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Monday, May 28, 2012

The Future of Catholic Hospitals

Ann Barnhardt has an excellent essay on what the bishops need to do to fight the HHS Mandate.

But I think there's a twist here that she may have missed.
Barack Hussein Obama, our lovely Muslim president, is many things, but stupid is not one of them.

The HHS mandate is timed to come due right before the elections. It has always been timed to do this. Barack expended every bit of energy in his first year as President to make sure this happened. That's why ObamaCare had to be passed as soon as possible - he needed time to set up the HHS mandate. Sebelius did not pick the August 1st, 2012 mandate deadline out of thin air. The timing is crucial.

The mandate is designed to do two things:
1) Energize Barack's base right before the election,
2) Give the government the opportunity to take over every Catholic social service agency in the country.

If you think that idea expresses deep paranoia, I don't disagree.
That does not mean it is wrong.

Look, the man took over banks, he took over major players in the auto industry, for a lot less reason than this. Barack Hussein Obama is a fascist - he believes government should run everything.

Obamacare is designed to allow the government to take over the entire health care section of the economy.  The last provision goes into effect in 2018. The Baby Boomers began turning 65 in 2011. They first wave is turning 72 by 2018. Mandatory Social Security retirement age is 70.

Obamacare takes over just as the Baby Boomers begin to enter hospitals and nursing care facilities all across America's fruited plain.

Think of all the people who will be thrilled to see Baby Boomers in body bags.

The Green movement is just socialism for tree-dwellers. Socialists, whether national socialists or international socialists, have no problem with Holocausts. You have to break a few eggs to make a workers' paradise. Eco-fascists have long said there are too many people on this planet. That's a common refrain of the Green movement. They are happy to start the depopulation by getting rid of the useless old people, the Baby Boomers whom they have always hated. Barack absolutely agrees that old people should be killed. He said as much.

Obama is a huge fan of Islam. The Catholic Church has always been the major opponent of Islam. It has also been a major opponent of socialism and fascism.

But it gets better.

Obamacare needs hospitals in order to implement socialist, Green and Islamist policies, especially death panels. Catholic hospitals treat one in six people in the United States. Catholic hospitals are unlikely to implement Barack's agenda. These hospitals generate far too much good will among the lower classes. That cannot be permitted to continue. It makes the government look bad. It makes Islam look bad. It makes the Greens look bad. These Catholics must be stopped.

So, the HHS mandate sets up a win-win for Obama.  There are only three ways this can go: Catholic hospitals and social service agencies:
  1. Roll over and play Obama's game. That's obviously fine. In this scenario, they've been co-opted. Obama gets what he wants. 
  2. Refuse to implement Obama's agenda, and voluntarily shut themselves down. That's fine. It takes them out of the equation, and as Ann points out, it allows Obama to paint Catholics as evil creatures who would rather watch someone die in extreme agony than discard their silly moral objections.
  3. Refuse to implement Obama's agenda and dare him to shut them down. That's fine. He won't shut them down, he'll take them over. Just like he did GM. Just like he did the banks. Only he won't give the hospitals back. They will, forever after, belong to the government. What a nice re-election present for Barack! A whole new line of hospitals all taken over in September or October, right before the election! And he will be taking them over for the people! He will be taking these wonderful hospitals away from the rich Catholic bishops! Barack will run them as they should be run, instead of according to stupid Catholic morality.
So, does Barack Obama expect Catholic bishops, Catholic hospitals, Catholic institutions to play along?
He expects them to die.

On Marriage

I get questions from readers occasionally that piques my interest. This one asked me to explain marriage in light of a fairly dippy work by a man named Joseph Martos:
Joseph Martos is the author of a highly regarded work on the sacraments called Doors to the Sacred, A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church. In that work, he writes, "During the first three centuries of Christianity, churchmen had no legal say in the matter of marriages, divorces, and remarriages." Furthermore, he wrote, "There was no liturgical ceremony for marriage as there was for baptism and the Eucharist." It wasn't until the year 400 or so, that Christians were bidden to seek an ecclesiastical blessing on their marriages. (It is interesting to note that the only ones obliged to do that were married bishops, married priests and married deacons.) As far as we know, the idea of marriage as a sacrament was first proposed by St. Augustine, the first and only patristic author to write extensively about sex and marriage. Even after Augustine, through the seventh century, "Christians could still get married in a purely secular ceremony." Marriage was declared a sacrament for the first time by the Synod of Verona in 1184. The Church didn't deem marriage definitely indissoluble until the Council of Florence in 1439. (Martos , pp. 409-434.)
Now, a really good comprehensive discussion of marriage can be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

As you can see from that encyclopedia article, Martos is completely clueless.

If he can't even get the testimony of the Fathers right, then he can't get ANYTHING right.
But even the Catholic Encyclopedia, while it gives some Fathers' testimony, is not comprehensive on this point.

For instance, you can find numerous homilies by Chrysostom on marriage - it, along with holy poverty, was one of his favorite subjects.

Now, as the Catholic Encyclopedia article points out, the word "sacrament" did not have the narrow technical meaning in the third century that it has today, but that doesn't mean anything. After all, if we insist that this has deep relevance, then we must likewise insist that we can't say God is three Persons until well after the Council of Chalcedon, since a precise definition of HOW Christ is God, one Person with two natures, is not defined until then. 

Such a position is absurd. The late date of the definition doesn't mean we didn't believe Jesus is God until then, it just means that we hadn't thought through all the bits of what the phrase meant to say until then.

It is very much like saying that, since an infant can't say "mother" or "father", the child does not, in fact, have any parents until s/he is at least two or three years old and able to name them correctly. 

Most of Catholic Faith is an in-depth meditation on what we are given, connecting the dots between all the points. The more carefully we think, the more carefully we connect the dots, the more careful our language becomes as we try to preserve our understanding of the connections, connections that pre-existed our thinking about them.

The consistent use of a word does not bring the thing it describes into existence, rather, the consistent use of a word merely shows a more mature understanding of both the word and the thing it describes on the part of the person using the word. The thing exists apart from the mature use of the word that describes the thing.

