Feb 092014

It is sometimes the case that a headline has little or nothing to do with the actual contents of an article. That headlines are crafted for page views not a quick summary of an article. It is also true in many news organizations that the author of the piece is not the one to write the headline.

So I kept all that in mind when I read this headline from the Daily Mail “How a Pope called Pius turned the confessional box into a paradise for paedophiles”.

Unfortunately the article and headline are one and the same. The attack against Pope Pius X is that he decreed in 1910 that children must make their first confession at the age of seven.

The article goes on to state:

Statistics of offences have revealed that the age group most prone to attack was seven to 13 – the precise child cohort admitted to obligatory confession by this papal decree.

Well that is certainly news to me. For example the report commissioned by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice regarding clergy sex abuse would dispute the previous statement and that majority of victims were post-pubescient. Although the fact that roughly 21% of the victims were in the category described is not to be diminished. Still I can’t think of a report that stated what was said in this article.

While there certainly has been in cases a link to a priest using the confessional in such a ghastly manner is this true in the majority of cases of sex abuse? So trying to blame Pius X for the abuse crisis that seem to rise so many decades later is stretching it. The article does not mention at all the reason Pius X in the Decree Quam Singulari lowered the age regarding the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. It was based on discerning the “age of discretion” or the “age of reason” a necessary point to determining when a child should have access to these sacraments.

Just a slimly article that does no favors regarding calling out the sexual abuse that did occur.

Feb 052014

In a story by Eric J. Lyman for the Religion News Service and published in The Washington Post.

ROME — Did you hear that Pope Francis plans to call a Third Vatican Council? Or that he uncovered previously unknown Bible verses? Or that he sees the story of Adam and Eve as just a fable?

Here’s the problem: None of it is true.

Still, that didn’t stop these and other stories from ricocheting around the Internet and, in some cases, even in traditional news sources. Among the dozens of other fake pope stories are claims that he called hell a literary device and that he believes all religions are equally true.

The article mentions a warning from the Pontifical Council for Culture.

“Check the official Vatican media sources for confirmation of Pope Francis’ statements.” Remarks should be considered untrue if they do not appear on the pope’s Twitter feed, the Vatican Information Service, the Holy See press office, the Vatican website, Vatican radio, the L’Osservatore Romano newspaper or another official information source, the council said.

“If the statements attributed to the pope by any media agency do not appear in the official media sources of the Vatican, it means that the information they report is not true,” said the statement, which was written in all caps as if to underscore the point.

So far a decent enough article, but they couldn’t let that stand.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior analyst with National Catholic Reporter, said only some fake comments are worth worrying about.

“There are basically three kinds of inaccurate comments,” Reese said. “There are the pranksters, and there are people who simply make mistakes because they don’t understand the issues being discussed. It’s hard to get worked up over those things.

“But then there are people who want to spin the pope’s point of view to further a particular agenda, and that’s very problematic and reprehensible.”

I almost fell out of my chair reading that last line. Fr. Reese thinks that people spinning what the Pope said or by extension spinning what the Church teaches as “very problematic and reprehensible.” Another example of somebody with an irony deficit. He has spun so much of what the Church teaches that I think one day he hopes to be named Spin Doctor of the Church.

Getting back to all the papal misinformation and disinformation you almost wish there was a source similar to Snopes which debunked urban legends or in this case I guess Pope Urban legends.

The problem is that it would be a full time job for a team of people to counter all of “the pope said what?” stories or false stories involving the Church. So it will continue to be crowd-sourced to Catholic bloggers and others in Catholic media not to mention individuals in their daily life.

By the way yes I am well aware of the fact that snopes.com like any fact checking site is not totally reliable.

Jan 302014

With the Pope being on the cover of the latest Rolling Stone cover with a 7,700-word article associated with it there have been various responses to it.

Much of the reaction has been similar to Pope Francis being named Time’s person of the year. That they like him because they think he is changing the Church at some fundamental level doctrinally. That if they really understood that he was truly a “son of the Church” they wouldn’t be very enthused about him.

The Rolling Stone article also has a contrast between Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis that really sets up a straw-pontiff. The evil never-smiling staunch-traditionalist that is even compared to Freddy Kreuger; “he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares.” A “disastrous pontificate” with no supporting evidence regarding this supplied. The language regarding Pope emeritus Benedict XVI is so over-the-top that Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has strongly criticized it in this regard.

