Jeffrey Miller

Aug 262015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 3 July 2015 to 11 August 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

General Audiences

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Mary is full of grace. She is a sure refuge for us in times of temptation.” @Pontifex 13 August 2015
  • “Mary’s life shows that God accomplishes great deeds through those who are the most humble.” @Pontifex 15 August 2015
  • “When we experience the merciful love of the Father, we are more able to share this joy with our neighbour.” @Pontifex 18 August 2015
  • “Reading the Gospel each day helps us to overcome our selfishness and to follow Jesus our Teacher with dedication.” @Pontifex 21 August 2015
  • “A Christian who is too attached to riches has lost his way.” @Pontifex 25 August 2015
Aug 182015
 

“It’s a test to see if the average person or people of Philadelphia are kind enough, gentle enough to treat Pope Bot with respect and take it from place to place and have it be just fine,” radio host Preston Elliot said.

The radio station is hoping Pope Bot’s successful odyssey will show that Philadelphia and its residents are more than ready for Pope Francis’ visit next month.

“To show this area is loving, caring, nurturing and can serve as a proper host for the actual pope,” radio host Steve Morrison said.

Pope Bot was created in part due to the destruction of hitchBOT, a hitchhiking robot that captured the hearts of fans worldwide.

The Canadian researchers who created hitchBOT as a social experiment told The Associated Press that someone in the city damaged the robot beyond repair two weeks ago, ending its first American tour after about two weeks.

“Sadly, sadly it’s come to an end,” Frauke Zeller, one of its co-creators, said. Source

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Well if you wanted to test survivability “Philadelphia or Bust” might not be the best phrase.

A Robot Pope is nothing new though. The short story “Good News from the Vatican” by Robert Silverberg involved the election of a robot Pope. It won the 1971 Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Of course a robot pope would be an anti-pope or is that antifreeze-pope?

Still I have to wonder about a robot Pope ruled by Asimov’s The Three Laws of Robotics. Which of course were loopholes galore so that stories could be made based on them.

Really regarding the Pope their is only one rule as defined by Vatican I.

A pope is protected from error when he “proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals” (CCC 891)

So lots of bad popes, but no loopholes within this very limited definition. Still the Holy Spirit is much wiser than positronic brains.

Now as to the build quality of Pope Bot, I can’t say I am impressed. I built robots in my basement as a kid and I think I could have done better than this.

Aug 162015
 

Matthew Kelly has a new book in his “Rediscover” themed books. Originally “Rediscover Catholicism”, then “Rediscover Lent” and now Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation.

This is a book for the seeker or somebody that wants to investigate who Jesus was. In the middle of this book he states something I found rather accurate.

Most Christians have been inoculated against the Gospel. They have been given a “vaccine” that contains a small-enough dose of Christianity that they have become immune to the Gospel. Somewhere along the way they where given a little bit of Christianity and now they think they know all about it. Millions who have rejected Christianity have no idea what they have rejected. Many Christians have been inoculated against Christianity. They may go to church on Sunday and in many ways be good members of society, but the inoculation prevents them from truly embracing the Christian faith.

G.K. Chesterton put it more succinctly.

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” -What’s Wrong With the World (1910)

Still there are certainly people who want to rectify this situation and to move from Jesus as cultural background noise to something deeper. This book starts from the central question Jesus asked the Apostles “Who do you say I am?” and asks the reader the same question. I then builds on this as to what Jesus said about himself and his actions.

This book with forty chapters is meant to be read daily as the question is explored about who Jesus is and our reaction to the truth of this. The chapters are short and succinct as the cover each topic. At the end I found the topics to be nicely balanced covering the important aspects of sin, repentance, redemption, and growing in holiness. These are the basics and they are well presented and manage to cover a lot of territory. Plus coverage of practical aspects of leading the Christian life. The approach of this book is a generic Christianity for a larger audience beyond just Catholics. It mostly succeeds doing this.

So for the audience this book is intended for, it covers the basics and can be useful for helping someone go further.

My only caveat would be that there are aspects to his writing that annoy me. Much of language is in “motivational speaker mode” like “God wants to see your amazingness” and the-very-best-version-of-ourselves. Also he uses the word “radical” way to often and even more than once in the same sentence. Although as I read this book in one setting, I was more aware of the continuous use of this word.

rediscover Jesus

You can pre-order your copy of Rediscover Jesus_ on either Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com. Readers who pre-order the book by August 16, 2015, have a chance to win one of several prizes, including an all-expenses-paid trip to Italy with Kelly and those going on the Dynamic Catholic Pilgrimage to Rome this November. To learn more about this sweepstakes, visit DynamicCatholic.com/RediscoverJesus/entry. _Anyone who pre-orders the book will also have access to an exclusive webinar with Kelly, during which he will talk about his writing process, why he decided to write Rediscover Jesus, and why he thinks this is the most important book he has ever written.

