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shrike3's Journal
shrike3's Journal
December 13, 2022

End game How the visionary hospice movement became a for-profit hustle

My apologies if this has been posted before.


Over the years, Marsha Farmer had learned what to look for. As she drove the back roads of rural Alabama, she kept an eye out for dilapidated homes and trailers with wheelchair ramps. Some days, she’d ride the one-car ferry across the river to Lower Peach Tree and other secluded hamlets where a few houses lacked running water and bare soil was visible beneath the floorboards. Other times, she’d scan church prayer lists for the names of families with ailing members.

Farmer was selling hospice, which, strictly speaking, is for the dying. To qualify, patients must agree to forgo curative care and be certified by doctors as having less than six months to live. But at AseraCare, a national chain where Farmer worked, she solicited recruits regardless of whether they were near death. She canvassed birthday parties at housing projects and went door to door promoting the program to loggers and textile workers. She sent colleagues to cadge rides on the Meals on Wheels van or to chat up veterans at the American Legion bar. “We’d find run-down places where people were more on the poverty line,” she told me. “You’re looking for uneducated people, if you will, because you’re able to provide something to them and meet a need.”

Farmer, who has doe eyes and a nonchalant smile, often wore scrubs on her sales routes, despite not having a medical background. That way, she said, “I would automatically be seen as a help.” She tried not to mention death in her opening pitch, or even hospice if she could avoid it. Instead, she described an amazing government benefit that offered medications, nursing visits, nutritional supplements and light housekeeping — all for free. “Why not try us just for a few days?” she’d ask families, glancing down at her watch as she’d been trained to do, to pressure them into a quick decision.

Once a prospective patient expressed interest, a nurse would assess whether any of the person’s conditions fit — or could be made to fit — a fatal prognosis. The Black Belt, a swath of the Deep South that includes parts of Alabama, has some of the highest rates of heart disease, diabetes and emphysema in the country. On paper, Farmer knew, it was possible to finesse chronic symptoms, like shortness of breath, into proof of terminal decline.
October 23, 2022

"We're a failed state now."

So said a very charming Brit we met at the airport. He was cheerful in that way that people get when they've seen it all. "PM lasted 44 days. How is that not a failed state?"

He was joking, of course. He knows they're not Somalia. OTOH, the night before, during dinner at a pub, Hubs and I watched the TV as the talking heads breathlessly discussed Truss' resignation. The looks on the faces of the locals around us. Disgust. Frustration. Hubs and I could at least feel some solidarity, given the situation in our country.
June 14, 2022

The Catholic bishops support gun control. Why don't we hear more about it?


In response to recent mass shootings, Pope Francis and the U.S. Catholic bishops have called for gun control measures that would save lives. This undoubtedly surprises some people who think that abortion is the only public policy concern of the church's hierarchy. Sadly, the media and the bishops themselves give too little attention to the larger "life" agenda.

While praying for the children killed and their families in Uvalde, the pope did not hesitate to say, "It is time to say enough to the indiscriminate trafficking of arms."

Francis has frequently denounced gun trafficking, including in his 2015 address to a joint session of Congress. "Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?" he asked U.S. lawmakers. "Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood."

I think the answer is pretty obvious why we don't hear about it. The bishops would rather talk about abortion.

Non-Catholics/non-believers are more than welcome to comment so long as they observe the following rules:

"Welcome to the Catholic & Orthodox Group. This is a safe haven group where discussions about Catholicism and Orthodoxy take place in a forum free from gratuitous attacks or derision of religion and religious beliefs. There are other places for those who really like to do that. Our focus is on the beliefs and traditions of Catholicism and Orthodoxy. For the rest, welcome, and pax vobiscum. Peace be among you.

"Constructive criticism of the politics of the Catholic hierarchy is permitted, but no incendiary attacks on the Catholic and/or Orthodox faiths will be tolerated."

March 31, 2022

Ukrainians fleeing terror at home find solace in Polish church


Though the family, who had lived outside the capital of Kyiv, were brought up in the Orthodox tradition — as are most Ukrainians — differences between Orthodox and Catholic traditions and theologies mean little right now, Opanasuk said. (The Krakow parish acknowledges Pope Francis as the head of the church but practices Byzantine liturgy similar to that in the Orthodox tradition.)

What is important to Opanasuk is that she and her family are safely in Krakow, living with a Polish-American couple who volunteered to take them in and finding some solace as they contemplate next moves and try to make sense of their fate — and their country's.

Opanasuk's 62-year-old sister-in-law, also named Ludmyla but hesitant to give her full name, said she feels enormous anger over the Russian invasion and being uprooted.

"Bitter," she said. "Bitter. We were afraid for our lives."

Yet being at the church — even for a few minutes during the week to pray, sit in quiet contemplation or have the chance to talk to Senyk and another sister — is a balm, the women say.
March 31, 2022

As the Amazon loses resilience, church and popular movements strive to intervene


This article on the Amazon is written from a Catholic POV. Non-Catholics are welcome to comment so long as they observe our Safe Haven rules.

The invasions at times involve setting fire to large land extensions, which can cause uncontrolled wildfires. In the years of 2019, 2020 and 2021, there has been an outstanding number of wildfires in the Amazon as a result of deliberate human action combined with severe droughts.

But new models of producing in the Amazon and organizing its peoples point to change. Bellini explained that over the past few decades many groups have been able to set up sustainable development projects in areas of land reform.