Whereas Pope Francis has a gentle voice and won’t judge anyone. Anywhere the Pope’s previous comments can be cast in the most unfortunate light they are. So you see the expected quotes pulled out by so many at odds with what the Church teaches. Plus this article contained this quite unfortunate comparison. “But Francis, like Bill Clinton, thrives on personal contact.” Yikes does the writer even realize what he is saying?

Still reacting to a Rolling Stone article on the Pope is mostly a waste of time as it is exactly what you would expect.

There has been much talk about the “Francis effect” and how those who are not practicing Catholics or even favorable towards the Church generally like Pope Francis. Part of this is that a seeming change in tone means an underlying change in doctrine. He seems like such a nice friendly guy that he really couldn’t believe in all those hard-sayings of Jesus and his Church. Many are drawn to likin him that they will broaden some specific statements that they interpet as liberal and then give him a pass if he mentions abortion since he is only throwing a bone to conservatives.

Some would critique the “Francis effect” as not a good thing since it might attract people to the Church with a totally false idea of what the Church is. Part of me is drawn to this critique since I am so tired of dissidents that bringing in another generation of them does not appeal to me. Yet I also reflect that any movement in the right direction is in fact a movement in the right direction. Any openness to truth can lead to more openness. God has worked with far less. The married couple that starts going to church because they had a child is not usually very well catechized, yet often God can work with this to bring them to a fuller understanding.

Have you ever read a conversion story where the person was already totally aligned with everything the Church had to teach? That the only thing they were lacking was becoming a member of the Church? We are all broken with various degrees of brokenness. Some will have less to repair, but we all need repair to become fully aligned with the Church and what God has in plan for us. A daily process with no end point in this life.

So I can’t say that “Here comes everybody” Catholicism delights me. I would be all for a smaller but more faithful Church where the members know their faith and act on it with total consistency. Plus I want that category to include me even though I don’t always fit that definition. I bet Moses would have been happier with a much smaller number of the faithful where they didn’t start building idols when he turned his back. Yet like the Israelites in the Exodus the Church is journeying towards the promised land and we can expect dissent and rebellions along the way. So while I long for the perfect Church that strangely also includes me I desire to welcome those to the Church drawn by Pope Francis or other means. Even if their journeying to the truth of what the Church teaches might include some time in the wilderness.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

On the humorous side 7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be Too Pleased About Pope Francis on the Cover of Rolling Stone

Jan 282014

One of the most consistent complaints of the pro-life movement is the dismal coverage of the March for Life and the number of offshoots it has spawned across the country. There is the obvious element of unfairness where Wendy Davis and her tennis shoes can be loads of coverage, but a massive amount of people braving the elements protesting abortion does not even get a reporter to cover it at all.

We saw this during the very disturbing Gosnell murder trial that got relegated as a “local story.” This total lopsidedness on the part of the media is certainly upsetting.

Yet it seems like we have become repeatedly surprised at this. Of course the secular media is not going to cover the pro-life movement positively. Even painting with a broad brush sometimes that is the right brush to describe the secular media which is overwhelmingly in favor of abortion and pretty much the whole Democratic Party agenda. They have a narrative and will only cover what meets that narrative. Sometimes they are forced to cover something because of an obvious disparity.

Somehow we have developed the myth of the scrupulously fair journalist or media outlet only concerned with the truth. A myth not really born out by history at all. The only surprising thing is not that people have world-views and narratives, but that a profession could be so dominated by so many fellow-travellers.

One of the temptations regarding complaining about media coverage is that we think if this was corrected it would solve so many problems. If only they covered the March for Life and other positive pro-life stories the pro-life movement would grow by leaps and bounds. The secular media provides a tempting target for complaints and an outlet that makes it much easier than actually getting out there on the front lines of the pro-life movement. Complaining about media bias is much less painful than talking to others about why you are pro-life. Easier than showing others the face of the pro-life movement that puts a lie to so many caricatures about it.

Although maybe the amazing story is not how obviously biased the secular media is, but that despite that the pro-life movement is growing and is a multi-generational movement from the young to the old. Many people have done exactly as I suggested in the last paragraph. Despite the efforts from the secular media and the cultural elites – they are losing. More abortion clinics close every year along with the conversion of former clinic workers.