This post is part of the the #RediscoverJesus blog tour! To read the next stop, please visit Lisa Cotter writing for FOCUS on the 18th.

Aug 112015
 

At the beginning of the month Archbishop Cupich wrote a column in response to the undercover videos regarding Planned Parenthood and Stem Express. His column started out fine and dissolved to weak-tea moral equivalence.

While commerce in the remains of defenseless children is particularly repulsive, we should be no less appalled by the indifference toward the thousands of people who die daily for lack of decent medical care; who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want.

No less appalled?

He is obviously appealing to a previous Chicago archbishop Cardinal Bernardin and the “seamless garment” argument. Unfortunately he is misusing it like so many have that instead of a hierarchy, it is flattened down so that everything is on the same level.

“I don’t see how you can subscribe to the consistent ethic and then vote for someone who feels that abortion is a ‘basic right’ of the individual.”He went on to say, “I know that some people on the left, if I may use that label,have used the consistent ethic to give the impression that the abortion issue is not all that important anymore, that you should be against abortion in a general way but that there are more important issues, so don’t hold anybody’s feet to the fire just on abortion. That’s a misuse of the consistent ethic, and I deplore it.” (June 12, 1988)

That quote is from Cardinal Bernadin who saw the misuse of this idea in his day. Usually we get what I call the “Shameless Garment” argument of moral equivalence totally unlike the Cardinal’s original espousal of the consistent ethic of life with various levels treated separately. This same Cardinal refused an invite to deliver the invocation at the Democratic National Convention because of their support for abortion.

As a remedy to this weak column, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput wrote a column mentioning the seamless garment without the moral equivalence.

Here’s a simple exercise in basic reasoning. On a spectrum of bad things to do, theft is bad, assault is worse and murder is worst. There’s a similar texture of ill will connecting all three crimes, but only a very confused conscience would equate thieving and homicide. Both are serious matters. But there is no equivalence.

The deliberate killing of innocent life is a uniquely wicked act. No amount of contextualizing or deflecting our attention to other issues can obscure that.

… But of course, children need to survive the womb before they can have needs like food, shelter, immigration counseling and good health care. Humanity’s priority right — the one that undergirds all other rights — is the right to life.

As in most cases there is a proper both/and here in that Catholic social teaching is not just one or two issues and that you get to pick which ones you prefer to support.

“Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care … But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life.

Aug 112015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 3 July 2015 to 11 August 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

General Audiences

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The most powerful witness to marriage is the exemplary lives of Christian spouses.” @Pontifex 30 July 2015
  • “Hospitality in families is a crucial virtue today, especially in situations of great poverty.” @Pontifex 1 August 2015
  • “Let us allow the love of God to take deep root within us. In so doing, we will be able to give ourselves to others.” @Pontifex 4 August 2015
  • “We learn many virtues in our Christian families. Above all, we learn to love, asking nothing in return.” @Pontifex 6 August 2015
  • “We are all sinners. Let us be transformed by God’s mercy.” @Pontifex 8 August 2015
  • “The encounter with Christ can completely change our life.” @Pontifex 11 August 2015
Aug 062015
 

One of the first things I learned in my career in the Navy was the concept of watertight integrity. Using compartmentation with access via watertight doors a ship can contain damage by isolating areas of the ship to any hull breaches. In combat situations the number of hatches locked increases. Each hatch and some ventilation have a symbol reflecting what Material Condition it is closed under. With Condition Zebra providing the greatest degree of subdivision and watertight integrity.

120906-N-HV737-001 PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 6, 2012) Logistics Specialist Seaman Apprentice Kaityln Walker, left, and Logistics Specialist Seaman Jeanne Paulaski dog down a water tight hatch aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during a general quarters drill. John C. Stennis is returning to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility four months ahead of schedule in order to maintain combatant commander requirements for presence in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charlotte C. Oliver/Released)

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charlotte C. Oliver/Released)

The reason I was thinking about this is concerning the Planned Parenthood videos and how apparently Material Condition Zebra has been set on most consciences. There is such a compartmentation of conscience that a person can call one thing evil and the same thing good depending on an incomprehensible ruleset. In science there is a drive towards learning all the underlying principles for a Theory of Everything. When it comes to morality there seems to be an opposite drive where people really don’t want to find coherent underlying principles. It doesn’t take much observance to see inconsistent actions everywhere. Especially prevalent is the chasm between belief and action, although this is nothing new.

