Current Events

Maine’s Bishop Richard Malone: The True Crisis in the Catholic Church

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I was looking around for today’s topic and found this somewhat incredible story about a Roman Catholic bishop who has stated that he will refuse to give Communion, the Body of Christ given to Catholics as the culminating point of our weekly Mass, to a local man, Paul Kendrick. Now, before even getting into the details of the tenuous situation between these two men, my first question, as a Catholic is, can he even do that? Catholic priests give Communion to prison inmates, the homeless, drug addicts; pretty much anyone who requests it. I have always been taught that no one can interfere with a believer’s relationship with God. Isn’t this basically what Bishop Malone is doing?

The reason? Because Mr. Kendrick is a advocate for victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, part of a national network, Voice of the Faithful. What has Mr. Kendrick done to earn the wrath of the bishop? We has written numerous letters to him, attempted to speak to him at public events and the like to encourage him to meet with area families who supposedly have a victim of sexual abuse by priests under the bishop’s tutelage.  Bishop Malone has repeatedly refused and Mr. Kendrick has not been shaken by the bishop’s refusals. According to reports from local media, this has been going on between these two men for close to five years. In some of his writings Kendrick has stated that Malone knowingly relocated at least three priests out of the the Portland area due to their sexual abuse of parishioners.

What spurred the most recent refusal of Communion was a letter that Kendrick sent to the bishop stating that he would be attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and that if, during his homily (the time during Mass when the priest shares the Gospel with those in attendance) the bishop were to look his way Kendrick would “shake his head in disbelief or put his hands in his face” to show his disapproval of the bishop’s handling of sexual abuse cases in the churches under his leadership.

Of course, the bishop is now claiming that Kendrick’s persistence can now be considered harassment and is planing on filing formal charges against him. In a recent letter to Kendrick the bishop attempted to make his own restraining order of sorts, ordering Kendrick to make an effort to not be in the same buildings as the bishop, in short to stay out of his church, and that if they did find themselves in the same structure, Kendrick must stay at least 500 ft. away from him. I never knew that individuals could make up their own restraining orders. I really don’t think they can, that is what the courts and law enforcement are there for and based on the definitions of ‘harassment’ given by various sources, I really don’t think the bishop has a case, otherwise he would have gone the legal route first and put an end to it.

To conclude, I grew up in a community with a Catholic priest who abused young boys for some 40 years and he lead quite a lifestyle of duplicity. There are some older parishoners in my hometown who even today refuse to believe that this priest was capable of such acts. It is this writer’s opinion that the blame for this situation in Maine lays squrely on the shoulders of the Church. This is simply the lingering effect of the Church’s deplorable reaction to sexual abuse cases that have run rampant over the past decades. The Church has simply played the role of the ostrich, ignoring the situation in the hopes that it would go away. One would think that Bishop Malone has figured out that this unofficial stance of the Church isn’t working so he has upped the anty. This is the reason why Catholics have been having their own Exodus of sorts, leaving the pews of the Roman Catholic Church in droves and turning to other Christian denominations in search of the honesty that Jesus Christ taught when he was alive.

Churches are closing at every turn, fewer young men are joining the priesthood and there will be a serious discrepancy in the number of priests available and Churches in need of a head priest. The sexual abuse charges of the past 20 years are certainly part of the reason for each of these decisions on the part of Catholics across North America.

Although Bishop Malone is attempting to paint Kendrick as a unstable stalker, based on what I have read penned by Kendrick and interviews that I found on Google, the bishop’s claims have no foundation whatsoever. Kendrick has maintained his composure in his in interviews and his letters to the bishop are professional; there are no threats, strong language or anything that could be seen as harassment. The simple fact is that the bishop knows he is wrong on many levels and his refusal to meet with a family under his leadership is certainly questionable behavior for anyone representing the Church founded by Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The bishop needs to ask himself, “What would Jesus do?” I think we all know the answer.

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Education

One Laptop Per Child: Who truly benefits?

Is this how it is supposed to be used?
Is this how it is supposed to be used?

This Reuter’s article about Yoko Ono, widow of famed Beetle John Lennon, giving permission for the One Laptop Per Child Program (OLPC) to use the digitally mastered voice of her late husband in their advertising package made me wonder so I decided to look a bit more into it. I had some initial questions and curiosities so I went investigating, what I found was not surprising.

