Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Sun-Times’

More Sad News from Illinois DCFS

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

News reports state that 11 youths died within the care of Illinois DCFS during the two-year period ending 6/30/15.

I recall that the Chicago Sun-Times campaigned against the Catholic child-care institution Maryville in 2002-3 over one suicide, and, with the help of the ACLU, drove the dedicated Fr. John P. Smyth out of child care after four decades of service. Now the Sun-Times reporters and editors should be very proud of themselves, given the catastrophic failure of Illinois DCFS.

As I wrote during the Maryville controversy–

The enduring naive faith of Chicago child welfare reformers in, of all things, Illinois politics to provide stability for poor children is the core dumb idea to which crusading reformers return decade after decade, like the Biblical dog returning to its vomit. . . .

Here is a link with a summary of my correspondence from 2002-3 on this subject.

© Copyright 2016, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

The views posted at sanityandsocialjustice.net are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.

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Back to the Future in Illinois Child Welfare

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Recent Chicago press accounts of unreported deaths among children managed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had a familiar ring for me. Some of the same cast of characters in the ACLU and Chicago Sun-Times campaign of 2002-2003 against Maryville Academy, a longstanding Catholic childcare institution, over one suicide were now attacking their own creation, the DCFS of today, over many unreported deaths.

Over ten years ago, I issued a challenge in a number of letters to the editors of Chicago papers to revisit the “reforms” of 2002-3 ten years hence to see it they actually made any difference. Today, the same ACLU court appointee is still monitoring DCFS, and some of the same Chicago Sun-Times reporters are ten years later writing about DCFS. At this point, to what good purpose?

Below are several letters I sent to various Chicago newspapers in 2002-3 during the Maryville Academy controversy, which forced out the long-time director of Maryville, Fr. John P. Smyth, in 2003. The core of my 2002-3 argument is drawn from two of these letters:

The enduring naive faith of Chicago child welfare reformers in, of all things, Illinois politics to provide stability for poor children is the core dumb idea to which crusading reformers return decade after decade, like the Biblical dog returning to its vomit. . . .

Both the civil libertarian and psychiatric elites are just as naive about the institutional sustainability of their ideas today as they were in the 1970s. They are banking on the state to fund and run child welfare, but they forget that every few years, the state’s budget collapses as it is doing now, and the rug gets pulled from under the indigent. With drastic cuts expected due to the Illinois fiscal crisis in state DCFS services, stable and prudently endowed independent institutions like Maryville continue to play a critical stop-gap role in serving children, and thus also the public interest. With the state’s resources melting down, the elite now turn to take control of Maryville. But Maryville’s service to children is an essential expression of Catholic religious freedom. We should fight very hard to prevent the takeover of Maryville Academy.

Here is the rest of my 2002-3 time-capsule below–

=====

September 6, 2002

Chicago Sun-Times

Dear Editor:

The 9/6/02 front page Sun-Times story, “Maryville is Losing Control,” had all of the familiar elements of the child welfare dilemma in Illinois going back over a century: the crusading attorneys, ever wise with infallible hindsight; the under-funded state agency, which passes its problems to the under-staffed religious institution; the psychiatric experts, who now know considerably more about drugs than about many other things; and the legislature, which would rather fund roads and casinos than kids.

One hundred years of ill-advised Illinois policy, misappropriation, and progressive humbug on child welfare all wound up in the last available place it could go, Maryville Academy, because by our century of child neglect in Illinois we have closed most of the rest.

So file the story away, noting the quotes of all the wise people who knew better than Fr. John P. Smyth. Then read this same story in ten years, and judge the effectiveness of the institutions, if there are any left in Illinois, which were organized by the same very wise people. Who of them would dare to so associate the success or failure of such a high-risk charitable effort with their own good name as had Fr. Smyth? Would the ACLU–present but somehow exempt from being quoted directly in the 9/6/02 story?

The real scandal remains that Illinois, from all sources public and private, funds less than one-third of the child welfare services that are necessary. If Fr. Smyth really had all the clout that the Sun-Times implied he did, he would have changed that. He has only spent a lifetime trying.

