Nov 242013

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 10 November to 24 November 2013.

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.


General Audiences




Motu Proprio

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

  • “Confessing our sins may be difficult for us, but it brings us peace. We are sinners, and we need God’s forgiveness.” @pontifex, 18 November 2013
  • “The Saints were not superhuman. They were people who loved God in their hearts, and who shared this joy with others.” @pontifex, 19 November 2013
  • “To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone.” @pontifex, 21 November 2013
  • “The Kingdom of Heaven is for those who place their trust in the love of God, not in material possessions.” @pontifex, 22 November 2013
  • “The Sacraments are Jesus Christ’s presence in us. So it is important for us to go to Confession and receive Holy Communion.” @pontifex, 23 November 2013
Nov 132013

‘Special Message’ On HHS Mandate At Conclusion Of General Assembly

… Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.

Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.

The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.

As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation. We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences. We remain grateful for the unity we share in this endeavor with Americans of all other faiths, and even with those of no faith at all. It is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church. We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.

This resolve is particularly providential on this feast of the patroness of immigrants, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant. We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.

Interesting and accurate choice of words “of the mandate against us”.

Via Rocco Palmo

From a story yesterday on Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

PITTSBURGH — The Roman Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh said Tuesday that he will refuse to sign a document allowing its health plan to provide birth control and abortion coverage for employees of a diocese-related charity, even if it means paying fines.

The Pittsburgh diocese and its counterpart in Erie are challenging federal health care law changes that require contraceptive and abortion coverage in employee health plans. Tuesday’s hearing was focused on whether U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab should block the government from enforcing the mandate while the dioceses pursue their lawsuits claiming the requirements violate their First Amendment right of religious freedom.

The Justice Department contends the church is exempt and that its charitable affiliates can be accommodated so they don’t have to pay for the coverage they object to.

Last year a judge dismissed a previous lawsuit the Pittsburgh diocese filed over the same issues, saying it has not been harmed by the new health care legislation and that the government had promised to take steps to address religious objections. But the diocese sued again, saying the final regulations that take effect Jan. 1 are worse than the proposed regulations that prompted the earlier lawsuit.

Bishop David Zubik testified that he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he signed a form that allowed the disputed services to be provided to employees. Zubik said the church is being asked to violate an important belief and a matter of conscience.

Many of the Bishops have been concentrating on the fallout from the employee mandate from the HHS effective next year. With no change in the law or really the artificial restrictions from HSS it is hard to see how we are going to effectively deal with this. The choice seems to be between knuckling under or paying the fines and going out of business. Really morally there is no choice but to resist so we will just have to see how the Bishops and Catholics institutions handle this.

Although I think others are in more immediate difficulties. While the employee mandate was delayed, that is not so for the individual mandate. So what happens with a Catholic whose insurance was cancelled and must buy insurance with all the HHS mandated coverages? Price increases will largely be used to subsidize all the new “free” coverage that includes intrinsically evil acts. Hopefully the bishops will speak on this and what level of material cooperation this is. Although I say hopefully in a sort of not-holding-my-breath way. This really is a all-hands-on-deck moment for the Church in America.

Nov 062013

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a letter to all of the U.S. bishops about Medjugorje. So yeah just another quite Catholic news day.

Jimmy Akin as usual has provided his usual excellent service of distilling what this means with things to know and share about the new letter on Medjugorje.

One thing I find interesting is that the letter was sent to the U.S. Bishops specifically. Possibly other Bishop conferences are receiving similar letters. Or maybe the majority of visitors to Medjugorje are from the United States. It seems to me that many bishops have seemed to turn a blind eye to “unofficial official” pilgrimages there despite the 1991 letter from the Bishops of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. In my own diocese these “unofficial official” pilgrimages appear in parish bulletins and on local Catholic radio along with parish priests “unofficially” going along.

Another thing of interest was the way the letter was written with language such as “so-called visionaries” and later “apparitions” used with scare quotes.

Years ago I reviewed Donal Foley’s book “Understanding Medjugorje Heavenly Vision or Religious Illusions”. Information since then has only confirmed my belief that it is a hoax on some level. When I first came into the Church I was very interested in apparitions. I think my previous atheism was seeking for evidential proofs to confirm I had not gone crazy with this “faith thing.” Medjugorje interested me and I had even gone to a parish where one of the “seer’s” spoke. Not long after that though I found out what the Bishop’s of Medjugorje had said and decided to pay no more attention to it along with the whole idea of seeking apparitions. After all even such apparitions that the Church considers worthy of pious credence and declaring them constat de supernaturalitate might emphasize an area of the faith, but teach nothing new.

