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Monday, May 27, 2013

The Bible As Science Text

Many people, even many Catholics, have an incoherent desire to treat the Bible as a science textbook. Let's examine how well that works out.

1) The Earth is Flat: Most of the Old Testament was written by about 400 BC. Unfortunately, Eratosthenes of Cyrene didn't demonstrate that the earth was round until about 200 BC.

So, the Old Testament assumes that the earth is a flat disc, hanging in space and immoveable. The sky is a dome, and above the sky are the waters. When doors in the sky open up, the waters fall: this is called rain.

Now, when the ancient Hebrews heard about Eratosthenes' work, they undoubtedly said that his proposal was just an unproven theory, and that there was a lot of evidence against this novel and un-Biblical idea of sphericity. But, if the Bible is a science textbook, then we must assume that the sphericity of the earth is unproven (although it is the case that almost all the Church Fathers ignored the Scripture's teachings on this point, and instead taught a spherical earth).

And, indeed, you might even point out that the earth is not actually a sphere. Most modern geographers insist it is actually pear-shaped, with the Northern Hemisphere pinched slightly inward in comparison to the Southern Hemisphere. Because there are competing theories - perfect sphere versus slight pear-shape - we can argue there is no consensus about the earth's sphericity and thus the world must, indeed, be flat.

2) The Earth is Young: Of course, the same arguments are used to hold to the idea that both the earth and the universe it inhabits are around 6000 years old. When confronted with the evidence to the contrary, Young Earthers have even been known to say that God is not bound by the laws of logic! This is a much stronger argument for Muslims than it is for Christians, since Muslims teach exactly this: God is SO powerful that he is not bound by the laws of logic. He can make a square circle. He can make a rock so big He can't lift it. Except He could, because He's God and can do whatever He wants, even to the point of wanting or doing logically contradictory/impossible things.

Sadly, most Young Earthers are Christians who don't appear to realize that Christianity has always taught God to be pure rationality. Not only is God bound by the laws of rationality, He IS rationality itself. All that is rational is a reflection of His perfect nature, all that is irrational is a distortion of who God is. God is rational for His own Name's sake, because to do that which is irrational would be to violate his own divinity.

The problem here is clear. People who insist on Intelligent Design when it comes to the creation of life apparently want to insist on Inscrutable Design when it comes to the creation of the physical universe.

If we accept that God is rational and that the heavens are telling the glory of God and all creation shows forth His handiwork, then we must accept that rational evidence is to be accepted as part of nature's testimony about God.  Robert Bellarmine, one of the 35 Doctors of the Church, wrote to Galileo explaining precisely this:
I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun was in the center of the universe and the earth in the third sphere, and that the sun did not travel around the earth but the earth circled the sun, then it would be necessary to proceed with great caution in explaining the passages of Scripture which seemed contrary, and we would rather have to say that we did not understand them (the Scriptures) than to say that something was false which has been demonstrated.
Catholics, did you catch that? According to Bellarmine, the mute testimony of nature actually trumps the literary communications of Scripture! Why? Because nature can speak with only one voice, while literary works can be interpreted in multiple ways. Since truth cannot contradict truth, if something is demonstrated in nature, the truth that has many levels of interpretation must be interpreted in such a way that the truth with more limited levels of interpretation coincide.

Now, does the Catholic Church require Young Earthism? A lot of traditionalist Catholics would insist that She does. I would disagree. Neither the Catechism of Trent nor the Universal Catechism teaches Young Earth, nor do any of the Councils require it. The Church doesn't forbid Catholics believing it, but She doesn't encourage it.

3) The Earth is the center of the Universe: The great irony of "Bible as science textbook" lies in the assertion of geocentrism. Of all the things you can say about the Bible as science, geocentrism is the one experimentally demonstrably provable tenet. Despite this, almost no one who wants to make the Bible a science textbook insists publicly on this point.

Now, I am not a geocentrist, but I am fairly well-acquainted with someone who is: Robert Sungenis of Catholic Apologetics International and the Bellarmine Report.

And here's the mystery: while most Young Earthers would reject geocentrism, the idea that the earth is at the center of the universe, it is the only proposition which is undeniably true. Well, given certain caveats. Let me explain.

From the beginning of human history until about the time of the Greeks, everyone thought the earth was the center of the universe. About 270 BC, a Greek, Aristarchus of Samos, proposed that the sun was actually at the center of the universe. Seleucus of Seleucia (190 BC) agreed with him and used a theory of tides to support the idea. While many Greeks accepted this idea, Ptolemy (90-168 AD) did not. Ptolemy taught what had always been taught: the earth is at the center of the universe.