Sincerely,

Albert Schorsch, III

===

[unpublished]

December 11, 2002

Catholic New World

Dear Editor:

Recent media stories about Maryville Academy tell us more about the state of child welfare in Illinois than give us any clues for helping poor or disturbed children. We need to know more about Maryville’s place in child welfare history to understand just how unfair the campaign against Maryville is.

In her book, The Juvenile Court and the Progressives, author Victoria Getis described the gradual transition and transfer of child welfare resources in Chicago from idealistic social service at the turn of the 20th century to a growing child welfare apparatus linked with university-based research in following generations. My own summary is that more and more was spent maintaining over time the bureaucracy of judges, attorneys, psychiatrists, social workers, probation officers, guards, professor-evaluators, and support personnel than was spent caring for children. Catholic child-care facilities of this early era, then with independent financial resources from stable funds like religious cemeteries and cottage industries, were shielded from the ups and downs of government, and could provide children relative stability.

In the late 1960s, Illinois’ child welfare system reached a crisis point due to the explosion of urban poverty. Like other states, Illinois, at the behest of legislators for fiscal reasons and civil libertarians for idealistic ones, embraced the de-institionalization movement in child welfare, led in the 1970s by then Illinois DCFS head Jerome Miller. Many child-care institutions were closed, and many dependent teens and pre-teens found themselves on the streets. As a young graduate student in the early 1970s, I followed the fates of children sent away from the closed Angel Guardian Orphanage and other institutions into the alleys of Chicago’s Uptown, Juneway Terrace, West Town, and South and West Sides. Several of these kids wound up dead, and many more faced abuse. It was not Illinois progressivism’s finest hour. The full history of teen de-institutionalization was never told–too embarrassing for the press, the crusading attorneys, and the professors. Maryville director Rev. John Smyth learned the lesson of these years, and prudently built Maryville’s endowment.

If we fast-forward to today, we find the post de-institutionalization generation of civil libertarians now anointed as guardians of child welfare by the press and to a certain extent the courts, with few psychiatric facilities available to children thanks to previous “reforms.”

The civil libertarians now want to change the mission of Maryville Academy to match the latest in their long series of unproved psychiatric experiments. They who have never themselves successfully run a child welfare effort eye the $100 million Maryville endowment built by good Catholic stewardship– proper as it is for an almost 300-bed group of facilities–and want to take over Maryville. Until it stopped doing so on 12/9/02, the state continued to send disturbed kids to Maryville who didn’t belong there, problems developed, the press stepped in, and blamed Maryville. It is an old strategy, brought to perfection during the state’s institutional takeovers and shutdowns of the 1970s. So the press milks the Maryville story, rehashing headlines and adding roughly one new substantive quote a day.

When one thinks of the thousands of young lives sent hither and yon by court-appointed psychiatrists in the 20th century based upon now-discredited Freudian theories, we should be rightfully cautious when today’s child psychiatrists tell us that this time they really, really, have the answer for the development of children and their institutional care. A more sober assessment is that the present science of child psychiatry begins and ends with knowledge of the effects of drugs, and to a lesser extent the relationship between genetics, disease, and mental illness. Almost everything else psychiatric is educated guesswork clothed in mostly unproved scientific-sounding jargon, but Illinois child welfare pundits and the courts, who have failed children for generations, never have and might never ever admit it.

Maryville’s independence is good for the vast majority of children it serves, and is an essential expression of Catholic religious freedom to perform works of charity. We Catholics should fight very hard to prevent the takeover of Maryville Academy, and challenge the child welfare elite to try to do a better job–and to start by raising their own money to do so.

Peace of Christ,

Albert Schorsch, III

====

REVISED [published] letter

December 22, 2002

Editor
Catholic New World

Dear Editor:

The recent unrelenting media campaign against Maryville Academy tells only part of the story of Maryville in Illinois child welfare past and present. In op-ed essays and puff-pieces in the daily papers, leading actors in child welfare now argue what they each want Maryville to be. Two years ago, the press had Maryville walking on water. What is going on?

Here’s what: a determined child welfare elite wants the state to take over Maryville and its multi- million dollar endowment, prudently built over a lifetime by Maryville director Rev. John Smyth for poor and dependent children. Standing in the elite’s way is the reputation of Rev. Smyth.

