5

The Obesity Code

I wanted to take a moment and share information on a new book I just finished called The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. It was recommended to me not because I struggle with my weight, but because I deal with analytical problem solving for a living. The book gets into cause & effect confusion about weight gain. The author’s logic, and years of available data on diet and exercise, supports his theory that excessive weight gain is not about calories-in vs. calories-out (so just eat less and move more). It’s really about what you eat and when.

Eating refined carbohydrates and sugar throughout the day, like cereals, pasta, breads and other baked goods, plus the occasional carbs-based or sweet snacks, causes high blood insulin. Sugar includes not only the stuff you put in your coffee, but any processed sugar like corn syrup, which is a main ingredient in many processed foods. Natural sugars, like in fruit, are not as bad because they are consumed with fiber. There is a whole chapter dedicated to the benefits of fiber as a kind of sugar antidote. And by the way, carbohydrates are just a kind of hidden sugar.

Any food will increase your blood insulin, but highly refined carbohydrates and sugar act like highly refined drugs; they get into the blood quickly and efficiently, so the body reacts by spiking-up blood insulin. Over time, high blood insulin causes insulin resistance in your cells, which prevents them from using the energy from the carbs/sugar efficiently. This in turn can trigger strong cravings, so you’ll eat more carbs/sugar (a vicious circle).

So per the book, it’s actually insulin that is the driving force behind the nation’s obesity problem, not the number of calories we eat or lack of exercise. And the history of obesity in this country mirrors the increased availability of highly processed carbs and sugar. According to the author, there are two keys to losing a lot of excess weight permanently. One is to greatly reduce carbs, sugar and eliminate snacking. The second key involves periods of fasting. It was interesting when the book got into data about fasting, and how it can break the body’s insulin resistance and help lower a person’s body-weight “thermostat”.

On a spiritual note, the author acknowledged the wisdom of any religion that promotes fasting because of the clear physical benefits, aside from the spiritual benefits. You’d have to read the book for details, but the fasting the author speaks of is more intense than what Catholics might do on Good Friday or Ash Wednesday. I suppose one could say it’s about breaking a food addiction.

To make the thinking “visible”, I put some of this information into what I like to call a troubleshooting triangle that looks like this:

Here’s a simple example…

Conventional wisdom would say the problem of obesity looks like this, but this is greatly flawed per the Obesity Code and has been leading people astray for many years.…

The problem is actually like this…

If you or someone you know struggles with obesity, you might want to check out the book. I think it’s revolutionary in my humble, yet professional opinion.

7

Government as Teacher

We like to think we’re all independent thinkers, and we are to a point, but I’m afraid our thinking is influenced by outside powers and principalities whether we like it or not; whether we know it or not.

The government is one of those forces; it’s a teacher of sorts with great influence and I’m not talking about public school systems necessarily. Government can shape our ideas in other, less obvious ways… and ideas have consequences.

When same-sex marriage was instantly made legal in all 50 states, it gave a high level “nod” to break (or keep breaking) the intrinsic link between marriage and procreation. Once people are taught to remove the rational basis for a norm, their adherence to that norm will certainly erode.

Soon after the ruling, I remember the local public library featuring books about “my two mommies” or “my two daddies” on prominent display. I also remember a local greeting card store suddenly having a “same sex” section with the anniversary cards. I thought, “Why have a special section just for this?” There is no special “opposite sex” card section. Many of the anniversary cards are not specific about any kind of sexual preference. They say things like, “To the one I love” or “For my spouse” so why a new special section. It was as if the official federal government “go-ahead” now made it ok to push things further along. If it’s legal, it can’t be that bad and the controversy is now behind us, right?  So what will be next—a same sex section in the family planning aisle of your local drug store? I think not.

I feel the same about legalizing drugs. I’ve heard arguments on both sides, but I can remember my own personal situation as a young man in college. Back then, I could not say I was a faithful Catholic in any respect. I would drink alcohol, but stayed away from any kind of illegal drugs. I wouldn’t touch the stuff even when some of my friends did. Why not? I had no moral issue with it. I did worry what my family might think if I were caught, but the main deterrent was simply because they were illegal. I feared any run-ins with the law or anything criminal on my record. If certain drugs were legal at the time, I guarantee I would have at least tried them. I can’t say where that might have led and I don’t think I’m alone in this respect.

Euthanasia is another idea in the realm of ideas. Even where euthanasia is legal, I would classify it as something “voluntary-passive”. In other words completely voluntary, but not applauded, encouraged or coerced by the government or others. In time, it may become something “voluntary-active”; meaning still voluntary, but now applauded, encouraged and coerced. Government programs could be put in place to “teach” us what is “best”, not only for ourselves, but for our immediate families and society. As a people we have an obligation to encourage what is “right” and promote the common good. The “right to die” can now slowly morph into the “obligation to die”.

If you think this is not possible or too Orwellian, think of cigarette smoking. People are still free to smoke cigarettes today, but government anti-smoking campaigns, legislation and taxation have done a good job of breaking the will to smoke. The same can be done for those who insist on living for “no good reason”. Persistent social and financial pressure to do the “right thing” can break the will to live.

This is depressing stuff, but the reason I wanted to post about governments as teachers was because of THIS ARTICLE which gives a ray of hope in a weary world. Apparently the government of Hungary has been pushing (and thus teaching) a pro-family agenda creating an environment where marriages and families are flourishing and abortion numbers are dropping.

How so? Per the article, “The Fundamental Law (Hungary’s constitution) attaches special importance to the family, protects the institution of marriage, and states that the foundation of family lies in marriage and in parent-child relationship. It declares that Hungary shall encourage the commitment to have children.”

They do this by helping parents harmonize their career and child rearing, plus other special benefits like maternity support, paid childcare leave, family tax benefits, tax benefits that encourage young couples to marry, no-charge holiday camps for children, decreased utility costs, etc. Aside from the tax breaks, it sounds like a lot of big government spending programs, but if they’re going to spend, I’d rather it be on families & marriage as oppose to some other entitlements and special interests I can think of, but won’t mention here.

And remember… you will know them by their fruits. I found these stats from the article to be the most impressive:

                                         2010                   2017               % Difference

Number of abortions:      40,449                28,500             30% less!

Number of marriages:     35,520                50,600            42% more!

Number of divorces:        23,873                18,600            22% less!

How do these fruits compare to the fruits of our government programs in the U.S.?

9

On Smelling Death

Like many, I often ponder the evil of mass shootings and other killings. Mass murder is mass murder in a sense, but something like an Islamic terrorist attack has a specific religious/political motivation. Other types of mass murder and suicide defy a clear explanation.

Here is a profound article that sheds light on the seemly baseless killings we have seen in the U.S., not only in terms of mass shootings, but also self-abuse like suicide, drug addiction, alcoholism, overeating, etc.

Our society has been working hard to oppose traditional moral norms and behavioral limits to promote limitless freedom, mostly in the realm of human sexuality. At the same time we promise inclusion and celebrate professional success. Where does this leave many Americans who are treading water or are about to drown in terms of their finances or their relationships?

If we are selling a world of limitless and misguided freedom “to be the best you can be,” all failures must be your own fault or someone else’s fault. If you are a minority you must be victim of racism. If a woman, it’s sexism that holds you back. Even if you were born a “privileged” white male, you can still be a victim of Corporate America or Big Government. Based on this and without God in your life to stabilize it, I can fathom a desperate struggle between deep self-loathing that results in self-killing, or deep resentment that causes someone to “snap” and kill others.

As the article puts it…

“..we toggle between desperate struggles for success and resentful demands for retribution.”

25

Green Fields of Ireland Stained Blood Red

The amount of metaphorical ink spilled over the Ireland abortion referendum will likely be less than the amount of actual abortion blood. I don’t know a lot of detail about the history of Irish abortion laws or this particular referendum; I just wanted to share a brief news post I ran across the day of the vote. I found it disturbing, but was not sure why.

 

Polls Open in Irish Referendum on Abortion

About 3.2 million people are eligible to vote in today’s referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment, a portion of the Irish Constitution introduced in 1983 that guarantees expectant mothers and unborn children equal rights to life. Abortion is almost entirely illegal in Ireland, with no exceptions for fatal fetal abnormalities, rape or incest, and thousands of Irish women every year travel to the U.K. to terminate pregnancies. Polls suggest the law is likely to be overturned, which would pave the way for legalized abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

 

So what’s disturbing about it? After some contemplation, I found the article was too nonchalant; it does not convey the simple reality of the situation and the gravity of the sin. It’s about legalizing murder; the killing of innocent human life. Additionally, (and someone please correct me if I’m wrong), I’m pretty sure that intentionally using the power of your vote for the sole purpose of  legalizing abortion would be a mortal sin, provided the voter understands what they are doing. I also found the article inclined as pro-choice, even if only subtly and subconsciously. How so?

  • “Abortion is almost entirely illegal in Ireland” – I sense some outrage. How could a modern nation in this day and age have such a law? The author could have said, “The unborn are almost entirely protected in Ireland”.
  • “…pave the way for legalized abortion…” – This has a positive tone. Metaphorically, paving a new road represents progress unless used in sarcasm. The author could have said, “… a slippery slope to legalized abortion”.
  • “…thousands of Irish women every year travel to the U.K. to terminate pregnancies.” – The poor dears need to travel a long way to kill their babies…so unfair.

Consider the above article with just a few simple changes. Imagine if the following article was published in the 1930’s about Germans voting on Genocide.

 

Polls Open in German Referendum on Genocide

About 32 million people are eligible to vote in today’s referendum on repealing an amendment, a portion of the German Constitution introduced in 1883 that guarantees that Germans and Jews in Germany have equal rights to life. Genocide is almost entirely illegal in Germany, with no exceptions for deformed Jews or Jews brought to Germany illegally, and thousands of Germans every year travel to other countries to terminate Jews. Polls suggest the law is likely to be overturned, which would pave the way for legalized Genocide during the first stages of a Jew’s life.

 

We should all be horrified by such a news post regardless of our politics, right? I’ll await the outrage from Catholic leaders around the world and the Vatican, but I won’t hold my breath.

9

Bishop Barron on “Judging”

I just finished reading “Seeds of the Word” by Bishop Robert Barron. It’s a 275 page book that contains 84 chapters. Well, they’re not really chapters; they’re more like a soup of essays; somewhat like reading 84 blog posts broken into 4 parts, all about finding God in the secular world around us: (1) God in film, (2) God in Books, (3) God in politics and (4) God in the culture.

You might think that God can no longer be found in our secularized society, but Bishop Barron proves otherwise, and it stands to reason. If all humans are made in the image and likeness of God and have a created and immortal soul, then it seems plausible that we all have a natural yearning for the Creator, even if only subconsciously. And if Truth tends to find its way to the surface, we can find God in unlikely places if we know where and how to look.

There are potentially many juicy tidbits to share from the aforementioned book, but one that capture my attention in particular had to do with “judging”. Perhaps we are too often reminded of Matthew 7:1 which says “Stop judging, that you may not be judged”. This can give the impression that we are not to judge anything about a person…ever. But this is not a prohibition against recognizing sin, but against condemning others in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of our own faults.

Bishop Barron reminds us that we are a society obsessed with tolerance, acceptance, non-judgmentalism and inclusion, and at the same time we are obsessed with judging others.1. We love to judge and it shows in our culture. How so? Think of shows like The Voice, Judge Judy, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, America’s Got Talent and a cluster of cooking shows that are all about “judging”, and judging rather harshly at times. In addition, the most severe judges seem to be the most popular. Think of Howard Stern, Gordon Ramsay, Judge Judy and Simon Cowell. Reality TV sometimes really does show us reality!

