Tuesday, August 31, 2010
So far, so good, but it does not follow that a thing which is the opposite of a wrong statement is a right one. Indeed, even with numbers this does not hold. Not all non-negative numbers are positive, for zero is neither a negative number nor a positive one. Similarly, remaining silent means giving neither the right answer nor the wrong one. Nor is it correct to say that a telling of the truth which omits some of the facts is the telling of a lie--though if intentional, it is certainly not honest.
There are countless examples of this, but I will limit myself to a few teachings of the Church. Her claim to infallibility means that she will never teach something which is untrue as a matter of faith or morals, to be definitively accepted and assented to by all Catholics; this does not, however, mean that she will always be able to teach to answer every question pertaining to Faith and morals with the fullness of all truth, but rather only of revealed truth. Thus, the teaching of infallibility is a guarantee against lies, not a guarantee of correctly knowing all the answers. Similarly, the belief that Our Lady is without sin is not the same as the belief that she was made perfect, for only God is perfect. It merely means that she does not share that imperfection men, thanks to the grace of Our Lord. After all, inanimate matter--rocks, trees, a stream, etc--is also without sin, yet nobody claims that it is "perfect" in the fullest sense of the word. A Perfect being must also be sinless, but sinlessness alone does not suffice for perfection.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Also, since this preface is rant, I will throw in one tangentially-related observation. I am somewhat amused by the fact that VOF"T" is not the only dissident group whose focus in name is "voice." Vox Nova, anyone? What is with the dissidents (open or passive) and the word "voice?" It's as if everybody is so busy speaking that none of them can take the time to actually think.
The recently written letter by VOT"F"C to the Holy Father is smarmy, arrogant, and filled with distortions, half-truths, and outright heresies. However, the passage which I find most interesting is this:
"The metaphor argument, that the priest should be male because he represents Jesus, the male priest, is simply fallacious. The priest does not represent Christ, but serves as leader of the community of men and women worshiping God in communion with Christ. Further, since the Risen Christ is neither male nor female, any gender based symbolism ascribed to the presider is meaningless" (emphasis mine: this is what I will be focusing on tonight).
I find this interesting for a variety of reasons. First, the real fallacious statement here is the denial that the priest acts in persona Christi. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
Christians come together in one place for the Eucharistic assembly. At its head is Christ himself, the principal agent of the Eucharist. He is high priest of the New Covenant; it is he himself who presides invisibly over every Eucharistic celebration. It is in representing him that the bishop or priest acting in the person of Christ the head (in persona Christi capitis) presides over the assembly, speaks after the readings, receives the offerings, and says the Eucharistic Prayer. All have their own active parts to play in the celebration, each in his own way: readers, those who bring up the offerings, those who give communion, and the whole people whose "Amen" manifests their participation (Paragraph 1348)....In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis:
It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).
Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ. (Paragraph 1548, emphasis in original)
This is, in fact, the main reason why a priest is needed to say Mass, rather than any lay member of the congregation or even a deacon. Indeed, the bible has quite a few references to this mystery, of Christ being head of the Church; this is a centerpiece of St Paul's theology. In his letter to the Colossians, he writes that "And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18). Thus, even in the context of the priest being "merely" the leader of the local community, it is still fitting to say that he acts in persona Christi.
But is the priest only the "leader of the community," as per VOT"F"C? I answer that he is not. It was, after all, Christ Himself who told the Apostles (and by extension their successors the bishops, along with the priests--collaborators of said bishops) that
"And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (Matthew 28:18-20).By which is implied that Christ would be acting through His apostles and their successors and collaborators in a unique manner (see also Mark 13:34, which Christ addressed specifically some of His apostles).
As to the priest being a "leader of the community," ideally he is this, but he is also by nature something more. Perhaps a more fitting thing would be to say that the priest is a local commander in God's army. For it is important to remember that we are not merely any religion, but rather a religion which is at war, tasked with laying siege to the gates of hell to help retake those who are hostages within. Mass is not merely a group meeting, group therapy, or even a group prayer session; rather, it is a meeting of God's army, a time to be strengthened, a time to receive our orders for the coming campaign (to borrow from C.S. Lewis' analogy).
Often I've heard the cry that a good priest ought to be "pastoral." That is to say, he is a good counselor, "nonjudgmental," kindly--and not the least bit authoritative. Well, it's true that a good commander keeps in mind the morale of his troops. In this way the priest may be "pastoral", may act to counsel his flock, but this is not the most important job of a commander. Rather, the job of the commander is to command, that is, to give direction in a time of battle. We go to our pastor for aide in the spiritual battle which we fight, which may involve counseling. It most certainly involves orders, that is, the orders which have been handed down to him: repent, and sin no more (see, for example, John 5:14 and 8:11).
VOT"F" has a false and limited understanding of the role of the priest. While it is true that the priest should be "leader of the community," this is only the first part of his job description. If this were his only job description, then perhaps the job really would be open to women as well as men (on the other hand, see 1 Timothy 2:12). Because they have a flawed understanding of what the priesthood is, VOT"F" wants to see it changed into something which it is not. However, as Chesterton once warned, the greatest reason not to change something is because it is understood poorly.
If you enjoyed this post, here are some other related posts:
On the Infallibility Of the Teaching in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Nicene Guys)
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: A Personal Declaration
Priestettes, VOT"F", Resurrection, Reincarnation, and Gnosticism (Nicene Guys)
Priestesses: Why We Don't Have 'Em Here
Montanism and the Dangers of Pride (Nicene Guys)
I finished last week on a sort of "low" note, with a rant followed by a critique of the poor job the outgoing generation ("Baby Boomers") did in passing on the Faith to subsequent generations (particularly, my own). As a more positive beginning to this week, and as a sort of extension of my last post, I'd like to express a bit of gratitude. I cannot, alas, include everything for which I am thankful, or even everybody to whom I am grateful, as such a list would require more time simply to compile than I have to write. I will here limit myself only to those to whom I am grateful for reasons pertaining to my own faith and formation--and even then, this is not an exhaustive list.
I'm thankful for and grateful to both to the living and to the dead, who have fought, struggled, and persevered to keep the Faith alive. I'm grateful to God the Father for His creation, and to the Son for coming to redeem said creation and to the Holy Spirit for coming to renew said creation. I'm grateful for the Lord's promise that against His Church, "even the gates of hell shall not prevail" (see Matthew 16:18). I'm grateful for the gift of His Incarnation, but also for the sending of the Spirit to guide, to protect, and to nourish the Church, even when many members of the Church have turned astray.
I'm grateful to Our Lady's fiat, her decision to cooperate with God's will so that Our Lord might be incarnated as "true God and true man." I am grateful to all of those saints who followed in her footsteps, whose fiat is joined to hers, and through whom God was able to work to guide and renew His Church, to preserve and pass on the Faith. Each one has an impact on our Faith which can scarcely be measured, for it may be obvious or obscure, tangible or intangible. In this life at least, we are never given to know even our own effects on the world to its fullest, let alone the effect of another. I am also thankful for their prayers of intercession on my behalf, and on behalf of the Church as a whole.