The situation reminds me of the rich man who had feasted sumptuously while ignoring the plight of Lazurus.

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ (Lk 16:27–30)

We are in the same situation where we have the scriptures, sacred tradition, and the teaching authority of the Church and yet look for other sources instead of “hearing them.” Still I think God in his mercy does act via some apparitions to call us to what has already been revealed. Valid apparitions (and valid with all necessary caveats) are a sign of our weakness and not favor.

When it comes to Medjugorje I find it fascinating that it produces two contradictory fruits. That of disobedience and conversion. There has been so much shameful disobedience surrounding followers of the so-called seers and disobedience to their bishop from the “seer’s” themselves. Yet around this there have been genuine conversions. Evidence that God can draw straight lines out of anything and of course anywhere there is the Mass, the sacraments, and repentance; there will also be conversions.

Nov 052013

Since I was under ten at the time and had no connection to the Catholic Church the Second Vatican Council was a total non-entity for me. Still in retrospect I have wondered about the disconnect between what the Council actually taught and how it was perceived by Catholics and the world-at-large. Information about the Council was almost entirely filtered through the media. Even for Catholic who were watching closely there was a lot of misinformation to wade through and as the actual documents were published there were relatively few who read them. So partly it is easy to comprehend how the “Spirit of Vatican II” developed in an atmosphere of cultural upset and expectation of change.

I think I have a better understanding now how this dynamic worked. The reason I say this is I believe there is a “Spirit of Pope Francis” dynamic working right now. Once again change seems to be expected and that dogma and doctrine is up for grabs. The media amplifies anything interpreted to be in this direction; a grasping at straws and straw-men. It has been quite ludicrous when it comes to dogmatic teachings related to abortion, homosexual acts, women’s ordination are going to result in a total rewrite of the Catechism. Areas concerning discipline and not dogmas spin out of control on something totally unsubstantial. For example Archbishop Pietro Parolin’s answer regarding clerical celibacy that was anything but a signaling of future change. More recently all the talk about women Cardinal’s being appointed.

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said yesterday:

“Being a cardinal is one of the roles in the church for which, in theory, one does not have to be ordained as a priest,” Lombardi said. “But to move from that point to suggesting the pope will name female cardinals for the consistory is not even remotely realistic.”

So of course the media reports “Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi fuels rumours on female cardinals

More evidence of the “Sprit of Pope Francis” at work. You don’t need actual statements or documents just and expectation of change. The media, non-Catholics, and some Catholics not exactly friendly to the Church see Pope Francis as a “breath of fresh air.” So since they like him many assume that he can’t possibly be a “dogmatic” Pope and someone that actually believes all that the Church authoritatively teaches. The Pope’s repeated claims that he is a “son of the Church” is rather lost on them. He’s a humble guy with an obvious love for the poor so of course that means he is a political liberal. Some of the imprecision in the Pope’s language also contributes to agenda interpretations regarding what he has said. Some missteps such as the interview with Eugenio Scalfari that was not recorded and published based on Scalfari’s memory. There are reports that the Pope “regretted” the publication of the interview in “L’Osservatore Romano” and “complained of it to the director, Gian Maria Vian, in Assisi on Oct. 4.”

So there are many things that lead to the “Spirit of Pope Francis” and once again obvious contradictions don’t matter. Pope Francis can preach repeatedly about the reality of the devil and at the same time is expected to eject everything that went before. So just like the “Spirit of Vatican II” the “Spirit of Pope Francis” is full of contradictions between what is actually written and what is expected. The question is how is this to be overcome? Just the fact that the Pope won’t be changing these teachings will not be enough for those Bullwinkle Catholics who keep thinking “This time, for sure!”

Oct 232013

With the pontificate of Pope Francis there has been a growing of two kinds of Chicken Little’s. One kind sees the sky is falling and the Church teaching is being corrupted and the other see things falling – their way. Often both seem to have the same level of theological understanding as most media reporting. The same headline sends some into panic and others into ecstasy with stories that cover the Vatican are as accurate in prediction as hepatomancy – the reading of entrails. The media also greatly distorts/misunderstands anything Catholic, the difference is that you have what I see as a growing number of people listening to their nonsense.

For example the lastest example of this regarded allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion. To be specific allowing Communion to those who have remarried where either their spouse was still alive or did not receive a decree of nullity in a case where no marriage was actually contracted.

