Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others.

The pope and a bishop: Pope Francis is in the States, and that makes this a pretty good week to be a Catholic, even an aggressively fallen away Catholic. This fellow, with his inclusive talk and ready smile, reconnects the joy of faith with the essential belief in service to people in need, and that, of course, would be all of us.

I’ve been sitting on an item from a year ago that ran in the National Catholic Reporter. The subject was the closing of Catholic parishes as the shortage of priests grows more pronounced. The paper’s editor  said he had been reading back issues of the paper and had come across a story from 1989 in which American bishops were about to adopt some procedures on how to celebrate Sunday “in the absence of a priest.” 

The article from way back then quoted Bishop Emeritus William McManus, who spoke up and said the church needed to talk openly about the possibilities of optional celibacy for priests and ordaining women as priests. That was a radical statement in 1989 and, if I’ve got my current events down, the topic of ordaining women is now deemed unspeakable in the closed caucuses of the church.

Back then, the bishop’s influence didn’t stretch too far as his fellows voted 225 to 18 to ratify the notion that a Sunday without a priest is like a day without sunshine.

When I was a kid at Ascension parish, Bishop McManus was one of the priests assigned to the parish. He was running the Catholic schools for the archdiocese as his day job but lived in the now demolished rectory on East Avenue and was a warm, engaging presence in the parish.

He grew up in Ascension parish and there is a remarkable picture of him and a couple of buddies from the days when the church was under construction in the 1920s. They are standing inside the unfinished walls of the church and right in front of the figure of Christ that was later hefted to stand atop the church’s dome.

Discipline that works: Forces are aligning to change the way we work with students in our elementary and high schools to foster good behavior, create a dynamic learning environment and offer consequences when kids act out.

Clearly the current approach to discipline in our schools isn’t working very well. Meting out highly specific punishments for infractions in the name of fairness without allowing room for discretion by thoughtful adults, or peers, has still left us with towering racial disparities in our discipline systems. And that has led to disturbing numbers of black students suspended and expelled from schools in totals far disproportionate from the general enrollment. 

Oak Park and River Forest High School has a largely new school board and this group seems determined to rethink a discipline system that disproportionately suspends black students while failing to address the educational inequities that are still gaping between the races at OPRF. 

Remember that the discipline system at OPRF was already rethought a decade ago. That’s when responsibility for doling out consequences for bad behavior was shifted from individual deans to a team focused only on disciplinary consequences. The worthy goal then was to standardize the consequences and lessen racial inequity. 

Nice try. Good intentions. Didn’t work.

Now the school board wants to look at new alternatives just as state Sen. Kimberly Lightford of Maywood has achieved her goal of passing a new law which turns a spotlight on school suspensions. The legislation takes effect a year from now and will require school districts to limit suspensions and provide alternative educational opportunities which keep students in school and not out on the street.

It is a complex topic but one we need to focus on at both the local level and statewide.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...