The editor over at ChurchPop posted the following satire:
ROME, Italy — Pope Francis has changed the name of St. Peter’s Basilica to “Tiber Creek Community Church,” Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi announced this morning.

“The greatest church of Christendom, built on the holy grave of the martyr-prince of the Apostles, has been known as ‘St. Peter’s Basilica’ for 1700 years,” Fr. Lombardi explained. “It was long overdue for a rebranding.”

He continued that this was just the next step in Pope Francis’ greater program of trying to make the church more relatable to the average person.

“How many Catholics today even know who St. Peter is?” Fr. Lombardi asked reporters, eliciting murmurs of agreement. “And besides, referencing St. Peter is a dead giveaway that we’re Catholic.” Fr. Lombardi said that naming the church after it’s geographic location without any denominational identifiers was more in line with how modern people felt about religion.

Fr. Lombardi also announced that projectors and screens would be installed throughout the basilica in the coming week, that a “totally rocking” worship band was being formed, and that Pope Francis planned on making his sermons “relevant to every day life.”

“The Trinity, the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, these are all interesting — to dead theologians,” Fr. Lombardi said dismissively. “But how does that apply to my everyday life? How will that help me advance in my career? That’s what Pope Francis is going to be focusing on.”

According to an anonymous source within the Vatican, when some of his advisors voiced concerns about the name change, Francis informed them that he had already purchased the new sign.

“He was really proud of the sign,” the anonymous source said. “He told us he already had some great jokes to post up there.”

Pretty funny stuff, no?

Yet, it does point out something that's provoking no small amount of worry in a lot of Catholics and non-Catholics alike: In the name of the "New Evangelization," is the Holy Father intent on overturning centuries of Church teaching that's based upon the words of Jesus contained in Scripture? Or, is he just releasing some of the pressure that's built up over the past few decades so the Extraordinary Synod on the Family can deal with essential issues and threats?

Who's to know?

What's fact is that the Holy Father has let genie is out of the bottle by encouraging full-throttled, public debate, with divisions among the cardinals now being politicized by the media and partisans, raising the hopes of many on the left that Church teaching will be changed. Speeches are being given and books are being published. Partisans--particularly on the left--are denying credible scholarship and promoting suspect scholarship.

Unintentionally, the Holy Father may have further divided the hierarchy, exposed long-term wounds, and may even be causing a schism--perhaps not a formal schism but one engendering much greater embitterment between both sides--one that's worse than the schism engendered by his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, with the publication of Humanae vitae (which The Motley Monk happens to believe was heroic, prophetic, and the truth).


Let the discussion begin...
 
 
The movement for school choice in North Carolina continues to face a rough road against the monopoly of the public schools, the teachers union, and their union bosses.

Judge Robert Hobgood has ruled the state's school voucher program unconstitutional. Allowing public funds to go toward private and religious schools, he reasoned, is unconstitutional under North Carolina law. The lawsuit to block the vouchers was brought by 71 of North Carolina's school districts.

Under the program:
  • low-income families whose children are enrolled in public schools would receive up to $4.2k annually (known as “Opportunity Scholarships”) to send their children to a private school; and,
  • 5.5k applications seeking vouchers for their children were filed for the $10 millionM available for 2.4k student spots.

With Judge Hobgood’s ruling, the program will not be implemented.

According to the News and Observer as well as WRAL News, that’s very sad news for the 1.8k+ students who had already accepted their Opportunity Scholarships for this school year and were looking forward to getting out of the schools designed to leave them behind.

The good news for low-income students in North Carolina--whose parents have been stripped of their divine right to educate their children as they see fit and who themselves have been made "wards" of the public school monopoly--is that the state intends to appeal the decision.


Let the discussion begin…





To read the News and Observer article, click on the following link:
"NC to appeal ruling banning taxpayer money for private schools."

To access the WRAL News report, click on the following link:
"Judge rules NC school voucher program unconstitutional."

 
 
Remember the “stimulus package” passed during the first year of the Obama administration? One aspect included suspending the work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka “food stamps”).

