1

“They made me a keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept.”

A thought for today from the “Office of Readings” (13 October, 2018)— ‘a homily on the Gospels by Pope St. Gregory the Great:”

“…Look about you and see how full the world is of priests, yet in God’s harvest a laborer is rarely to be found; for although we have accepted the priestly office, we do not fulfill its demands.

 

Beloved brothers, consider what has been said: Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest. Pray for us so that we may have the strength to work on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, and that after we have accepted the office of preaching, our silence may not condemn us before the just judge. For frequently the preacher’s tongue is bound fast on account of his own wickedness; while on the other hand it sometimes happens that because of the people’s sins, the word of preaching is withdrawn from those who preside over the assembly.

 

With reference to the former situation, the psalmist says: But God asks the sinner: Why do you recite my commandments? And with reference to the latter, the Lord tells Ezekiel: I will make your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be dumb and unable to reprove them, for they are a rebellious house. He clearly means this: the word of preaching will be taken away from you because as long as this people irritates me by their deeds, they are unworthy to hear the exhortation of truth. It is not easy to know for whose sinfulness the preacher’s word is withheld, but it is indisputable that the shepherd’s silence while often injurious to himself will always harm his flock.

 

There is something else about the life of the shepherds, dearest brothers, which discourages me greatly. But lest what I claim should seem unjust to anyone, I will accuse myself of the very same thing, although I fall into it unwillingly—compelled by the urgency of these barbarous times. I speak of our absorption in external affairs; we accept the duties of office, but by our actions we show that we are attentive to other things. We abandon the ministry of preaching and, in my opinion, are called bishops to our detriment, for we retain the honorable office but fail to practice the virtues proper to it. Those who have been entrusted to us abandon God, and we are silent. They fall into sin, and we do not extend a hand of rebuke. [emphasis added]

 

But how can we who neglect ourselves be able to correct someone else? We are wrapped up in worldly concerns, and the more we devote ourselves to external things, the more insensitive we become in spirit.

 

For this reason the Church rightfully says about her own feeble members: They made me a keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept.We are set to guard the vineyards but do not guard our own, for we get involved in irrelevant pursuits and neglect the performance of our ministry.” Continue Reading

5

The Case against Pope Francis:
“He has elevated immoral men in order to change the Catholic faith”

The title is from an article on National Review Online by Michael Brendan Dougherty.  Dougherty tells how Pope Benedict XVI was essentially compelled to resign, not being able to control Vatican reform:.

“But the dysfunction at the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI had overwhelmed the scholarly pontiff. Benedict’s chosen reformer for the corrupt Vatican Bank, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, initially had success in turning blood-red deficits toward the black, but he was swiftly undermined and sent packing to be the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States. Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested for stealing and leaking to the media documents revealing the intrigue and backbiting within Vatican City. Benedict assigned three cardinals to investigate the VatiLeaks scandal. They returned to the pope a long dossier, which was widely reported to contain an account of the financial and sexual misdeeds of senior officials in the Vatican itself. At about this time European banks began squeezing the Vatican Bank, and by the turn of the New Year the Vatican’s own ATMs stopped working. Their function was restored days after Benedict announced that he would resign the papacy, the first papal resignation in five centuries.”

Dougherty gives a detailed account of how Pope Francis was elected to reform the Vatican but instead put into positions of power sexual abusers and those who would alter Catholic teaching:

“While trying to please the progressives who elected him, Pope Francis has plunged the Church into acrimony and confusion. He has put forward a revision of the Church’s teaching on the sacraments that puts traditional concepts of Christian virtue out of reach for all but the most “heroic” Christians. It is a theological revolution that not only threatens the coherence of the Catholic faith but has the potential to affect all Christians:

As for reform? Forget it. Nearly half of the members of Pope Francis’s reformist team have been pulled into sexual-abuse scandals themselves. Cardinal George Pell has returned to his native Australia to face charges of fondling children. Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga has been accused of protecting churchmen who fostered a culture of sexual predation in the seminaries of Honduras. The German cardinal Reinhard Marx was revealed to have been negligent in investigating an abusive priest when he was bishop of Trier. American cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, who heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, has been exposed as having passed the buck when a priest tried to inform him of the serial sexual predation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick against seminarians.”

Go here to read the whole article, it’s most compelling.

29

The Great Sin of the Left

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
—Matthew 5:44 (KJV)

The great sin of the left is not that they hate, they corrupt, they lie, they abuse, they traduce, they pervert, they abort, they philander, they euthanize.  It is rather, that by their sins they push us into the arms of The Enemy.   Their actions are so foul that they move us to forget what Christ told us: Love your enemies and bless them that curse you.

I keep trying to remember Matthew 5:44 as the feminists (or, to use Rush Limbaugh’s apt description: “feminazis”) claim that science should be feminist, as ignorant prelates argue that anthropic global warming is the pre-eminent danger and our sin if we let it happen,  as almost all of the Democrat party collude in maligning a good man and threatening his family.

So, Dear Lord, please give me strength to follow You and obey You in loving my enemies.  You forgave us; help us not in forgiving them, but in praying for their reformation.   (I recall Fr. Groeschel’s prayer for Madonna: that she be converted and go to a cloistered nunnery.)

 

 

33

Cardinal Cupich removes priest who burned rainbow flag. What now?

Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
—Ezekiel 22:26 (KJV)

A story from WGN (see here) announces that Fr. Paul Kalchik, the priest who burned the LGBT rainbow flag that had hung in his church, has been removed by Cardinal Kupich “to receive pastoral support.”   I’m not sure what “pastoral support” might mean; I hope it won’t hearken back to Medieval times when racks and other instruments of physical persuasion were used to insure proper belief.

I wonder what I would do were I a member of Fr. Kalchik’s parish or in the Archdiocese of Chicago.   One thing I would do for sure, would be to withhold financial support.   Or perhaps I might see about switching to a Byzantine Rite or Ordinariate parish (although such a transfer I’m told is not usually permitted—you stay with the rite in which you were baptized).   Or ????

I wonder about schisms.   How do they come about?   At the highest level or from common folk?  There was the “Great Schism” between Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman Catholic) Churches back in 1054.   And, presumably, any time one disregards his/her bishop, one is in schism:

Formerly a man was rightly considered a schismatic when he disregarded the authority of his own bishop; hence the words of St. Jerome quoted above. Before him St. Cyprian had said: “It must be understood that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop and he is not in the Church who is not with the bishop” (Epist., lxvi, 8)
Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent.

I hope there will be some comments that will enlighten and not abuse.

5

The Yom Kippur Scapegoat:
Who gets the blame for Catholic scandals?

Today (Wednesday, 19 September, 2018) is Yom Kippur and I am keeping to my secular Jewish tradition and am fasting, sundown to sundown—more or less—I forgot this morning and had a bowl of oatmeal.   I’ve written here about the differences and similarities between Jewish atonement and Catholic penance, and have nothing other to say about that in this post, other than true forgiveness for sins and satisfaction is obtained through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).

However, one thought has occurred to me today, thinking about the recent scandals that have been well chronicled in this blog.  To what end are the resignations of Cardinals McCarrick and (forthcoming) Cardinal Wuerl;  the erasure of bishops’ names from schools, placques and memorials?   It seems to me that these are intended, like the Yom Kippur scapegoat, to carry off the sins of those in high ecclesial places.

But that is mistaken.  If you go to a  description of  practice in the old Temple for atonement at Yom Kippur, you’ll find that the high priest sacrificed a bull for the atonement of his own unintended sins.  The scapegoat (pictured in the feature image) was to carry  the intentional sins of the people away into the wilderness when the high priest symbolically tied those sins onto its horns with a red ribbon.  Well, that wasn’t effective then for the people, and it won’t be effective now for those in high places in the Vatican and the Ecclesia.  Which is to say, more is needed than one or two showcase resignations.

With respect to these scandals, it is not the uninvolved Catholic faithful who require confession, atonement and expiation, but those in high ecclesial places who have been involved in sins of commission and omission.   And what might that expiation be? Certainly the resignations of everyone who has consistently maintained a coverup for sinners in high places.

And now, having vented my spleen (I hope it is not a sin), let me wish all you readers

G’mar Hatima Tova”–may you be sealed in the Book of Life.

1

St. Augustine: the Proper Role of Shepherds

“Yet there are shepherds who want to have the title of shepherd without wanting to fulfill a pastor’s duties;”
—St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon on Pastors from The Office of Readings, 16 September, 2018

St. Augustine, as usual, had something to say 1800 years ago that hits the nail on the head today.  As I read excerpts from his Sermon on Pastors, while doing the Office of Readings today, I thought why isn’t someone in high ecclesial place saying what he said?

I’ll give some pertinent quotes.   For those of you interested in the whole reading please go to the link in the quote.

“The word of the Lord came to me and said: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel and speak to the shepherds of Israel. We just heard this reading a moment ago, my brothers, and I have decided to speak to you on this passage. The Lord will help me to speak the truth if I do not speak on my own authority. For if I speak on my own authority, I will be a shepherd nourishing myself and not the sheep. However, if my words are the Lord’s, then he is nourishing you no matter who speaks. Thus says the Lord God: Shepherds of Israel, who have been nourishing only themselves! Should not the shepherds nourish the sheep? In other words, true shepherds take care of their sheep, not themselves. This is the principal reason why God condemns those shepherds: they took care of themselves rather than their sheep. Who are they who nourish themselves? They are the shepherds the Apostle described when he said: They all seek what is theirs and not what is Christ’s.”
—loc. cit.

and what should be sent as a message to all Cardinals and Curial Officials:

“In addition to the fact that I am a Christian and must give God an account of my life, I as a leader must give him an account of my stewardship as well.”
—loc. cit.

9

Let’s Starve the Church?

“Because the story of Theodore McCarrick isn’t just a story about sexual abuse. It’s about institutions and power.”
—Jonathan Last, The American Standard, 15 Sept. 2018.

There is a fine article in The American Standard by Jonathan Last giving a long view on the current crisis in the Church.  He gives a good summary of what has gone on before and, most importantly, puts it all in a context of who has power in the Church and what that signifies.

“The institutional damage is done not by the abusers but by the structures that cover for them, excuse them, and advance them. Viewed in that way, the damage done to the Catholic church by Cardinal Wuerl—and every other bishop who knew about McCarrick and stayed silent—is several orders of magnitude greater than that done by McCarrick himself.”
loc. cit.

As Last points out, the Pope has absolute authority as a moral judge; he can ignore immorality or he can deal with it.

The Catholic church is unlike any other earthly institution. It is strictly hierarchical, with its ultimate power derived from the son of God. The head of the church—the successor of Peter—is elected to a lifetime appointment by his peers, and his authority over them is total. He can allow them to carry on sexual affairs in broad daylight, as Francis did with Father Krzysztof Charamsa, a priest who worked for years in the Vatican curia while living openly with his gay lover. Or he can drive them from the church, as Francis did with Father Charamsa after the priest made his situation public in the Italian media in 2015. He can make either of these choices—or any choice in between—for any reason he likes. Or none at all. Such is the supreme power of the vicar of Christ.”
loc. cit.

Last goes on to talk about how a cabal of four “progressive” cardinals acted to get Bergoglio elected Pope, and the consequences of this.  He then projects four possible scenarios for the future:

  1. Francis could resign;
  2. Catholics could resign themselves to the moral mess to which some of the hierarchy has led us;
  3. A low probability option is schism;
  4. Finally, Catholics could resist the changes the liberal hierarchy is trying to install (a la the liberal resistance to Trump?)

And how would this resistance be carried out?   One weapon Last suggests is to

“..starve bishops such as Wuerl, Cupich, and Tobin of funds. Not a dime for any church in any diocese headed by a bishop who refuses to root out abusers and their enablers.”
loc. cit.

And resistance plus organization might work …in another 40 years or so.   Is that too long?  I’m not sure.

So, what do  you think, dear reader?  (Go here to read the full article.  It’s well worth the 20 minutes.)

 

7

Update: Bishops, Cardinals Favoring Investigation of Vigano’s Claims

LifeSite News has an update list of US Bishops and Cardinals who support investigating the claims of Archbishop Vigano that Pope Francis has suppressed sanctions against Cardinal McCarrick for homosexual actions.   The list is impressive and includes such well-known names a Bishop Robert Barron, Bishop Morlino, Bishop Paprocki, Cardinal DiNardo, Cardinal Burke.  See here for the complete list of names and the statements of the bishops and cardinals.

16

“Ex Opere Operato”
A Convert’s Reflection on Church Scandals

“…the sacraments …are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies…. This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation49 that the sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: “by the very fact of the action’s being performed),[emphasis added] i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all.  It follows that “the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.”50 From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister.”[emphasis added]
—Catholic Catechism, 1127, 1128

A Convert’s Qualms

When I came to the Catholic Church some 23 years ago, I did so in spite of some misgivings. (I should add, that after deeper study I found that these misgivings were not altogether justified.)   Among these qualms were the treatment of Jews during Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, the Galileo Affair, the doings of the Renaissance Popes (Medicis and Borgias), and what I thought was the Church’s requirement for a literal interpretation of Creation according to Genesis.  Nevertheless, these misgivings paled, as I realized that Christ had truly risen, and, if the New Testament was to be believed not only in the account of the Resurrection, but in other matters, the keys of the kingdom had been given to Peter.  Christ’s Church is the Catholic Church.

Since that time I have learned that priests are human and thus subject to human faults and frailties.  I have respected almost all of the priests I’ve known as a convert, liked—qua persona—most of them, and tangled with two on ecclesial matters (writing some angry letters, before I came to realize—as a Benedictine oblate—the necessity for humility). I have known several of the priests mentioned in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury’s Report, not personally or well, and I was much surprised and saddened to see their names listed.

In thinking about these scandals and about the reactions of higher ecclesial officials (including that of Pope Francis), I try to maintain a respect for their positions as priests, bishops, and pontiff, even while my intellect is telling me they are either fools, liars, or some combination of both.   My wife (who has her graduate degree in Medieval History and is an expert on the Albigensians) has told me that history gives a perspective  on the current situation that enables one to keep from getting one’s knickers in a twist. (Not her exact words, but a version more suitable for a family friendly article.)

So, let’s look at history and see how our current situation ranks compared to the past.

A Historical Perspective of Misdeeds in the Church.

The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.
—Hilaire Belloc: a comment made to William Temple and quoted by Robert Speaight in The Life of Hilaire Belloc.

I saw this quote first in a recent comment on an article in this blog.  Queen Kristina of Sweden said much the same when questioned about her conversion to a Church so full of misdeeds. Let’s see what the internet tells about the Church’s “Bad Popes.”  (See here and here for a more complete account.)

  • Pope Stephen VI (896–897), who had his predecessor Pope Formosus exhumed, tried, de-fingered, briefly reburied, and thrown in the Tiber.
  • Pope John XII (955–964), who gave land to a mistress, murdered several people, and was killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife.
  • Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044, 1045, 1047–1048), who “sold” the Papacy.
  • Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303), who is lampooned in Dante’s Divine Comedy
  • Pope Urban VI (1378–1389), who complained that he did not hear enough screaming when Cardinals who had conspired against him were tortured.
  • Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503), a Borgia, who was guilty of nepotism and whose unattended corpse swelled until it could barely fit in a coffin.[3]
  • Pope Leo X (1513–1521), a spendthrift member of the Medici family who once spent 1/7 of his predecessors’ reserves on a single ceremony.

Now there are many other instances of a culture of worldliness and corruption by priests and monastics.  It would take a much longer article than I could write to discuss all these.   Rather, I will list the saints who attempted to reform the Church and monastic orders (I’ll admit the list is by no means complete):

These saints founded monastic orders in which a simple life, austere and devoted, could be followed in the footsteps of Christ.  Do we need new religious orders such as these?

Summing Up, Ex Opere Operato

The catechism quoted at the beginning of this article assures me that even though the priest who consecrated the Eucharist I am about to receive might be in a state of sin, his consecration was valid and effective, so that I will truly consume the body and blood of our Lord.  (Note: this doctrine stems from the reforms of the monk Hildebrand, later Pope Gregory VII.) The history I have read tells me that  some of those in high places in my Church were sinners.  But do I not see myself as the sinner with his head cast down, praying in the Temple, rather than the proud, sinless Pharisee? And did not Peter deny our Lord three times?  Our Catholic Church is a Church of forgiveness AND repentance, a Church that has survived sinners and will do so in the future.

3

Happy Feast Day Again, St. Augustine


Happy those who feast on wisdom and savor her knowledge,
She will nourish and refresh them.”
Happy Those Who Feast on Wisdom, Hymn for the Office of Readings, 28th August.
Today is the Feast Day for St. Augustine, my favorite Doctor of the Church.     I’ve posted on his remarkable thoughts, applicable to the science of today (Let’s Hear it for St. Augustine) , on his profound insights on God as greater than infinite (Mathematics, the handmaiden of theology) and on his sage advice for daily living (Good Advice from St. Augustine and More Good Advice) .    I’d like to add two more from the daily readings (Augustine, Day by Day, John Rotelle O.S.A, compiler)

LOVE (August 29th)

“Love is the only sign that distinguishes the children of God from the children of the devil.  To prove this, let them all sign themselves with the cross of Christ.  Let them all respond: Amen.    Let all sing: Alleluia.  Let all build the walls of churches.
There is still no way of discerning the children of God from the children of the devil except by love!” 
Sermon 1 John 5:7

THE INNER VOICE (August 26th)

“Consider this great mystery.  The sound of my words strikes the ears, and the Master is within!   Do not suppose that any human is the teacher of another.  We can admonish by the sound of our voice, but unless there is one Who teaches on the inside, the sound we make is futile.I, for my part, have spoken to all;  but those to whom the Annointing within does not speak, those whom the Holy Spirit within does not teach, go back untaught.” Sermon on 1 John 3:12

19

Abortion Politics and the Shabbos Goy

 

“…Avi tells him that he’s a “Shabbos goy,” the guy hired by Orthodox Jews to do the work they can’t because of their religious beliefs. In other words, he’s telling Mickey he has no moral code, no sense of right and wrong.”
—Vulture, Recap of Roy Donovan, Season 5, Episode 5

When I was very young (some 80 years ago),  my paternal grandmother would hire a neighborhood Christian teen-ager to come in, turn on the lights and perform other minor tasks that she, as an Orthodox Jew, was forbidden to do on the Sabbath.  He would gratefully receive 25 cents for this arduous labor (this was during the Great Depression).  My maternal grandparents did not need such a service since they were secular Jews, having been indoctrinated as socialists in Paris before they immigrated to Colorado.