On the one hand of the elite are the civil libertarians. The press forgets that the civil libertarians cheered for de-institutionalization of youth and mental health institutions in the 1970s, a poorly planned and unfunded transition which led to the deaths and homelessness of uncounted poor persons. Almost thirty years ago I followed a number of the kids put out into the streets when homes like Angel Guardian Orphanage were closed: some wound up dead, some abused. Maryville director Rev. John Smyth learned the lesson of these years, and carefully built Maryville’s endowment.

Ironically, today a gullible press and the courts are persuaded that, having presided over one debacle, the civil libertarians need another crack at child welfare. It was ever thus. See The Juvenile Court and the Progressives, by Victoria Getis, which described how idealistic child welfare innovations became a bureaucracy of the elite.

On the other hand is the child psychiatric elite in Chicago, key actors among which have been publicly cited in recent years by the federal government for not obtaining legally effective informed consent from research subjects. The Chicago press has not done its homework, and has placed some big bets on the wrong horses.

Both the civil libertarian and psychiatric elites are just as naive about the institutional sustainability of their ideas today as they were in the 1970s. They are banking on the state to fund and run child welfare, but they forget that every few years, the state’s budget collapses as it is doing now, and the rug gets pulled from under the indigent. With drastic cuts expected due to the Illinois fiscal crisis in state DCFS services, stable and prudently endowed independent institutions like Maryville continue to play a critical stop-gap role in serving children, and thus also the public interest. With the state’s resources melting down, the elite now turn to take control of Maryville. But Maryville’s service to children is an essential expression of Catholic religious freedom. We should fight very hard to prevent the takeover of Maryville Academy.

Peace of Christ,

Albert Schorsch, III

===

[edited versions of this letter were published]

July 11, 2003

Catholic New World

Dear Editors:

Before journalists at both of Chicago’s dailies begin accepting awards from each other over the Rev. John P. Smyth’s 7/10/03 decision to step down from day to day directon of Maryville Academy, let us ask, What has been accomplished to improve child welfare in Illinois during the newspapers’ two year anti-Maryville crusade?

Not much. According to one of the papers this week, hundreds of DCFS wards still cannot be found in the state’s revolving-door foster care system. And what of the unrelenting source in Illinois of abused and neglected children–the unabated epidemic of physical and sexual abuse of children in poor and minority communities–which Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson has called America’s dirty secret? It is much easier for a newspaper to pick the low-hanging fruit of Maryville or any child-care institution for stories, transcribing from the ever-willing Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy and ACLU’s Ben Wolf, instead of confronting in full detail the rampant beating and molestation of children in poor and minority communities which puts children by the thousands into DCFS’s care in the first place, and risking significant loss of readership. The latter would indeed merit a journalism award.

The Maryville stories are really about the money, the $100 million endowment raised by Fr. Smyth over forty years, which is mentioned in each story as if Smyth committed a crime. The newspapers, the Public Guardian, the ACLU, and the professors are in this story in order to direct how that money is used. But some us still remember why that money was raised: Thirty-five years ago, the newspapers and civil libertarians were riding another hobbyhorse, the move to de-institutionalize child care, which sent hundreds of DCFS wards out into the streets, and managed to kill a number of them. Smyth, a visionary, realized that the state’s child welfare system would always be under-funded and unstable, and that an institution like Maryville could provide uninterrupted service to children despite the foster care turnstyle.

The enduring naive faith of Chicago child welfare reformers in, of all things, Illinois politics to provide stability for poor children is the core dumb idea to which crusading reformers return decade after decade, like the Biblical dog returning to its vomit Face it, the state will never by itself solve the problem, and the jury is still out on whether the psychiatric model of child care favored by the reformers will even work on a large scale. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the psychiatric model turns out after a generation to be an unsustainable idea, too? That is why well-endowed and independent Catholic charities like Maryville will continue to make a significant contribution, despite everything.

There is a final delicious irony here. Usually, celibate priests are criticized for giving advice about sex. In Maryville’s case, the high priests calling for Fr. Smyth’s resignation are child care virgins, those who, unlike Smyth, have never run a large care institution. If Murphy’s or Wolf’s offices or ideas were submitted to the same evaluative scrutiny as was Maryville, would their bully pulpits long endure?

