PopeWatch: The Queen

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Pope Francis met with the Queen yesterday:

According to Vatican Radio, Thursday’s audience marked the queen’s seventh encounter with a pontiff and the fifth different pope she has met. Besides trips to Rome, she also welcomed Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus, on their respective visits to Britain.

Her first papal encounter was with Pope Pius in 1951, the year before she ascended the throne, the broadcaster said.

The Queen’s latest visit to Italy, at the invitation of Napolitano, was initially planned last year but was postponed because of illness.

Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker, told Vatican Radio the Queen had decided to take advantage of the rescheduled trip to meet Pope Francis.

“If you look back in terms of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, it is extraordinary how far the relationship between Britain and the Holy See, and between the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church, has developed since 1952 when she became queen,” he said.

A key aspect of that has been her several encounters with different popes over the years, Baker said. Continue reading

Profiles in Cowardice

 (Image of Bishop Jugis removed by the demand of the diocesan newspaper, The Catholic News Herald, of the Charlotte Diocese.)

 

Well, the diocese of Charlotte decided to throw Sister Jane Dominic Laurel under the bus after she had the temerity to teach basic Catholic doctrine in a school that hilariously calls itself Charlotte Catholic High School.  Go here to read about the controversy.  Here is what happened at the surrender ceremonies at the High School where the diocese capitulated to parents and students who despise Catholic moral teaching on divorce, homosexuals and sex.

 

 

Diocese spokesman David Hains acknowledged after the meeting that the Rev. Matthew Kauth, the school’s chaplain, apologized to the parents for a March 21 speech by Sister Jane Dominic Laurel that was not the one he expected her to give.

Hains also said the high school committed to developing new policies that would better scrutinize visiting speakers in the future. He said the school also wants to do a better job of communicating with parents ahead of time when such speeches will deal with sensitive subjects such as sexuality.

“Parents should have been better informed,” Hains said.

During her speech, Laurel quoted studies that said gays and lesbians are not born with same-sex attractions, and that children in single-parent homes have a greater chance of becoming homosexual, Hains and others said.

Diocese spokesman David Hains acknowledged after the meeting that the Rev. Matthew Kauth, the school’s chaplain, apologized to the parents for a March 21 speech by Sister Jane Dominic Laurel that was not the one he expected her to give.

Hains also said the high school committed to developing new policies that would better scrutinize visiting speakers in the future. He said the school also wants to do a better job of communicating with parents ahead of time when such speeches will deal with sensitive subjects such as sexuality.

“Parents should have been better informed,” Hains said. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Libertine Atheism

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Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa has an interesting post examining an intellectual influence on the Pope:

 

His name is Alberto Methol Ferré. An Uruguayan from Montevideo, he often crossed the Rio de la Plata to visit his friend the archbishop in Buenos Aires. He died in 2009 at the age of eighty. A book-length interview of 2007 has been reprinted in Argentina and now also in Italy, of capital importance for understanding not only his vision of the world but also that of his friend who went on to become pope:

In presenting the first edition of this book in Buenos Aires, Bergoglio praised it as a text of “metaphysical profundity.” And in 2011, in the preface to another book by a close friend of both men – Guzmán Carriquiry Lecour, the Uruguayan secretary of the pontifical commission for Latin America, the highest ranking layman at the Vatican – Bergoglio once again offered his gratitude to the “brilliant thinker of the Rio de la Plata” for having laid bare the new dominant ideology after the fall of the Marxism-inspired forms of messianic atheism.

It is the ideology that Methol Ferrè called “libertine atheism.” And that Bergoglio describes as follows:

“Hedonistic atheism and its neo-Gnostic trappings have become the dominant culture, with global reach and diffusion. The constitute the atmosphere of the time in which we live, the new opium of the people. The ‘sole form of thought,’ in addition to being socially and politically totalitarian, has Gnostic structures: it is not human, it recycles the different forms of absolutist rationalism with which the nihilistic hedonism described by Methol Ferré expresses itself. It dominates the ‘nebulized theism,’ a diffuse theism without historical incarnation; even at its best it produces Masonic ecumenism.”

In the book-length interview that has now been republished, Methol Ferré maintains that the new atheism “has radically changed its face. It is not messianic, but libertine. It is not revolutionary in a social sense, but complicit with the status quo. It has no interest in justice, but in all that permits the cultivation of radical hedonism. It is not aristocratic, but has transformed itself into a mass phenomenon.”