In my childish naivete, I wondered at the time “if it’s wrong for a Jew to work on the Sabbath, why is it then OK to make a gentile  work?” (But see below.)  Now, as a Catholic,  I also wonder how Catholic politicians can vote against pro-life measures, using a Shabbos Goy excuse to say that they themselves are against abortion, but it’s OK for non-Catholics to have “a choice.”

 And now abortion politics again rears its ugly head: Brett Kavanaugh, the nominee for Supreme Court Justice, is being lambasted by the Left for possible stances on pro-life cases.  So we ask: do Catholic politicians follow Catholic teaching on abortion?  Why do they say that only Catholics must believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death?

Let’s see how the 24 Catholics in the US Senate (15 Democrats and 9 Republicans—see here for a list) voted on the three pro-life measures listed below:

  1. Nullify Obama pro-abortion Title X rule (roll call #101, 03/30/2017);
  2. Defund Planned Parenthood (roll call #167, 07/25/2017);
  3. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (roll call #25, 01/29/2018).

Seven of the nine Catholic Republican Senators voted for all three measures;  Senators Collins (Maine) and Murkowski (Alaska) voted against all three measures. 

 All 15  Catholic Democrat Senators voted against the first two proposals.   Of these 15, only  Senators Casey (Pennsylvania), Donnelly (Indiana) and Manchin (West Virginia) voted for #3, the Unborn Child Protection Act.

 How have the Catholic Democrats tried to justify their pro-abortion votes?   

At one end of the spectrum are those who effectively ignore Catholic teaching altogether;  these politicians do not need a Shabbos Goy.  At the other are Catholics who call themselves pro-life, but say they don’t want to  impose their beliefs on others. These Senators use Shabbos Goys in order to follow a party line that conforms to that  Culture of Death so well defined by Pope St. John Paul II.

Senator Dick Durbin, Democratic Whip, typifies the Catholic politician who totally ignores teaching on the sanctity of life. He said in a CNN interview (April 23, 2017) that it’s OK for a Democrats to hold pro-life views on a “personal basis,”  but they must go along with the Democratic party line promoting abortion and contraception:

As long as they are prepared to back the law, Roe vs. Wade, prepared to back women’s rights as we’ve defined them under the law, then I think they can be part of the party…I am committed to women’s rights under the law, reproductive rights certainly, and our party is… We’ve made that part of our platform and position for a long, long time.”

Durbin has been banned from receiving Holy Communion by Bishop Thomas Paprocki (Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, Durbin’s residence).  In a recent press release Bishop Paprocki justified this ban: 

Because his voting record in support of abortion over many years constitutes ‘obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin,’ the determination continues that Sen. Durbin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion until he repents of this sin. This provision is intended not to punish, but to bring about a change of heart. Sen. Durbin was once pro-life. I sincerely pray that he will repent and return to being pro-life.”

It’s clear that Senator Durbin’s situation is not equivalent to my grandmother’s.  He is not hiring a Shabbos Goy to do a job that violates Catholic teaching, he is doing so himself.  As Bishop Paprocki said, he promotes abortion by voting against the Unborn Child Protection Act and has done so consistently in the past..  And his requirement that Catholic Democrat   politicians, whatever their personal beliefs might be, should follow the Democrat anti-life party line, reinforces the judgment of “manifest grave sin” given by Bishop Paprocki.

What about the so-called pro-life Democrat Senators?  Senator Bob Casey (Pennsylvania) claims to be one of these.  I should note that many pro-life Pennsylvanians lament the confusion of voters who mistake Senator Casey (Bob Casey, Jr.) for his father, the former Governor Casey (Bob Casey, Sr.)   Governor Casey was a strong pro-life advocate; he promoted legislation imposing limitations on abortion during his term of office, legislation that was upheld for the most part by the Supreme Court (Planned Parenthood versus Casey).    He was not allowed to speak at the 1992 National Democratic Convention because of his strong pro-life position.

Senator Casey (Junior, that is) did vote for the Unborn Child Protection Act, but against defunding Planned Parenthood.  He justified continuing federal support for Planned Parenthood, despite its record as a purveyor of abortion mills, in the following statement (Huffington Post):

“The fact is, Planned Parenthood prevents unintended pregnancies and reduces abortions. Blocking access to care at Planned Parenthood could have the exact opposite effect. By increasing access to all forms of contraception and high-quality contraceptive counseling, Planned Parenthood enables women to choose the methods that work best for their bodies and lifestyles.”

The rest of Senator Casey’s Huffington Post apologia follows the party line: for women’s health, freedom for reproductive choice, government support of contraception, etc., etc.  Planned Parenthood is Senator Casey’s Shabbos Goy, an agency to carry out acts the Catholic Church (his Church?) takes to be sinful.   

Here’s the problem in enabling a Shabbos Goy to commit the sins you aren’t allowed to do yourself.   The Jews regarded themselves as God’s chosen people.  They were obliged and privileged to follow The Law, but gentiles were not.  Accordingly, a gentile did not sin by violating the Sabbath; it was not his or her obligation to do so.   

But the morality of the Catholic Church is not just for Catholics; it is given by God, and therefore is universal.   If it is wrong for a Catholic to kill, it is wrong for an atheist to kill.  If it is wrong for Catholics to kill the unborn, to perform abortions, it is wrong for a Jew or a Muslim to do so.   If Humanae Vitae tells us that contraception is wrong, then it is wrong for all, not just for Catholics. 

So, if you’re a Catholic who wants to follow the teachings of the Church, how should you vote?  Should you vote against Democrat and Republican politicians who do not favor pro-life legislation?   Should invoking Cardinal Bernadin’s  seamless garment” of Catholic Social Justice override considerations on the sanctity of life?   I know my own answers to these questions.  I’ll not presume to answer for you, the reader.

4

We are without shepherds: Ezekiel 34:1-11

The daily Mass reading for today, 22 August.   How appropriate!

¹And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.

The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.

And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.

My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.

Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord;

As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;

Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord;

10 Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.

11 For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.

—Ezekiel 34:1-11 (KJV)

5

A Letter for Our Time from St. Maxmilian Kolbe

Today, 14 August, is the Memorial Day for St. Maxmilian Kolbe.   He is the patron saint of addicts, and I have a special affection for him for this and his sacrifice at Auschwitz to save a man who had a family.  (Go here to read about his life.)  In the Office of Readings for today was an excerpt from one of his letters, a letter about “indifferentism” that seems appropriate for our times.   Here’s the first part:

“The burning zeal for God’s glory that motivates you fills my heart with joy. It is sad for us to see in our own time that indifferentism in its many forms is spreading like an epidemic not only among the laity but also among religious. [emphasis added] But God is worthy of glory beyond measure, and therefore it is of absolute and supreme importance to seek that glory with all the power of our feeble resources. Since we are mere creatures we can never return to him all that is his due. The most resplendent manifestation of God’s glory is the salvation of souls, whom Christ redeemed by shedding his blood. To work for the salvation and sanctification of as many souls as possible, therefore, is the preeminent purpose of the apostolic life. Let me, then, say a few words that may show the way toward achieving God’s glory and the sanctification of many souls.”

Go here for the rest.

2

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) on Faith and Reason

Today is the Memorial for St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a German Jewess who converted to Catholicism, became a Carmelite nun, and was gassed by the Nazis at Auschwitz.  Here’s a short biography.

Her thoughts on faith and reason came to mind today as I heard the  priest say a few words about her at the beginning of Mass (I’m quoting from “ESSAY 2: How We Believe…”

“St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) explored the relationship between philosophy and theology, or equivalently, between faith and reason. In her work, Finite and Eternal Being, she proposed a hierarchy, that faith went beyond rational knowledge:

‘Since the ultimate ground of all existence [alles Seienden] is unfathomable, everything which is seen in this ultimate perspective moves into that ‘dark light’ of faith, and everything intelligible is placed in a setting with an incomprehensible background.’
–St. Teresa Benedicta, “Finite and Eternal Being,” p.25

I’ll put this another way:  the fundamental question we ask is “Why are we here?”   Science might be able to say how our physical bodies came to be here, but science can’t answer the question: “Why did we come to be.   Science would respond: “that question is meaningless, can’t be answered by scientific methods.”  Only faith can give a satisfactory answer to that why question.”

6

An American Priest’s Despair

I want to recommend an article in Crisis, “Where are the Bishops who will defend faithful priests?” It’s an eloquent cry of despair by an anonymous priest who wonders why Bishops allow abuses of liturgy, sexual behavior, pastoral care, in order that the boat may not be rocked.

I can’t put it better than the article, so I’ll quote from the last paragraph:

“The corruption in the Church is real. I can tell you this, if you feel hurt or betrayed, please know that I do too. If you have been hurt by a priest such as me, who is well-intentioned but fallible, I implore your forgiveness and beg your mercy. If you have been hurt by the abusive behavior of a priest, words cannot express my sorrow. Please let us help you. I remain in the Church not because she is free of corruption, but because she preaches the Truth of Jesus Christ, the Truth that I know makes us free. He has promised that the gates of hell, let alone, human corruption will never prevail against her. Know that these truths, along with one other essential factor are what keep me doing what I do and enduring this nonsense.”

Go here for the article. Continue Reading

5

71 Accusations; How Many are Guilty?

This Sunday morning (5 August, 2018) our priest read a letter to the congration at Mass from the Very Reverend Ronald Gainer, Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.   The letter, giving the names of 71 male religious (priests, seminarians, deacons) accused of child molestation, has been widely reported in news media: see here for the pastoral letter, here for the press release, here for the list of accused religious, and here, here and here for online articles on this.  The letter precedes the release (blocked heretofore by order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court)  of a Grand Jury proceedings initiated by the Democratic Attorney-General, Josh Shapiro (but more of that below*).   Newspapers have anticipated this Grand Jury report with, shall we say, great expectations:

“The state Supreme Court disclosed recently that the grand jury had identified more than 300 “predator priests” in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including Pittsburgh. Those dioceses minister to more than 1.7 million Catholics. The 900-page report could be made public within days.”
—AP, in Philly.Com, August 4.

Before going further let me say first that this post is not going to be a defense of priests who are child molesters.  Nevertheless, it is a legal principle that a presumption of innocence is made until guilt is proved by trial or other legal action.  (Please correct me Don, if this isn’t so.)   And I am told by a lawyer friend that Grand Juries do not proceed this way;  those named in accusations are not allowed to speak in their defense, have legal aid or confront accusers.

If one examines the list and puts the accused into categories, the story becomes much less impressive than the tagline “71 predator priests” might imply.   Of those 71,

  • 10 are accused of multiple acts of indecent behavior and are alive;
  • 3 are accused of possessing child porn and are alive;
  • 4 are accused of a single act of indecent behavior and are alive;
  • 3 are accused of inappropriate behavior (kissing) or inappropriate communications and are alive;
  • the remaining 51  either died after the accusations were made, were accused after they died,  or were accused in other dioceses, but not in Harrisburg (the point being that there is no way to validate the truth of these accusations).

Let me also add that these accusations go back to 1947.    There are currently (if I’ve counted correctly) 270 priests in the Harrisburg Diocese, including retired.   If I assume an attrition and replacement rate of 5 per  year (that’s conservative), that corresponds to about 600 priests serving during 1947-2017.   So dividing (10+3+4+3) by 600 gives a percentage of about 3%, if one assumes that each of the accused was guilty.   Is this  percentage higher than it would be, say, in the Anglican Church, or amongst male teachers in the public schools?

To my knowledge, the Diocese—even before Bishop Gainer’s tenure—has been scrupulous in removing priests from duty when acknowledged acts of indecent behavior have been made.   One priest, a Vicar in a neighboring parish, was removed from duty (and not put elsewhere in the Diocese) after a proven accusation of misbehavior in another diocese had been made.

I want to emphasize again that we want 0% of inappropriate behavior; we want our children to be safe.   But we want them to be safe not only in our Churches, but in our schools and on the streets.   I can tell horror stories of boys corrupted by a local basketball coach, and one remembers the Penn State football assistant coach.   Let’s not make a blanket assumption that the priesthood has been totally corrupted because of headlines engendered by a political opportunist.

*Josh Shapiro is the second Democrat to hold the office of Attorney-General in Pennsylvania after a long line of Republicans (the first is awaiting jail after being convicted of malfeasance in office).   The office is regarded as a stepping stone to the Governorship and Shapiro owes a debt to left-liberal organizations that helped put him in office.  His letter to Pope Francis was published in our local paper today: he requested that the Pope intervene to help publicize the Grand Jury verdict.  As my wife put it, “I wonder what those two ___ make of each other.”

 

7

Another Perspective on the Helsinki Meeting

Like Donald McCleary, I was much distressed by Trump’s press conference remarks after the Helsinki conference with Putin.  After reading David Goldman’s (“Spengler”) article in PJ Media, I wonder whether Trump may be more subtle and knowledgeable than I had thought (and, let me add, I was a Never Trumper until that final moment in the voting booth).   What Goldman is saying, I believe, is that US foreign policy with respect to Russia has gone awry over the last 20 years.   And he speaks as a former neo-con.

“President Trump offended the entire political spectrum with a tweet this morning blaming the U.S. for poor relations with Russia. “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity,” the president said, and he is entirely correct. By this I do not mean to say that Russia is a beneficent actor in world affairs or that President Putin is an admirable world leader. Nonetheless, the president displayed both perspicacity and political courage when he pointed the finger at the United States for mismanaging the relationship with Russia.

Full disclosure: I was a card-carrying member of the neoconservative cabal that planned to bring Western-style democracy and free markets to Russia after the fall of Communism. As chief economist for the supply-side consulting firm Polyconomics, I got an appointment as an adviser to Boris Yeltsin’s finance ministry and made several trips to Moscow. Of course, the finance ministry really was a family office for Yeltsin’s oligarch friends, who were too busy stealing Russia’s economy to listen to advice. The experience cured me of the neoconservative delusion that democracy and free markets are the natural order of things.

Unfortunately, the delusion that the United States would remake Russia in its own image persisted through the Bush and Obama administrations. I have no reason to doubt the allegations that a dozen Russian intelligence officers meddled in the U.S. elections of 2016, but this was equivalent of a fraternity prank compared to America’s longstanding efforts to intervene in Russian politics.

The United States supported the 2014 Maidan uprising in Ukraine and the overthrow of the Yanukovych government in the hope of repeating the exercise in Moscow sometime later. Then-Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland pulled whatever strings America had to replace the feckless and corrupt Victor Yanukovych with a government hostile to the Kremlin. She didn’t say it in so many words, but she hoped the Ukraine coup would lead to the overthrow of Vladimir Putin. Evidently Nuland and her boss, Hillary Clinton, thought that the Ukraine coup would deprive Russia of its Black Sea naval base in Crimea, and did not anticipate that Russia simply would annex an old Russian province that belonged to Ukraine by historical accident.

At the time, liberal opinion evanesced with the notion that Moscow would follow Maidan. The Christian Science Monitor reported in February 2014:

Some in Russia’s liberal community see in the Maidan a hope that the Kremlin, no matter how solid it looks, could one day crack under similar popular pressure. “What we are seeing in Ukraine is the realization of the Ukrainian people’s aspiration for democracy, of the right to revolt,” says Sergei Davidis, a board member of Solidarnost, a liberal opposition coalition. “It doesn’t mean we’re ready to follow that example. Russian conditions are different. But in the long run, as the contradictions pile up, we may well come to the same pass and find ourselves with no alternatives but the Ukrainian one.”

Of course, no such thing occurred.

The Maidan coup was the second American attempt to install a Ukrainian government hostile to Moscow; the first occurred in 2004, when Condoleezza Rice was secretary of State rather than Hillary Clinton. As I wrote in Asia Times a decade ago, “On the night of November 22, 2004, then-Russian president – now premier – Vladimir Putin watched the television news in his dacha near Moscow. People who were with Putin that night report his anger and disbelief at the unfolding ‘Orange’ revolution in Ukraine. ‘They lied to me,’ Putin said bitterly of the United States. ‘I’ll never trust them again.’ The Russians still can’t fathom why the West threw over a potential strategic alliance for Ukraine. They underestimate the stupidity of the West.”

Go here for the rest.

I expect there  will be a lot of flack in response to this post; let me say that I’m still ruminating on Goldman’s article,  trying to see whether it’s an apology for a tyrant or an attempt to look at foreign policy realistically.  He does mention at the end we should make a super effort to surpass Russia defensive efforts against missiles.
17

If God can build a wall, why can’t we?

The diagram above is that of an animal cell.  I want to talk about the wall of that cell, the cell membrane,  designed by God:

  • to keep good stuff inside the cell;
  • to keep bad stuff outside the cell;
  • to manage traffic for necessary supplies to come inside the cell;
  • to manage traffic for stuff the cell wants to export to the outside, the organism.