In response, the majority of states did away with work requirements as well. Today, 46.5M Americans receive food stamps with 10% of those being childless adults who would otherwise be subject to the work requirements.

What did those requirements include?
  • Low-income, childless adults were generally required to work or participate in a work training program for a minimum of 20 hours/week.
  • Doing so made those childless adults eligible for SNAP.
  • Otherwise, food stamp usage for those childless adults was limited to 3 months during the course of a 3-year period.

But, the 2009 federal stimulus package did away with all of that, what was supposed to be a “temporary fix” to the wretched economy President Obama inherited. His version of “hope and change” would transform an economic disaster into an economic renaissance through the stimulus package.

Well, lo and behold!

It’s now been 5 years and states are reinstating the work requirements having come to the realization that too many childless adults are gaming the system. However, the states are only allowed to reinstate those requirements if a federal waiver makes them eligible. In 2013, 42 states operated their programs without the work requirements. But, in 2014, only 35 states were eligible under the waiver.

Isn’t that interesting—the waiver requirements are being tightened up as states put childless adults to work if they are to receive SNAP benefits. Seems that the folks and their community organizers and interest groups prevailed upon federal regulators to come to their aid and give them their “Obama money.” Even the New Mexico Conference of Bishops blasted the reinstatement of work requirements:


     Some in our state government are poised to strike another blow to our

     still-weak communities. The administration of the state wants to deny
     food benefits to those who cannot find a job in a market that isn’t
     producing any.

According to Stateline, 17 states across the nation plan to reinstate the work requirements this fall.

Don’t be surprised if federal regulators once again tighten up the requirements. It’s called “rigging the game” so those childless adults receiving SNAP benefits continue to vote for Uncle Sugar come election time.


Let the discussion begin…




To read the Stateline report, click on the following link:
"More States Enforce Food Stamp Work Requirements."

To read the statement issued by the New Mexico Conference of Bishops, click on the following link:
http://www.archdiocesesantafe.org/ABSheehan/Bishops/BishStatements/

14.08.13SNAP%25252520.pdf
 
 
Samuel Goldwyn Films and City on A Hill Studio will release the movie, "The Song," on Stepember 26, 2014. Inspired by the Song of Solomon the themes of this romantic drama include love and finding purpose and meaning in life through permanent commitments.

The narrative follows an aspiring singer-songwriter, Jed King, as he struggles to catch a break and escape the long shadow of his father, a country music legend. After reluctantly accepting a gig at a local vineyard harvest festival, Jed is love-struck by the vineyard owner’s daughter, Rose. Romance quickly blossoms and soon after their wedding, Jed writes "The Song" for his wife. The song  becomes a breakout hit, thrusting Jed into a life of stardom and a world of temptation in the form of fellow performer Shelby Bale. Suddenly, Jed’s life and marriage begin to fall apart.

The Archbishop of Louisville, Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D., writes in his review of "The Song":
 
     The beauty of the faithful love of husband and wife is showcased in
     a moving portrayal of a man and woman who fall in love and conquer
     the world’s challenges.  This movie, based on Holy Scripture's "Song
     of Songs," leads the viewer to yearn for a faithful love of such deep
     and lasting beauty and helps us appreciate the sacrifices such a love
     in this life requires and deserves. Our world needs such a compelling
     witness, which is too often missed in the glitter of today’s fast-paced
     culture of impulsive and shallow relationships.
 
The release of "The Song" coincides with the first Synod of Bishops to be held October 5-19, 2014, in Rome. There, Catholic bishops from around the world will meet with Pope Francis to address the pastoral challenges confronting the family today in the context of the New Evangelization.

In light of the Synod of Bishops, "The Song" provides an excellent opportunity for people to consider the Church's teaching about the indissoluability of the Sacrament of Marriage. The movie is especially appropriate for teenagers and young people as it will arouse in them the natural desire for a loving and permanent union teaching them, at the same time, that marriage is not all glitter and excitement but requires guts and commitment.

