Category Archives: zero tolerance

Zero Tolerance and God's Mercy equals Oil and Water; They Do Not Mix

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Last week I wrote a piece about Arthur Flegenheimer aka Dutch Schultz. The notorious bootlegger, gangster and murderer, along with his henchmen, prowled the streets of the Bronx during the 1930’s spreading murder and mayhem wherever he took his negative pride and enormous ego. But the old cliche, “Live by the sword, die by the sword” rang true for the “Dutchman”. On October 23, 1935, he was gunned down in a bar in Newark, N.J. The “hit” was ordered by Lucky Luciano and carried out by members of  Murder Inc. As things would have it,  Dutch did not die right away. Enter the sacrament of Penance and Forgiveness. Enter God’s Mercy.

Pope Francis brought us into The Holy Year of Mercy on December 8, 2015. But I have come to believe, based on the rules of Zero Tolerance, true mercy can only come from God. Dutch Schultz was a bad guy who did very bad things. He murdered, he stole, he ruined people’s lives. Yet, in the end, the man sought out God and His mercy. And he received it.

Dutch was a converted Catholic and, as he was dying, asked for a priest. He went to confession, received absolution and was administered the Last Rites of the Church. Dutch Schultz was granted mercy and forgiveness by God through the power given to the priest. What if Dutch had been applying for the job of a part-time school bus driver for a Catholic school? Zero Tolerance rules would NEVER have allowed it.

Therein lies the two edged sword for us Catholics. If God can give forgiveness and mercy to all who truly seek it, how can we, His good people, pick and choose from those doing so? Zero Tolerance, in my opinion, is the great enigma we all face as Catholics. We must always protect the vulnerable (young & old) against the predators out there. But what about the others? I think, especially during the Holy Year of Mercy, we must all pray for an answer to this dilemma.

My article on Zero Tolerance and The Holy Year of Mercy appeared in Aleteia last week. I ask you to refer to that link for more on this topic.

Slogan for The Holy Year of Mercy: “A Time to Heal, to Help, to Forgive”

©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

What Would Have Been the Fate of Dutch Schultz if God Used Zero Tolerance?

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

This past Sunday two of my grand kids made their First Confession. It is always a beautiful thing when children receive their first sacraments. Invariably, they never forget those moments. I was seven years old when I made my First Confession and I can still vividly remember that day.  I do not remember what sins I confessed because, at seven, the only thing I can remember ever doing was picking on my little sister all the time. And I know I had been punished for that—numerous times.

Last Tuesday they had a penance service in my parish. I was stunned at the large crowd. Eight priests were available to hear confessions and the church did not close up until almost 10 p.m.  I wondered if any of the people who went to confession that evening were denied absolution because what they had done was considered “unforgivable”? Ridiculous, right? Everything is forgivable, isn’t it? And it does not matter if you are six, seven or one hundred and eight.

To give an example of how God’s mercy is ALWAYS available to those who seek it I would like to briefly mention a man by the name of Arthur Flegenheimer. Arthur was born in New York City in 1901. A German-Jew, by the time he was 27 he was known as Dutch Schultz and was quickly becoming one of the most feared mob bosses in New York. The “Dutchman” was a bootlegger (running illegal whiskey), a number’s boss operating in Harlem and a “shakedown artist” within the NYC restaurant industry offering protection while using the restaurant unions as cover.

His main enforcer was the infamous, Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll, a brutal killer who did Schultz’s bidding without hesitation. Eventually the “Dutchman” got tired of Coll’s wanting more money. As “Mad Dog” sat in a telephone booth talking on the phone he was machine gunned to death by Schultz’s henchmen. Dutch actually proved to be a more brutal killer then “Mad Dog” Coll. So how does my brain tie Dutch Schultz, the Sacrament of Penance and Zero-Tolerance together? Actually, it is not that hard to do.

Dutch Schultz wanted to kill U. S. Attorney Thomas E. Dewey (Later to be Governor of NY and the Presidential Candidate losing to Harry Truman in the 1948 election). The Mafia Commission told Schultz,  “NO, it would cause us too much trouble.” Schultz refused to listen and decided to  kill Dewey anyway. The mob, under Lucky Luciano, sent “Murder Inc.” after Schultz. They gunned him down in a restaurant in Newark, N.J  on October 23, 1935. Enter the sacrament of Penance and Forgiveness.