I am grateful to the Doctors of the Church. Their writing have helped to pass on Church teaching from gerenation to generation, and have helped to explain those teachings to a people who would ahve remained otherwise ignorant. They have been the teachers of my teachers, for though I have not read all or even many of their works, I see that those whose works I have learned from learned from these men and women. I am especially grateful to Sts Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, for their teachings echo through the ages, and to Sts John of the Cross and Therese de Lisiux, from whom I have learned much and will learn more to come.
I am grateful to our popes, and in particular to the current pope and his immediate predecessor. They have not been perfect--and some have been downright horrible as human beings--but they have faithfully cooperated with God in keeping the Church intact, and in preserving her teachings. Our last two popes in particular have been the voices of orthodoxy, thinkers and teachers who have worked tirelessly to renew the Church, and to teach the faithful. Their witness to the Church and the world has been often ignored, often sneered at, often undermined--even from within the Church--but they stayed the course, giving us the teachings of the Church which they lead. From these two great men, we have a wealth of catechesis, from John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
I am grateful to many of our bishops and cardinals, especially some of the recent ones, who have worked with the pope to strengthen the faith and teaching of the Church locally, nationally, and beyond. I am here thinking of such people as Their Excellencies Charles Chaput, Raymond Burke, Timothy Dolan, Thomas Olmsted, Aiden Nichols, Frederick Henry, (the late) Avery Dulles, and George Cardinal Pell. I am grateful to those priests who take seriously their tasks as their collaborators.
I am grateful to my family and especially to my parents, who did the best they could to discharge their duties to raise my brothers and I in the Faith. This was often a thankless struggle, even or perhaps especially in my own case: growing up I had little interest in communion classes or confirmation classes, nor for reading anything about the Faith--at least some (most?) of the time. Nor were they aided in this struggle by many within the local Church community, including our pastor who often worked to undermine parental authority. I am therefore also grateful to the pastor at our other parish, who is kindly and sincere, and who did not work to undermine my parents' attempts to catechize us.
I am thankful for the influx of converts over the years, and am grateful to those who brought with them a zeal to renew the Church. They brought a desire to reform those practices which were adverse to the life of the Church, while at the same time (usually) respecting the doctrines which she cannot change, and indeed admiring those practices which make the Church vibrant. Their are, of course, many such converts in every age, but I will restrict myself to the last century or so: G.K. Chesterton, Peter Kreeft, J Budziszewsi and Rob Koons, Scott Hahn, and many, many more. I am equally grateful to those cradle Catholics who have shown a similar zeal, such as Hillaire Belloc, Fulton Sheen, and J.R.R. Tolkien, to name only three.
I am grateful to those intellectual giants among men--some of whom have already been named--who yet remained faithful to the teachings of the Church, even joyfully so. To the already long list of names, I should add a few more, mostly deceased: John Henry Cardinal Newman, Pierre Duhem, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand, and Stanli L Jaki. I am thankful that these men and women placed humility over pride, choosing to follow the Truth rather than their own self-interests.
I am thankful for the now-burgeoning apologetics movement within the Church. Indeed, to a lesser extend I am grateful to the apologetics movement within Christianity, which is where I got my own start and because of which I discovered Catholic apologetics. This, in turn, (re?)kindled my interest in theology, and so set me to learning more about the Faith. I am grateful especially to Mark Shea, Karl Keating, and Patrick Madrid, in addition to many others already named.
I am grateful to those friends of mine who have helped me to grow in the Faith, both directly and indirectly. I will not name names here, but you know who you are; I will say that this list is predominantly but not exclusively Catholic.
Friday, August 27, 2010
The dawning of the Age of Aquarius is now in its sunset repose and the bright young things who seem to be cropping up now all over the place with new information from Fortescue and Ratzinger, may either be the professional mourners for a lost civilization, or the sparks of a looming golden age....a young battalion is rising, with no animus against the atrophied adolescence of their parents, and only eager to engage a real spiritual combat in a culture of death. They usually are ignorant, but bright, for ignorance is not stupidity.
I am reminded of a slightly less kind wording of this in the whole Fr Breen saga. Said priest remarked simply that today's seminarians are of inferior intellectual quality to his generation's. This is mostly because his generation is being repudiated for their failed experiments on the Church. These range from liturgy to catechesis--indeed, a part of catechesis is to best understand the liturgy, and a part of the liturgy should be as an aide to catechesis.
As to being ignorant, I will say that it may be true. We may be an ignorant generation--though not a stupid one, as Fr Rutler notes. Much as this ignorance is a hindrance to my generation, we are slowly overcoming it, thanks to men such as our last two popes, or more locally to the great number of intellectual converts to Catholicism. But the ignorance charge is one which cuts both ways. It is not for a lack of intellectual ability that ours is a generation adrift, nor really for a lack of curiosity and a willingness to learn.
If we are "ignorant," it is largely the fault of the generation which refused to teach us**. Worse than not eaching us, they insisted on a catechesis which abandoned the Catechism in favor of pop psychology, which forsook the Bible in for the theories of the day, and which rejected Church history to make room for "sharing our stories." This undermined the sincere efforts of those few--such as my parents--who genuinely wanted to fulfill their duties in teaching their children the Faith, though they often knew not how.
Our Lord gave St Peter final instructions to "Feed my sheep...feed my lambs...feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17). This care is entrusted through Peter's primacy to all the apostles and their successors, the bihsops, and through them to their collaborators the priests. Though the crop of bishops and priests is improving, let's face it: the last generation--Fr Breen's generation--by and large failed in their duty. In watering down theology and replacing catechesis with catharsis, they were derelict in their first duty, as the teachers of the Church. For as Christ Himself noted, "Man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4; see also Deuteronomy 8:3 and Matthew 4:4). If mine is an ignorant generation, then it is because those who should have been our teachers neglected to teach us. In their attempts to be "nice" they spared the rod, but spoiled the child (see Proverbs 13:24); in their attempts to be merciful, they overlooked that instructing the ignorant is numbered first among the spiritual works of mercy.
*Tip of the fedora to Fr Philip Neri Powell OP.
**Exceptions exists, to be sure, but they are far too few.
Finally, I should say that if I sound a little bit annoyed in this post, it's because I am a little bit annoyed. Much of the pre-college religious education I received--excluding from my parents and one good priest--was less about catechizing my peers and I and more about indoctrinating us into the preferred ideology of the ccd/confirmation/etc teachers and/or priests. The purpose was to make us question Church teaching (not a bad thing itself), while at the same time not questioning the spirits-of-the-age ideologies with which we were being indoctrinated. Some of us have more-or-less found our way back to the Church's actual teachings--or at least our best understanding of those teachings--while a great many others remain adrift, "Lost in the Cosmos" as the late Mr Walker Percy put it in his book by the same title. The result is that many have left the Church because they don't know what she teaches or stands for, and were given neither the resources nor the education to find out for themselves.