The amount of attention this was getting lead to Archbishop Gerhard Muller, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, writing a lengthy article in the L’Osservatore Romano putting a kibosh on the speculation. Funny I also remember how when Archbishop Gerhard Muller was selected by Pope Benedict XVI there were also cries of doom as he was suppose to be some sort of “progressive” theologian.

Part of the problem is how the term “acting pastorally” has come to mean different things to different people. Some think the term is a politically correct term for ignoring sin and doing nothing in response. Others that mercy means there is no sin or consequences and acting pastorally is about affirming people. The Pope’s repeated talking about mercy gets translated into a narrative instead of what he is actually saying and doing.

As Jimmy Akin ends his recent post on the subject:

12) So what is going to happen with the Church’s approach to the civilly remarried?

It’s a given that the Pope will continue to stress the need to be pastorally close to them and to help them draw closer to the Church.
Benedict XVI did that, and Francis is certain to continue the approach.

We’ll have to wait and see what practical forms this takes, and it will be a major point of discussion at the forthcoming Synod of Bishops, but I would be gobsmacked if the discipline regarding receiving Holy Communion were simply dropped.

That discipline is too closely based on biblical principles and infallible Catholic teaching, and Archbishop Muller’s article seems written precisely in order to communicate that the idea of dropping it is not on the table.

Moses compromised due to people’s “hardness of heart”, but that is not a solution available to us.

Oct 142013

SANTA CLARA – A decision by Santa Clara University’s president to drop health insurance coverage of elective abortions for the Catholic university’s faculty and staff has triggered a serious rift at the school.

Many faculty members say they were blindsided by the move at an institution that has long prided itself on open communication and governing by consensus.

The thorny issue echoes a nationwide debate at Catholic universities over their institutional identities and ability to consider the convictions of those who do not identify with – or who disagree with – certain principles the Catholic tradition holds as central.

The uproar at SCU comes on the heels of a contentious vote this week by trustees of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, another Jesuit school that decided not to provide coverage for elective abortions. And, ironically, the controversy came to a boil on the same day that California Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, went off in a different direction by signing two bills aimed at increasing access to abortion in California.

“This really makes Santa Clara University’s express commitment to openness, diversity and inclusiveness ring hollow,” said history professor Nancy Unger, who is Catholic. (source)

Because nothing says “openness, diversity and inclusiveness” quite like funding abortion. Seems to me murdering a child leads to less diversity and is not exactly inclusive. When disallowing abortion coverage is what angers you as a Catholic educator – your’e doing it wrong.

Still the good news is that two Jesuit schools are taking action regarding something that should never have happened in the first place.

This article only tangentially notes the recent law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown regarding abortion. He signed a law to allow non-physicians, including nurse practitioners to perform abortions. Pro-abortion activists freak out if a doctor doesn’t operate an ultrasound machine in a pro-life women’s clinic and yet have no problem with non-doctors slicing and dicing the unborn in woman’s wombs. Safe, legal, rare.

Another thing comes to mind regarding Gov. Moonbeam or is that Gov. Unborn Death-ray. I remember watching the installation Mass for Archbishop Michael C. Barber, SJ last May which the Governor attended. I was very annoyed by the comments during Mass yucking it up with the Governor and the mention of his being “Jesuit trained.” Sure I didn’t expect them to attack the Governor even if he calls himself a “uncompromising champion of a woman’s right to choose” along with other intrinsic evils. Politics shouldn’t enter the Mass, but it really is political pandering the way he was acknowledged. He just shouldn’t have been mentioned at all.

Oct 142013

(CNN) – A Catholic priest has gone to court, saying the partial government shutdown is preventing him from providing religious services– even voluntarily– on a U.S. military base.

Father Ray Leonard filed a lawsuit Monday in federal district court in Washington, saying he “wishes to continue practicing his faith and ministering to his faith community free of charge… but has been told that he is subject to arrest if he does so.”

Leonard is a newly hired civilian employee, scheduled to start work October 1 to provide Catholic religious services at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.

The priest was one of thousands of civilian military employees and contractors furloughed because of the failure of Congress to reach a deal on funding the federal government. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has since recalled some Defense Department workers, but civilian military chaplains were excluded.

Leonard and co-plaintiff Fred Naylor, a veteran who attends Catholic services, said their First Amendment right of religious expression and outreach was being violated. (source)

The weekend before last I was experiencing car problems and thought about just walking to the chapel on base for Mass. Good thing I checked their Facebook first since it turned out Mass was canceled and continues to be.