When someone sings bad, or cooks bad, or whatever, we want them told in no uncertain terms. When someone does well, we want them praised and applauded. We seem to have a natural hunger for truth and justice. Deep down we know that judgment in terms of discerning “Truth” is indispensable to a happy life and a healthy society. As mentioned above, Truth tends to find its way to the surface, even if not in the most idyllic way. As we suppress our need to judge things properly, we should expect that “judging” will continue to pop-up in the culture, but in disguise.

Knowing the truth from a lie and living a healthy and happy life involves authentic judgment. Bishop Barron offered an analogy to explain further.2 Consider any living thing. A living organism will take in what is good (like food) and avoid what is bad (like predation) and must have some way to judge between the two. If a living thing beings to lose its judicious ability, it will begin to pass-up what is good and permit what is bad. As a result, it will get sick and eventually die or be killed. Once dead it will be absorbed into its surrounding environment and thus indistinguishable from it.

Bishop Barron goes on to explain that the rise of the “nones” (those with no religious preface) in the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey stem disproportionately from liberalized mainstream Protestant churches. Churches with squishy and lazy doctrine are fertile ground in which to grow “nones”. A church that can no longer take in what is good and avoid what is bad becomes like a sick organism that ultimately dies, decays and gets absorbed by its surrounding environment. The end result is that their theology becomes basically indistinguishable from the core logic and values of the surrounding culture. If this is the case, then what’s the point of identifying yourself as a member of any such church in the first place?

May God save us all from non-judgmentalism, lest mankind must answer “no” to a question that Jesus asked long ago, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

“How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly!”

Elizabeth Gaskell

 

  1. Robert Barron, Seeds of the Word (Des Plaines, IL: Word on Fire, 2017) pp. 196-198.
  2. Barron, Seeds of the Word, p. 186.
9

Two Space Aliens and a Sex Study

The title of this post was a spoof on the title of my old blog called Two Catholic Men and a Blog, and was born of my amazement that any educated human being would accept same-sex marriage as something even remotely plausible. Mind you that I’m not talking about theological plausibility, but strictly reasoning based on a secular or atheistic worldview.

Those who agree that marriage should only be defined as one man and one woman are sometimes said to hold to the Biblical definition of marriage, but which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which came first, opposite sex marriage or the Bible? How many citizens of Japan, China, India, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome would say (or would have said) their view on opposite sex marriage is Biblically based or based on Judeo-Christian values?

Defining marriage the same way humans reproduce isn’t just some sort of weird coincidence, but since emotions run very high with this topic, we quickly lose objectivity, so let’s consider a most objective scenario outside of any human society…

Two space aliens (let’s call them Kang and Kodos), have come to Earth to study the sexual behavior of the planet’s most highly evolved species. This is of great interest since this alien species from planet Rigel IV reproduces asexually; they have no detailed knowledge of heterosexual reproduction or any sexual behavior involving more than one member of a species.

Kang and Kodos have also never heard of marriage until they came to Earth, since there is no need for such an institution on their planet. Additionally, our alien friends know nothing of the Bible or God, although the inhabitants of Rigel IV often do wonder about “The First Cause” and what a curious thing an uncaused cause would be.

Don’t worry; these aliens have no intention of harming us, in fact they wish to help us evolve and “progress” as a species. Part of the overall mission is not only to learn about our sexual behavior, but to study how our sexual behavior can help the common good of all humans. In fact, the main question their mission seeks to answer is “What’s the best way to continue the human race?”

And so…our alien advocates objectively observe and report on the following human sexual behaviors with no discussion of right or wrong; good or evil.

  1. Rape
  2. Incest
  3. Bestiality
  4. Prostitution
  5. Masturbation
  6. Sexting
  7. Random sex between consenting homosexuals
  8. Random sex between consenting heterosexuals
  9. Exclusive, but temporary sexual relationships between consenting homosexuals
  10. Exclusive, but temporary sexual relationships between consenting heterosexuals
  11. Exclusive and permanent sexual relationships between consenting homosexuals
  12. Exclusive and permanent sexual relationships between consenting heterosexuals

 

Since thinking means connecting things, Kang & Kodos have made some connections…

Connection #1: Sexual coupling between human males & females tends to create human offspring…although not in all cases.

Connection #2: Sexual coupling in context of behavior #12 above tends to create stable and productive offspring within basic cells of human society called “family-units”…although not in all cases.

Connection #3: Sexual behaviors #1 – #11 tend not to achieve what has been realized in connection #2 and, additionally, tend to cause or accentuate problems for humans such as unwanted offspring, disease, poverty, sexual addictions and other emotional & physical trauma…although not in all cases.

Kang & Kodos have also drawn conclusions from the facts and the connections:

It is in the best interest of human society to encourage and support behavior #12 for their continued existence and progressive evolution. Behavior #12 is unique among all the other sexual behaviors/relationships observed in terms of its procreative, unitive & stabilizing effects on human society.

Until very recently (like about 2 seconds ago), only behavior #12 has been called “marriage” by humans for millennia. Kang & Kodos have learned that although many human relationships, other than marriages, have tremendous personal significance to those involved; the fact that humans do not call them marriages is not evidence of intolerance, but recognition of reality. The reality that best answers the mission question …“What’s the best way to continue the human race?”

Thank you Kang & Kodos! I couldn’t have said it better myself!

 

 

12

My Problem With Expanding Pro-life Definitions

Expanding the definition of “Pro-life” by new pro-life/whole-life movements reminds me of trying to expand the definition of marriage. I’ve heard it said that marriage should mean anything we want it to mean, which of course, makes it mean nothing. Taken to an extreme, if “Pro-life” should refer to almost any issue that relates to a human being alive, as opposed to dead, then it means too many things. If someone feels called by God to help the poor for example, why not join one of the many poverty alleviation organizations that already exist? If someone feels called by God to help end abortion, should they start a “New Poverty Alleviation Movement” that helps alleviate death for poor unborn children?

As possible definitions increase, meaning will decrease. If you say “I want a place to live” many things could fit the bill including your car, if you’re willing living out of it. But if you say “I want a single family home”, more meaningful and efficient action will follow. I can imagine a graph of definition vs. meaning looking something like this:

This website lists the 11 pillars of the New Pro-life Movement (NPLM) which include everything from the environment to healthcare, and there is no question that these things are certainly relevant to those of us who are alive. But since pillars are foundational, many things can fit under the roof supported by said pillars. Think of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; it consists of 4 main pillars. In brief, they are The Creed, The Sacraments, The Commandments and Prayer, but think of how many topics fit under each pillar!

One problem I have with multiple “pillars”, other than using one blanket term to describe them all, is the lack of any kind of prioritization. If you think of pillars supporting a structure, you don’t think of any one pillar standing out; they are all the same and bear the load equally. The very first pillar on the NPLM site is “The Right to Life” and it states the following, “First and foremost, we believe all humans have an absolute, inherent right to life, and we believe this right spans from conception to natural death. This includes both the protection and the sustainment of life at all stages, and creates the foundation for our entire platform.” This seems like the top priority concern, but isn’t the “Right to Life” pillar just restating the name of the movement? Couldn’t we just as well call it the “New Right to Life Movement”?

For greater clarity on what I mean about the lack of prioritization consider the following…No analogy is perfect, but ponder a reverse situation involving only two issues new pro-lifers and/or whole-lifers might deal with; immigration and abortion …Suppose abortion was never made legal in the U.S., but those women who would have had an abortion deported their newborns to orphanages in other countries instead; and this type of deportation was perfectly legal. I’m talking about deporting these babies to poor 3rd world countries that didn’t really want them either, but the babies will be alive and cared for to an extent, but their future well-being would be uncertain.

At the same time suppose immigration to the U.S. was always unlimited (open borders), but around 1973 all immigrants were declared non-persons by SCOTUS with no protection under the law. This meant that if legal immigrants happened to be on or cross over your property, you could kill them as a personal choice; a choice between you and your local law enforcement officials.

Now imagine these legal baby deportations totaled about 250,000/year in recent years and these legal immigrant murders were about 750,000/year. I’m sorry, but the 750k immigrant slaughter would be what cries to heaven for vengeance.

Now suppose that a politician or political party was working hard to keep the babies here in the U.S., so they could have a better life, but also did everything in their power to keep immigrant murder “safe & legal” (lest we return to the days of back-alley immigrant murder), and even wanted to provide government funding for it. In fact, this type of killing is part of his or her platform; a formal set principle which is supported by the party and the politician. Additionally, you are told not to be a “one issue voter” and consider all the deported babies and all the other issues in which you agree with the politician or party in question; don’t use the murder of 750,000 immigrants/year as a political shield that keeps you from voting for people who will work on others matters that are important too.

Any social justice issue needs to assume the right to life. All other rights are useless when life can be taken away by law. Therefore the inherent right to life is a foundational priority; the pillar supporting all other pillars. I can’t help but wonder how many in the new pro-life or whole-life movements would accept the above scenario as a valid way to take political action.

 

Top photo by Notas de prensa – Notas de prensa, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52817663

3 Habits of Faith & Problem Solving

If you’re familiar with my posts and/or book, you know that I’m intrigued whenever I find a link between faith, reason and problem solving. It was about eight years ago that I was chosen to become the program leader for a specific kind of analytical problem solving process for my job. The method is not so much about one time “break-fix” stuff, like “Why does my PC keep freezing-up?” It’s more about analyzing trends and seeing the “big-picture”, like “Why do the Dell E5450’s freeze-up 25% more often than the Dell E5480’s in the Asian market?”

It gets particularly “interesting” when people bring their emotional baggage into a problem that is taking a significant amount of time to resolve, and I think the same can be said when discussing faith. It pays to be patient and persistent because in the final analysis it’s all about finding “truth” objectively, regardless of feelings, strong opinions, past experiences or intuition; finding truth even when empirical evidence is lacking or impossible to obtain.

So years go by as they tend to do, I still continue to come across aspects of problem solving that can relate to the spiritual life, such as this article about three habits of creative problem solvers.

HABIT #1: THEY’RE COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY

You may think a method of analytical problem solving is only about observable evidence. It is not. Most often it is physically impossible for us obtain all the data we would like to answer all the questions we have. In fact, I don’t remember a single instance when we had all the evidence we wanted at our disposal, therefore we need to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty.

Uncertainty can help us see things from a new perspective. Without a comfort level with uncertainty, we can become fearful and revert to a “fight or flight” mentality, which is detrimental to any critical thinking process. For problem solving, the “fight” instinct might lead to irrational thinking, jumping to conclusions and being overwhelmed by the scope of the mess. The “flight” instinct might cause you to give up, pass the buck or waste mental energy blaming others.

It can be similar with the spiritual life. Uncertainty about the future, all the evil in the world, all the conflicting opinions, what we should do, or who to believe, can result in a “fight or flight” spiritually. Fighting for your faith or just fighting to keep your faith without a clear understanding of your faith will lead to irrational thinking, jumping to conclusions and being overwhelmed by the scope of the mess. Flight from faith can be just that…giving up with a bunch of poor excuses. If you take the time to seriously study your faith, you will become more comfortable with uncertainty.

Here’s a helpful tip from the article; create large swaths of certainty in the rest of your life. The more habit and ritual you create in your day-to-day life, the more stamina you’ll have when uncertainty shows up. Have a regular prayer time each day, receive the Sacraments often (weekday Masses/confession), read spiritual books grounded in Truth, and perform corporal/spiritual works of mercy regularly. These spiritual habits will give you strength when in the face of uncertainty.