If you enjoyed this post, here are some related ones:
The Myth of the Golden Era
Ignorance vs A Desire to Learn (Thirty Minute Musings)
Generation Why (Nicene Guys)
Don't Just Ask Me Why
Science and the Death of Wonder
The Idiocy of Modern Man
At first, I thought of just including this in my latest round of links, but I think I feel a rant coming on instead. I usually don't read the news feeder that AOL
What really brought the rant on, though, were the concluding two paragraphs of the article:
A key item noted by those who are against red light cameras, though, is the matter of yellow lights. Studies by the ITE have shown that if you slightly increase and standardize the run-time of the yellow light, and leave a slight delay in the cross traffic's transition to green, accidents will be reduced. Still, cities are routinely hauled into court for having made yellow light times ridiculously short -- as if, you know, they're trying to catch people running red lights.All of which seems to me to be an attempt by the local (or, sometimes, state) governments to make an easy buck (or two hundred) at the expense of drivers, all under the sham excuse of "traffic safety." Making a quick buck is here done one of two ways: catching a person speeding, or catching him running a light. The former* so far largely requires an actual police officer to clock the "speeder," then pull him over and ticket him. The latter, however, is made considerably easier by the use of cameras mounted on every stoplight in a given city.
For a final, cynical look at whether red light cameras are truly run for safety or money, take High Point, NC. When the city was court-ordered to pay 90 percent of its citation revenue from red light cameras to the local school system, what did it do? It shut the system down and found a way to break its contract with the operator.
Now for the rant. I have a little confession to make: I. HATE. Red. Lights. If ever there was a tangible way of showing that government is inefficient as a micro-manager, red lights are it. More specifically, the part about stopping when the light turns red, and then not ever going (save maybe a right-turn) until the light turns green, ever, for any circumstance, under pain of a $200 fine.
I bring this up, because since I moved to Austin, I have wasted countless hours in two-to-five-minute clumps of time sitting at a red light for which there are no other cars present from any direction (usually, this happens at night, when I'm tired and ready to be home and asleep). See, most city lights are on a timer at night, meaning that you are guaranteed to be stopped at every third one, whether or not you're the only car on the road. And of course, "Nanny" does not allow you to continue on your merry way, even if you have a clear view of the road in all 4 directions (and with the number of streetlights in Austin, this is never a problem, even at night).
And, as if to add insult to injury, the lights around here always allow a protected left turn for at least part (and sometimes all) of the green light rotation. This means that rather than waiting 2 minutes while the (non-existent) cross-traffic has the green light, you get to wait 6 minutes for every possible permutation of hypothetical traffic which would need the right-of-way to get its turn at having said right-of-way. There have been moments when, in my boredom after stopping at the second, third, or even fourth such light, I have killed time by trying to guess which set of lights is actually green.
All of which makes me want to ask: why is it that we have the laws which we have concerning red lights? Why force the driver to needlessly wait at the light for fear of that fine? This is especially worth asking given that the vast majority of such lights are set-up in such a way that a driver can quite reasonably (and safely) judge whether or not he is likely to be hit by cross-traffic (or, in the case of a left turn, oncoming traffic). Sure, there may be cases where this isn't true: in which case, a sign can be placed to say "do not proceed on red" (much like the "no right turn on red" signs which are already used by lights which legitimately require such precautions).
In the meantime, our time is held hostage by the red lights, and wasted by a bureaucracy which sees this as just another means of making a quick buck. How is this a means of making a quick buck? Simple. If the driver knows that by getting a red light, he is likely to by held up for five minutes, and that this will be repeated on in 1:3 or 1:4 of the 8-12 lights he encounters in what should be a simple commute, then he is more likely to attempt to run on yellow. Shorten that yellow light, and now you've found a way to "catch" the driver "running" the red light: your municipality just made $200 (or so).
Of course, as the article mentions, simply lengthening the yellow light and then delaying time between red for one lane and green for the cross-traffic fairly consistently reduces broad-side accidents--presumably without increasing the number of rear-end collisions. Instead, we are left with another fairly arbitrary rule handed down by the government for the alleged purpose of improving public safety, which in reality has the main purpose of giving the government another means of taking away its citizens' hard-earned money. It is a law which ultimately helps no one save the government in that the law could have the same positive effects on public safety with fewer negative effects and greater efficiency with a relatively minor change. Instead, the government is content to waste our time and take our money**.
I should add, by he way, that the AOL news article is not unique in questioning the (safety-related) efficacy of red light cameras (obviously, since the AOL article cited several studies). There is, for example, this article which notes that these cameras increase the number of auto accidents and while increasing insurance premiums (not to mention traffic tickets). Go figure.
*And don't even get me started on the rant about Texas' speed limits in the flat, straight, easily visible panhandle (=70 mph) vs west Texas, which is dotted with mountains or hills (80 mph).
**Full disclosure: I've not actually been ticketed for running a red light. However, I've wasted plenty of time sitting and waiting behind one, and have had plenty of 3-5 mile trips stretch from 5-10 minutes into 30+ minute affairs as a result.
That we worship one God in Trinity,
and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding
the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.
For there is one Person of the Father;
another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost, is all one;
the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.
Such as the Father is; such is the Son;
and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated;
and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited;
the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited.
The Father eternal; the Son eternal;
and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal.
(From the Athanasian Creed)
With a tip of my fedora to Fr Philip Neri Powell OP, here is a rather humorous diagram which gives the results of pairing the seven deadly sins.
My friend Mr Nathanael Blake takes some time away from to give his fashion and budget advice. I mostly agree with both. I especially like his footnote: "The old distinction between country and city dress ought to be observed." However, I will add that this does not exclude finding a nice country-style bow tie and dressing in holiday clothes. Yes, here is proper country holiday attire:
Unless one wants to go to the beach, in which case a modest swimsuit is appropriate. Of course, shorts or jeans and a t-shirt is always appropriate for the countryside, too.
How does one know when one's acting career is going down in flames? This might be a good hint.
Why is it that Catholics are by-and-large so bad at economics? I've asked this question before, and now Mr Jeffry Tucker has an answer. Mostly, the problem is that Catholics--especially faithful, orthodox Catholics--focus first on the things of God: things like salvation, grace, and the treasury of good works, all of which are limitless in abundance. Economics, on the other hand, deals with things which are "scarce" or at the very least "limited." As Dr Thomas Sowell notes in his Introduction to Economics, if we had infinite resources, and supply always equaled demand, there would be no need for economics.
In yesterday's First Things column, Mr David P Goldman argues that the current recession is not just another part of "the normal business cycle," but rather from long-term demographics changes. Key passage (emphasis in original):
A consensus is forming around the demographic view of the economic crisis, now that process of elimination has thinned the number of alternative explanations. That will be welcome news neither for the Obama administration, whose various stimulus programs have nothing to do with the problems at hand, nor for the Republicans. The Republicans did a very good job of promoting entrepreneurship in the 1980s, which set the United States on course for a quarter century of nearly uninterrupted economic growth and wealth accumulation.
But they did a bad job in the culture wars, and the cultural issues are decisive in the long run. The winning formula for Republicans was to concentrate on big-tent matters, namely economics and national security, and leave the “divisive” cultural issues to the fine print in the party platform.
The family did not do well when the Republicans were in power. It needed to grow, and instead it shrunk. Until 1970, in fact as well as in popular culture, the normative American household was the two-parent nuclear family. When Ronald Reagan took office, the number of such households had fallen from over half to just over two-fifths. The number is now down to less than a third.