And, if f that's not enough, there's also lots of good music.

For all of these reasons, The Motley Monk rates "The Song" as a "must see."


Let the discussion begin...
 
 
“Mediation” is not a word that likely comes to mind when the topic is student misbehavior in inner-city public schools.

For example, consider the City of Philadelphia's public schools. The 2014-2015 school year represents the first time the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) was not named on the list of “Persistently Dangerous Schools” that’s published annually by Commonwealth’s Department of Education. It was as recent as the 2013-2014 school year that SDP reported 2,485 violent incidents.

Mediation? Isn't that psychobabble, the stuff of "Can't we all just get along?" Why not incarceration? When it comes to school violence, isn't it time for young people to learn there are consequences for their conduct?

What’s happening at a Philadelphia charter middle and high school—Freire Charter School—suggests it may be time to reconsider the concept of mediation when it comes to non-violent conflict.

According Watchdog.org, the school has a "zero-tolerance" policy when it comes to physical violence, verbal violence, and bullying. Students from 5th to 12th grade are held to high standards of conduct, not only in the classroom but also beyond school grounds. Any violent conduct results in expulsion...no second chances. That sounds more like a private or parochial school than a public school.

But, non-violent conflict is dealt with through mediation. At Friere:
  • Students can take fellow students or teachers to mediation.
  • If the mediation is successful, the parties sign a contract.
  • Any violations of the contract will result in another round of mediation.

Hmmm…Teachers being hauled before a mediator? Endless rounds of mediation? Where does all of this end?

Apparently, it works at Friere:
  • In 2013, U.S. News and World Report listed the charter school among the nation's "Best High Schools" after 94% of its graduates were attending college. Considering the SDP’s high dropout rate, that’s pretty impressive.
  • Better yet, in 2014, students graduating from the charter school received ~$60k/student in scholarships.

Most importantly, the charter school keeps parents involved. Using its "Power School" software program, parents are kept abreast of their children's grades, attendance, and conduct. In addition, students struggling in classes are matched with peer tutors, who—under the supervision of adults—are paid to assist those struggling students.

Same neighborhoods. Same families. Generally the same curriculum. Different approaches to discipline. Different outcomes.


Charter schools generally outperform public schools, magnet schools being a different case. Why should the public school teachers’ union bosses fear them if their primary focus is “the children”?


Let the discussion begin…




To read the Watchdog.org article, click on the following link:
Violent schools? A Philadelphia charter has answers.”

 
 
The Wall Street Journal has reported that public school teachers' unions in Florida have mounted an offensive to terminate the school choice scholarship program signed into law by Governor Jeb Bush in 2001. The unions claim the program is "hurting public education."

The cleverly-conceived plan provides tax credits to donors who make charitable contributions to fund private school scholarships. To qualify for the scholarships, students must receive subsidized federal lunches. Once a scholarship is granted, students can attend the schools of choice.

Some data for the 2014-2015 school year:
  • Scholarships are capped at $5,272.
  • 70% of scholarship recipients are minority students whose families with an average income of $25k.
  • $357M in tax credits are available. This amount is equal to <2% of local and state education budgets.
  • Between 2010 and 2014, the number of students receiving scholarship awards grown 300%, reaching 70k children.

Since 2001, per-pupil spending in Florida has increased 40%. In 2012, the program saved the state $58M.

The outcome? The school choice program has helped Florida's low-income students, both in public and in private schools. In fact, students in Florida's public schools have demonstrated testing gains, which may be a healthy by-product of increased competition due to the growth of the scholarship program and charter schools.

In the face of this demonstrated successs where the scholarship funds are not part of the Florida treasury--they are funded by private contributions and no money is sent to private schools to pay for the scholarships--the public school teachers' unions are calling the growth of the tax credit program "unconstitutional."

The unions have hried some very clever lawyers who maintain that Florida's constitution requires the "adequate provision" of public education. Thus, the lawyers contend that Flolrida's school districts are losing ~$7k for each student who uses a tax credit scholarship to attend a private school.