But perhaps the most interesting element of Methol Ferré’s analysis is in the answer that he gives to the challenged posed by the new hegemonic thinking:

“This is what happened with the Protestant Reformation, with Enlightenment secularism, and then with messianic Marxism. An enemy is defeated by taking the best of his intuitions and pushing them further.”

And what is his judgment of libertine atheism?

“The truth of libertine atheism is the perception that existence has an intrinsic destination of enjoyment, that life itself is made for satisfaction. In other words: the deep kernel of libertine atheism is a buried need for beauty.”

Of course, libertine atheism “perverts” beauty, because “it separates it from truth and from goodness, and therefore from justice. But – Methol Ferré warns – “one cannot redeem libertine atheism’s kernel of truth with an argumentative or dialectical procedure; much less can one do so by setting up prohibitions, raising alarms, dictating abstract rules. Libertine atheism is not an ideology, it is a practice. A practice must be opposed with another practice; a self-aware practice, of course, which means one that is equipped intellectually. Historically the Church is the only subject present on the stage of the contemporary world that can confront libertine atheism. To my mind only the Church is truly post-modern.”

There is a stunning harmony between this vision of Methol Ferré and the program of his disciple Bergoglio’s pontificate, with his rejection of “the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be imposed with insistence” and with his insistence on a Church capable of “making the heart burn,” of healing every kind of illness and injury, of restoring happiness. Continue reading

Baron Renfrew and Renfrew Park

Baron Renfrew

 

When my bride and I moved to Dwight, Illinois, in 1985 we purchased a house located only a few blocks from a 20 acre park, Renfrew Park.  This was good planning on our part.  When our kids made their appearance in the nineties, they loved playing in the park, and we have many fond family memories of fun there.  We quickly learned that the name of Renfrew Park commemorated the visit of British royalty to our little town in September 1860, just before the Civil War.

Prince Edward had been carefully brought up by his parents, perhaps too carefully.  Kept from free association with people outside of tutors and family, he viewed his trip to Canada and America in 1860 as a great adventure.  It was.  Edward was the first Prince of Wales to visit the United States.  He made a great impression with his affability and his gift for speaking to everyone, high and low, with friendly interest.  Officially traveling incognito as “Baron Renfrew”, one of the lesser titles of the Prince of Wales,   on the eve of the Civil War, he charmed almost all Americans he encountered, north and south, drawing huge crowds during his 2600 mile tour of the country from September 20, 1860-October 20, 1860.

One of his minor stops was the Village of Dwight at the beginning of his tour.  He visited a corn farm and then went prairie chicken shooting where Renfrew Park is now located.  The Prince enjoyed himself immensely and relished the rest he had from the huge crowds that came out to meet him in larger communities. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Sylvia Hawk

 

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PopeWatch wishes that the below story from Independent Catholic News did not have a dateline of April 1:

Sylvia and Friend

 

 

Vatican officials today are introducing a new measure to keep St Peter’s Square clear of marauding birds. A team in the Swiss Guards has been assigned the task of supervising a Sharris Hawk, which will be brought out during the Weekly Audiences and the Angelus – on Wednesdays and Sundays.

On 26 January this year, two white peace doves were attacked by a crow and a seagull, seconds after they were released from a window in the Apostolic Palace by Pope Francis, accompanied by two young children. One dove lost several feathers in the fracas.

A spokesman for the Vatican Press Office said: “Such an event will not happen again.” He explained: “The hawk, which is called Sylvia, was bred in a wildlife centre in northern Italy and is highly trained. Her mere presence should act as a deterrent to any more attacks such as the one which took place in January. In addition however, she will act as an escort and protector to the peace doves after the ceremonies, accompanying the birds when they fly home from Saint Peter’s to their aviary, which is about one and a half a kilometres from the Vatican.”