As the world’s experience is showing, this is bad economics. If America does not reverse the decline of the nuclear family, its economy will decline as well.
On a related note, Mrs Judie Brown of the American Life League has an article which nails the roots of both this economic crisis and the current battles over same-sex marriage: our culture's widespread embrace of contraception.
The satirists and parodeteers are out, this time on Women's fauxrdination. Well, I suppose those who want to spend the 23 grand to take out a bus add for a cause which isn't going to happen--really, one which can't happen--are free to waste their money in that way. Unfortunately, I suspect that they will also lead some souls astray.
In related news, Mr LarryD has a rant well worth reading: Catholics for C.A.T.H.O.L.I.C.I.S.M!
But the bigger issue? It's the parade of organizations that purport to call themselves 'catholic', when at the end of the day, there's nothing remotely Catholic about them. There's "Catholics For Choice". "Catholic United". "Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good". Not to mention the countless other Wandering Tribes, many of whom are involved with the upcoming American Catholic Council. Now "Catholics For Equality". What do they all have in common? An abject hatred for the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church, and a desire to wield the power of government to squash the influence of the Catholic Church in the public square....these groups are opposed to Catholicism, not supporters of it. They are wolves in the sheepfold, poison in the veins. Faithful Catholics - who aren't slaves to political correctness or idolaters of the spirit of the age - must expose the wolves and neutralize the poison.
And while there are plenty of great Catholic groups who stand for authentic Catholicism - Catholic League, Catholics United for the Faith, Catholic Answers, and numerous others - I think it's time to create one more.
Catholics for C.A.T.H.O.L.I.C.I.S.M. That stands for "Crusading Against The Heterodox Organizations Lurking Inside Churches Increasingly Spreading Manure". How's that?
On a completely different note, Acts of the Apostasy also has a rather humorous video from a racetrack. Yes, it just may be the funniest racing call, evah:
With a tip of my fedora to Miss Audry Pollnow, Mr Ryan T Anderson has written an article for The Public Discourse concerning embryonic stem cell research. His conclusion about ESCR:
Bad ethics, bad science, bad politics, and bad law. Normally it takes only three strikes to be out. But not even this fourth will mark the death knell for this deadly science: while the ruling temporarily halts the federal funding of embryo-destructive stem-cell research, it does nothing to prevent the destruction of human embryos in privately funded research. There is no law forbidding embryo killing, and there never has been. And despite what some excitable commentators have said, there has never been a ban on embryonic stem-cell research. Yet this injunction is a step toward restoring taxpayer-supported scientific research to its morally upright place.
Read the rest of his article to see why ESCR is "Bad ethics, bad science, bad politics, and bad law."
And to, erm, "round" off the list, the ever witty Mr Mark Shea's jolly sense of parody is continued here.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
"It is only the reasonable dogma that lives long enough to be called antiquated."
I write this, having noticed recently that there are two sets of dogma which are always essentially at war with each other. The first is the dogma of this world, the secular dogma which is with us always, and yet which is always changing. Perhaps a better term would be "progressive" dogma, for it is not limited only to those who profess no religion. The second is the dogma of the Church, which will also be with us always (see Matthew 16:18).
I write this, because there are so very many things on which the Church and the world have each pronounced dogma, which are right now in disagreement, and which tomorrow may be no longer. We are told, for instance, that gay marriage will come to America--which is quite likely true--but that moreover the day will come when "people will look back and wonder why it was ever an issue."
This is a point which I have seen come up time and again. For example, there was Professor Peter Singer's article in 2005, which claimed that "During the next 35 years, the traditional view of the sanctity of human life will collapse under pressure from scientific, technological, and demographic developments. By 2040, it may be that only a rump of hard-core, know-nothing religious fundamentalists will defend the view that every human life, from conception to death, is sacrosanct."
The idea put forth by the dogmatists of the world is that the Church is irrelevant. Some time in the next few years, she will be consigned to the dustbins of history. In short, she clings to an antiquated dogma which is never quite with the times. Right now that dogma is that human life is sacred, that contraception is immoral, that homosexuality is a disorder. In fifty years, it may be that that Church is antiquated because she believes that all men are created equal in respect to inherent dignity, that she defends the importance of a individual's conscience, or that she opposes eugenics.
Some go so far as to think that the Church will eventually change her teachings on all of these issues and more. The think the Church's dogma is "antiquated." In truth, the Church's dogma is merely more long-lived than the world's, for it would come as no surprise to know a future in which mankind looked back and wondered how people could ever see contraception as a convenience and abortion as a blessing. Or, in the words of William Inge, "Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next."
If you enjoyed this post, here are some related ones:
On Canonizing Chesterton, Heroic Virtue, and Everyday Life
A Sort-of Review of Chesterton's Heretics (Book Review)
Chesterton on Saints
Chesterton on Dogma (older post)
C.S. Lewis on Apologetics (Quote of the Day)
Chesterton on Birth Control
Chesterton on Ceremony and Science
Terminally-ill patients would be well advised to find out the religious beliefs of their doctor, according to research showing the effect of faith on a doctor's willingness to make decisions that could hasten death.
Doctors who are atheist or agnostic are twice as likely to take decisions that might shorten the life of somebody who is terminally ill as doctors who are deeply religious – and doctors with strong religious convictions are less likely even to discuss such decisions with the patient, according to Professor Clive Seale, from the centre for health sciences at Barts and the London school of medicine and dentistry....Specialists in the care of the elderly were somewhat more likely to be Hindu or Muslim, while palliative care doctors were somewhat more likely than other doctors to be Christian, white, and agree that they were "religious."
The chances of a doctor making an ethically controversial decision expected or partly intended to end life was largely unrelated to the doctor's ethnicity, but was strongly related to his or her specialisation. Specialised doctors in hospitals were almost 10 times as likely to report this than palliative care specialists.
But regardless of their speciality, doctors who described themselves as "extremely" or "very non-religious" were almost twice as likely to report having taken these kinds of decisions as those with a religious belief.
All of which reminds me of something written by one of the great prophets of the last century. In the opening chapter of his Heretics, GK Chesterton wrote that (emphasis mine):
It is foolish, generally speaking, for a philosopher to set fire to another philosopher in Smithfield Market because they do not agree in their theory of the universe. That was done very frequently in the last decadence of the Middle Ages, and it failed altogether in its object. But there is one thing that is infinitely more absurd and unpractical than burning a man for his philosophy. This is the habit of saying that his philosophy does not matter, and this is done universally in the twentieth century, in the decadence of the great revolutionary period. General theories are everywhere contemned; the doctrine of the Rights of Man is dismissed with the doctrine of the Fall of Man. Atheism itself is too theological for us to-day. Revolution itself is too much of a system; liberty itself is too much of a restraint. We will have no generalizations. Mr. Bernard Shaw has put the view in a perfect epigram: "The golden rule is that there is no golden rule." We are more and more to discuss details in art, politics, literature. A man's opinion on tramcars matters; his opinion on Botticelli matters; his opinion on all things does not matter. He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object, the universe; for if he does he will have a religion, and be lost. Everything matters--except everything.