If any of you readers see a parallel between the cell wall (shown in more detail below) and the projected wall that President Trump wants to build on our southern border, good on you!  Here’s a diagram of that cell wall, a phospholipid bilayer:

cell membrane diagram; note the phospholipid bilayer, the channels and gates composed of proteins and the guard proteins on the cell wall.
from Wikimedia Commons

There are sentinels and guards on the wall, proteins to act as immune agents;  there are protein channels, gates designed to let the good stuff in and the bad stuff out.

Hey—isn’t that just what a wall on our country’s borders should do?   And if God can design a cell with those functions for molecular biology, what’s wrong with us doing a similar thing for our country?

NOTE

This is a topic not covered in my latest essay (pardon the shameless plug), “Are We Special—The Anthropic Coincidences,” but a lot of other topics in cosmology, laws of physics, earth and planetary sciences, and molecular biology are.

2

How Science Works–Some Case Studies*

“Man is not born to solve the problem of the universe, but to find out where the problem begins and then restrain himself within the limits of the comprehensible.”
—J.W. von Goethe, as quoted in The Homiletic Review”

Many leftists complain that conservatives/Republicans/Trump followers are “anti-science.”  I am puzzled by this, since most of the complainants are scientific illiterates and innumerates (e.g. Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and-alas-some in the Catholic hierarchy).   In a spirit of “educate your enemies,” I thought to proffer an article on how science does work, so that these advocates might then give more constructive criticisms.

The Lakatos “Research Programme” for Science

If you were to do a man-in-the-street survey, asking “How does science work?” you’ll get many different answers.  Here are some from an adult education class I taught on “Science and the Church” (actually, I supplied the last two answers):

  • Finding theories to explain everything;
  • Formulating a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis by experiment;
  • Finding an unusual experimental result, formulating a theory to explain the result;
  • Finding a theory that will explain a body of experimental knowledge;
  • Finding theories that could be proved false by suitable experiments;
  • Finding which theories are the most elegant and are also consistent with experimental results;
  • Depends on a scientist’s presuppositions and assumptions;
  • Is “reductionist”, i.e. attempts to reduce phenomena and the objects comprising these phenomena to the smallest components and the scientific laws governing the action of these components: for example, intelligence can be reduced to biochemical and electrical events on the molecular level;
  • Establishes a research program consisting of a network of hypotheses and experimental data: core theory, based on inner core principles, linked to secondary theories and results (Lakatos’ scientific research programme—see below).

The correct answer is “all the above,” depending on the scientist and his/her research focus.  However, I believe the last answer, the Lakatos Scientific Research Program,, illustrated in the feature image, gives the best, the most complete description of how science is carried out.  This  “Scientific Research Programme” can be thought of as a sphere:

  •  An inner core of fundamental principles--not theories, but principles to which theories have to adhere; these principles are assumed, because they seem obvious and confirmed generally by our experience:  for example, The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. But, as we’ll see below, there are  occasions when these fundamental principles are modified or violated.
  • A shell of primary or fundamental theoriessurrounds this core of fundamental principles (e.g. thermodynamics, general relativity, quantum mechanics).
  • Other shells representing auxiliary theoriessurround this shell of fundamental theories; such auxiliary theories are derived from the primary theories and other auxiliary theories; MRI, chemical bonding, heat transfer are examples of  such auxiliary theories.
  • Finally  there is an outermost shell of experimental facts or data.   The interplay between the shells and core that shows how science works is described in the diagram below and illustrated  below by several examples.

In this diagram the inner core principles are linked to fundamental and auxiliary theories, as shown by the black arrows.   There is feedback from data to theories,  as shown by the red arrows.   There is even feedback from data and fundamental theories to inner core principles, as shown by the red arrows.

Examples of how the Lakatos scheme works are given below.

HOW DOES SCIENCE WORK?  CASE STUDIES

History of  Thermodynamics: Count Rumford: Cannon Boring —> Heat Not Conserved.

Count Rumford’s Cannon-Boring Experiment–Making Water Boil

In 1798 Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, submitted a  paper to the Royal Society about his experiments in which boring a cannon could make water boil, and boring with a blunt instrument produced more heat than with a sharp one (more friction with the blunt).     The experiments showed that  repeated boring on the same cannon continued to produce heat, so clearly heat was not conserved and therefore could not be a material substance.

This experiment disproved the then prevalent theory of heat, that it was a fluid transmitted from one thing to another, “the caloric.”  The results validated another theory of heat, the kinetic theory,in which heat was due to the motion of atoms and molecules. However the kinetic theory, despite Rumford’s groundbreaking experiment, still did not hold sway until years later, after James Joule showed in 1845 that work could be quantitatively converted into heat.

History of Thermodynamics: James Joule: Work—>Heat

Diagram of Joule’s Apparatus for Measuring the Mechanical Equivalent of Heat
from Wikimedia Commons

As the weight falls, the potential energy of the weight is converted into work done (a paddle stirs the water in the container against a frictional force due to water viscosity).   The temperature rise corresponding to a given fall of weights (work done) yields the amount of heat rise (in calories) of the known mass of water.   Since the temperature rise is very small, the measurements have to be very accurate.

It took 30 to 50 years after Joule’s definitive experiment (and subsequent refinements and repetitions) for the kinetic theory of heat—heat caused by random, irregular motion of atoms and molecules–to be fully accepted by the scientific community.   James Clerk Maxwell published in 1871 a paper,  “Theory of Heat”. This comprehensive treatise and advances in thermodynamics convinced scientists  finally to accept that heat was a form of energy related to the kinetic energy (the energy of motion) of the atoms and molecules in a substance.

Contemporary Science: Experimental Tests of Fundamental Theories

Links are given below to examples of modern experimental tests of  ground-breaking primary and secondary theories in various fields of science.  (Some are discussed below in more detail and in other Essays.)

HOW DOES SCIENCE WORK? APPLYING THE LAKATOS SCHEME

Rumford and Joule’s  Experiments on Heat and Work

The core principle involved in the caloric theory of heat was the conservation of caloric (since it was a substance).  Count Rumford’s cannon-boring experiments showed that the more the cannon was bored, the more heat was produced;  therefore the supply of heat in the cannon was inexhaustible and clearly not conserved. A core principle involved in Joule’s experiment is the First Law of Thermodynamics:  conservation of energy, with heat and work as forms of energy.   Note that this conservation principle is linked to the fundamental theory of thermodynamics developed in the middle of the 19th century  and earlier, theories of classical mechanics developed in the 18th century and early 19th century.

Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and General Theory of Relativity

Einstein’s two theories of relativity are  striking examples of how theory influences  fundamental principle (the red arrow), or perhaps more accurately, how fundamental principles are proposed as a basis for general theories.  His theory, special relativity, introduced the following new general principles:

  • the laws of physics are the same for systems (“frames of reference”) moving at constant velocity (i.e. “inertial systems”);
  • the speed of light (in vacuum) is constant, regardless of the speed of source or receiver;
  • neither energy nor mass is conserved but only mass + energy (from E= mc²)

His general relativity theory introduced the “equivalence principle“, that inertial and gravitational mass are the same.   In every-day terms, this principle says that a person (mass m) in an elevator accelerating upward experiences a force holding him to the floor due to earth’s gravitation, mg, plus a force due to the acceleration of the elevator, ma. This is the same force that the person would experience on a planet where the gravitational acceleration would correspond  to g+a, or in a spaceship accelerating at a rate g+a.  (See Science Background—Physics of Motion,for more about force and acceleration.)

Recently Einstein’s Theory of general relativity has been confirmed again from LIGO measurements of gravity waves.  See “Peeling Back the Onion Layers—Gravitational Waves Detected”for a more detailed account.

Is Parity Conserved?  Right- and Left-handedness

Left- and right-handed molecules (chiral molecules). These amino acids are mirror images of each other. from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Parity refers to mirror symmetry.  For example,  many organic molecules are either right- or left-handed  (see the illustration above of two amino acids, constituents of proteins:  COOH is the organic acid group, NH2 is an amino group, C is the central carbon, R represents a general group attached to the carbon). Now biological molecules can be chiral either as a whole, or with respect to the constituent parts.  For example, amino acids found in nature are left-handed;  sugars found in nature are right-handed;  DNA as a whole has a right-handed spiral (helix).    The question of why only one kind of handedness for biological molecules came about has fascinated chemists and biologists since the time of Pasteur 150 years ago.  There arerecent theoriesto explain this, but they are to some extent conjectural

Conservation of parity (handedness) had been a fundamental principle of physics  until the late 1950’s, when a proposal to test it for nuclear weak force interactions–e,g, beta decay of Co-60 nuclei–showed that it was violated.  (See here for an expanded story.)   Since that time a conservation principle, CPT symmetry, linking parity (P) with charge (C) and time reversal (T) has been found to hold.

5

Rational Inquiry

INTRODUCTION

As the Monte Python intro goes, “And now for something completely different!” This is an excerpt from “ESSAY 2: How We Believe; How Science Works” in my web-book, “Truth Cannot Contradict Truth”.  This section covers “Rational Inquiry.” The other sections cover “Faith and Reason,” “How Science Works,” “The Limits of Science—What Science Can’t Do.”   And forgive this shameless plug, but I’m trying to get some readership and comments (please oblige).

DEDUCTIVE LOGIC

“’Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’”
—Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking-Glass”

Venn Diagrams to Understand Logic: The Rule of Opposition. Black Areas: area is empty; Red Areas: at least one element in area  (Faded Redapplies only in classical logic, i.e. for non-empty areas.)
From Wikimedia Commons

Syllogisms and Venn Diagrams

One way of knowing other than by faith/revelation is by deduction, drawing conclusions from propositions we believe to be true (“premises”), using logical procedures first set up by Aristotle–going from the general to the specific.  Here’s an example (with apologies to Gelett Burgess), a “syllogism”:

Major Premise: All cows are purple.
Minor Premise: This animal is a cow.
Conclusion: This animal is purple.

If you know the premises to be true, then the conclusion is true. If the premises aren’t generally true (as in this example), then the conclusion may or may not be true. For example, you could paint a cow purple, or it could be a mutation.

Note the difference between the syllogism above and the one below:

Major Premise: All cows are purple.
Minor Premise: This animal is purple.
Conclusion: This animal is a cow.

There are animals that are not cows that are purple, for example, purple frogs;  therefore the conclusion is false.  Note: if the Major Premise was stated as “Only cows are purple,” then the conclusion would be true.   This kind of logical fallacy is called “affirming the consequent.

Venn diagrams can help us understand logic problems, as shown in the diagram above, where several types of logical propositions are classified according to the corresponding Venn diagram.¹

“Complicated” Deductive Logic, “Sorites”

Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll, author of the Alice books), an Oxford academic, gave us many amusing and complicated puzzles that mixed his love of nonsense and logic. (These “polysyllogisms” are termed “sorites.”)   Some of Carroll’s logical puzzles were exceedingly complicated, involving many statements and logical variables. Here’s a relatively simple one:

1. All babies are illogical.
2. Nobody is despised who can manage a crocodile.
3. Illogical persons are despised.

We combine 1 and 3 to give

4. All babies are despised.

Then 4 and the contrapositive² of 2 can be combined to yield

5. No baby can manage a crocodile.

Here’s another example by Alex Bellos, given in the Guardian, with its solution:

“The only people in the cereal cafe are from Stoke.

Every person would make a great Uber driver, if he or she is not allergic to gluten.

When I love someone, I avoid them.

No one is a werewolf, unless they have orange skin and blond hair.

No one from Stoke fails to Instagram their breakfast.

No one ever asks me whether I prefer Wills to Harry, except the people in the cereal cafe.

People from Thanet wouldn’t make great Uber drivers.

None but werewolves Instagram their breakfast.

The people I love are the ones who do not ask me whether I prefer Wills to Harry.

People with orange skin and blond hair are not allergic to gluten.”

Such complicated problems often may require computer methods for their solution.  Some of the statements (premises) may be redundant and some may be contradictory.   The type of analysis required to make sure that none of the statements are contradictory, so that no paradoxes will occur, is a sub-discipline in mathematical logic, “satisfiability theory”.

Certainly the deductive method should yield propositions which are either true or false.  Not so!  There are uncertainties, paradoxes, in logical deduction, which is the topic we’ll look at next

Some Logical Paradoxes

“A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox!”
–Gilbert & Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance

Can deductive logic always yield an unambiguous true or false set of  propositions?   In his very fine book, Labyrinths of Reason,  William Poundstone gives examples of logical paradoxes  for which it is difficult to make a truth judgment. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Cretan Liar paradox (see Star Trek, Fooling the Androids Episode):

Epimenides the Cretan says, ‘All Cretans are liars.'”

Question: Is this statement true or false? If it is true, then Epimenides is a liar, but if Epimenides is a liar, how can his statement be true?

There is also the barber paradox,

The barber is a man in town who shaves all those, and only those, men in town who do not shave themselves.

Question: Who shaves the barber? If the barber doesn’t shave himself, according to the statement he does shave himself…

Both paradoxes invoke self-reference, whence the paradox.    Bertrand Russell attempted to deal with the problem of self-reference by his “Theory of Types,” which sets up a hierarchy of statements, i.e. statements about statements, statements about (statements about statements), etc.

Let’s look next at another rational path, induction or inductive reasoning. The results aren’t as sure, but it still is a basic route to judgment in law, science and everyday life.

INDUCTIVE REASONING

“The deductive method is the mode of using knowledge, and the inductive method the mode of acquiring it.”
—Henry Mayhew,  nineteenth century British Journalist,

Induction is generally regarded as proceeding from particular instances or events to a general conclusion.   (I’m not referring in this context to the mathematical method of proof.)   Here’s an example.

BEE WAGGLE DANCE:
DISTANCE—How long the waggles occur gives the distance of the flowers;
DIRECTION—Where the bee points shows the direction;
from Wikimedia Commons

A naturalist notices that bees move their rear end back and forth in a special way—”dance”–after they have been gathering nectar from a certain group of flowers.  The dance is the same for a given group of flowers.   The naturalist concludes that this bee-dancing is a communication to other bees about the location of the flowers and receives a Nobel Prize. (We’ll see below that science is generally more than collecting data and making inferences.)

Here’s a neat video of bees doing the waggle dance.

There are methods of assessing inductive reasoning propositions by means of probability statements, strength of belief quantification, and by Bayesian probability analysis.

ABDUCTIVE REASONING—INFERENCE TO THE BEST EXPLANATION (IBE)

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
–Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of the Four, Chapter 6.

One of the best known examples of abductive reasoning is given in the quotation above and indicated by its commonly used name, “Inference to the Best Explanation”or “IBE.”  IBE uses given data to infer the most likely explanation of a past event that could have caused the data. It is commonly used in the so-called “historical sciences” (geology, paleontology, cosmology) for which laboratory experiments aren’t in order.

Here’s an everyday example adapted from one given in Stephen Meyer’s book about Intelligent Design,The Signature in the Cell:

You look out your window and note that your driveway is wet; three possible explanations occur to you: it has rained, the sprinkler has been set so that it also wets the driveway, your car has been washed. You notice that neither the street nor your lawn are wet, so you conclude that the third explanation—your car has been washed—is the correct one. A pail of water beside your car is confirmatory evidence for that conclusion.

Some philosophers of science put down IBE as lacking certainty and leading to false conclusions. In the past theories proposed as best explanations have turned out to be duds: caloric fluid for heat, ether as a medium for electromagnetic waves. However, it should be kept in mind that these theories were disproved by additional empirical evidence: caloric fluid by Count Rumford’s cannon-boring experiments, the ether by the Michelson-Morley experiments.

RETRODUCTIVE REASONING

“In a retroduction, the scientist proposes a model whose properties allow it to account for the phenomena singled out for explanation. Appraisal of the model is a complex affair, involving criteria such as coherence and fertility, as well as adequacy in accounting for the data. The theoretical constructs employed in the model may be of a kind already familiar (such as “mountain” and “sea” in Galileo’s moon model) or they may be created by the scientist specifically for the case at hand (such as “galaxy,” “gene,” or “molecule”).”
–Ernan McMullin, “A Case for Scientific Realism”

Retroductive reasoning is commonly used by scientists to explain phenomena by a familiar model. A very early example is that in which Galileo proposed that the moon had seas and mountains on it just as does the earth, in order to explain the differing patterns of light and dark on the moon at different orientations with respect to the sun.

“Galileo’s Moon Sketches; red arrows show different shadows and light, depending on the direction of sunlight; these light and shadow patterns suggest the presence of mountains and craters.
Modified from Wikimedia Commons

An example from contemporary molecular physics is the model used to describe molecular vibrations (nuclei in a molecule vibrating back and forth): a weight attached to a spring, vibrating back and forth, the so-called “harmonic oscillator.”

Vibrating Molecule:
red ball represents bromine,
white balls, hyrdogen;
black ball, carbon
from Wikimedia commons

 

 

Model for vibrating molecules: a harmonic oscillator, a weight attached to a spring.
From Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES

¹To make this example concrete, let “S  stand for “cows” and “P” for “purple animals.”  Accordingly, the “SaP” proposition is “All cows are purple (animals);” the white space means some purple animals are not cows and the black space means there aren’t any cows that aren’t purple.   The “SeP” proposition is “No cow is purple;”  the black space where the two circles overlap shows that there aren’t any animals that are both purple and a cow. The “SiP” proposition is “Some cows are purple;” there are cows that are not purple (white space in the “S” circle) and cows that are purple (red space where the S and P circles overlap) and purple animals that are not cows (white space in the P circle).  The SoP proposition is “Some cows are not purple (animals);” the red space of the S circle.  You can see (I hope) that the major premise of both syllogisms corresponds to SaP, and since there is a white space in the P circle (purple animals), there are some purple animals that aren’t cows, so the second syllogism can’t be true.