Unfortunately, Martos appears to be a nominalist - he thinks language, particularly human language - is what brings something into existence. Now, language DOES bring things into existence, but only God's Word does that, not ours. God imparts, we just try to describe.

So, instead of believing "God said, 'Let there be light' " Martos would presumably teach "And Martos says, 'Let there be marriage' and there was marriage, and it came into existence when Martos said because he said that's when it happened". 

Utter crap, utterly unsupportable by any decent historical method, pure anachronism on Martos' part, but that's what passes as scholarship nowadays. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This Is What Winning Looks Like

The infant mortality rate is calculated by dividing the number of infants who die within one year of birth by the number of infants who are born. The infant mortality rate is usually expressed as the ratio of infant deaths per one thousand live births.  
Prior to 1900, infant mortality rates of two and three hundred obtained throughout the world. The infant mortality rate would fluctute sharply according to the weather, the harvest, war, and epidemic disease. In severe times, a majority of infants would die within one year. In good times, perhaps two hundred per thousand would die. So great was the pre-modern loss of children's lives that anthropologists claim to have found groups that do not name children until they have survived a year. (emphasis added)
There is no reason to doubt the figures PBS provides aboveThere is reason to doubt the figure below:
The infant mortality rate started a long slide from 165 per 1,000 in 1900 to 7 per 1,000 in 1997.
In fact, this figure of 7 infant deaths per 1000 live births is a complete lie, a total fabrication. 

While it is the case that infant mortality began a long slide in this country from 165 per thousand in 1900, the legalization of abortion in the 1960's, and the nationwide legalization of in utero child murder in 1973, reversed that slide.

If we count abortion for what it is - infant mortality via infanticide - then the CDC shows us that our present infant mortality rate is identical to the rates seen before 1900.
The national legal induced abortion ratio increased from 196 per 1,000 live births in 1973 (the first year that 52 areas reported) to 358 per 1,000 live births in 1979 and remained nearly stable through 1981....  The ratio peaked at 364 per 1,000 live births in 1984 and since then has shown a nearly steady decline. In 2000, the abortion ratio was 245 per 1,000 live births in 49 reporting areas and 246 for the same 48 reporting areas available for 1999. This represents a 3.8% decrease from 1999 (256 per 1,000 live births) for the 48 reporting areas.
The pre-1900's rate of infant mortality was due to poor understanding of medical issues and relatively poor economic conditions. 

To what can we attribute our current high rate of infant mortality?
Well, we could blame the economy. 

It is true that the US economy underwent enormous inflation between 1965 and 1981, which might explain the high rates of infant mortality during that period.  It is certainly the case that the black community, which routinely kills the majority of its infants each year, is among the poorest in the nation. 

But blaming the economy seems somewhat disingenuous. After all, even the poorest country in the world today is richer than the richest country was in 1810. Even the poorest people in America are vastly better off than 90% of the rest of the world. Every American alive today is richer than John D. Rockefeller was in 1916. It's hard to say that poverty is the reason, because essentially no one in the world is poor, at least not when compared to 1810.  

We can make a very cogent argument that the Church's call to care for the poorest of the poor has not only been answered, but essentially completed. We won.

In terms of physical wealth and health, no one is as poor today as even the richest person was when Rerum Novarum was issued in 1891. The social justice people can sit down and enjoy their triumph. Everyone is wealthy, just as they say Leo XIII asked. 

No, it isn't the economy that is causing the high infant mortality rate. 

Rather, we seem to accept a high infant mortality rate today precisely because we are physically rich. We have the means to keep infants alive, we just choose not to use them. No matter where you go in the world, women's fertility is being systematically destroyed.  The number of children born to women each year is steadily dropping as the world's inhabitants becomes steadily wealthier. 

On average, the world over, the more money we have, the fewer children we have.

For most of human history, infant mortality has stood at around 300 per 1000. For a short century, between about 1880 and 1960, certain Western countries managed to get that rate down to just a dozen or so per 1000. 

We managed to become rich in children just as we were becoming rich in physical comfort. But, we didn't like having so many children around.

So, those same Western countries deliberately cranked infant mortality back up to where it has always historically been. No other country has ever managed to drop infant mortality to the exceedingly low rates the West has experienced, nor will they ever again. 

Why won't they? 

Because they'll abort their children out of existence as they become rich. The West has shown that it is acceptable to do that.

We won the war against physical poverty.
But, as the Fathers and Doctors of the Church liked to point out, physical poverty is nothing compared to spiritual poverty, the poverty of not knowing or living the Gospel.

We are indisputably physically wealthy.
Anyone who tells you different is either ignorant or deliberately lying.

But infant mortality is no different now than it was 1000 years ago, because the just distribution of physical riches was never really the problem.

The world over, there is a direct correlation between increased infanticide and "winning" social justice issues, that is, successfully redistributing physical wealth.

Someone might want to mention that to the bishops. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Conveniently Ethical

Fox News reports that Franciscan University has dropped student insurance coverage because of ObamaCare. Maybe it has. But I think the real reason is buried in the middle of the story, where two far-flung sentences should really appear much closer together:
"[T]he employee health insurance program will remain unchanged....the school says fewer than 200 of its students had been buying insurance from the university."
Pardon my cynicism, but I smell a rat here.

Why is ObamaCare acceptable for the employees but not the students?

Well, maybe because not enough students were buying insurance through the university.

You see, it costs, money to keep a university-run insurance program in place.
I would bet hundreds of dollars that Franciscan U turned at least a dime off of every insurance policy a student bought through the university.

But there were less than 200 students still doing that.

I'm just guessing here, but I would bet that running a student insurance program through the university would take at least a half-time secretary. So, if the revenue coming in didn't pay the secretary's salary and then some, FUS would not be turning a profit off the student insurance program.

What to do?

Well, ObamaCare is a great excuse to drop the expense of internally tracking the coverage. By announcing the drop of a program that wasn't making money anyway, FUS looks really good, and it saves them the expense of dealing with it.