Examples are scarcely needed of this total levity on the subject of cosmic philosophy. Examples are scarcely needed to show that, whatever else we think of as affecting practical affairs, we do not think it matters whether a man is a pessimist or an optimist, a Cartesian or a Hegelian, a materialist or a spiritualist. Let me, however, take a random instance. At any innocent tea-table we may easily hear a man say, "Life is not worth living." We regard it as we regard the statement that it is a fine day; nobody thinks that it can possibly have any serious effect on the man or on the world. And yet if that utterance were really believed, the world would stand on its head. Murderers would be given medals for saving men from life; firemen would be denounced for keeping men from death; poisons would be used as medicines; doctors would be called in when people were well; the Royal Humane Society would be rooted out like a horde of assassins. Yet we never speculate as to whether the conversational pessimist will strengthen or disorganize society; for we are convinced that theories do not matter.
....But there are some people, nevertheless--and I am one of them-- who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy's numbers, but still more important to know the enemy's philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether in the long run, anything else affects them. In the fifteenth century men cross-examined and tormented a man because he preached some immoral attitude; in the nineteenth century we feted and flattered Oscar Wilde because he preached such an attitude, and then broke his heart in penal servitude because he carried it out. It may be a question which of the two methods was the more cruel; there can be no kind of question which was the more ludicrous. The age of the Inquisition has not at least the disgrace of having produced a society which made an idol of the very same man for preaching the very same things which it made him a convict for practising.
So it behooves you to know the beliefs of your doctor, because the day may come when he decides whether your life is worth saving or not.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
There will always be those within the Church who dissent to a dogmatic teaching, either openly or by equivocation; for some, the speculation as to the infallibility of this teaching is merely a means of dissenting indirectly by equivocation. More revealing than this speculation would be their honest answer as to whether they would assent to its infallibility if the teaching was re-presented in an apostolic constitution, complete with the language and warnings of anathema used by Popes Pius XI and XII. Equally revealing would be their honest answer to the question of whether or not they accept the teaching as binding and authoritative to both their intellect and their will, as even fallible exercises of the Ordinary Magisterium are to be received as such.There is another way in which this can be stated, which is to ask, "does it matter to you whether or not this teaching is infallible?" The answer given in reply may be rather illuminating. My own answer, in a nutshell, is this: it matters to me only in-so-much-as infallibility gives me final assurance that this teaching will never be changed. If, for the sake of argument, I were to assume that this is a fallible teaching**--that it pertains to discipline and practice, not doctrine and dogma--then my treatment of this teaching would remain more-or-less unchanged. Just because a thing can be changed doesn't mean that it ought to be changed, and fallible or not this is the official teaching of the Church, as codified in Canon Law (see Canon 1024). Thus, one might say that even if proven fallible (so far), the teaching is to me practically infallible, which is close enough to infallibility for me.
By this, I mean that whether infallible or not, I accept this teaching as both authoritative and binding, in much the same way as I accept any teaching concerning discipline to be authoritative and binding. Thus, for example, there is the fast before communion. It's a discipline, a practice, but not a dogma: it can be (and has been) changed. However, I do not dissent against this fast, and will even from time to time offer a defense of it (however tepid). I would not think to "lobby" the Church to change this practice, save for dire circumstances (for example, if the fast included--as it does not--water and medication, and this put health and lives at risk, I might consider writing to my bishop).
In the particular case of the teaching regarding males, females, and ordination, the teaching has never changed. There is not any time to which we might point for which we have solid and conclusive evidence to confirm that women were validly ordained to the priesthood with the blessing and consent of the pope and the whole Church (sorry for the long sentence). Indeed, most (possibly all) the arguments I have ever seen for changing this teaching hinge on a faulty premise regarding men and women as being, not merely equal and complementary, but rather ontologically the same and interchangeable. Thus, from the evidence and arguments presented to me (however complete), I conclude that there will be no change in this teaching in the near future, even if we assume it to be fallible. So much for speculation.
Finally, as regards the criterion I laid out above regarding practice, there are not "dire circumstances" pertaining to this teaching. That is to say, lives (for that matter, peoples' health) are not at stake. The teaching is not a scandal--recent pr blunder regarding norms for sex abuse and the ordination of women not withstanding--save for those who so desire to make one of it, so there really aren't souls at stake.
Therefore, even if I were to concede that this is not absolutely infallible in the fullest sense of the word, it is still practically infallible. Its "official" status as infallible or not changes nothing in my giving full assent to the teaching. Thus, for practical purposes at least, it actually does not matter to me whether or not this is an infallible teaching. I have bound to it my intellect and my will, and I have no intention of working in any way to unbind either, be it by praying to God to see it changed, by "lobbying" my bishop (and beyond), or by publicly dissenting from it. I furthermore will go beyond this by siding against any who work in such ways to change this teaching in public forum or private discussion, as my abilities, time, and energy allow. So help me God.
*There are exceptions, I know. I don't mean to imply that every Catholic who rejects the infallibility of this teaching also rejects the teaching itself.
**Just as a thought experiment. I harbor no doubts whatsoever about whether or not this teaching is infallible. It meets all of the criteria mentioned by the First Vatican Council's First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, and the infallibility of the teaching was reaffirmed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Professor Peter Kreeft also makes a good argument for this teaching, and for its infallibility.
If you enjoyed this post, here are some other related posts:
On the Infallibility Of the Teaching in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Nicene Guys)
Can the Creeds Change? The Importance of Doctrinal Orthodoxy (Part 1)
Can the Creeds Change? The Importance of Doctrinal Orthodoxy (Part 2)
VOT"F" on the Role of Priestettes
Priestettes, VOT"F", Resurrection, Reincarnation, and Gnosticism (Nicene Guys)
Priestesses: Why We Don't Have 'Em Here
In discussing the possibly of the Church's ordaining of women to the priesthood, I generally like to note that the Church's teaching is infallible, and that it cannot be changed. For me as a Catholic, this means that the teaching is decisive, authoritative, binding (both to my intellect and my will), and final. One tactic which I have noticed increasingly is the insistence that the teaching is not infallible--this even by some Catholics who presumably do accept that the Church can teaching infallibly on matters of doctrine and morality. Their argument hinges largely on an interpretation from Canon Law (itself fallible) which states that in order for a teaching to be infallible, there can be no speculation as to whether or not the doctrine has been taught infallibly.
Such speculation exists in the case of the teaching regarding priestly ordination. Therefore, it is concluded by some that the teaching against ordaining women to the priesthood is not infallible. This speculation is apparently not dispelled by Pope John Paull II's Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which stated rather conclusively that
Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his Apostles of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches....Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.
Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.
Read the rest on the Nicene Guys site.
If you enjoyed this post, here are some other related posts:
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: A Personal Declaration
Can the Creeds Change? The Importance of Doctrinal Orthodoxy (Part 1)
Can the Creeds Change? The Importance of Doctrinal Orthodoxy (Part 2)
Priestettes, VOT"F", Resurrection, and Reincarnation (Nicene Guys)
VOT"F" on the Role of Priestettes
Priestettes, VOT"F", Resurrection, Reincarnation, and Gnosticism (Nicene Guys)
Priestesses: Why We Don't Have 'Em Here
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Question: Why do we as Catholics always assume that the Church is right in her teachings on matters of faith and morality?