²The contrapositive of a logical statement just switches the hypothesis (premise) and conclusion of the statement and negates both.  We can write the statement symbolically as A>B, (meaning “if the hypothesis A is true, then the conclusion B is true,”); then the contrapositive of that statement would be written symbolically as NotB>NotA, (meaning that if the negation of B is true, then the negation of A is true).   For example, going to the first syllogism above,

A; this animal is a cow (minor premise);
B: this animal is purple (conclusion);

 would correspond to

“If this animal is a cow, then this animal is purple” (true if the major premise of the syllogism, “all cows are purple,” were true).

The contrapositive would be

NotB: this animal is not purple (contrapositive premise);
NotA: this animal is not a cow (contrapositive conclusion),

which corresponds to

“If this animal is not purple, then this animal is not a cow.”

24

Hooray! Colorado Baker wins Supreme Court Decision

Good news (for once) from the Supreme Court, which decided (7-2) in favor of the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple  in 2012.

If you read the CNA-EWTN story about this (see here) it seems to rest on the Court’s support of an artist’s freedom to choose what and how he will express himself.  If you read the Fox News story (see here) the Court’s decision was based more on a technicality than the broad issue of religious freedom:  a principal argument for the baker was that members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission made statements derogatory of the baker’s religious belief.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Kennedy (the fence-sitter) with Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayer dissenting (a not-unexpected dissent).   Justice Thomas concurred in the decision but wrote a dissenting opinion.

So, while we can be grateful for the decision, it does not seem to give a decisive step forward for freedom of relgious expression, that is to say:  does that state still have the right to over-rule freedom of conscience?  I’ll be interested to see what the legal beagles have to say about this.

 

9

How Did Life Begin?

“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.” 
― Francis Crick, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature

INTRODUCTION

Here’s a question preliminary to what evolution is all about:

“How did life on earth begin some 3.6 billion years  or more ago?”

And the answer would be

“We don’t really know.” 

There are a variety of theories—one might better call them speculations—but until a model is produced that can be empirically verified, it will remain a mystery.   I won’t explore this topic fully here—it would take a book—but links are given to articles that develop the various models.

The problem in establishing a theory of how life began is that the constituents of life are are large, complicated molecules:  DNA, RNA (nucleic acid chains), proteins (amino acid chains), membranes (phospholipid chains).    So one not only has to wonder how the constituent  molecules—nucleic acids, amino acids, phospholipids—were obtained from primitive chemicals in the early earth, but how these molecules were assembled into the complicated large, macromolecules that are the building blocks of cellular life.

There are various speculations—theories, if you will—about the origin of life on earth that are chemically based.    I’ll summarize some of them below very briefly.   For a more extended discussion, the Wikipedia article on abiogenesis1 is a good starting point.

CHEMICAL MODELS FOR ABIOGENESIS¹

In taking stock of these these theories, one should note that the atmosphere of the very early earth lacked oxygen (thus organic molecules then would not react and decompose) and was probably rich in two nitrogen containing molecules, HCN (cyanic acid) and NH3(ammonia),  as building blocks for amino acids.

  • Primordial Soup:  the early oceans were warm and full of chemicals; these reacted after sufficient time to form the building blocks and then the long chains (improbable reactions, but remember there was a long time for the pot to cook);
  • Electrical Synthesis:  the building block molecules were formed by electrical discharge—lightning—acting on simple nitrogen containing molecules;
  • Clay/Silicate  Template: the building block molecules and long chain molecules were formed by surface reactions on clay or silicates, which set structures and catalyzed the reaction;
  • Undersea Hot Mineral Vents: hot undersea volcanic vents provided high temperatures to accelerate reactions, minerals to act as catalysts, and lots of inorganic and organic compounds as building blocks
  • Panspermia:  the building block molecules came from outer space, either planted deliberately by aliens, or by chance from meteors, comets or cosmic dust;  the question then is, from where did these chemicals or aliens originate?

SPONTANEOUS SELF-ORGANIZATION

There are other models, which are based on spontaneous self-organization, derived either from a theory of autocatalytic sets (Stuart Kauffman) or from principles of irreversible thermodynamics (Jeremy EnglandIlya Prigogine ).

pastedGraphic.png
Example of spontaneous self-organization:
milk rings formed in coffee mug left in refrigerator

One primitive example of spontaneous self-organization is shown in the image above.  It is an example of smoke rings or, more technically, “vortex rings”.

The origin-of-life theories referred to above are interesting, albeit speculative since they have not yet been subjected to detailed analysis and empirical proof.

Nevertheless, it is hard to disagree with the generalization of the Noble Prize winner, Ilya Prigogine:

“We know today that both the biosphere as a whole as well as its components, living or dead, exist in far-from-equilibrium conditions.  In this context, life, far from being outside the natural order, appears as the supreme expression of the self-organizing processes that occur.”
—Ilya Prigogine, Order out of Chaos, p. 175

FINAL THOUGHTS 

It appears, as the opening quote suggests, that the origin of life is clouded in several mysteries:

  • First, how were the building blocks of life–amino acids, nucleic acids, phospholipid chains–formed?
  • Second, how did these building blocks assemble into the biological polymers–proteins, DNA, RNA, membranes?
  • Third, how did these assembled polymers come together to form primitive cells?

The likelihood of these events having occurred randomly seems very small, but there was indeed a very long time, over a billion years, over which they could occur.

I believe a more likely explanation is that a teleological principle–purpose–is at work, as proposed by the philosopher Thomas Nagel  in his book Mind and Cosmos.   Unlike Nagel (a confirmed atheist), I believe this purpose is achieved by God, using either little nudges at appropriate instances, or by some general mechanism He installs at the beginning, unknown to us now. and possibly forever.  Perhaps Scripture is a better guide than science here.

“I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.”  
—Isaiah 45:12 (KJV)

The evidence for Creation by God, both of the universe and of life, is not given here;  however arguments for this are given elsewhere—see, for example:   God’s Periodic Table and Evolution; Are We Special? The Anthropic Principle; God’s Gift to Molecular Biology: the Hydrogen Bond.

It takes an effort of will and considerable bias to deny the evidence that God, not aliens or random meaningless actions, created life.

NOTE

1 “Abiogenesis” means generation of life from inorganic or inanimate substances.

7

Bring Back the Times of Civil Discourse;
C.P. Snow Revisited

INTRODUCTION

I am greatly distressed that one’s friends are now limited (for many of us) to those who hold the same political and religious views.   At our semi-annual family gatherings politics is verboten as a conversation topic:  my children span the political spectrum from Alinskyite organizer through NY Times left/liberal to Tea Party right.   I have lost one Catholic college friend and colleague who supported Obama and all the Democrats despite their pro-abortion policies  (and this was before Trump!)

As I  engaged in one of my periodic escapes from the real world—rereading multi-volume chronicles of heroes, villains and families:  most recently, C.P. Snow’s “Strangers and Brothers“—a longing for older times hit me, a time before the student and black riots of the 1960’s, when you could engage in civil discourse with those on the other side of the political fence.

The divide began in the 1960’s.  It was then when I began my conversion from a NY Times liberal–a student campaigner for Adlai Stevenson–to a conservative: when the mob of students at SUNY/AB marched through my quantum mechanics class, when I went through the burnt remains of the Faculty Club building, when I listened to radical  faculty talking nonsense and evil at meetings  held to resolve the student protests.   And it was before the 1960’s and the Viet Nam war that C.P. Snow’s novels of politics, science and human relations were set.

ABOUT C.P. SNOW AND HIS SAGA

Here’s some background for those of you unfamiliar with C.P. Snow and his works.  He was a British author and political figure, converted from science, who gave us these two phrases headlining our times: “Corridors of Power,” the title of a novel that told of the intermingled worlds of politics and science;  and “The Two Cultures,” a phrase describing the gulf between the humanistic and technological cultures.   Here’s a relevant quote:

A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?
—C.P. Snow, “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution”

The series recounts the journey of a talented English lad, Lewis Eliot, from his lower middle-class origins to a position of power and influence in British politics and academic affairs.  The story parallels Snow’s own career, from science into government and thence writing.   In his journey Eliot encounters a full spectrum of British society, from the snobbish Lord Boscastle—he dismisses the newly entitled (those with titles less that 400 years old) with “I don’t really know that fellow”—to an unbelieving Anglo-Catholic priest—he ministers to the poor and fallen from grace while trying to find evidence for the existence of God.

The characters in Snow’s chronicle have political beliefs covering the full range from left to right.  Their religious beliefs, which correlated with the political, also run the gamut, from evangelical atheism through polite non-belief to devout faith.  The friendships of Lewis Eliot (C.P. Snow’s alter-ego?) span political and religious divides:  proto-Communists, radicals, aristocrats, pillars of the Anglican Church and Conservative party.    And such cross-party friendships and relations were not unique to Eliot.   In the novels they were the rule, rather than the exception.  And I think one can assume the novels mirrored the times accurately.

SO, WHY CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS WITH ATHEISTS AND LEFTISTS?

The question remains, why can’t we now have friendly exchanges of views with those on the other side of the political divide?   Why does correct thinking in politics have to be essential for friendly relations?   There is a Fox TV show, “The Five,” with four conservative (of various degrees) panelists and one token conservative, Juan Williams.  The exchanges between Williams and his fellow panelists have occoasionally become heated, but they have always been civil, and one can see that the panelists respect each other, despite political differences.

In other times a hard conservative, William Buckley, Jr., and a flaming socialist, Michael Harrington, could meet over a glass of wine and haute cuisine and discuss the logic of conservatism or the compassion of socialism.  That couldn’t happen now.   Should we wish that it could?  I think so.

 

2

“In Honor of Our Fallen Heroes”

I was privileged to receive the email below from Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, which contained a video, “In Honor of our  Fallen Heroes.”  On this Memorial Day, it deserves our attention.  It’s not a YouTube video, so I can’t embed, but please go to the linked web-page.

“This Memorial Day, we remember those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who are grieving. May we, as Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, ‘highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’

In honor of our fallen heroes, I invite you to watch this tribute featuring the Hillsdale College Choir singing “Mansions of the Lord”: http://lp.hillsdale.edu/memorial-day.”

19

Artificial Intelligence and the Vatican;
The Vision of Science-fiction*

“… Catholic teaching has more definite things to say about ensoulment and what the soul is than do science and philosophy. There is much disagreement amongst the advocates of AI and philosophers about who and what might be endowed with consciousness and real intelligence, much less who or what might be given a soul.”
—Robert Kurland,   “Can Computers Have a Soul?”

INTRODUCTION

Here’s an  article about the Vatican using artificial itelligence (AI) techniques to reproduce ancient articles—written in Gothic and Medieval scripts—in its secret archives.  The techniques modify conventional OCR (Optical Character Recognition) methods to recognize script characters (which are really jazzed up in these manuscripts).   There is no real “artificial intelligence” involved, since the heuristics are set forth by the programmers, and not independently composed by the OCR program.

Nevertheless, the age of AI is upon us, and as in other frontier areas of Catholic Doctrine, we might expect a forthcoming Encyclical “de Animis Intelligentiarum Artificiosarum” (“about the Souls of Artificial Intelligences”) in the not too distant future, among other surprising Encyclicals that have appeared.   I’m not sure what might be in such an encyclical, although I’ve written about AI ensoulment in the article linked in the opening quote.  However, what I think may not agree with what our Holy Father has to say.

And, since I don’t really have any idea of what Pope Francis might think about the ensoulment of AI devices,  let’s examine what science-fiction has to say.  The linked article has a section on science fiction stories about AI and the Catholic Church, so I won’t repeat that discussion here.  Rather, let’s see what this literary genre (which has often predicted the future) says in general about the Catholic Church.  Maybe this will enable us to get a glimplse of what would be in an Encyclical about the souls of artificial intelligences.

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND SCIENCE-FICTION**

Science-fiction authors have not always treated the Church kindly.  I recall one story by George R.R. Martin (yes, the author of “Games of Thrones”), The Way of Cross and Dragon, in which the bishop on an extrasolar planet is a cephalopod.  This bishop sends a Jesuit Inquisitor to deal with a heresy, a planet where a religion of “Liars” follow a fake gospel of  Judas Iscariot.  The Jesuit deals with the heresy but in doing so, loses his faith, realizing (in the story) that he too is a Liar.

In another story, “Good News from the Vatican,”  a robot is elected as Pope (many of the College of Cardinals are robots).   The newly elected Pope Sixtus  chooses a new motto, “orbi et urbi et digiti,” and at the end of his (its?) welcoming address, blesses the people while ascending into heaven by attached jets.

There are  other novels and stories equally disdainful of the Church.  Perhaps this antagonism stems from Catholic teaching looking backward in time, to Revelation and Tradition,  whereas science fiction looks to the future:

SF [science fiction] frequently argues that if organized religion is to be a positive force in the future of humankind, it must change drastically to meet the spiritual challenges of the future.”
Gabriel McKee, The Gospel According to Science Fiction, p. 183

Perhaps Pope Francis, unbeknownst to us, has read about this challenge posed by science fiction and is attempting to accommodate Catholic teaching to what’s happening NOW.  We should not be surprised, therefore, if an Encyclical is forthcoming about the souls of artificial intelligences, and perhaps some robot, martyred by Catholic zealots, is beatified.

NOTES

*For those of you too  young to recognize what the red orb in the image is, it’s the “eye” of HAL 9000, the psychotic artificial intelligence in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”  The Latin for the forthcoming Papal Encyclical is the best I could do, recalling two years of high school Latin and searching the web to find endings for feminine, genitive, plural nouns and adjectives.

**Here are several articles, containing references, on the theology of science-fiction:

I. Some SF Gospels;
II. Paradise Not Lost?
III. Does Data Have a Soul?
IV. End Times
V.  Genesis and Darwin’s Radio

7

“Truth Cannot Contradict Truth”
All about Science and the Church

Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.”  St. John Paul II, Letter to Rev. George Coyne, S.J., Director of the Vatican Observatory.

 

The video above, “From the Big Bang to Hubble,” is put out by EESA (the European Space Agency) and is featured, among other bells and whistles, on the home page of my new web-book “Truth Cannot Contradict Truth.   Here’s what I’m trying to do with this, as set forth in the Preface:

What!—another book about science and the Catholic Church; who needs it?”

That was the question I asked myself as I thought about writing this ebook. Six months earlier I had published an ebook about science and Catholic teaching; “Science versus the Church—‘Truth Cannot Contradict Truth’”. I wrote it to demonstrate that there was no conflict between what science truly told us about the world and Catholic teaching. A few months after that, a very fine book (hard-copy) “Particles of Faith” by Stacey Trasancos came out, with the same goal and theme. And some 14 years ago, a classic work by Stephen Barr, “Modern Physics and Ancient Faith” had appeared, to mention just a few titles.

Well, here was the problem: I had taught several adult education courses on science and Catholic teaching for the Diocese of Harrisburg and had given talks locally about the subject. A great difficulty in this enterprise was that some students, adults, lacked the basic scientific knowledge needed to engage meaningfully with the proponents of “scientism” (the atheology that says science explains everything we need to know about the world); and I didn’t have the skill to impart these basics in the limited course time available. This lack was not only a concern for me, but is general, according to this headline in the U.S. Catholic, “Should Catholics get an F in science?”

So, my remedy: a book that proposes to give a background in the basic sciences, on a qualitative, pictorial level, to students that will enable them to understand, and when necessary, refute, arguments given by those who proclaim that science explains everything.

I’ve made every effort to avoid complex mathematics and have tried to give explanations that are pictorial, qualitative and down to earth. According to beta-readings of chapters by my wife (who’s a math-phobe), former students, and privileged viewers of my blog, this effort has been successful.

I’ve tried to relate specific areas of Catholic teaching with the appropriate science basics, as shown in the Table of contents. Finally I have tried to show how science, by its very nature, is limited in what it can tell us about the world. It has achieved much to enrich us materially, but as that great philosopher-physicist, Fr. Stanley Jaki, put it so eloquently,

“To answer the question To be, or not to be?’ we cannot turn to a science textbook.”

Here are posts to explore: Table of Contents;  ESSAY 1–The Catholic Church, Midwife and Nursemaid to Science; ESSAY 1, Section 5–Science Background, the Physics of Motion;  ESSAY 6–Can a Computer Have a Soul?

Please read and comment—praise welcomed, criticism tolerated, spam deleted.

Many thanks, and

Shalom,

Dr. Bob

9

Three Cheers for Sister Jean and the Loyola Chicago Ramblers!

I’m not much of a sports fan, but I do love basketball and follow the NCAA tournaments religiously–let’s change that–with great devotion–whoops, wrong again. Anyhow, it’s a game I understand, even though my own basketball experience was limited to two on three half-court at the local playground.

Which is to say my bracket has been broken in several place by the Ramblers, Loyola University at Chicago. And I’m captivated by their assistant coach and scout, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, 98 years old, who played basketball (ladies) herself in San Francisco in the 30’s.
Here’s a great interview and commentary about her.

Question:  Why is it that Catholic Colleges (and universities)–I think of Georgetown, Xavier, Gonzaga–are so great at basketball?  Second thought:  they’re all Jesuit institutions, hmmm….

 

3

A Speaker for Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est
(Say nothing about the dead unless good)

 

I take the positivist viewpoint that a physical theory is just a mathematical model and that it is meaningless to ask whether it corresponds to reality. All that one can ask is that its predictions should be in agreement with observation.
–Stephen Hawking, The Nature of Space and Time (1994)

Praise for a First-Rate Scientist, a Fighter against a Crippling Handicap

I learned about Stephen Hawking’s death Tuesday, 14th March, reading my favorite news digest, “The Drudge Report”, which cited this Daily Mail article. The comments after the article were uniformly laudatory, endowing him with the status of  “the Einstein of our generation,” a great philosopher, a fighter against a crippling handicap, a man of humor and kindness.  The first and second of those appraisals I regard as excessive, the third I agree with, and the fourth–I don’t know.