With a wingspan of up to 120 cm (47 inches) Sharris Hawks originally come from the southwestern United States, Chile and Argentina. They have dark brown plumage with chestnut shoulders, wing underwings, white on the base and tip of the tail, long, yellow legs and beak. Continue reading

Outside Agitators

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Hattip to Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy.  Remember Mireille Miller-Young, an associate professor of “feminist studies” at the University of California Santa Barbara, who is currently charged with assault, battery and vandalism in regard to taking a sign from a teenage pro-lifer?  Go here to read all about it.  Now you would think that an institution supposedly dedicated to the pursuit of learning would have something to say about a professor who is apparently unable to control herself when confronted with views that she despises.  Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UCSB did address it in this open letter to students.  He comes out in favor of free speech, but somehow does not name the professor, the incident, and, echoing segregationists of the past, seems to blame the problem of intolerance on campus on outsiders:

 

 

Dear Students:

Over the past several weeks, our campus has been visited by a number of outside groups and individuals coming here to promote an ideology, to promulgate particular beliefs (at times extreme beliefs), or simply to create discord that furthers a certain personal agenda. Some passionately believe in their causes, while others peddle hate and intolerance with less-than-noble aims. Whatever the motives and goals, the presence of such people and groups on campus can be disruptive and has the potential to draw us into the kind of conflict that puts at risk the quality of exchange of ideas that is fundamental to the mission of our university.

What is happening now is not new: evangelical types have been visiting UCSB and university campuses since time immemorial. What we see at UCSB today is simply the most recent generation of true believers, self-proclaimed prophets, and provocateurs. During the past few weeks, UCSB has been visited by various anti-abortion crusaders. Some have been considerate and thoughtful in promoting their message; others have openly displayed images that many in our community find distressing and offensive. We have also seen earnest and thoughtful religious missionaries, and we have seen proselytizers hawking intolerance in the name of religious belief. As a consequence of interactions with the more extreme of our visitors, students have expressed outrage, pain, embarrassment, fear, hurt, and feelings of harassment. Moreover, I have received requests that the campus prohibit the peddling of “fear,” “hate,” “intolerance,” and “discord” here at UCSB.

Those of you who know me are aware that I have strong views on the matter of intolerance. You also know that I hold equally strong views on the sanctity of free speech. If you have heard me speak at Convocation or at anti-hate events, or if you have seen me officiating at the Queer Wedding, you know that my message on both counts is clear. Recent events lead me to believe that this message bears repeating.

First, the principle of freedom of expression resides at the very foundation of our society and, most certainly, at the foundation of a world-class university such as UC Santa Barbara. Freedom and rights are not situational: we either have freedom of speech or we do not. We cannot pick and choose which views are allowed to be aired and who is allowed to speak. If that were the case, then only those in charge — those holding power — would determine who gets to speak and whose views are heard.

Second, freedom is not free. The price of freedom for all to speak is that, at times, everyone will be subjected to speech and expression that we, ourselves, find offensive, hateful, vile, hurtful, provocative, and perhaps even evil. So be it! Law and policy ban only an extremely narrow band of speech and expression — “yelling ‘fire!’ in a crowded theatre,” for example, and child pornography. The price we pay to speak our own minds is allowing others to speak theirs, regardless of how oppositional their views are to our own. Our Founding Fathers — all white men of privilege, some even slave owners — got it right when designing the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Having firmly stated my support for freedom of expression, I hasten to follow with a lesson my mother taught me when I was a small child, a lesson that has remained with me the rest of my life and that I relay to our entering students every fall at Convocation. My mother taught me that just because you can say or do something doesn’t mean that you should. Civility plays an important role in how we choose to exercise our right to expression. We all have the right to say odious things, to display offensive slogans and placards, and to hurt and disrespect groups and individuals that disagree with us. The question is: should we? Should we engage in these behaviors just because we can or because they serve our political, religious, or personal agendas?

At UCSB, our students have proven that we are better than this. While it has not always been easy, time and again UCSB students have demonstrated that they can disagree about the critical issues of our time — fundamentally and passionately but within a framework of humanity and civility, respecting the dignity of those whose views they oppose. Time and time again, UCSB students have demonstrated that they understand their role in defining the character and quality of this campus community — revealing their unwillingness to lower themselves to the tactics of those whose agenda comes wrapped in intolerance and extremism.

And now we are tested once again, outsiders coming into our midst to provoke us, to taunt us and attempt to turn us against one another as they promote personal causes and agendas. If we take the bait, if we adopt negative tactics and engage in name calling, confrontation, provocation, and offensive behavior, then they win and our community loses. Continue reading

John Wright Watched Noah So You Don’t Have To

Audience stampeding from Noah film

Science fiction writer John C. Wright has an epic, and scathing, review of the film Noah at his blog:

Aronofsky’s NOAH would be a fine movie for Earthday, or as a source for ideas for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

Aside from this, the movie was bad, and bad, and bad.

First, it was bad in my eyes for reasons which are simply a matter of my expectations and tastes, which I would not necessarily expect anyone else to share.