When Dutch Schultz was acquitted  on tax-evasion charges he converted to Catholicism. He believed that Jesus had saved him. (He was also trying to impress Lucky Luciano). When he was shot he did not die right away. He was taken to the hospital for surgery and he immediately asked for a priest. He was 34 years  old  and his last thought while he was dying was to  ask Jesus for forgiveness and mercy.  He went to confession, received absolution and was administered the Last Rites of the Church by a priest. Then he died.  Did Dutch Schultz go right to heaven? Did he get to the “pearly gates” and have St. Peter say, “Sorry Dutch, that priest made a mistake. What you did was “Unforgivable. We operate under a strict “Zero-Tolerance” policy. You are not welcome here.” I think not.

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Holy week begins. All over the world Catholic/Christian people celebrate the bloodied, tortured and crucified Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus embraced forgiveness for all people and extended love to everyone. This is also what He wanted us to do. This is why he suffered and died for us. He offered Himself to His Father for us. His Father’s gift back to us is the Risen Christ. We all have been saved and we all  can get to share eternal life with the Blessed Trinity. Because of God’s mercy even Dutch Schultz can join in the celebration. It is a beauty beyond description.

The only people who remain among the ranks of the “unforgiven” during the Easter celebrations and all through the year are those who are subject to the man made rules of Zero-Tolerance. This includes  Zero-Tolerance rules as set in place by much of the Catholic hierarchy. But God Himself could never be party to Zero-Tolerance since it would be a contradiction of His perfection. Maybe this Easter the hierarchy of the Church, as they celebrate new Light during the Easter Vigil, should begin re-thinking this intransigent policy called Zero-Tolerance. If it did not apply to Dutch Schultz, well, —-who am I to judge?

                                      copyright © 2015 Larry Peterson

A Question for the Lenten Season: Is Forgiveness for Anyone Who Asks? Apparently Not.

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Lent is here. I  sit in front of this keyboard with the current memory of ashes smeared across my forehead. The season of Repentance and Forgiveness followed by  Redemption is once again upon us. The ashes remind us of our mortality. We all know in our hearts that we will  surely die one day. Just like the adulterous woman in the Gospel reading (John 8: 2-11) we want to be FORGIVEN for all the bad things we have done in our lifetimes. When we do make that final journey we desperately want our final destination to be heaven.

That is why God became man, isn’t it? So all of us would have the chance to reach that final destination.  That is why he came and lived among us and taught us how to live. That is why He allowed Himself to be beaten and tortured and finally killed by being nailed to a cross. This is Lent–and, once again, we prepare. But what about that key to redemption called the “Golden Rule“? Does it not apply to everyone? It seems to me it is supposed to. Do I have this all wrong? Has the sex scandal that rocked our beloved Church turned it into a Bi-forgiveness institution? Do we forgive and not-forgive depending upon the sin?

I live in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. I have been an EMHC (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion) for over 20 years. Bringing Holy Communion to the sick and home bound is a great joy. Five years ago I (and all those who serve in this ministry) were  required to attend “Safe Environment  Training” and undergo a Level II background check. This included having your fingerprints run through the FBI database. Now all of us who went through that are “required” to do it again. Why? Who knows. I assumed fingerprints lasted longer than five years. Just run them again, right?  I wish it were that simple.

So, I am going through my certification and paperwork from five years ago and I come across the “47 List”  (I call it the “47 List”, just me). This is a list of different offenses as described under Florida Statutes that the Diocese of St. Petersburg uses to determine eligibility for employment or volunteer positions. If a person who is applying for a position that would place them near minors or vulnerable adults happens to fit the profile of one of the 47 sections, they enter the ranks of the “Unforgiven”. They are the people that become “Persona non grata”, permanently, aka Zero Tolerance

Many of these laws have to do with sexual abuse and many do not. Many have to do with charges that can be ambiguous. Here is an example: Section 843.01; relating to resisting arrest with violence.  If a police officer tries to arrest you and you take a swing at him you can be charged with violating this statute. Makes sense, right? When  Zero Tolerance is plugged into the equation nothing else matters. It is over. ZERO means ZERO–NOTHING. This is my dilemma. I hate Zero Tolerance.

Every person is different and every action is different. If someone walks up to me and shoots me in the head I can be killed. If I walk across the street against the light and get hit by a car I can be killed. In both cases my being dead is the same. But the reasons were  different. The shooter who killed me can get the death penalty or life in prison. The driver of the car was not responsible for my behavior and goes on about his/her life. Zero Tolerance would put the driver in the same category as the shooter.

Case in point: A young man I know for many years by the name of  Eddie (not his real name) has a learning disability. When he was 19, Eddie and a few friends had to much to drink. Eddie passed out and his friends propped him in a sitting position against the back wall of a local restaurant. They took magic markers and, being goofy, drew all over his face and arms etc. Then they left him there and headed home (Nice friends). Patrons leaving the restaurant saw him and reported him to the manager who promptly called the police.