Sure it annoying to see so many examples of bias or the fact that you can’t even watch an awards show without being assaulted culturally. Still nobody said fighting evil was easy and prayer and fasting on the surface does not seem as satisfying as griping about media bias. Or even writing a blog post about it.

Jan 282014

Simcha Fisher with Just enough Gores and Gateses; too many Africans:

In the interest of environmental responsibility, Al Gore suggests that all African women should bear four children.

This is, at least, what Al Gore surely anticipates when he speaks of “making fertility management ubiquitously available” to African women.  He says that ”If you get the health improved, if you get the availability of contraceptives, then families will voluntarily choose to have less children.”  Surely he and Tipper had good health and access to contraception when they bore their four children.

Following Gore’s example, African women should also, presumably, voluntarily choose to live in a 20-room, 10,000 square foot mansion that uses approximately four times more energy than the typical home in the neighborhood.  In addition, each African mother should maintain a luxury apartment in San Francisco. In order to save the environment, Mr. Gore encourages all African women to take several plane trips every year, and only to charter a private jet “when necessary.”

Just part of the progression of Sartre’s “Hell is other people” to “Hell is other people’s children.”

The post follows this with a look at the the true needs of African families. Hint it’s not more contraception.

Dec 112013

I must say I am really surprised that Time Magazine named Pope Francis person of the year. Really surprised they are still making Time Magazine.

Any positive mention of the Pope is a good thing. I can’t say I get to excited that a magazine that often has anti-Catholic screeds by Amy Sullivan and others and usually celebrates Christmas or Easter by yet another “real Jesus” article takes time out to get something right. Plus I suspect they got this right for the wrong reasons. Remember the retraction the other day from them?

Correction: An earlier version of this post suggested that Pope Francis rejected some church dogma. He does not.

Considering that the selection is towards noteworthy regarding impact on the news during the year it means even less than an Nobel Peace Prize. People often reference that Hitler was named Man of the year, but there was also Stalin and the Ayatollah Khomeni along with “the computer” and “the Earth” also being winners.

No doubt the Pope’s obvious love of the poor is something even the media is able to recognize and even generally the Church’s work for the poor. This reminds me of something the pope wrote in Evangelii Gaudium:

  1. Despite the tide of secularism which has swept our societies, in many countries – even those where Christians are a minority – the Catholic Church is considered a credible institution by public opinion, and trusted for her solidarity and concern for those in greatest need. Again and again, the Church has acted as a mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defence of life, human and civil rights, and so forth. And how much good has been done by Catholic schools and universities around the world! This is a good thing. Yet, we find it difficult to make people see that when we raise other questions less palatable to public opinion, we are doing so out of fidelity to precisely the same convictions about human dignity and the common good.

I really liked Thomas L. McDonald’s take that included “The Good” and “The Meh”. This point especially resonated with me:

I’m not going to start jumping with joy because a magazine I consider offensive and irrelevant noticed the bloody obvious: that one man commanded more media attention than any other person this year: stopped clocks, and all that.

He also goes on to post some of Time’s other recent covers.

The always funny Eye of the Tiber has Pope Emeritus Benedict Glances At Cover Of Time Magazine Again, Discreetly Wipes Tear From Eye

Dec 042013

Metaphors regarding the Church and sports are nothing new. St. Paul certainly used them and there are intersections with sports and the practice of the faith that make them useful. So I was interested when I saw a new book called The Catechism of Hockey by Alyssa Bormes. That it had a forward by Dale Ahlquist and is published by the American Chesterton Society certainly recommended itself to me. Plus that it has positive reviews from Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Paprocki sealed it.

Now I am not exactly a hockey fan and only have passing familiarity with the sport. Yet my lack of knowledge about hockey did not subtract from my enjoyment of the book in any way. A book as an extended metaphor comparing the Catholic faith and the sport of hockey would seem to be able to only go so far. That you would be stretching the metaphor at every juncture to try to make an apt and worthy comparison. Yet over and over I was rather amazed at how she put this forth with comparison after comparison and provided examples and lessons that I think are quite helpful in thinking about the faith. The penalty box and confession makes for a good parallel, but it is her writing which takes it beyond that. She ties it up quite nicely going from personal sin to how it affects the whole Body of Christ or using the hockey term being at “full strength.” There were a couple of comparisons that I thought were stretching it a bit. Still overwhelmingly it was dead on with an intriguing perspective of the faith and a real Catechism in the amount of topics covered.

