PopeWatch: Christian Socialism

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On Tuesday the Pope blasted money as a master instead of God, and from the reading regarding Ananias and Sapphira, noted how early Christians shared their goods in common as a result of an outpouring of grace through the Holy Spirit:

The Pope draws from the day’s reading the virtuous example of Barnabas who sells his field and gives the proceeds to the Apostles. And in contrast, Francis cites another passage from Acts: that of Ananias and Sapphira, a couple who sell their field and pretend to give the entire proceeds to the Apostles but who in fact, keep part of the money for themselves.  That lie costs them dearly; both die on the spot. 

God and money are two “irreconcilable” masters, Francis stresses. And, he warns against confusing “harmony” with “tranquility:”

“A community can be very tranquil…things are fine … But it is not harmonious. I once heard a wise thing from a bishop: ‘There is tranquility in the diocese. But if you touch on a certain problem – this problem or that problem – war breaks out.’  This is negotiated harmony, and this is not of the Spirit. Let’s say that it’s a hypocritical harmony like that of Ananias and Saphira and what they did.”

Francis concludes, encouraging a re-reading of the Acts of the Apostles and their portrayal of the first Christians and their life together. “We will do well,” he says, to understand the importance of their fraternal generosity and how to bear witness to such a lifestyle in our daily lives.

“The harmony of the Holy Spirit grants us the generosity to possess nothing as our own, while there is someone in need.” Continue reading

We Are Back!: Open Thread

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The gremlins have been chased away and we are back in operation!  Use this thread as an open thread.  The usual open thread rules apply:  be concise, be charitable, and, above all, be amusing!

Lincoln on Mercy

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I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.

Abraham Lincoln

Running down the origin of this quote was a lot of fun.  It sounded like something that Abraham Lincoln would have said, but I had difficulty finding a source for it.  It is cited all over the internet, but no reference is given other than a speech in 1865, and such a lack of citation is often the sign of a spurious quote.  After some searching I found it.  It is sourced in a conversation that Joseph Gillespie had with Abraham Lincoln.  Gillespie was a fellow member with Lincoln of the Illinois General Assembly.  With Lincoln he helped found the Republican party in Illinois.  Elected a circuit court judge in 1861, he helped set up the Illinois Appellate Court.

During a visit to Washington in Spring of 1864, Gillespie met with Lincoln and,  among other subjects they discussed, Lincoln mentioned the problem of captured paroled Confederate troops who were found in arms before they had properly been exchanged:

These men are liable to be put to death when recaptured for breach of parole.  If we do not do something of that sort, this outrage will be repeated on every occasion…It is indeed a serious question, and I have been more sorely tried by it than any other that has occurred during the war.  It will be an act of great injustice to our soldiers to allow the paroled rebels to be put into the field without exchange.  Such a practice would demoralize almost any army in the world if played off upon them.  It would be nearly impossible to induce them to spare the lives of prisoners they might capture.  On the other hand, these men were no doubt told by their superiors that they had been exchanged and it would be hard to put them to death under any circumstances.  On the whole, my impression is that mercy bears richer fruits than any other attribute. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Bear Growls: Interview

 

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Hmmm, so the Pope has given an interview to our bruin friend at Saint Corbinian’s Bear.  Perhaps PopeWatch should dress up in a bear suit and beg for an interview?  Here is some of the Pope’s interview with the bear:

 

At 7 a.m. yesterday, the Bear was just starting to eat his morning oatmeal when he got the biggest surprise of his life. His cell phone rang, and he answered it. On the other end a voice said this: “Please stand by for his Holiness.”

You can imagine what the Bear thought as his heart started to beat faster. Was it a prank? Why the Bear? Was he about to get chewed out by the Pope? Then the same voice said in the background, “Sua Santità, il Orso.”

“Parla italiano?” asked a familiar voice.

“Si,” the Bear answered. What followed was an incredible opportunity for the Bear to speak freely for 30 minutes with Pope Francis.

Pope Francis: “Good morning, Mr. Bear.” [The Bear could detect a trace of humor in his voice.] “I have seen your blog and it is very creative. And please, go right on ahead being hard on me. It is the voice of a segment of our Church, and it helps me. Besides,” [again the humor] “your Pope has a sense of humor, too.”