HABIT #2 THEY KNOW HOW AND WHEN TO RE-FRAME SETBACKS

Failure results in negative emotions like shame, fear and frustration. As a result many of us hide it. Hiding a problem, or a failed attempt to solve it, can delay the solution and potentially make things worse.

A good problem solver will not internalize setbacks; they will learn from them and perhaps even use any new data from the failed attempt for the next attempt. He or she is also humble enough to get others involved. Instead of thinking, “I failed; better make sure nobody knows” they will think, “That attempt failed; let’s learn from it.”—Big difference.

Catholicism and Christianity in general is a lot about forgiveness second changes. We are to strive for holiness, but oftentimes we are more interested in what we want than what is right or what is true, living more ourselves than for God. Sin is essentially a refusal to let God have His way in our life, so we have setbacks. Re-frame your spiritual setbacks and learn from them. Don’t think “I failed; better make sure nobody knows.” Re-frame it; only your attempt has failed. Ask for help. Involve others. Go to confession.

HABIT #3: THEY BELIEVE THEY CAN KEEP IMPROVING

The article refers to having a “growth mind-set” rather than a “fixed mind-set”. A growth mind-set basically believes that things can get better with effort, learning and help from others. A fixed mind-set sees no way to continue. Don’t think to yourself, “I’m not smart enough to solve this problem.” Instead think, “It is not solved yet, but it can be, perhaps with new skills, knowledge or help.” Add the word “yet” to your thinking. “There is no answer, yet.” or “I’m not sure what to do, yet.”

The virtue of hope is needed in the spiritual life to keep us moving. “I’m not as faithful as I should be, yet.” or “I’m not sure how to grow spiritually, yet.” We need a growth mind-set, but what effort are we putting in? What new knowledge or skills do we require to improve? How will we seek the help we need?

The Catechism says in paragraph 1821, “In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to ‘persevere to the end’…” We should take comfort knowing that it is always possible to grow spiritual if we understand the mystery of God as an invitation. The negative view of the term “mystery” will say that we can never hope to understand it fully and we will never be perfect (fixed mind-set). The positive view says there is an inexhaustible well of truth and love from which the soul can drink with the assurance that the well will never run dry (growth mind-set).

“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”

– Henry Ford

28

What Would Jesus Do…About Priestesses?

A former associate pastor at my parish once addressed a question about offering communion to anyone who would like to receive it by relating it to the question “What would Jesus do?” He said to consider a slightly different question; “What did Jesus do?” If the last The Last Supper was essentially the first Eucharist, it seems Jesus was very particular about who was in attendance and thus able to receive; much different than the Eucharistic foreshadowing that occurred at the multiplication of loaves in today’s Gospel reading, which was kind of a free for all (see John 6:1-15).

There were also no women at The Last Supper, which is a strange thing according to this article I happened upon about the Passover Seder meal. Apparently, Jesus broke with tradition and did not celebrate the Passover with family even though Jewish tradition holds that the mothers of the house and the children have an important role to play. Why would Jesus not invite his female relatives and followers? Not even his mother. No doubt he would have been with them at previous seder meals and knowing this would be his last, wouldn’t it have been even more appropriate to invite them all? It all points to the fact that his was no ordinary seder. This time he was conferring the Eucharist and the priesthood to his apostles and to no one else; this is the most reasonable explanation.

The Church is clear about the ordination of only men to the priesthood (see CCC, par. 1577). Jesus and his followers chose men to be their successors. Some might say that is only because they were bound by the times; people in those days would never accept women as leaders. But if Jesus is Lord then he is not “bound” by anything unless he chooses to be, like choosing to feel hunger, thirst and pain just like we do; and I don’t think he cares so much what people think in terms of social norms. It seems to me that if Jesus really wanted women to be his successors it would have happened.

Men as priests also connects with the idea that being male or female is not only a physical reality, but also a spiritually reality. As a priest, the man acts in the person of Jesus offering the Eucharist to his Church, which is literally the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. If Jesus is “The Life”, then this giving and receiving of Jesus mirrors the giving and receiving that happens between a husband and his wife to bring about new life. No wonder the Catholic Church takes the definition of marriage so seriously!

If we view male and female as something only physical, we miss the greater reality. This not only leads to thinking a male-only priesthood is evidence of bigotry and a way to suppress woman, but also leads to confusion about marriage, gender and a whole host of other Church teachings on what it means to made in the image an likeness of God.

“For, once the idea is abroad that the changeless things can be subject to change, no peace is possible”

– David Warren

5

The Pope: Rock or Stumbling-Block?

I recently ran across this reflection about “popes” from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (B16, now Pope Emeritus)…

“We have grown accustomed to making a clear distinction between Peter the rock and Peter the denier of Christ—the denier of Christ: that is Peter as he was before Easter; the rock: that is Peter as he was after Pentecost, the Peter of whom we have constructed a singularly idealistic image. But, in reality, he was at both times both of these…. Has it not been thus throughout the history of the Church that the pope, the successor of Peter, has been at once Petra and Skandalon—both the rock of God and a stumbling-block? In fact, the faithful will always have to reckon with this paradox of the divine dispensation that shames their pride again and again.”1

I’m typically a “big picture” type of guy and I like taking the long view. One could take a long view of Judeo-Christian history in terms of leadership, like reviewing the “good” vs. “bad” kings of Israel and then the “good” vs. “bad” popes of Church history. Seems to me we’ve had a pretty good run of popes in the past 100 years or so with the current papacy in a TBD category or perhaps “stumbling-block under construction”.

But another interesting way to look at Church history is via the history of heresy. I have a comprehensive list of all the major heresies courtesy of study materials from “Epic: A Journey Through Church History” and there seems to be a trend of sorts.

 

In the early Church (2nd & 3rd centuries) a major theme in heresy had to do with the nature of God:

  • Gnosticism – Matter is evil and spirit is good; God is the creator of heaven (good), not earth (evil).
  • Modalism – Denied the separate Persons of the Trinity.
  • Monarchianism – God is one Person, not three.

 

During the 4th – 7th centuries a major theme had to do with the nature of Jesus:

  • Arianism – Denied the divinity of Christ. Jesus was a created being.
  • Nestorianism – Christ is two persons (divine and human) and only the human person was in the womb. Therefore, Mary is not the Mother of God
  • Monothelitism – Christ has only one divine nature and therefore one divine Will

 

Moving on to the 14th– 16th centuries a major theme had to do with the nature of The Church:

  • John Wycliffe – Denied Transubstantiation, papal authority; predecessor to Protestantism
  • Jan Hus – Denied Sacred Tradition as part of the Deposit of Faith; predecessor to Protestantism
  • Protestantism – Scripture alone, faith alone, denied papal authority, free will, sacrificial nature of the priesthood, sacraments, etc.

 

Seems that heresy in today’s postmodern world has a lot to do with the nature of man

  • Modernism – Faith and reason are opposed; an anti-Catholic worldview
  • Relativism – Right and wrong are relative to the individual or culture
  • Absolute Autonomy – BYOG…Be your own god!

 

Note: How ironic that even the question “What is the nature of man?” is seen as sexist and will invoke a politically correct reaction relating to the very problem it asks about.

Being more specific about heresy in our day and age, I think it’s fair to say that almost all dissent from Catholic teaching involves what it means to be human in terms of human life and human sexuality. Abortion, euthanasia, artificial fertilization methods, homosexuality, marriage confusion, gender confusion, contraception, women’s ordination, fornication, divorce and remarriage all relate to what it means to be human, both male & female.

If you’ve been concerned about things the Pope and other Church leaders have said or written lately, like “Who am I to Judge?” or the now infamous footnote #351 of Amoris Laetitia, you might also be concerned about what is not being said or written in the face of modern heresy; sometimes the silence is deafening. Instead of boldly speaking Truth to power consistently, lovingly and intelligently, some leaders seem to be compromising the ideals of Catholicism by softening the hard lines of Catholic moral teaching with respect to what it means to be human.

The Church councils of the past addressed the heresies of the past and the Nicene Creed we say at each Mass reflects the clarity which was ultimately achieved:

  • I believe in one God…(clarity about the nature of God)
  • I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ… (clarity about the nature of Jesus)
  • I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church…(clarity about the nature of the Church)

It’s also no coincidence that the very first pillar of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches at great length about the creed, since it is foundational for the other three pillars.

The Church can be very clear when she wants to be. Maybe one day there’ll be a new council and then a new section to the creed all about the nature of man. In the meantime, what are we to do? I’m not exactly sure, but I do know this much…“Faith in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church requires us to soldier on, minding our consciences, upholding the truth out of love, and avoiding evil and false doctrine.”2

 

  1. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Co-workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1992) p. 208.
  2. Richard Rex, First Things [Website], “A Church in Doubt”, (1 April 2018), Site address: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2018/04/a-church-in-doubt
6

Professor Ratzinger on Hell

Since there is some talk this Triduum of what Pope Francis may or may not have said about Hell, I wanted to re-post an old post of mine that deals with the article of faith “He descended into hell” (Good Friday/Holy Saturday), being without God and the pain in the verse “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” It’s probably the best description of hell I’ve ever heard, not that I’ve heard many speak of it in detail.

Warning: This post is somewhat “dark”, but remember…darkness can be a kind of light if it helps you to see.

Briefly summarizing several pages from Joseph Ratzinger’s book (now Pope Emeritus) “Introduction to Christianity”, in Part II, The Development of Faith in Christ in the Christological Articles of the Creed:

Loneliness is a region of fear, which is rooted in the exposure of a being that must exist, but is pushed out into a situation with which it is impossible for him to deal. In the experience of utter loneliness, a fear arises peculiar to man which is not fear of anything particular, but simply fear in itself. Man cannot overcome this kind of fear by way of reason.

Example 1:

A child walking alone in the dark woods is frightened even if convincingly shown that there is nothing to be afraid of. The child will lose this fear the moment there is a loving hand to take him and he experiences the fellowship of “Another”.

Example 2:

Someone keeping watch over a corpse will feel somehow “eerie” even when he knows perfectly well the dead body can do him no harm. In fact, there would be more possibility of danger if the person was alive, but logic is of no help. This fear will also recede like the child’s if he experiences the loving nearness of a “You”.

Man cannot stand alone; he needs closeness; he needs unity. If man (and this is the true nature of sin) refuses to recognize his own limits and tries to “be like God”, standing alone on his own two feet, then precisely by adopting this attitude he delivers himself up to death. Scripture about the connection between sin and death is to be understood from this angle. Small wonder the devil wants us prideful. Pride naturally leads to isolation from God (and others), which will lead to a torment of anxiety. It’s the exact opposite of the life of the Trinity.

If a state of isolation were to arise that was so deep that no “You” could reach into it anymore, then we should have a total and terrifying loneliness; this is what theology calls “Hell”….. a loneliness which is as inescapable as it is dreadful!

8

You Are a Thief and a Murderer

I don’t travel to a lot of different parishes, but I’d imagine you’d come across plenty of “Happy Talk” in most of them with an emphasis on things like peace, love, joy and tolerance; where the spiritual battleground seems more like a spiritual playground. Perhaps we’ve forgotten that in the past few decades we have lost about half our priests, two thirds of our nuns, Mass attendance is way down and the confession lines are now strikingly shorter than the communion lines.

Catholic families are being destroyed at about the rate as non-Catholic families. They abort, contracept, sodomize, fornicate and divorce at about the same rate as everyone else, but some say all this is “progressive”. I’d argue that calling someone who supports these things “progressive” is like calling a cannibal a chef.

Now don’t get me wrong; a Christian clearly has good reason to be joyful. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”(John 15:11), but next week (Holy Week) is perhaps the best time to reflect on our sins and the sins of the world, go to confession and do penance.