What's interesting to note, once again, is that the public school teachers' unions are not interested primarily in students but in continuing if not expanding their monopoly. They hold low-income students hostage to their failing system which only ensures those students will continue to experience difficulty moving out of poverty.

It's so very sad to see the public school teachers' unions mounting a new offensive. They have already taken upon themselves what belongs to parents by divine right...the education of their children. Now they once again seek to deny parents choice in the education of their children. That's immoral. 


Let the discussion begin...




To read the Wall Street Journal article, click on the folllowing link:
"Florida's School Choice Showdown."

 
 
If one is to believe President Obama, a college education is not only basic right of citizenship but also a necessity to “make it” as an adult in his vision of America. Unfortunately, the facts of Obamanomics don’t support his assertion.

Consider the infographic produced by Reason.com:

Underemployment –those in the labor force are employed less than full time or holding jobs that don’t require their level of educational achievement—presents a significant problem for recent graduates.

To wit:
  • The Class of 2007 boasts an underemployment rate of 9.6%.
  • The Class of 2014 boasts an unemployment rate of 16.8%.

That’s a 31% increase.

Then, too, the portion of college grads working part time (<35 hours/week) has risen.
  • In 2000, 15% of college graduates worked part time.
  • In 2011, 23% worked part time.

That’s a 53.3% increase.

What jobs do those college graduates hold? In 2010:
  • 51.9% of jobs held by college graduates required a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • 37% of jobs held by college graduates required a high school diploma or less.
  • 11% of jobs required something more than a high school diploma but not a bachelor’s degree.

That means 48% of the jobs available require no college education.

The “take away”?

The Obamanomics job market is increasingly becoming characterized by part-time jobs that require no college education. Moreover, those jobs pay less, provide fewer benefits, and offer little promise of advancement to full-time jobs that pay more and offer greater benefits. Thank goodness there’s Obamacare to cover their healthcare.

How’s that for hopium and changium?


Let the discussion begin…




To access the infographic at Reason.com, click on the following link:
"The Sluggish Economy Slams Recent College Grads."

 
 
The aphorism, "You are entitled to your opinions but not to invent your facts," seems appropriate with this item with the addendum, "or change standard definitions."

Billings Gazette op-ed quotes Steve Running, one of the great high priests of those who worship at the altar of environmentalism, as stating:

     Since 1986, longer, warmer summers have resulted in a fourfold 
     increase of major wildfires and a sixfold increase in the area of forest
     burned, compared to the period from 1970 to 1986.

Wow! That's a 600% increase in wildfires. Perhaps it's true. After all, CBS runs videos of wildfires in California burning down homes and destorying neighborhoods practically every week.

Thanks to the Heartland Institute, data from the National Interagency Fire Center--which has wildfire statistics going back 50+ years,wildfires have decreased, not increased, as global temperatures have risen:
  • In 1986, there were 85k wildfires.
  • In 2013, there were 47k wildfires.
  • There were fewer wildfires in 2013 than in any year since 1984.
  • In 2014, there have been 38k wildfires.

Is the great high priest--one of the stormiest of the stormy petirls--being artfully deceptive?

Not exactly. The term Running used to justify his mathematics is "major" wildfires. Under the Obama administration, policy concerning wildfires has changed. Today, wildfire policy allows wildfires to burn freely, until the fires begin to pose a threat to humansThis change of definition has the policy impact of requiring firefighters to allow small wildfires to burn until they become much larger blazes.

The result? A 50% increase in acreage burned in 2013 compared to 1986, despite 50%+ less wildfires actually taking place in 2013.

Getting regulators to change a definition to support the data that, in turn, will promote the dogma. How's that for honest and forthright discourse?


Let the discussion begin...




To read the Billings Gazette op-ed, click on the following link:
http://billingsgazette.com/news/opinion/guest/guest-opinion-global-warming-makes-firefighting-more-dangerous/article_a863e51f-5ae7-5fe0-b018-98b6952041ad.html

To read the Heartland Institute report, click on the following link:
"Sorry, Steve Running, Wildfires Are Decreasing with Global Warming."