In a nut shell, a MIT professor came up with these supposedly inexpensive laptops that are given to children in impoverished nations to open up the world to them. They are wireless with all sorts of educational software, Internet access and etc. The OLPC program states, “Our mission is “to provide educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.” A nice idea, warm fuzzies and all but as with many of these programs, the logistics of it on a global scale seemed somewhat daunting. We all know about the problems we have with our own computers; viruses, software upgrades, browsers and etc. How are kids in third world environments going to be able to rectify these problems? Not to mention my interesting question about just what software is on these systems and whose epistemology is being represented.

This again brings up a question that I ask myself about just about anything and everything – Why not pilot this program here in the States first, giving American students in poor districts a free laptop? We all agree that the American education system is plagued by budget problems and lack of programs and etc. Why not pilot this program on a national level first, improving the educational system of the nation that founded this program, get the kinks out of it and then, gradually go global a nation at a time? Because it doesn’t work, more on this below.

 Just at a glance, it would seem by their forums that there are more problems with this product than they can keep up with. In addition, it does not run on Windows but on Linux and does not allow for the use of other typical software like Java or even Flash.  Can I add that they are made in China?

I just don’t get how some people think.  The World first and America will just take care of itself? I took a long look at the forums that are part of OLPC site and saw just a mirage of issues that users were having with everything from the OS to the software to the battery dying and losing data, and these were just the users who spoke English to communicate through the website. What must be happening in Asia, Africa and South America? This program is not running flawlessly, it has lots of hiccups and lots of issues that need to be corrected on an individual laptop basis. Yet the program is just dropping numbers. 10,000 laptops off to Ghana, 100,000th given in Uruguay, aren’t they great?

But my question is, how many of these laptops that were given say back in 2005 when the program began or even in 2006 are still in use? Another interesting question is that if you want to buy one for a child in a developing nation the cost is $199 yet, if you want to buy one for one of your own children here in the US, the cost is $399 – why? Because in order to buy one for yourself you have to also buy one for a child in a developing nation, they call it the Give One Get One Program. American schools can buy them, but not receive them free through the program like international schools (even in Communist countries) can. Do you see what I am getting at?

As an aside, a somewhat affluent school district in Upstate NY tried their own version of a laptop program, spending about $1500 per student at the high school level for this program. The then school board president stated in a NY Times piece in May of 2007 that, “After seven years there was literally no evidence it had an impact on student achievement – none.”  Other districts across the country have reported the same lackluster results.  I guess the folks at MIT don’t read the NY Times.

NY Politics

Caroline Kennedy and the Senate Seat

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One of the most talked about events on the political scene this past week has been the sudden, some what questionable surge of former first daughter Caroline Kennedy.  I sit here wondering if her somewhat unexpected stumping for the Obama Campaign was the first of many methodical steps to get us to where we are today.   A simple reminder to the American people that Caroline Kennedy, the Princesss of Camelot, was still alive and well and interested in the political process.

At the time, when she first left her reclusive lifestyle of the New York City elite, many saw the new public Caroline as a sign of her strong belief  in Obama yet now, giving it a second look, this could well have been nothing more than part of her master plan; no doubt overseen by her Uncle Ted.  It would appear that Camelot needed yet another high profile Kennedy working in the Beltway as Uncle Ted’s health is in question.

This past week she ventured into somewhat virgin territory for a New Yorker, Syracuse.  You see, most New Yorkers consider Upstate NY a necessary evil.  New York is technically a State but few people realize that there is a huge state attached to the City.  The only time New Yorkers think about Upstate is when there is an election on the horizon.  Just recently Representative Gary Ackerman (D-Queens/Long Island), when asked if he would consider the soon-to-be vacant Clinton Senate seat he replied, “I don’t do Utica”.  Utica, a small upstate city, like many, hard hit by the economy and largely forgotten by those representing them in Washington; much of Upstate New York can say the same thing about their representatives.

Caroline’s much publicized visit to Syracuse this week is just another of the aforementioned steps to get NY Governor Patterson to hand pick Caroline for Hillary Clinton’s seat on the Senate.  The problem is, many New Yorker, in particular those Upstate, are seriously questioning Kennedy’s experience, knowledge and quite honestly, her purpose for wanting the seat.  New Yorkers feel that she lacks the experience and would most likely be a pawn for her Uncle while Upstaters simply don’t want another elite, disconnected down-stater who knows nothing about life north of Pougkipse.

Sadly, Caroline will most likely be who Patterson picks due to political pressures from outside of the State with no concern for what is best for New York … State.