The following is based on a reflection I happened across from St. Bernard of Clairvaux; a doctor of the Church, which convinced me that I was a thief and a murderer—in a spiritual sense. See if it persuades you.

As is often the case, we need to start with some basics. Our souls consist of a will and an intellect. To love God is the highest act of the will and to know God is the highest act of the intellect. In this life, we can choose to move our will and intellect either toward God or toward “self”. Are we really thieves? How so? Since we were made by God and for God, we do not own ourselves. Therefore, when we commit acts of selfishness we are thieves who try to steal ourselves away from God. The only things we can truly claim ownership to are our sins and our vices.

How can we be murderers? Well, think about what murderers do. They kill a person and try to conceal the crime, perhaps by burying the victim in the ground. Likewise we too are murders, since we kill our souls via sin, which is of far more value than our body. What do we do once we kill our souls? We try to hide the crime by burying our souls under mounds of filth. Gluttony, greed, addictions and perversions of every sort hide the fact that we are dead. Even everyday “innocent” distractions like texting, gaming and social media can prevent us from seeing the crime that has happened.

So here are some questions to Catholics that never go to confession or maybe go once per year because they really don’t do anything bad. To those that firmly believe “I’m okay and you’re okay”……

  • Have you committed any selfish acts? Yes?
    • You are a thief! Go to confession.
  • Have you committed the kind of sin that kills the soul? Yes?
    • You are a murderer! Go to confession.
  • Have you injured your soul with any type of sin at all? Yes?
    • That is assault; you are an assailant! Go to confession.

Just go to confession, because I’m not okay and you’re not okay. You’re not likely to hear these things in a typical Sunday homily because they are unpleasant realities; but I’m a realist, and there is a rather blunt phrase we use where I work to remind us of harsh realities and their consequences. When someone does something they should not have, and the consequence is finally actualized, the phrase we use is…. “You’ll have that”. And any “Happy Talk” can wait until the reality is dealt with.

Have a good Holy Week.

17

Sucking the Life Out of Prolife

In a world of texting, tweets and one-upmanship, people are getting very clever at “owning the language” with the use of overgeneralizations. This seems to be happening with the term “prolife”. I’m pretty sure it used to mean opposing legalized abortion and perhaps euthanasia, but that’s about it. Today it might relate to just about any issue that has anything to do with being alive, such as the environment, the death penalty, immigration, minimum wage, healthcare, gun control and more. This doesn’t seem to go both ways however. Do we have a NEW prochoice movement that blends the right to an abortion with the right to bear arms and the right to a secure border? How about “school choice”? Is that now part of being prochoice?

I am perhaps overly sensitive to overgeneralizations because they are problematic for both apologetics and any kind of problem solving. Overgeneralizations are terms that can mean too many different things to too many different people. Think of the word “God”. If you walk up to a stranger and ask “Do you believe in God?”, what you mean by “God” and what the other person means can be as far apart as Heaven is from Hell. Until things are made clear, there will be little progress and much frustration in the discussion. How about terms like love, spirituality, community, conscience, etc.? How many homilies have you sat through that use too many of these kinds of terms, making you think “He said a lot… without saying anything.”

Consider problems in everyday life. Someone says their smartphone is acting funny. “Acting funny” can mean too many different things to too many different people, but deliberate questioning can drill down to the specifics and possibly reveal more than one issue.

What’s wrong with your phone?

  • Camera won’t focus
    • What else?
  • Battery life is too short
    • What else?
  • It drops calls
    • What else?
  • That’s it.

“Acting funny” was separated and clarified in to three specific concerns. The three concerns may or may not be related to an underling root cause; we don’t know, but to go forward we must first we prioritize the issues and then begin to investigate each one. Depending what you use your phone for, the camera and battery issue may just be an annoyance that is manageable, but dropping calls might be totally unacceptable and thus given the highest priority, and dealt with first.

Now suppose you ask someone about being prolife:

What does “prolife” mean to you?

  • Ending abortion
    • What else?
  • Banning guns
    • What else?
  • Abolishing the death penalty
    • What else?
  • That’s it.

Once clear, we should look at the life (or death) impact of all three aforementioned issues. You can search the statistics yourself, but abortion wins in biggest death toll by far. So no matter how many issues you want to intermingle with being prolife, abortion should be dealt with first and most urgently IF preserving human life is your sincere concern.

Without clarity and prioritization—especially with complex issues with a lot of emotional baggage— confusion, division and frustration render problems nigh unsolvable. Overgeneralizations are the enemy of clarity. A recent article by Fr. George Rutler helps explain why ambiguity can be so helpful to those wishing to put agenda over reality.

“Clarity requires effort because it requires honesty, which can be a costly commodity. So George Orwell said: ‘The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.’ Clear expression issues from clear thinking, which in turn requires conforming thought to reality. This was a primary concern of the Master in his holy agony, for he prayed to the Father that his Church never fudge the truth: ‘Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth’ (John 17:17).”

Amen!!

1

Lent with a Medieval Wheel

I sometimes have a habit of seeing a spiritual presentation or lecture and remembering a lot of detail, but forgetting some basic “logistics”. For example, I once shared all the particulars of a talk with a friend, but could not answer some simple questions he had, so he said, “You just gave me every detail of that talk, but you can’t tell me the name of the presenter or the name of the church where the event was held or even the name of the town? Is that right?” I sheepishly responded, “…Right.”

Such was the case back around 2011 or 2012 (can’t remember which) when I happened to catch Fr. Robert Barron (now Bishop Barron) on EWTN giving a lecture on something called The Medieval Wheel of Fortune. I believe this talk is now part of the “Untold Blessings” lecture series offered at Word on Fire.

This Medieval Wheel strongly relates to the idea of detachment and lent is an opportune time to practice detachment from selfishness, material things and habitual sin; it’s helped me a lot on my spiritual journey, so I like sharing it with others. Perhaps I was particularly intrigued because it comes out of the middle ages and yet seems so timeless.

It goes something like this; the Roman goddess Fortuna was the goddess of fortune and the personification of luck. Fortuna was said to govern the circle of life. Imagine we are firmly attached to the edge of a circle or wheel being helplessly spun around by Fortuna; a wheel containing 4 stages of life as depicted above.

  • Stage 1: I Reign – A zenith or climax. You are on top of the world.
  • Stage 2: I Have Reigned – Things begin to unravel or are in decline
  • Stage 3: I Have No Kingdom – All is lost. This is rock bottom.
  • Stage 4: I Shall Reign Again – Positive signs return. There is hope.

 

A modern day example I’ll use with my confirmation students:

  • Stage 1: I Reign – I just found new (and hot) girlfriend!
  • Stage 2: I Have Reigned – It’s been a few weeks, and she’s starting to get on my nerves.
  • Stage 3: I Have No Kingdom – We broke up. My life is over!
  • Stage 4: I Shall Reign Again – Who’s that other cute girl that keeps looking at me?

 

An example I use when I present to RCIA candidates:

  • Stage 1: I Reign – I just found a great new job!
  • Stage 2: I Have Reigned – I’m under more pressure and I hear the company is having financial problems.
  • Stage 3: I Have No Kingdom – I lost my job.
  • Stage 4: I Shall Reign Again – My new job search has many solid leads

After the fall of Rome, the medievals took this wheel of life and Christianized it. What happens as you move closer to the center of a spinning wheel? It spins slower. What happens at the absolute center? It does not move at all. What would happen if we put Christ in the absolute center of the wheel; at the absolute center of our life? We would experience peace, become centered and detached from the fast edge of the wheel; life’s ups and downs would no longer control us, no longer exhaust us. Stain glass rose windows seen in medieval cathedrals come from this concept.

Theologically, we can say that we are either moving our souls toward God or toward “self”. Moving toward God ultimately becomes Heaven. Moving toward “self” ultimately becomes Hell. In the context of the wheel, we could say that we are either moving our souls toward the center of all things with Christ or out to the edge in an ever-expanding circle of madness.

Fr. Barron brilliantly linked all this to an interpretation of the beatitudes that is all about detachment:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those detached from material things.
  • Blessed are they who mourn…Blessed are those not addicted to “feeling good”.
  • Blessed are the meek…Blessed are those not self-centered.
  • Blessed are those who thirst for righteousness…Blessed are those detached from sin.
  • Blessed are the merciful…Blessed are those who are detached from revenge.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart…Blessed are those detached from evil thoughts.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers…Blessed are those free from hatred.
  • Blessed are you when they insult & persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me …Blessed are you if you don’t care what people think!

Since I like to make thinking “visible”, I created a visual of what I learned. Click HERE for a PDF version of The Medieval Wheel of Fortune from my old blog…and have a “detached” lent.

18

Why Can’t Parents Marry Their Adult Children?

One of the most important “dogmas” seared into the secularized mind is the Dogma of Consent. For example, whatever two adults want to do with each other is morally acceptable as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others.

Seems fair, right? But the dogma doesn’t hold up, even in the secular mind, when placed under close scrutiny. What if black slaves in America consented after the Civil War? Imagine house slaves working in a beautiful mansion for a very wealthy and kind plantation owner. What if they preferred their life as slaves as opposed to the prospect of being left to fend for themselves? They could have willfully signed a contract with the plantation owner to forfeit their freedom and remain his legal property. Under the “Dogma of Consent”, couldn’t slavery be reinstituted as legal in the U.S.?

Consent is at least one of the premises used by some when trying to justify same sex “marriage” (SSM). Who are you to say who can legally marry and who cannot? If secular marriage is about the gratification of two individuals and granting “rights”, what does the number two really have to do with anything? Additionally, who are we to say anything about marriage at all? Why can’t a parent marry their adult child? Here’s a recent article about a man arrested because his wife also happens to be his 20 year old daughter…but what’s the problem???

Why do we discriminate against people with Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA)? Is it because we find incest repulsive? Then we must be a society of bigots making groundless distinctions based on someone’s sexual preference; maybe they were born that way and can’t help it. Is it because incest tends towards birth defects? We don’t exclude other couples from marriage if they have a high risk for children with birth defects. Shouldn’t there be equal treatment under the law? What if a parent and adult child were perfectly platonic, but wish to benefit from state-offered marriage rights? Can we deny marriage to people that choose to be non-sexual?

Once a society accepts the base premises of SSM, the above paragraph contains the kind of disjointed thinking we will potentially need to face. The degree to which marriage means anything we want it to mean is the degree to which it means nothing. Why government involvement then? If two people wish to be best friends forever do they seek a government issued BFF license? How about business partners? Is there a government business partner license to apply for?

Although there is much confusion today, the official Church teaching is just as clear on incest as it is on other matters of human sexuality and marriage. “Incest designates intimate relations between relatives or in-laws within a degree that prohibits marriage between them…Incest corrupts family relationships and marks a regression toward animality” (CCC #2388). Of course, if humans are only smart animals, we must then ask the question…What is wrong with “animality”? Does this mean we can now open the discussion to bestiality in the context of marriage?

Without diving into the Catechism or a lot of theology, we should take pause and think about what rationally links all the things a lot of people still associate with marriage, including people in non-Judeo Christian cultures? Why only two people? Why opposite gender? Why no incest? Why no animals? Why exclusive? Why permanent? Why sex? Why bother?

Aligning the definition of marriage in accordance with the way humans procreate—and the best way to continue the human race—isn’t just some weird coincidence. People are very bold when making assertions about marriage, but not so skilled at asking and answering “why”.