The fragmented compartmentalized conscience results often in the charge of hypocrisy because of the apparent separation of belief and action. For example everyone from the President to the Limousine Liberal warning about the threat of global warming just before they get on another private jet. I would not call this hypocrisy, but just evidence once again of people supporting ideas and not taking on the intellectual discernment of connected followthrough. Like Hashtag Activism or Earth Hour where you get to feel good for a moment and then go on as always.

Another aspect of the compartmentation of conscience is that it is usually evidenced by a total lack of self-awareness. That a valid application of underlying moral reasoning will be applied in one area with a blindspot to other equal applications.

Recently I saw a headline that said Obama: Killing Humans And Harvesting Their Organs Is An Atrocity That Must End. This headline was crafted to reference the recent undercover vides regarding Planned Parenthood and Stem Express.

In a wide-ranging question and answer session with members of the Young African Leaders Initiative [YALI], a woman from Kenya said “Persons with albinism in Africa are being killed and their body parts harvested for ritual purposes. My request to you is to raise this issue with heads of state of African countries to bring these atrocities to an end.”

… “If there’s one thing I want YALI leaders to come out with, it’s the notion of you are strong by taking care of the people who are vulnerable, by looking after the minority, looking after the disabled, looking after the vulnerable. You’re not strong by putting people down you’re strong by lifting them up. That’s the measure of a leader.”

Totally valid moral principles applies correctly to a situation by the President. It is almost a certainty that he would have zero self-awareness and that the same principles apply when it comes to the harvesting of organs from unborn children.

In response to the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, the President said:

We are a people who believe that every single child is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Of course this lack of self-awareness is not confined to the President. We can pile up egregious examples of this.

I’ve certainly found enough examples of this segregation in my own life. That was one aspect of the Catholic faith that drew me in was that there was a consistent moral theology that influences everything. The tools and principles are there for us to draw on to remove the barriers between belief and action. I use to love the science show Connections with James Burke. I fell in love with the Catechism for the same reasons and the total connectedness regarding the Church’s moral reasonings.

Image Reference – WikiMedia Commons

Aug 062015
 

Growing up in Portland, Or I lived across from a rather large, beautiful, and hilly park that I had spent hundreds of hours of my childhood in. It’s name was Mt. Tabor and I had no idea the name had any significance. So on this Feast of the Transfiguration I am once again reminded that ignorance is not bliss. I can now laugh at all the literary illusions from scripture that passed me by.

Now though when it comes to having faith I can remark with Peter “It is good to be here.”

Aug 052015
 

One book I have been meaning to get to is Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers That Even I Can Offer by Leah Libresco since I was sure it would be interesting. So finally got around to buying it and totally enjoyed the whole book. Just stunningly good.

For those unaware of Leah Libresco, she was previously an atheist blogger at Patheos. Her blog “Unequally Yoked” originally had the tagline “a geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend.” In June of 2012 she posted about her decision to become Catholic.

The title of her book, which came from her publisher, in part describes this book. When you come to the Catholic faith from an atheist background and never having believed in the existence of God, there is a big “what next”. This was certainly my experience where there was some intellectual understanding of the faith and a submission of intellect and will, but actually praying was totally alien to my experience.

This has to be one of the most unique books regarding prayer I have read. She takes to prayer methodologically as she works to integrate prayer in her life. What I really enjoyed is how she describes these struggles and the methods she used to start to overcome problems. This is not really a “how to” book on prayer with suggestions that will work for everybody. More of an approach to praying and being attentive to your own difficulties and seeking solutions that will work for you personally. Just like “Life hacking” has become a term used, I think “Prayer hacking” kind of fits in describing this approach. There is a wealth of devotional practices within the Church along with guidance in prayer and contemplation. Yet each individual must also discover what suits them best.

