Aug 182014
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 9 to 17 August 2014.

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

Angelus

Homilies

Letters

Speeches

Papal Tweets

Aug 122014
 

Last week I had posted about how speaking about sin and repentance was so lacking in homilies I have heard. So this story caught my eye:

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A chapter of a nationally-recognized Christian group that seeks to reach children with the gospel of Jesus Christ is under fire for teaching kids the biblical doctrine of sin and eternal judgment, in addition to sharing about the love and mercy of God.

The Portland chapter of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is facing resistance from some area residents as they conduct voluntary summer camps in the area and plan on hosting after-school Bible studies in local public schools. The problem? CEF teaches children that each person is a sinner in need of the Savior.

Those who oppose the group assert that because of this, CEF does not present “Jesus loves you” mainstream Christianity, and claim that the organization is “hardcore evangelical fundamental.”

“They pretend to be a mainstream Christian Bible study when in fact they’re a very old school fundamentalist sect,” resident Kaye Schmitt told local television station KATU.

Robert Aughenbaugh also told reporters this week that preaching to children about sin might give them feelings of fear and shame.

Aughenbaugh, Schmitt and others have organized a group called Protect Portland Children, which seeks to speak out against CEF’s message and influence parents not to allow their children to attend its events. It has set up a Facebook page that has so far generated over 800 likes. It’s profile photograph is of a child holding a sign that reads “I am not a sinner.”

Source

This is the type of story where I carefully check to see that the source was not a parody site. Or at least not intentionally one.

Now as to the details of the story I have no idea how CEF presents their message or how prudently it is presented.

“We do teach about sin,” Esteves stated, “[But] we’re not nasty. We’re not high pressure. We’re not negative, but we teach what the Bible teaches that every human being is a sinner in need of a savior.”

Still I think it is illustrative of a general trend. Where self-esteem trumps everything so really there is no need of a redeemer in the first place. Having negative feelings towards something you have done must be banished as unhealthy. It is like the former Catholics who speak of “Catholic guilt.” This “guilt” which they have pushed to the ground not realizing it was a sign of a functioning conscience. When moral relativity holds the day there must be no trespass by a properly (or even improperly) formed conscience. If somebody experiences “fear and shame” for something they did, than it could be the beginning of wisdom and a properly understood “fear of the Lord.” That must be prevented at all cost. Esteem was once tied to merit, but like many concepts now has been set adrift as its own like rights and responsibilities.

Scrupulosity and Jansenism are both errors. As is to call yourself a sinner like Uriah Heep called himself humble. As is the tendency to admit your a sinner, but to excuse it because “you are only human” as if the saints were something else. Detection of sinfulness seems to come easier when we look at others more exacting than ourselves. King David was obviously shocked when was revolted by a story of wrongdoing only to have the Prophet Samuel tell him “You are the man!” There seems to be a thousand ways to go wrong in regards to understanding our own sin, but Jesus never taught about a wide gate with lots of foot traffic. Hard as it is to come to an understanding of personal sins like King David did, it seems even harder to repent of them.

One of the things I love about being Catholic is the deepness of thought and necessary distinctions. My first thought on seeing the little girl with the “I am not a sinner” was to wonder if she was not yet of age of reason and also not yet fully culpable of sin? If so maybe a “I have Concupiscence” would have been more fitting. I wonder if a Facebook page with a teenager holding the same sign would have got an equally positive reaction? If anybody thinks young children above the age of reason can’t sin they must have quited different observational and personal experiences than myself.

Aug 112014
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 3 to 10 August 2014.

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

Angelus

General Audiences

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “If you hoard material possessions, they will rob you of your soul.” @pontifex, 5 August 2014
  • “The Christian is someone who can decrease so that the Lord may increase, in his heart and in the heart of others.” @pontifex, 7 August 2014
  • “I ask all men and women of goodwill to join me in praying for Iraqi Christians and all vulnerable populations.” @pontifex, 8 August 2014
  • “Please take a moment today to pray for all those who have been forced from their homes in Iraq. #PrayForPeace” @pontifex, 8 August 2014
  • “Lord, we pray that you sustain those who have been deprived of everything in Iraq. #prayforpeace” @pontifex, 8 August 2014
  • “I ask all Catholic parishes and communities to offer a special prayer this weekend for Iraqi Christians.” @pontifex, 9 August 2014
  • “I ask the international community to protect all those suffering violence in Iraq.” @pontifex, 9 August 2014
  • “Violence is not conquered by violence. Lord, send us the gift of peace. #prayforpeace” @pontifex, 9 August 2014
  • “Those driven from their homes in Iraq depend on us. I ask all to pray, and for those who are able, to give material assistance.” @pontifex, 10 August 2014
  • “The news coming from Iraq pains me. Lord, teach us to live in solidarity with all those who suffer.” @pontifex, 10 August 2014
  • “An appeal to all families: when you say your prayers, remember all those forced from their homes in Iraq. #PrayForPeace” @pontifex, 10 August 2014
Aug 062014
 