The police arrived and saw this large, (he is a big guy) young man sleeping against the back of the building. Shining their flashlights on him they saw the magic marker scribbled all over him. They shook him to wake him and he did not respond. Then they shook him harder and yelled for him to wake up. The touch of the firm hand on his shoulder startled Eddie. He woke up and swung at the officer hitting him in the shoulder. He was promptly “subdued”, handcuffed and arrested for violation of section 843.01: resisting arrest with violence. Off to the county jail he went.

The police were only doing their job. If I were they I would have been super cautious too. Eddie had been a foolish 19 year old. The fact is, he was just frightened and instinctively lashed out to protect himself. Having only a vague recollection of what had happened he pleaded “guilty” to the charges. He was given probation and some community service. To this day it is the only time in his life Eddie has been in any trouble.

We move ahead almost 15 years. A local catholic high school has an opening for a cafeteria worker. Eddie, who had a hard time finding work because of his disability, gets the job and is thrilled. He  actually starts work before his background check is complete. A few days in and his supervisor is called to the school office and told that Eddie has to leave immediately. He failed the background check and cannot be anywhere on school grounds. Eddie is stunned and leaves the school crying. That was four years ago and he still has not found a new job. He is on anti-depressants and lives with his parents. In Eddie’s case Zero Tolerance became his abuser.

Five years ago when I was attending the Safe Environment class the facilitator, in her opening remarks, told everyone a story about  a man who had been a volunteer bus driver for the school for several years. She went on to say how “fortunate and blessed” the school was to have been able to find out through the Safe Environment background check, that the man had been guilty of having a DUI 20 years earlier. He was immediately dismissed from his “volunteer job” and she was quite pleased even though the guy had been clean and sober ever since his DUI.

I was appalled and let them know it. Everyone thought I was trying to hide some personal demon in my own life. The facilitator even came over to me and, bending down close to me, said,  “We can talk later if you have some personal issues”. No one seemed to understand that I just thought it was UN-Christian to not forgive this man. I told her that she and folks like her were my issue. She did not understand nor get my point.

Look, I deplore sexual deviants and anyone who sexually harms kids and /or adults is a reprobate.   We have to protect our children and vulnerable seniors and our moms and wives and everyone from people who might harm them physically, emotionally and sexually. But is Zero Tolerance the way to go? After all, it eliminates all mitigating factors.  As a parent you might be accused of negligence for allowing your children to walk  to the park by themselves. That has happened. Should that mom be prevented from getting a job 20 years later because her name
pops up in a data bank as being charged with child neglect? Did a Zero Tolerance policy save someone from Eddie or just help destroy him?

So I guess it comes down to answering the question, Do we as followers of Christ extend  forgiveness to all people? The answer is, we should but we don’t.  Is this hypocritical? Does Zero Tolerance trump Forgiveness? If we are truly all of God’s children do not all of us deserve Forgiveness and second chances? What would happen if we replaced the words, Zero Tolerance with Golden Rule? Imagine the possibilities or am I  just a “Pollyanna”.

                                             Copyright © 2015 Larry Peterson

Egotistical Madness is Exterminating "Common Sense"

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson


How many times have you heard someone use the phrase, “It’s only common sense”, or “It’s just common sense”? I know for sure I have heard it and used it countless times throughout my entire life.  So, where does “common sense” come from?  What is it?  Why do we have it to begin with? 
The definition of “Common Sense” as per Dictionary.com  is as follows: 
common sense
noun
“sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like;
normal native intelligence.” 
The definition neatly encapsulates what common sense is.  But it certainly does not tell us where it came from or why we have it and, most importantly, why we NEED it.  What is painfully obvious is that in today’s society the natural and inherent ability for people to turn to their own “common sense” when necessary is being systematically destroyed by several factors: political correctness, an improbable fear of “what might happen” and plain old ideological intransigence that foments hatred and intolerance toward anyone that might disagree.  All of these things fall under the perverse banner of “Zero Tolerance”.  It has led to what I call, “Egotistical Madness”.

There is a natural progression of order in the world we live in.  At least there used to be. The Founding Fathers understood that people were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” and that these rights had to be protected under a rule of law which conformed to and was in harmony with a Natural Law.  This Natural Law was a by-product of an even higher law, an Eternal Law, which is part of God Himself.  Our nation was founded by men who had their core beliefs embedded in their faith in God. The Declaration of Independence shouts this out with words in its very first paragraph when it says that the people should receive “to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them.”  And if, in fact,
Natural Law is a by-product of Eternal Law it follows that “common-sense” is a by-product of Natural Law. 