Sincerely,

Albert Schorsch, III

===

[published]

July 22, 2003

Editors, Chicago Sun-Times

Dear Editors:

Before journalists begin accepting awards from each other over the Rev. John P. Smyth ‘s decision to step down from day-to-day direction of Maryville Academy, let us ask: What has been accomplished to improve child welfare in Illinois during both daily newspapers’ two-year anti-Maryville crusade?

Not much. According to one of the papers, hundreds of DCFS wards still cannot be found in the state’s revolving-door foster care system. And what of the unrelenting source in Illinois of abused and neglected children–the physical and sexual abuse of children in poor and minority communities–which Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson has called America’s dirty secret?

It is much easier for a newspaper to pick the low-hanging fruit of Maryville or any child-care institution for stories, instead of confronting the rampant beating and molestation of children in poor and minority communities that puts children by the thousands into DCFS’ care in the first place.

The Maryville stories are really about the money–the $100 million endowment raised by Smyth over 40 years, which is mentioned in each story as if Smyth committed a crime. The newspapers, the public guardian, the ACLU and the professors are in this story in order to direct how that money is used. But some of us still remember why that money was raised: Thirty-five years ago, the newspapers and civil libertarians were riding another hobbyhorse: the move to deinstitutionalize child care, which sent hundreds of DCFS wards out into the streets, and managed to kill a number of them. Smyth , a visionary, realized that the state’s child welfare system would always be underfunded and unstable, and that an institution like Maryville could provide uninterrupted service to children despite the foster care turnstile.

Face it: The state will never by itself solve the problem, and the jury is still out on whether the psychiatric model of child care favored by the reformers will even work on a large scale. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the psychiatric model turns out after a generation to be an unsustainable idea, too? That is why well-endowed and independent Catholic charities like Maryville will continue to make a significant contribution, despite everything.

Sincerely,

Albert Schorsch, III

===

September 21, 2003

Catholic New World

Dear Editors:

The Illinois Governor’s 9/19/03 decision to pull state wards out of Maryville Academy’s main campus brought to light the media and political forces working against Maryville and other Catholic institutions, in manifold ways violating fair play:

* Media accounts on Maryville have repeated the mantra of “suicide, sexual assaults, beatings, drugs, runaways, etc.” often without numbering or dating these incidents, or publishing their number within the entire DCFS system to provide proper context.

* News accounts now devote significant space to editorializing on Maryville and rehashing old charges. When in late August, 2003 the Catholic New World contained an insert on behalf of Maryville, the Sun-Times and Tribune countered by devoting an entire weekend to repetitive stories about a non-event, the decision of the Maryville board not to attack Maryville critics via a media consultant.

* Numerous press accounts on Maryville gave the final paragraph to the ACLU’s Ben Wolf, and clearly reflected his point of view throughout.

* The media and DCFS have blamed Maryville for runaways in several articles for months, but only recently did the press reveal that the DCFS director maintained a statewide policy of allowing children the freedom to run away from institutions by mandating doors be unlocked.

* Headlines blared about the federal investigation into Maryville on Medicaid reporting, but there is not a major university or hospital in Chicago that has not been so investigated and disciplined. Because of the sheer complexity of tax and Medicaid regulation, few could withstand an audit. The Tribune Co. should know this very well, since it has itself been audited and hauled into federal tax court, as reported by the Sun-Times on 11/28/02, to face a $551 million tax liability on the acquisition of Times-Mirror Corp.

* Editorialists on Maryville have naively misunderstood their own role in the social service institution life-cycle. Charitable institutions, whether for the mentally ill, dependent children, or the homeless, serve a social control function–to take the poor off the streets and thereby make them invisible. Then the poor become so numerous in institutions that these become expensive and visible. Then the poor are scattered, in order to make them invisible and cheap to “assist” again. Then the cycle repeats, with help from editorialists who follow the Dilbert principle: “Decentralize what is centralized, and centralize what is decentralized, and you’ll look like an organizational genius.”

Unless he has clearly broken the law, Fr. John Smyth has earned the right after 42 years to remain at Maryville. The public debate about Maryville has revealed many hidden agendas, and forced actors in the drama out into the open, muting their power. Some good will surely come from this.

Peace of Christ,

Albert Schorsch, III

====

© Copyright 2002, 2003, 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

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On Chicago and Illinois casinos

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

On 5/31/11, the Illinois Legislature approved more casinos for Illinois, including one for Chicago. The measure awaits Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s signature.