In the 1500s, Copernicus ran across Aristarchus' idea and revived it. Galileo adopted Seleucus' tidal argument to support Copernicus. The heliocentric theory, the idea that the sun is at the center of the universe, was gradually adopted throughout the civilized world. Now, that version of heliocentrism is just as wrong as geocentrism, in the sense that the sun is not the center of the universe, merely of the solar system. But we'll let that pass. The point is, at least one version of heliocentrism was so universally accepted that, today, even Young Earthers swallow it without question.

Which just goes to show that Young Earthers don't understand physics. When Einstein came along, he pointed out that what was considered the center of any system depended entirely on one's frame of reference. With appropriate modifications, math equations can be used which allow *ANY* given body to be considered the center of the universe without doing any harm to the observational results obtained from the system.

So, from:
  • the dawn of time to Copernicus, the earth was considered the center of the universe,
  • Copernicus to Einstein, the sun was considered the center of the universe,
  • Einstein to today, we recognize that anything can be considered the center. Using one point instead of another might make the calculations easier, but there really isn't any difference.
Now, does the Church require Catholics to hold a geocentric position?

Bob Sungenis, who is a wonderful Catholic apologist in most respects, says "YES! It's DOCTRINE that the earth is the center of the universe. Given that anything can be center, Catholics are required to hold that the earth is the most appropriate center."

I say "I sincerely doubt that it is doctrine."

What I can't understand is this: if the Church requires us to hold to Young Earth Creationism, why aren't Young Earthers logically consistent? Why don't they ALSO hold to geocentrism, which is a lot easier to defend than Young Earthism is? This is a mystery to me.

4) Beginning of Life: According to traditionalists, God had to create everything through special creation because the Bible would have it so. Holding to special creation - the theory that God created everything fully formed and immediately - is the only way to fight perfidious evolution!

Except perfidious evolution doesn't even address how or when life begins. The origin of life is not part of any evolutionary theory. All evolutionary theories (and there are lots of them, many of them mutually exclusive), begin by assuming life already exists. Furthermore, the Church is quite clear that how life gets on in the world, whether by evolution or no, is not a point of doctrine. If you want to believe in special creation, have at it. If you want to believe in evolution, enjoy yourself. As long as you acknowledge God as the Lord and Giver of Life, it makes no difference to the Church.

So, the whole argument about how life begins is a pure strawman on the part of the anti-evolutionist Young Earther traditionalists. They argue that evolutionary theory takes a position on when/how life begins when it takes no position on that issue whatsoever.

Personally, I find creationism absurd and evolutionary theories, at best, woefully inadequate. I don't think anyone has a real handle on how life began or how we got to the point of having had all the species to which archeology provides witness. 95% of all the species that have ever lived are now extinct, and almost all of them went extinct well before human beings walked the planet. Why is that? How is that? No one really seems to have a decent explanation of the mechanics. The only people who seem to have a decent explanation of the "why" are monotheists, and even there, it isn't clear why so many species went belly up before God brought us into the picture.

So, if you want to use the Bible as a science text, I ask only that you be consistent. If you are a Young Earther, you really should promote geocentrism as well. Stop attributing to evolution that which evolution doesn't even address: the beginning of life. Seriously consider joining the Flat Earth Society.

Be consistent.

Apparently, Saint Augustine said the word firmament was used "to indicate not that it is motionless but that it is solid and that it constitutes an impassable boundary between the waters above and the waters below" (The Literal Meaning of Genesis, ACW 41.1.61). So, it's not clear if Augustine supported the flat earth or not.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Boy Scouts and Sodomy

A lot of ink has been spilled about the BSA's recent decision to allow avowedly homosexual Boy Scouts to serve.

Upon reflection, this is not that big a deal.

After all, the BSA has allowed Muslims to be part of its organization since 1982. Both Sunni and Shia Islam insist that it is virtuous for an adult man to marry and have sex with any female between the ages of birth and death. A Muslim proverb is that a woman should have her first menstrual period in her husband's house.

So, the BSA has been admitting and promoting scouts who advocate adult-child sex for a long, long time. Over thirty years, in fact. With this latest ruling, they have just opened themselves up to the same kind of advocacy for male-male sex.

And notice, it isn't just male-male sex they are permitting. The exact wording is that they "remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone."

So, adult-child sex, same-sex, human-animal, man-corpse sex... whatever you want to advocate, all of it is now legitimate for the BSA. Theoretically, the promotion of any of these orientations/predilections would be a legitimate focus for an Eagle Scout project. A scout couldn't engage in any of these activities directly, but any scout could certainly encourage and support such activities among others and demand respect from the BSA for such advocacy.

