Mar 262016
 

So I noticed this series of headlines:

Basically the same basic story appeared in British news sources:

An insider on the tour added: “The band’s team were flabbergasted when the Vatican got in touch via letter and couldn’t believe their eyes.

“As much as they didn’t want to upset the Pope, they had a contract in place to play on the Friday – and in their mind they were going to honour it. They have made a promise to the Cuban people and won’t let them down.”

My spidey-senses are tingling and my first instinct is to call BS on this story (my second and third instincts as well). First off the story is being shaped as “Pope bans”, when at most it might have been someone in the Vatican. Even that seems rather fishy. Where is this letter they received? Seems to me that if The Rolling Stones management ever actually received such a letter it they would make the most of it by posting it online. It makes great publicity.

I really don’t think the Vatican is going to get involved in rock band tour dates.

Although I remember when the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper L’ Osservatore Romano decided to get into music journalism and released a list of the top ten rock and pop albums of all time.

At the time I envisioned their new direction which thankfully didn’t bear out.

Feb 072016
 

In the “any stick will do category”, Tina Beattie at CruxNews gives us a total crap article which misrepresents the Church’s theology along with what Pope Benedict XVI previously said. Plus of course includes an appeal to surveys regarding Catholics as if they mattered beyond unfortunately illustrating the ignorance of many Catholics.

This only exposes the weakness in those who can’t grasp that you can’t do evil to do good. What she calls weakness is actually a consistent moral ethic.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

1750 The morality of human acts depends on:

  • the object chosen;
  • the end in view or the intention;
  • the circumstances of the action.

The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the “sources,” or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts.

This is an example of the new eugenics where it is better to kill a person or prevent them from every becoming a person than to exist with illnesses and disabilities.

The Catholic tradition has always allowed for some flexibility in the interpretation of Church teaching in particular circumstances — a practice known as casuistry. When the denial of contraception exposes adults or the children they conceive to life-threatening illnesses and disabilities — and when the criminalization of abortion condemns women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term or risk their lives through illegal abortions — we need to navigate a path of careful ethical reasoning through contested areas of human vulnerability, rights, and responsibilities.

Funny how abortion is a cure for “life-threatening illnesses and disabilities”. The new eugenics has been busy wiping out birth defects by eliminating the person who has them. They have done a bang up job with Down Syndrome with 90 percent being aborted and are looking for continued success in other areas.

She sees casuistry as loopholes to help ignore the morality of human acts.

From the Catholic Dictionary.

… casuistry is an integral part of the Church’s moral tradition. Its purpose is to adapt the unchangeable norms of Christian morality to the changing and variable circumstances of human life. (Etym. Latin casus, case, problem to be solved.)

It is not a term that describes changing unchangeable norms to adapt to the situation like she thinks.

As a partial remedy to this article is one surprisingly in the Washington Post “What this amazing mom of two girls with microcephaly has to say about Zika scare”.

“This is the baby I’m supposed to be a mom to,” she said. “I would be missing out on a gift that had been given to me.”

Note: Post title alludes to G.K. Chesterton’s comment in Orthodoxy.

“They burned their own corn to set fire to the church; they smashed their own tools to smash it; any stick was good enough to beat it with, though it were the last stick of their own dismembered furniture.”

Dec 312015
 

The late Fr. Jaki who was a physicist/priest/science historian said that the Church was the mid-wife for the scientific method. He persuasively makes this case in his book “Science & Creation, from eternal cycles to an oscillating universe” where he goes through the different cultures and compares them. Quite fascinating reading how belief in eternal cycles frustrated the scientific method from developing.

So is it cultural appropriation for non-Western countries to use the scientific method?

The answer is of course no since cultural appropriation should be mocked, mocked and then mocked. Not surprised that multiculturalism has developed to this sad state. Mainly instead of “E pluribus unum” it was always more like a centrifuge separating elements from each other. So this is really the projected outcome. I much prefer the model of cultural cross-pollination where ideas and more transient aspects of culture see wider adoption. Sure this results in adaptations that stray rather far from their sources. Some of these adaptations are much more consequential than others. Culinary ones less so as there is always room for the revival of the more “authentic” and are often advertised as such. Not that there aren’t problematic adaptations. Some can be either intentionally mocking of their source or easily inferred as such.