My answer*: Perhaps a better means of phrasing this statement is to say that we are given the LORD's own guarantee that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18). But lies are of Satan, the Prince of Hell, and so if he cannot prevail against the Church, then his lies--untruths pertaining to matters of faith and morals--cannot either. But this implies some protection against these lies, that is, a guarantee that the Church's teaching in matters of faith and morality will not lead the faithful astray: this is a guarantee of infallibility in regards to teaching on matters of faith and morals.
This does not mean that the Church is "always right" when teaching faith an morals, for being "right" means answering both correctly and completely. The implication is that the Church has already answered all of the questions which have faced her in matters of faith and morality (she has not), and perhaps by extension that no new question will arise, that no subtleties have been overlooked and no equivocations and "nuances" will be made in the future. If she were to remain silent on a specific question, we could not say that the Church was "right" in her teaching concerning this particular, only that she is "not wrong." Therefore, the assumption we make as Catholics--the assurance we are given--is not that the Church is always right when teaching on these matters, but rather that she is never wrong.
*I should reiterate here that I am not a theologian by training, so this answer is "for what it's worth."
This word alone shall fit;
That a sage feels too small for life,
And a fool too large for it.
-G.K. Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse
The witty Mr Mark Shea has written perhaps the best parody I've read in a while. Props to him for being thorough , from finding a euphemism ("Jolly") to his "Lardo/Giant/BrickHouse/Tubby community" (acronyms: LGBT or LGBHT, pick your poison). The analysis itself is spot-on, too.
The Telegraph asks, "Does Barack Obama want to be re-elected?" Short answer: of course he does, he is the Won. A More important question is, do Americans want him to be re-elected? More important still: would re-electing him be a good thing? The answers to these question become progressively more negative" and less "affirmative."
In the wake of the recent exchange between an El Paso priest and his bishop, Mr Patrick Archbold does us the invaluable service of explaining how to quickly tell if a bishop (or most anyone else) is a traditionalist or a "progressive": look for the definitive article--"The Church" or just "Church", respectively.
Saying THE Church conveys history, truth, and authority--all things antithetical to the progressively pastoral. By removing the definitive article, progressives hope to remove any sense of such unpastoral authority. They prefer that you think of the Church as an autonomous collective, a sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune in which we take turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.
As to the actual exchange in the El Paso paper, Fr John Zuhlsdorf does a nice job of dissecting both articles on his site.
Advice columns are just another reason why I don't pay for a subscription to any newspapers. They tend to offer advice which is utterly devoid of sound moral reasoning--perhaps specifically with the intent of numbing the moral reasoning of their readers. Apparently, I'm not alone in this assessment.
Father Dwight Longenecker has an interesting proposal for the post-retirement elderly in our post-modern, post-family age.
My friend Mr Nathanael Blake has a piece about the culture bubble which Christians into which the bulk of Christians--especially Evangelicals, but Catholics aren't excepted--have placed themselves. He specifically mentions fiction and music, and I would add art as well. Meanwhile, Mr LarryD has posted one of the rather painful results of this culture bubble on his Acts of the Apostasy site. Culture: engage in it for the children.
In my previous essay about marriage, I suggested that there are several legitimate reasons for a nation's government to enact laws. These reasons must ultimately include an interest of the state or the community, or must act as a protection of one or more rights upon which the state might other infringe, or which may be impeded by the community or other individuals and groups. I then discussed the state and communities' interests in the question of marriage and its chief characteristics. The state has a vested interest in marriage only the extent that it involves procreation--hence the state has an interest in marriage only in-so-much-as they are heterosexual:
To the end of procreation, the state and the community have a vested interest only when procreation is naturally (or inherently) a possibility: which is to say, only in a relationship between a man and a woman. Any other form of procreation--adoption, artificial insemination or implantation, artificially inducing a woman’s cells to acts as sperm to be used in fertilizing another woman’s cells--involve additional human agency beyond the marital act itself, and thus are questions which must be settled prior to the state and community having any interest in relationships beyond these types. Should the state decide against all of these artificial forms of procreation, then neither state nor community would have any vested interest in recognizing these relationships, and thus the question falls entirely on whether or not there is an interest pertaining to ordered liberty. ...Therefore, the state itself does not have any particular interest in recognizing relationships between same-sex couples. It does, however, have such an interest in recognizing the relationships between opposite-sex couples. Hence, the state has no reason to redefine marriage.
It is therefore reasonable to turn to the question of ordered liberty: would redefining marriage to include same-sex couples help the state to better maintain ordered liberty in our nation? Before expounding on this question, it is worth giving definition to “ordered liberty.” I will use the definition presented by Mr Bruce Frohnen's entry in American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia concerning liberty:
Ordered liberty is the ability to pursue the good in common with one's fellows. And the good is not defined by those in power merely, but by the permanent standards of natural law made concrete in the norms of social life...a sustainable liberty is ordered by the proper ends of natural law and the customs and common good of the community.
Read the rest on the Catholic America Today site.
Monday, August 23, 2010
The following is a short and simple prayer which I pray after communion during Mass:
Lord, may the grace I receive from this most Holy Sacrament feed me, nourish me, and strengthen me to do ever Your Will, to avoid sin and resist temptation, to strive always for sanctity, and to help others to do the same. May this serve Your greater glory. Amen.
When I am given enough time between receiving communion and singing the communion hymn (or between the hymn and the announcements/closing prayer, etc), this prayer works as a bit of a reflection, too. Then I can use the (slightly) longer version:
Lord, may the grace I receive from this most Holy Sacrament of Your Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity feed my body, nourish my soul, sharpen my intellect, and fortify my will. May I by worthy reception be strengthened to do ever Your Will, to avoid sin and resist temptation, to strive always towards greater sanctity and others to do the same. I pray that I do all this not for my own pride, but in a spirit of humility and joy, for Your glory. Amen.
I just felt the urge to post this.
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. Give, and it shall be given to you: good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over shall they give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you shall mete withal, it shall be measured to you again...And why seest thou the mote in thy brother's eye: but the beam that is in thy own eye thou considerest not? Or how canst thou say to thy brother: Brother, let me pull the mote out of thy eye, when thou thyself seest not the beam in thy own eye? Hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thy own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to take out the mote from thy brother's eye. For there is no good tree that bringeth forth evil fruit; nor an evil tree that bringeth forth good fruit. For every tree is known by its fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns; nor from a bramble bush do they gather the grape. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth that which is evil. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:36-38, 41-45).
We tend to gravitate towards certain passages from the Bible, and to make them the central message of our Faith. In our age, this passage from Luke, and the related one from Matthew (see Matthew 7:1-5) are often favorites. These are cutting words of Christ against those who look for the worst in other people, who always seek their faults first and their graces last. I can admit to being guilty of this at times, and so can most other people. One of the deadly sins which plagues our race is envy--including spiritual envy--and another is pride. The former may act to tear down the other for having what the self lacks, the latter builds up the self by emphasizing the failings of others: both have the same effect. This is therefore a much-needed rebuke for the pharisees in every age, for the spiritual snobs, for those who place themselves continually and irrevocably above the rest of mankind, be it in spiritual matters, or material, or intellectual.