Pope Video 1 and Universalism

Bear: [Pope Francis said he wanted to dispense with formalities and time was limited, so the Bear spent little time on pleasantries.] “Your Holiness, the first thing that comes to mind is your monthly intention videos, or ‘Pope Videos.’ This Bear found the first quite disturbing. It appeared to promote Universalism. The video, not the intention. At the end it had people holding symbols of their different religions together as if they were equal. What are we to make of that? Do you believe Christianity is simply one religion among many?”

 

End of Pope Video 1

Pope Francis: “No. Of course not. I am a son of the Church, and believe that people are saved through Christ. But the reality is that we share our world with other religions. Does it not make sense to try to emphasize what we share, rather than our differences?”

Bear: “Actually, with all due respect, no. Those other religions are defined by their error, and their similarities to Christianity are overstated. Buddhism, one of the religions in the video, doesn’t even believe in God. How can they be saved outside of the Church? Why does the Church foster error?”

Pope Francis: “I must insist that each one of these religions does share things with Christianity. Where there is a lack, God’s mercy fills it. [Imagine a shrug in his voice.] A good person of any religion, or no religion, may be saved through Christ. You must remember that we, too, lack in mercy, in charity, in the care we show for the refugee, the poor, the planet. Everyone falls short. Even me, if your blog is to be believed! [Laughs.] It is not that other religions are just as true, it is that wherever they fall short, God generously makes up for it.”

Bear: “So people do not have to accept Christ and be baptized to be saved?”

Pope Francis: “They must accept him in those in need they see around them. All salvation is through Christ. All saved are members of the Church. But we must get used to not focusing on human formalities. Christ is bigger than we can comprehend. The Church is not a bus, that you are either on or off. The Church is the bus stop, too. It is the sidewalk along the bus route, where people are walking, some in one direction, and some in the other. The Church accompanies them, walking with them. The Church is not just one tiny, cramped bus!”

Bear: “Were missionaries like St. Francis Xavier and, for that matter, St. Corbinian, misguided then?”

Pope Francis: “We have a different emphasis now. We accompany people in Christ. We have come to understand that to proselytize is to do violence to a person, a culture.”

 

Pope Video 3 and Contraception

Bear: “The Bear noticed in Pope Video 3 that there are nearly no examples of families with more than two children. You have previously remarked that Catholics must be responsible and not breed like rabbits. Was the size of families in the videos a subtle message? Do you believe there is a problem with overpopulation? Do you encourage Catholics to have large families?”
Pope Francis: [laughs] “I did not even notice how big the families were in the video. That was not the focus. Of course there is a problem with overpopulation. Our planet can only support so many people, and we are at that limit now. Climate change and overpopulation together pose a serious threat today. It was not so in the past. In agricultural societies, it made sense to have large families. But today, do we need families with seven children? Four children? On the whole, no. What right does a couple have to claim so many more resources than their neighbors? This is selfish. To me? I say this as my personal opinion: two children seems responsible. But it is up to each individual family, of course.”
Bear: “How are Catholics to regulate the size of their families?”
Pope Francis: “The Church’s teaching is very clear on this, of course. But the role of conscience and pastoral advice also must play a part, as with any important decision. As with most things, it is not black and white. There are competing factors. The danger to our planet. Allocation of resources. Sometimes one must decide the less damaging course where no decision seems perfect.”
Bear: “Will you rule out contraception?”
Pope Francis: “As I said, the Church’s teaching is very clear.”

Continue reading

If Nations Were American States


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A fascinating look at how nations rank in per capita gross domestic product against American states:

 

The table above compares the GDP per capita of America’s 50 states in 2014 (BEA data here) to the GDP per capita of selected countries in Europe and Asia on a Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) basis, based on data from the World Bank. As explained by the World Bank:

PPP GDP is Gross Domestic Product (GDP) converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates. An international dollar has the same purchasing power over GDP as the U.S. dollar has in the United States.

Adjusting for PPP allows us to make a more accurate “apples to apples” comparison of GDP per capita among countries around the world by adjusting for the differences in prices in each country. For example, the UK’s unadjusted GDP per capita was $45,729 in 2014, but because prices there are higher on average than in the US (for food, clothing, energy, transportation, etc.), the PPP adjustment lowers per capita GDP in the UK to below $40,000. On the hand, consumer prices in South Korea are generally lower than in the US, so that increases its GDP per capita from below $28,000 on an unadjusted basis to above $34,000 on a PPP basis.