 
 
Bloomberg Businessweek reports that more than 50% of American adults are not married in 2014. That’s up from 37.5% in 1976.

There are some economic benefits for singles:
  • More likely than married couples—who have children and own a home—to move easily and change jobs.
  • More likely to take risks and engage in entrepreneurship, as fixed costs are lower and singles can cut spending more easily than married couples.

There also are some economic risks for singles:
  • Job loss or an injury may more negatively impact singles—income and health insurance being primary concerns—than married couples.

In addition, there are some economic benefits for the nation:
  • Singles contribute to a more dynamic labor market.
  • Singles build new businesses.

Then, there is big one economic risk for the nation:
  • Fewer children are born, leaving fewer taxpayers in the next generation to fund the growing price of entitlements.

That’s the economics of the matter.

Unfortunately, that neglects what may be some more important matters, like the psychological, social, and spiritual aspects associated with marriage and single life. Certainly not every adult is equipped to meet the challenges that marriage and family life presents. Perhaps the rise in the number of singles is a good sign, as that may portend fewer divorces. But, it may also portend a fear of committing oneself to another human being in an institution that is permanent, suggesting that many more singles today than four decades ago would rather “go it alone” than risk “going it together.” Then, too, it could also be a result of the feminist movement, with both women and men deciding to “go it alone” for reasons associatgender politics.

From a psychological, social, and spiritual point of view, what may the benefits and risks to individuals as well as to the nation be for this increase in the number of Americans who are opting to remain single?


Let the discussion begin…




To read the Bloomberg Businessweek article, click on the following link:
"Most Americans Are Single, and They're Changing the Economy.”

 
 
Since 2000, the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act—which included a "social justice" program known as the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) providing federal tax credits to companies that invest in businesses in low-income areas—has provided 836 investors with $40B in tax credits for 4k projects.

But, the truth is that NMTC is an income redistribution scheme to provide more than $1B in credits annually to large banks and investors not to businesses in low-income areas. “Crony socialism” it’s called. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK.) has exposed it, and the Washington Examiner is reporting it.

Here's how the NMTC scheme works:
  • The Department of the Treasury provides funds annually to Community Development Entities (CDEs), which look for investors willing to purchase the tax credits. There are 5,780 CDEs across the country.
  • Private investors receive a tax credit in exchange for an investment in the CDE. The CDE then takes the funds and invests them directly in local businesses or projects located in low-income areas. Or, the CDE may use the funds to issue loans to these businesses.

However, the Congressional Research Service believes the NMTC has defined "low-income" communities so broadly that "virtually all of the country's census tracts are potentially eligible for the NMTC." To wit:
  • a Starbucks in Indianapolis, Indiana;
  • a day spa in Alaska;
  • a Milwaukee IHOP;
  • four law firms; and,
  • a specialty tea shop in Columbus, Ohio.

Now, why ever would the NMTC want such a broad definition? Got any guess?

If those examples aren't enough, consider the Atlanta Aquarium.

Its "Dolphin Tales" exhibit received CDE funding after Wells Fargo and SunTrust Bank purchased tax credits through NMTC. Advocates for the NMTC insist the project created "hundreds" of new jobs. But, the simple fact is that much of the funding went to Hollywood producers and show directors. Worse yet, project supporters have themselves admitted the aquarium could have funded the expansion without CDE financing.

In the end, where's the benefit to low-income Americans?

Can they afford admission to Dolphin Tales at 64.95/ticket?

Yesiree, crony socialism at its best. In the name of assist low-income citizens, the government takes from the 48% of Americans who pay taxes and gives it to the wealthy!

Let the discussion begin…




To read Senator Coburn’s report, click on the following link:
Banking on the Poor: How Corporate America Exploits Struggling Communities to Collect New Markets Tax Credits.”

To read the Washington Examiner article, click on the following link:
Why a program for the poor may be helping big banks instead.”