It is, however, with the greatest irony that these passages are so often employed by people who are themselves acting in a judgmental manner. Whereas on Jesus' lips, these words are a rebuke--a sort of harsh correction--they become a club used to beat down anyone else who offers correction, be it in the spirit of charity or of pride. The passage from Luke is often taken away from its context: the leading verse, which is to "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful."
What is the nature of mercy? First, it presupposes justice. There can be no mercy if there is no debt, no forgiveness if their is nothing to forgive. It moreover means to "have pity" on the struggling and suffering of others. It is interesting to note that "pity" and "mercy" are sometimes different translations for the same verse: see, for example, Luke 7:13 in the Douay Rheims, the New American, and the New Jerusalem translations, which render the same passage as "moved with mercy," "moved with pity for," and "felt sorry for," respectively. To mercy, then, could mean seeing a person struggling with a situation (e.g. a sin), seeing that they are failing in that struggle, and acting with compassion to help them to overcome the situation. Mercy, therefore means to render aide to another in meeting the demands of justice, and doing so as an act of charity.
Consistency requires a further note concerning mercy and justice. If mercy presupposes justice, and if it means helping another person to meet the demands of justice, then it moreover implies a duty to instruct the other person when he is ignorant of the demands of justice. But this means precisely being able to discern the demands of justice, and being able to discern that the other person does not know these demands: which is ultimately an act of judgment!
These two demands are reconciled by noting that Christ follows "judge not" with "condemn not." Here, then, is the key to understanding "judge not," which is that we are told not to condemn the other person as a result of our discernment. We may judge the situation, discern the sin and even the other person's ignorance of the sin--but we ought not judge the person himself. Having made this judgment, we are then called to action of some sort--perhaps only instructing the person (itself an act of spiritual mercy), perhaps by going further and helping the person to overcome his sin and to develop the necessary virtues to aide in guarding against it in the future.
The injunction against judging should be read, therefore, in the context of a people who are struggling to live in holiness, and yet are failing. They may need some fraternal correction, some help in their struggle, and may even ask for this. The injunction against being judgmental is not a command to cease discerning, or offering charitable and fraternal correction, but rather to cease condemning people (their sins are a different story). It is a condemnation of self-righteousness, not of all righteousness, of sanctimony and not of sanctity.
Image taken from Movement Invites Movement, which has a brief essay of its own on this topic. Said essay was not, incidentally, the inspiration for (or even the information used in) this post.
If you liked this post or found it helpful, you might also like these other related posts:
Being Tactful and Being "Nice"
Tolerance, Charity, and Dignity (on the Nicene Guys Site)
Truth and Tolerance: A Review
If You Love the Sinners, Warn Them of the Sin
Argument and Motivation
Warnings and Ignorance
Friday, August 20, 2010
But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you. But with modesty and fear, having a good conscience: that whereas they speak evil of you, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Yesterday, I wrote about epistemology, belief, and faith, and how these things are related to each other. In writing that piece, I wrote that many people who are unbelievers simply choose not to believe--that their lack of faith is an act of the will as much as of the intellect--but noted (in the footnotes) that the opposite charge may be fairly leveled at believers:
To be fair, the opposite charge may sometimes be fairly leveled at believers. As I've said before, apologetics alone isn't enough to make a person into a believer or a disbeliever. What may be convincing one way or the other to one person may be utterly unconvincing to another. I see evidence of God's providence working in my life and the lives of those around me; others disregard this evidence, or try to explain it away. In any case, I've met my share of believers who have reasons to believe, and unbelievers who are really convinced that there is no God; I've also met a handful of "believers who do not believe that God exists, as well as some atheists who seem more convinced that He does.
I have faith that God exists, which means that I have seen some evidence of His existence in my own life, in the lives of others, and in the world around me. This evidence is best explained by lines of reasoning which point to God. The evidence and the arguments I find to be convincing may not be so convincing to the average skeptic--or for that matter to the average Christian or even Catholic--but they are convincing to me. The converse may also be true, that evidence which has an atheist convinced may be irrelevant to my own faith.
Read the rest at the Nicene Guys site.
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.
Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and needle's eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.
(C.S. Lewis, The Apologist's Evening Prayer)
In case you've forgotten, the Big Brother isn't the only one who is watching: unless Google has become one of his subsidiaries. There is a simple (which doesn't mean easy) solution: don't do anything you wouldn't want all of your friends to know about, especially in the age of facebook and youtube, and don't search for anything you wouldn't want Google to know about. A slightly less simple--though perhaps more easy--solution is to don't do anything in public which you don't want your friends to know about, except for using Google searches on public terminals which have no log-on requirements.
Mr Matthew Archbold makes a good point about the display of crosses in public: the cross is not a "generic secular symbol," and this general treatment of the cross should have Christians a bit more outraged. On the other hand, just because the cross is a religious symbol doesn't mean it needs to be banned from public by over-zealous secularizers, either.
With tips of my derby cap to Mr Marcel Lejeune and Mr Patrick Archbold, Mr Thomas Peters has posted the segment which Mr Stephen Colbert did about CatholicTV.
Also in the realm of humor is Mr LarryD's post concerning vanity plates. I especially like the one for Sr Joan Chittister.
Speaking of LarryD (Acts of the Apostasy), his previous post concerning Obama's religion is pretty good, too:
Personally, I don't care what his faith is. Given the fact that the man plays golf nearly every Sunday puts him in the majority camp of so-called Christian men in this country. I've never sensed sincerity when he has mentioned God or Christ or Christianity in any of the speeches I've heard him give, but then again - there are a heck of a lot of insincere Christians in the world, too. So yeah, in some respects, he fits the description....One thing I do know - if this issue doesn't go away or get settled, the administration will further politicize Obama's Christianity, by making sure he is seen attending weekly services, or referencing God and his faith in more speeches, or carrying a Bible with him. And it will become more pronounced as the 2012 campaign approaches. They read the polls, and will respond accordingly. In the end, it won't mean anything, except to them and their constituents. Because in their minds, displaying one's faith disingenuously is more important than living one's faith sincerely.
Such thoughts are echoed (albeit more briefly) by my friend Mr Nathanael Blake in his latest post.
Mr Marcel Lejeune has compiled a list of his fellow Aggie Catholic bloggers. I thought about assembling a similar list for Longhorn Cahtolics, but it would be neither as long nor as formiddable, I'm afraid. Perhaps this is because there are fewer Catholics at UT. The names which come to mind--aside from this blog--are Mr Brandon Kraft and Mrs Maria Huemmner (a staffer for the Texas Catholic Conference), and Mr Colin Gormley (who should begin blogging again as soon as he returns from vacation). Of course, I'm also considerably less plugged into the Catholic Alumn community at UT than is Lejeune at A&M, so I'm sure I'm missing a few. So yea, more big names in the Catholic blogs from A&M than UT, but also not much of a surprise.
Today's awesome video of the day goes to this video, with a tip of the derby cap to Mr John C Wright. Tesla coils + science fiction theme = very cool.