As the chart demonstrates, most European countries (including Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium) if they joined the US, would rank among the poorest one-third of US states on a per-capita GDP basis, and the UK, France, Japan and New Zealand would all rank among America’s very poorest states, below No. 47 West Virginia, and not too far above No. 50 Mississippi. Countries like Italy, S. Korea, Spain, Portugal and Greece would each rank below Mississippi as the poorest states in the country. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Surprise!

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The Pope gives us yet another example of how he is a man who acts on impulse:

 

Pope Francis has made a surprise announcement to dioceses around the world, on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday.

Addressing faithful in St. Peter’s Square at a Saturday evening prayer vigil for the Jubilee of Divine Mercy — 11 years to the day after the death of St. John Paul II — the pope announced his wish that, in every diocese, “a hospital, a home for the elderly, for abandoned children, a school where none exists, a home for the recovery of addicts,” or some similar structure be established as “a living memory” of the Year of Mercy.

The Pope said the idea came to him recently during a meeting with directors of a charitable agency. But he thought to himself: “I will share it in the square on Saturday.”

“There are so many things that could be done,” he said. “It would be very good for each diocese to consider: what can we leave as a living memory, as a work of living mercy, as a wound of the living Jesus for this Year of Mercy? Let us reflect on this and speak to the bishops about it.” Continue reading

So Many Books

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I assume that all readers of this blog are probably book lovers.  Here are my answers to a favorite book meme that has been floating around the internet for years:

1. One book that changed your life: A Canticle for Leibowitz. An extended meditation on History and the role of the Church in History disguised as a first rate science fiction novel.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once: Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: Lord of the Flies.

4. One Book that Made You Laugh: Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague DeCamp. A hilarious time travel novel where the protagonist seeks to stop the conquest of Italy by Belisarius in the Sixth century. Continue reading

April 2, 2005: Death of John Paul II

 

 

Hard to believe that it has been eleven years since the death of Saint John Paul II.  On the date of his death Amy Welborn at her blog Open Book had a post dedicated to memories of the Pope.  Here was my contribution:

When the Pope was in Nicaragua and a Sandinista organized group was attempting to shout the Pope down while he was giving a sermon during a vast outdoor mass. The Pope lost his temper finally and yelled out “Silencio!”, followed by applause from the vast majority of the worshipers.

The Pope was a man’s man of unusual physical courage. Nothing fazed him: Nazis, Communists of all stripes, an almost successful assassination attempt, parkinson’s, etc. This is certainly not the most important feature of the Pope, but I personally found it one of the most inspiring aspects of this great man. Continue reading

April 3, 1776: Continental Congress Authorizes Privateers

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Congress on April 3, 1776 formally authorized American privateers to raid British merchant ships.  In this Congress was merely recognizing what was already well under way, the patriot governments of the various colonies having issued letters of marque and reprisal since the beginning of hostilities.   The British parliament would authorize privateers against American merchant ships in December 1776.

Privateers were a traditional part of European naval war which fitted in well with the American national character.  Private operations, a common seamen on board a privateer after a successful cruise of capturing several British ships, could come back home with a small fortune in his pocket, often enough to purchase a small farm, or an inn, or set himself up in trade.  Privateers led by more daring commanders would even make prizes of several smaller ships of the Royal Navy.  Of course the risks were commensurate with the rewards, with death by sinking, or the slow death of rotting away in a British prison hulk if a crew was captured, ever a possibility.  Most American sailors were eager to take the risk, so many that the Continental Navy often found it difficult to man its ships. Continue reading

Trump the Liar

From a post by me on February 28, 2016:

 

Trump is a man of boundless vanity and ambition. He has decided to become President and has chosen to use the Republican Party as his vehicle to get to the White House. His day before yesterday public stances indicate that he is neither a conservative nor a Republican, but rather a fairly typical New York liberal Democrat. Republican rank and file outrage over the the Republican establishment’s treachery on several issues, most notably illegal immigration, has caused about a third of the party to support Trump. Independents and Democrats, eager to follow a populist demagogue, have given Trump the additional strength necessary to dominate the primary field against a fragmented opposition. If Trump gets the nomination, he will quickly race to the center, or what he perceives to be the center which will probably be the left of center, in order to beat Clinton, who he had long supported prior to the present contest. If he is elected, whatever else can be guessed at from the likely ensuing chaos, one thing is certain: conservative beliefs would play no role in it, because Trump has no conservative beliefs.