In the theological turmoil that followed the Second Vatican Council, the theory of the “fundamental option” is among the most pernicious developments. Fundamental option separates specific moral actions from a more general – fundamental – orientation of life. It holds, therefore, that specific sins do not bear on the status of one’s soul, or on the destination of one’s soul after death. All that matters for salvation, in this view, is that one “fundamentally” lives for God rather than evil.

One theological casualty of fundamental option theory is mortal sin, which has long been defined by the Church as a grave wrong committed with full knowledge of the attendant evil and deliberate consent of the will. Instead, the theory holds that mortal sin is not a specific action, but an orientation that lies at the deepest level of freedom within an individual who rejects God. But given the gravity of such a rejection, the theory holds that such an orientation is nearly impossible for those of sound mind. If an individual makes the fundamental option for God, then his actions, no matter how grave, cannot be mortal sins – or damnable offenses – because, at root, the person means well.

From a post by David G. Bonagura, Jr. at The Catholic Thing

Since I first read this post it has been rolling around in my mind along with some other thoughts. It seems to me that the fundamental option theory has really become the default view. While you hardly ever hear someone speak of it by its name, you often hear a view derived from it. It sounds so reasonable to suppose that since you are generally a good person that lapses really don’t affect your salvation. Many that would not hold to universalism do hold to a personalism when it comes to salvation. Fundamental option theory has become kind of a “once saved, always saved” for Catholics. The “Here I am Lord” centrality where God is lucky to have us.

So I can certainly identify this in the culture and among Catholics. Worse though is how often I find that I can identify this in myself. That I want to bargain with God as Abraham did.

“Lord I use to have all these serious sins. Can I be saved if I have whittled them down to five serious sins?”, “No, well how about four serious sins”, “Well then, how about three grave sins?”

It becomes quite easy to transmute the Call to Holiness to the call to be good enough. To dismiss Jesus’ call for us to be holy as the Father is holy as just hyperbole. To hear the Parable of the Tares and think “Well tough luck on those tares, being of the wheat myself.” To separate out the intention to be good from my actual actions. So easy to resign yourself to the purgative way without doing much purging, much less advancing in the states of perfection. To be satisfied with spiritual mediocrity on the way to joining the Laodicean and causing a gag reflex in Jesus.

It is quite annoying to start out writing a post about others holding the heretical fundamental optional theory and then realizing that you are not immune from it either. Like Saint John Henry Newman looking at his face in the mirror and realizing he was an Monophysite. At least for him it ended well.

The fundamental option theory also seems to be the hidden hand behind the majority of homilies I hear. Going to a number of Catholic parishes in my diocese I get a fair sampling even if not statically significant. The majority of homilies I have heard are of the “Dog that did not bark” variety. What is missing is significant. Now everybody has their hobby-horse sins that they want excoriated during the homily. Hobby-horse sins are almost always those sins we hold others to have and that we think ourselves free of. I want to go more general than that. What I find missing (except in the scriptural readings) is any mention of sin, repentance, growing in holiness, and salvation. Listening to a homily I am usually totally unscathed in regards to realizing I had something to repent of. Really I am a target-rich environment for being properly scathed.

There is such a generic country club feeling to so many homilies. That we are all part of the club. More thought seems to be given to what topical joke can be used to start or end the homily than any actual serious reflection on the readings. Much less any call for conversion. That we even showed up to Mass is suppose to be to our credit instead of seeing that “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

Now sometimes we hear that the homily is suppose to “To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I have even heard this phrase used in a homily. Much more comforting than afflicting going on. Interestingly the quote was first used in regards to journalism. Still I don’t want to put all the blame on the homily since it is rather silly to think that we are suppose to get all that the Church teaches condensed down to under ten minutes on Sunday.