After all, if this were really about not submitting to ObamaCare, wouldn't they drop employee coverage too? Isn't coverage for university employees going to require the same kind of payment for contraceptives, abortions and sterilizations starting August 1?

But, they DO NOT drop insurance care for their employees, because the employees would scream bloody murder. if they dropped employee insurance, which is an untaxed benefit, they would have to increase salaries to compensate. That would mean more money in unemployment insurance costs from FUS to the state and more city, state and federal tax due as well for both the university and its employees. We cannot have that.

Now, maybe I'm entirely wrong and FUS is really doing it for the reasons stated. Maybe they are all philanthropists at heart. But, I attended that campus, got my degree there, I interacted with the administration there. I really don't trust FUS, or any other "Catholic" university for that matter.

As I said, call me cynical, but I really, really doubt that this is FUS being the pure white hat they promote themselves to be.


As the wives of two FUS employees implicitly point out by their comments below, the FUS spokesman is actually a liar. If you read the transcript carefully, FUS spokesman Hernon first says that FUS "offers" student health coverage and FUS is dropping the coverage. Then when pressed repeatedly by the Fox News anchor, Hernon cryptically admits that FUS doesn't actually offer any coverage at all to the students.

So FUS is NOT dropping student health coverage, rather, it is just dropping the requirement that students pay for their own health coverage.

Which sounds a lot less impressive, when you get down to it.

But you would never know any of that if it weren't for the Fox News anchor basically beating the truth out of official FUS spokesperson Hernon.

I want to thank Laura and Justine for their careful attention to the lies the FUS spokesman was attempting to promulgate. I failed to read the interview closely enough. I'm sure Hernon will get out there and correct the record with all the news agencies that are reporting FUS is dropping student health coverage.

The could start by calling up LifeSiteNews, for instance, and telling LSN that their coverage is all wrong!  Cough, cough, cough.


Yeah, like I thought. See this interview with Fox News.

Here's the money quote:
HERNON: Yes. We are going to be fighting, as we started in the summer, or early fall, fighting for religious liberty, and we'll continue to do so. For our employees the direct impact economically doesn't hit us as of today. But it does impact our students.
See? It's only worth acting on the morality with our employees when it hits their pocketbooks. If it isn't hitting their pocketbooks, then taking the moral high ground isn't really worth it. 

Oh, and don't you just love this?
And our students have been out there in front, really saying we cannot comply. 
Yeah, the students have been out in front.

The faculty - you know, the people who are supposed to be well-versed in Catholic principles, the ones who take the mandatum, the fully-formed adults - they've apparently been leading from behind. All those good Catholic FUS professors are content to sit on the sidelines, hugging their health insurance plans to their chests. And the administration is right there with them... with the faculty, that is. On the sidelines. You know. Waiting for the money to be a problem. After all, FUS has its priorities.

Yep, that's the FUS we all know and love.


And for those of you from Rio Linda, there is no state or federal requirement that forces employers to provide their employees with insurance.

Oh, and get this! Ave Maria University - famed in song and story as Tom Monaghan's personal jungle gym - saw how much free publicity FUS is getting out of dropping student health insurance and they want in too!

Tom certainly knows how to get free press when he can.
Of course, they aren't going to drop employee insurance any more than FUS did!
Silly of you even to propose it, really.

Anyway, just today (May 17, 2012) the wife of one of the professors at AMU took issue with my characterization of FUS above. She found it mean-spirited, don'cha'know.  Of course, she only unsheathed her claws after AMU started getting press for jumping on the NObamaCare bandwagon...

Ahhh... I love Catholics!

Everything I've said about FUS is doubly true AMU.
In good conscience, I never advise anyone to attend FUS, but I make it a point to tell everyone to actively avoid AMU. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Getting A Clear Vision

Before I begin, let me stipulate a few things.
  • The Church has approved Fatima as worthy of belief, therefore I have no qualms with people who accept what the Fatima visionaries have to say. 
  •  I accept the miracle of the Sun and other approved miracles.
  • Taken with the right understanding, the Fatima message is important (see below).
All that having been said, Fatima is private revelation.
Nothing more.
Nothing less.

Two Kinds of Revelation
Revelation can be divided up in a lot of different ways.

For instance, in coming to know about God, we can talk of natural revelation: "The heavens are telling the glory of God". We can discuss prophetic revelation, the books of Jeremiah or Ezekiel, for example. We recognize the best, and the only complete, revelation is God's own personal self-revelation: Jesus Christ, in which He reveals the Trinity through the Incarnation, His life and His Paschal Mystery.

What we know of Christ comes to us through Sacred Tradition, which has two forms: written and oral. The written form of Sacred Tradition is Scripture. The oral form of Sacred Tradition is the liturgy and the teachings of the apostles as handed down through the bishops and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. It can also include the lived example of the lives of the saints, approved by the Church for our imitation.

But there is another way to divide up revelation: public or private.

Public revelation is the Apostolic Teaching and Scripture which is the deposit of faith.
Apostolic Teaching and Scripture is the sum total of public revelation.

Public revelation = Apostolic Teaching + Sacred Scripture = the Deposit.

Public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle.
After the Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation, he died.
There is no more public revelation.

So, where do things like Fatima, Lourdes, Knock, Akita, and dozens of similarly approved visions fall? These are private revelation.

I am not bound to accept private revelation.
I can be a perfectly good Catholic and get into heaven yet never believe or accept that Mary appeared at Fatima, Lourdes, Akita, etc.
I do not need private revelation to be saved.
I do not need to accept Fatima to be a good Catholic.
67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. 
Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".

Whether it be the vision of Fatima or the vision of Saint Faustina, it is private revelation. Even if the Church approves a vision as valid, the Church does not compel any Catholic to accept private revelation.

The vision may inform Tradition, it may exemplify Tradition, it may signify Tradition, it may perfectly express Tradition, but it ain't Tradition. Visions are not part of the deposit of faith.

A vision - even a vision accompanied by a miracle that is witnessed by 70,000 people - is private revelation. Nothing more.

