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Archive of May 22, 2010

Iowa man changes his life with help of drug court, archdiocesan prison ministry

Dubuque, Iowa, May 22, 2010 (CNA) - One year can make quite a difference in a person’s life. Last April, 38-year-old Chris Clancy of Dubuque, Iowa was facing a rough future. Addicted to drugs and facing criminal charges, Clancy hit a low point in his life. His only options were serving time in prison or entering the Dubuque and Delaware County Drug Court program.

From athlete to addict

Clancy had traveled a far distance from his days as quarterback of his high school football team. It was near the end of those days when Clancy’s problems first began.

“I was very sports-minded and sports were most of my life,” Clancy said. “Schoolwork came easy to me so I didn’t have to study. Tests are all I studied for because I was too worried what the playbook
said and who the next opponent [was going to be].”

Therefore, his grades suffered and he soon became ineligible for sports. After receiving a low math score, his high school principal told him he could not play sports for the rest of the school year, which led to a confrontation.

“That was the end of my school, so then all of my troubles started and things spiraled out of control,” Clancy said.

Working several different jobs at the time, his addiction began with alcohol and later turned to drugs. He was under the influence of these substances from age 19 to 37, never sober for more than a few
days at a time. Things became so bad Clancy eventually resorted to forgery as a way to pay for drugs.

“I am not proud of what I did,” Clancy said. “I am ashamed.”

Drug court

At Clancy’s drug court graduation on April 29 this year, District Court Judge Michael Shubatt recalled the first time he met Clancy.

“You sat at that table where the cake is (for the graduation celebration), but you didn’t look as good,” Shubatt said. “You had orange jail clothes on. You looked like you were about at the end of your rope and ready to give this a try.”

The Dubuque and Delaware County Drug Court program, an alternative to prison, began in November 2008. It is currently funded through a federal grant.

The drug court team — which includes a judge, private attorney, county attorney, probation officer, treatment provider and police officer liaison — reviews the history of drug abusers facing prison time and decides whether to accept them. Once accepted, participants must complete a minimum of 15 months in the three-phase program. Phase 1 lasts at least 90 days. To advance to Phase 2, participants must abstain from drugs and alcohol, attend drug court hearings once a week, pass random sobriety tests, attend three self-help meetings a week, establish a treatment program, meet every week with a substance abuse counselor and probation officer and complete homework assignments.

Phase 2, a recommended 150 days, they must also be regularly employed or in school, find an approved mentor or sponsor, as well as other conditions. Participants then move to Phase 3.

Upon completion of the approximately 120 days of this stage, they graduate from drug court and enter into an aftercare program for 90 days.

The drug court offers both incentives and sanctions, depending on participants’ behavior. Incentives include praise from the judge and team members, placement on an all-star list, early movement to the next phase, less frequent court appearances and more. Sanctions include earlier curfew, jail time and community service.

There are also grounds for termination. Drug court is a collaborative effort among the district court, county attorney’s office, a contracted private attorney, Department of Correctional Services, law enforcement agencies and the Substance Abuse Services Center in Dubuque.

Substance abuse counselor Bobbi-Jo Molokken, the drug court treatment provider, said this collaboration is beneficial.

“There are holes in the regular system that drug court fills,” Molokken said. “There is a good collaboration between courts and treatment. The counselor and probation officer talk all of the time; they see each other every week at court hearings. Normally, it is harder for them to get in touch.”

Molokken said another advantage of drug court is its length. “Being in treatment for one whole year really makes a difference,” she said. “Drug courts and longer treatment programs increase your odds a lot. Drug courts also work because there are swift consequences, and [participants] have to come to counseling, which helps them with making better choices.”

According to Molokken, the required substance abuse counseling and group sessions work specifically on criminal and addictive thinking.

“It helps them change their thinking,” she said. “They have to change everything in their lives. We discuss relationships, communication, relapse prevention and more.”

Drug court works as a transition, helping participants make better choices and lifestyle changes, rather than placing them in prison and immediately back into the community.

The program worked for Clancy, the fourth graduate. He met all of the requirements sanction-free and is now close to 500 days sober.

Although others have failed the program, Molokken is not discouraged. “Even the lives of those who failed were still better for the time they were in the program,” she said. “There were benefits to their families and communities for that period of time, even if it was only seven months.”

Drug court role model

According to drug court team members, Clancy is a model of success for others. “I hope it is clear to you what a big part you’ve played in this program and its success,” Shubatt said to Clancy at his graduation.

“For those of you who have not been in the program long, I would say without hesitation that this guy is an example of how to get it done.”

On the day of graduation, nine other drug court participants were in attendance. They spoke about their weeks and offered congratulations to Clancy.