Not every comparison in the book was hockey related, but even these parallels were made after originally grounding it in something hockey-based. One of these correlations involving the Mystical Body and the crowd of people in line to see the body of Pope John Paul II was stunning in its aptness and another example of how she took a metaphor and drew so much out of it. Over and over again in a Chestertonian way you would start to see something fresh from a new angle. No surprise that G.K. Chesterton was quoted a couple of time. In fact as I was reading the book and where she talked about the rules of hockey I was often reminded of one of his quotes.

“Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playgroundÉ.We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliffÕs edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.”

So I was quite pleased to see her use that same quote later on in the book. I so enjoyed how fun and inventive this book was which made serious points in a way I suspect could break through a previous barrier to something regarding the faith.

Update: Pope Francis on November 22nd offered what I would call a Catechism of Rugby.

Dec 032013

Why in the world is the USCCB Blog promoting Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ? Despite what good work she might have done involving the death penalty she is also involved in serious errors. She is not an example to parade on the USCCB blog.

At the Democratic National Convention in 2008 she spoke to an interfaith crowd saying:

She received nothing but a stony silence, however, when she questioned the basis of the biblical crucifixion story as a “projection of our violent society.”

“Is this a God?” Prejeans asked about the belief that God allowed his son, Jesus, to be sacrificed for the sins of humanity. “Or is this an ogre?”

So much for St. Paul’s “we preach Christ crucified.”

The previous year in 2007, she had this to say:

(A)ccording to Sister Helen Prejean, author of the best-selling book Dead Man Walking, and internationally-renowned advocate against the death penalty, it is the Church’s doctrine on homosexuality that is sinful, as it fails to recognize “the full dignity of all human beings.”

Speaking on Sunday at the close of the symposium, Prejean noted that the first steps in denying and “removing” a human being is to declare them somehow “not quite human, not like how we are … to say that they’re ‘disordered’” – a reference to the language of the Vatican to describe the orientation of gay people. Such terminology, she said, fails to recognize the full dignity of all human beings and is the “greatest form of disrespect.”

Accordingly, “to not stand with LGBT people would be a sin,” declared Prejean to thunderous applause.

Prejean said that she is hopeful as she’s convinced that “people are waking and rising,” and that this will “change the Church.”

“When dialogue starts, the bread starts rising,” she said. “The yeast, the Holy Spirit, is in our hearts.”

In 2006 she was one of the signers of an ad in the New York Times that in part said “YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.” After being disinvited by Duluth Bishop Dennis Schnurr to be a keynote speaker at an education dinner she later clarified “I believe that all of life is sacred and must be protected, especially in the vulnerable stages at the beginning of life and its end.” Yet she still managed to sign this document while at the same time saying: “ I stand squarely within the framework of ”the seamless garment“ ethic of life.” A year after this in the July-August 1997 St. Catherine Review: Sister Prejean “will not take a stand against abortion.” She has also said if she got a chance to talk to President Obama it would only be about his support of the death penalty. She can find nothing else to chide him about.

Dec 012013

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, made clear that the Catholic Church remains adamantly opposed to the president’s health-care law because of what the Church considers its assault on conscience rights. “We bishops have been really kind of in a tough place, because we’re for universal, comprehensive, life-affirming health care,” Dolan said on Meet the Press, noting that the Catholic Church in the United States has supported the goal of universal and affordable health care for almost a century.

But the so-called HHS mandate, which requires coverage ofsmall_9359470402 contraception, sterilization, and drugs that may be abortifacients, without any co-pays, on all health-insurance plans, has made it impossible for Catholics to support the president’s efforts, Dolan said. “Mr. President, you’re really pushing kind of aside some of your greatest supporters. We want to be with you, we want to be strong, and if you keep doing this, we’re not going to be able to be one of your cheerleaders,” Dolan said. “That sadly is what happened.” (source)

While I can certainly understand some of the points Cardinal Dolan is making here. I think it also plays down or ignores other aspects. For example it was not the tacking on of the HHS mandate that made Obamacare morally unacceptable. The mandate just made it even worse. The U.S. Bishops were in the majority opposed to this act before the HHS Mandate which occurred only after the passage of the law. The very law itself had significant moral problems.

