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Monday, February 25, 2013

The Thomas Mirror

I just had a long conversation with a good friend about the new revelations coming out of Rome. Apparently, Pope Benedict XVI received a fully documented report on one or more homosexual rings of bishops and/or cardinals operating within the Vatican. These homosexual rings were affecting Vatican policy and praxis. According to the reports, Benedict resigned, in part, because he was overwhelmed by the extraordinary evil these homosexual rings represented.

My friend was concerned.

"Which priest," asked my friend, "can we trust anymore? How can a sodomite priest in a state of mortal sin actually pretend to give me a sacrament? How can I take the Body and Blood of Christ from a pervert?"

Good questions.
There are many aspects to the answer.

To the first question, the answer is "None of them. You can't trust any priest not to be a pervert, you can't trust any man to be as holy as he is held out to be. Ordination does NOT guarantee holiness, it does not protect a man against sinning. In fact, it makes him open to MORE temptations, more opportunity for sin, precisely because he becomes satan's special target by the fact of his ordination."

"But, to answer the second question, we have to realize that our trust is in the sacrament, not in the priest. I am saved by the sacraments, not by the priest. The sins of the priest are not communicated to the Body of Christ nor to me. He cannot sin for me, he cannot give me his sin or take away my grace, and he certainly can do nothing to God, present in every one of the sacraments. His sin is his own, to clutch to his breast as he descends into the horrors of hell. An active sodomite commits the most grievous sin of sacrilege when he consecrates the Eucharist or gives absolution. But his sin of sacrilege does not change the holiness of my encounter with Christ."

And as I spoke with my friend, it occured to me that we are all the Apostle Thomas now.

Remember Thomas?
He had lived for years with his friends, the apostles, all following Christ around Galilee, listening to Him, watching Him. He knew the kind of men his friends were. Jesus called His apostles many things, and almost never did He call them nice things.

When these men told Thomas, "We have seen the risen Christ!", Thomas recalled all of this.
He knew these men.
He had lived with them.
He knew the kind of men they were.

So when they told him this, Thomas responded in a reasonable way.
"Yeah, I don't believe you festering idiots, you cowards."

And how did Christ respond?

"Thomas, come and put your fingers in my side. See? It really is me.
Yes, I know the people who told you I was risen are cowards and idiots. I don't disagree with you. You should have believed them anyway. Not because THEY are trustworthy. They aren't. But because you knew ME."

"Thomas, you walked with Me.
You knew I could do it.
You knew I had the power to do it.
Yeah, they are idiots, but you should have trusted them because you trusted ME."

I don't trust that the priest is holy.
In fact, there have been occasions when, given a choice of priests, I have deliberately chosen to go to confession to the priest who had been unjust to me, because I knew I had to trust Christ, not the priest.

We encounter Christ in the sacraments, not the priest.
And insofar as we encounter the priest in the sacrament, the priest has injected himself into a relationship he has no business in. The priest is superfluous, unimportant, essential only in the sense that God chooses to deliver Himself to me through the priest.

The sacraments matter.
The priest, and whatever sins he commited, do not.

Oh, yes, he shouldn't have committed those sins.
Absolutely the Church should be cleansed of the sodomites - you'll get no disagreement from me on that. It is a sin for a bishop to ordain even a non-active homosexual.

But, ultimately, the Church is about my relationship with Christ via the sacraments. The priest is the janitor in the house of God. His service is important, but the house doesn't exist to keep the janitor employed. The house exists for me to meet and live with my Spouse, the living Christ.

We are not meant to look through a mirror, darkly.
We must look past the idiots, even the idiots in our morning mirrors, so that we can gaze upon the face of God.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hilarious

Remember the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium that all Catholic theology professors are supposed to make, but almost none ever do?

Remember how strongly the bishops enforced that rule (cough, cough, cough)?

Well, it looks like the cardinals will get to try it out for themselves. The Pope is making some changes to the ritual for the installation of a new Pope:
One of the most visual changes, he said, would be the restoration of the public “act of obedience” in which each cardinal present at the pope’s inaugural Mass comes forward and offers his allegiance.
Why is it that when I read this, I can't stop laughing?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Peoria's Pea-brain Protocol

I was recently asked about the role of emergency contraception in cases of rape. Can a Catholic accept such a thing? The answer is a resounding "NO!", although the USCCB is rather confused on the issue.