I can, like St. Thomas the Apostle, distrust those 70,000 witnesses and, like St. Thomas, still be a saint.

A vision, even Fatima, even Divine Mercy, is not part of the deposit of faith.
At best, a vision is catechesis.
At worst, a vision is condemned.
But that vision is never part of the deposit of faith handed down by the Christ to the apostles to us. Never.


Visions are fun. Visions are interesting. Visions are buttered popcorn. The deposit is steak. Visions are not informative the way the deposit of faith is informative.

Having a visionary talk about his or her vision - even when it conforms with public revelation - is less part of public revelation than having any non-visionary teach the doctrines of the Church in CCD.

Catechesis means "to echo."

If I correctly teach the Trinity or the Eucharist to a bunch of second graders, my teaching is closer to being part of the deposit of faith than is the narration of any visionary who tells me s/he has personally received the Eucharist from an angel. What I say as I teach CCD echoes the deposit of faith. What the visionary says about angelic Eucharistic reception does not.

Public revelation has ALREADY been revealed.
The deposit of faith was completed before the last apostle died.
It is done. Finished. No more to add.

All we can do is explain it, repeat it.

Still, our teaching of public revelation, our teaching of the deposit of faith, is not itself part of the deposit. Our teaching is the echoing of the deposit. 

Insofar as I faithfully echo what the Church says, I am a catechist. Insofar as I fail to correctly repeat and teach what the Church teaches, then I am not a catechist, I am instead someone who presents my own private opinion as if it were the teaching of the Church. That is, I am one who - whether intending to or not - mis-represents the Truth.

Insofar as someone receives a truly divinely inspired vision, like Fatima, Akita, Lourdes, Knock, etc., it is catechesis to the one who receives it. If that visionary decides to tell others about the vision, and does so accurately, then insofar as the repetition accurately represents the deposit of faith, it is catechetical to the ones who hear it.

But, even so, it is never more than private revelation.

Now, Antonio Socci apparently wrote a book in which he said about Fatima, "It is really impossible - after all of this - to continue to speak of a 'private revelation'."

Insofar as Socci is referring to the vision of Fatima, Socci is simply wrong. 
It is the Church who says Socci is wrong.
Socci is wrong.

As I said before, insofar as the message content echoes Tradition, then we must believe the message content. But I don't need to accept the Fatima event in order to accept the message content, since Fatima does not, cannot, say anything other than what the Church has always taught.

If Fatima said something new, different, or in addition, it would not be echoing the deposit.
If it were something more than private revelation, then it would be public revelation.
If it "cannot be spoken of as private revelation," then the only thing left to call it is public revelation.
But it is not public revelation.
The three children were not apostles.
Fatima is only private revelation.
Socci is wrong.

Why Visions Make Bad Catechesis
One of the marks of bad formation is putting visions on par with doctrines. A badly formed Catholic puts private revelation on par with public revelation. He or she thinks private revelation is part of public revelation. The Church says private revelation is not part of public revelation.

Similarly, one of the marks of bad catechesis is extensive reliance on private revelation, visions and miracles. A catechist who is not good at teaching the Faith will rely extensively on private revelation to pass on the Faith because he or she doesn't understand the doctrines well enough to rely on the deposit of Faith as should be done.

Before you howl with outrage, listen.

A true catechist relies on the deposit of faith and nothing else because that is all the Church gives a catechist. Insofar as a catechist teaches something other than the deposit, the person is not acting as a catechist. He may still be a teacher. He is not a catechist. The person is not echoing the Church's teaching.

I absolutely believe in miracles.
But I believe because I already trust God and the Catholic Church.
I believe because I studied the deposit.
I do not believe because I studied the private revelation.
Insofar as private revelation led me to believe, it is because the private revelation echoed the deposit. 

In order for the Church to approve a miracle or a vision, She has to spend years investigating the event with panels of experts at her side to advise her on the intricacies of the event.

If the Church needs years and years and dozens of investigative experts to rationally reach the conclusion that a single miracle or vision is real and worthy of belief, then why would we expect anyone else to require less time and less resources than the Church to reach the same conclusion?  Personally, I would expect it to take a lot more time for other people to rationally reach the same conclusions, assuming they had access to the same evidence, which they don't.

The deposit of faith is accessible in a way that private revelation is not. When I teach Catholic faith on the basis of events which are not part of the deposit of faith,  I'm essentially expecting my audience to surrender their rational faculties and simply trust me on the details, which even I probably don't know.

So why would they trust me? Especially when we remember that I am a fallen man who will get details wrong even with the best of intentions.

Sister Lucia says Amelia (a childhood friend) will be in Purgatory until the end of time. The Church doesn't say this. Sister Lucia says it. Is Sister Lucia right? Even Sister Lucia doesn't know for sure. She may have mis-heard. She may have misunderstood what she did properly hear. The Church doesn't say Amelia is in Purgatory until the end of time.

Someone says whistling makes the Mother of God sad. The Church doesn't say this. Someone says dancing makes the Mother of God sad. The Church doesn't say this.
Someone (many someones) says the sun danced at Fatima. The Church doesn't say this.

The Church says that my salvation is not affected by what I think about the sun dancing at Fatima. My salvation is also not affected by what I think about evolution, gravity or the unified field theory.

I must believe in the miracle of the Resurrection.
It doesn't matter what I believe about the miracle of the sun at Fatima.

The Church expects me to study the deposit.
The Church does not expect me to study visions.

The Church guarantees the deposit of faith as necessary for salvation. As part of that deposit of faith, She guarantees that I do not need private revelation. So why would I rely on what is guaranteed to be unnecessary in order to pass on what is necessary?

If I want to pass on the Faith, I'm better off sticking to the propositions of the Faith, reasoning things out through extensive use of the documents. The individuals who have trouble with my explanations can check the documents themselves, check with other catechists, etc. But how could anyone check for what is the correct understanding of a vision?

Catholics need to understand:

Public revelation is the norm which norms all other norms.
It is the touchstone against which everything else is tested.

Fatima, no matter how holy the participants or how pure the vision, is not a touchstone.
It is a consequence, an application, a catechesis.