On that basis, I can only warn away men who share my particular tastes and quirks, which may be no one. I thought the look of the movie was colorless, unappealing, unmemorable. It was drab.

Second, it was bad as story, bad for reasons which even judges who like the movie for other reasons will agree are bad as story telling: bad on technical grounds.

On that basis, I can warn away anyone who likes a well-crafted story, or even a poorly-crafted story trying to tell a story. The story-telling sank during the second half of the film, and the plot snarled into a knot of nonsense. It was bad.

Third, it was bad as a Bible story, bad for reasons which only Christians, or Conservatives or both would consider bad, but which tree-hugging misanthropic miscreants on the Left would like.

On that basis, I can warn away anyone who is Christian as a well as any non-Christians who do not bow the knee in pious reverence at the ugly Leftist altars of man-hating Gaea-worship. Vegetarians yearning for the destruction of mankind might like this movie; and also vehement anti-Christians and anti-Semites who want to see Bible stories mocked and deconstructed. The movie was a sneer against God and Man and everything good in life. I rarely find movies morally offensive; this movie was. It was evil. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Resignation Part Two

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In a shock April 1, 2014 announcement the Vatican has stated that Pope Francis is resigning today and Pope Benedict will resume his duties as Pope.

Pope Francis is quoted as naming two factors in his decision for resigning:  1.  The rich Italian  cooking that could get him up to 400 pounds if he stayed in Rome;   and 2.  Criticisms from Catholic blogs, especially in America.  Noting that his predecessor had warned him about reading the blogs, Pope Francis was disturbed by the divisions his election had caused.  “I do not want to be the cause of acrimony among Catholic bloggers.  If I stay as Pope it could be another “torture debate”, and I doubt if Western civilization could survive that.”

As for Pope Benedict, he is described as rested, fit and rearing to resume his duties as Pope.  Father Lombardi, Vatican press spokesman, said that Pope Benedict feels 75 after months of sleeping all night and eating hearty monastery food.  As for blogs, Pope Benedict stopped reading them after the condom flap, according to Father Lombardi, although he conceded that the Pope did sneak a peak at Eye of the Tiber for a laugh now and then. Continue reading

John Wilkes Booth and the Outcome of the War Between the States

 

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During this sesquicentennial of the War Between the States a very old question arises:  What was the impact of John Wilkes Booth on the outcome of the War Between the States?  My response is none.

The assassination of Lincoln by Booth certainly shocked the nation.  A President had never been assassinated before, and to have it happen while the President was at ease, enjoying a play at Ford’s Theater, added an element of the grotesque that magnified the horror.  Booth, unknown to all but his closest intimates, had been a Confederate sympathizer throughout the War.  Whether his murder of Lincoln was an act of impulse or a carefully planned conspiracy remains a subject of heated debate.  Nevertheless, whether he decided that evening or after days or weeks of deliberation, Booth, using two pistols, ended the life of Lincoln, Mr. Lincoln and his entourage occupying a theater box on stage, and presenting a target that Booth could not, and did not, miss.  Booth himself being shot to death immediately thereafter ensured that he took whatever planning he engaged in with him to the grave, and made this assassination an endless source of conspiracy theorists ever thereafter. The aptly named play The Marble Heart, starring Booth, will remain forever etched in American memory, along with the date of November 9, 1863 when the first president of the United States to be assassinated died.

Hannibal Hamlin, forgotten Vice-President, thus became President.  On his narrow shoulders many have heaped blame for the defeat of the Union.  Rubbish!  A careful examination of the historical record reveals that he acted in a way almost certainly no different than Lincoln likely would have. Continue reading

National Atheist Day-2014

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I was at this time of living, like so many Atheists or Anti-theists, in a whirl of contradictions.  I maintained that God did not exist.  I was also very angry with God for not existing.  I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.

CS Lewis

I do hope that National Atheist Day today will be a happy time.  One of the more amusing aspects of the contemporary atheist scene is how many of them tend to be more dour and dogmatic than the most dour and dogmatic of the fundamentalists they conjure up in their fancies.  One might almost suspect that many atheists do not disbelieve so much in God as they hate Him.  Tis a puzzlement.  For example, I do not believe in Hinduism or Islam, but that does not make me hate either faith or their devotees.  Rather I find the study of both faiths intellectually intriguing.  The same might be said for Greek and Roman myths, the reality of which I no more believe in than an atheist does the Virgin Birth.

