4 million people living on the borders of these protected lands. Some profits from the hunting have gone to support the communities which live in the wilderness areas designated for trophy hunting – almost 20% of Zimbabwe’s land.

According to Muposhi, these precious ecosystems are now under grave threat due to the collapse of commercial hunting, in part because of a growing ethical backlash. ‘Cecil the lion marked the birth of the greater debate around the issues of morals and ethics in hunting and whether it is sustainable or not.’

Revenues are plummeting and human populations around parks growing. ‘Five years from now,’ says Muposhi, ‘if we do not have other options, then it will not be viable to save these areas.’

“Damien Mander, the founder of the Akashinga initiative, is a tall, Australian, military-trained sniper, who would look very much at home in the centre of a rugby scrum. Mander was inspired by the story of the Black Mambas, the world’s first female, unarmed anti-poaching unit, who work near South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Having met some of the women on a fundraising trip to New York, where they were giving a talk, he saw the international support and interest they received and thought a similar project in Zimbabwe might be a good way to raise the profile of his own project, the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF). What transpired went way beyond those modest ambitions.

“‘Thirty-six women started our training, modelled on our special-forces training, and we pushed them hard, much harder than any training we do with men,’ he explains from his tented camp at a secret location in the Zambezi Valley. ‘Only three dropped out. I couldn’t believe it.’

“From the very first day of the women’s training, he saw that something very special was happening. He realized that women were the missing link to successful conservation and anti-poaching initiatives. ‘We have turned a security need into a community program,’ he said. In only five months, according to Mander, this pilot project is already putting more money per month into the local community than trophy hunting did per year.

“Important people are noticing. Tariro Mnangagwa is a 32-year-old professional photographer who is visiting and training with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation’s Akashinga field ranger unit. She is also the youngest daughter of Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. ‘These women show me hope,’ she says. She heads to a beaten-up Land Rover to visit a community in search of a former poacher who wants to talk.

“Annette Hübschle, a senior researcher and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cape Town, believes that the Akashinga model could still be a great solution. While many western governments and conservation organizations take decisions in London, New York and Geneva, the people most affected are usually women in communities adjacent to protected areas in Africa. Community-driven conservation programs based around empowerment and training for women such as Kumire and Mazliru offer a potential solution to the end of hunting.

“Mander, and all his rangers, live on a vegan diet. His TED talk on veganism has been seen by millions of people around the world. He stopped eating animal products five years ago. ‘I was wandering around in the bush, protecting one group of animals and coming home and eating another. I could not live with the hypocrisy of that anymore.’

“The Akashinga have embraced it with gusto. ‘It’s great,’ says Kumire with a huge smile, as she stands in the light of the cooking fire steaming with pots of beans and spinach-like greens. ‘I don’t miss meat at all, when I go home for leave and people try to feed me meat I can’t eat it because my stomach hurts if I do, and I tell people no, don’t give me meat, I am vegan!’ The women around her smile and nod in agreement.

“Muposhi, himself a vegan for 13 years, argues that showing communities they don’t need bush meat is about setting an example, one that stops poaching and reduces the need to farm animals in wilderness areas – a driver of habitat loss. Muposhi is excited to see the project grow. ‘It is happening right in the middle of nowhere in the Zambezi Valley, and it is part of a greater movement,’ he says. ‘We are going to develop it to become one of the best models of conservation of wildlife based on women’s empowerment.’

“As the training exercise unfolds, the female rangers are hidden from sight, the muzzles of their AR-15s poking from tufts of grass. Slowly the two scouts designated as ‘poachers” walk down the animal track. When they get to the right spot the women explode into action, shouting Get down! Down! Now, now, now!’ Within moments they have the suspects handcuffed. When asked why the pretend ‘poachers’ are shaking, Kumire says that suspects always lay ‘shaking on the ground,’ she laughs. Mander ends the exercise, the women help their friends up with smiles, and together they quietly fall into formation and disappear back into the bush.”