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Friday, April 27, 2012

Guarding the Guardians

I love studies that discuss why religious people think the way they do.
 Unfortunately, not all such studies are created equal.
Consider this one, from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

The study purports to show that the more analytical one's thought processes are, the less religious a person's beliefs will be.

Sadly, the study doesn't prove what the scientists claim it proves.

While it does seem to show that people capable of solving math problems are less inclined to religious belief, it doesn't show that the ability to solve math problems (or engage in other analytic thinking) causes this decrease in religious belief. That is, the study doesn't prove causation, just correlation.

Which is not a real surprise. I distinctly remember following this exact line of reasoning while I was in honors math and science classes in Catholic high school. In all the histories I read describing the lives and accomplishments of all the scientists I studied, none of these histories mentioned religious belief at all. All the really brilliant people I knew about were atheists. The only time religious belief was mentioned was when someone actively rejected it.

Thus, I knew Isaac Asimov, one of the most brilliant science writers of the 20th century, was an avowed atheist, but did not know that Isaac Newton, the most brilliant scientist of the last 400 years, was an avowed believer who wrote more theology then he did science.

I knew Fred Hoyle, the astrophysicist who came up with the incorrect Steady State theory, was an atheist, but did not know the George Lemaitre, the astrophysicist who came up with the correct Big Bang theory, was a priest.

No one told me that at least two Popes were each among the leading scientists of their day, nor that one of these, Pope John XXI, was an authority on both medicine and logic. His classic work on logic, Summulae Logicales, was the standard textbook on the subject for over 300 years. He died while working in his private scientific laboratory.

For my entire childhood and most of my adult life, I was completely unaware of how Catholic theology formed the empirical sciences.

So, let us assume that the students being tested lived in a culture very much like the one I grew up in just thirty years ago, a culture which constantly told them that thinking, rational people did not believe in God.

When such students are presented with priming concepts oriented towards rational thought, that would simultaneously prime them to think of what they associate with rational thought - disbelief in God. If they were doing that, you would get exactly the results this study shows.

In short, all this study shows is that schools are successfully linking the idea that rationalism is opposed to religion. It doesn't show that rationalism actually undermines religion.

Now, here's the interesting part.

For some reason, according to both the LA Times and Science magazine, the scientific authors of the study insist on the irrational non sequitor that logic is the cause of disbelief, rather than noting the much more logical conclusion that one is simply correlated with the other. The editors of one of the leading journals in the nation, Science, published this study, complete with its irrational non sequitor.

I wonder why that is?

Perhaps scientific studies into religion causes irrational thought among the scientists who attempt to implement those studies?

What, exactly, happens in the brains of scientists when they contemplate creating studies that don't prove what they say the studies prove?

Someone should investigate that.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Caring for the Poor

“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” – James Madison, author of the Constitution.

Between 1791 and 1804, Haiti was a French colony in a state of revolt. The Haitians were attempting to overthrow the enslaving French and establish their own republic. In this attempt, they were successful. But this same attempt created a large number of French refugees, many of whom fled to the United States.

Americans felt a debt of gratitude to the French for the inestimable help the French navy had provided American troops during America's recent revolution. Without the French navy, the Americans could not have triumphed. Many called for the government to provide assistance to the refugees.

The quote above was James Madison's response to those calls.

Madison very much wanted to help the refugees, but he knew there was no way to justify that help within the confines of the Constitution. The money was taxpayer money meant to be expended on matters of national importance. It was not to be squandered on specific individuals at the whim of legislators. If help were to be given, it had to be given by individuals and private organizations.

The USCCB 
Today, some of the more reckless bishops in the USCCB have called for Paul Ryan's head. His budget, they claim, is not Catholic.
It does not care for the poor.

But the Constitution has not changed since Madison's time. There is within it, to this day, no provision whereby public funds can be disbursed for private benefit.

As an elected official, Paul Ryan has a duty to care for the funds entrusted to him. The bishops have a duty to recognize Ryan's duty.

Let's put this another way.

Assume you were a bank teller. You are a friend of mine. I walk in and plead with you. I need money. My family is starving, my children homeless. I need money. You know it is true.