The most wonderful aspect of this book is the analogies as they are so rich and explanatory. She takes examples from across the spectrum of culture, science, fiction, math, etc. One thing I always appreciated about Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin is his geeky analogies from multiple fields of discipline. Leah Libresco has that same ability to help you understand something more deeply using these analogies. While some of her analogies are quite obscure, she explains them well. So you get the double-advantage of learning something knew while also coming to understand something more. Her chapter on confession was phenomenal with her relating of the “folk ballad of “Tam Lin” in regards to holding on to sin and how it shifts as you examine your conscience. This example is something I doubt I will ever forget. It explained my own experience succinctly and helped me to understand it better with a helpful visualization. This book is just chock-full of insights.

I also really enjoyed her clarity of thought and the natural way she teaches. She is obviously brilliant, but you never feel talked-down-to. More like you are joining her on a journey in discovering and integrating prayer.

I immensely enjoyed every moment I was reading this book and the fresh way it opens up avenues to pursue in my own prayer life.

I really hope we will be seeing more books from Leah Libresco in the future. I would certainly purchase anything she wrote on any topic and so look forward to her next book. There is a well-known (but totally false) story about how Queen Victoria, charmed by Alice in Wonderland, wanted to receive the author’s next work and received an inscribed copy of An Elementary Treatise on Determinants. Well if her next book was on math, I would read that.

Leah Libresco blogs at “Unequally Yoked” for Patheo’s Catholic Channel.

Jul 302015
 

It seems hard to believe that the undercover videos coming from the Center for Medical Progress could keep getting worse. Still the fourth video is worse.

What struck me most was the language they used. In public you hear Planned Parenthood and supporters of abortion use euphemisms for the unborn child.

  • Product of conception
  • Blob of tissue (or cells)
  • Uterine contents
  • Pregnancy tissue
  • Goo

Any word that dehumanizes the child is fine and calling the child a parasite also does not cross some imaginary dehumanizing line.

Yet when you see transcript of the latest video you don’t see the doctor or medical assistant talking about tissue blobs or a product of conception. You hear “Another boy!” and talk about kidneys, adrenal glands, stomach, heart, and eyeballs. There is human specificity. Besides no research lab will pay for an unspecified blob of cells.

I once wondered how the evil of Nazi Germany could have come about? Unfortunately I now understand this much better. The first step is historically always dehumanization. Using language that moves from a defined reality to a more abstract concept. Once that is done you can intellectualize your reaction. To develop a purposeful blindspot as a callus hardening against conscience.

The conversations in these videos shows the “banality of evil”. No maniacal laughs like movie villains. Calmly discussing the parsing of unborn children for parts as if it is the most mundane task. Like they were playing the battery-operated game “Operation” with a comic likeness of an unborn child.

This type of evil is not the evil of the psychopath. It is not that they are hardened to all evil. They can still react quite naturally to other evil acts. It seemed quite hypocritical to many when both Planned Parenthood and NARAL tweeted about the murder of the black driver by a University of Cincinnati officer. Yet I am sure they saw this as the horrific act that it was and that there was a natural reaction to the murder of a person. Their developed blindspot makes them so that they have zero self awareness. Planned Parenthood still names an award (the Maggie Award) after their racist eugenist founder Margaret Sanger. They can tweet the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter with no sense of irony.

Those who are pro-abortion must maintain a rhetorical separation not only to convince others, but to continue to convince themselves. Yet as objectively evil as this attitude is, it is always a good reminder for us not to dehumanize the abortion supporter. To wipe them off the moral slate as if they are incapable of any moral growth. This is why groups like And Then There Were None (ATTWN) started by ex-Planned Parenthood manager Abbie Johnson are so important. Why loving contact between abortion protesters and clinic personnel is always required. It is so easy to be outraged concerning abortion and the knee-jerk reactions by abortions supporter defending selling baby parts. Yet outrage without followthrough in prayer is like hashtag activism achieving nothing.

Jul 282015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 11 June 2015 to 28 July 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Now is the time for a change in mindset and to stop pretending that our actions do not affect those who suffer from hunger.” @Pontifex 15 July 2015
  • “When everything falls apart, only one thing sustains our hope: God loves us, he loves everyone!” @Pontifex 17 July 2015
  • “The Church is called to be ever more attentive and caring toward the weak.” @Pontifex 21 July 2015
  • “The one who helps the sick and needy touches the flesh of Christ, alive and present in our midst.” @Pontifex 23 July 2015
  • “Christian witness is concrete: words without actions are empty.” @Pontifex 25 July 2015
  • “Dear young friends, do not be afraid of marriage: Christ accompanies with his grace all spouses who remain united to him.” @Pontifex 28 July 2015