One said, “You show me this program can work and change me.”

Archdiocese of Dubuque Jail and Prison Ministry Coordinator Deacon Bill Hickson, Clancy’s personal mentor, said to Clancy in December 2009, “I’ve always been impressed with how you have looked out for others in the drug court program. You seem to be a bridge between them and us.”

Hickson and Clancy were matched through the Jail and Prison Ministry’s mentoring program.

Molokken also commented on Clancy’s growth throughout the process.

“You came into my office very quiet, and as of late, you have been doing lots of public speaking engagements, sharing personal information with crowds of people you do not know,” she said.

Clancy thanked Shubatt for giving him the opportunity and having faith in him from the beginning. “Your decision to accept me and believe in me has helped me save my life and put enjoyment back into everyday living,” Clancy said.

Circles of Support and Accountability

Clancy believes a major key to his success was taking advantage of other support programs, such as Circles of Support and Accountability, which were introduced into the Jail and Prison Ministry
about five years ago.

Circles of Support and Accountability consist of trained volunteers who help offenders in their healing process and direct them toward responsible living. While the drug court provided structure, Clancy’s circle provided the real-life friends and relationships he needed to effectively change his lifestyle.

“I think a reason some people do not succeed [in drug court] is that they do not pursue the programs that are out there for them,” Clancy said. “I don’t know where I would be without ‘Circles.’”

According to Hickson, there are 64 mentoring pairs throughout archdiocese, 14 active Circles of Support and Accountability and more than 200 volunteers helping with the effort.

“Drug court is just one part of our restorative justice program, and it’s only in [Dubuque] that we are as involved as we are, but there are drug courts throughout the archdiocese and we are going to try to establish a relationship with each one of them,” Hickson said.

“I consider it a great privilege to participate in the ministry and … work with people like Chris. What is required on his part is a real openness. You have to bare your soul and let us look at everything, good and bad. I am hoping and praying we continue to be a new dawn for people — an opportunity to shine light where there is darkness and make people aware of God’s second chances.”

At first, Clancy was not sure about the Circles of Support and Accountability. “It was something I wanted no part in,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine sitting in a circle with a bunch of unfamiliar people, telling them all of the bad stuff I’ve done.”

Now, Clancy said Hickson is not only a mentor, but also a friend. “This is a type of friendship I never thought possible without alcohol or drugs,” he said. “For this, I am blessed and feel God led [Hickson] to become part of my life.”

A talented bowler, Clancy was almost ready to give up after he did not do as well as expected in a bowling tournament last year.

“[Hickson] really taught me that bowling is a game and everything else is a game; those are extra activities,” Clancy said. “And if you don’t succeed, you have to succeed in life. It was great to have that
support to turn to.”

Second chances

Because of the drug court and Circles of Support and Accountability, Clancy’s future is brighter than ever before. In addition to his job, he is a volunteer in the Media Services/Education Resource Center at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center.

Clancy also became chairperson of one of his Alcoholic/Narcotics Anonymous meeting groups and finished fifth in the prestigious Big 10 bowling tournament.

“I am glad that you have gotten all areas of your life put back together and have built yourself a real solid foundation on which to move forward,” Shubatt said. “You are an example to employers that want to give somebody a second chance, that they can be worth it … that people are worth second chances.”

More than anything, Clancy is happy to have an improved relationship with his family. He once said his family was one of the things he missed the most during his addiction. Now, he talks to his dad frequently and can enjoy family vacations, like a recent trip to a baseball game.

“The stadium was beautiful and being able to actually see it and enjoy it is something I will never forget because I was not lost in the fog,” Clancy said.

“As I reflect on the past year in drug court, I cannot overlook how close I am becoming with my family. I know now [my sisters] can say with confidence that they have an older brother. We, as a family, can again take pictures, and I can now look at them and be proud of who I am and who we, as a family, have become.”

Printed with permission from The Witness, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa.

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New synthetic cell ‘fascinating’ but potentially dangerous, experts caution

CNA STAFF, May 22, 2010 (CNA) - A team of U.S. researchers has announced the creation of a cell controlled by completely synthetic DNA, an advance which ethicists are calling a “double edged sword.”

Announced in “Science” magazine, Dr. J. Craig Venter and a team of scientists have successfully transplanted a completely man-made set of DNA that is a copy of the DNA from a bacteria into a host cell. After the transfer, the host cell was then effectively controlled by the new DNA. The new cell is called a “synthetic cell” though only its genome is truly synthetic.

Fr. Thomas Berg, Director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, told CNA that the development “is scientifically fascinating, ethically neutral, and can be a part of something more serious.”