As you stand at your station in the bank, you realize you have money close at hand - a whole drawer full of it. Would your Catholic faith justify you in giving part or all of the money in that drawer to me?

If you refuse to reach into the bank till to hand me money, would you be violating your Catholic faith?

That's essentially what the USCCB is demanding of Paul Ryan.
There are poor people.
Paul Ryan is standing at the bank till.
"Give them the bank's money!" cry some of the USCCB bishops.

There is no provision in the Constitution which permits this.
The bishops know this, or should know this.
Their attempt to read into the Constitution something which is manifestly not there should be worrisome.


The Abortionists
The USCCB is not the only group who has tried to read into the Constitution something that is not there.

"[S]pecific guarantees... have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance," according to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.

This was the basis upon which contraception and abortion was legalized.
The USCCB protests mightily against this false reading of the Constitution.
Many of its bishops now protest mightily in favor of their own false reading.

God gives us everything we have out of His own abundance.
I am supposed to imitate Him by giving to other people out of the abundance He has given me.
My charity imitates the divine charity.

I can hold a gun to your head and take your things, but I cannot force you to be charitable.
Confiscation is not charity, it is taking.
Taxation is not charity, it is taking.

Insofar as I take resources from you, I take from you your ability to imitate God's generosity.
I steal from you your ability to be charitable as God is charitable.

I violate your ability to image God.

When a child is legally aborted, the state takes of the life of a child.
When a man is unreasonably taxed, the state takes the man's ability to imitate the life of divine charity.

Both are sins, the first much more heinous than the last.
But, if the first is allowed, the last seems not so much a sin.

In attacking Paul Ryan, the USCCB is imitating Planned Parenthood.
There is a reason they do this.


It is the job of Christians to care for the poor.
It is not the job of the government - at least not any government ruled by the US Constitution - to care for the poor.

We Christians should care for the poor without looking to the government for help. The government should assist us in this endeavor by drastically lightening the load of taxes it imposes on us.

When we are lightly taxed, we have excess goods which we then give to the poor ourselves. This allows us to imitate the life of divine charity directly. 

We get to practice the presence of God by practicing constant charity with the resources we have earned through our work and won through God's providence. The government should be small, weak, and out of the way so that we can proclaim and live the Gospel without hindrance, interference or government intermediary.

Charity flows from individuals towards individuals. Government's role is to facilitate this one-on-one charity, not confiscate it. The government can never become what we already are.

Christians are children of God. 
The Church is a real person, ensouled by the Holy Spirit. 
Charity is love between individual persons. 
The Church can practice real charity because the Church is a person.
Government is not a person.
Government cannot be a child of God. 
Government is incapable of practicing divine charity because government is not a person. 

The bishops of the USCCB do not seem able to distinguish between God and government.
Thus, they compel Paul Ryan to do something which violates Catholic Faith.
They have become the evil they claim to fight.
This is a source of sadness for all Catholics.

P.S. 
The original article ended with the line above, but I have been thinking about this and a further disturbing thought occurred to me.


Certainly the bishops know everything I have said above. 
So why do they continue to push for something so wrong?

Many answers could be given to that question, but one answer is particularly disturbing: the bishops do not trust their flocks.


The bishops don't trust that, if left to our own devices, we will be good Catholics.
They believe in government employees.
The do not believe in their own parishioners.

They believe you can be paid to be a good Catholic, you can be employed to be one.
But they do not believe their own parishioners can be good Catholics (unless those Catholics are also government employees, I suppose).


Governments care, parishioners don't.


John Chrysostom, a doctor of the Church, pointed out that if the rich man has more than he needs, then he is stealing from the poor. If I have ten pairs of shoes in my closet, but I only really need two pair, then I have stolen the other eight pair from the poor. 

A poor man who is in desperate need, a poor man who has asked for sustenance from someone who can provide it, but is refused that sustenance because of the provider's lack of charity, has a right to take what he needs - it is not theft, in that case, for the poor man to take it. 

The need must be very great - it must be life-threatening, in fact - but if it is a very great need and the miserly rich man will not satisfy it, then the poor who take that great and necessary thing have not stolen from the rich. Rather, the rich were stealing from the poor by withholding it. The poor man is just acquiring what is, in justice, his. 