Now it’s time for one of my favorite quotes…

“It is not a pleasant task to call attention to the obvious. To make others appear to be shortsighted, let alone blind, may easily evoke resentment.” 1

– Fr. Stanley Jaki

 

  1. Stanley L. Jaki, A Mind’s Matter (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), p .52.
26

The Moral Blind Spot Continues

So the U.S. Senate failed to pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act last Monday by a 51-46 vote (it required 60 votes). According to this article at LifeNews, 2 of the 46 votes against were from Republicans, so 44 must have been Democrats unless some Independents were in the mix. If Republicans are not the party of life, then I can’t think of a substantial political party that is closer. If the Senate had 100 Republicans, do you think it would have pasted? No party is perfect, but where does the data lead?

Part of the argument was that a fetus past 20 weeks is “pain capable”, so this makes it wrong to rip it out of the womb and throw it in the medical waste bin. We shouldn’t think a human being needs to feel pain in order to be a considered a legal “person”, but actually voting to keep these late-term abortions going should give us pause. How can supposedly rational people be pro-choice and recognize science, reason and human rights all at the same time? To be pro-choice one must “abort” science and/or reason and/or human rights. In fact, this is such a harsh contradiction; one can see a need for a diabolical force to help the pro-choice movement along; something to help generate a moral blind spot.

Scientifically, human life begins at conception as an objective and observable fact. To say the first stage of one’s life (or one’s personhood) begins at some other threshold of consciousness or viability is subjective; a matter of opinion. To declare something as important as this on something subjective is irrational (and devious), especially when an objective and observable beginning point clearly exists. Where does the data lead?

In contrast, can anyone name the scientist who discovered that an unborn human baby is actually a “non-person”?  Of course not; there is no such scientist and there is no such science. I would ask again “Where does the data lead?”, but there is no data. Once past the freedom from religion objections and someone is shown how deviously subjective and unscientific the legal term of “non-person” is, the real issue of Human Rights can finally be discussed.

As a side, I wonder how many people will kneel during the National Anthem at the Super Bowl this Sunday. They kneel because they believe certain injustices are happening in this country. Should Catholics and Christians kneel during the Anthem for all the aborted children? I’d say no, because it disrespects the Nation as a whole, but at least it would be for a real injustice that is actually still legal.

22

Analyzing a Christian Tirade

When writing about Catholic Faith & Reason on the blogosphere, you might think the longest rants and tirades against such writings come from militant atheists. Many do, but from my experience, many also come from non-Catholic Christians.

I normally do not engage these challenges because I find them too time consuming and seemingly fruitless, but I thought I’d share just one small part of such a tirade in order to demonstrate how you don’t need a lot of theology or Scripture references to refute them.

WARNING: What you are about to read is a direct attack on the Eucharist, and you may find the commenter’s lack of faith & reason disturbing. ***********************************************************************************************************

“I challenge you to an on-line debate at your website on the Eucharist. The madness of this doctrine must be confronted head-on. The Roman Catholic Church claims that the Council of Trent was infallible. However, if it can be shown that they made even one factual error, the claim for infallibility falls to the ground and all Catholic doctrines fall right along with it. The Catechism says, ‘Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly His body He was offering under the species of bread’ (CCC 1376).

No, he did not say any such thing. Trent’s first error was the brazen lie of telling us Jesus said something, when he didn’t. What they did do is tell us what they THINK he meant and then quote him as if he had said so! This is dishonest. Such behavior would not be tolerated by any school of journalism, let alone are we to tolerate it coming from a self-proclaimed ‘infallible’ church council.”

My Thoughts: What is in CCC #1376 is not a direct quote from Scripture; it’s quoting the Council writings. The writers of the Catechism and the Council are teaching with authority about what “This is my body” means (Luke 22:19). Anyone is free to debate any authority and its source, but this is not about lying or a mistaken quote. After the Ascension of Christ, the Apostles and their descendants told others what Jesus said, agreed? They had no New Testament Scriptures to quote from for many, many years, agreed? So how did they teach others what Jesus said? They taught authoritatively by word of mouth (not by Scripture); what Catholics call Oral Tradition or Scared Tradition. This is really about what Jesus meant, as opposed to what was literally said. If your father was no longer around and left nothing in writing, and you then taught your younger brothers and sisters “what Dad said” without direct quotes, does this make you a brazen liar?

***********************************************************************************************************

 “The second offense was asserting that Jesus was offering himself in sacrifice right there at the table, when the Text indicates no such thing.   Trent teaches, ‘At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed [He] offered up to God the Father His own body and blood under the form of bread and wine…’

Reader, that is a bold-faced lie. Jesus offered up His body ‘on the tree’, per 1 Peter 2:24…i.e., at the cross, no sooner and no later; and certainly not at the Last Supper, and definitely not at any Mass going on today.  Awake!  Jesus said he desired to eat the Passover ‘before I suffer’ (Luke 22:15). That being so, he did not suffer and offer himself in sacrifice to God the Father at the dinner table before he went to the cross!”

My Thoughts: The Church teaches that Jesus offered himself on the cross AND at the last supper AND at every Mass. CCC #1367 “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.’ ‘And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.’”

Is the Church correct or incorrect? Who is to say and by what authority? It seems to always come back to this question.

***********************************************************************************************************

“Their third offense was stealing the word ‘truly’ from John 6:53 (‘Truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man…’) but irresponsibly transporting the word ‘truly’ over to the Last Supper account, where he did not ‘truly’ affirm that at all.”

My Thoughts: See above thoughts.

***********************************************************************************************************

“Instead of letting the Bible breathe on its own, Trent has quoted Jesus out of context. Even if Transubstantiation were true, we are quite sure the Lord would not take kindly to putting words in his mouth.   Need it be said that David required only one stone to kill Goliath?   In like manner, all it takes is just one stone of error to classify Catholicism as counterfeit Christianity.

Since the claim of infallibility is now exposed as false, so too must the doctrine of Transubstantiation be false. This means that Jesus was not speaking literally when he told us to ‘eat my flesh and drink my blood’, but rather, metaphorically. Essentially, ‘eating and drinking’ are synonymous with ‘believing in Christ’ because they both produce the same result: namely, eternal life!”

My Thoughts: Now we get into the crux of the matter. The Bible does not “breathe on its own”. It is people who “breath” and people who teach. The commenter declares that Jesus was speaking metaphorically, but Jesus says no such thing. Why doesn’t he let the Bible “breathe on its own” instead of telling us what he THINKS Jesus meant? The Bible is clear “This is my Body” (Luke 22:19). When God says something is…it is.

I’ll go out on a limb and say the commenter believes that all matters of Christian doctrine and practice should be based on the Bible alone (Sola Scriptura). Anyone who accepts the false teaching of Sola Scriptura first runs into a contradiction and most likely does not realize it. The problem is that this doctrine is not found in the Bible (it’s unbiblical), so you need some other non-biblical source of authority to declare it, which means it violates Sola Scriptura. If this wasn’t clear enough, the Bible itself points us to another authority. In 1Timothy 3:15 the pillar and foundation of Truth is said to be the Church, not Scripture.

Secondly, Scripture is subject to human interpretation. Bible Christians do not use the Bible alone; they use the Bible along with whatever interpretations and traditions their leaders give them. Jesus actually founded one, and only one, universal Church for everybody; a visible and authoritative Church that uses imperfect men, together with the Holy Spirit, to guide us in faith and morals. If there really is a God, He would provide a way for us to know what is true without deterioration from human interpretation. A good Father would not just leave a book behind for us to figure out; a good Father would not leave His children as orphans. He would give us a Catholic, or universal, Church.

So in the last analysis, Jesus founded a Church…not a book. The next time you hear someone say the Catholic Church is not infallible ask, “Are you infallible about that?”

2

Book Offer

Dear TAC Reader,

I have some copies of my book, Faith with Good Reason, I’d like to give away while supplies last. I’ll even ship it to you for free.

I‘m offering the first version published in Sept 2016. The latest version was revised in June 2017. The only difference between the original and the revision is the Imprimatur from my local Bishop printed on the title page and a few typos corrected. Content is exactly the same.

If interested, you can confidentially send your name and shipping address using my old blog; HERE. I promise not to share it with anyone.

“Faith with Good Reason” is a book about Catholic faith, reason and problem solving that will appeal to those who appreciate rational process, but do not appreciate Catholicism or religion in general. Imprimatur (permission to publish) granted by Most Reverend Joseph Siegel, D.D., S.T.L., Vicar General, Diocese of Joliet, May 8, 2017. Foreword was written by a bonafide scientist, Stay A. Trsancos, Ph.D

Topics that will benefit the reader include…

  • Learning how experience and intuitive thinking can sometimes lead us astray, whether we are dealing with a physical problem or a philosophical problem.
  • Learning how the most reasonable, and therefore, the most responsible conclusions can be determined even when empirical evidence is lacking or impossible to obtain.
  • Seeing how the cause of “something” is never “nothing”.
  • Examples of how our thinking can be made “visible”.
  • Discussion on how the need for objective industry standards demonstrates the need for an objective moral point of reference.
  • The art of asking why when drilling down to the heart of a matter, from St. Thomas Aquinas regarding contingency to Toyota’s five whys and beyond.
  • Discovering how the basic principles of reason can be applied to both problem solving and matters of faith and morals.
  • The way logic can be used in terms of going wherever the data leads no matter how unbelievable it may seem.

It’s fun reading for the whole family! Let me know…

4

That Awkward Age Between Birth and Death

A good friend of mine, and Godfather to my son died a few months ago, finally succumbing to complications from Cystic Fibrosis. He was only 52 years old, but if you know about Cystic Fibrosis you may know that a person born with that genetic disorder should not expect to live much past the age 40.

He was a holy man and about as ready to go home to the Lord as anyone I’ve ever known. In recent years, as his health was obviously declining, we’d speak of death and heaven and he would often say things that were unambiguously enthusiastic like, “I can’t wait!!” At his funeral services I found myself a bit jealous. He got to go home to God and I am left here to face not only my own potential future sins, but also the sins of others.

I don’t know about you, but oftentimes what’s in the news is so evil that I take consolation in the fact that I will not live on this Earth forever. From horrifying and mindboggling terrorist attacks around the globe, to the most lewd sexual scandals involving seemly decent public figures from Bill Cosby to Matt Lauer, we wonder what 2018 will bring us. We see the power of sin; what sin can do to a person is somewhat like what the brick does to the washing machine in the following video. Sin is no laughing matter, but I laugh every time I see this:

Washing_Machine_Brick

But as Christians we are not to despair about bricks being tossed about. Instead, we are called to pick up our cross, fend off the bricks and follow Christ to help him build The Kingdom of God on Earth. There is great joy in that, even as we relate to St Paul’s thoughts about life and death from time to time.

“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, [for] that is far better. Yet that I remain [in] the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.” (Philippians 1:21-24)

So how do we navigate the awkward age between birth and death? Well, we all have a soul which means we have the ability to know a thing (with our intellect) and then act upon that thing (with our will). We’re allowed to make our own choices, even if we chose evil. Our will should desire Goodness and our intellect should desire Truth because we are made for God and God is Goodness itself and Truth itself. But the effects of sin weaken the will and dim the intellect, so that we no longer seek what is good or understand what is true. In others words, sin makes us spiritually lazy and stupid!

In this life, we either move our will and our intellect toward God or toward “self”. The closer we move toward God the closer our desire for truth and goodness is satisfied. The beatific vision or Heaven is when we are one in union with the source of all truth and all goodness. An eternal and inescapable state of dissatisfaction and loneliness comes when we have permanently moved our will and intellect toward “self” and away from God; this is Hell.