George Orwell, who spent most of his life veering between agnosticism and atheism was quite familiar with the type of dour atheist who is so  often found as the public face of atheism:

“He was an embittered atheist, the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him.” Continue reading

For Those Losing Faith in Humanity

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It is often easy to wonder why God went through the trouble of making us and dying for us, and then you read about someone like Fang Mei Qiu’s grandmother:

A 66 year old grandmother has carried her disabled granddaughter to school every day, according to news reports.

The child Fang Mei Qiu can not stand for more than a few minutes without being in unbearable pain due to a condition she was born with that made her kneecaps weak. The girl’s father left when she was young and her mother remarried leaving Fang Mei in the care of her grandparents.

So each morning since she was nine, Fang Mei’s grandmother puts her granddaughter on her back and begins the long one and a half hour walk to school up a mountain on dirt roads. She stops when she gets too tired and resumes again. Her granddaughter has never once been late. At the end of the day she does it all over again.

A newspaper column about her plight appeared, local authorities arranged for the family to live closer to the school. They also obtained a wheelchair for the young girl. Continue reading

WomenPriests and their supporters: “Strike three and you’re out!”

 

It’s pretty easy to tell that the folks over at the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) aren’t happy campers these days. Some of their heroes fighting on the front lines for women’s ordination are being “disciplined.”

According to a recent NCR article:

A longtime peace and human rights activist arrested countless times, Franciscan Fr. Jerry Zawada has been removed from public ministry for concelebrating Mass with a woman priest in 2011.

Poor Fr. Zawada! After all he’s done over the decades to promote the cause of social justice. He’s been jailed numerous times and now at the age of 76, one would think the Vatican would overlook Fr. Zawada’s minor infelicity for merely concelebrating “Mass” with the Roman Catholic “WomanPriest,” the Rev. Ms. Janice Sevre-Duszynska.

The enemy in the NCR’s narrative is the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which reviewed documentation related to the November 22, 2011 “Mass.” NCR obtained a copy of the CDF’s private letter which stated:

Having carefully examined the acts of the case, and the vota of the former Minister General and the Rev. Zawada’s Provincial Superior, this Dicastery has decided to impose on Rev. Jerome Zawada, OFM, a life of prayer and penance to be lived within the Queen of Peace Friary in Burlington, Wisconsin.

The letter also forbids Fr. Zawada from presenting himself in public as a priest or celebrating the sacraments publicly. However, Fr. Zawada is allowed to concelebrate Mass with other friars at the friary and in private.

Zawada isn’t too pleased. He told the NCR:

I don’t mind the prayer part, but when they called, when they say that I need to be spending time in penance, well, I’m not going to do penance for my convictions and the convictions of so many others, too.

Apparently, CDF isn’t going to wink and ignore any priest who concelebrates “Mass” with so-called “WomenPriests.”

And that’s only the cases that the priests involved have made public.

“You’re out!” the umpire yells after a batter takes three strikes.

And, by the way, the baseball season opens today.

Perhaps those priests who support the cause for the ordination of women should place their money on the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series this year. Both have about an equal chance of happening anytime soon.

 

 

To read the NCR article, click on the following link:
http://ncronline.org/news/peace-justice/longtime-peace-activist-removed-ministry-after-concelebrating-mass-woman-priest

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html

Christ and History

 

 

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You will find that a good many  Christian political writers think that Christianity began going wrong in  departing from the doctrine of its founder at a very early stage. Now this idea  must be used by us to encourage once again the conception of a “historical  Jesus” to be found by clearing away later “accretions and perversions,” and then  to be contrasted with the whole Christian tradition. In the last generation we  promoted the construction of such a “historical Jesus” on liberal and  humanitarian lines. We are now putting forward a new “historical Jesus” on  Marxian, catastrophic and revolutionary lines. The advantages of these  constructions, which we intend to change every thirty years or so, are manifold.  In the first place they all tend to direct man’s devotion to something which  does not exist. Because each “historical Jesus” is unhistorical, the documents  say what they say and they cannot be added to. Each new “historical Jesus” has  to be got out of them by suppression at one point and exaggeration at another  point. And by that sort of guessing (brilliant is the adjective we teach  humans to apply to it) on which no one would risk ten shillings in ordinary  life, but which is enough to produce a crop of new Napoleons, new Shakespeares,  and new Swifts in every publisher’s autumn list. . . . The “historical Jesus,”  then, however dangerous he may seem to be to us at some particular point, is  always to be encouraged.

CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters

 

 

 

 

Bart Ehrman, the New Testament scholar who transitioned from teenage evangelical, to liberal Christian, to agnostic, desperately wants to remake Christ in his own faithless image and therefore is popular with atheists and agnostics.  He has a very old act, as the argument that he makes, that the Resurrection never happened and that Christ was but a man, has been made by anti-Christians since the Crucifixion.    He puts old wine into a shiny new wineskin.  He isn’t really very good at it,  as Stephen Colbert, of all people, demonstrated several years ago.  Go here to Creative Minority Report to view that.

Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, turns his attention to Ehrman:

 

All sorts and conditions of men turn up at this site from time to time.  Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians regularly comment here, disagree with one another’s theology now and then but do it, for the most part, respectfully.

That’s because of most of you, not me.  You guys set the tone for this joint a long time ago.  But if I do see what I consider to be disrespect in the comments, which happens, I’ll quietly edit the comment or remove it entirely.  And if things get too intense in a comment thread, which sometimes happens, I won’t hesitate to shut that thread down.

I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing atheists comment here a lot more often than they do.  I’m not talking about some douchebag whose default position is, “Christians are brain-dead morons” or who claims to collapse on his or her fainting couch at the mere sight of a Bible verse, a Christian Cross or any other Christian image.

I refer to that rare breed of atheist who doesn’t believe there’s a God but is comfortable with the fact that some people disagree and who doesn’t feel the need to insult or belittle religious believers.  I can respect and even be friends with a person like that.

What I can’t and, indeed, refuse to respect are those atheists who still pretend to be Christians but who think that they’ve finally discovered What Actually Happened Two Thousand Years Ago And What It All Means.  Guys like Bart Ehrman, say:

Jesus was a lower-class preacher from Galilee, who, in good apocalyptic fashion, proclaimed that the end of history as he knew it was going to come to a crashing end, within his own generation. God was soon to intervene in the course of worldly affairs to overthrow the forces of evil and set up a utopian kingdom on earth. And he would be the king.

Insert “but” here.

It didn’t happen. Instead of being involved with the destruction of God’s enemies, Jesus was unceremoniously crushed by them: arrested, tried, humiliated, tortured, and publicly executed.

Which is why Jesus’ influence ended right then and there and is also why absolutely no one anywhere, with the exception of obscure Middle Eastern scholars, has any idea who Jesus of Nazareth was.  But for this bizarre reason, that’s not what actually happened.  Stop Bart if you’ve heard this one.

The followers of Jesus came to think he had been raised because some of them (probably not all of them) had visions of him afterwards. Both Christian and non-Christian historians can agree that it was visions of Jesus that made some of Jesus’ followers convinced that he was no longer dead. Christians would say that the disciples had these visions because Jesus really appeared to them. Non-Christians would say that (several of ) the disciples had hallucinations. Hallucinations happen all the time. Especially of deceased loved ones (your grandmother who turns up in your bedroom) and of significant religious figures (the Blessed Virgin Mary, who appears regularly in extraordinarily well-documented events). Jesus was both a lost loved one and an important religious leader. As bereaved, heartbroken, and guilt-ridden followers, the disciples were prime candidates for such visionary experiences.

Once the disciples claimed Jesus was alive again but was (obviously) no longer here with them, they came to think that he had been taken up to heaven (where else could he be?). In ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish thinking, a person exalted to the heavenly realm was divinized – himself made divine. That’s what the earliest Christians thought about Jesus. After that a set of evolutionary forces took over, in which the followers of Jesus began saying more and more exalted things about him – that he had been made the son of God at his resurrection; no, it was at his baptism; no, it was at his birth; no, it was before he came into the world; no – he had never been made the son of God, he had always been the Son of God; in fact, he had always been God; more than that, he had created the world; and yet more, he was an eternal being equal with God Almighty.

That Kierkegaard quote’s on the top of this page for a reason.  That an alleged “scholar” can seriously advance a view so fundamentally unscholarly, so absolutely unsupported by anything remotely resembling actual evidence, convinces me that a great deal of “Christian scholarship” is, as the Great Dane observed, as monumental an intellectual scam as the world has ever known.