I do wonder if any of these military bases affected had arranged for transportation of service members to a nearby parish? Especially for those Catholics living in barracks without cars. Of those in this situation I wonder how many are aware how serious the obligation is to attend Mass?

Not being a Canon lawyer and having not even played one on television I still wonder about the canonical questions regarding this obligation (Canon 1247, 1248). I would think just because the closest convenient parish was closed would not be a sufficient grave cause when other parishes are available in the area. I faced this question myself realizing that just because our car wasn’t working didn’t mean we couldn’t call a taxi. Thankfully we did end up getting a ride to Mass that day.

Oct 012013

Remember when Pope Francis said “Thank you. It is true that I do not give interviews, but why, I do not know, I can’t, it’s just like that.”? Good times.

I never got around to really posting about the interview Pope Francis gave to La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal. Besides that interview I have read a good amount of thoughtful commentary regarding it both pro and con and ranges in between. When I saw yesterday that another interview was going to be released I certainly had mixed feelings. This time he was interviewed by La Repubblica’s founder, Eugenio Scalfari. This was the atheist he had previously dialogued with.

First off it seems Pope Francis is keeping Jimmy Akin very busy. It seems every time he says something in the public forum outside of the normal speech, homily General Audience, etc – it seems Jimmy Akin has to do another article explaining what we need to know concerning it. For example todays Did Pope Francis just say that evangelization is “nonsense”? 8 things to know and share. In addition regarding the newer interview translation problems are being reported such as by Sr. Anne Flanagan and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf.

So far the commentary by Thomas L. McDonald at God and the Machine on the latest interview expresses some of my own thoughts.

  • I think he has a particular style and we need to get used to the rapid change in tone. It shouldn’t come as much surprise that a Argentinian Jesuit is not a Polish Thomist Philosopher or a German Augustinian Theologian.
  • He’s not a scholar, he’s a pastor. I’m more comfortable with scholars, less so with the pastoral thing. I’m happy with my books and my Germans. Pastoral work has to do with getting down on the street with people in all their messy fallibility and failings, but also with the potential for beauty and faith and love.
  • I think that’s wonderful, but there are inherent dangers in it as well. Sometimes you need to be out there on the knife-edge taking risks in order to lure new souls to the kingdom.

Adding to this the interview format is certainly not an ideal vehicle for a balanced expression of what the Church teaches. Especially considering that two of the interviews were to some extent hostile. In one you have reporters asking typical questions in pursuit of a headline and not real understanding. The latest interview with Eugenio Scalfari is also partially combative.

I especially liked Thomas L. McDonald’s closing paragraph:

  • The world is not our little Catholic bubble. I like my bubble. I stay in it most of the time. The classroom and the computer and the page allow to me to leave it from time to time, but the preaching and teaching required in the bubble is of a different quality to that required in the world.
  • Francis makes me nervous, because his words can be spun by those enemies we have within the Church and without. On the other hand, we shouldn’t get twitchy and skittish about a genuine attempt to engage non-believers and non-Catholics with unguarded language. No teachings are changed. The faith is as it always has been. The messiness of debate and dialog doesn’t alter the truth.
  • Those of us in the Church–we who have made the commitment to teaching and preaching the word and following Her in all things–are the 99 sheep, safe at home with our Mother. That’s not to say our salvation is assured, but merely that the shepherd doesn’t have to worry about us quite as much, for the moment.
  • Are we then to begrudge the shepherd when he leaves the safety and comfort of the stable to retrieve our lost brother?

Anytime you speak about evangelization and emphasize certain aspects of it, it can seem that you are downplaying others. The both/and so often gets lost in communication and on the receiver’s side the same exists. We all have our hobby-horses and can see everything through them. If the Pope doesn’t sooth us by repeatedly mentioning our hobby-horses we can get suspicious. When you make a broad outline of strategies for evangelization from a top level it can be like a flu vacine where a forecast is made as to what strains should be concentrated on. This does not include all the various strategies at all the levels of the Church down to the Gospel call that we all receive and are to act on. The reality is their is no homogenous culture where one pastoral emphasis will be effective for everyone. The barriers to conversion are many and while there are generalities in conversion stories there is no one-size-fits-all evangelical response. As Pope Francis says in this interview we have to get to know people and to listen to them.