Dr. Venter is hopeful that the modified cell will pave the way for the creation of cells with as yet unseen genetic imprints that will be useful for manufacturing pharmaceuticals, creating alternative energy sources, and cleaning up the environment.

But Fr. Berg also warned about the unforeseen consequences of the new cells: “my fear is that there hasn’t been any sufficient thought into the potential hazards,” he said, noting that often the implications, ethical and otherwise, of such scientific developments are often the last things considered, though they are of supreme importance.

Bringing up the concept of “designing” children, Berg noted that this discovery could potentially be the “first step toward a much darker process” such as “unnaturally modified human beings.”

“Catholic ethicists certainly have to have this on their radar,” Fr. Berg added, encouraging the Catholic scholarly community to explore the issue further.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Bishops Conference, told ANSA news agency that Venter’s work is a "further sign of intelligence, God's gift to understand creation and be able to better govern it.” He added, “on the other hand, intelligence can never be without responsibility. Any form of intelligence and any scientific acquisition ... must always be measured against the ethical dimension, which has at its heart the true dignity of every person."

“If it is used toward the good, to treat pathologies, we can only be positive” about it, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Italian television. But, “if it turns out not to be ... useful to respect the dignity of the person, then our judgment would change."

The discovery has prompted questions about the fabrication of artificial life and the temptation to “play God.”

“To say that Venter is playing God,” said Fr. Berg “is absolutely hyperbolic.” The synthetic cell is a “huge scientific achievement, but has not created life,” he stressed.

Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center told the BBC, “they are doing significant modifications to the biological matter, but it isn't truly artificial life. Obviously when one engenders a new life form one can't be entirely certain what it's going to do, how it's going to reproduce.” “One can modify and manipulate already existing biological material. No-one [is] able to create life from scratch.”

Also adding words of caution to the debate was Dr. Carlo Bellieni, an Italian neonatal specialist. “The weight of DNA, in the end, is great and great are the expectations in genetic science,” he wrote in the Vatican's L’Osservatore Romano. “It's about uniting courage with caution: actions taken on genomes can - we hope - cure, but they are going to touch a very fragile terrain in which environment and manipulation play a role that shouldn't be undervalued.”

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Boston Archdiocese says it never received Catholics United petition

Boston, Mass., May 22, 2010 (CNA) - After the pro-Obama group Catholics United started an email petition to put pressure on Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley to allow the enrollment of a lesbian couple's adopted child in one of Boston's Catholic schools, archdiocesan officials said they never received it.

Catholics United launched the petition after a Catholic elementary school in Hingham, Mass. decided to withdraw the acceptance of an 8-year-old boy's enrollment when the principal and pastor learned the child's parents were a lesbian couple. Catholics United reported collecting 5,000 electronic signatures in their petition drive. 

Authorities at St. Paul Elementary School explained that the decision was aimed at protecting the boy, since the teachings of the Church on same-sex marriage are at odds with the lesbian couple's lifestyle.

Catholics United reportedly took issue with the school's decision and, citing discrimination, composed a letter to the archdiocese that they then urged their supporters to sign. At the time of the letter, Cardinal Sean O'Malley had not yet responded to the situation because he was overseas in Fatima, Portugal.

“We still have an opportunity to put a stop to this,” the statement read. “Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley has yet to take a position on the school's action. If he hears from enough of us, we think he could be convinced to do the right thing and reverse the decision.”

“Discrimination has no place in our nation's Catholic schools,” the letter added.  “Help us send a message that every child is worthy of a Catholic education, regardless of his or her family composition.”

The Boston Archdiocesan paper The Pilot reported on Friday that although Catholics United organizer James Salt said his group's 42,000 members had collected nearly 5,000 electronic signatures, officials from the archdiocese had not yet received them.

On May 19, Cardinal O'Malley issued a statement citing his support for the priest who made the initial decision to cancel admission to the child, and addressed the need for the Boston archdiocese to begin working towards establishing clearer archdiocesan school guidelines on admission to children of same-sex couples.

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Gospel strengthens cultural identity, enriches culture, Pope reminds

Vatican City, May 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Speaking to delegations from Eastern European countries in Rome in memory of the evangelizing saints of the Slavic peoples, the Holy Father observed the deep-rooted Christian tradition in the area. All Christians, he said, have the duty to maintain the link between the Word of God and their cultural identity.

The Holy Father met with civil and religious leaders from the ex-Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria separately on Saturday morning to mark the liturgical memory of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Heads of state and Church, top ministers and cultural representatives formed the countries' delegations.

Remembering how the saintly brothers left a lasting imprint of Christianity “in the soul” of Bulgarians, the Holy Father noted that the population is still “anchored to those evangelical values, that always strengthen the identity and enrich the culture of a nation.”