 

 

 

 

Trump on abortion on, appropriately, April Fools’ Day: Continue reading

PopeWatch: Holes and Pegs

 

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From the only reliable source of Catholic News on the net, Eye of the Tiber:

 

 

WASHINGTON––In an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, former President Jimmy Carter talked about his letter to mathematicians. In it, Carter called on leading mathematicians to support efforts to fit square pegs in round holes.

“I asked them to join with me in doing some of these things to prevent inequality, and to prevent segregation between figures, and to prevent unnecessary discrimination between different types of shapes, and to prevent things of that kind,” Carter said.

The former president went on to say that there was a movement towards equality in the geometric community, but that mathematicians had done much to support discrimination by ‘ordaining’ that squares were not equal to circles:

“This has been done and still is done by the mathematic community ever since the dawn of geometry, when mathematicians ordained that a circle cannot fit into a square, for instance, but another square can. A circle can fit into a circle, but it can’t fit into a square. This is wrong, I think.”

The geometric community has come out in defense of only squares fitting into square holes saying that the former president “grossly misunderstands” geometry.

“Carter’s comments about the role of squares shows a gross misunderstanding of geometry,” a spokesman for the mathematic community Ashley Thompson told EOTT this morning. “As math teachers across the globe continue to remind us, a square is a plane figure with four equal straight sides and four right angles. They have a very important role in geometry. But their role is not to be a circle or even to attempt to fit into a circle.” Continue reading

Hooray for Bill McKinley!

Something for the weekend:  Hooray for Bill McKinley!  The above video is the first film ever taken of an American President.  It shows William McKinley conducting his Front Porch Campaign during the 1896 presidential campaign.  While his opponent, William Jennings Bryan, barnstormed the nation, giving speech after speech, McKinley conducted a quiet campaign from his house, while his campaign, utilizing cutting edge technology, film and phones,  and outspending the Democrats five to one, pioneered modern campaign tactics and capitalized on the bad economy under Democrat Grover Cleveland.  The turnout at the polls was immense, almost eighty percent, with McKinley winning 271 electoral votes to 176 votes for Bryan.  This election ushered in a period of Republican dominance that would last until the election of 1932.

PopeWatch: Resignation

Pope Francis Resigns

 

 

The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis will resign on April 1, 2017.

At a hastily called news conference, Vatican press spokesman Father Federico Lombardi announced that the Pope had decided to resign a year hence.  Asked why, Father Lombardi indicated that he was uncertain, although recently the Pope had been heard to mutter darkly “Papa Guarda!  Papa Guarda!” under his breath after browsing the internet.  Asked for the reaction of the Pope Emeritus, Father Lombardi responded that he had been advised that the Pope Emeritus wished his successor well and promised to reserve a place at his future beer parties for Pope Francis in his retirement. Continue reading

A Roosevelt Peace?

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“The people here hate the French more than they do the British. They much prefer the Americans as troops of occupation. Since the Americans have arrived the German people have learned to like them.”

—Karl Felder of Bieder Breisig

As we approach the one hundredth anniversary of the conclusion of the Great War and the commencement of the so-called Roosevelt Peace, an old question must be addressed:  was President Theodore Roosevelt’s role in the Great War an essential one?

Of course, how one addresses this question is largely determined by whether one views history as largely the impact of impersonal forces, economic, cultural, scientific, etc, upon humanity, or whether one holds to the Great Man school, by which the path of Man through history is largely the result of some unique individual altering the flow of events.  To a large extent this debate is unanswerable, as history is history and so-called alternate history is the domain of dreamers and writers of fiction.  However, in regard to Theodore Roosevelt, elected President in 1912 following the collapse of the Republican ticket, after the assassination of President Taft in Milwaukee by John Schrank, it is hard to see how any American President would have implemented policies much different than he did.