You see?
In that sense, the proponents of the change are correct. The change is not as bad as we thought, if only because we didn't understand how bad it was before.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Child Arrested for Poem

"We only wish they'd bomb the school,
We're awfully tired of studies."
Those two lines got an 8th-grader, Nina Peregud, arrested and thrown into prison. The horrible sacrilege of these lines, in a schoolgirl's handwriting, demonstrated a clear and present danger of terrorist attack.

As a result of having composed those lines, her bedroom was searched. Arresting officers discovered her 6th grade diaries and immediately confiscated them.

And it was a good thing they did. Within those diaries, the arresting officers found a photograph of a church that had been destroyed. This was taken as proof of her dangerous Christian fundamentalist leanings and used as evidence against her. As she was being processed, officers discovered that she wore a crucifix around her neck. Understandably, they demanded she remove it. She refused - her mother had given to her on the morning of the arrest. For this offense, the courts separated her from her parents and placed her into foster care, specifically, into an orphanage, to assure her own safety and the safety of others.

Now, can you guess where it happened?


All very good guesses.
Indeed, anyone today would believe me if I were to name any of those locations.

But, the actual location was Stalinist Russia during World War II.
The account is taken from the Gulag Archipelago, Volume II, p. 465-466.

Good thing the West, especially America, are countries of freedom under the rule of law, eh?

Memorial Day - The American Children's War

This Memorial Day, remember the Unknown Soldiers.
Remember the children who died so that their parents might be free.

Over the last forty years, millions of American children sacrificed their lives so that their parents could be free... free from responsibility, free from maturity, free from the duty to care for another person.

These children died so that their parents might be free to engage their lust without fear or concern.

These are the little soldiers without uniforms, the guerilla warriors who sneak quietly into the lives of their parents and remind those adults of American values: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Peace, love, care for the smallest and the poorest. Generosity, kindness. These great American values are what those smallest of children stand for, fighting for sanctuary and life in what has become an embattled trench: their mother's womb.

These little soldiers endure knives and chemical weapons. They endure the whirring blade, the sucking chest wound, the arms and legs ripped from the torso, the decapitations and the scalpel in the base of the skull. They died like the British soldier of Wellington Street, and their murderers righteously defend the violence wreaked upon the bodies. The killers do not flee, but rather bask in the glow of video and television, they accept the adulation they have so meritoriously earned, they explain the philosophy which allows, nay demands, the violence that has been wreaked.

These children stand for America, they are our future. And for this, we, their parents use the cleaving knife to brutally slaughter them, we use the chemical weapon to obliterate them, we praise the men and women who snuff out their lives. These are the little guerilla warriors, the inconvenient reminders that we should do what a virtuous and free people are supposed to do, the unfortunate silent voices encouraging us to be what we are supposed to be. The children die free and proud, dismembered by the hands of those who hate their own future, disembowelled by those who hate their own children, decapitated by those who hate the very country which nurtured them but failed to impress them with its values. These children are killed, and with them America's future dies.

And so it is that these young men and women died in the battleground of the womb, so that we might be freed from children, safe from love, preserved for the terror of a lonely death. They died to keep us safe from the pursuit of life and liberty. They died so that we might no longer be happy, but rather live as slaves to the lusts of this world, live hungering after the promise of 72 virgins here and now, live thirsting for the guarantees of political cant. By their deaths we hope to guarantee our own futures, bright with high incomes. We gain the promise of futures washed clean of posterity. We wash our futures clean with the blood of our own children.

No longer do we pursue liberty, we cleave instead to license.
No longer do we hold fast to life, we cleave instead to slaughter, to senseless death and carnage.

We slaughter America's future so that we might live the life the our leaders and the world's Muslims call us to live. We must obey the peaceful Muslims, the jihadists our owners demand we work with and respect, the glorious Muslims who we must never judge or hate or even speak a word against. Both our owners and these Muslims agree: the future cannot belong to our children.

Yes, these children, our children, died in service to America's highest principles.
And we killed them.

That is what we should recall on Memorial Day: the soldiers, the children, who gave their lives so that we might not be burdened with their presence. Let their deaths for these principles wring tears from even the stoniest heart!