The problem we are seeing now on College campuses is that any adaptation or even straight importation is seen as inherently evil. This is such a total fundamental understanding of the ways cultures develop and it is not based on a “clean room” environment developing totally on its own. No doubt they have zero understanding of exactly what setting the university developed in and all the other debts to Western Civilization (which of course also had cross-pollination from other cultures).

I consider it of paramount importance to try to understand the arguments of others. I can only to a very small degree understand the arguments regarding cultural appropriation. Still what annoys me most about this argument is that there are serious problems, injustices, and disparities in the world. Although I guess this is nothing new as Jesus charged the Pharisees “You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Mt 23:24)

Nov 022015
 

The continuing dustup between the New York Times’ Ross Douthat and “Theologians” of American academia has resulted in some interesting articles.

First off this one by a student who had previously entered the PhD program in theology at Boston College.

Two Years Among the Liberal Theologians

The article described what I expected regarding the two faces of many American Catholic theologians. Who lean towards heterodoxy in the classroom, but project a different public face. Traipsing all around heresy, but will have a fainting spell if you use the “H” word.

Another good read from Catholic World Report is: Modern academic theology needs to rediscover God

Thinking about that list of academics condemning Ross Douthat, it is not surprising that all but one of the priestly signers were Jesuits. Too often instead of putting S.J. after their names, SJW would be more appropriate.

Oct 292015
 

Two weeks ago I had noticed the headline in my news aggregator The Plot to Change Catholicism from Ross Douthat. I didn’t read it since by that time I had pretty much had my fill my Synod related commentary. Although usually I do read his columns and find them worthwhile, even in disagreement at times.

Then the whole kerfuffle broke out this week with what columnist Rod Dreyer called The tempest-in-a-theological-faculty-teapot over the pissy letter an (ever-growing) list of Catholic theologians are.

To the editor of the New York Times

On Sunday, October 18, the Times published Ross Douthat’s piece “The Plot to Change Catholicism.” Aside from the fact that Mr. Douthat has no professional qualifications for writing on the subject, the problem with his article and other recent statements is his view of Catholicism as unapologetically subject to a politically partisan narrative that has very little to do with what Catholicism really is. Moreover, accusing other members of the Catholic church of heresy, sometimes subtly, sometimes openly, is serious business that can have serious consequences for those so accused. This is not what we expect of the New York Times.

So I read the article to see what the big deal was about. I was not surprised to find that the article had little to do with the characterization of it. No fire or brimstone or charges of heresy. Douthat proposes that Pope Francis is at least favorable to the Kasper proposal and that Synod appointments reflect this. That his actions were crafted towards that end. I think it is a reasonable explanation of the facts. Others who I respect and who are not spittle-flecked Francis haters have suggested the same explanation based on available facts. I don’t happen to think that this is the only possible interpretation of the tea-leave readings of Synodal appointments, just that it seems to fit.

So as far as Ross Douthat’s column goes it wasn’t especially intemperate or over-the-top. You can either agree or disagree with his analysis. What is over-the-top is the reaction. On the left “Credentialism” is something that is often resorted to. Only some people are allowed to comment. If you are a man you can’t have an opinion regarding abortion. If you are not a left-leaning theologian or a columnist of the right type again you are not allowed an opinion. Maureen Dowd and a plethora of NYT columnists can promote abortion and other evils and this list of theologians wouldn’t bat an eye.

This is not what we expect of the New York Times.

This might be the finest compliment Mr. Douthat has ever received.

So where does the idea that Ross Douthat was calling people heretics come from? Again referring to Rod Dreyer column Thin-Skinned Theologians he lists an exchange on Twitter between Ross Douthat and Massimo Faggioli where at one point Douthat replies “Own your Heresy.” So a Twitter subtweet seems to be where much of the ire comes from. I guess these theologians haven’t been on Twitter much.