In that scenario, the miserly rich man is the thief. 

Bishops think their own parishioners are just a pack of thieves.

Bishops wonder at many lay people's low opinion of bishops.
Given the evidence, laity may legitimately wonder at the bishops' low opinion of us.




Thursday, April 19, 2012

Where to Find NFP Women

According to the map at the bottom of this page, women who oppose contraception are most strongly concentrated in East Texas and Louisiana.

Which is rather interesting....

Catholics and the Holocaust

The Holocaust killed 12 million people.


It killed 6 million Jews.


It killed 3 million Catholics.


It killed 3 million Orthodox.


In August, 1939, just days before the invasion of Poland, Hitler told his generals:
Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter—with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. ... Our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness—for the present only in the East—with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians? ... Poland will be depopulated and settled with Germans. ... As for the rest, gentlemen, the fate of Russia will be exactly the same as I am now going through with in the case of Poland.
German Nazi planners had in November 1939 called for "the complete destruction" of all Poles. "All Poles", Heinrich Himmler swore, "will disappear from the world". The Polish state under German occupation was to be cleared of ethnic Poles and settled by German colonists. 


Why?


Prussia and Russia had carved up and eliminated Poland in 1795. Poland was wiped off the map in that year, and did not return as a nation until the League of Nations re-created it after World War I. 


The re-creation of Poland in 1918 led to constant combat between Germany and Poland, and also between Germany and Russia. Neither state wanted Poland to exist (unless they ruled it) precisely because Poland-Lithuania had dominated both Germany and Russia in the 14th and 15th centuries. Indeed, Poland-Lithuania was arguably the most powerful state in Europe during that time. 


Precisely because Germany and Russia completely obliterated Poland as a political entity in 1795, both countries felt the recreation of Poland following World War I was an insult, a theft of property they had taken through military force, and a threat to their continued existence.


This is why the Germans were happy to make treaty with the Soviet Union and divide Catholic Poland up yet again at the beginning of World War II. Even though England and France had treaties with Poland that required them to go to war to assist Poland, neither country honored her obligations. It was the famous "sitzkrieg", when French and British divisions on the Western front outnumbered German divisions 5 to 1, but the two refused to move while German divisions once more obliterated Poland.


The recreation of Poland after World War I did, however, establish a precedent. When the Jewish question was raised following World War II, the re-creation of another country, Israel, out of the remains of the conquered Ottoman Empire seemed like a good idea. Look how well it had worked with Poland!


Just as the creation of Poland following World War I led to a lasting European peace, so the creation of Israel after World War II led to a lasting peace in the Middle East.


Cough.


Why do I bring all this up?


Because, some Jewish groups get upset when a Catholic bishop invokes the Holocaust. 
It is useful to remember that the Nazis hated the Catholic Poles just as thoroughly, their deaths were planned just as carefully, as those of the European Jews. Auschwitz killed Catholic Poles exclusively for the first 20 months of operation.


I am truly sick and tired of the Anti-Defamation League claiming the Holocaust as a peculiarly anti-Semitic event.  


It wasn't.


I'm sorry, my elder brothers in faith, the Holocaust was not all about you. You don't get to define what can and cannot be said about the Holocaust. My brother and sister Catholics were just as thoroughly targeted, went through the same tortures, died the same deaths. Catholics have a right to invoke the Holocaust, the same as you. 


Stop being such narcissists, and recognize the universality of the tragedy which was the Holocaust.











Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Solidarity... With the USCCB


In the last five years, I have visited The Catholic Thing only twice, because their commentary is consistently stupid. That having been said, someone recommended an article to me that is so incredibly stupid I could not refrain from writing this post.


Peter Brown attempts to lay out the differences and similarities between subsidiarity and solidarity. Insofar as he sticks to just that, he does a fair-to-middlin' job of it.


But, Lord, have mercy!
His examples are simply, incredibly, inexorably, inexecrably stupid. 