The United States of America was founded and had placed as its foundation by the Founders, Judeo-Christian principles. These great men knew that they were part of the progression from their Creator. He was the Eternal law and He is the only one with a complete understanding of it. They were his tools to initiate and put in place the rules that would protect Natural Law.  Natural Law follows and includes the belief that man is capable of reason and knows inherently right from wrong. He also has a free will and can decide to accept or reject that which he knows is right or wrong.  The Founders also knew that such things as the Bible, The Torah, and the Ten Commandments were put in place by God to help guide us on our life’s journey.  Ultimately, that God-given gift to us of reason and free included  “common sense”. 


There is a war being waged against Christianity, especially Catholic Christians.  Christ never said it would be an easy road when following Him. History is littered with the deaths, torture, abuse and hatred toward all those who have followed the true Man of Peace and those horrors continue to this very day.  But we had the United States of America, the beacon of hope, the place where the “tired, the poor, the homeless, the tempest tossed, and anyone who wanted freedom could come and worship God and say what they wanted to say and live where they decided to live. We Americans even had a Constitution that protected these rights that were inspired by Natural Law. 

What has happened to the USA?  It seems to me that destruction was started in reverse—by trashing “common sense”.  The rest of the world knew what the USA stood for. Whether it was out of fear or respect, Christianity thrived, not just in America but in many other places around the world because those who despised us knew it would be too heavy a price to pay to go up against the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”.  America always protected their friends.  But from inside, from our own people, the subtle attacks began.  Common sense began to be cast to the wind and Zero Tolerance took hold.  

The word “Christmas” was attacked as offensive.  “Easter vacation” became “spring break”,  people at work were told to remove crosses or any type of religious items from their desks.  Last year in Connecticut, 998 children under six years old were “suspended” from school for bad behavior. A six year old boy in Denver was suspended because he ‘kissed” a girl on the hand.  I could go on and on but the point is, we must get back to using some good old fashioned “common sense”.  Our children deserve it. We deserve it.  The United States of America needs it. Allowing this inherent trait to blossom could very well help us turn back on the road that is leading us all to a place called “nothing”.

The Hijacking of Childhood Innocence

I have always believed that one of the most beautiful things we have in our lives is that magnificent intangible we call “childhood innocence”. I even have a picture of a brother and sister, holding hands and walking to kindergarten together. It is on my masthead. The caption reads, “INNOCENCE”. And God knows, inside these little people beats the purest hearts of all. The Catholic Church even teaches that a child does not even attain the age of reason until the age of seven. It is a beautiful thing.

The other day two seven year old classmates pointed pencils at each other at the Driver Elementary School in Virginia. They made funky little shooting sounds with their mouths as boys will do when they use their developing imaginations. Horror of Horrors–they were immediately suspended for two days for violating the Suffolk Public School’s weapons policy. They were lucky–it could have been ten days. Bethane Bradshaw, a school division spokeswoman, said, “We consider it intimidating and threatening. It does not have a place in the classroom.”

I do not get it. How did it ever come about where so many school administrators and teachers have taken it upon themselves to “know what is best” for our kids. When did they start telling us what to feed our kids, how much they should weigh and what they should THINK. Who the hell do they think they are? And what is it that they all gleefully hide behind that gives them validation for their actions—ZERO TOLERANCE. Yesiree, good old ZERO TOLERANCE, the greatest oxymoron ever created.

Amazingly, it is embraced by those wanting to promote their own agenda and it follows that many of them have gone into the field of education. Why? Because that field is the most fertile ground to plant their little packets of “agenda seeds”. God help us. We are allowing them to use our children as the fertilizer. The thing of it is, whatever sprouts from those seeds will not be the beautiful flower they had imagined. It will probably be a neurotic adult who has blossomed from a frightened, insecure child and who is afraid of making any common sense decisions.

It seems to me that Spokesperson Bradshaw and other puffed up elitists like her are popping up all over the American educational system. These are the ones that need to be suspended indefinitely, not innocent seven-year olds. They have no right to be allowed to traumatize little children by telling them that they are being “bad” because they are innocently using their imaginations. The main weapon they are using to frighten our young is POWER. They will say that they are simply following guidelines that are in the student handbook or it is school-board policy or it is the principal’s decision. They will say it is their job. What they will not do is take responsibility or stand up for the little victims being attacked. They are also gutless. In the hands of people like Ms. Bradshaw that weapon of power is far more damaging than  pencils being pointed at each other by two second graders.