His statement “Mr. President, you’re really pushing kind of aside some of your greatest supporters.” also seems rather hyperbolic or a kind of diplomacy in place of truth. The assault on our faith by this President has extended across multiple lines beyond just the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The idea that Catholics could be his greatest supporters if only he put aside the HHS Mandate is rather laughable. Yeah if he would just put aside his support for abortion, infanticide, contraception, so-called same-sex marriage, ordered drone strikes with oversight or accountability, assault on religious liberty, IVF, three-parent embryo creation, and a whole laundry list of morally problematic thrusts by his administration we would be great friends! We are called to love our enemies not whitewash away what makes them enemies.

Maybe I am being too hard on the Cardinal here who is obviously trying to balance prudentially calling out something without being belligerent. Yet I wish this prudence included not making a statement so obviously untrue.

Photo credit: BostonCatholic via photopin cc

Nov 272013

After reading Evangelii Gaudium I knew one of the areas that would receive some criticism was the area of economics. I jokingly thought that we wouldn’t have to wait long for someone from the Acton Institute to respond.

Fr. Longenecker mentions:

In this article Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute  and author of Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing![][4] gives a cogent, fair and informed critique of the economic content of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation. He shows how the Pope’s conclusions are well meaning, but naive and not well informed. The good thing about Gregg’s article is that he is not condemning the general thrust of Evangelii Gaudium nor is he taking a doctrinaire and opposed view to the pope.

However he does point out regarding Pope Francis’ economic opinions  that it’s well, more complicated…

My own thoughts as I read this document that the Pope’s economic emphasis was rather one-sided with the root of the problem being “absolute autonomy of markets.” As Samuel Gregg wrote I also find some of these points the Pope made to be “straw-man arguments.” Reading what the Pope wrote you would have no idea about the amount of government regulation in this regard or the fact that big government is more likely to lead to increased poverty. The Country of Greece is and so many others are not suffering from the “absolute autonomy of markets.”

Not that I believe laissez-faire open markets is the answer to all economic problems. The problem with any system is not always the system itself, but the fact that original sin is always involved. Without morality a system only becomes more flawed. The increased secularization and loss of morals can make the free market anything but free.

“Finally, true freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace.” – Pope John Paul II (source)

Free markets become “license” markets when the bottom line does not include the dignity of the human person. When decisions are made without this necessary criteria. Ensuring free markets requires evangelization and conversion.

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Quincy Adams

Our Republic breaks down when this is lost and I would say the same is true of a truly free market. Yet even our flawed free market has done much to reducing poverty and this would be more so with the advancement of moral values.

I certainly don’t want to dismiss the Holy Father’s economic critique since I thought much of it was apt, but just aimed at the wrong target or that the targets could easily have been expanded. It is not government regulation that is the answer here, but regulation of ourselves. Whenever you find poverty you don’t usually have to look far to find a corrupt government involved.

I also found Let’s Listen to Pope Francis on Economics at First Things to be worth reading from a Catholic who is pro-free markets:

Francis’ call is not a governing agenda. We must, however, let it be a wake up call. We must look first at the impact of the policies we promote on the poor and the marginalized, and keep their interests in line first. And this is something Milton Friedman would agree with, by the way. Would most of his disciples? Rhetorically, sure.

But in the conservatarian community I’m a part of, while I see a lot of good intentions and good ideas, do I see enough concern towards directly addressing poverty and looking at everything through the lens of poverty and inclusion, including in my own work? I have to say that the answer is no. And certainly we must say we can always do better.

I am reminded of Sen. Mike Lee’s excellent speech on poverty. It’s truly great. But how much energy is devoted in free market circles in seriously discussing and debating poverty? What percentage? I have to admit that while I most often disagree with their prescriptions, there is a sincere and overwhelming concern for the poor that is more present in the progressive coalition than in my own. We must not be afraid of this concern for the poor that Pope Francis calls us to. We must make it our own and embrace it.

He concludes:

There is a place for discernment, and for advocacy, and even for confrontation. But I think that as Catholics we are also called upon to take the Pope’s message seriously, humbly, and to let it challenge us and to incorporate it into our own thinking, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For this I’ll pray.Note: My title of Popeconomics is aimed at the humor side with no disrespect to His Holiness.

Note: My title of “Popeconomics” is aimed at the humor side with no disrespect to His Holiness.