Fatima, like every true vision, is God inculturating the Gospel to a specific time and circumstance. The Fatima vision, like other visions, may have resonance today, but insofar as it does, that is only because our time and circumstance happen to correspond in relevant ways to 1917 or to 1973 or to 1879, etc.

And for every way in which it does correspond, there are doubtless other ways in which it does not. And for every way in which the circumstances of the Fatima vision do not match our own, Fatima is not helpful. Indeed, it may be seriously problematic.

Why lay out obstacles to understanding?
And make no mistake - just as private revelation eases some minds, private revelation can most definitely present obstacles to understanding to other minds. Even under the best circumstances, private revelation is not a shotgun anyone should fire into a crowd.

You can fire the deposit of faith at any crowd without fear for the deposit carries with it its own grace, the self-revelation of God. Private revelation carries no such grace.

As long as one does not distrust what Sacred Tradition teaches, it is not a sin to put small weight on any particular non-Scriptural vision. Indeed, the Church permits us to entirely discount any non-Scriptural vision.

Can Fatima be a useful teaching tool?
For those who accept the idea that the vision occurred, for use in small settings, sure.
But it is not a necessary teaching tool. 

America doesn't need Fatima.
Portugal needed Fatima.
That's why Portugal got Fatima.
If you want to insist that America needs a specific vision, then America apparently needed Champion, Wisconsin.

But America did not need Champion, Wisconsin because the Church says Catholics do not need private revelation at all. Catholics need public revelation, the deposit of faith.

America does not need Fatima.
America needs the Gospel.

Insofar as Fatima is useful to promoting the Gospel, then sparing use may be warranted in certain circumstances.
But it should not become the centerpiece.
Fatima is not the Gospel.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Rosary: Explaining the Sacraments

As I research information for my next series of books, I ran across this fascinating statement in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1286 ...The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God.92...
1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah's, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.94 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,95 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.
 I have read these passages literally dozens of times, but never noticed the connection between 1286 and 1287.

When we think of Confirmation, we always think of Pentecost. In all my graduate level instruction, in all the books I've read, I cannot remember anyone who has invoked the descent of the Holy Spirit at Jesus' baptism as a sign of Confirmation. Pentecost, yes, anything else... not really.

But this led me to begin contemplating the connections between Baptism and the completion and perfection of Baptism which is Confirmation.  Since our family prays the rosary every night, this became quite a fruitful contemplation during the Glorious Mysteries, the subject of 1286 and 1287. It was then that I realized one of the inner mysteries of the Rosary: each set of mysteries is a contemplation of the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, in that order.

The Glorious Mysteries
Many ignorant catechists like to say that Confirmation is a sacrament in need of a rationalization.  But, if we look at the life of the Christ through the lens of the Rosary, we see how false this is.The Glorious Mysteries emphasize how the sacraments of initiation glorify us.

As the CCC points out, the Glorious mysteries highlight the connections best. Paul talks about being baptized into Christ's death, rising with Him in resurrection from the waters (Romans 6:1-4). Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). 

So, the Easter Triduum, with its capstone Holy Saturday celebration of the Risen Christ, is the baptism of the Church.
This baptism allows tremendous growth towards God, exemplified in the fact that it is only after the Church's baptism that the apostles minds were opened to understand the Scripture (Luke 24:45). Only then do we see the Ascension of Christ. 

But these things, by themselves,  are insufficient. 

Despite all their learning, taught by God Himself, they aren't truly prepared until Pentecost. Pentecost turns the cowardly apostles into soldiers for Christ. It represents Confirmation, and is the classic Scriptural example of Confirmation. But, unless we look at the intimate connection Pentecost has with Easter, we would easily miss the fact that Confirmation is necessary. 

Confirmation is not a choice to become Catholic, rather, it is nearly impossible to live out the graces of baptism without Confirmation. That's why the Church requires all her children be confirmed.

Of course, Confirmation matures and perfects the graces of baptism. Once Confirmation has been attained, we now have the power to be perfected. The continuation and perfection in growth that Confirmation accomplishes is exemplified in the Assumption of Mary. 

Her Coronation is a symbol of the Eucharist, the crowning, heavenly sacrament. 

It is sometimes said that the Eucharist is the only sacrament we continue to enjoy in heaven. But, while this is true in one sense, it is false in another. Just as priests will forever enjoy the merits of the seal of Holy Orders, so every lay person will forever enjoy the merits of the seals of Baptism and Confirmation. We celebrate the divine sonship and the divine priesthood these seals impart to us for all eternity. Indeed, it is not wrong to say that those who have been given these seals are able to better enjoy heaven than those who do not have them.

The Joyful Mysteries
The Joyful Mysteries follow the same model: the sacraments of initiation serve as an interpretive key, the emphasis is on the way the sacraments of initiation build the family of God.

It is interesting to notice that while the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the prophets, and upon Jesus at baptism or upon Mary and the apostles at Pentecost are all seen as signs of Confirmation, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Mary at the Incarnation is not listed as one of those signs of Confirmation.

Why not?
Well, possibly because, with the Annunciation, God uses Himself to baptize the world.
CCC 1295 A seal is a symbol of a person, a sign of personal authority, or ownership of an object.
Just as a seal is the mark of a person the beginning of His imprint on human nature, so in the Incarnation Christ makes human nature His own. It is baptized into Him.

After the Annunciation, there is an ascent into the hill country to accomplish the Visitation, the union with the family of God. But this union is incomplete - only Mary and Jesus ascend into the hill country.

The Holy Family lacks the presence of Joseph and the visible presence of Jesus. God's presence among us is confirmed in His birth.  While it is perfectly true that His birth has many clear signs of Eucharist, we should remember that all those signs are consequent to the birth. The birth itself is the perfection and maturation of the unborn child as Jesus descends from the sinless Mary's womb - an event very similar to Pentecost. 

It is only at the birth of Christ that the Holy Family is perfected, visible to all. The foundation of the Church is perfectly established in the smallest cell of the Church, the Family.