In response, I return to my op-ed essay published in the Chicago Sun-Times on 4/18/92, and then offer some additional comments.

Don’t gamble with the future of Chicago

At far ends of our American cultural history stand the figures of the thrifty Benjamin Franklin and the expansive Thomas Jefferson. Franklin retired among the wealthiest in the nation, turning to statecraft in midlife after franchising his printing enterprise. Jefferson, although a former president, died more than $200,000 in debt – a staggering sum in today’s dollars – and was reduced in his final years to offer his beloved home, Monticello, up for sale in a lottery – a lottery, by the way, that failed.

Jefferson found that it is one thing to build a beautiful building, but quite another to keep it. For all his fastidious record-keeping, he did not have the economic skills to match his ideals.

There is something very prophetic for us today in Chicago as we again take up the question of legalized casino gambling.

The debate contrasts the themes of thrift and largess. It also highlights the clashing views of those factions who think they know how to run a city.

If we did know how to run a city, we Chicagoans would not have lost more than 100,000 housing units since 1970. We would know the empirical limits to local taxation. We would know how to encourage businesses to remain, and we would know how to run our schools. But we are failing at all these things, despite all the movers and shakers who, for all the glitz, account for but a fraction of our city’s economy. Our industrial and commercial shopkeepers and our landlords account for much more.

To build casinos in Chicago, we must forget what it took for us to close down our infamous “levee” district, since we are about to make possible another one. We must forget the painful experience of cleaning up Chicago – and our police force – in the 30 years that followed Al Capone. We have to forget the difficulty our police have in curbing penny ante crimes, and proclaim our great confidence that our police can keep up with criminals with access to millions.

We also have to forget the warnings of careful research by respected economists following Rutgers’ George Sternlieb, who have demonstrated that gambling soaks up key dollars for international hoteliers that are not cycled back into local economies. The “jobs, jobs, jobs” are on the front end of casino development. After that, you start looking for places to build an industrial park, as Atlantic City has done.

We would also have to forget how Nevada gambling authorities could not prevent the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund here in Chicago from being tapped for more than $100 million to capitalize Las Vegas mob operations in 1974. They couldn’t prevent the Chicago mob from skimming Las Vegas casinos and vendors (where today’s real money is) time and time again. It is ironic that, just as the federal government is crushing the mob leadership, we provide the crushees with a convenient pl ace to cycle their dough. The casinos might mean “jobs, jobs, jobs” – but we might get stuck with mob, mob, mob.

We Chicagoans like to think that, despite our confusion about how to keep a city, somehow it will all work out if we have big shoulders and make no small plans. Some local columnists have long called for legalized gambling, drawing parallels between investing in stocks, bonds and options, and plain old gambling. But while both involve risk and chance, investment at least can lead to economic wisdom through hard knocks. Legitimate investment provides a hedge for agriculture and enterprise against the vagaries of weather and recession, during which most of the uninformed and superstitious investors either get out of the market or lose their shirts.

Yet casino gambling is chance, pure and simple, and it reinforces economic ignorance and superstition. When we use the power of the state to encourage people to bet their horoscopes, we lead entire populaces away from economic wisdom to state-reinforced stupidity. And when you destroy a civilization, the physical destruction of the city necessarily follows.

Like the lesson of Jefferson gambling on his magnificent home, it is one thing to build a city, but quite another to keep it. When we do not know how to keep a city, we must build it, and build it, and build it again, because it is we who through our ignorance continue to destroy it.

If the proposed casinos are built, I ask one thing. Let us place a plaque in front of them on which would be permanently inscribed the names of all public figures, business and labor leaders and editorialists who boosted the idea. Above their names should read: “These people thought this would work.” Then let us see whether the casinos deliver on their grand promises over the decades. Maybe then, finally, we’ll get the idea out of our system that we can keep a city alive by violating the tenets of our civilization. After that, we can do what it takes to build a city that we can keep.