So as we find ourselves in another new year, let us ask ourselves….. What choices am I making each day? Where do I spend my time and money? Where do my idle thoughts go? Am I moving toward God or toward “self”? We may hear or read a lot about the choices we make with our time and money, but even the most careful Christian might underestimate the effect idle thoughts can have on us. I would say this is especially true for men as they struggle with chastity, and their bad behavior towards women ends up in the news or worse yet, lands them in Hell.

“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”1

 

  1. Charles A. Fowler, Biblical Truths for Men (Innovo Publishing, LLC, 2014), p. 115.
3

A Warning From Charles Dickens

No doubt you’ve heard of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have the book and have watched different movie versions all my life, but only in recent years have I noticed a tie-in to Faith and Reason in a short, but important part of the story.

Therefore…at this festive season of the year it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for Catholic Faith & Reason, which suffers greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of basic Church teaching; hundreds of thousands are in want of common sense, so please enjoy this excerpt from my book, Faith with Good Reason, appropriate for the season…

In the famous tale of A Christmas Carol we are given a ghostly warning about “our business”. Mankind is our business, the common welfare, charity, mercy, forbearance and more1.  Another ghost exclaims, “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom…”2

We are to help “the girl”, but our doom seems to stem ultimately from “the boy”. Why? Because what we know directs what we do. If God is Truth, then Truth should direct the will. If love is an act of the will, then to love or judge something, we need to know it. The primacy of the intellect is important in order to love and judge properly. In the end, you will not love a God you do not know—and you will not serve a God you do not love.

Our will reaches for what our understanding has seen. If we are ignorant of what is true, how will we direct our will? What will be our criterion for judging? Scripture gives us a subtle warning on the topic. “My people are ruined for lack of knowledge!” (Hosea 4:6). If we chose to ignore “the boy”, then doom will engulf us all, because it all starts with ideas, and ideas have consequences. “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”3 In the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Mathew we hear, “For I was hungry and you gave me food”. This is certainly about physical food, but also about the spiritual work of mercy to feed the intellect. One can think of “Truth” as a kind of health food for the mind. The seeds of God’s image and likeness are in every person, so we have a natural hunger for truth/knowledge. Stop and contemplate “hunger” for a moment. What happens to people if they are hungry enough, for long enough? They’ll eventually eat something; they’ll eventually eat somewhere, but will it be good food or will it be garbage? Will they care where the food comes from as long as it gives some satisfaction? If we lazily accept anything that gives gratification we risk defaulting to our animalistic sensibilities and have the habit of replacing God with other masters since it seems to save us so much trouble.

We all like to think of ourselves as independent thinkers, but people are like sheep and everyone eventually sits at the feet of a master. Who will feed your intellect about the Good, the Beautiful, the True? Will you sit at the feet of Jesus through His Church or will it be some politician or political party, a celebrity or talk show host, a television evangelist, your favorite college professor, or will it simply be the always “infallible” majority? Who is your master? Whoever it is, be prepared to give an account for what you believe and what you say. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak” (Mt 12:36).

Beware the boy most of all…

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5).

– Bible verse from the New American Standard Version

 

  1. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, (New York: Barnes & Nobal Books, 2003), p. 28.
  2. Dickens, A Christmas Carol, p. 84.
  3. Charles A. Fowler, Biblical Truths for Men (Innovo Publishing, LLC, 2014), p. 115.

Top photo by John Leech – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=448357

8

Mass in Santiago, Chile Today

I’m working in South America this week. Our Chilean distributer is having some technical issues with one of our products that could not be resolved via conference calls. I had to leave Saturday afternoon, fly through the night and I arrived today mid-morning; this left me little time for Mass.

After I settled into my hotel, I quickly searched “Catholic Churches near me” and behold…a beautiful little parish called Santos Angeles Custodios (or Holy Guardian Angel) was about a 10 min walk from the hotel, so I caught the last half of the last Mass of the day. The walk is extra nice since it’s summer here (88F, sunny and dry)!

This is as I walked up..

Inside…

What makes this more interesting is that a colleague of mine, who was supposed to be traveling with me, did not make it. There were multiple car robberies in his neighborhood Friday night and his passport was stolen out of his car, but the police caught the suspects and recovered some items, although no one knew exactly what items. After I went to Mass and said few prayers to St Anthony, I received a text from my co-worker that his passport was recovered and he will try to join me tomorrow if he can catch tonight’s flight.

You gotta just love a universal Church which is all over this world and has Saints all through the heavens!!!

Please pray for our safe travels…

18

The Case of the Black Baker

It looks as though the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is finally going to hear about one of those cake controversies. Can a baker legally refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding or not?

If refusing to sell goods & services for a same-sex marriage celebration because of one’s personal beliefs should be illegal, then other similar refusals to other similar events should also be illegal, right?

I wonder if SCOUTS will ever hear the case of the black baker. Have you heard about it? It’s a doozy. A baker, who happens to be black, was asked to bake a nice white cake to help celebrate a successful rally for a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The baker refused to do it. Should he be punished?

The baker is a Christian and does not personally hate the Klan members or white people. He just does not want to be part of this celebration in any way. It’s not that the baker would never bake anything of any Klan member at any event. For example, if a Klan member was celebrating his or her birthday, he would gladly bake the birthday cake. It’s the meaning of a particular event that is the concern; the problem is the ideology behind the “successful Klan rally” and what it represents.

Actually, there is no black baker case that I know of (I made it up), but I suppose there could be such a case one day. The linked article above mentions the following about this kind of issue, “It’s about the rights of gay people to receive equal service in business and not be afraid of being turned away because of who they are. It’s about basic access to public life.”

But could we not say the same about anyone “being who they are” and having “access to public life”? How about a feminist photographer who won’t take pictures at a strip club event? Should she be punished? The photographer believes that strips clubs are immoral and does not want to patriciate in the event. If a particular stripper wanted a professional headshot photo done, the photographer would gladly do it, but nothing for the strip club event. Could we not say the strippers are just being who they are and the photographer is unjustly denying them public access to photographic services?

In the end, it’s about the principle, not the person. The difference is vast. The more our society accepts transcendent things, like right vs. wrong, as only opinions, the more we will accept a kind of soft tyranny where the government takes on the role of “moral compass”. Tragically, this false compass now tells us that homosexual inclinations and actions are part of ones intrinsic identity, just like race or gender.

They will tell us what is just and what is unjust, fair or unfair and you will comply or be punished. Religious liberty is a founding principle of the U.S. and watching its own citizens leading the charge against people of faith into this oppression may be the saddest part of the whole mess.

15

On Climate Change

In light of a recent post of mine, I wanted to share something from my old blog on the topic of Climate Change, which is fast becoming a religion of sorts. Any denial of it and man’s direct responsibility for it is blasphemy and/or heresy for one side of the aisle. Any agreement with it is just as sacrilegious to the other side.

Because of this quandary, I took some time to look at Climate Change through the lens of the problem solving & decision making methodology we use where I work. Whatever you think about Climate Change, you might agree that people tend to first form a conclusion and then look for data to support it…and, of course, explain away or ignore any data that doesn’t support it. Why is that? Politically speaking, if we can definitively tie Climate Change to human activity (CO2 emissions), it’s a perfect opportunity for a power grab—to control a whole lot of human activity. On the other hand, refuting the aforementioned has the opposite effect if one wants to limit government involvement in human activity.

Before we can even being to address any concerns about Climate Change the situation must be made clear. Before a situation can be made clear any ambiguities and over-generalizations must be dealt with. Beginning at the beginning, we can see that the term “Climate Change” is ambiguous because both “climate” and “change” can mean too many different things to too many different people, so I went to a NASA website for clarification on what is changing and how. I found these:

  • See levels are rising
  • Ice sheets are shrinking
  • Arctic sea ice is declining
  • Glaciers are retreating
  • Snow cover is decreasing
  • Oceans are acidifying
  • Extreme weather events are increasing
  • The Earth and oceans are warming (Global Warming)

Whatta mess!!!

Next is to look at one thing at a time and tackle the most serious concern first. Which concern above would have the biggest current and future impact? I’ll go forward with the premise that Global Warming is the highest priority concern on the list above because it could conceivably be causing most of the other things on the list.

If my superiors at work were to ask our group to look into the Global Warming situation, we would look at something called “The Should” and also something called “The Actual”. For this case, “The Actual” would be the current average global temperature assuming we can get a reliable measurement. “The Should” would be the Earth’s normal average temperature range…the way it should be. What would be the upper limit of that normal range and what would be the lower limit? I can tell you that a huge difficulty we’d run into right away is defining “The Should”. This is very problematic because you cannot truly understand a problem—in terms of an abnormality—if you do not understand what is normal.

But why not just look at the rise in CO2 since that is the presumed main cause of the warming? We could, but we’d invariably be back to the same questions about the Earth’s temperature. What “Should” is good? At work we’ll define “The Should” for a product or system based on historical manufacturing records and control limits and/or established industry standards among other things. There are no such standards for the Earth’s average temperature range that I know of, but we can look at history.

Let’s suppose we have about 200 years of accurate global temperature data. My guess is that it is much less than 200 years because of the many years with no satellite temperature data from space, but we’ll go with it. Also, the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, but I’d say the climate 4.5 billion years ago is irrelevant data for humans living today. Let’s go back an amount of time in which the first mammals were happily living on Earth, breathing clean air and drinking clean water. Mammals go back about 200 million years. Keep in mind that 200 million years is only 4% of the Earth’s lifetime, so it’s a relatively short period of time to look at, but we’ll go with it. So, 200 years of temperature data in 200 million years of history would represent .0001% of the time.

To put this in context of something we can grasp, the Dow Jones Industrial average (DJIA) has been around for about 120 years. .0001% of 120 years is about 63 minutes. Suppose that tomorrow the DJIA were to dive 1000 points from 1:00PM to 2:03PM. At 2:04PM, should we conclude a long term financial disaster and an urgent need for more industry regulation? For even more context, consider that 0001% of ten years is about 5.3 minutes. Suppose you walk into a ten year old home for the very first time with a family inside going about their business and you begin measuring the temperature. You note a warming trend of about 1°C after about 5.3 minutes and announce a domestic warming crisis and begin to regulate the families’ activity. Seems like hysteria to me without more data.

Chart taken from MarketWatch

In either the case of the family home or the DJIA, if you were to declare a crisis and an urgent need for regulation you’d likely be on the receiving end of some blank stares. This does not mean there should be no concern for Global Warming. In my profession I would need to report that there is not enough information to define “The Should”, so we would likely move this issue away from a problem analysis and into a decision analysis. Problem analysis focuses on the question “Why did it happen?” while decision analysis focuses on the question “What should we do?”

A good decision in this arena is above my pay grade, but whatever the decision, let’s be aware of two opposing extremes…

#1 Nature Worship

The view that nature is “perfect” just the way it is acts as a kind of secular “dogma”. With this as a base premise, we can see the logic that concludes the following…any unnatural interference or manipulation of nature for the benefit of man is a deprivation of nature’s perfection, and a good definition of evil is just that—a deprivation of perfection.1 Therefore, defending anything in nature against man is intrinsically “good” and promoting man’s industrialization and expansion is intrinsically “evil”.

#2 Nature’s Neglect

Beware of any ideology that says man can and should interfere and manipulate nature anyway we see fit. God wants us to take care of the temporary dwelling place he gave us. “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” (Gen 2:15) So if we are to be good stewards of all the gifts God gives us, including the Earth, should we not be trustworthy stewards? Of course we should. “Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Cor 4:2)

 

  1. St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas’s Shorter Summa (Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2002), p. 125.
15

Finding Truth For a Living

Proof can be a big topic which can easily have you lost in the weeds whether talking about truth with a little “t” or Truth with a big “T”. Whenever I hear skeptics talk about no proof for the existence of God I’m intrigued, and often frustrated, because of what I do for a living.