As CatholicCulture.com website says:

Here's what the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Institutions (ERDs) from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops say about it:
"A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum."
A hospital in the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, developed a protocol for Catholic hospitals that face this situation. Called (appropriately enough) the Peoria Protocol, it was put together by the staff at OSF St. Francis Medical Center and theologians in the diocese working under then-Bishop John J. Myers. 
According to this theory, then, since the woman hasn't ovulated yet, the man's sperm can be considered an attacker, like bacteria. Since you can take prophylactic antibiotics, you can take anti-spermicide or anti-ovulatory agents. According to this theory, it isn't considered contraception since the sperm is in "attack" mode - I guess they have little green berets on or something.
The whole argument is absurd, and the monsignor who was instrumental in developing it (I knew him and worked with him on the chancery staff a few years after the protocol was developed), apparently neglected to consider the theology involved.
The only way a human life comes into existence is through God creating and infusing a human soul. If He doesn't do that, it doesn't matter how many sperm make it to the egg - no fertilization, no new life, will exist. Human life is the combination of soul and body. No soul, no human life, no embryonic growth, no way to implant, yada, yada, yada.
Now consider what would happen if no spermicide or anti-ovulatory agent is used and God never got around to creating and infusing the human soul. What would be the result? There would be no result. The sperm would do no harm to the woman. None. They would just curl up, die and disappear. They might make it to the egg, but without a human soul, what difference would that make? None. The sperm couldn't fertilize the egg in such a way that a new human life would appear. 
So, you can certainly say the rapist or whoever is attacking the woman. You can certainly try to prevent that attack. But you can NEVER say the sperm is attacking anything, because the sperm is not capable of causing any damage. The worst it does, in conjunction with God, is cause a human life to begin.
And if we're going to call the creation of a new human soul and a new human life an attack, then God is a serial rapist.
So, the Peoria protocol is complete crap, as I said. Human life is always a gift, unless you get in front of this particular monsignor and the bishops foolish enough to follow him, in which case human life is sometimes the combination of an embryo and God gang-raping a woman. 
But this is what passes for high-falutin' theological scholarship nowadays, don'tcha'know.


Sauce for the Gander

Here's a shocker.
More men then women report being subject to domestic violence.
Yes, you read that correctly.

The CDC 2012 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that each year as many men as women are victims of intimate-partner physical violence (Tables 4.1, 4.2 at p. 41). Per capita, more men than women each year are victims of psychological aggression. (see Tables 4.9, 4.10 at p. 46).
Prevalence Among Women (p. 39) More than one-third of women in the United States (35.6% or approximately 42.4 million) have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime (Table 4.1)
Prevalence Among Men (p. 39)Nearly half (45.3%) of American Indian or Alaska Native men and almost 4 out of every 10 Black and multiracial non-Hispanic men (38.6% and 39.3%, respectively) in the United States reported experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime (Table 4.4).
The Mayo Clinic recognizes the problem. Women are more likely to be "domestic terrorists".
The findings revealed just as many women as men could also be classed as abusive, coupled with controlling behavior with serious levels of threats, intimidation, and physical violence. Women were more likely to verbally and physically aggressive to their partners than men. “This study found that women demonstrated a desire to control their partners and were more likely to use physical aggression than men. “It wasn’t just pushing and shoving,” said Bates, Medical Xpress reported. Some of the survey respondents circled boxes for things like beating up, kicking, and even threatening to use a weapon. (emphasis added)
Time Magazine recognizes the problem.
Family and intimate relationships—the one area feminists often identify as a key battleground in the war on women—are also an area in which women are most likely to be violent, and not just in response to male aggression but toward children, elders, female relatives or partners, and non-violent men, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Violence....
...sociologists Murray Straus and Richard Gelles of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire found that women were just as likely as men to report hitting a spouse and men were just as likely as women to report getting hit. The researchers initially assumed that, at least in cases of mutual violence, the women were defending themselves or retaliating. But when subsequent surveys asked who struck first, it turned out that women were as likely as men to initiate violence—a finding confirmed by more than 200 studies of intimate violence.
So, now that women are combat-ready, why is everyone is making such a stink about renewing the Violence Against Women Act? And if combat-ready women need this kind of a law, then where is the Violence Against Men Act?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Are We Due For A Council?