He explained that the Gospel never serves to weaken what is "authentic" in a cultural tradition, but, rather, through the light of faith, "gives man the capacity to recognize the true good and helps him to realize it in his own life and in the social context."

As Bulgarians are called to witness to the Christian roots given to them by Sts. Cyril and Methodius, said Pope Benedict XVI, so too all Christians "have the duty to conserve and consolidate the intrinsic bond that exists between the Gospel and our respective cultural identities."

To the delegation from the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, the Holy Father spoke of the abundant fruits of the evangelizing saints. Noting the difficulties in the lives of these two brothers and their continued faith and love for God, the Pope said that for modern Christians, "so much more the Spirit can come to help our weakness, indicating to us new way for our actions."

Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who were brothers, brought the Gospel from Greece to the Slavic peoples in the 9th century and are especially remembered for having evangelized in the Slavonic tongue using an alphabet they creating for the language. They were proclaimed the co-patrons of Europe by Pope John Paul II in 1980.

A pilgrimage to visit and venerate the remains of St. Cyril in the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome takes place every year at this time.

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US Armed Forces receive auxiliary bishop from Pope Benedict

Vatican City, May 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - U.S. service men and women received good news on Saturday morning when Pope Benedict XVI named current Army chaplain Fr. F. Richard Spencer as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

The head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, welcomed the news of Bishop-elect Spencer's appointment by saying it “represents one more sign of the paternal care of our Holy Father for all of us.”

Archbishop Broglio highlighted the bishop-elect's extensive military experience as well as his educational and spiritual formation. “That experience,” the archbishop said, “will certainly contribute to the richness of the episcopal ministry to which he is now called.”

Bishop-elect Spencer began his military career as a commissioned U.S. Army officer in 1973, and in 1974 began serving active duty. After serving as the Commander of the Military Police Detachment at Ft. McCoy in Wisconsin, Bishop-elect Spencer was deployed in the summer of 1977 with the 2nd IN Div MP Company to Camp Casey, Korea.

During his time in Korea, he was influenced by the life of Father Emil Kapaun, a POW who died in North Korea during the Korean war. While still in Korea, Bishop-elect Spencer began to discern a call to the priesthood.

In 1980 the bishop-elect was released from active duty to pursue his vocation with the Order of Friars Minor, Holy Name Province. He later switched his studies from the Franciscans to study for the diocesan priesthood in the Archdiocese of Baltimore at the invitation Archbishop Borders, a former Army Chaplain of WWII.

Bishop-elect Spencer was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Baltimore on May, 14 1988.

Besides serving in Korea, Bishop-elect Spencer was also sent to Bosnia, Egypt, the Pentagon, and in 2004, to Iraq.

Bishop-elect Spencer shares the joys of priesthood with his younger brother, Father Robert Spencer, U.S. Navy.

The Archdiocese for Military Services serves more than 220 installations in 29 countries, 153 V.A. Medical Centers and all the federal employees serving overseas in 134 countries. Bishop-elect Spencer will help Archbishop Broglio shepherd more than 1.5 million men, women and children.

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Privatizing religion impedes human progress, says Pope

Vatican City, May 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Saturday morning, the Holy Father met in the Clementine Room of the Apostolic Palace with participants in a convention titled “Development, Progress, Common Good.” The convention was sponsored by the Centesimus Annus-Pro Pontifice Foundation, a lay organization dedicated to teaching about the social doctrine of the Church.

The Pope expressed his appreciation for the convention's focus, commenting that the human family becomes more and more free "when globalization is guided by solidarity and the common good, as well as by the relative social justice, that find a precious wellspring in the message of Christ and of the Church.”

The worldwide problems and crises among states, societies and economies, he said, are largely due to a lack of trust and creative, dynamic and united efforts to achieve the common good.

"The common good," he highlighted, "is the finality that gives sense to progress and development ..."

Explaining the necessity of ethics to global development, especially in regard to the weakest countries, the Pope also said that "politics must have primacy on finance and ethics must orient every activity."

He went on to describe the responsibility of all members of global society, marked by diverse peoples and religions, to contribute to the common good and integral development. Religions, underscored Benedict XVI, are "decisive" in this area, "especially when they teach fraternity and peace," thus opening minds to God and the transcendent.

"The exclusion of religions from the public sphere, as, on the other hand, religious fundamentalism, impede the encounter between people and their collaboration for the progress of humanity; the life of society is impoverished of motivations and politics assume an oppressive and aggressive face."

Pope Benedict wrapped up the audience by pointing to the social doctrine of the Church as the source of the Christian vision on these matters and called the convention's efforts to deepen and spread it "a valid offering to edify 'the civilization of love.'"

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