Where to begin?  Say what you want about him but Mohammed’s followers thought he was a prophet of God.  No doubt, the Buddha’s disciples intensely revered him.  Yet none of the followers of these two men, or any other great religious leader in world history, for that matter, ever invented a resurrection from the dead for their particular “prophet” and made that “resurrection” the basis of their religion.

Only the Christians did.

It seems to me that if you and all your associates somehow convince yourselves that you’ve seen the risen Jesus when you haven’t, you are, at some point, going to come down from your mass hallucinations.  At which point, you can either admit to yourself that you were wrong or continue with the charade and maybe get yourselves executed at an early age for something that you know deep down is a lie.

And did any of you happen to notice who Ehrman leaves out here?  I’ll give you a few hints.  A devout Jew, he was not only not connected to the Apostles and Christ’s early believers in any way, he was, by his own admission, actively hostile to the new movement, imprisoning many of Christ’s followers and having others killed.

He received authorization to travel to Damascus in order to do more of this sort of thing.  On the way there, he claimed that he saw a vision of the risen Christ, a claim from which he refused to back down to the end of his days, and began to preach Christ and Him crucified almost immediately.  When they heard of it, the Apostles and most of the disciples initially and quite understandably didn’t trust him.

The man’s claim compelled him to plant Christian churches all over the eastern Mediterranean and to write letters to many of these churches, encouraging and/or upbraiding their members as the need arose.  And this man’s claim about what he saw on that road to Damascus ended up prematurely costing him his Earthly life.

I’m pretty sure that the guy had a short name.  Don’t hold me to this but I think that it began with a P.  It’s right on the tip of my tongue.

I don’t know about you, Ehrman, but I can’t make myself die for an illusion. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Confession

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Pope Francis recently broke with protocol, something not too unusal for this pontiff, but this time PopeWatch suspects this departure from the norm will elicit cheers from almost all Catholics.

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Pope Francis stunned parishioners, faith leaders and his own master of ceremonies Friday when he broke protocol to do something wholly unexpected: he bowed down in front of the crowd at St. Peter’s Basilica and confessed his sins to an ordinary priest, Reuters reported.

Typically, the pope goes to confession in private, so his decision was a departure from the past.

Francis made the noteworthy move after uttering a sermon in which he covered the importance of confession in the Catholic faith. Continue reading

Rocky Versace: The Bravest Man You Have Never Heard Of

Captain Versace

 FOR THE ROCK and the children and sugar people of NamCan

Dedication of the book The Fifteenth Pelican by Marie Teresa Rios Versace

 

For his entire life Captain Humbert Roque ‘Rocky’ Versace was on a mission.  His first mission was as an Army Ranger.  His second mission was to be a Catholic priest and to work with orphan kids.  He had been accepted to a Maryknoll seminary but then fate intervened.  The son of Colonel Humbert  J. Versace from Puerto Rico and his wife Marie Teresa Rios Versace, a novelist and poet who, among many other books, wrote The Fifteenth Pelican on which the TV series The Flying Nun was based, Rocky was an unforgettable character.  A graduate of West Point in 1959, he was an Army Ranger and a soldier as tough as they come.  He had an intelligence of a high order as demonstrated by his fluency in French and Vietnamese.  He loved to laugh and have a good time.  At the same time he was deeply religious and a fervent Catholic.  In short, he was a complete man.

Volunteering for service in Vietnam, he began his tour as an intelligence advisor on May 12, 1962.

Rocky fell in love with the Vietnamese people, especially the kids.  In his free time he volunteered in a Vietnamese orphanage.  He believed in his mission and regarded it as a crusade to prevent the people he loved living under Communism.  During his tour he received news that his application to attend a Maryknoll seminary had been accepted.  He planned after ordination to return to Vietnam and work with Vietnam orphans as a priest.  He agreed to a six month extension of his tour since that fit in with his plans to attend the seminary.

On October 29, 1963 he was serving as an intelligence advisor with the 5th Special Forces Group (Green Berets).  He accompanied several companies of South Vietnamese Civilian Irregular Defense (militia) that were seeking to remove a Viet Cong command post in the U Minh Forest.  They were ambushed and Rocky gave covering fire to allow the South Vietnamese to retreat and get away.  He was captured.  The Viet Cong murdered him on September 26, 1965.  What happened in between made Rocky a legend.  He was taken to a camp deep in the jungle along with Lieutenant Nick Rowe and Sergeant Dan Pitzer.  After their eventual release they told all and sundry what they witnessed Rocky do. Continue reading

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