Given that the next pope will almost certainly not be personally associated with the Vatican Council II, I raised the question of whether the next pope might lead us into a council.

The question is not purely speculative. Let's take a look at the numbers.

Council  EndYear
(AD)
Length
(weeks)
Interval
(Years)
1st Council of Nicaea 325 4
1st Constantinople 381 8 56
Ephesus 431 50
Council of Chalcedon 451 20
2nd Constantinople 553 102
3rd Constantinople 681 44 128
2nd Nicaea 787 106
4th Constantinople 870 20 83
1st Lateran 1123 253
2nd Lateran 1139 16
3rd Lateran 1179 40
4th Lateran 1215 36
1st Lyons 1245 30
2nd Lyons 1274 10  29
Vienne 1312 30 38
Constance 1418 130 106
Basel-Ferrerra-Florence 1445 728 27
5th Lateran 1517 216 72
Trent 1563 93646
1st Vatican 1870 44 307
2nd Vatican 1965 164
Average 81

People frequently say that the "average time between councils" is about a century, but this is highly misleading. In order to get this number, they use what is called the "arithmetic mean" to calculate what most people think of as the "average" of the intervals between the councils.

But the arithmetic mean or average is only appropriate to use in a data set that has no outliers, no data that is significantly above or below the norm. As can be easily seen, this data set has two ENORMOUS outliers - the distance between the Councils of 4th Constantinople and 2nd Lateran (253 years), and the distance between Trent and the 1st Vatican Council (307 years). I've highlighted those two intervals in red in the data set. Every other interval is at least half the 253 years between , several are only a quarter of that interval, three are only around 10% of that interval. Those two big gaps, totaling 560 years out of 2000, are really skewing the data.

So what do we do to fix this?
We use the geometric mean. As ehow says:
Statisticians use arithmetic means to represent data with no significant outliers. This type of mean is good for representing average temperatures, because all the temperatures for January 22 in Chicago will be between -50 and 50 degrees F. A temperature of 10,000 degrees F is just not going to happen. Things like batting averages and average race car speeds are also represented well using arithmetic means.
Geometric means are used in cases where the differences among data points are logarithmic or vary by multiples of 10. Biologists use geometric means to describe the sizes of bacterial populations, which can be 20 organisms one day and 20,000 the next. Economists can use geometric means to describe income distributions. You and most of your neighbors might make around $65,000 per year, but what if the guy up on the hill makes $65 million per year? The arithmetic mean of the income in your neighborhood would be misleading here, so a geometric mean would be more suitable. (emphasis added)
That's exactly the situation we have here.  About one-quarter of the values in the data set vary by a factor of ten from the largest value in the data set. So, the arithmetic mean is really not the appropriate way to calculate this, the geometric mean is. When we apply the geometric mean, we find the interval between councils is actually about 60 years (59.806, if you want it to 3 decimal places).

Pope Benedict is leaving office on Feb 28, 2013, shortly after the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II (11 Oct 1962). Of the 21 ecumenical councils of the Church, 12 of them occurred less than 60 years after the previous council, 11 of them (just over half) occurred within 50 years of the previous council. This matches pretty well with what the geometric mean tells us.

In other words, we have exhausted the time interval that the Church has typically had between councils. Statistically speaking, we are definitely due for another council.

This, of course, raises a second question: if another council is called, how long will it last?

I've normalized the length of the councils by expressing the length in weeks, instead of the more common months and years. This makes it easier to compare the various council lengths.

The printing press was invented in 1453. Ignoring Vatican I, which was invaded by the Italian army and forced to an early end, no council in the last 500 years has lasted less than 130 weeks - that's over two years in session. Apparently, when it is easier to record the council, the council length extends to accommodate that technological advance.

Alternatively, you might argue that after the Pope voluntarily left office in 1415, the length of councils suddenly jumped to a new and sustained high. Is this causation or merely correlation? I don't know.