1. Entry into the War-From the outset of the War, President Roosevelt left little doubt that his sympathies lay with the Allies and he had only disgust for Prussian militarism.  However, he maintained a testy neutrality until the sinking of RMS Lusitania.  With the loss of 128 American lives, it is difficult to believe that any American President could have withstood the rush to War.  Roosevelt demanded that the German crew be handed over to America to answer charges of murder and that no further attacks be made on passenger liners.  The Kaiser’s statement that he was willing to agree to the latter but not the former, was angrily rejected by Roosevelt, who received a thunderous standing ovation from Congress when he called for a declaration of war.

2.  Building of the Army-Utilizing the Civil War method of the states initially raising the regiments to serve drew criticism, but Roosevelt responded that a huge military had to be built overnight and that the Civil War had demonstrated that this was a tried and true method.  The regiments then reported to training camps where officers and men were trained in their duties, uniformed and equipped.  Many career officers complained that the officers of the regiments were often incompetent or well-meaning amateurs.  Roosevelt quashed much of this criticism by giving the Army full power to relieve officers who proved unsuitable.  As it turned out, about twenty percent of officers were relieved and another ten percent resigned.  General Pershing in his memoirs indicated that he would have preferred to eliminate the state role, but admitted that the state regiments had a cohesion and high morale that would have been lacking if men had not been serving with other men they knew.

3.  Tanks-Although Roosevelt was traditional in how he raised the American Expeditionary Force, many regular Army officers found him frighteningly radical in his embrace of new technology.  Tanks were seized upon by Roosevelt as an essential replacement for horse cavalry and he made certain that the American force would be motorized to an extent that astonished the European armies.  Roosevelt made certain that American troops would go into battle with double the machine guns, mortars and supporting artillery allotted to units of their German foes.  Air power was to be an essential component of each American division, along with a tank regiment.  It was perhaps inevitable that the tankers became known as Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.  American love of new technology probably would have ensured that any American president would have followed a similar policy, albeit perhaps not with quite the “Bully, Bully!” enthusiasm of Roosevelt. Continue reading

National Atheist Day 2016

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Nobody talks so constantly about God as those who insist that there is no God.

Heywood Broun

Ah, April begins, and once again we have National Atheist Day, when we light-heartedly celebrate that herd of brave independent thinkers who assert that all of Creation exists without a Creator, and that they will soon explain, perhaps by next Tuesday, how matter and energy can arise ex nihilo.  This National Atheist Day we will look at the extreme bitterness that many atheists appear to harbor against the God they say does not exist.

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I submit that this rage is usually grounded in fear, a fear that God does in fact exist.  One of the more interesting contemporary atheists, Doctor Thomas Nagel, Professor of Philosophy at NYU gets I think to the heart of the matter:

In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. Continue reading

Terri Schiavo: March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo’s brother remembers his sister, judicially murdered 11 years ago today:

Continue reading

Heartwarming News From My Village

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Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Proverbs: 19:17

 

I am proud to say that the two young men were members of my daughter’s graduating class:

 

Luke Arnold and Ryan Kodat were enjoying a snow day off from school in 2013 when they saw Herter out in the cold. A few hours later, they saw Herter again and approached him, learning that he was trying to make his way to Springfield, Illinois, to see his ailing father.

The two friends went back to Kodat’s house to get extra clothes for Herter and brought along Kodat’s father, who bought Herter a train ticket to Springfield, about 90 miles away.

“They got him on the train and that was it,” Kaiser said. “They’d just done something nice for him, not knowing it was a true story or not.”

No one but Kodat and Arnold’s family and close circle of friends knew about the good deed until Herter’s letter and check arrived at the high school last month.

While Kodat and Arnold, now both 21, went on to college and technical school, Herter discovered a surprise in his own life. According to his letter, he came into an inheritance of more than $1 million from his father.

He is now living in California, working as a stand-up comedian and writer, according to his Facebook page.

“He said to do whatever we wanted with the money, but it had to be in memory of his father and in honor of the two boys who helped him,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser and the district’s superintendent, Dr. Richard Jancek, decided to create two $500 scholarships for Dwight seniors to be awarded each year for the next 10 years. The award recipients will be selected after submitting an essay on a random act of kindness they’ve done. Continue reading

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