When Thomas L. MacDonald writes “I’m more comfortable with scholars,” I can heartily agree. Frankly Pope Francis’ writings leave me rather cold. When I was reading Ratzinger/Benedict the path was filled with empty highlighter pens. Pope Francis not so much. Maybe it is my vanity and the fact that Pope Francis emphasizes a lot of the basics and is a bit repetitive in his homilies and speeches as he emphasizes a certain point. I probably need lots of work on the basics and it is annoying to hear them mentioned.

Overall I can read the various interviews he as given and to some extent see what he is trying to say in context along with limitation of the interview format. Still if he didn’t give any more interviews I would not see that as a bad thing. The Pope is of course going to get misinterpret by the culture. This does not mean he has to help them along with phrasings that can be so easily misinterpreted.

When it comes to critiques of the Pope’s last interview there is one I would recommend. Long time Catholic blogger Dale Price is a hyperbolic word-smith extraordinaire and while I don’t fully agree with his critique I was often nodding my head in agreement with the thrust of what he was saying.

There are all sorts of small rhetorical problems with the interview, easily sound-bitten parts that are being used by the Left–and occasionally the knife-happy non-left that hates pro-lifers–with glee: “obsessed,” “small-minded rules,” etc. Can you find any soundbites to fling back at the retrograde, unChristian behavior of progressives? Let me know.

Hint: there aren’t any.

Now culling anything for sound bites is a losing proposition. We have reduced the political sphere to this. Yet there is a reality that these are what propagates and is unfortunately the only doctrinal content that many receive. This is why many faithful Catholics might feel they are on the receiving end of stones while revisionist Catholics and those not friendly with the Church are glowing in excitement of “best Pope ever.”

To suggest that they have all misread it and/or are delusional is itself delusional. When was the last time they were this energized? Never. Not in my Catholic lifetime.

Anybody on the left feeling betrayed, cast aside, discounted, demoralized, even a sense of disquiet? Nope. That’s a telling datum, don’t you think? To which I hear NO, FROWNY FACE, IT IS NOT. GET WITH THE PROGRAM.

I for one do think that it is highly probable that most of the new people on the papal bandwagon have misread him, are delusional, or both. While I think the lack of precision in what he says at times is a problem, I don’t doubt at all as he has also repeated in two of the interviews that he is a “Son of the Church” and totally orthodox.

I find it an easy temptation to dismiss those who now like the Pope. Especially as I suspect if they really understood that Pope Francis is not changing any doctrinal content they would be less enthused. I keep waiting for the media honeymoon to be over. Yet it is easy to forget that there will be some that will be drawn into the Church even under an initial misapprehension.

I especially liked Matt Archbold column regarding an atheist co-worker Pope Francis Did What I Didn’t.

Other commentary I liked:

Sep 252013

Via the Anchoress:

The Little Sisters of the Poor are heroic social servants: they serve the indigent poor and go begging on their behalf. They are tremendous women offering companionship, love and hospitality to people who often have no one else in their lives willing to see and affirm their dignity and worth, and they don’t ask “are you a Catholic” before they make that offer: it is for all.

Likewise, in their many facilities across the nation, the Little Sisters employ nurses, and aides and helpers, and they do not ask, “are you a Catholic” before they hire them.

And because the Sisters do not discriminate in their service or their hiring, they, and their ministry, and the aged population they serve, are all begin imperiled by the United States Government, specifically by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Obama Administration.

How can that be? How can these religious Sisters, living in a country where the first amendment to its constitution insists upon a free expression of religion and the exercise thereof be in peril? Because the HHS and the Obama Administration say that if the Sisters do not deny their own consciences and offer insurance policies to their employees that include free coverage for sterilization procedures, artificial contraceptives and abortifacients, these vowed-to-poverty women will have to pay approximately a million dollars in IRS fines, effectively making their work near-to-impossible.

Yes, they’ll be punished and perhaps driven from serving the poor in America — the poor of every race and creed — for the sin of not prostrating themselves before a secularist culture that has made an idol of preventing the conception and growth of human life — a strange god endowed with so much power that the government believes it can and must stomp on fundamental human freedoms of conscience in order to serve it.

She has additional information on the lawsuit on their behalf by the The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty that the Little Sisters did not want to have to pursue.

Really, what is the Obama Administration thinking? What is the HHS thinking? Do they really want these optics: the government forcing dedicated sisters to abandon their work with the elderly and the poor?

This could be a real head-scratcher if you don’t consider just how ideologically bound the Obama administration is. It would have been so easy for them to make the standard exemptions, but that doesn’t advance the agenda as much as they wanted. You will be assimilated by this borg-like administration and dissenters will be punished. Elitists do our thinking for us, conscience-exemptions be damned.