What I will attempt in this post is to be a “Speaker for the Dead”, emulating Ender Wiggins, the hero of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game Quintet.  Wiggins travelled the galaxy giving not eulogies, but honest appraisals of people who had died, appraisals that both honored the dead more than a conventional eulogy and ultimately were more comforting to those who grieved for the departed.

I’ll discuss Hawking’s popular works on science, his principal scientific works (and how his viewpoint seems to have changed in his later years), and his views on religion (which also seem to have changed in his later years).  I won’t discuss his private life, other than to say that if you read the Daily Mail article carefully, you might have a plot for a good TV show–oh wait, that has been made–see, “The Theory of Everything.

Writing something that might be regarded as even mildly critical of Hawking (particularly of his scientific work) puts me im the position of a Lilliputian shooting arrows at Gulliver.   Nevertheless, even though some of the math in Hawking’s work is above my pay-grade, I’m familiar enough with most of the math and with the subject  to evaluate (I’ve read related works by Penrose and Ellis); moreover, I have a background as a physicist (non-theoretical) and from readings in the philosophy of  science sufficient to apply the comment Hawking gave in the opening quote.

“A Short History of Time” and Other Popular Works

Let’s turn to Hawking’s  popular works on science, written for the non-scientist.   The most famous of these is “A Short History of Time,” a best seller (over 10 million purchased).   Some wag (whose name I don’t recall) said about this book “that next to the Bible, it’s been purchased by more people who’ve never finished reading it than any other.”   I did finish reading it (“A Short History of Time,” as well as the Bible);  it’s a fine book; Hawking does  a great job  explaining the science basic to cosmology.   I particularly like a quote at the end of the book on why the Universe exists:

“If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God”\
–Stephen Hawking, “A Short History  of Time”

I’ll comment on this quote below, in the discussion of Hawking’s religious and political views.

Other popular works by Hawking have sold well, although not as well as “A Short History of Time:”

“The Universe in a Nutshell,” a sequel to “A Short History…,” which discussed new developments in theoretical physics occurring after the publication of that work;

“On the Shoulders of Giants,” a collection of original papers and essays on ground-breaking scientists: Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Einstein;

“God Created the Integers,” a collection of original works by famous mathematicians: Euclid, Archimedes, Diophantus, Descartes, Newton, Euler, Laplace, Fourier, Gauss, Cauchy, Lobachevsky, Bolyai, Galois, Boole, Riemann, Wierstrass, Dedekind, Cantor, Lebesgue, Gödel, and Turing, and commentary;

“The Grand Design,” co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow, a work of evangelical atheism that proposed gravity as the creator of the universe (I’ll comment more about this book below),

If you read negative reviews on Amazon.com of the second and third of those listed, you’ll find criticisms not of what Hawking wrote, but of typographical errors in the selected papers.  I should note that he also wrote an autobiography and several science-fiction books for children, coauthored with his daughter, Lucy Hawking.

Stephen Hawking’s Science: 1) Singularities and Black Holes

The featured image is an artist’s depiction of a black hole, with gravitational lensing rings surrounding it.   This phenomenon is what the public associates with Hawking, although the term “black hole” was in fact coined by the American theoretical physicist, John Wheeler.  Black Holes are thought to represent “singularities” in space-time, caused by collapse of giant stars.   Such singularities are found in solutions of Einstein’s field equations (partial differential equations) for general relativity.   In a naive and simple way, one can think of a singularity as a region where a solution blows up to infinity: for example, if in a solution, 1/r, r  were equal to zero and 1/r would be infinite.

Hawking’s publication list shows that his research, from the time he received his Ph.D from Cambridge University until his later years, focused on cosmological singularities, black holes and the formation of the universe.  The major opus resulting from this research was the Hawking-Penrose Singularity Theorem, published in 1970.   This followed the first general treatment of singularities from a topological approach, given by Roger Penrose in 1965.

Why are singularities more than just a mathematical curiosity?   They show how (in the framework of general relativity) gravitation produces singularities.   And these singularities are the wrinkles in space-time that give rise to black holes, and again, in the framework of general relativity, the creation of the universe, “The Big Bang.”    The black hole singularity comes about when gravity is so strong that matter is compressed to a single point;  the hole is black because the speed of light is slowed down by gravity so much that it cannot escape the boundaries of the black hole (“the event horizon”).

Stephen Hawking’s Science: 2) The Entropy of Black Holes

Anything with mass (say the space ship Enterprise) has entropy.   If the Enterprise were to fall into a black hole, its entropy would disappear and  the entropy of the universe would decrease, thereby violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics, unless….the entropy of the black hole were to increase by an amount equal to or greater than that of the spaceship’s entropy.   Thus, that most rock solid of all scientific laws, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, requires that black holes have entropy.

In 1973 the Israeli-American physicist Bekenstein gave a formula for this entropy in terms of fundamental constants and A, the area encompassing the event horizon of the black hole.

S=(πAc³)/(2hG)

where S is the entropy of the black hole, A the area bounded by the event horizon, c the speed of light, h Planck’s constant and G, the gravitational constant.

In 1974 and 1975 Hawking published work in which he combined quantum mechanics and general relativity to show that black holes could radiate energy like a black body, and that they did indeed, as Bekenstein had argued, have an entropy proportional to the area covered by the event horizon.   This prediction of “Hawking radiation” from black holes is regarded as possibly Hawking’s greatest work.  The equation above, in different forms, has become known as the BHE equation for entropy, where BHE may be taken to stand Bekenstein-Hawking Entropy or Black Hole Entropy.   I’ve read (can’t recall the reference) that Hawking wanted that formula on his tombstone, possibly emulating Stefan Boltzman who had his formula for entropy, S=klnW, relating the molecular and macrosopic world, engraved on his tombstone.

There have been controversies and seeming paradoxes about information as it’s related to black hole entropy.  However, perhaps the most interesting point is that there has never been an experimental confirmation of theoretical thermodynamics of black holes:

“The robustness of these thermodynamic properties of black holes under various theoretical considerations thus inspires a great deal of confidence in them. Yet none of these properties has ever been empirically confirmed. So given this lack of direct observations of Hawking radiation or of any other empirical signatures of the thermodynamics of black holes…”
–Christian Wuthrich, “Are Black Holes about Information”

Hawking’s Science: 3) A Universe with No Big Bang

Theoretical physicists who don’t believe in God don’t dislike singularities in general (witness the interest in black holes), but they do dislike the singularity at the beginning, “The Big Bang”, because it is consistent with belief in a Creator (uppercase C).   Accordingly, these atheists propose all sorts of unverifiable schemes–“baby universes,” eternal inflation, a multiuniverse, etc…–that do away with The Big Bang as a creation event.

Another way to dispense with the Big Bang was put forth by Hartle and Hawking in their no boundaries universe paper.  Hawkings had argued that general relativity could not be applied to a hypothetical t=0 (or near then) state of the universe because distances were so small that quantum mechanics had to be used–macroscopic dynamics, General Relativity, would not apply at distances corresponding to the size of particles and subatomic particles.  Accordingly, Hartle and Hawkings applied the DeWitt-Wheeler formulation for the wave-function of the universe with a very important change:  the time variable was changed from a real variable (real in the mathematical sense) to an imaginary variable–“new” time t = i x”old” time t;  here “i” = √-1.   The consequence of this change of time variable is that an initial condition, t=0, is no longer required for a solution to the Schrodinger equation from which the universe wave-function is to be derived;  hence, the “no boundary” universe (no time boundary); time becomes a space-like variable.

I have two criticisms to make of this proposal: first, it is not science, it is what I would term “mathematical metaphysics.”   There is no way to verify it (or falsify it) empirically; second, at some point the imaginary variable,  “t√-1,” has to change to a real variable t;  when, how and why would this occur?

Hawking Becomes an Evangelical Atheist

Hawking’s quote about “knowing the mind of God” was cited above, as was the title of his book about the history of mathematics, “God Made the Integers.”   Also reported (sorry, I can’t locate the source) was his attendance at a  Pasadena Episcopal Church during his stay at Caltech in the 1970’s.  At any rate, Hawking later said that his quote from “A Short History of Time” was only a figure of speech and made his position as an atheist quite clear:

“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works. [emphasis added] Stephen Hawking. ABC Interview, 2010.

In his book “The Grand Design,” co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow,  Hawkings argued that God was not necessary as an agent to create the universe out of nothing;  rather gravity did that.  He also proposed that M-theory (another form of string theory) explained the workings of the universe, that it was “The Theory of Everything.”   I won’t here try to refute these propositions;  criticisms by famous scientists are given in the linked article; for an exhausting critique of the philosophical and theological fallacies of the work, see these videos by Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J. and Bishop Robert Barron.

The advocacy of string theory and the doing away with General Relativity at t=0, marks a decided change from Hawking’s position expressed in 1994:

“It [General Relativity] may require modifications on the Planck scale but I don’t think that will affect many of the predictions that can be obtained from it. It may be only a low energy approximation to some more fundemental theory, like string theory, but I think string theory has been over sold…My second reason for not discussing string theory is that it has not made any testable predictions. [emphasis added] By contrast, the straight forward application of quantum theory to general relativity, which I will be talking about, has already made two testable predictions. …Neither of these predictions will be changed even if string theory is the ultimate theory of nature. But string theory, at least at its current state of development, is quite incapable of making these predictions except by appealing to general relativity as the low energy effective theory. I suspect this may always be the case and that there may not be any observable predictions of string theory that can not also be predicted from general relativity or supergravity. If this is true it raises the question of whether string theory is a genuine scientific theory. Is mathematical beauty and completeness enough in the absence of distinctive observationally tested predictions. Not that string theory in its present form is either beautiful or complete. [emphasis added]
Stephen Hawking, “The Nature of Space and Time”

And please look again at the opening quote from this work by Hawking, in which he states the need for empirical confirmation of a scientific theory.

Final Remarks

This review of Hawking’s work (not his life) is perhaps biased by my opposition to his later position as an evangelical atheist.  It is also biased by my opposition to his political stance as an advocate of left-wing causes:  as a post from Washington Free Beacon, would have it

“But no amount of scientific greatness can excuse his political crusading—far left, viciously anti-Israel, and contemptuous of the culture and values that sustain western societies.” 
Noah Pollak, “Stephen Hawking wrote a popular book about physics and spent the rest of his life crusading for awful causes” The Washington Free Beacon,  March 15, 2018.

I believe the title of that article is extreme; Hawking did much fine work after the publication of “A Short History…”

I’m not going to comment on the disease, ALS, that severely limited Hawking’s mobility and speech. A good analysis is given by Dr. Leo McCluskey, University of Pennsylvania Medical School of how it might be that Hawking escaped the usual fate of those suffering  from ALS, an early death. One might wonder (and I don’t know the answer) whether ALS hindered or in fact enhanced Hawking’s career and reputation.

I will say finally that he was a brilliant, imaginative physicist.  Unfortunately most of the work he did and the theories he proposed, even the most famous–Hawking radiation–have not been, and perhaps never will be, subject to empirical verification or falsification.  He ranks in the forefront of contemporary theoretical physicists, but he was not of the stature of Einstein or those brilliant minds that  founded quantum theory.   As the Wikipedia article on “The Grand Design” suggests, his stature among the lay public is perhaps higher than that among the cohort of theoretical physicists, even though–as the comments after his death show–he was personally and professionally esteemed.

 

2

Lectio Divina Set to Music:
Brahms’ German Requiem

I have written elsewhere about music as another road to adoration, but in this post I’d like to focus on music as a way to illuminate Scripture.   My wife and I attended a performance of Brahms “Ein Deutsche Requiem” recently, done by a local choral group and a local collection of orchestral talent.   It was magnificent!  A few weeks earlier  I had happened to run into one of the members of the choral group, a member of our Church, and had talked about the forthcoming performance.  He had said thinking about it gave him “goose bumps”.    I got them too listening to the stirring Second Movement (the Youtube clip above is of a performance directed by von Karajan of that movement;  the quote at the heading, 1 Peter 1:25 is the text for that).

Reading through the program, I was struck by how much the Scripture texts from the Old and New Testaments were enhanced by the music;  perhaps one might think of it as “Lectio Divina” in a musical context.  And I’ll mention another movement from the Requiem that moved me greatly, looking forward as I am to my tenth decade.  Here is a video clip of this by the Newfoundland Symphony–I should know who the baritone is, I think I’ve seen him in one or two operas, but I can’t place the name; the text is Psalm 39:4-7:

One other thing struck me, looking at the audience: the Lutheran church where the concert was held was packed almost to capacity, but the median age of the audience was probably close to 60–very few young people. I remember way long ago when I attended elementary school (a public school out west) we had music sessions at least once a week–classical mostly (I remembered how all the kids started laughing when the William Tell Overture was played, the theme song for “The Lone Ranger”).

Alas, the younger generation (and here I give myself away–I’m thinking of those under 50) have no taste for classical music. Hence the decline of liturgical music and the use of hymns accompanied by drums and guitars, hymns that are the essence of banality.  Oh well, there will be heavenly choirs, and maybe even some in Purgatory for me to listen to.

5

The Beauty of the Anglican Usage Liturgy (the Ordinariate)

The beauty of the liturgy is part of this mystery; it is a sublime expression of God’s glory and, in a certain sense, a glimpse of heaven on earth.—Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis #35

 

The mission of the Ordinariate is particularly experienced in the reverence and beauty of our liturgy, [emphasis added] which features Anglican traditions of worship while conforming to Catholic doctrinal, sacramental and liturgical standards. [emphasis added]   Through Divine Worship: The Missal — the liturgy that unites the Ordinariates throughout the English-speaking world — we share our distinctive commitment to praising God in the eloquence of the Anglican liturgical patrimony and Prayer Book English. —Ordinariate Questions and Answers

“Be Positive!” is one of my Lenten resolutions, and in that spirit I offer this post.  My wife and I watched a DVD  of the installation of Bishop Steven Lopes;  Bishop Lopes presides over the Ordinariate of The Chair of St. Peter, which is a diocese for those Episcopalians and Anglicans in Canada and the US who have swum the Tiber and now follow the Anglican Usage of the Latin Rite.

Perhaps the greatest blessing Pope Benedict XVI bestowed on his Church was instituting The Ordinariate by the ordinance of Anglicorum Coetibus.  The Personal Ordinariate of Anglican Usage offers to our Church a renewal of beauty in the liturgy, a return to what is established, holy and worshipful.   This was evident in Bishop Lopes’s Ordination Mass, displayed in elements carried over from Anglican and Episcopal liturgy–Thee’s and Thou’s, and other parts of the Mass derived from the Anglican “Book of Common Prayer” (see here for more specifics).  What was missing in the ordination Mass (possibly because of Church architecture and congregation size) was  ad orientem worship by the priests and Holy Communion received kneeling at an altar, with an intincted host.

Perhaps most welcome in the Anglican Usage liturgy is the absence of those hymns which cater to the “Catholics can’t sing” axiom.   The Anglican Usage hymns, taken from the Anglican Hymn Book, have both melody and message.   Here’s an example, a YouTube video of the Recessional Hymn at the Ordination of Bishop Lopes:

One other point is of interest:  the congregation was dressed to show respect for the occasion;  as my wife remarked, “They must all be former Anglicans, or maybe somebody told the Catholics what they should wear.”

And here, for those who would like to see a full Anglican Usage Mass, is a link to a YouTube video of Bishop Lopes celebrating Mass for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity.  I’ve also written on this here and here.

And let’s all pray that our Liturgy can be restored and revitalized,  such that we can focus on the beauty of receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion.

4

Fr. Rutler’s Analysis of the “Innovative Mathematics of Fr. Antonio Spadaro”

“The method employed I would gladly explain,
While I have it so clear in my head,
If I had but the time and you had but the brain–
But much yet remains to be said.

“In one moment I’ve seen what has hitherto been
Enveloped in absolute mystery,
And without extra charge I will give you at large
A Lesson in Natural History.”–
Lewis Carroll, “The Hunting of the Snark”

 

`And you do Addition?’ the White Queen asked. `What’s one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?’
`I don’t know,’ said Alice. `I lost count.’
`She can’t do Addition,’ the Red Queen interrupted. `Can you do Subtraction? Take nine from eight.’
`Nine from eight I can’t, you know,’ Alice replied very readily: `but — ‘
`She can’t do Subtraction,’ said the White Queen. —Lewis Caroll, “Through the Looking Glass”

 

If we don’t get the numbers right, we won’t get much else right.  Fr. George Rutler, “The Mathematical Innovations of Father Antonio Spadaro”, Crisis Magazine, 22 February, 2018.