The default theology of the fundamental option theory goes hand-in-hand with why their are lines to Communion and not to Confession (in most places and I love seeing the exceptions). If we are good enough with those good intentions not much need for the confessional. No need to repent if our sins are just not that important and besides God will understand.

Aug 052014
 

So who is the geekiest Catholic Apologist? No doubt it is Catholic Answer’s Jimmy Akin who has just released a new blog Let’s Watch Doctor Who! subtitled “Reviewing every Doctor Who TV story … from the beginning!

Now I just love cheesy SF and this creates a good excuse to watch the series from the start. Besides I have exhausted all the episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 available for streaming on Netflix. Fortunately most of the episodes of Dr. Who are available for streaming on Netflix, except part of the first season. Although I ordered the DVDs of it and now have it for viewing.

In one of those strange coincidences I happened to see this image for the first time today.

William Hartnell was the first Dr. Who and of course St. John Vianney’s feast day was yesterday.

Aug 052014
 

SF Author John C. Wright was asked to write an essay for the new First Peter Five explaining how his faith influenced his science fiction writing.

Few men have ever hated Christ as much as I have, before turning to love Him. Before I was a Catholic, I was an atheist, and not an atheist who kept his opinions to himself, but a vituperative, proselytizing, aggressive, evangelist of atheism who sought at every opportunity to spread the Bad News that God was dead and Christians were fools.

There is much to be enjoyed in this essay, but I really liked this point.

I wrote stories with nakedly religious endings of pure hope when I was an atheist because the story logic required such an ending. Likewise, I wrote stories with a nakedly atheist ending of pure despair when I was a Christian because the story logic required such an ending.

Such an excellent point especially since message fiction is getting so prevalent in science fiction. Agenda before story which can never go right.

In other John C. Wright news, he announced today that Tor Books has agreed to publish the remaining books in the Count to the Eschaton Sequence. Great news as I have read an enjoyed the first three books and await “The Architect of Aeons” to be released next year. So it is good to know that the full series will be published.

So I commend Tor Books for doing this. Now if only they would stop the message fiction outbursts on their blog and the stupidity of topics like “Post-Binary Gender in SF.”

Aug 042014
 

There seems to be some confusion about what certain emoji actually mean. Gawker brings us word that a TV station in Philadelphia described the emoji pictured above as being for a “high-five” of two hands slapping together, although it’s clearly supposed to be two hands held together in prayer.

How do we know this? Well, look at it: The angle at which the arms are bent suggests a medi tative position while the sun rays surrounding the hands suggest some sort of divine power at work and not a mere hand slap.

And most tellingly, Gawker points out that both of the thumbs on the hands are on the same side, which is usually not something you see with high fives where people slap hands using their dominant hand — in other words, if two right-handed people are likely to use their right hands to give one another a high five, then their thumbs will be on opposite sides when their hands come together.

We bring you this announcement because if you mention to a friend that your mother is sick in the hospital and they send you this emoji, you shouldn’t interpret it as a high five but as a prayer for her health. Knowing this might save a lot of friendships in the coming years, people.

source

These originally Japanese ideograms have been incorporated into the Unicode character set. The interesting thing is that they have descriptions, but no unified pictograph to go with them. Thus how they are rendered will vary.

The praying hands is called “Person with Folded Hands”

Leave it to Google to render it “Jabba the Hutt at Prayer” or whatever the heck that is.

Aug 042014
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 20 July to 2 August 2014.

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

Angelus

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Dear young people, do not be mediocre; the Christian life challenges us with great ideals.” @pontifex, 15 April 2014
  • “The Church, by her nature, is missionary. She exists so that every man and woman may encounter Jesus.” @pontifex, 17 April 2014
  • “The Lord loves a cheerful giver. May we learn to be generous in giving, free from the love of material possessions.” @pontifex, 19 April 2014
Jul 312014
 

There was part of the Gene Wolfe interview I wanted to break out into a separate post.

I know you thought Algis Budrys a tremendous writer.