Lift your glasses over their graves!
Weep your tears over the sewers which run with their blood!
Justice demands witness to their lives' sacrifice and to our own.
This is Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why Bishops Don't Like The EF

When asked what they don't like about the Church, a lot of traditionalists will respond,

"Vatican II destroyed the Church. We used to have high Mass attendance, schools overflowing with children, lots of priests and nuns, but now look at us!
Catechesis is destroyed! No one goes to Mass! The Catholic schools are falling apart! There aren't any vocations! This is the "fruits" of Vatican II!"
I grew up in the 1970's. I personally experienced the crap that passed for catechesis during those years. So, for years I found this a very compelling argument. I couldn't figure out why so many priests and bishops shuddered when faced with the thought of returning to the older form of Mass.

The first time I attended a traditional Mass, I hated it.
Absolutely hated it.

The second time, I read through the English prayers and found the prayers very beautiful. A few years later,  for reasons beyond the scope of this article, I found myself attending a traditional Mass every weekend.

Now, I have been very happy about the beautiful music and the opportunity to receive Jesus at the communion rail. While the EF prayers of consecration are more beautiful, I have continued to dislike what passes for a cycle of readings in the EF form. The Novus Ordo cycle Liturgy of the Word is simply superior to the EF version - anyone who follows the four senses of Scripture will find this ancient method of reading Scripture a lot more accessible in the OF than in the EF.  Similarly, the EF liturgical year is just terminally screwed up when compared to the beautifully rational OF liturgical year.

I say all of this because the comparison of the two forms and the constant whining of various "experts" blinded me to a specific truth: Vatican II and the OF was created by the traditional Latin Mass and the nuns and priests of the Catholic schools.

If we are going to blame poor post-conciliar catechesis on the Second Vatican Council, then we have to blame the existence of the Second Vatican Council on the pre-Vatican II Missal and the pre-Vatican II catechesis (school system).

Everyone who participated in VC II was formed by the EF and pre-conciliar Catholic schools. Everyone who implemented VC II reforms was formed was formed by the EF and pre-conciliar Catholic schools.

If we hate the current situation because it was created by VC II, then we must also hate the EF and the parochial school system, because that is what brought us to call VC II.

Now, if the Second Vatican Council had been foisted upon us by outsiders and enemies of the Church, then we wouldn't have to accept that line of argument. This is why so many traditionalists are fixated on the existence of Freemasons or Jews or Protestants or whoever "infiltrating" Vatican II.

VC II *HAD* to have been a betrayal by enemies, because anyone formed by the ancient Missal would never have done such a thing. It's the same line the Germans used when they lost WW I. They couldn't bear to blame it on themselves, so they decided the Jews/Socialists/Communists/Democracies stabbed them in the back.

Unfortunately, that's the one line of argument a Catholic cannot use. It is a point of Catholic doctrine that it doesn't matter who matters to "infiltrate" a council or a papal throne. God will get His work done regardless. He draws a straight line, regardless of how crooked the sinner.

So, the argument works as well for us as it did for the Germans. The Catholics who espouse it become increasingly paranoid. So, the council was infiltrated. If the council wasn't infiltrated, then we have a fall-back position - it wasn't a true council. Yet the Pope ratified it, which would make it a true council. Then, obviously, he can't have been the true Pope. If he isn't the true Pope, then the chair of Peter is empty and it has been empty since Paul VI or John XXIII or Pius XII or Pius XI or no, wait, Pius X. But the new Mass changed the way sacraments are administered, so the sacraments are no longer valid, so there are no more valid priests. Which means there are no valid bishops. Which means there are no valid cardinals. That means we are waiting for the true Pope to re-emerge, except he can't because the rules of election must be followed   by cardinals which we ain't got any more - all the valid ones are dead.. So the Church failed. But it can't. But it has to have. But it can't so God will save it in a miraculous fashion which was never revealed during the fullness of public revelation, so we must pay constant attention to private revelation. This visionary, that visionary, the one over here. Our Lady of the Recent Moment said...


You can't start down that road.
That way lies madness.

We have to accept the facts. We did this to ourselves. The bishops and priests who wanted to reform what is now the Extraordinary Form of the Mass wanted to do so for a very good reason: the EF sucked wind. It stank. It was at least sub-optimal. In fact, it was so substantially flawed that it required reform.

And the proof is clearly present. If the liturgy is really the best thing the Church has to offer, then the men and women formed by the pre-conciliar Missal demonstrated how lousy their formation was when most of them accepted any of a number of post-conciliar heresies. They swallowed heresies almost immediately and nearly universally, heresies the council never taught but those formed by the pre-conciliar liturgy thought the council taught.

That's why the bishops don't want to return to the pre-conciliar liturgy.
They know it won't work because it already proved that it didn't work.