One reason I converted at a late age to the Catholic faith rather than some Protestant sect, was the rational component in Catholic teaching.  As Pope St. John Paul II aptly put it, “Man is carried to the truth on the two wings of faith and reason.”    I am distressed by recent efforts by some high in the Vatican hierarchy to replace reason with feeling.   One critical analysis of such attempts  is a fine article by Father George Rutler, “The Mathematical Innovations of Father Antonio Spadaro” (linked in the quote above).  In addition to his scathing analysis of Fr. Spadaro’s attempt to supervene logic, Fr. Rutler gives a very nice account of what mathematics is all about, one that even mathphobes like my wife can appreciate.  I’ll quote from that part of the article that deals with Fr. Spadaro’s pseudo-logic (note: “pseudo,” meaning “false”;  not “quasi,” meaning “almost”):

“Father Antonio Spadaro, a close associate of Pope Francis, raised eyebrows in July 2017 when he described religious life in the United States, with such confidence that can come only from a profound knowledge of a subject or a total lack of it. Father Spadaro advises the Holy Father, who had never visited the United States before becoming pope. In an essay in Civilta Cattolica called “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism,” Father Spadaro spoke with disdain of a cabal formed by Evangelicals and Catholics motivated by a “triumphalist, arrogant, and vindictive ethnicism” which is creating an “apocalyptic geopolitics.” Religious fundamentalists behind this plot have included Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and Trump who is a Manichaean. The co-author of this imaginative literary exercise was a Protestant minister, Marcelo Figuero who is editor-in-chief of the new Argentinian edition of L’Osservatore Romano to which office he brings the rich systematic theology of Argentinian Presbyterianism. The two authors were rhetorically florid in denouncing Yankee racism, obscurantism, and fascism, so unlike the temperate history of Spadaro’s own peninsula and Figuero’s Argentinian utopia. If they want to condescend to the USA, they need a loftier platform.

Then in October 2017 Father Spadaro said in Boston, “It is no longer possible to judge people on the basis of a norm that stands above all.” The suggestion is that a mathematical principle of uncertainty also applies to theology where all is in flux and subjective.

Later, in a well publicized comment on “Twitter” which operates according to stable and constant principles of applied engineering, Father Spadaro typed: “In theology 2 + 2 can equal 5. Because it has to do with God and the real life of people…” To put a charitable gloss on that, he may have simply meant theology applied to pastoral situations where routine answers of manualists may be inadequate. But he has made his arithmetic a guide to dogma, as when he said in his Boston speech that couples living in “irregular” family situations “can be living in God’s grace, can love and also grow in a life of grace.” Yet, despite his concern for freedom of thought and expression, Father Spadaro has recently expressed sympathy for calls to censor Catholic television commentators who insist that 2+2 = 4.

There are two things to consider here. First, some clergy of Father Spadaro’s vintage grew up in a theological atmosphere of “Transcendental Thomism.” Aquinas begins the Summa Theologica asserting in the very first Question, four times, that theology has a greater certitude than any other science. While it gives rise to rhymes and song, it is solid science, indeed the Queen of Sciences. Transcendental Thomism was Karl Rahner’s attempt to wed Thomistic realism with Kantian idealism. Father Stanley Jaki, theologian and physicist, called this stillborn hybrid “Aquikantianism.” But if stillborn, its ghosts roam corridors of ecclesiastical influence. This really is not theology but theosophy, as romantic as Teilhard de Chardin, as esoteric as a Rosicrucian, and as soporific as the séances of Madame Blavatsky. The second point is that not all cultures have an instinct for pellucid expression. The Italian language is so beguiling that it can create an illusion that its rotundity is profundity, and that its neologisms are significant. When it is used to calling you a “Cattolico Integralista” or a “Restauratore” the cadences almost sound like a compliment. Even our Holy Father, who often finds relief from his unenviable burdens by using startling expressions, said on June 19, 2016: “We have a very creative vocabulary for insulting others.”

In saying that 2+2=5, Father Spadaro preserves a familiar if deluded intuition, and trailing behind him is a long line of children who in countless schoolrooms have been made to stand in corners for having made that mistake. A famous use of it was in George Orwell’s Ninety Eighty-Four speaking of its dystopia: ‘In the end the Party would announce that two and two, made five and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later; the logic of their position demanded it … the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy.’ “

See here for the rest of the article.

This escape from rationality is to me possibly as frightening as the retreat from established Catholic teaching on marriage, family and the sanctity of life.   If one cannot use rational argument, but only how one feels about something, as a basis for how one should act, then anything is justified.

Preparing for Easter: 50 Devotional Readings by C.S. Lewis;
Session 1, Ash Wednesday to 18 February

My good wife gave me a fine Valentine’s Day gift:  “Preparing for Easter,” 50 devotional readings from the works of C.S. Lewis, one for each day during the Lenten period.   My first thought was to share these day by day, but I’m not as devoted a webster as Don, so I’ll do it this way: five days of readings in one post, that is, a quote and a summary for each day of a five day period.  Each reading has associated Scripture citations, to which I’ll link (KJV for all).  So, here goes.

Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, 14 Feb. 2018, “Getting Closer to God.”

Matthew 11:27-30;   Psalm 90:1-6

Man in his woeful state has a need for God, a need to become like Christ, a son of God.

“…our imitation of God in this life…must be an imitation of God incarnate: our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions.  For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions.”–‘Introduction,’  THE FOUR LOVES.

Thursday, 15 Feb. 2018, “Embracing Glory”

Romans 8:22-27;  Psalm 1:1-3

Nature has fallen, as has man, and as will man, be redeemed.  Man will be even more than if he had not fallen, because he has been redeemed by the Son of God.

“Man will be the very species into which Mercy will descend.  For this prodigal the fatted calf, or, to speak more suitably, the eternal Lamb is killed.  But once the Son of God, drawn hither not by our merits but by our unworthiness, has put on human nature, then our species…does become in one sense the central fact of all Nature:  our species, rising after its long descent, will drag all Nature up with it because in our species the Lord of Nature is now included.”–‘The Grand Miracle,’  MIRACLES

Friday, 16 Feb. 2018, “On Perfection”

Matthew 5:43-48;  Psalm 19:1-8

We don’t want to change, to grow to perfection, but Christ asks this of us and will help us to achieve it.

“Of course we never wanted, and never asked, to be made into the sort of creatures He is going to make us into.  But the question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us.  He is the inventor, we are only the machine.”  ‘Counting the Cost,’  MERE CHRISTIANITY

Saturday, 17 Feb. 2018, “Rejoicing in Judgement” (sic)

Matthew 25:31-46;   Psalm 67:1-7

In the Old Testament, the Judgment of God is as in a court of justice.  In the New Testament, the Judgment of Our Lord Jesus Christ, will be an act of mercy.

“But what alarms us in the Christian picture is the infinite purity of the standard against which our actions will be judged.  But then we know that none of us will ever come up to that standard. We are all in the same boat. We must all pin our hopes on the mercy of God and the work of Christ, not on our own goodness.”–‘Judgement (sic) in the Psalms,’ REFLECTIONS ON THE PSALMS

Sunday, 18 Feb. 2018, “Becoming a Follower of God”

Through Christ we are to become more than a selfish thing of nature, only interested for our own good; we are to becoome like him, begotten of the Father.

“What then, is the difference whi He has made to the whole human mass?  It is just this, that the business of becoming a son of God, of being turned from a created thing into a begotten thing, of passing over from the temporary biological life int timeless ‘spiritual’ life, has been done for us.”  ‘The Obstinate Toy Soldiers,’ MERE CHRISTIANITY

More to come on Friday, 23 February.

Lenten Prayers: Stay on Hold for God

Every Lent the Church invites [us] to the three traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.–Fr. Michael Denk, Our Sunday Visitor,
4 January, 2013

Lent is like a long ‘retreat’ during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil One. It is a period of spiritual ‘combat’ which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the word of God and penance. — Pope Benedict XVI

Lenten Prayer

During Lent we are to engage in three activities: prayer, alms-giving and fasting. Some 23 years ago during my first Lent (as a catechumen), I thought, “well, this is easy: I know how to pray, the fasting isn’t as strict as Jewish fasting, and I’ll just give more than usual to our Church and our other charities.”

The fasting and alms-giving were ok, but I had it all wrong about prayer. My prayer then was bartering with God: I gave up things and practices–candy, biting my fingernails, watching some favorite TV shows (Frasier, Seinfeld)–in other words sacrificing, not a goat, but stuff I enjoyed,  hoping that this would please God.    In turn, I asked God to intervene in my life and that of my family, to straighten out errant children and to smooth my way in life, to make me better and more receptive to the faith, or as Psalm 143 would have it:

“Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.”
—Psalm 143 (KJV)

As the years passed and I learned more about our Catholic faith, I realized that prayer was more than asking God for stuff; it had to be a two-way conversation. We must listen for God’s voice, “the still, small voice” that Elijah heard in the cave at Horeb.

How to Listen

What does listening for God’s voice require of us? Here are my thoughts, distilled from my own prayer experience and from what I have been taught and have read in the nine stages of prayer of St. Theresa of Avila.

First, we do not give God a shopping list of what we want Him to do. God gives us what we need, but not always what we want.

Second, when we enter into a conversation with God, we keep in mind that this is to be a two-way enterprise; we are to speak AND to listen; moreover, we are to be patient when put on hold for His response, even though there is no bumper music or hold message while we wait for His voice.

What St. Teresa of Avila Has to Say

I should add that “listening” is only one part of what we need to do to engage with our Lord in prayer, albeit a very important part. Let’s now see what St. Teresa of Avila has to say; her advice is still relevant even after almost 500 years.

St. Teresa is an authority on prayer; she is known as the “Doctor of Prayer”, the title given to her by Pope Paul VI. In her books, “The Life”, “The Way of Perfection” and “The Interior Castle”, she sets forth grades of prayer ranging from vocal prayer (what we start off with as initiates in the discipline) to the ultimate, mystical union with God. I’ll focus on two of these stages: both relate to being receptive to the presence of our Lord when we pray. For a more extended discussion, see this article by Jordan Auman, OP

The Prayer of Active Recollection

The “lower” of these two prayer stages is that of “active recollection,” which is the highest stage of active prayer. St. Theresa discusses this way of prayer in Chapters 28 and 29 of “The Way of Perfection.” Rather than giving an extended exposition (see the first link, above), I’ll give quotes that best explain this prayer.

“It is called the Prayer of Recollection because in it the soul collects, or gathers together , all her powers, and enters into her own interior with God.”—St. Teresa of Avila, “The Way of Perfection”, Ch. 28

In the Prayer of Active Recollection we are supposed to look within ourselves to encounter Christ, the Lord, our God. The Trinity is within us, and if we focus we can encounter our Trinitarian God in ourselves:

“…but, at the same time, I was admonished that though I had the Divinity within my soul, yet I myself was much more contained in Him than He in me. Thus, whilst I beheld, as it were, hidden within me the Three Divine Person, I saw that They, at the same time, communicated themselves to all created things, without ceasing for an instant to abide in me.” loc. cit.

St. Teresa gives detailed instructions in Section III, Chapter 28 (linked above) on how to enter into the Prayer of Active Recollection, which I’ll not repeat here. However, I will remark that they call to mind Fr. Bernard Groeschel’s directive on achieving meditative prayer: to imagine within ourselves a temple, with a Trinitarian triangle at the entrance: intellect, memory and will, representing our mind and soul as the Trinitarian God.

The Prayer of Recollection can be achieved by our own will, for, as St. Teresa says,

“for you must understand this this is not altogether a supernatural thing, but is quite within our own power, and we can do it whenever we choose; I mean, of course, with God’s help…” loc. cit.

The Prayer of Quiet

“Now, daughters, I still want to describe this Prayer of Quiet to you…It is in this kind of prayer, as I have said, that the Lord seems to me to begin to show us that He is hearing our petition: He begins to give us His Kingdom on earth so that we may truly praise Him and hallow His name and strive to make others do so likewise. ..This is a supernatural state, and, however hard we try, we cannot reach it for ourselves; [emphasis added] for it is a state in which the soul enters into peace, or rather in which the Lord gives it peace through His presence,” St. Teresa of Avila, “The Way of Perfection”, Chapter 31.

The Prayer of Quiet is the first of the contemplative stages of prayer described by St. Teresa. The soul is at peace and filled with joy and even though the intellect and memory might wander, they realize that there is only one thing on which to focus: loving God.

I should add that I have experienced this only once in my prayer life. After reading “The Way of Perfection,” I realized it might come again only by God’s grace, by letting myself go, to look at Him in my inner self. So this will be my goal during Lent: to pray silently; to look within myself for His presence; to be patient while God is on hold and I am waiting to hear His still, small voice.

10

The Catholic Two-front War: Against Scientism and Scriptural Literalism

Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish. Pope St. John Paul II,”Letter to Rev. George Coyne, S.J., Director of the Vatican Observatory.”

Introduction

Originally this post was to be about a three-year old article on Smithsonian.com,”The Pope [Pope Francis] would like you to believe in evolution and the Big Bang.”   This article was the taking-off point for a Stations of the Cross podcast by Fr. Shannon Collins, who adheres to a strictly literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, against evolution and cosmology (the Big Bang).  Before arguing against Fr. Collins, I want to point out that the Smithsonian article itself had several errors of commission and omission:

  1. It conflated evolution–the common descent of living things–with the neo-Darwinian model for evolution; there are eminent scientists and philosophers, atheists or agnostics, who accept evolution but reject the neo-Darwinian model for how it works, so accepting or rejecting Darwin is not to be correlated with religious belief;
  2. The article ignored Pope St. John Paul II’s incisive statement on evolution “My predecessor, Pius XII, has already affirmed in his Encyclical, “Humani Generis” (1950) that there is not opposition between evolution and the doctrine of the fall of man and his vocation provided that certain fixed points are kept in mind.”  Pope St. John Paul II, Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Oct. 1996 (my translation from the French).
  3. The distinction between evolution of a physical body and the implantation of an immortal soul done only by God, was ignored;  this distinction was pointed out by Pope St. John Paul II and is discussed in one of my posts,
    Did Neanderthals have a soul?

Now the title above speaks of a two front war–one front against scientism, those who propose science or “naturalism” as an explanation of everything and as a basis for atheism; the other against Catholics who say that Genesis 1 is the literally true in all details, six days of creation, Eve from Adam’s rib, etc. Since I’ve written many posts against scientism (see here, here, here, here, and here), I’ll not repeat those arguments.

What I will attempt below is to refute  what Fr. Collins had to say about cosmology and evolution.   Why do I believe this refutation is important?  As a recent article in Our Sunday Visitor pointed out, one of the main reasons young Catholics are leaving the Church is that they believe that science contradicts Catholic teaching.  This belief is not true, and those who propose a literal interpretation of Scripture do not gain reverts or converts to the Church,  but only strengthen this false proposition of naturalistic atheism, that you can’t believe what science has to say about the world and be a believing Catholic.

Against a Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2

If we believe that Genesis 1 is literally true in everything it says, then we must believe that the universe, despite cosmological and geological evidence to the contrary, was created in six days; we must also believe that Adam was created literally from dust, that the first woman, Eve, was created from his rib, and that the order of creation of animals was given as in Genesis 1 and 2, even though these two accounts are contradictory.

We must also, if we believe Genesis 1 to be literally true and go to the original Hebrew, believe that the Catholic doctrine of Creatio ex Nihilo contradicts Scripture.  One translation of Genesis 1 gives “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters’.”   The term “formless void” in Hebrew is “Tohu Bohu” or “Tohu va-Bohu”, which a Hebrew scholar (a scholar in Hebrew–this guy was a retired Irish-American physician) has said is better translated as “topsy-turvy” or “chaos.”   And the translation mentions “waters,” which is not “nothing.”   Actually the “chaos” or “formless void” description is in better accord with the materialist proposal for pre-Big Bang:  a sea of virtual quantum fluctuations.

Moreover, the notion of Creatio ex Nihilo is first given in the Old Testament in 2 Maccabees 7:28 and in the New Testament in Hebrews 11:3.   The first Christian writer to promote the doctrine of Creatio ex Nihilo was Theophilus of Antioch in the late 2nd Century.  It was St. Augustine who developed arguments about time and Creatio ex Nihilo, that time could have begun with creation, which is a view remarkably in accord with much of modern cosmology.

“…no time passed before the world, because no creature was made by whose course it might pass.“–St. Augustine, “City of God,” book 11, ch.4.

For a more detailed account of the history of the doctrine Creatio ex Nihilo and the translation of Genesis 1,  see here and here.   My general point is that the sense of the original Hebrew in Genesis has been altered and modified in various translations to fit with that doctrine Creatio ex Nihilo; and I must emphasize that I truly believe this doctrine.  I also should emphasize that I interpret Genesis to say that God created the universe and man, and found this creation “good” (“tov”).

Fr. Collins’ case against evolution and cosmology

I don’t believe that Fr. Collins made a good case against evolution and the Big Bang in his podcast.  Let me again make the distinction between evolution, common descent from one species, and the Darwinian model for evolution.  The same distinction was made by  Pope St. John Paul II in his address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences:

“And to tell the truth, rather than speaking about the theory of evolution, it is more accurate to speak of the theories of evolution. The use of the plural is required here—in part because of the diversity of explanations regarding the mechanism of evolution…” 

First, Fr. Collins argued that evolution was inconsistent with philosophical principles set forth by Aristotle and Aquinas.   Of course not all that Aristotle proposed was valid–his theories of gravity and kinetics have been superseded by physics going back to Galileo.    Moreover, the Dominican scholars, Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, OP; Fr. George Brent, OP; Br. Thomas Davenport, OP; and Fr. James Ku, OP, have given a convincing account of the Thomistic support for evolution.

Second, Fr. Collins says that evolution is not supported by paleontology–there are no fossil records of transitional forms.  This is not true.  While there are gaps in the fossil record for such transitional forms, there are some found–see here, for examples.   Moreover, the  existence of early forms without later in dated fossil records is in itself evidence for the development of species: that in rocks dated a billion or more years ago there was evidence of bacterial forms, but no higher species, that in eras when reptiles and dinosaurs were the dominant species, there was no fossil record of developed mammals, etc.  (By the way, Fr. Collins made a serious error by saying that cave drawings of early man showed dinosaurs–they did not, the drawings were of mammoths).  Finally, Fr. Collins did not address one of the most important pieces of evidence for common descent, evolution:  the phylogenetic tree  that show sequence of genetic similarities and differences correlating with species evolution.