Notice that it is only after the birth of Jesus that we see Mary beginning to ponder things in her heart. At the Incarnation, she wondered at the angel's words, but did not ponder them as she did after the birth of Christ, the public confirmation of God's entry into the world.

And, just as Pentecost is followed by violence against the apostles - warfare breaks out against the Body of Christ - so the birth is followed by violence against infants as warfare breaks out against the Body of Christ. 

Confirmation begets soldiers who fight for God.

Following the birth, a second period of growth in knowledge and understanding comes. But this time, the family is visibly complete, perfected. Mary, Joseph and Jesus together ascend the hills to Jerusalem for the Presentation in the Temple. The prophecies of Simeon and Anna increase Mary and Joseph's graces, deepen their understanding.

This, of course, is followed by, completed and and crowned with the Finding in the Temple - where the True Presence of God is revealed to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear. As with the Eucharist, many scoff, but the reality is clear to those with eyes of faith. 

The Finding in the Temple is, in itself, a mini-prefigurement of the Triduum.
This is why they lead us directly into...

The Sorrowful Mysteries
And yet a third time the sequence is completed, with the emphasis on how the Kingdom of God is taken by violence. "And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away." (Matthew 11:12).

The Agony in the Garden is the beginning of the baptism of blood into the Triduum.  It is here that Jesus has an angel, a sign of the Spirit, ministering to Him. The baptism of blood which the Agony begins is sealed with a kiss upon Christ's cheek.

The Scourging at the Pillar is a growth in grace for the world, but in a most subtle way. Every drop of Christ's blood is sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world. With the scourging, great rivers of blood pour out, each drop infinitely increasing the value of the world. Each drop builds on the grace already poured out in the baptismal event of the Garden.

In the Crowning with Thorns, Christ is hailed as King, confirmed as King. Even the soldiers who mock Him cannot deny His kingship. Where His cheek was first kissed, now it is slapped and punched, just as it is slapped during the traditional rite of Confirmation. Jesus carries the thorny seal of kingship on his head for the rest of the Triduum.

This confirmation is followed by the Carrying the Cross, an even greater outpouring of grace to the world.

This outpouring and growth of grace is completed with His Death on the Cross. The fruit of the Tree is sacrificed, the Eucharistic sacrifice is perfected. The confirmation of His kingship is sealed upon the Cross by Pilate himself - This is the King of the Jews. The seal of Confirmation precedes the Eucharist and abides with Him.

The Luminous Mysteries
But if the preceding three sets of mysteries have the sacraments of initiation subtly embedded within them, the Luminous Mysteries almost count them off aloud.  It is almost as if John Paul II was shouting the mysteries of the Rosary, that is, the mysteries of the sacraments of initiation, at a world gone deaf.

The Baptism of Christ is our baptism. It makes us sons of God. As David Schindler points out, divine filiation, or sonship, is the primary way in which we relate to God. This relationship must be established first.

Once it is, the Wedding at Cana, comes into focus. It is our growth in family life, the life of the Church. But, by itself, such a wedding is incomplete.

We are empowered to preach the Gospel in an official way by our Confirmation. Without the graces of Confirmation, we could never do it as effectively. Even those child martyrs who were technically not confirmed, were arguably only able to make the great sacrifice of martyrdom for Christ, by receiving the necessary strengthening grace directly from Christ.

This completion and perfection of baptismal grace Transfigures us, and prepares us for the perfection, which is, of course, the Institution of the Eucharist.

For those who are preparing to enter the Church, for those who are preparing to receive one of the sacraments of initiation, the Rosary is a great lesson in all the aspects of what it means to be initiated into the Body of Christ. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bitter Clingers

Barack Obama invoked "his" Christianity to justify supporting sodomite marriage.
He argued that America's soldiers are "fighting on my behalf", and spiking the football repeatedly over the death of Osama bin Laden.

It's so sad...

You go into these small towns [like D.C.]... the jobs [are going away] ... And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations. 

It's just so demoralizing to see our President bitterly cling to guns or religion now that his job is in jeopardy, showing antipathy towards people who aren't like him, anti-Republican sentiment, anti-Tea Party sentiment, anti-capitalism sentiment, as a way to explain his frustration.

The poor, poor man.
I'm sure he and Michelle are discussing whether he will qualify for unemployment.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Buying a Used Car

Recently, our 1995 Honda Odyssey went the way of the dodo, so we were forced to shop for a new (well, new to us) van. I am not an auto expert, but I discovered a way to solve the classic used car comparison problem that some people have found helpful. Maybe you will find it helpful as well.

Phase I - Setting Up The Spreadsheet
Apart from one small caveat (see Phase II below), the year of manufacture doesn't matter.  All other things being equal, you need be concerned only about a car's mileage and price.

Specifically, you want to calculate the sales cost per mile over the life of the vehicle.

Now, we bought our 1995 Honda Odyssey at 90,000 miles and ran it until the engine essentially gave out at 220,000 miles. So, I assume that any van we buy today will last the same distance - a minimum of 220,000 miles.

 I set up an Excel spreadsheet with the following headings:
ContactInfo     VIN    Make/Model/Year    Price      Mileage    Cost/Mile     TotalCost   URL

ContactInfo - phone number, address of the dealership, etc.
VIN - If you are doing internet searches, keep track of the URL and the VIN. You may see the same car on multiple sites or similar cars on the same site. Sometimes, the only way to distinguish various ads is by the VIN.
Make/Model/Year - self-explanatory
Price - the advertised price for the vehicle
Mileage - the mileage for the vehicle.
Cost/Mile - The formula in this cell should subtract the car mileage from the expected mileage, then divide the price by that number.

For example, let us say you have:

  • the car's Price in column A4, 
  • the car's Mileage in column A5
  • and you expect to run the car 220,000 miles.
  • The formula in Cost/Mile would be:   +A4/(220,000 - A5)

You can cut and paste that formula into a spreadsheet cell if you want, and modify it accordingly.

That will give you the cents per mile as a decimal number (e.g., 0.12435 is roughly 12 cents per mile). This is the price of the car amortized over its useful life.