A. J. was a friend. I admired _Who_ [1958] enormously. The plot of _Rogue Moon _[1960] is striking: Budrys tells us that if you destroyed a man here and reconstituted him somewhere else, you’re fooling yourself if you think that the reconstituted man is the same as the original man. The man who goes into the matter transmitter is going to go dark; he’s going to die. You can create a new man with the memories of the dead man; but that doesn’t mean that the dead man is still alive. The dead man is dead.

A copied man turns up in _The Fifth Head of Cerberus_: a robotic simulation of the narrator’s great-grandfather. Mr. Million says, helplessly: “He—I—am dead.”

This describes perfectly some thoughts I had after becoming Catholic and thinking about the Star Trek transporter. Sure they had many plots where something went wrong with the transporter, but really everytime it was used something went horribly wrong. Now I know the idea of the transporter came about in the show as a way to save money regarding expensive set and model building for landings.

The the materialist the idea of the transformer involving dematerialization and subsequent rematerialization makes sense. If we are just material beings than copying our bodies down to the cellular level, converting it to data, destroying the source, transmitting the data, and then making a new copy based on the data raises no hackles.

From the Catholic point of view (and tongue-in-cheek) the transporter is a device of horror. Not only did the red shirts often die, but the so did those wearing green, gold, and blue shirts! Really during the series Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and the rest of them are killed hundreds of times and their copies go on. And they thought the Bearded Spock universe was evil? Really viewing Star Trek this way is quite scary, “Oh no they killed them all again”.

As St. Thomas Aquinas and the Church would attest the soul is the form of the body. Something that can’t be encoded into data, transmitted, and reconstituted.

In literature we sometimes find plots involving teleportation from the magical to the SF story. Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Disintegration Machine is an early example, but more famously is the short story The Fly by George Langelaan. Still my favorite of the genre is Jumper by Steven Gould where teleportation was an innate ability (skip the horrible movie of the same name, but there the sameness ends).

You did hear from time to time the idea of dematerialization/rematerialization seriously bandied about where it is only a matter of time until such a process can happen. I would like to see a story involving such a endeavor where no matter the preciseness of the data copying the rematerialized subject is always dead whether it is vegetable, animal etc. See again St. Thomas Aquinas on the vegetable soul, the sensitive soul, and the rational soul. The plot would involve the struggles of the materialist scientists in coming to grip with the possibility there is a soul.

In the mean time I think I will watch an episode of Star Trek and scream every time the transporter is used.

Jul 312014
 

Here is an absolutely wonderful interview with SF great Gene Wolfe. Some interesting questions did get asked along with what you would expect.

Which writers have most influenced you?

It’s a difficult question. My first editor, Damon Knight, asked me the same thing when I was just starting out, and I told him my chief influences were G. K. Chesterton and Marks’ [Standard] Handbook for [Mechanical] Engineers. And that’s still about as good an answer as I can give. I’ve been impressed with a lot of people—with Kipling, for example; with Dickens—but I don’t think I’ve been greatly influenced by them.

What struck you about Chesterton?

His charm; his willingness to follow an argument wherever it led.

Most of the interview concentrates (as it should) on the themes in his various books. Along with some of the craftsmanship often found in his writings regarding the unreliable narrator.

I was happy to see in a interview for the MIT Technology Review (Wolfe was originally an engineer at Proctor & Gamble) that they did get around to the use of religion in his books and his being Catholic.

Were you born a Catholic, or was Rosemary?

No, I was a convert.

Like Chesterton.

It’s a bad thing in that born Catholics tend to look down on you. But being looked down upon has its advantages.

Like what?

You don’t put yourself forward as an expert. You understand other people who are in similar situations, and not only in religious matters. I once met Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who we’re trying to get made a saint now. He looked at you and you felt that he knew all about you, that he had taken your worth, both positive and negative, and had formed a correct opinion about you, and that was it.

Did Sheen feel saintly? He was canny by your account; he had an intelligent eye.

Sheen was a very intelligent man. He was smaller than I had expected. I suppose he was about five-five, five-six, or something like that.

John XXIII was a little man, too.

Well, size only counts with football players, really.

But did Sheen feel saintly? Did he have a quality of holiness?

He had a quality of something really quite extraordinary. I was at a party once for locally important politicians—a former governor of Illinois, for example. And Sheen came through as somebody who was actually on a higher level. A hundred years from now, he was the only one at the party who would still be important. The rest of us were lost. 

I really enjoyed his responses and the last answer he gave really made me laugh.