At the end of his talk, Fr. Collins evaded a question that asked his opinion about cosmological evidence for a universe some 14 billion years old.   His response that a universe had to be that old to allow for evolution and since evolution was not true, this age for the universe was not so did not say why the physical evidence was incorrect.

Final Thoughts

I have written in other posts about this: “Can a faithful Catholic believe in science?” and “God’s Periodic Table and Evolution.” In those articles and this one I argue, along with Pope St. John Paul II, that man is carried to truth on the two wings of faith and reason.   I cannot undertake that cognitive dissonance in which I believe that science tells us the truth about the world on Mondays through Saturdays and Scripture an entirely different story on Sundays;  to put it more succintly in the word of Pope St. John Paul II: “Truth cannot contradict Truth”.    God is not a prankster who plants evidence that would mislead us from a story of Creation given in Genesis that has to be taken as literally true.   The two stories from science and Revelation are the same: “The heavens declare the Glory of God” (Psalm 19A).

8

Why Catholics should know about science

Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.Pope St. John Paul II, Letter to Rev. George Coyne, S.J., Director of the Vatican Observatory. 

My evangelizing mission as a Catholic (even though a Converso) and a physicist, is to refute the claims of atheists (including prominent scientists) that science denies the teaching of the Catholic Church.   In many articles, adult education classes, and an ebook, “Truth Cannot Contradict Truth,”  I have argued that nothing science truly tells us about the world conflicts with Catholic teaching.   But I’ve found in the adult education classes and comments on the articles, that I’m not only preaching to the choir, but that those who should receive the message don’t really understand what science is all about, so the message is in a foreign language as far as they’re concerned.

Accordingly, I’m thinking of rewriting the ebook to include material that will help Catholic innumerates (and I’m not trying to be snide here; my wife is one of those) understand what science is all about–how it’s done and what its limits of truth are.  In short, I want to provide a text on basic science–physics, molecular biology, statistics–that will give the needed base for Catholics to assess critically the claims of atheistic science and to refute them for their children and friends.

I’ve given more details about this in a post for the Catholic Writers Guild, which has drawn some interesting and encouraging comments.   However, I still have some doubts about whether at 87.7 years I have the focus and the energy to carry this enterprise to a conclusion.   As the Kurt Weill song goes, “But it’s a long, long while from May to December…and I haven’t got time for the waiting game.”   If I do this book, it’s no more blogging, science-fiction or Midsomer Murders (or very little).

So, dear reader, do you think this is a worthwhile enterprise?   If such a book were published, would you buy it?

Many thanks.

8

Catholics: Fight Pro-Abortion Intolerance!

 But laws alone cannot secure freedom of expression; in order that every man may present his views without penalty there must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population.–Albert Einstein, “Out of My Later Years”

Even though the news from the 2018 March for Life was heartening, it is but one foray against an army of intolerant anti-life leftist politicians and jurists.     We’ve seen abortion advocates in Canada and California trying to silence pro-life voices and eliminate anti-abortion opinions from the public domain, and these are only two examples among many others.

CANADA: You can be Pro-life–in private.

Justin Trudeau recently said that you don’t have the public right to advocate pro-life policies:

An organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion, the right for women to control their own bodies, is not in line with where we are as a government and quite frankly where we are as a society,” Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.

This statement was in response to a question about the right to free expression of ideas, and the Canadian government’s policy of requiring religious organizations to sign a statement supporting the right to abortion and LGBT “rights” if they wished government support for summer worker stipends:

“He then referenced recent changes to the Summer Jobs program that requires applicants adhere to Canadian rights — including access to abortions, and protections for LGBT Canadians. The program funds summer job placements for not-for-profit organizations, public sector employers and small businesses, the Canadian Press reported.LifeNews.com, 12 January, 2018.

CALIFORNIA: “Reproductive FACT Act”–Pro-life Centers must advertise abortion facilities

The “Reproductive FACT Act,” enacted by the California Legislature in 2015, requires pro-life centers to post signage and inform clients about the state’s taxpayer-funded abortions and contraception support.   A Riverside Country Superior Court judge issued an injunction against enforcement of the law in November, 2017.  The case is currently on the docket for the Supreme Court.

This is only one example of many–New York City, Baltimore, Hawaii, Illinois–in which anti-life advocates, politicians and jurists,  are trying to force not only acceptance of their practices, but advocacy by those who are deeply offended by them.   Whether it is to bake a “Wedding” cake for a ceremony you hold to be a sin, to refer a patient to an abortionist if you’re a doctor or a nurse, to supply contraceptives if you’re a believing pharmacist, it’s the same violation of fundamental freedom of religion and belief.

What should the faithful do?

How can we fight against the intolerant demons of the left: feminism gone wrong, academics without principles,  politicians prostituting themselves for power,  intolerance in the name of diversity?  I can think of some ways, and I hope you, the reader can supply others.

We have to demonstrate: The March for Life is a fine example.   Although it was under-reported by MSM, there were enough local reports to make up for this.   Politicians have to know that there are many speaking for life.

We have to fight politically.   It is hard to understand why “Catholics” (in name only?) in the Congress who continually vote for and advocate  anti-life policies (I think of Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, in particular) get the support of Catholic voters.

We have to support pro-life organizations financially and by activities.  (Do a web search to find out about such–here’s one for Pennsylvania.)

We have to support organizations like Judicial Watch and FIRE, that advocate for freedom of speech and expression in government and academic life.

And, most importantly, we have to pray for those who are trying to force us into sin.

“Sages, leave your contemplation;
brighter visions beam afar.”

“Pure insight and logic, whatever they might do ideally, are not the only things that produce our creeds.”  William James, The Will to Believe

“Sages, leave your contemplation…” is the beginning of the third verse of “Angels, from the Realms of Glory”, the entrance hymn at Mass today (Epiphany) at our church.   Although there are beautiful, impressive versions of the alternate version of this hymn (sung to the melody of “Angels we have heard on high,” with the beautiful descending Gloria as the refrain–see here and here), our music director (and I) prefer the original Regent Square version, as below:

“Sages, leave your contemplation” hit me hard.  It’s the message I’ve been trying to communicate in my blog posts–that there’s more to the world than science and logic reveal, even though these intellectual tools can enhance our appreciation of God’s Creation.

The opening quote from William James’ essay, “The Will to Believe,” also gives the same message.  Since I have expounded on this in more detail in a blog post, “Why do we believe?” , I won’t repeat those arguments, but just say “even though truth is conveyed on the two wings of faith and reason–to use Pope St. John Paul II’s apt figure of speech–the essential wing is faith.”

 

 

13

New Year’s Resolution #1: Pray for my enemies

“Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil. They give us, now and then, some of those luxurious sterile emotions that have a certain charm for the weak…. They are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”  Oscar Wilde, “The Picture of Dorian Grey”

It’s that time of year for starting afresh, making a list of how we want to be different.   Generally, I’m with Lord Henry, Dorian Grey’s patron (header quote), but this year I have resolved to suffer fools gladly and to pray for my enemies.   Now, there are all sorts of prayers that you could make for people whom you think are bad, but I have in mind prayers for their good, stuff that will “Make the punishment fit the crime,” as the Mikado would have it.

I recall Fr. Bernard Groeschel’s prayer for Madonna, that she mend her ways and enter a cloistered nunnery.  That’s the sort of thing I have in mind.

So, here’s the list–not in order of importance, but as they have occured to me:

  1.  For commenters who shout by use of all uppercase–that their keyboard “caps lock” and “shift” keys never work (and, incidentally, that they take anger management programs until they too learn to love their enemies).
  2.  For Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., who tweeted (what an awful way to communicate purported truths!) “Theology is not #Mathematics. 2 + 2 in #Theology can make 5″, a six month course in basic arithmetic and a year course in elementary logic, to be passed with a grade of at least B+ (89%), or to be repeated.
  3. For all Catholic Hierarchy (you know who this will include) who maintain that humans significantly affect climate (as in anthropic global warming), a required stay from November 1 to March 1 (no trips out) in International Falls, MN .  Each will be given four sets of  thermal underwear and a parka.   Residences will be in log cabins heated by wood stoves.   (Wood will be supplied.)
  4. For Mark Shea–whatever Don McCleary would have.

There’s more, but that will do for now… And perhaps you, dear reader, can add some of your own.

And a blessed and happy 2018 to you all.

PS–I have some other New Year’s resolutions, but you don’t need to know what these might be.

6

Alexa, OK Google, Siri–Which gives Catholic information?

The truth is, we’re all cyborgs with cell phones and online identities.–Geoff Johns, Brainyquote.com

I was intrigued by a YouTube video in which a comic, Steven Crowder, got Alexa, the Amazon.com echo device, to say that Jesus Christ was a fictional character.   Now all these search and information devices are (sometimes) a blessing, a boon, and a wonderful tool.

Nevertheless, I have asked myself “how reliable is the information you get from these artificial semi-intelligences?”    So I proposed a mini-test, relevant to my own situation, and easily carried out.   I have a new Kindle HD8  (uses Alexa), an Apple Iphone 5s which uses Siri, and my son–visiting over the holidays–an android device with OK Google.   So, here was the test.  “Is there a nearby Catholic Church?”  (All devices had my location.)    And here are the results:

Alexa gave me the name “Red Roof Inn” (I wonder where that came from?) and the address about 2 miles away of that establishment;

OK Google gave me the name “St. Joseph Church,” the address and Mass times;

Siri gave me the name “St. Joseph Church”,  the address and phone number.

The two answers about St. Joseph Church were correct.  Draw your own conclusions.

6

Scientists and Catholic Prolife Advocates Call for Reform of Pontifical Academy of Sciences

A statement by prominent Catholic scientists and prolife advocates has been released that calls for a reform of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (hat tip to William (“Matt”) Briggs, one of the signers of the statement).   Here’s a link to the statement.   I’ll quote from the “Conclusions” section:

“CONCLUSIONS

29. The Catholic Church exists for the salvation of souls. She has a long history of sponsoring and conducting scientific research, education, and human advancement. The Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences are useful institutions and provide a valuable forum for dialog with the Church about the latest and most advanced findings on difficult and challenging issues as well as knowledge of exciting discoveries.

30. Since the time immediately after her foundation by Christ, the Church has always described Herself as “… one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic …” In secular terms, this is manifested as a worldwide, unified, yet multicultural institution that professes and teaches a common Faith. These are attractive characteristics for those wishing to leverage global issues or effect change on a global scale.

31. The world faces a number of serious challenges from issues relating to the environment. Resolving these challenges and providing the conditions for human life to thrive is both an issue of scientific, technical, and social/economic expertise and a matter of human capacity, will, and morality. Secular efforts to address such challenges always face the question of the moral and ethical guidance to be followed, and indeed the ever-present temptation to suspend moral and ethical principles in pursuit of quick results for what is perceived to be a larger good. Even programs aimed at addressing humanitarian needs can contain unjust, ineffective, or morally unacceptable elements. Globally organized programs of human development and environmental protection or management have been particularly prone to this problem.

32. A chronic problem in the operation of the academies recently has become acute. The Pontifical Academies, in their focus on issues of global environmental challenges and human development, have been importing secularist values, perspectives, and philosophies into their documents and statements, making it appear as if the Church was morally uncertain and is holding open different views on core teachings at the heart of Gospel teaching on matters of grave importance.  The Church cannot accept, especially implicitly, that humanity can contracept and abort its way to a healthy environment, economy, or society.[emphasis added]

33. The problem is not the secularist scientists or economists of the Pontifical Academies as much as it is the Church supervision of the Academies. The membership of the Academies do not offer moral expertise. Yet the leadership of the Pontifical Academies consistently engages in selective invitation of experts who are leading advocates of morally problematic approaches, and provides a privileged forum for their views, which inevitably carries an implied endorsement by the Church. This pattern confuses Catholic lay faithful and those who observe the Church from the outside, and needs to be reformed before a virtual counter magisterium is set up under the sponsorship the Church Herself.

 34. By contrast, the Catholic Church, by Her very nature, must always fulfill Her unique role as a protector of innocent human life. The Church did so, against the consensus of the international scientific, technical, and policy elites of the day, in the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development. In our time, Church leaders face the same temptation to remain silent on matters related to population control in order to preserve the good opinion of scientific, technical, and economic cultures that generally hold the Church’s mission in low regard. If this were to happen, Church leaders would then place human dignity and freedom at risk, most especially regard for the value of unrepeatable, individual human persons.”

I have written in posts on my own blog that the Church should not meddle in, i.e. make judgments about, science.  (See “Galileo Redux: When should the Church meddle in science?”  )    Climate change and population control are not issues on which the Holy Father and the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences are qualified judges, nor were the Cardinals on Galileo’s advocacy that the earth circled the sun.

Let me conclude with an apt quotation from the Book of Wisdom:13, verses 1-9 (Douay-Rheims American Version):

 ¹But all men are vain, in whom there is not the knowledge of God: and who by these good things that are seen, could not understand him that is, neither by attending to the works have acknowledged who was the workman:

But have imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon, to be the gods that rule the world.

With whose beauty, if they, being delighted, took them to be gods: let them know how much the Lord of them is more beautiful than they: for the first author of beauty made all those things.

Or if they admired their power and their effects, let them understand by them, that he that made them, is mightier than they:

For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby.

But yet as to these they are less to be blamed. For they perhaps err, seeking God, and desirous to find him.

For being conversant among his works, they search: and they are persuaded that the things are good which are seen.

But then again they are not to be pardoned.

For if they were able to know so much as to make a judgment of the world: how did they not more easily find out the Lord thereof?

NOTE:

The featured image (from Wikimedia Commons) is of Abbe LeMaitre, the priest who formulated “The Big Bang” theory of cosmic evolution.

9

Christmas–A Bad Time for Addicts and Alcoholics? Faith Is the Answer.

For some, the sights, signs and smells of the holidays bring joy and a warm feeling. But, while others are joyously diving into the season, some of us are dipping into conflict, guilt, and a sense of guilt.
—Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go, Dec. 24.

If I could speak to other parents facing the same situation, I’d say, “You need to hand your children over to someone greater than yourself, because you can’t control your children or the addiction. You are not helping them if you try to—hold on! It gets better.
—Anonymous, “Stories of Faith and Addiction”, St. Joseph Catholic Church Drug and Alcohol Ministry Website

“Tis the season to be jolly!” …Or is it? For many addicts, alcoholics, their family and friends, there are triggers—Christmas tree ornaments that once were scattered in a drunken rage, the Christmas Eve phone call from the ER about an overdosed child—that are a reminder of bad times in the past.

Now, I don’t intend to dampen the spirit of this sacred holiday. Rather, this article is a plea to support efforts to bring faith into the lives of addicts, alcoholics and their families. As an example, our parish has formed a “Drug and Alcohol Ministry”. We meet monthly, with a prayer/rosary session beforehand. Our mission is not to give advice—that’s left to the professionals and 12 Step groups—but to give support and to help people, those afflicted, their families and friends, know that faith in Jesus Christ will give them hope.

The web site for the ministry contains the following resources: a prayer for the month, a list of local 12 Step meetings, a list of counseling services and stories of recovery through faith in God. In our area, the Higher Power of the Twelve Step meetings is explicitly God. But this may not be the case elsewhere.

The statistics for recovery are a mixed lot. Some reports give 10% (or lower) recovery rates from just 12 Step programs. Others give higher figures for 12 Step programs plus extensive counseling. But the most significant statistic is 60 to 75% recovery—abstinence two years after release from rehab—if there is a significant faith component to rehab efforts. And it must be realized that recovery is not only for addicts or alcoholics, but for their families.

So, let us pray to God and to St. Jude, worker of miracles:

 

“God of life, You made us in Your perfect image to live in Your love and to give You glory, honor and praise. Open our hearts to Your healing power. Come, Lord Jesus, calm our souls just as You whispered “Peace” to the stormy sea.  St. Jude, holy Apostle, in our need we reach out to you. We beg you to intercede for us that we may find strength to overcome our illnesses. Bless all those who struggle with addiction. Touch them, heal them, reassure them of the Father’s constant love. Remain at our side, St. Jude, to chase away all evil temptations, fears and doubts. May the quiet assurance of your loving presence illuminate the darkness in our hearts and bring lasting peace. “—Prayer of the Month, website, St. Joseph Church Drug and Alcohol Ministry

3

St. Augustine Day by Day:
“It is Christ’s Birthday”

Here is another “St. Augustine Day by Day” for Christmas:

“Rejoice you who are just.  It is the birthday of Him Who justifies.  Rejoice you who are weak and sick.  It is the birthday of Him Who makes people well.  Rejoice you who are in captivity. It is the birthday of the Redeemer.  Rejoice you who are slaves. It is the birthday of the Master.

Rejoice you who are free. It is the birthday of Him Who makes us free.  Rejoice all you Christians. It is Christ’s birthday.”–St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 184, 2

And again,

“Let us devoutly celebrate this day. For just as the first ones to share our faith adored Christ lying in the manger, let us adore him reigning in heaven.”–St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 203, 3

And a Happy and Blessed Christmas to you all.

 

 

5

The way it was: “The Mass in Slow Motion” by Msgr Ronald Knox

“I suppose it is the experience of all of us that the Mass, with its terrific uniformity- unvarying throughout Latin Christendom, varying so little from one feast or season to another-does not impose uniformity on our thoughts.”–Msgr. Ronald Knox, “The Mass in Slow Motion”

As a late-in-life Catholic convert (1995, at the age of 65), I was not familiar with the Latin Mass.   My wife and I have attended two Extraordinary Form (Tridentine) Masses  given by the FSSP,,  but I didn’t appreciate fully what the Mass used to be before Novus Ordo.   I didn’t understand the Latin and, so new to the Church, didn’t really see why the different liturgical forms were important.   We’ve attended many Anglican Usage Masses, which have many liturgical forms similar to the Tridentine:  the priest faces the Tabernacle (ad orientem) for most of the service;  Holy Communion is given on the tongue at the altar rail, with intinction; and, although there is no Latin, the form of the liturgy is similar to that of the Latin Mass.