In reaction to this I have seen a couple find columns in reaction to the letter.

Bishop Robert Barron’s Ross Douthat and the Catholic Academy makes some excellent points regarding credentialism and finishes with this:

So in the spirit of Howard Sudberry, I would say to those who signed the letter against Ross Douthat, “Make an argument against him; prove him wrong; marshal your evidence; have a debate with him; take him on. But don’t attempt to censor him.” I understand that the signatories disagree with him, but he’s playing by the rules.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker weighs in with From the Fury of Liberal Theologians, Good Lord Deliver Us.

Heresy is not a charge to be bantered about casually.

Can. 751: Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith.

The whole debate regarding those divorced and remarried being allowed Communion has always seemed a nonsensical debate to me. Really it does tend towards heresy regarding the truth Jesus gave us regarding the indissolubility of marriage. Either someone is in a objectively grave state of sin or they are not. Either one is fully in communion with the Church or they are not.

The whole proposal makes adultery a favored sin given special treatment. That someone doesn’t have to repent of a sin and still to be able to say they are in communion with the Church and the will of Christ. I do wonder how I can get my own long list of sins given special treatment. The idea that you can go through a “period of penance” while not actually repenting is just bad theology.

In part I can certainly understand why this proposal has come about. In most every case where we sin we can repent of the sin, confess it, with a firm purpose of amendment regarding that sin. For those who have “remarried” there can be no full repentance until the situation is rectified. This is an exceptionally difficult situation and I have certainly empathized with the anguish of those who find themselves in this situation. Countless hours of Catholic radio have exposed me to these personal stories. I have also seen the difficulties regarding evangelism for people in this situation. Those that might be attracted towards the Church find the Catholic teaching on marriage cruel and judgmental.

So I can totally understand what leads to a misplaced sense of mercy where the truth regarding marriage is invalidated. One of the things I have noticed in the whole debate regarding the family relates to the aftermath of divorce and very little to keeping families intact in the first place. Rampant divorce is a modern phenomenon. Much more effort should be expended regarding this along with helping those in irregular marriage situations. No one is helped when you confirm them in their sin. When something is uncomfortable it is amazing the reasons we can come up with to avoid those situations (speaking from my own experience here). I think some of this false mercy is driven by that.

It is rather odd when you deny the possibility of divorce that you are denounced as Pharisees when the Pharisees permitted divorce. Jesus called them hard-hearted for not defending the truth of marriage.

Oct 072015
 

With the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family now in session and everything that has led up to it, I have seen lots of reactions. There is the “finally” crowd who think the Synod will be changing Catholic teaching and are happy about it and there are the doom and gloomers who think the Synod will change Church teaching and are not happy about it.

So I was all set to write a “Don’t Panic” post and relate the current situation in the Church to Church history. I even had it set as a reminder to write something on that subject.

Then I saw Thomas L. McDonald’s post today The Catholic Church Will Survive: Putting Crises in Perspective. If I was much smarter and was an excellent writer this was the post I would have written.

So just read his post instead. Still I will go ahead and meander on the subject myself since the subject must seek release from my brain and that’s what my blog is for.

I am no Church historian, yet the subject does interest me as a amateur and what I have read has intrigued me and helped me try to put things into perspective. It seems to me the Church is always in crisis. We are always coming to some decision point and when we come to a decision there are still waves of effects from even a moment of clarity. This of course is followed up by the next crisis.

The Book of Judges shows that ebb and flow of repentance and falling back into sin. Over and over we see pattern in the Old Testament. The false idea of progress where just the passage of time leads to moral progress is one of those things that can only be believed if you conveniently ignore all of human history and the evidence of your eyes. Still even with that caveat, many seem capable of doing just that. The prophets were never called to affirm the current moral climate, but to denounce it. No surprise that prophets were unpopular. Oddly we have people today claiming a prophetic message who affirm negative moral trends. No surprise that they’re popular and don’t contain martyrs among them.