With a tip of the derby cap to Mr Mark Shea, it appears that the biggest objection to a new medical treatment aimed at preventing ambiguous genitalia is that it may also reduce the likelihood that the child will grow up to be homosexual. What is all that we used to hear about how homosexuals didn't choose their sexual orientation? I think it was thrown out when the push to normalize homosexuality got bigger over the last decade or two.
Speaking of Mr Mark Shea and things related to the normalization of homosexuality, he links a post from Alive and Young which asks whether or not marriage is a basic right. Mr Paul Cat asks:
Understanding marriage as a right and it being fundamental to existence and survival of humanity, the question becomes, "If marriage looses the fundamental responsibilities that the supreme court gave it in Loving v. Virginia (prolonging existence and survival) through a willful denial due not to medical reason or health problems does marriage stop being a right?"
And Mr Mark Shea follows up with:
I haven't given the matter too much thought, but it seems to me that calling it a right has to imply some responsibility that is being protected by marriage. In Catholic understanding, that responsibility is primarily "continuing the race". That's why the family is hedged around with protections. That's why we privilege the family, because without it, everything else dies.
The purpose of gay marriage is to demand the same status as a family and, perversely, to punish families that fail to pretend that narcissistic gay couplings are the same thing as a family. The end goal is going to be the attempt to prosecute those who do not believe that such couplings constitute a family and who do not believe the children raised in such arrangements are going to be served well. In short, the claim of marriage as a right for gay will end in the attempted destruction of marriage as a right for anybody.
And as I myself have noted, marriage is of legitimate interest to the state only in-so-much as it pertains to procreation. With heterosexual couples it does, with homosexual couples it does not.
Well, that's one use of stormtrooper armor: getting rid of your roommate's annoying girlfriend. Ahem.
Finally, to close out this set of links, the last set of photos from our trip to Oregon and California has been uploaded. It can be viewed here.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Near the end of our recent trip to Oregon, Rebecca and I stopped in to visit with my elderly great-grandfather. My great-grandmother, his wife of 72 years, had passed away earlier this year, and he was still very much grieving the loss. At the same time, he was quite convinced that the end of his life on earth was near (he is, after all, 93 years old); this, couple with his limited ability to do much else has left him to reflect on the state of his soul, and also on what it is he really believes. He told me that he had been reading the Bible (until his vision suffered a turn for the worse) and reflecting on it. The question in his own mind has been, "How do we really know?"
How do we know that any of the stuff preserved for us in this book is true? He said that he accepts Christ's role as Savior, but that this ultimately depends on whether Christ is LORD. Sure, the Bible tells us that this is true, but how do we know that the Bible tells us the truth? These are questions with which he, a lifelong Christian, is now struggling.
I was reminded of these epistemological questions by a recent post on Mr Mark Shea's blog. A reader of his was engaged with his brother in a debate concerning the existence of God. Upon asking what evidence his brother would like to see to be convinced, his brother replied only that there was none. This is not to say simply that he has not encountered any, but rather that he cannot even think of any evidence which, if it was presented to him, would convince him otherwise. The anonymous reader continued by noting that this resembles Isaac Asimov's argument against not only the existence of God, but of the possibility of even admitting such existence: a stalwart defense given by an atheist who bases his disbelief not on evidence or lack thereof, but on the assumption that no evidence could ever be enough*.
These two stories are ultimately same struggle, albeit with potentially different outcomes. In my great grandfather's case, the willingness to believe is still there, and so he actually struggles with the evidence--or lack thereof--and so to reevaluate his faith. In the case of Asimov and his fan, there is no such willingness; there is some philosophical objection which makes rational analysis impossible, and so no evidence is or ever will be enough.
This latter case of disbelief is as old as Christianity itself. Belief or lack thereof hinges not on evidence or signs, but on desire. We see this in several Gospel account. For example, St Matthew describes an exorcism by Christ, followed by the pharisees' reaction to it:
But they going out, spread his fame abroad in all that country. And when they were gone out, behold they brought him a dumb man, possessed with a devil. And after the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke, and the multitudes wondered, saying, Never was the like seen in Israel. But the Pharisees said, By the prince of devils he casteth out devils (Matthew 9:31-34).
Or again, when Jesus heals the lame man on the Sabbath:
They bring him that had been blind to the Pharisees. Now it was the sabbath, when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Again therefore the Pharisees asked him, how he had received his sight. But he said to them: He put clay upon my eyes, and I washed, and I see. Some therefore of the Pharisees said: This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath. But others said: How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them (John 9:13-16).
The argument of the pharisees is much related to the anonymous atheist's. While the latter argued that a technologically advanced alien might be able to fake a miracle, the pharisees (and Sadducees) argued instead that Christ was faking miracles, not by His power or in God's name, but by the power of demons. It is the same discounting of the miraculous as "fake," but with a different mechanism for explaining it away. I am reminded also of the account of Alexis Carrel's visit to Lourdes, as presented by Fr Stanley L Jaki. Although he witness two "miraculous"** cures at Lourdes--neither of which he could himself explain (and he was a Nobel Laureate in medicine), "none of this brought him any closer to the faith of his childhood." This is not to say that no one has ever been convinced by the miraculous.
As with the pharisees, we often disbelieve because we want to disbelieve***. Too many simply don't want God to exist, because God's existence could place some uncomfortable demands on their lives. The lack of direct first-hand evidence--and its impact on their ability to know that God exists--certainly is an aide to their nonbelief. On the other hand, epistemological tricks are often used to get around such evidence as eyewitness testimony. While my great-grandfather may be struggling with such epistemological questions, there are many who don't. Here, then, is a difference between faith and mere belief: belief insists on epistemological certainty, and wavers the moment that is weakened, but faith, having committed to a belief in the presence of such certainty, remains strong even during the times of uncertainty.
Both faith and belief require evidence. However, whereas belief waxes and wanes based on the availability of evidence and the ability to prove a proposition beyond all doubt, faith having been first convinced is willing to give the benefit of the doubt when new questions arise. Belief wants to have all the answers, but faith knows that there will always be more questions to ask, and so "Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not" (Hebrews 11:1). Epistemology may undermine belief****, but with faith we find ultimately assurance and peace or mind.
*To quote him more directly, Asimov states that "I prefer rationalism to atheism. The question of God and other objects-of-faith are outside reason and play no part in rationalism, thus you don't have to waste your time in either attacking or defending."
**Interestingly enough, neither of these cases were ever certified as miraculous by the Church. Still, no plausible explanation was ever given by Carrel for what he saw with his own eyes.
***To be fair, the opposite charge may sometimes be fairly leveled at believers. As I've said before, apologetics alone isn't enough to make a person into a believer or a disbeliever. What may be convincing one way or the other to one person may be utterly unconvincing to another. I see evidence of God's providence working in my life and the lives of those around me; others disregard this evidence, or try to explain it away. In any case, I've met my share of believers who have reasons to believe, and unbelievers who are really convinced that there is no God; I've also met a handful of "believers who do not believe that God exists, as well as some atheists who seem more convinced that He does.
****Epistemology can also strengthen belief.