On the other hand partly I am glad they went this route since this at leaves gives a chance for secular businesses to also have a chance to also have a religious exemption. If the Obama administration had gone the normal path with exemptions than likely businesses like Hobby Lobby and others would have had a much tougher battle. It is no surprised that what is happening Little Sisters of the Poor is making headlines all the way up to the Drudge Report. It is so ridiculous on every level they don’t qualify under a religious conscience clause.

Under the Obama administration getting a religious exemption the way is narrow and I am just surprised that the qualification for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle was not part of the HHS regulation.

Sep 242013

Edward Pentin writing for the National Catholic Register:

VATICAN CITY — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has followed Pope Francis in writing a letter to a prominent Italian atheist in an attempt to engage non-believers in a dialogue about the faith.
The 11-page letter, extracts of which were published in Monday’s edition of the Italian daily newspaper, La Repubblica, is addressed to Professor Piergiorgio Odifreddi, an Italian mathematician, popular science writer and a member of the Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
The Pope Emeritus was responding to a book Odifreddi wrote in 2011 titled Dear Pope, I’m Writing to You. The book was a critique of certain arguments and lines of thought found in the Benedict’s theological writings, beginning with his 1967 volume, Introduction to Christianity, and including his book Jesus of Nazareth that he wrote as Pope.

Now that news was cool enough, but the content of what he wrote is quite stunning.

But that hasn’t stopped Benedict XVI, who doesn’t hold back in revealing what he thinks of Odifreddi’s work. “My opinion about your book is, as a whole, rather mixed,” he says. “I profited from some parts which I read with enjoyment, but in other parts I was astonished at a certain aggressiveness and thoughtless argumentation.”

He notes that several times, Odifreddi refers to theology as science fiction, and says that in this respect, he is “surprised that you feel my book is worthy of discussion.” He responds by making the case for theology with four points.

First, Benedict asks: “Is it fair to say that ‘science’ in the strictest sense of the word is just math? I learned from you that even here, the distinction should be made between arithmetic and geometry. In all specific scientific subjects, each has its own form, according to the particularity of its object. What is essential is that a verifiable method is applied, excluding arbitrariness and ensuring rationality in their different ways.”

Second, he says that Odifreddi should “at least recognize that, in history and in philosophical thought, theology has produced lasting results.”

Third, he explains that an important function of theology is “to keep religion tied to reason and reason to religion.” Both functions, he adds, “are of paramount importance for humanity.” He then refers to his famous dialogue with the atheist and sociologist Jurgen Habermas, in which he showed that there are “pathologies of religion and, no less dangerous, pathologies of reason.”

“They both need each other and keeping them constantly connected is an important task of theology,” he adds.

Fourth, Benedict says that science fiction exists in the context of many sciences. He explains that he sees science fiction in a good sense when it shows vision and anticipates “true knowledge.” This is “only imagination,” he says, “with which we search to get closer to reality,” and he adds that a “science fiction [exists] in a big way just even within the theory of evolution.”

I just love this so much. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI takes a pejorative and dismissive swipe at theology and then engages the idea of science fiction in the limited scope that applies. I find it interesting he called theology “science fiction” and simply not just fiction. So much of SF takes scientific concepts in a speculative fashion. Plus really theology is rightly the queen of the sciences. Besides SF fans often comment on how SF gets some things right in the speculation of the future. The same goes for speculative theology which can get something right leading to the development of doctrine or lead to speculations that turns out to be simply incorrect.

Benedict then refers to the work of the prominent atheist Richard Dawkins. “The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is a classic example of science fiction,” he says, and recalls how the French Nobel Prize winner and molecular biologist Jacques Monod inserted sentences into his work that, in Benedict’s view, could only have been science fiction.

We’ve seen so many “Richard Dawkins Slams Pope” headlines I say turnabout is fairplay here.

Read the whole thing: which also discusses priestly sex abuse and the Pope’s efforts regarding this “scorge of suffering.”

So what is up with the Pope and the Pope Emeritus dialoguing with Italian atheists quite publicly? Prominent atheists from other countries will soon be clamoring to be lightly rebuked in a papal fashion.

Strangely my odd imagination conjures these two popes singing “Anything you can do” as a duet.

Anything you can be
I can be greater.
Sooner or later,
I’m greater than you.

No, you can’t.
Yes, I can. No, you can’t.
Yes, I can. No, you can’t.
Yes, I can,
Yes, I can!

Anything you can preach
I can preach deeper
I can dialogue anyone
better than you.