But, putting that aside, why would a council be called? There are a lot of reasons. Demographic winter now affects about 40% of the countries in the world, and nearly all the richest, most technologically advanced countries. Islam is a continuing threat. Growing rates of apostasy in the richest countries are a plague on all Christianity. There are the internal problems posed by the SSPX, the appropriate way to handle the new Anglican Ordinariate, the problem of creating a better coordinated response to corruption within the hierarchy. There are doctrinal problems created by the post-VC II catechetical crisis, and the problem of Modernism, which Vatican I was intended to address, but which has never really received adequate treatment.

Do any of these problems rise to the level that requires an ecumenical council? That's hard to say. We seem to be living in a new era. Never before has a Pope left office for reasons of poor health. If the Pope could leave office for a reason never before given, a council might be called for a reason never before deemed important enough to do so. I don't know the answers. I'm just raising the questions.

So, there you have it.
We might not just get a new pope, but a shiny new council to go with him.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Something Old, Something New

Benedict's resignation has set the Catholic (and non-Catholic world) a-twirl. Here, in no particular order are some thoughts to consider as Benedict's two-week notice runs its course.

1) Whether for good or ill, the two-week notice has given the cardinals a running start on electing a successor. This is certainly going to be at the top of a voting cardinal's conversation starters when he communicates with his confreres before they enter into the external silence of the conclave. Will this time period be useful in speeding the process along or will it create and harden voting blocs, making the process more difficult?
We haven't done this in 600 years, so anybody's guess is good on that subject.

2) Like anyone else, cardinals vote their issues. That is, they talk amongst themselves about the problems each one has, and each takes notice of how common any particular problem is amongst the others. Then they consider who among them is best equipped to handle whatever the most common problems are.

From where I'm sitting, the Church faces two pressing and inter-related problems: the demographic winter that most countries have now clearly entered and the problem of Islam. Since most Islamic countries have had decreasing fertility, but still show fertility rates in the 2.5-4.0 range, it is clear that world-wide Islamic populations will have a demographic momentum that most advanced countries no longer have. Meanwhile, most technologically advanced countries are slowly (or not so slowly) aging out.

Japan is actually losing population each year. It is living the future of the rest of the world. Italy has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. 25% of the conclave cardinals are Italian.

Demography might not have been on the plate a decade ago, but it certainly is now. Similarly, Islam can no longer be dismissed as a passing fad. More and more cardinals will be remarking on these two issues to one another. That is going to affect the voting.

Within the last century, three Popes were clearly chosen in order to deal with specific geographic problems: Pope Pius XII vs. the Nazis, Pope John Paul II vs. Communism, Pope Benedict XVI and Europe. Will the new pope be a member of that group? Once he is elected, a study of his background will yield an answer to that question.

3) Vatican II continues to recede into the rearview mirror. Pope Benedict XVI was the last pope who had a personal stake in that particular council. The next pope, whoever he is, won't be personally or emotionally attached to it, at least not to the extent that a peritus like Benedict was. I've long argued that Vatican II is a rather unimportant council in the grand scheme of things, and that it is destined to be remembered as Fourth Constantinople or Fifth Lateran is - that is, in another century or so, it won't be remembered at all because its "reforms" turned out to be fairly useless. The next pope will put it quietly to bed.

That leaves a host of unresolved problems, of course. The SSPX, the Novus Ordo liturgy, the catechetics crash, the Anglican Ordinariate, these are all things that require greater consideration.

If you throw out the unusual interval between the Council of Trent and Vatican I, ecumenical councils are generally separated by a period of about 50 years. Technically we are overdue for another general council.  Are we likely to get one with the next pope? It seems unlikely, but then, Vatican II wasn't exactly on anyone's radar screen when John XXIII swept into office.

The Church seems to do best when there's a council once every couple of generations. It gives all the bishops a chance to sit down and really consider what's going on in their respective dioceses, get a little perspective on the world.

We haven't had a papal resignation in 600 years. In the entire history of the Church, there hasn't been more than a handful of such resignations. Is the resignation good or bad? That I can't say. All I can do is recall a verse:

"Look", says the Lord, "I am doing something new."

Yes.
Yes, indeed.

