In POW camps, officers could impede survival
Clifford G. Holderness is a professor of finance at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, and his particular interest is the behavior of large shareholders in public corporations. He is also a World War II buff.
Seven years ago, he was browsing through the National Archives’ online World War II Prisoners of War Data File. As Holderness explained recently in an interview, the usual scholarly method of inquiry is to shape questions first, and then seek data for illumination. Joined by Jeffrey Pontiff, holder of the James F. Cleary Chair in Finance, Clifford took the opposite tack. With the POW data in front of them (augmented by the Archives’ World War II Army Enlistment Records), the two settled on a question: “Is a hierarchy that is optimal in one environment [the battlefield] still optimal in a related but different environment [a prison camp]?”
In an article forthcoming in the journal Management Science—”Hierarchies and the Survival of Prisoners of War during World War II”—Holderness and Pontiff examine the fate of approximately 123,000 Americans held by the Axis powers in 280 camps. One out of 10 prisoners died in these camps overall, most from starvation or disease, some by execution.
Word comes that June 18 is the unveiling date of Pope Francis’s widely anticipated encyclical letter on themes related to the environment. Media coverage will predictably dwell on the newness of such a papal pronouncement, which is to be expected from news. And there will be enough novelty in the occasion, starting with the fact that no pope has ever offered up an ecological encyclical. More interesting, though, is not what Francis will say about the new (about climate change and such), but what he will do with the old—with timeless notions of morality, justice, and the divine.
Acclaimed church analyst and Vatican watcher John Allen has issued a helpful alert, counting the ways in which reporters and pundits will spin the encyclical. Spin No. 2, as enumerated by Allen: “The encyclical is a dramatic break with Catholic tradition.” On the contrary, he believes informed people will conclude that the encyclical “is the tradition.”
Allen recalls, parenthetically, when the Vatican installed solar panels atop its main audience hall some years ago. He wrote a story at the time, leading with: “For two millennia, the Catholic Church has claimed to draw on the power of the Son. As of today, however, it’s also drawing on the power of the Sun.”
Point made. Father, Sun, and Holy Ghost. We’re not present at the creation of Catholic, much less Judeo-Christian, ecological consciousness. That stream began flowing some time ago, and the upcoming encyclical will certainly add to the currents. Beyond that, it’s hard to say just how much Francis will stretch official church teaching on the environment.
Much of the stretching has already taken place within the contours of Catholic social teaching during past papacies beginning notably with John Paul II’s. Here’s my top three list of Catholic social principles that have been arcing toward creation, and will undoubtedly arc further, with Francis’s encyclical: ...read more
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What a CEO can Teach a Pope
“Someone, somewhere has a better idea”
In the days leading up to the election of Pope Francis, Thomas J. Reese, a noted Jesuit priest and scholar at Georgetown University, was widely quoted as saying that the next successor to Saint Peter needs to be “Jesus Christ with an M.B.A.” That’s a colorful way of putting it, and probably not many Roman Catholics would want a Vicar of Christ to talk like a VP of Strategy. It would be more than curious to hear a papal address about the church’s “core competency” or its need to “ideate” and achieve “synergy.”
Still, Reese’s point is well taken.
Off the Charts
Bang the violin, beat the piano—and lose the cowbell
At the end of a rehearsal for a December 10 concert in Gasson 100, conductor Stephen Drury nodded toward the 11 players—a mix of Boston College students and professional musicians—and declared, “That was a noisy, chaotic mess.” Coming from Drury, one of the foremost practitioners of avant-garde classical music, it was a compliment.
Failure to Communicate
The Vatican Diaries
After turning the last pages of The Vatican Diaries, I noticed an Associated Press item that began, “The Vatican praised President Barack Obama’s proposals for curbing gun violence.” The report was based on a radio commentary by the Vatican press secretary, Frederico Lombardi, S.J., on Jan. 19. Those who read John Thavis’s vivid recollections in The Vatican Diaries will have cause to be at least initially skeptical whenever they hear that “the Vatican” said this or that definitively about anything.
Recently retired as the longtime Rome bureau chief of Catholic News Service, Thavis argues that the popular image of the Vatican as a monolith, eternally on message, is a myth. On the contrary, it “remains predominantly a world of individuals, most of whom have a surprising amount of freedom to operate—and, therefore, to make mistakes,” he writes.
Re-enter Father Lombardi.