That is the case of the initiative promoted by the late U.S.-born Sr. Dorothy Stang in Anapu, Pará State, in association with local small farmers and forest collectors. Stang, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, was shot dead in 2005 by hitmen hired by big ranchers who opposed her project and wanted to grab its lands. But the work is ongoing with the help of Stang's colleagues.

Such initiatives have also been congregating Indigenous and quilombolas in other areas of the rainforest, Bellini added. "And it is not a coincidence that invaders have been attacking exactly the lands where such guardians of the rainforest live," she said.
March 16, 2022

Why Pew's new study on Black Catholicism is critical for US church leaders


The new study tells us that 6% of Black Americans are Catholics. While this percentage is admittedly small, it still means that there are nearly 3 million Black Catholics in the U.S. Millions of people must be included in the conversation about what it means to be Catholic in our country if the conversation is going to be comprehensive. Furthermore, we learn from this study that 20% of Black Americans born in sub-Saharan Africa and 15% of Caribbean-born Black Americans identify as Catholic while only 5% of U.S.-born Black Americans identify as Catholic. These numbers tell us that Black Catholics in the United States are not a monolith. These drastically different numbers deserve further consideration by scholars and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as dioceses and parishes. Church leaders must keep this in mind in ministering to Black Catholics and creating pastoral plans. Similarly, scholars must incorporate this knowledge into their research.

The information provided by the study can, and should, inform scholars like me in addition to national, diocesan and parish leaders in our work. The large scale of this week's report offers data that just isn't possible for a qualitative researcher to collect and it affirms what my own research has found over the last 20 years. I was not surprised to learn from the full report that only 17% of Black Catholics attend a predominantly Black church and a comparable 18% of Black Catholics report a combination of call-and-response, and other expressive forms of worship during Mass. Part of my research involves examining liturgy as a form of identity work where I've discussed just this type of worship experience in detail. I've discussed at length how African American Catholics incorporate music, preaching and Church aesthetics into liturgy in order to create a unique identity as African Americans and as Catholics.

Only 41% of Black Catholics report having heard a homily on race in the 12 months prior to completing the survey and only 31% reported hearing a homily on political engagement in the same time period. The reckoning around systemic racism that we have seen over the last year has demonstrated that it is long past time for the church to regard racism as a pro-life issue. For this reason, these findings are also a call to action. A thunderous 77% of Black Catholics said that "opposition to racism is essential to what being Christian means to them," yet, only 41% reported having heard a homily on race in the twelve months prior to completing the survey. Many Black Catholics are not getting a message at Mass that they identify as something essential to being a Christian.

While most of the data were collected before the reckoning around systemic racism began in the wake of George Floyd's murder in 2020, these shocking, but not surprising, numbers will add up to losing Black Catholics if we don't see our church fighting with, and for, us for racial equality. This week's report also tells us that 46% of Black adults who were raised Catholic no longer identify as such. The aforementioned disconnect between the themes Black Catholics hear about at Mass and what they consider essential to being a Christian provides some insight as to why so many Black Catholics leave the church. The results for young adults only exacerbate this situation.
February 14, 2022

In new Catholic numbers, an 'imponderable' movement shaping history


For one thing, the Annuario notes that Catholicism added 16 million new members in 2020, the latest year for which statistics are available. Granted, that meant the church did no more than keep pace with overall global population growth, but it’s still significant at a time when most western perceptions are that the church is shrinking due to the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis, various scandals at senior levels, bitter political infighting, increasing irrelevance to younger generations, and any number of other alleged failures.


Consider that 16 million is more than the entire Catholic population of Canada, and the church added that number of new followers in one year alone, Today, Catholics represent a robust 17.7 percent of everyone on earth.

Second, it’s notable that the vast majority of this growth is outside the western sphere. The Catholic population grew in Africa and Asia in 2020, by 2.1 percent and 1.8 percent respectively. The share of the world’s Catholics who live in Africa has been climbing steadily over recent decades. Africa alone shot up from 1.9 million in 1900 to 130 million in 2000 and an estimated 236 million today, representing almost twenty percent of the global total.

Catholicism, in other words, is already a non-western religion, at least at the grassroots, and it will be increasingly more so as time wears on. By the middle of this century, three-quarters of every Catholic man, woman and child will live outside the west. Trying to understand the church exclusively through the prism of western preoccupations and priorities, therefore, is a fool’s errand, yet it continues to be how most of us in the press cover the church.

January 14, 2022

Trump's approval ratings his first year. Sound familiar?

As he approaches the first anniversary of his election victory over Hillary Clinton, President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have hit historic lows.

According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 59% disapprove of Trump’s handling of the presidency — the worst of any president at nine months in office since modern polling began. Of those who disapprove, 50% say they do so strongly. Only 37% of those polled approve of Trump’s performance in office.

A record percentage of respondents (65%) do not think that Trump is “honest and trustworthy,” up from 58% in April 2017, while a third say he does have these characteristics. Two-thirds say they do not think Trump “has the kind of personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively as president.”

Expectations for Trump’s presidency have also dropped significantly since before he took office in January. Prior to his inauguration, 61% thought he’d do an excellent or good job on the economy, while only 44% feel he is doing that well now. Fifty-six percent expected he’d do good work dealing with terrorism, while only 43% say he is doing so now. Expectations on his handling of race relations have dropped 12%; on improving the health care system, they’ve dropped by 18%.

Source: CNN

I'm starting to wonder if this is the new normal.

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