With that number, you can now compare cars directly, no matter their mileage, price or year.

After tracking vans this way for a month, we discovered that anything below about 5 cents per mile was not worth looking at, anything above about 10 cents per mile was above our price range.

TotalCost - the probable price including sales tax, license, fees, etc. If you're on a tight budget, as we were, the sales tax and fees can kill a deal if you haven't accounted for it up front.

URL - You may not remember the exact search criteria that got you to this ad, so save the car's URL so you can visit it again easily.

Phase II
Now, visit the library and check out old issues of Consumer Reports.
See if any make or model has specific weird problems you don't want.
Also, see which makes and models you definitely want to avoid because of bad histories.

For instance, we had a very limited budget for this purpose, so that cut out all the newer model years. In order to avoid a lemon in an older model year, we discovered our only hope for a decent van lay in the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna.

We wanted the fold-down seats, which Sienna only started using in 2004.
Our old 1995 Honda Odyssey had had them, and we loved them.
Unfortunately, while the Honda Odyssey always had the fold-down seats, the 2000-2003 model years also had problematic transmissions - a serious expense. I searched the internet for whether or not that problem could be resolved. It turned out that Honda had put out a fix that seemed fairly reliable from reports.

We also found out that the Honda Odyssey Touring edition 2005 had weird tires that were very expensive and virtually impossible to replace if they failed - not something I wanted to deal with.

Hmmm... as I searched the web, I also saw the same cars coming up day after day. And I watched the prices fluctuate. After a month of daily evening reading of ads, I got a feel for what a reasonable price would be. I also saw prices on certain vehicles head steadily downwards.

We were under no time constraint, so I didn't mind if a van I had been watching suddenly disappeared (bought). I live in the huge metropolis of Dallas/Fort Worth - another would replace it soon enough.

The used Honda van we ultimately bought had been price-reduced by the local Toyota dealer. We were the first ones to test drive it after a month of advertising on the dealer's part. It was a company vehicle with complete maintenance records, a 2003 Honda Odyssey with the transmission fix already taken care of 50,000 miles ago. We bought it in November 2011 and have been very happy with it. It cost us 9 cents a mile, which I felt relatively good about.

Errata: Where to look on-line

Here are the most useful websites I visited to look for cars:
Be careful on Craigslist. The auto listings would frequently (nearly every day) have an ad which consisted of nothing but a jpg that had all the car information listed within the picture. Phone number, price, VIN, make/model/year - all embedded in the jpg, and no text in the ad at all.

Ads comprised of nothing but a jpg with embedded text were always scams.

The vehicle price would be unusually low. When I contacted the poster, s/he would give a sob story about needing to leave for Europe or Alaska immediately, having just gone through divorce, military deployment, etc., and they were always based far, far from Dallas, so you couldn't see the vehicle. And they never had a good explanation for why they were advertising in Dallas.

They promised to ship the vehicle upon receipt of payment through Ebay. Ebay was invoked, I think, in order to give the patina of reliability to the sale.

The whole ad was in a single jpg in order to keep Craigslist scam identification engines from reliably identifying their phone and/or e-mail addresses.

Craigslist often has good deals, and we checked out a few, but be careful.
It also has con artists.

I hope this is of use to someone.
God bless.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Why Copyright Is Irrelevant

 A judge finally recognized what any tech could have told him.

With this ruling, the ability to get the evidence necessary to defend copyright is obliterated. There is now essentially no way to defend the copyright of anything that can be stored on a computer.

There's no way to subpoena evidence, apart from an individual testifying to the presence of illegal material on a computer.  Even then, the testimony would have to include the individual actually SEEING the perpetrator do the download. The simple presence of the file doesn't show who put it there. And, short of needing biometric ID to login to every computer in the world, it never will.

For all of you who create intellectual content (and that includes me), we need to get used to the facts: the model by which we make money off of intellectual content has got to be radically different than it was BC (Before Computers).

Doesn't matter if it is photos, movies, novels, articles... none of that matters.

If it can be digitized, then:
Can Take Anything.
At Any Time.
And there is no recourse.

I'm actually good with that - in my view, copyright was never any real protection anyhow.

But consumers need to understand what they are buying.
You are no longer buying the content you are downloading.
You are now buying the content that doesn't exist.

The Paradox 
What does that mean?  Well, consider Taylor Swift - a woman who makes tens of millions of dollars each year through her songs and videos. You can, if you wanted, go to Youtube and download every song she's ever sung. You can rip CDs, store them as cell phone ringtones - do anything you want and never pay her a dime.

So, if her fans never have to pay to get her work, how is it that she makes millions of dollars each year?

Simple. When they pay 99 cents for an iTunes mp3, Taylor Swift fans aren't paying her for the work they download. They are paying her for the work she has not yet created. They like what they heard, they download the song they've already listened to elsewhere, and they pay 99 cents for that song not because they necessarily want that song, but because they want the next song, the song she hasn't even written yet. The song that will be even better than this most excellent song.

They want her to continue to produce wonderful songs.
That's how she gets paid.
She gets paid for a product that doesn't yet exist.

For those of us who produce intellectual content, that's how all of us have EVER gotten paid. In the old days, when book publishers mattered, it was called an advance, and the publisher paid it. Today, it is called profits, and the fans pay it.

We aren't getting paid for the work we produced, but for the future work our fans hope we will produce, work that they believe will match or exceed the quality of this work they already have in their hand.

We don't need copyright.
We need fans who clearly understand what they are buying.

So, if you like what you read here, you can buy more of it here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Baumol's Cost Disease

Back in January, 2012, Yahoo News opined that it might have become too expensive to raise a child.

After all, they noted, the direct costs of raising a child to age 17 is over $150,000.
If you're paying for college, it could rise to $250,000.


Sounds like a lot.

Or does it?

Divide $250,000 by 17 years - that's $14, 705 a year, on average.
Divide that by 365 days in a year and it's about $40 a day.

The IRS business mileage allowance for 2012 is 55.5 cents per day.