A few additional comments:

  • Illinois, connected by history, rail, and culture to the Deep South, threatens now to equal the Deep South in terms of reliance on gambling for public finance, in terms of political corruption, and in terms of wealth frozen by an accompanying hornet’s nest of bureaucracy.
  • The Catholic Church in the US, which normally would have something to say about the morality of gambling for public finance, long ago compromised its position by relying on gambling for fundraising, making itself dependent on the state for permission to continue small-scale gambling. Therefore, the response of the Church, and religious bodies in general, has remained muted toward state-controlled gambling.
  • As large-scale state-supported casino gambling expands and becomes entrenched in local economies, watch for pressures to legalize prostitution in order for regional casinos to remain competitive with casinos in other regions. For that reason, casino legislation should always include permanent provisions that prostitution should not be legalized within the municipalities or regions surrounding the casinos or gambling establishments. Since religious organizations have not compromised their positions on prostitution, I would expect that they would join in calling for such anti-prostitution provisions to be included in all casino legislation.
  • The state, by trying to engineer and to tax vice, often becomes dependent upon, and thus perpetuates, the very vice that it seeks to limit.
  • The state best limits vice by developing and supporting legitimate pathways to wealth, and by containing vice without establishing its own financial dependency upon it.
  • Franklin’s strategy of thrift, and not Jefferson’s strategy of largess, is still the best financial pathway for government. We may be a Jeffersonian democracy in many ways, but our public finance must follow Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton.
  • Please see my earlier post on the connection between Parkinson’s disease, a class of drugs called dopamine agonists, and chronic gambling.
  • © Copyright 1992, 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
    All Rights Reserved

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    Saving Father Pfleger

    Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

    Fr. Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, was suspended on 4/27/11 in a letter from Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago.

    Several writers have seen either power, personality, politics, or a simple difference of opinion between Cardinal George and Fr. Pfleger. These writers have followed the beaten path of previous conflicts regarding Fr. Pfleger and his bishop on race, or Left vs. Right, or conservative Catholicism versus a more liberal Catholicism.

    But few writers have outlined the predicament of Fr. Pfleger as set down by Cardinal George himself, who presented Fr. Pfleger with a clear choice, and asked for a declaration: Did he either choose to remain a Roman Catholic priest, or did he not? Did he, Michael Pfleger, believe as a Catholic believes?

    The first time I saw Michael Pfleger in public action was one Sunday evening early in the 1970s, when he brought the Precious Blood parish choir to our alma mater, Niles College Seminary, then the college seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Clothed in a white turtle-neck, Pfleger accompanied and directed from the piano an enthusiastic and happy group of young people. I recall that one of the songs performed by the choir was “O-o-h Child,” written by Stan Vincent, which had earlier hit the charts in a recording by the Five Stairsteps. If I’m not mistaken, others among the songs may have been the gospel song, “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” and also the song “Everyday People,” popularized by Sly and the Family Stone.

    In 1976, a year after Fr. Pfleger’s ordination, I was providentially asked to direct this same wonderful choir, and did so for the better part of two years. This work took me in and out of the Rockwell Gardens public housing “projects” in Chicago, and into friendship with some beautiful young people and their families. Many of these children maintained a deep admiration for Fr. Pfleger, although in some cases, their parents took a more cautious, wait-and-see approach toward him.

    In 1990, with several hundred others I marched with Fr. Pfleger around Cardinal Bernardin’s home over the issue of the closing of Quigley Seminary South. Fr. Pfleger was already then the Chicago media’s favorite priest. He drew attention, he divided opinions, and he was, in the eyes of at least one Chicago op-ed writer, very good looking in his own blue eyes and vestments on a Sunday morning.

    Over the years, Fr. Pfleger became something of an institution. Like his mentor Fr. George Clements, he learned to play the press as a foil against the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago. With St. Sabina’s parishioners and supporters, the parish and school have become a forceful presence in the community. Fr. Pfleger grew close to national civil rights figures, politicians, and figures like Louis Farrakhan Muhammad, whose antisemitic statements have been well-established. But Fr. Pfleger lost much of his political standing after his controversial mockery of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign.

    Several times during Francis Cardinal George’s tenure as Archbishop of Chicago, public discussion arose whether Fr. Pfleger should step down as pastor of St. Sabina parish in Chicago, in keeping with the pastoral term limits established and agreed in the 1970s by Chicago’s presbyterate and its Archbishop.

    Here is the original text of my earlier letter published on this subject:

    February 18, 2002

    Chicago Sun-Times

    Dear Editor:

    It’s understandable that Catholics would like a good pastor to stay a few more years, but it’s not possible, or fair to others not so fortunate.