Take this jaw-dropping whopper of idiocy, for instance:
The Knights of Columbus was originally set up along the friendly society model. ... A small community could provide for the health care that was available in 1870. It was much harder in 1910. It would be impossible today with the cost of care for, say, cancer or heart disease easily running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If subsdiarists really want the 1870 community model , then the tradeoff is accepting 1870’s health care. Any takers? 
Who in the name of God's green earth does he think pays for health care today? Tooth fairies? Does he think NO ONE pays for health care? That bodies pile up in the streets, unshriven, unwashed and unburied?


Insurance companies are, in terms of financial subsidies, functionally identical to friendly societies. There is zero difference between them in that utilitarian sense. 


And of course the cost of modern medical care for cancer or heart disease is NOT "impossible today". If it WERE impossible today, then no one would be able to pay for such care. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people successfully pay for such care every year, and most of them DO NOT pay for it out of their own pockets. 


These bills are paid off by the modern equivalent of "friendly societies" - insurance companies. It's just that Blue Cross/Blue Shield run a much tighter financial ship and are much better businessmen than say, the The Union of Illustrious Catholic Parishioners of East Timbuktoo. Well, and BC/BS doesn't hold as many prayer meetings. 


Furthermore, "friendly societies" are not moribund. If Brown had bothered to do ANY research, he would have discovered that the Knights of Columbus has one of the highest-rated life insurance companies in the nation. Brown apparently fails to realize that the vaunted "solidiarity" can be attained through either secular or sacred institutions. Both work. Obviously. 


So, the community DOES already pay for health care.
Community members pay via whichever insurance company each member of the community chooses to join. Those who don't choose to join STILL have their health care paid for by another community institution - the Catholic hospital - or by yet another community institution, the state or federal government.




When Did Friendly Societies Begin to Fail?


According to Brown:
"The friendly societies actually began collapsing well before the emergence of the modern welfare state."
Maybe the man could pick up a book and read it sometime. Originally, the monasteries were the source of everything we consider "welfare". The modern government-run welfare state doesn't begin anywhere in Europe until the governments destroy the monasteries. England didn't need welfare and poor houses until Henry VIII destroyed the monasteries. Europe didn't need government-run welfare until Napoleon destroyed the monasteries. 


In the 1880s, Bismarck began old age pensions, medical care, unemployment insurance and all the rest of it as part of his Kulturkampf - his bid to destroy the power of the Church in Germany. He had lost the battles he created through overt attacks on Church authority in the 1870s, so he went to more subtle and nuanced attacks in the 1880s. He followed Julian the Apostate's strategy. As we now see, it worked. 


Friendly societies fell apart because the government TOOK all the money that had been given to friendly societies. If Brown had just read Chapter 7 of Larry Elder's "Ten Things You Can't Say In America", he would have known that:
"In 1871, the Chicago fire nearly destroyed the city, yet it entirely rebuilt itself without any government aid.... Economist Thomas Sowell notes that nearly 70 cents of every welfare dollar never actually makes it to aid the intended victims.... In 1910, before England's massive welfare state, there were 26,877 registered mutual aid societies, and some estimate there were nearly as many unregistered ones... When, however, England decided to federalize welfare, the number of mutual aid societies plummeted.... since government took over aid to the needy, individual assistance was no longer required. And, since individuals saw taxes go up to support a welfare state, they felt less inclined to give more on top of that which the government already required."
Even if they wanted to give more, they couldn't. The government had taken their excess.


Then Brown makes the absolutely ludicrous claim that friendly societies can't work in a highly mobile society such as ours. 
Another thing that killed the friendly societies was the other modern capitalist phenomenon: social mobility. With people increasingly moving from farm to city and from city to city, the social solidarity that made the societies work fell apart.
I ask the dear Lord in heaven, how any man can write anything so stupid and still get it by editors, still get it published? Of course, friendly societies were created PRECISELY in response to a highly mobile society. Why did the Knights of Columbus form, for instance? To care for millions of Irish immigrants who had each journeyed thousands of miles from their homes. Where did the English friendly societies originate? Why, in the mobility forced upon English farmers as a result of the enclosure movement. 


Friendly societies have always been a RESPONSE to mobility. They are welcoming committees, stabilizing influences for a mobile people. He's got the cart firmly in front of the horse, and now wishes the horse to dance backwards to match his tune. 