All of the rest of Church history follows the same template of rise and fall. This is certainly unsettling in every age. Still much of the New Testament is written in response to some problem or other. The pastoral letters are not about how everyone has converted to Christ and are spreading the Gospel to others. Sure this is one aspect, but mostly there are the day-to-day problems dealing with discipline and just plain heresy. Without all this drama no doubt the New Testament would be much shorter.

Rising from the persecution stage of the early Church we again run into the same series of problems facing the Church. Most notable in this early period is the Arian heresy which gained many adherents including many of the Easter Bishops. Not to mention other concurrent heresies in those times and the ones that followed them. I could easily imagine being a Catholic blogger during those times generating link-bait papyrus despairing at Arian episcopal appointments and the banishment of Athanasius once again. To have the Council of Nicea overwhelmingly reject Arianism and yet Arianism was strengthened in regards to power and influence in the Church. Plenty of factions and double-dealing behind the scenes. Agendas and people using theology for a power grab. Yeah nothing has changed.

The time of the Council of Nicea is no real exception. Heresy and corruption are mainstays of Church history along with the saints God raised up in those times. There has never been some idyllic golden age in the Church and there won’t ever be for the Church Militant.

When I first heard the reports regarding the Secret Synod from Edward Pentin I was not surprised. There have always been factions and those plotting to change theology. In fact I would have been more suspicious if such groups did not come to light. The advocates for itching ears always have some new enlightened view to proclaim from their elitist heights. Bad theology always gains adherents as it tends to excavate the narrow way and reduce the need for repentance.

I am no Pollyanna just invoking the truth that the “Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church.” True as that is there is a lot of damage that can be done that is just short of “prevail.” Still I am not worried that Church teaching is going to be changed. Time and time again at these points of response to crisis, documents produced do not support the current error. Sure there are ambiguities and certainly no guarantee that the orthodox views are stated perfectly. These documents are not inspired and often not even inspired in the other sense.

No the documents that will come out of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family do not give me premonitory indigestion. It is almost always the pastoral response that concerns me. Regardless how clear a document is and orthodox it is. It is always the pastoral practice that subverts it. Humanae Vitae did not end discussion regarding the moral licitness of contraception. It was ignored by Bishop conferences, priests in the confessional, down to the practice of the laity. Contraception was a good case in point regarding how so many thought the Church as going to change her teaching. Lots of drama then also regarding the The Pontifical Commission on Birth Control which overwhelming supported contraception in saying it was not intrinsically evil.

Usually what happens is that dissenters find the easiest way to undermine Church teaching is not to teach it or have it taught. Make everything a matter of conscience, an individualist unformed conscience. Since this time around the issues regard divorce and remarriage regarding Communion and to some extent homosexual acts, dissent will take different paths. It is not as if dissenters will be able to publicly “remarry” people or conduct same-sex weddings. Such public dissent would take the same disciplinary path as attempting to ordain women.

As a pessimistic-optimist I will be able to deal with both the clarifying and maddening aspects of the results of the Synod. Don’t Panic, but pray instead.

Photo credit: Good Advice via photopin (license)

Sep 022015
 

Being Catholic without having a funny bone would be a great cross. How else could we read media coverage of the Church if we couldn’t laugh at how bad it is. It really is funny to read the coverage by people who have no clue to what they are talking about.

I found this story that ran on NPR typically bad Pope Francis Announces Window To Forgive Women Who Had Abortions.

The article mentions that the procurement of abortion “triggers” automatic excommunication. But provides no other context to what the Pope is doing and why. No background that some canonical penalties are reserved to the local ordinary as in this case. No mention that at least in the United States that most American bishops have given permissions to priests to remit the abortion excommunication in confession. I have not heard of any diocese that has not done this in America. Not sure worldwide how widespread this permission is given.

Still it is very important context to this story that what NPR calls a “window” is actually long term practice in many places. The Pope has extended this permission worldwide.