    People who say they can’t go to church or contribute any more if a Rev. Mike Pfleger or Rev. Jack Wall stop being their pastor don’t realize how much they have weakened their pastor’s credibility. After two decades of pastoring, if Frs. Wall and Pfleger have a majority of parishioners who give and pray and do good works because of them personally and not because of Jesus Christ, they have indeed failed as religious leaders, and should not remain in any case.

    The Good Lord said, “One man sows, another reaps.” This saying conveys something of the mystery of the Church’s endurance throughout the centuries. By holding on to a pastorate, a Catholic priest risks weakening the meaning of his own ministry, risks encouraging a cult based upon his own personality, and can lessen the sustaining power of the Gospel itself to guide his people.

    Sincerely,

    Albert Schorsch, III

    While Fr. Pfleger has differed with the Catholic establishment, he has apparently never, ever, publicly bucked the civil rights establishment, even to the point of refusing to rebuke the Rev. Jeremiah Wright when Wright invoked the malicious lie in 2008 that HIV was invented by the US government to destroy African Americans.

    Then Sen. Barack Obama’s unequivocal 2008 rejection of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s HIV-US government conspiracy theory was not joined by Fr. Pfleger, who somehow laboriously reasoned at the time that both the Senator and the Reverend could both be simultaneously right.

    While known for his opposition to handguns, Fr. Pfleger did not in 2008 rebuke the more deadly HIV-US government conspiracy theory, shown by scientific research to prevent HIV victims from seeking treatment. No one should be taken seriously who spouts such harmful and nonsensical demagoguery as Wright did about a deadly disease, misinforming some of the public who then avoid medical help. Wright’s HIV conspiracy theory deserves every bit of opprobrium that comes its way. But on this point in 2008, Fr. Pfleger was substantially silent, and refused to be drawn into criticism of Wright’s spreading of this divisive, vicious, and hurtful HIV-US government blood libel.

    Neither has the press reported any significant public statement from Fr. Pfleger against abortion in the African American community. Had Pfleger ever spoken such a condemnation, his friends in the media, in government, and in politics would have dropped him completely. If a single, dramatic pro-life, anti-abortion statement ever passed Fr. Pfleger’s lips, there would be no more microphones for Fr. Pfleger (except perhaps on Relevant Radio or EWTN), no more cameras, no more Tavis Smiley interviews.

    Robert McClory has likened Fr. Pfleger to Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand. But Hillenbrand publicly defended Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, losing many of his friends in the process. Fr. Pfleger has done no such thing.

    To the chagrin of the Right, Cardinal George has taken his time with Fr. Pfleger. But the Cardinal’s long journey toward suspending Fr. Pfleger is best explained in light of the Cardinal’s concern to “save the soul” of Fr. Pfleger.

    Our history teacher back in the day at Niles College, Fr. Martin Nathaniel Winters, STL, MA, used to say that it took brains to be a heretic, and that most so-called heretics were actually too dumb to effectively frame an heretical position. It appears that Fr. Pfleger is no heretic.

    St. Thomas Aquinas taught that the sin of heresy is a sin against faith, but that the sin of schism is a sin against charity. Fr. Pfleger may be in schism.

    Cardinal George framed with his typical clarity the question for Fr. Pfleger: Is he willing to be a Catholic priest? —

    Now, however, I am asking you to take a few weeks to pray over your priestly commitments in order to come to mutual agreement on how you understand personally the obligations that make you a member of the Chicago presbyterate and of the Catholic Church.

    Cardinal George’s question, demanding a clear choice in an age founded on equivocation, is both unheard of, and truly unheard to the point of being completely missed. He asked, in effect: Take your time, but answer me clearly, Are you a Catholic, and a committed Catholic priest willing to live out that commitment in obedience to your bishop?

    The word “obey” here has a biblical, theological meaning over and above that of the notion of authority as power. This difference most commentators have likewise missed.

    Jesus, the Son, obeyed the Father and carried his cross. As bishop, as “head,” Cardinal George is asking for a similar kind of obedience. This obedience is the key to Catholic Christian identity, and especially to priestly identity. It is this very obedience that leads to salvation. Cardinal George’s intent therefore appears to be the saving of Fr. Pfleger:

    Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
    (Hebrews 5:8-10)

    Without such obedience–the obedience of Christ–despite a thousand laying on of hands, there is no Catholic identity, and no Catholic priesthood.