So, if you make a round-trip commute to work of about 80 miles (40 miles there, 40 miles back), your annual commute costs as much as a child.

An 80 mile commute entertains, perhaps, an hour and a half of your day.
A child entertains his or her parents 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Having five children is the equivalent of owning five cars with one important difference.

The value of cars depreciate over time.
You always have to go buy a new car every few years.

Children don't depreciate.
You can't even say that the increase in value.
It's that the value is so wildly, superlatively different than a car that the comparison is... crazy.
And that invested value keeps .... hmmmm.... not growing... but mutating, changing, whirling your world to greater and greater heights every year.

And it doesn't stop after 17 years.
It turns into marriage, family, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, vacations, first tooth, gap tooth, diapers upon diapers, new puppy dogs, fish tanks, vomit, diarrhea, lollipops, carnivals, braids, scraped knees, riding bicycles, driving cars, fishing, bowling, plays, tears, laughter, tickles, learning to wink, first haircuts, the alphabet song, braces, funerals, waterfalls, shooting stars, caterpillars, tadpoles, first loves, first loss, LIFE, leaping and bounding whirlwinds of excitement with each passing year.

All of this for the price of less than a two-hour daily commute?
You would pay more over the course of 30 years for pretty much any house you care to name.
And it pays off in much less time.

So, this is expensive, eh?

The Blind Leading The Blind

Over at Patheos, Deacon Greg Kandra praises Mark Shea's non-judgemental demeanor.
Mark had this to say about a friend of his who was, according to Mark, a sodomite:

One of the people I admire most in the world, who I regard as an inspiration and, very likely, as a saint was a gay guy who lived here in Seattle named Perry Lorenzo.... Some Catholics (and some of my gay readers) will probably be surprised to hear that I’m not interested in whether or not he was celibate. Not my business. That’s between him and God. ...If Perry was an active homosexual, it’s none of my business and certainly not mine to judge. After all, I also agree with the Church that my own acts of gluttony are sinful and even gravely so. But I don’t believe God has abandoned or rejected me and I trust his grace to help me slowly become conformed to Christ, so why should I believe for a second that somebody like Perry, who manifested such abundant and beautiful fruits of the Spirit was not pleasing to God and was not doing his best to strive for God? On the contrary, I regard him as a role model and greatly admire his deep, generous and true faith. I hope he prays for the Church in Seattle and I think he is (not was, God rest his soul) one of the great ornaments of the Church.
Of course, we all must be in accord with Scripture, and Scripture is quite clear on this. "Am I my brother's keeper?" Obviously, no. 

I am supposed to imitate Jesus, who never, ever said harsh things to anyone. Not a single soul. Jesus didn't judge anybody and He never will. Not for all eternity! Never!

As Mark implies, it's absolutely possible for someone to engage in homosexuality, adultery, incest, violent rape, but still be very Christ-centered. Heck, he could be a saint, even. Already canonized. In heaven. Praying for us. And for his victims, presumably, which just shows how generous the man is.

As one sterling Christian said, we can commit adultery or murder thousands of times each day, but as long as we have saving faith, we are saved! Of course, that same magnificent Christian was also fine with bigamy, but that's no big deal. Bigamy is a private matter. Not. My. Business.

How many people can identify the theological error Mark Shea engages in?
Deacon Kandra, go ahead and sit on your hands.
You clearly have nothing to contribute to this one.

Anyone else?
That's right! 
Mark has confused the grace of charism with the grace of sanctification!

You see, the grace of charism, or charismatic grace, is a grace intended for other people's salvation, not for my own. When God gives a special charismatic grace to someone, He intends that grace to be exercised for someone else's good.  And I can exercise that grace for someone else's good even if I am personally in a state of mortal sin.

So, let's say I have a charism of teaching. I can teach you about Christ very effectively, yet be engaged in the most monstrous soul-damning sins myself because the grace of the charism is external to my own salvation. It operates for YOUR salvation, not mine.

Sanctifying grace is quite a different matter. It assures MY salvation. 

So, I can appear to be Christ-centered through my charismatic grace, but unless I am actually Christ-centered through sanctifying grace, I still go to hell, even though my teaching was effective enough to get you to renounce your sins and allow you to enter heaven.

The Result
Now, when Mark says that this poor sodomite's personal sins are not his business, Mark is, of course, merely echoing Cain, who insisted that his brother's affairs were not his business either. 

Jesus didn't tell the adulterous woman that her sins were not His business. He told her that her sins were most definitely His business. And if we are co-workers with Christ, part of His body and sharers in His glory, then we also share in His ability to judge sin. Indeed, on the Last Day, we will even share in His ability to judge angels. 

To the extent that we close our eyes to someone else's lifestyle, or lay out the claim that this is Not. My. Business., then we reject our union with Christ and our duty to do Christ's work.

Objectively, it is sinful to hold that someone else's possibly sinful activity is Not. My. Business.  I can say  that I don't know what to do about helping him past those sins. I can say that, given his attitude, my pointing out the facts of heaven, hell, sin and damnation will likely be counter-productive, so he would be better off if I didn't. I can say I love him, but I hate his sins. But I can't say his sins are Not. My. Business. 

Sure, the state of the individual's soul is a matter between that individual and God.
No one but God can judge another person's soul.

But the action itself?
We are REQUIRED to judge the action. 

If I know my friend is an alcoholic, and I find out from a friend that he has a bottle of rum in his house, it is my duty to get involved in helping him get away from that situation. If I have a sodomite friend and he has a "partner" in his house, the same would apply.

So, Mark mistakes charism for sanctification, he mistakes judgement of soul for judgement of action, and he (ironically) canonizes someone who the Church herself has not got around to canonizing.  I say that last bit is ironical, because he actually does judge this poor sodomite's soul - he judges it sound enough to enter Heaven immediately, even though he himself says that the man's sins are Not. His. Business.  I believe that's called "willful blindness."

There was something about the blind leading the blind in Scripture, but I'm sure it's all good.
Right, Mark?

There's a nice summary of the Vatican II and Thomistic response to Mark here.