The Coup de Grace


And, to prove that Peter Brown is a complete idiot, he testifies to it:
But what would replace the friendly societies after the world wars and the Great Depression delivered the coup de grace? There was really no one left but the state and some private insurance beset by the same adverse selection problems that killed the societies. As the adverse selection problems inherent in private insurance have grown, the state has assumed an ever greater role. 
Oh, those poor governments! They just stood by and sighed while two world wars and a great depression broke out for no reason at all! The governments had nothing to do with any of that! And of course, the state just HAD to step in to save all those poor insurance companies, who would barely survive if it wasn't for benevolent government assistance!


Horrors! Think, Emily, think what the world would be like if government was too small, too weak, to save us from the nasty wars and depressions we inflicted on ourselves! If only our governments had been stronger then, we would NEVER have had such terrors! 


Oh, whoa is me! I faint at the thought of small, weak government! Oh, hold me!


Yeah.
Whatever.


At the turn of the last century, with the racist Woodrow Wilson at the helm, the American government stole power from the people, passed laws to eviscerate and emasculate people, so it could accumulate the power it wanted. 


The government stole the friendly societies' money, stole their social power, broke their legs and blamed it on ... what... social mobility? And Peter Brown actually expects us to buy into this claptrap?


The government is currently destroying the secular equivalent of friendly societies by destroying insurance companies and related organizations. And we're going to blame it on some nebulous "problems of modern society"? 


Really?!?! 


Peter Brown may or may not be a theologian.
He is certainly an idiot.
But he is not a completely useless idiot - he highlights how our bishops think.


So, if you ever wanted to read something by a USCCB stalking horse, Peter Brown is your man. 

Mock the Priesters

If you think that 9/11 was actually instigated by George Bush in a false flag operation, you are called a Truther.

If you think that Barack Hussein Obama is not a natural born citizen, and therefore not qualified to be President of the United States, you are called a Birther.

If you think that women can be ordained priests, you are a Priester.

In the spirit of true Christian ecumenism, we should start mocking the news reporters who report these "stories"  as Priesters.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Justice, Though the Heavens Fall


A federal judge has decided to allow a lawsuit against the Catholic Church.

It seems a single Catholic school teacher, an instructor of computer science, decided to impregnate herself via artificial insemination.
She was fired for this breach of protocol.
She is suing for wrongful dismissal.
The judge argued that since she is not involved in the transmission of doctrine, the court has standing to hear her case.

The Magisterial documents of the Church insist that every subject taught in a Catholic school must be infused with Catholic principles, outlook and attitude.

Is there a "Catholic" way to teach computer science?
According to the Church, yes, there is.

It's relatively easy to see how such a course might work.

Simply open each class with prayer, provide regular reminders that God is rational, His universe is rational because it reflects who He is, and Divine logic is the underlying foundation that forms the logical structure of computer programming. I could and have taught such courses.

Of course, when I did this, Catholic parents routinely complained that I was supposed to be teaching MATH, not religion, or HISTORY, not religion, or ART, not religion. Catholic parents complained, mind you.

And there's the problem. Precisely because Catholic schools now routinely employ non-Catholics, enroll non-Catholic students, and limit these kinds of "meta-explanations", precisely because Catholic parents enroll their children in Catholic schools NOT to get Catholic instruction, but to get private academy instruction that preps their children for prep school, Catholics schools are no longer Catholic.

Catholic schools haven't been Catholic for quite a while.
And a judge has finally called them on it.

So, the judge has taken it upon himself to decide what can and cannot be considered "Catholic" in any Catholic school.  The judge gets to define what constitutes Catholic Faith and the transmission of a Catholic worldview.

So much for separation of Church and state.

Fiat justitia ruat caelum - "let justice be done though the heavens fall"...

It is hard to know which side to root for... the judge who intends to tear down the facade of Catholicism in Catholic schools or the schools who may only now be realizing, too late, that they really should have stayed true to the Catholic Faith they pretended to pass on.

UPDATE: In an ironical side note, Xavier University has decided to STOP carrying birth control coverage.  It's almost as if Catholics are beginning to realize they bought a mess of pottage.