    © Copyright 2002, 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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    The White House 10/5/10 Summit on Community Colleges, and a comment on urban public education

    Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

    The White House sponsored a Summit on Community Colleges on 10/5/10, attended by education and community leaders from around the US. Here is the background sheet for the Summit, which was also attended by Melinda French Gates, who simultaneously unveiled the competitive project designed to strengthen community colleges named Completion by Design.

    During the closing session of the Summit (see minute 10:40 and following), the prominent business leader Penny Pritzker shared startling figures that 60% of students entering Philadelphia community colleges did not demonstrate sufficient literacy to be placed in classes, and that 90% of students entering Chicago City Colleges needed some form of remediation.

    The urban US over the past two decades has seen a number take-overs of public schools by mayors and governors using the “CEO model” of school leadership by non-educators, now with mixed results. In Chicago in the mid-1990s, the public school system (CPS) directly marketed to Catholic school families (we received these mailings in our own home), and designed advanced schools to accommodate the children of Catholic school families after a dramatic capital campaign to build attractive newer schools. Arguably, these former Catholic and other private school children and their social networks helped raise the average test scores of the public school system, and the politicians declared victory. But also arguably, however, the low achievement of the poorest children by and large remained, and can be seen by the high levels of remediation needed by students trying to enter city and community colleges today to gain access to a profession.

    I’m looking for a serious scientific study of public school achievement that separates out the addition of Catholic and private school families statistically to measure whether the poorest of the poor actually approved their academic achievement in urban public schools since the politician-led urban school reforms beginning in the 1990s. Please see the following account of a 2009 Northwestern University study, which apparently did not take into account the full impact of transfer of Catholic students into the public school system over the past two decades, and evidently used the Catholic schools as a control group. Here’s the link for the full Northwestern study, which assumes that the transfers of Catholic students to public schools was small after 2002, when in fact the exodus of Catholic students to public schools in certain urban school districts had begun much earlier.

    Back on June 10, 2001, the Chicago Sun-Times published my letter on the departure of Paul Vallas as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, in which I wrote in part:

    “Having taken the schools near the limit of improvements that can be based upon better facilities, Vallas showed a wisdom gained from experience in testing educational fads to their limits as well. CPS has ‘hit the wall’ in improvements, not because of Vallas, but because of the sad fact that children who do not read daily in their first three years of life face difficult barriers even state-of-the-art schools can’t easily improve.

    Educational bureaucracies are in a league beyond that of park districts and libraries and mayor’s offices. Such leadership is not interchangeable. Once you fix the school buildings, only determined, incremental, decades-long bureaucratic trench warfare based upon knowledge of the trenches will produce improvements. History has shown that great advances in education are accomplished by those who spend the greater part of their careers at the task. Imagine where the universities of Chicago or Notre Dame would be with the presidencies of William Rainey Harper or the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh cut in half. Hesburgh talked a lot about the cemeteries being filled with indispensable people, but that was blarney. He kept the job for decades because his contributions were critical, and he knew it.

    The Chicago Public Schools will not be advanced significantly at this point by bright new ideas brought back to Chicago from the last city that the mayor or his aides just visited. Vallas has learned enough to serve as the reality principle against rounds of educational gimmicks, and now this reality principle is about to go.”

    For a sober series of scientific discussions on how to improve human capital policies to address inequality in our society, see Inequality in America:What Role for Human Capital Policies? edited by Nobel Prize economist James J. Heckman, Alan B. Krueger, and Benjamin M. Friedman.

    Please see my earlier blog post on James J. Heckman, which is also pertinent to this topic.

    Here’s an amazing and related statistic from Timothy Shanahan, Professor of Urban Education and Director of the Center for Literacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, on a study that showed the lag between children from low-income families and middle-class children when they start school, as quoted in the Sept. 29 Irish Times:

    “One of the things they found was that the average middle-class first grader [aged five or six] had been read to for more than 1,200 hours. There were children in a lot of low-income families who would have been only read to 25 hours in their entire life. Think about that difference in terms of the amount of language experience.”

    © Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
    All Rights Reserved

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