I haven't quite figured out why these same bishops continue to insist on parochial schools that also didn't work. Perhaps they insist on them because they know so little about how the schools operate. Or maybe they're just a different version of traditionalist - bitterly clinging to their schools because they don't know what else to do, blaming the manifest failures of the parochial schools on "the Catholic ghetto" or the Catholic lay adult.

It's a sad problem, but rather ironic.
The bishops see the EF liturgy as irredeemable, but they cling to Catholic schools, which job of educating children is pre-eminently the job of the parents. The traditionalists see Catholic schools as irredeemable (thus they homeschool), but they cling to the EF liturgy when liturgy is pre-eminently the responsibility of the ordained man.

Again, sigh.
The fault lies not in the council, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Defense of Live Action

Some people have a problem with Lila Rose and Live Action videos.
They claim she and her compatriots are lying when they enter abortion clinics and present themselves as interested in abortion. In fact, the primary interest Lila Rose and company has is in filming the abortionists and their spokespeople as the latter produce the hackneyed spiel they actually give their abortion patients.

The claim is that Lila Rose (a) lies, which is a sin and (b) leads others into sin by encouraging abortion clinic workers to commit abortion.

I've been thinking of a possibly novel defense for this.

As we know, most non-liturgical Christians don't like the idea that Jesus is substantially present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist. "The Eucharist is just a symbol," they say. When He said, "This is My Body", he didn't MEAN that "is" meant "is". Rather, He intended us to know that "is" meant "symbolize."

Now, I've never heard the following argument made against the Eucharist, but it is certainly a logically possible argument: "You say Jesus presents Himself under the appearance of bread and wine. But God is pure Truth, He is the One Who is neither deceived nor does He deceive. Yet if He is presenting Himself as bread and wine, is that not a deception? It looks like bread, it tastes like wine, you say, but it is really His flesh and blood. If it were Him, why would He deceive us?"

And it is certainly the case that many who met Jesus never realized He was God, just as many who perceive the Eucharist fail to recognize who He is.

And does not Lila Rose present the same deception to the abortion clinics?
Indeed, the abortion clinics have wanted posters on her - they are constantly looking for her.
But they do not find her.

Those who know her, recognize her.
Those who do not know her, do not recognize her.

Since the abortionists would present the same talking points to any patient who walks through the door, she is not tempting them to sin any more than Christ tempts an unrepentant sinner to consume His flesh and blood in the Eucharist. She gives them an opportunity to choose: this is your chance to throw away the talking points, turn from your sin and leave.

By engaging them in conversation that covers every point of what they believe, she forces them to walk through their beliefs in the most neutral way possible - she shows absolutely no judgement while they lay out their plans. She merely asks them to contemplate and explain their plans in detail, giving them the opportunity to go through their own logic, giving them the opportunity to find the flaws in their own arguments themselves. Precisely because she questions every aspect of their operation, they have the opportunity to name and claim the problems in their own logic.

In that respect, if you want ecumenical dialogue, Lila Rose is the best in the business.

Pope Francis' Communion Policy

Pope Francis doesn't like handing out communion lest it make for an unfortunate photo opp. Notice, he's not concerned about them eating and drinking damnation upon themselves, he's just concerned about the optics.

This is not an uncommon policy.

Recently I was made aware of a Mass of First Communion at which the priest's homily concerned the importance of receiving the Eucharist and making time for Eucharistic adoration. "Don't let anything interfere with your adoration time. No matter how difficult it may be, stick to it," he admonished the First Communicants.

Now, I'm a nut about promoting the doctrine of indulgences, and he failed to mention that everyone at Mass would win a plenary indulgence for participating in a Mass of First Communion, but that's not uncommon.

In any case, the homily might have carried more force if he hadn't begun it by making an announcement: the Eucharistic adoration which normally followed Mass would be cancelled so that he could enroll the children in the Brown Scapular and have pictures taken with them.

Now private devotions are all well and good, but the promises associated with them are not known with Catholic Faith. We hope that wearing the Brown Scapular brings graces at death, but we don't know it with Catholic Faith. Why? Because the Brown Scapular comes to us through private devotion, not through a doctrinal statement of the Church. Technically, the Brown Scapular is not part of the Deposit of Faith.

Indulgences, on the other hand, are doctrine. We know with Catholic Faith that a plenary indulgence brings us graces at death. Those are part of the Deposit of Faith.

So, the priest could have offered everyone at Mass a doctrinal surety, but instead gave to the children a mere hope. And instead of giving First Communicants an actual chance to worship the Eucharistic Lord, he took away adoration and give them a photo opp. With him.

The Pope is Jesuit.
The priest is FSSP.

And that's the state of the Church today.