Another important aspect is that incurring the latae sententiae excommunication is not something that happens under every circumstance regarding procurement of abortion. Jimmy Akin has an excellent post regarding this along with other information Holy Year Gestures on Abortion and the SSPX: 12 Things to Know and Share.

Now, the Pope’s letter does not mention people who perform abortions, so we don’t know what their status is.

Because it would be so hard for NPR to reach out to someone within the Church for any fact checking at all. To find out that the Canon law regarding this that those immediately involved with the abortion all have the same status regarding this.

MARTIN: So what does this mean for Pope Francis’s larger mandates, Sylvia? Is this, in some way, a gesture to the church’s more liberal wing?

As if the “church’s more liberal wing” thought abortion was a sin at all. They deny it is a sin and that it would require repentance.

Here is the section of the Pope’s letter that pertains:

One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe they they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

Still NPR’s poorly written coverage is a gem compared to MSNBC’s “Pope says priests can allow this catholic sin”. See GetReligon’s coverage of this.

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

Jun 162015
 

Via Jimmy Akin:

With just days to go before the release of Pope Francis’s highly anticipated encyclical on the environment, a draft copy has suddenly appeared on the Internet.

Here are 12 things to know and share

The document was leaked by well-known Italian journalist Sandro Magister on the web page of his newspaper, L’Espresso. Subsequently he has had press credentials for the Vatican lifted.

I have seen multiple reports of somebody in the Vatican calling this a “heinous act”, although have not seen a actual source for this. If accurate this is pure hyperbole. Yes reprisal against Magister is appropriate for violating the embargo, “heinous act”? — not really. As if this Encyclical needed more drama involved.

Contrary to some reports the name of the Encyclical “Laudato Si” is not Latin for “People heads blow up.” I’ve been taking a rather novel approach to the whole thing. That is actually waiting to read it before forming an opinion in any way.

I would recommend Larry D’s 10 Things That Won’t Be In Pope Francis’ Encyclical ‘Laudato Sii’ for both the humorous list and the sage advice.

Still it will be an interesting upside down week when progressive Catholics tell us how we must obey the Pope’s teachings and conservative Catholics tell us how we don’t have to. Sure, broad generalization with lots of caveats — but hey this is a blog after all.

memejoker_encylical

Jun 042015
 

Since becoming Catholic I have become delighted in seeing how many Catholics in history were involved in science, especially priests. Wikipedia’s List of Catholic scientists is a good start.

Still I was surprised when on saw this article on the Mac website Cult of Mac.

Casimir Zeglen was truly a man of the cloth. He was a Catholic priest — with an obsession for silk underwear — but the pleasure he got from silk touching skin was because it stopped bullets.

Okay the opening to the story is clumsy.

The Chicago priest is credited with inventing the first bulletproof vest, a calling he answered in 1893 after the city’s mayor was gunned down.

Zeglen is an unlikely figure in the history of preventing such violent deaths. Born a peasant in the Ukraine, he entered a monastery there at 18. Fearing he would be forced to serve in the Austrian army, he asked to be sent away to serve a church. He eventually landed at a Polish church in Chicago in 1890.

By Zeglen’s own account, the assassination of Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison made him realize he wanted to “create a product of great usefulness to the world.” He began experimenting with a cloth made from moss, hair and steel shavings.

He turned to silk when he read an 1887 article by a physician who described a man who was shot but saved by a silk handkerchief in his breast pocket. The doctor, George Goodfellow, conducted his own experiments with silk that was as thick as 18 to 30 layers.

At the source of this article you can see pictures of Fr. Casimir Zeglen wearing the vest while being shot at by Chicago policeman. There is even a video of this.

Wikipedia has more details.

A 1⁄8 in (3.175 mm) thick, four ply bulletproof vest produced there was able to protect the wearer from the lower velocity pistol bullets of that era. Zeglen himself submitted to a test in Chicago. He put on a vest of the material and an expert revolver shot fired at the vest at eight paces and not one of the bullets disturbed Zeglen. The weight of the fabric was 1⁄2 lb (0.23 kg) per sq ft (0.093 m²).