I’m a technical manager for a very large multinational imaging company and we have a formal process for solving complex problems and making decisions. I’m trained and certified to both use the process and teach it to our techs and engineers. This was the impetus of a book I wrote called Faith with Good Reason, and believe it or not, it all relates back to the human soul.

We have an intellect and a will; we think and then we do. What we think relates to what we believe and what we believe relates to what we do. When our company is faced with a complex technical problem with a particular product or system our superiors are not really interested in our feelings about it, or debating theories or conducting thought experiments. They have two fundamental questions for us…”Why did it happen!?” and “What should we do!?” In other words…they want the truth and once clear about the truth, they want to act in accordance with that truth.

Lacking Evidence:

And so it happens that when trying to solve a problem, we face situations where empirical evidence we would very much like to have is either lacking or impossible to obtain. In fact, I don’t remember a single instance when we had all the evidence we wanted that could answer all the questions we had. Regardless, people still expect us to find the truth. I cannot say we are always 100% successful, but we never report back to our superiors that the root cause of a problem is “nothing,” or “random chance,” or just a “brute fact”. We also never say “Sorry, no way to know.” These kinds of answers are not answers at all and they are unacceptable to explain any observed effect, including the existence of the universe or our own being.

Instead, we have a way to move toward what is more reasonable and step away from what is less reasonable given the available data. This is not done via experimentation or trial and error because these kinds of activities tend to waste company resources. It’s done “on paper” at first to get buy-in that the company should spend the time and money to pursue our conclusion or next course of action.

People generally accept our conclusions. Why? Because accepting some things without complete proof is rational and responsible solely based on the reasoning. We have some skeptical engineers, techs and sales/marketing people at our company. If a technical person were to keep repeating, “I reject your conclusion because there is no proof that it is actually true and I will continue to work as if it were not,” he or she would not be employed with us for long (note that sales/marketing people will normally receive general absolution for this sin).

Of course, the most probable cause of a problem is ultimately proved-out to see if it is in fact the true cause. A decision will also prove itself out over time as a good or bad choice. In the spiritual life this “proving-out” or “moment of truth” relates to the end of our earthly life where the theological virtues of Faith and Hope are no longer needed for a soul in the presence of God. All that will remain is Love (see 1 Corinthians 13:13).

Data Rejection:

I get this same sense of “data rejection” as described above when conversing with skeptics about the existence of God. For example, click HERE for 20 arguments for the existence of God by the fabulous Dr. Peter Kreeft. I would say none of the 20 is absolute proof, but it is all “data” that points in a certain direction. If there are 20 arrows pointing a certain way, a skeptic will find a flaw with each one. This arrow is curved and therefore invalid; this one is bent and this one points in a slightly different direction. This one is so thick that we can’t say it is really an arrow and this one is too thin, and so on. Therefore, the skeptic will reject the conclusion because there is no proof that it is actually true and will continue to live as if it were not.

Incidentally, it can be the same type of thing conversing with non-Catholic Christians. No matter how many roads lead to Rome, a doubter will find ruts in each one, while at the same time ignoring the dead ends when they trace back their own faith tradition.

The following story may help illustrate the frustration when debating a skeptic…

A man and a skeptic are headed to a friend’s house on a dark and stormy night. Their friend is away on vacation and she needs someone to take care of her dog. As they enter the house the man flips the hallway light switch, but there is no light.

      Man:   The hallway lightbulb must be burnt-out.

Skeptic:   No, the storm has caused a power outage in the neighborhood. There is no power.

 

    Man:   Did you not notice the homes in the neighborhood with lights on inside as we drove up?

Skeptic:   Have you not heard of backup generators? That explains why their lights are on.

 

      Man:   But the digital clock on the microwave oven in the kitchen is lit with the correct time as usual.

Skeptic:   Modern clocks have backup batteries.

 

      Man:   I’ve never heard of a microwave clock with a backup battery.

Skeptic:   Well, there is obviously an alternate power supply for the microwave of some kind.

 

      Man:   I just opened the garage door to let the dog out. That needs power too.

Skeptic:   This house must have a backup generator like the neighbors do. This would also explain the clock working on the microwave. Maybe the generator company offered a neighborhood discount for group installations.

 

    Man:   If this house is running on a backup generator, why wouldn’t the hallway light turn on when we first came in?

Skeptic: The hallway lightbulb must be burnt-out.

 

      Man:   ?????!!!!!

Forest vs. Trees:

Note that in the story there is no absolute proof about what the truth really is. There are several things that can keep a light from lighting other than a burnt-out bulb or a power outage, but in my experience committed skeptics are ready and willing to study in great detail and pick apart any given tree, but not so ready or willing to see the forest. It’s almost as if some choose to get lost in the arcane details and want others to follow. The story also ends with the same hypothesis in which it beings. Many skeptics may conclude that certain things are undeniably true as Catholics do (like racism being wrong), but the source of that Truth must come from an internal system like the human mind (internal generator) and not an outside system like God (external generator).

Some very intelligent people think themselves into a corner that says “Everything comes from nothing for the purpose of nothing”. Strong objections to that statement then follow…“Not ‘nothing’, we just don’t know or there is no way to know” and/or “We make our own purpose!” Then I’ll add two words to the statement about intelligence. “Everything comes from nothing intelligent for no intended purpose.” At this, the honest atheist will often reluctantly agree as he sits in his intellectual corner, hugging his purposeless tree, blind to the surround forest.

 

“For if they so far succeeded in knowledge that they could speculate about the world how did they not more quickly find its Lord?” (Wisdom 13:9)

15

Salvation Is Not a Right

My last post spurred some interesting comments about human rights. One commenter in particular made an astute observation about three inalienable rights in terms of our temporal life.

  • The Right to Life: Relates to your future; lose your life and you lose your future.
  • The Right to Liberty: Relates to your present; lose your liberty and you lose your present.
  • The Right to Property: Relates to your past; lose your property (the fruit of your life and liberty) and you lose your past.

And in the end no one, other than God, can justly infringe upon these rights assuming there is no need to take your life or liberty in self-defense or as punishment, and that your property was justly acquired.

But aren’t terms like “life”, “liberty” and even “property” subject to interpretation and understanding? You’d think the right to life would be fairly straightforward, but for some, animals and trees have more right to be alive than humans who happen to be physically located in their mother’s womb. Along these same lines, a sense of entitlement can lead one to conclude that the right to an abortion is part of a woman’s “liberty” and that your property is not really yours, but actually communal property that can and should be distributed equally.

Kids and young adults might express this sense of entitlement more freely than older adults and this can all relate to how we view salvation. My confirmation students will sometimes say what many adults might often think. An example is when we discuss Original Sin in class. Objections to the dogma may go something like this…What’s the deal with Original Sin? Adam and Eve disobeyed, not me. I didn’t do anything, especially when I was a newborn baby, so why should I have to deal with all the ramifications of Original Sin? It’s not fair!!

The attitude above seems to imply that we are entitled to salvation; we have a right to the free gift of grace and eternal life with God. In contrast, St Paul spoke of salvation as more of a process “So then, my beloved…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) “Work out” implies a process, and “fear and trembling” implies that it can be lost or never realized.

The following analogy seems to help clear things up in terms of Original Sin and not taking salvation for granted: Imagine your father was an impoverished man who befriended a billionaire long before you were born. They were such good friends that the billionaire made your dad heir to his fortune. One day your father betrayed the billionaire, so he removed him from his will, leaving him in his poverty. Years later your father met your mother and you were born. Eventually, you learned the story of friendship and betrayal between the billionaire and your father. You realize that you would have been next in line for the fortune if your father would have remained a faithful friend, so you say, “My father betrayed him, not me. I didn’t do anything, so why should I have to deal with this poverty. It’s not fair!! The fortune should still go to me.”

The reality is that you never had a claim to the fortune in the first place.

13

Conversing with Skeptics

You may have run into this yourself. If not, it’s at least good to be aware of it. When conversing with atheists and skeptics over the years, I’ve learned to be careful with three terms:

1) God:

The word “God” can be an overgeneralization; it means too many different things to too many different people. One may be thinking of a fairy in the sky or flying spaghetti monster (one thing among many). Another thinks of the ground of all being or being itself, or the one “unconditioned reality”, or perhaps…“Father”. I have been told that is inconsequential in discussing God’s existence, and I always object because thinking matters. What we think relates to what we believe and ultimately what we do. Two people may use the term “fetus”. One is thinking of a person in the earliest stage of life just as valid as any other stage (a person exists). Another is thinking of a non-person with no right to be alive (a person does not exist). The difference is life and death.

Another allegory I use is about two small fish in a vast ocean debating the existence of water. If one fish thinks of water as just another thing in the ocean (one thing among many), then the search for water would be basically the same as the search for a rock, a sunken ship or a swimming seaweed monster. The search strategy would be completely different if the thinking was different. In general we do not think about water being in the ocean. We are more apt to say the ocean is water.

2) Atheism:

Just as there are different kinds of “believers” there are different kinds of atheists. I’ve heard the term “weak atheist”, which to me is basically the same as a lazy agnostic. When pressed with some deliberate questioning, a lot of answers from the weak atheist are “don’t know/don’t care” or “no way to know.” A strong atheist is more “evangelical” and eager to prove their point. In general, if you push with some hard questions about The Good, The Beautiful and The True, you’ll quickly find out if you are dealing with a strong or weak atheist. Lately however, I prefer the term “skeptic” to cover all levels of atheism.

Beware that general topics about The Good, the Beautiful and The True can trigger many tangents about specific Church teachings, Church history, Church scandals and things in the Bible that are positioned as not so good or beautiful or true. Jumping into these topics right away with a skeptic is like debating the interior design of a house before the basic structure of the building is thoroughly considered. All of it is important, but the foundation comes first.

3) Evidence:

Some come off as self-proclaimed authorities on evidence. Only sensory/empirical/scientific data is valid evidence. Data from metaphysics, philosophy, witness testimony, inferences and other modes of reasoning are generally dismissed. This is contradictory because saying empirical data is the only valid way to prove something is a philosophical statement that cannot be proven empirically.

Besides the inherent contradiction, please note that everyone believes things they can’t prove…at least not empirically or via a scientific method. Every skeptic I’ve ever dialogued with was both pro-choice and pro-gay to some extent…if the topics ever happened to come up. Can you name the scientist that proved human life does not begin at conception, or the science that confirmed an unborn baby is actually a non-person? You can’t because there is no such scientist and there is no such science. There is no proof, yet people accept these things as dogma. Is homosexual behavior normal? What do we learn from biology and the design of certain body parts? What kind of behavior is ordered to the design and what kind of behavior is disordered to the design? What does the evidence tell us? I’m often reminded that homosexual behavior is observed in some animals, so this proves it is natural and therefore normal. I often need to remind others that some animals will also eat their young. When we look to animal behavior as a guide for human behavior the effect of original sin that dims the intellect is easy to see.

Conversing with skeptics can be very interesting if it’s done civilly, but it is regrettable how many scholars need to spend a lot of time showing how God exists rather than taking that time to help discern God’s revelation in the modern world. It’d be like continuously debating your own existence as opposed to discerning the best way to live. Years ago I too was a skeptic, but I made a decision to enter the faith experiment in the laboratory of my life. If I had not made that decision, I may have been permanently paralyzed by wrapping my own head around a metaphysical axle, as I see many others doing today. No wonder the end of the Bible seems to push us for a decision…

“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:15-16)

Interesting Aside:

This article from the New York Post describes yesterday’s Texas shooter as a militant atheist. Not to pick on atheists, but if the shooter were militantly religious, I’d bet we’d all know about it quickly. If he were militantly Christian, we’d never hear the end of it.