It Doesn't Take A Weatherman

As our current American administration used to say, it doesn't take a weatherman to know the wind is changing.

The last Pope to resign did so in 1415 to end the Great Western Schism, when three different men were all claiming the papacy. Two were anti-Popes, so the real one resigned in order to allow the Council of Constance to resolve what had become an extremely nasty political situation.

That is, historically, the only real reason a Pope has ever resigned: to resolve a really nasty problem somewhere. Now, maybe this time is different.

Maybe.
But maybe not.

When Germany was at the height of its power in 1939, the man who was elected Pope had been papal nuncio to Germany for ten years. He understood the political situation in Germany as well as anyone alive. He was also instrumental in undermining Nazi authority and influence.

When the Soviet Union was at the height of its power, the Church elected a Pope who had lived under both Nazi and Soviet domination. Pope John Paul II (Cardinal Kaqrol Wojtyla) was the first non-Italian in four hundred years and the only Polish citizen ever to be elected to the papacy. He understood the Soviet Union as well as anyone alive. He, Reagan and Thatcher helped engineer the destruction of the Soviets.

Between 2004 and 2007, Europe's Eurozone reached its height as several former Soviet satellites entered the union and joined the Euro. As Europe rocketed forward economically, the conclave elected the first German pope in centuries. Only nine of previous 266 Popes could claim German heritage. Hadrian IV (1522-1523) hailed from Holland, Stephen IX (1057-1058) from the French-German Lorraine region, and Victor II (1055-1057), was a Swabian. Again, the pick proved prescient. Cardinal Ratzinger took the name Benedict. The conclave turned out to have chosen a man with a superb understanding of Germany, Europe's most important partner, to stand at the helm of the Church as the European Union began its current course of self-destruction.

In short, in three out of the last six elections during the course of the last century, the cardinals have correctly predicted where the next world crisis would take place.

It would appear that the current major threat is Islam. As has been noted elsewhere, Muslim oil producing nations are probably at the peak of their power right now, as oil revenues are likely to start dropping with the invention of fracking and the discovery of shale oil reserves world-wide.

If the next Pope hails from a Muslim nation, if the next Pope understands and has lived under Islam for a significant period of his life, his election may signal a significant shift in the world's power equations.

Islam, this may be the end for you.



Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Learning To Swim in Ice Water

Reading this essay, I was struck by the hypocrisy of it all.
These teachers cling bitterly to the gun-free zones, their religion.
This essay is the difference between lefties and conservatives.

It is the difference between a pet owner and a parent.

First, notice this man has a pet, he has no children.
Why?

Because pets never grow up, pets never learn enough to be mature and "wild", pets are always subject to the benevolent dictatorship of the master, pets must have neutered sex, pets can never be free.

Why is the country moving to the left?

Perhaps because America has four times as many pet owners as parents.
Whether it is a cause,  a result or merely a correlation, the connection is significant.
Parents raise their children with the sure knowledge that these children will one day be independent, thinking adults, mature enough to make their own decisions, live their own lives. Parents who have children that may never gain such independence, due to physical or mental disabilities, experience sorrow and loss as a result of that knowledge. Parents don't want pet children, they want adults who were once their children.

Parents teach their children about violence because the world is a place of violence.
The classroom is a mirror of the world.
The classroom is a place of violence.

Always has been.

Teachers do violence to the ideas that the students carry into the classroom.
There is no other way to teach.

Teachers are fine with violence, the idea of violence.
As long as it is TEACHERS who are wreaking the violence upon the student.

This particular instructor is apparently upset by the idea that teachers aren't the omnipotent, benevolent dictators he thought they were. He isn't what he thought he was. He doesn't want his illusion shattered.

He is the only adult in the room, everyone else is a child.
He is the only one who can be counted on not to throw a tantrum, his students cannot be so trusted.
It is HIS religion that must be protected, and to hell with anyone else's.

Islam has suicide bomb jockeys, and this guy is their soulmate, willing to blow up the classroom by leaving rather than have actual discussions with other actual adults.

He doesn't want his students to teach him about the world by tracking bits of it in.
He doesn't want reality tracking into his classroom, he wants the Ivory Tower (tm).

Yes.
And people in hell want ice water.
Welcome to the Real, kid.