Paul Moses

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009).

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Pope to Notre Dame U.: Continue to defend church teachings

Pope Francis has told University of Notre Dame officials he hopes the school will  "continue to offer unambiguous testimony" in defense of the church's moral teaching and freedom.

Bishops' plea from the Central African Republic

I don't know much about the Central African Republic, where fighting among local militias has driven nearly a million people from their homes. Like most people, I've pretty much ignored the suffering that's been going on there.

But there is an opportunity find out more in a letter the bishops of the Central African Republic have issued in a call for peace. (Zenit carried it on Jan. 15.) They downplay the religious role in the conflict, fought between what news reports describe as Christian and Muslim militias, and say it is primarily political and military. Concerning Muslims, the bishops say:  

Our faith commits us to be at the heart of the battle for life and the promotion of human dignity. What are we doing with it at this moment of crisis? The temptation to seek vengeance is great. Muslims, rightly or wrongly accused of being accomplices of the seleka, have been delivered up to mob justice and executed without reason. Let us remember that life is sacred: "Thou shalt not kill" (Dt 5:17). Let justice be done according to the principles of the law.

Working together, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Imam Imam Oumar Kobine Layama have tried to defuse the religious tensions. It's a brave mission for peace.

Monsignor Lynn's Conviction Is Overturned

A Pennsylvania appeals court has overturned the child-welfare conviction of Monsignor William J. Lynn, who was jailed over his role in supervising a priest who sexually abused minors in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Bill Bratton returns to New York

It will be interesting to see what Bill Bratton does in his second round as commissioner of the NYPD. When he served in that role from 1994 to 1996, he changed policing across the country by starting the Compstat system, which quickly maps crime to identify problems.

One consequence is that by heightening the importance of crime statistics, Bratton helped to equalize crimes. That is, a murder on a street in Bedford-Stuyvesant figured just as prominently in the statistics as a murder on Park Avenue. As a result, commanders in high-crime areas were under much greater pressure to be aggressive about preventing crimes.

The down side was that after Bratton left office -- pushed out by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was jealous of the media attention his subordinate was receiving -- the new commissioner decided that the best way to keep reducing the crime numbers was to flood poor neighborhoods with large task forces of cops who were unfamiliar with the community. This did reduce the crime rate, but local residents came to feel as if the police were an occupying force. The death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant police shot at 41 times, was the low point.

Critics have focused on the NYPD's quota-driven practice of stopping and frisking people on the street. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's opposition to that policy propelled him into office. He called for community policing.

Bratton also employed stop-and-frisk in New York, albeit on a much smaller scale than in recent years. It was part of his strategy to get guns off the street. He scoffed at community policing, saying cops weren't social workers. (That may have been posturing to ingratiate himself with Giuliani; his overall record in heading police departments in Los Angeles and Boston shows, according to de Blasio, that Bratton supports community policing.)

Could two New York mayors be more different than Giuliani and de Blasio? It will be interesting to see how Bratton manages this change.

Catholic Schools and the Common Core

One of the strengths of Catholic schools has been that they don't give in easily to educational fads. But that may no longer be the case, since more than 100 dioceses have endorsed the hotly debated Common Core standards, leading to a substantial internal debate. The Washington Post reports:

Where you were on 11/22/63

It seems a sacred time, this Friday afternoon 50 years after JFK was slain. It's sent me back to a book long on the shelf, Four Days: The Historical Record of the Death of President Kennedy, compiled by United Press International and Amnerican Heritage Magazine. Stuck inside, I found a yellowing copy of The New York Times section The News of the Week in Review for Sunday, Nov. 24, 1963.

"He was a man of peace, who at first hand experienced war," the paper editorialized.

The pope's popularity: Wasted opportunity?

Conservative Catholics' disappointment in Pope Francis has been discussed for a while now, but as for any subject, its appearance on the front page of The New York Times has a way of raising its profile.

De Blasio's easy win for mayor of NYC

My favorite paragraph in coverage of the 2013 elections came at the end of the New York Times story reporting on Democrat Bill de Blasio's landslide victory for mayor of New York. This, on observing Mayor Michael Bloomberg vote:

He quietly cast his vote at an Upper East Side school, amid reminders that his time at the pinnacle of municipal power was drawing to a close. When Mr. Bloomberg, dressed in a crimson tie and a crisp winter coat, showed up, the poll worker had a question. What was his first name, again?

Of course, Michael Bloomberg's name and that of his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, won't be forgotten in New York City and many other places. But the results of the election show that voters in New York are seeing their records over the past 20 years in a new light.

De Blasio ran his Democratic primary campaign against Bloomberg, and thus indirectly at the early favorite in the race, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Her cooperation with Bloomberg went so far that she supported his politically toxic plan to change the city's term limits law to his own benefit, overriding two referenda. After Anthony Weiner's "second chance" campaign self-destructed in July, the anti-Bloomberg vote shifted to de Blasio, polls showed.

De Blasio ran his general election campaign against Giuliani, with whom his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, was closely associated. Lhota started out the campaign by trying to differentiate himself from Giuliani, but that didn't last long.

A diocese sues a Catholic high school

Here's a curious situation: The Diocese of Brooklyn is suing a Catholic high school because it won't hand over a chunk of the proceeds collected from renting a portion of its building to a charter school.

North vs. South in Williamsburg

The New York Times carried a cover story on its Thursday Styles section that explored the cultural divide in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, Northside vs. Southside. It is a startling example of how news organizations glorify gentrification by treating the long-time residents of a neighborhood as an afterthought and wallowing in the  lifestyle of  the newcomers. Here is an excerpt:

Grand Street is more than just the dividing line between streets that are numbered north and those numbered south. The border has become Williamsburg’s equivalent of the Mason-Dixon line, cleaving the neighborhood into two: a sleek, moneyed “North Williamsburg” and a gritty, hyper-authentic “South Williamsburg.”

To the denizens of South Williamsburg, the north is now a glitzy playground of glassy condos for banker types, chain stores and hordes of tourists from Berlin; Tokyo; Paramus, N.J.; and, worst of all, Manhattan. They’ve turned the area, especially around the Wythe Hotel, into Brooklyn’s answer to the meatpacking district.

The South, they argue, has maintained its bohemian D.I.Y. roots, with its indie boutiques, bearded mixologists, artists’ lofts and working-class families: in sum, the “real” Williamsburg.

The problem is that the article dismisses the long-time population of Latinos, Hasidic Jews and Italians in two paragraphs, and gives no real consideration to their impact on the culture of the community. They're nearly invisible. One would never know that Latinos are by far the majority of the Southside. In the 2010 census, the Southside's three census tracts are 53 percent, 65 percent and 72 percent Latino.