 

 

Top photo by Deutsche Fotothek‎, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7937579

 

7

The Occult, R.E. and Me

A commenter on this blog linked an article in MarketWatch entitled Why millennials are ditching religion for witchcraft and astrology. The article was in a business website because of spiking sales among products claiming metaphysical benefits, but it still made some reasonable points about why the ditching is being done.

Summarizing briefly…

  • Young people are looking for a “reference point” to identify with and to place people and events into context.
  • They see the occult as a tangible way for them to take control of their lives when things like politics, economics and the environment seem too big to change
  • There is a “meaning gap”. They might go from work to a bar to dinner and a date with no semblance of meaning. The occult gives the illusion of a way out and a way of putting yourself within the framework of history and the universe.

I get some sense of this fascination with the occult as a Confirmation Catechist. This is my seventh year in Religious Education (RE) and I can tell you it’s sometimes hard to get the attention of a bunch of thirteen-year-olds on a Saturday morning, but when relating the day’s lesson to anything involving the occult, I suddenly have their full attention. This works especially well around Halloween.

We might have some discussion about the origins of Halloween and then talk about All Saints Day and the Holy Day of Obligation, but I’ll also ask the kids what they think about trying to contact any random spirit that might be listening via a Ouija Board or Magic 8 Ball or other means…even if it’s just for fun. Some say nothing; some share an eerie experience they’ve had; some say it’s not such a good idea, but maybe that is said because that is what a catechist would want to hear.

Regardless of the answer we begin with a discussion about angels that goes something like this…The Church teaches that angels are real. They don’t have a body, but are like us in terms of having an intellect and a will, meaning they can think for themselves and then choose what they want to do. Some angels choose not to love and serve God; they are fallen angels, sometimes called “demons” or “evil spirits”.

Now suppose you are calling upon random spirits and one of these demons happens to be in the neighborhood. God or your guardian angel might normally protect you from such a thing, but you have chosen to open a portal via a personal invitation and the demon just might choose to accept the invite. Keep in mind that if an evil spirit hates God, and you are made in the image and likeness of God, then the demon naturally hates you, so you’d be in for rough time. The Church teaches that these things are real, so don’t mess with them! It’s also sinful because you are calling upon spirits instead of calling upon The Lord (see commandment #1).

Mentioning the Catholic Rite of Exorcism and reading to the kids from the Catechism can make it more official. “When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism… The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop… Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church….” (CCC 1673)

I’ll also throw in a story or two written by Exorcist Fr. Gabriele Amorth for good measure:

“One day Father Candidio was expelling a demon. Toward the end of the exorcism, he turned to the evil spirit and sarcastically told him, ‘Get out of here. The Lord has already prepared a nice, well-heated house for you!’ At this, the demon answered, ‘You do not know anything! It wasn’t he [God] who made hell. It was us. He had not even thought about it.’”1

Funny how people poke fun at Catholics until they need an exorcist!

The book of Genesis can provide another teaching opportunity. The seven-day creation story is explained very well in the Great Adventure Bible Timeline during the early world sessions. Day six and day seven can be used to help explain the relationship between God and man and also what certain numbers might mean in an occult-ish sense.

The creation of both man and beast is on the same day; day six (see Genesis 1:24-31). Why is that? Isn’t man set apart from animals with a soul; made in the image & likeness of God? Why don’t we get our own special day?!? Consider this question in light of the 7th day. God blessed the 7th day and made it holy because he rested on that day (see Genesis 2:2-3). God does not need physical rest. The Sabbath day is for us. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27).

The beasts made with man on day six do not know or love God. How many people do we know who relate to God the same way an animal does? They do not know or love God, even though they were given the capacity. Although made on the same “day”, man is called to leave the beasts behind in day six and find “rest” with God in day seven. A relationship in which two parties can “rest” in one another can conjure up images of a comfortable, self-giving union. This may remind us of the Catholic ideal of marriage or the idea of “covenant”, as it should. This also relates to heaven, which is an eternal rest with God.

Finally, I remind my students that “thinking means connecting things”2:

    • The number 7 in scripture can represent fullness or completion.
    • The number 6 (1 less than 7) corresponds to evil or imperfection
    • The number 3 is also for completeness and perfection
    • So the number six three times (666) would represent something perfectly evil or …
    • The Number of the Beast!!! (see Rev 13:18)

So, will you choose to “rest” with God in day seven or remain with the beasts in day six? It’s up you. Just remember…these things are real!

 

  1. Fr. Gabriele Amorth, An Exorcist Tells His Story (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), p.22
  2. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: Doubleday, 2001), p. 31.
17

Who Are the Christianophobes?

If one were to ban a Muslim group from attending a new student orientation fair at any given college, because the presence of such a group would be alienating for students of other religions and constitute a micro-aggression, I’d suspect such a person might be called an Islamophobe.

If one were to also ban a Gay Rights group from attending the same event, because the presence of such a group would be alienating for students of other sexual orientations and would also constitute a micro-aggression, I’d suspect such a person might also be called a homophobe.

The same logic could apply to any African-American group, except “racist” would be the word of choice or perhaps “deplorable”.

All these examples might be akin to saying you and/or your belief system(s) are not welcome here and you will not be allowed to recruit new members. What if this happened to an atheist group? I’m sure it would get ugly, although the term “atheist-ophobe” doesn’t roll off the tongue.

For some, the logic doesn’t seem to flow so well when the group is a Christian group. When one of the Oxford Colleges banned members of the Christian Union from its freshers’ fair on the grounds that it would be alienating for students of other religions and constitute a “micro-aggression”, I don’t believe the media stormed the internet and airwaves with cries of …“Christianophobe!” In actuality I’d have to say the action by the organizer(s) constitutes more of a macro-aggression as opposed to only “micro”.

To add insult to injury, the organizer argued “Christianity’s historic use as ‘an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism’ meant that students might feel ‘unwelcome’ in their new college if the Christian Union had a stall.” Imagine if that exact same quote was used referring to a Muslim group.

In the face of perhaps a new era of direct attacks on religious liberty, clear thinking about inclusion becomes especially imperative. Without clarity, the cloud of muddled thinking that billows from all the “inclusion via intolerance” is quickly turning Christianity into society’s second hand smoke. As a people we don’t kill or arrest smokers; we just shame them and make sure they are safely out of the way.

“Marginalizing Christianity from the public sphere is a sign, not of intelligence, but of fear. It is failing to see, through the dark clouds of prejudice, that society cannot help but benefit from Christianity.”

̶ Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco

 

Photo by Tor Lindstrand – SWEATworkshop04, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34812092

2

Of Wind, Culture and Paper Airplanes

This is my first post for The American Catholic and I’d like to start with an excerpt from my book entitled Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens; it’s a book about Catholic Faith and Reason in the language of analytical problem solving and decision making, but a bit more in-depth than something like Pascal’s Wager. In the book I relate some aspects of the Catholic faith (and reason) with my experience working for a global 500 company as Solution Development Manager (or Technical Product Manager and occasional complex problem solver).

Once such experience was when a consultant for our company spoke at one of our group meetings about wind, culture, and paper airplanes. Corporate culture might refer to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact with each other as well as with clients, vendors, consultants, etc. Culture can be subconscious, not clearly defined, and develops gradually over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.

Imagine a paper airplane as a metaphor for an idea, methodology or policy ready to be launched within a company. Imagine the culture of the company as the wind. If there is no wind at all the plane will go anywhere you like with some effort, but there is almost always some wind. If the wind is strong to your back when you launch the plane it has no difficulty going a very long way with very little effort. A plane thrown across the wind may start out in the right direction, but eventually turn and go wherever the wind goes. Launch the same plane into a strong wind to your face and the result is disastrous.

The same goes with how Catholic teaching is viewed in the wind of a given culture. Some things fly rather well. The Church teaches that racism is wrong, that we should help those less fortunate than us, that it’s wrong to beat up homeless people for fun, and I’m sure most would agree with these kinds of teachings. Some things don’t fly so well, like the Doctrine of Just War, teaching on the death penalty and whether or not it’s okay to water-board a terrorist. But most dissent from Catholic teaching involves something to do with human sexuality. Abortion, homosexuality, contraception, women’s ordination, fornication, marriage, divorce and remarriage all have an aspect of sexuality to them.

The term “dissenting issues” is an overgeneralization and like with any good problem solving or decision making technique, overgeneralizations must first be separated and clarified before any clear discussion or action can be taken. Once more specific matters are listed, like those mentioned in the previous paragraph, they can be prioritized by considering the current and future impact of each one. It can be difficult to measure or quantify such things, but we can consider how many unjust wars we are currently involved with or about to jump into, how many people are executed each year and how many people are tortured or likely to be tortured in the future by the government.

Now contrast this with all the effects of the dissenting sexual issues. What are the current and future impacts of all the unwanted pregnancies and the resulting increase in poverty and single parent homes? How about the number of unborn children being killed and that will be killed in the future? Think of the impact from broken homes due to divorce? Ignorance and dissent about the true purpose of sex also brings us pornography, sexual addictions, molestation, sexually-transmitted diseases and marriage confusion. The amount of emotional pain due to fornication is probably not considered by most as something that will impact the rest of the culture in any significant way, but think of the huge number of people bonding and breaking up with different sexual partners over and over again and how this impacts their character? How then, does their character impact everyone else around them?

“Thinking means connecting things…”1 Many, if not most, of the ills in our society can be traced back to sexual confusion or dissent. A game of theological “connect the dots” can help illustrate the connections between God, people, sex, and sin. We can start with the base premise that the devil hates God and if we are all made in the image and likeness of God, we can reasonably conclude that the devil must hate us.

A book called Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West does a good job of explaining how people are created in the image and likeness of God. God is pure spirit and our souls are pure spirit. God has both a will and an intellect, as do we. The Holy Trinity is another way that is not so intuitive, but is the most profound. One way to think of God or the Trinity is as an eternal exchange of love. From the perfect and eternal exchange of love between the Father and the Son proceeds a third person called the Holy Spirit. How can that possibly be like us? In the union of Holy Matrimony, the love between a man and a woman generates a third person called a baby. The purpose of sexual desire is not only propagation, but also the very power to love as God loves.2

Now back to connecting the dots. If the devil hates us because we are like God and we are most “God-like” and mirror the Trinity in the covenant union of male and female, then the devil must hate that about us more than anything else. If this is true then it makes sense that a focus of attack on humanity would involve destroying families via the distortion of sex.3

You may know the acronym WWJD (What would Jesus do?) Stop and think for a moment about WWDD (What would the devil do?) In our culture, what would be the best way to tempt and ultimately destroy the lives of so-called “good people”? What would have the highest probability of success? Should you tempt them to beat up homeless people? You’d likely be wasting your time. How about something sexual? How about sexual temptation mixed in with some sexual confusion? Did God really say that’s a sin? (see Gen 3:1) What’s the harm? It’s only natural. Does male and female really mean anything? Temptation coupled with confusion could do it and do it well!

It’s not that I particularly enjoy writing about these topics. Who wants the wind in their face when it can be at your back? It’s that dissenting issues ought to be written about. No doubt it would be less contentious to write about how racism is wrong, but remember that a given teaching irrespective of a given culture is not true because the Church teaches it…the Church teaches it because it’s true.

 

  1. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: Doubleday, 2001), p. 31.
  2. Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners (West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004), pp. 27-29.
  3. Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners, p. 12.