After reading “The Mass in Slow Motion”, by Msgr. Ronald Knox, I have begun to understand why there are so many people passionately devoted to the Latin Mass, the older form, and wish for its full implementation.  Msgr. Knox was an English Catholic priest, a writer of detective stories, a raconteur on BBC, and a convert.  (Do a web search, “Ronald Knox,” for a full and impressive biography.)    The book (linked  above to an online pdf version) is a collection of sermons given to a Catholic girls’ school during World War II.   There is an introduction which provides an overview of the Mass, a reprise of a talk given to adults.   I’ll quote from that:

It’s an odd reflection, then, that when I say Mass or you hear it, though the words and the gestures are the same, and you would think there was no difference at all except the sins we thought about at the Confiteor and the intentions we remembered for the living and the dead, in fact there is a difference; the devotional overtones, the mystical nuances which the words and the ceremonies of the Mass suggest to us are not, probably, the same for you and for me. So I thought I would come clean, and try to analyse, thus publicly, the inwardness of my own Mass; talk about the odd bells that ring in my own mind, the odd vistas that open to my own view, to close again at once, in the hope that they may have some value for other people. Let me say at once that I know nothing about liturgy, so you won’t get any of the orthodox side- lights on the Mass which they give you in the books. Also that I am thinking about Low Mass; it is a long time since I had to sing High Mass, and when I did, the only thought I can remember entertaining was a vivid hope that I might die before we got to the Preface.

The Psalm Judica. What a disconcerting thing it is about the idiom of Hebrew devotion, that the psalms are always saying, ” I am upright, I am innocent, I never did anything to deserve this punishment “, whereas we are always wanting to say we are miserable sinners! Here, we prepare for the Confiteor by assuring God that we have walked innocently, and asking him to distinguish very carefully between us and the wicked. When I say this psalm, then, what should I think about? Perhaps, about myself as the representative of the Christian Church, so isolated, so shut away, in idea at least, from all the busy wickedness of the world. The Mass starts with the Church pushing the world away from her; the lodge is tiled, there are no profane onlookers, it is a cosy family party, just ourselves.”–Msgr. Ronal Knox, “The Mass in Slow Motion”, p.8, Introduction.

And there’s more.   The writing is elegant, but familiar–oh, how well the English know how to put words together!

There’s one other point that is crucial:  “catholic” means “universal” and this was how the term first began to be applied to The Church–a universal Church.  If you hark back to the opening quote, you see that the Mass was universal–it was the same in Japan, Nigeria and Iowa.  The Church has lost this, but we should recover this universality, this catholicity.   So,  I will join those who plead for the return of the Tridentine Mass.

1

The Wexford Carol

At the Wednesday night rehearsal of our parish instrumental group (trumpet, two clarinets, guitar, two flutes, tympani–and me on a bowed psaltery) the director played a recording of a carol we will play in the prelude before the 7:30 pm Christmas Vigil Mass, the Wexford Carol.   It’s beautiful and out of the way–I found a YouTube of it with Alison Kraus and Yo-Yo Ma and lyrics that I hope you all will enjoy:

 

For me, music is the road to faith and one hymn is worth 10 homilies.

 

45

PopeWatch: Pope Francis Wants to Change “The Lord’s Prayer”

Doing my morning scan of Foxnews.com, the following headline caught my eye: “Pope Francis wants to change line of ‘Our Father’ ”    Here’s the story:

“Pope Francis has suggested he wants to make a change to The Lord’s Prayer, widely known among the faithful as the ‘Our Father.’

 

Specifically, the Catholic leader said in an interview Wednesday he would prefer to adjust the phrase ‘lead us not into temptation,’ saying that it too strongly suggested that God leads people to sin.

 

‘That is not a good translation,’ the pope said, according to Reuters.

So, whaddya think?

 

1

Words of Hope from St. Ambrose

Today, 7th December, is the feast day for St. Ambrose, the saint who led St. Augustine to the Church.  In the daily Office of Readings a letter of his was the second reading, and it offered words of hope for the troubled times that have engendered so many posts in this blog.   I’ll quote from this:

“You have entered upon the office of bishop. Sitting at the helm of the Church, you pilot the ship against the waves. Take firm hold of the rudder of faith so that the severe storms of this world cannot disturb you. The sea is mighty and vast, but do not be afraid, for as Scripture says: he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.

 

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakeable and firm against the assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. Although the Church is tossed about on the sea, it rides easily on rivers, especially those rivers that Scripture speaks of: The rivers have lifted up their voice. These are the rivers flowing from the heart of the man who is given drink by Christ and who receives from the Spirit of God. When these rivers overflow with the grace of the Spirit, they lift up their voice.

 

There is also a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace. Whoever has received from the fullness of this river, like John the Evangelist, like Peter and Paul, lifts up his voice. Just as the apostles lifted up their voices and preached the Gospel throughout the world, so those who drink these waters begin to preach the good news of the Lord Jesus.

 

Drink, then, from Christ, so that your voice may also be heard. Store up in your mind the water that is Christ, the water that praises the Lord. Store up water from many sources, the water that rains down from the clouds of prophecy.

 

Whoever gathers water from the mountains and leads it to himself or draws it from springs, is himself a source of dew like the clouds. Fill your soul, then, with this water, so that your land may not be dry, but watered by your own springs.”

Go to the link above for the rest.

1

Riding to Faith on the Wheels of Music

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: ‘The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.’”
–Kurt Vonnegut (beliefnet.com“)
“I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.”
–J.S. Bach?  (beliefnet.com)
“Of course God exists. One way I know He exists is that He put a song in my heart and gave me ears to hear His glory
–Msgr. Charles Pope, Music, the “6th Proof” for God.

“Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.  With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.” 
–Psalm 98:5,6 (KJV)

“Did you write the book of love, And do you have faith in God above, If the Bible tells you so? Do you believe in rock n’roll, Can music save your mortal soul?
–Don McLean, American Pie

Advent and Christmas are seasons for special hymns, music that deepens our faith and puts us in a celebratory mood.  And so, I offer readers this reflection on how music has shaped my devotion to the Church.     There will be links to my favorite music:  liturgical, hymns and other (in the “Musical Autobiography section–I think people will especially appreciate the video of the Marines singing “Days of Elijah”).    I’d be grateful if readers would note in comments their own favorites music–we’ll make a playlist.

I won’t say much about the psychology of music or how music affects the brain.   There have been many functional imaging studies of music and brain changes, but I’m not sure we know much more now than when Pythagoras noted the beautiful mathematical relations between harmonious intervals.    However, for those interested in pursuing this subject, references are given below.¹

My first encounter with the power of music in liturgy came at a 40 Hours devotional service. (See Top Down to Jesus) .     I had been preparing for entry into the Church, and although on rational grounds I had come to believe in the Resurrection and its implications, there were matters of dogma I found  difficult to understand, particularly that important one, transubstantiation, the change of the substance of the host into the body of Christ.   As the monstrance was carried in during the procession of the 40 Hours service,  Tantum Ergo was played, and as I read in the missal

“Præstet fides supplementum, Sensuum defectui,”

enough of my high school Latin came back: “faith will supplement the deficiency of the senses“; I realized in my heart, that the wafer, the host, was the body of Christ, that it was mystery beyond science and philosophy, and my eyes filled with tears.

Other liturgical music has struck to my heart in ways no homily or theological text seems to do.    During my first Easter Vigil Mass  The Litany of the Saints was played, and an overwhelming  vision of the history of the Church and all its holy people came to me.    During  Vespers at St. Vincent Archabbey (attended during retreat as a Benedictine Oblate) or Evensong services at  the St. Thomas More Anglican Usage Parish,  a great peace and understanding  comes over me as I listen to the strong voices chanting the psalms.

Other music, not  liturgical–Bach (the B minor Mass,  Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring), Mozart’s Requiem, Ralph Vaughan William’s Dona Nobis Pacem,  will move me to thoughts of God.  Hymns  that I want to be played at my funeral have made their mark:  Amazing Grace; Shall We Gather by the River;  Jerusalem my Happy Home; Bread of Angels;  King of Glory, King of Peace; Come My Way, My Truth, My Life (old pieces from  Anglican or evangelical churches).   And there are those I’ve played with the instrumental group at Church, It is Well with my Soul, Panis AngelicusMozart’s Ave VerumThe King of Love My Shepherd Is. Old 100th and so many others.  (I played the alto clarinet, not well, but enough to provide harmony–a bass voice, since I can’t sing on key.²)

One thing should be clear: it isn’t the music by itself that is moving, but the total situation:  liturgy, congregation, and the words.   I could read

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,That saved a wretch like me.I once was lost but now am found,Was blind, but now I see.T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.And Grace, my fears relieved.How precious did that Grace appearThe hour I first believed.” Liberty Lyrics John Newton

It would be moving, but it is the combination of the words that reflect my own experience AND the music that brings me to tears of joy.  I could read the verses of Tantum Ergo and Pange Lingua, but it would not be meaningful without the presence of Christ’s body, the procession, the Benediction,  and the congregation sharing this experience.

Am I only being sentimental and not truly devoted to the austere beauty of liturgy in my reaction to this music–too catholic (with a lower-case c)?   Some Church liturgists might think so.

“It is not surprising that Church leaders have doubted whether the feelings which music arouses are truly religious.  Music’s power to fan the flames of piety may be more apparent than real…”Anthony Storr, Music and the Mind   

The Hebrews did not worry about music being a distraction from devotion to the Lord.    David danced in the procession to the altar and the psalms say “Sing to the Lord a new song,  play the lute, the lyre and the harp, sound the trumpets“.    St. Augustine, entranced by music, was concerned that this power might enable the senses to overcome the intellect in worship:

“So I waver between the danger that lies in gratifying the senses and the benefits which, as I know, can accrue from singing….I am inclined to approve of the custom of singing in church, in order that by indulging the ears weaker spirits may be inspired  with feelings of devotion.  Yet when I find the singing itself more moving than the truth  which it conveys, I confess it is a grievous sin, and at those times I would prefer not to hear the singer(emphasis added)” St. Augustine, Confessions

The last sentence in the quote is the foundation for the expulsion of music from the Church in Calvinist sects (read “The Warden” by Anthony Trollope).   I cannot subscribe to that view.  I am one of St. Augustine’s weaker spirits.   I believe God gave many many gifts to man in giving him intelligence:  language, mathematics, music, art.   Music has the power to heal the soul (as Oliver Sacks shows in Musicophilia) and to bring one closer to God.   We give joy to God  when we rejoice in music, not only to praise Him, but to rejoice in life (l’Chaim)

¹REFERENCES.

Robert Jourdain, Music, the Brain and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination. 
Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia, Tales of Music and the Brain
Anthony Storr, Music and the Mind

²A MUSICAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY

I am musical but untalented (unlike my younger and older brothers).   At the age of 8, I didn’t pass an audition at our Temple Youth Choir because I couldn’t carry a tune.  So, I took up the clarinet as a biddable instrument– if you put your fingers on the right keys, the right note comes out (given a certain amount of play in lipping the reed).     However, the biddability of the clarinet and my own talent weren’t sufficient to let me do well in junior high school band, so that clarinet was put away until after my retirement, when I took up playing again: bass clarinet, then alto clarinet and the bowed psaltery.  Throughout my life from a teenager on, I have enjoyed classical music, folk music and some of the Golden Oldies–no rap, no hard rock, none of the stuff that’s played on most radio stations.

My musical tastes are catholic (lower-case c).   On my Pandora web site are listed stations including Callas, Pavarotti, Fleming,  St. Martin’s in the Fields, Gilbert & Sullivan, Bach, Mozart, klezmer, Sephardic, Ashokan Farewell, bluegrass.   Such music is moving in different ways–Ravel’s  Bolero, the Wedding Scene from Fiddler on the Roof, The Beatles’ “Let it Be”, the final scene from Der Rosenkavalier, American Pie, Ode to Joy (Beethoven’s 9th)The Days of Elijah (The Day of Jubilee)

NOTE

This article is adapted from an earlier post in  my blog, “God’s Gift to Man–The Transforming Power of Music, Redux.”

 

2

St. Augustine (Hippo) says Jesus is a God of Mercy

I thought this discourse on the Psalms, taken from St. Augustine of Hippo as the Second Reading of the Office of Readings might be pertinent…I’ll quote most of the whole thing–go to the link for the rest.

“All the trees of the forest will exult before the face of the Lord, for he has come, he has come to judge the earth. He has come the first time, and he will come again. At his first coming, his own voice declared in the gospel: Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds. What does he mean by hereafter? Does he not mean that the Lord will come at a future time when all the nations of the earth will be striking their breasts in grief ? Previously he came through his preachers, and he filled the whole world. Let us not resist his first coming, so that we may not dread the second.

 

….

 

All the trees of the forest will exult. He has come the first time, and he will come again to judge the earth; he will find those rejoicing who believed in his first coming, for he has come.

 

He will judge the world with equity and the peoples in his truth. What are equity and truth? He will gather together with him for the judgment his chosen ones, but the others he will set apart; for he will place some on his right, others on his left. What is more equitable, what more true than that they should not themselves expect mercy from the judge, who themselves were unwilling to show mercy before the judge’s coming. Those, however, who were willing to show mercy will be judged with mercy. For it will be said to those placed on his right: Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world. And he reckons to their account their works of mercy: For I was hungry and you gave me food to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me drink.

 

What is imputed to those placed on his left side? That they refused to show mercy. And where will they go? Depart into the everlasting fire. The hearing of this condemnation will cause much wailing. But what has another psalm said? The just man will be held in everlasting remembrance; he will not fear the evil report. What is the evil report? Depart into the everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels. Whoever rejoices to hear the good report will not fear the bad. This is equity, this is truth.

 

Or do you, because you are unjust, expect the judge not to be just? Or because you are a liar, will the truthful one not be true? Rather, if you wish to receive mercy, be merciful before he comes; forgive whatever has been done against you; give of your abundance. Of whose possessions do you give, if not from his? If you were to give of your own, it would be largess; but since you give of his, it is restitution. For what do you have, that you have not received?These are the sacrifices most pleasing to God: mercy, humility, praise, peace, charity. Such as these, then, let us bring and, free from fear, we shall await the coming of the judge who will judge the world in equity and the peoples in his truth.”  

-St. Augustine of Hippo, Discourse on the Psalms, taken from Office of Readings for 19 Nov. 2017

23

Six Impossible Liturgical Things before Breakfast

Inspired by Pope Francis’s latest pronouncements on proper conduct at Holy Mass, I’ve thought of  some other things that we might wish to happen.

  1. No hymns written after 1905 will be sung at Mass.
  2. There will be no drums, wind instruments, or guitars accompanying the choir for hymns or other liturgical music.
  3. The “Our Father” prayer will be recited or chanted;  anyone who sings the “Notre Dame Folk Choir”  “Our Father” will be required to do penance.
  4. All children under three will sleep through Mass.
  5. No one will arrive at Mass after  the opening prayer;   no one will leave until the second verse of the recessional hymn is sung.
  6. As Pope Francis requested, all cell phones will be off and conversations will be held outside the church.

I have many more, so look for another edition of this.  And feel free to add your own.

11

US Bishops Signal Resistance to Pope Francis’s Agenda?

Here’s an article in the Wall Street Journal (go to Drudge to get the post without a paywall–look for “US Catholic Leaders Signal Resistance to Pope’s Agenda”.)

Here are some quotes:

“—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops chose a conservative archbishop for a key post Tuesday, signaling resistance to Pope Francis’s vision for the church among the Catholic hierarchy in the U.S.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of Kansas City, was elected chairman of the committee on Pro-Life Activities. In a vote of 96 to 82, he defeated Cardinal Blase Cupich, of Chicago, who is seen as a liberal in the church and a close ally of the pope.

The vote breaks a longstanding tradition of the position being held by a cardinal—an unusual lapse of deference in a highly rank-conscious body—and suggests that Catholic leaders in the U.S. remain largely resistant to the changes Pope Francis is trying to bring to the church.”

…….

” ‘It is clear since 2013 that a majority of them sees the message of Francis’ pontificate, esp. on life and marriage, as not adequate for the Catholic Church in the USA,’ Massimo Faggioli, a theologian at Villanova, said on Twitter after the vote Tuesday.”–Ian Lovett and Francis X. Rocca, Wall Street Journal, 14 Nov, ’17

The vote count was 96 to 82.   Cupich is a Cardinal and the position ordinarily goes to a Cardinal, so the closeness of the vote may be due to this break from tradition, rather than reflecting a focus on abortion and euthanasia as pro-life issues.   The article indicated that Cupich, a supporter of Pope Francis, would probably want to follow Pope Francis’s lead in bringing in other issues–capital punishment, global warming, etc–and this was rejected by the Bishops.

Is this an encouraging sign?   You tell me.

5

By their Friends Shall Ye Know them:
Mary Robinson, Friend of Francis, Champion of Abortion and Climate Change

Mary Robinson, former president of that once Catholic country, Ireland, and champion of abortion rights and climate change alarmism, is featured in an article in “Vatican Radio”.     It’s interesting that Pope Francis, possibly following that non-Catholic principle, “The ends justify the means”, has held hands with many eminent folks who propose policies directly contrary to Catholic teaching.   Besides Mary Robinson, there is Hans Schellnhuber, German academic who advocates we do all to promote “Gaia” (sp?)–population control?  abortion? one-world control?, Sir Parth Dasgupta–a population control advocate, and who knows how many others. (See here.)  Why does the Church become involved in political issues of dubious validity?