Thursday, May 28, 2009

My view of Creation

When I last posted on the topic of evolution, I was challenged by commentator Mr. Timothy Mullgan to provide what was my own personal opinion of how the origin of man occurred on this earth. He also said he expected my question to not be "fundamentalism," which he later equated with literalism.

Before I answer this, let me make a few points. First, understand that the question of how man came to be on this earth is separate from how long ago it happened. I am not going to deal at all with the age of the earth or how long man has been around, merely how I think he got here.

Second, I would strenuously deny that literalism equals fundamentalism. No Catholic can ultimately say that we shouldn't take biblical texts literally - our faith is founded upon a very literal interpretation of many texts ("Thou art Peter, and upon this rock..." "This is My body"..."Whosever sins you forgive are forgiven..." "Unless you are born again by water and the spirit..."). We absolutely cannot rule out simple literalism as a way to intepret Scripture. Especially when, as the CCC and longstanding tradition maintain, all interpretations of Scripture rest upon the literal (CCC 116).

When Catholics scoff at taking the Bible literally (and I'm not saying Mr. Mulligan does, but some people certainly do), what they are really saying is that there are some parts of the Bible that it is okay to take literally and other parts where it is not. I do not deny this is sometimes the case, but by and large I think the Bible is best taken literally in all its parts, if for no other reason than I would rather err in taking Genesis too literally than in not taking it literally enough. Some parts of Scripture certainly are allegorical - but where does Genesis fall? Is Genesis 1-3 to be taken literally or not?

Though this is not the proper topic of this post, it is a fitting aside. The Catechism, while admitting symbolic elements in the Genesis story, does not commit itself either way. It says that that Genesis 1-3 contain many "truths":

Among all the Scriptural texts about creation, the first three chapters of Genesis occupy a unique place. From a literary standpoint these texts may have had diverse sources. The inspired authors have placed them at the beginning of Scripture to express in their solemn language the truths of creation - its origin and its end in God, its order and goodness, the vocation of man, and finally the drama of sin and the hope of salvation. Read in the light of Christ, within the unity of Sacred Scripture and in the living Tradition of the Church, these texts remain the principal source for catechesis on the mysteries of the "beginning": creation, fall, and promise of salvation (CCC 289).

This passage is relatively non-committal- it leaves room for divergent views: so long as one does not deny the "truths" of creation, the CCC seems to leave it open as to how literal or figurative the narratives of those truths are. It does say plainly that Adam and Eve were real people:

The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original "state of holiness and justice". This grace of original holiness was "to share in. . .divine life" (CCC 375)

The last authorative declaration on evolution from the Magisterium was Humani Generis (1950), in which the following positions were clarified with regards to evolution:

Evolution can be said to have occurred with the material from which the human body comes, but it can by no means be taught as certain and must be put forth as only a theory (36).

The human souls of Adam and Eve, and of all subsequent humans, are immediately created by God; the soul did not evolve (36).

All human beings take their origin from an original pair or two human beings (Adam & Eve) and that Adam and Eve were real, historic individuals (37).

Genesis 1-11, though containing metpahoric imagery, are nonetheless to be taken as historical accounts of true events (38).

As you can see, the Church is making allowance that, under certain conditions, one can accept evolution. People today treat it as if it is the other way around, that there is an allowance to believe in immediate creation if you are ignorant and want to cling to how most people have always understood Genesis. John Paul II wrote some letter to scientists during his pontificate in which he speculated that evolution was "more than a theory," but a letter written to a certain academy doesn't hold the same weight as an encyclical, of course, so as far as I know, Humani Generis is the last binding declaration the Church has made on the matter, and that document says it is acceptable to believe in evolution, but only under certain conditions and by way of concession, not admission of its truth. Indeed, the tone of Humani Generis is very sceptical of the theory of evolution as a whole.

So, how do I think it happened? Well, here is my belief. I think (of course) that the world was completed and finished prior to the arrival of man. When everything was ready, I imagine God forming a body out of the sand or mud, kind of like it would look if you were to bury yourself in sand at the beach. Then I think the sand-dirt form was sculpted until it looked perfect, just like a real man, kind of like a statue or perhaps the terra cotta men found in the tombs in China. Then, when it was perfectly formed, I think God breathed on it and the dust became flesh, life came into the nostrils of the man and he became alive. I think Adam was fully grown when he was created, and leapt up with a sudden realization of consciousness and self-awareness, to gaze about and behold the unfallen creation for the first time straight from the hand of God. What a sight it must have been! I believe he had an immediate awareness of God that was infused and an unhindered communication with Him. I think the whole process was very quick, perhaps but a few moments or several minutes (groundless speculation, of course).

So, I guess you could say that I literally believe he was formed out of the dirt and given life. Again, I don't know how long ago this happened, but this is what I think it looked like. This is just my imagination, of course - who really knows what it "looked" like.

So there you have it. I'm not going to spend a lot of time defending my imaginative vision of the creation, but I know that many saints and doctors have believed in an immediate creation of man. Some have speculated that each "day" of creation was 1,000 years, but I don't know of any who explicitly taught that man himself evolved over a long period of time.

An interesting point regarding the age of things. If Adam was created full grown (as most theologians who believe in an immediate creation would agree to), then suppose that five minutes after he was created, a doctor walked up to him and took a look at him. Suppose I asked the doctor, "How old does this man look to you?" The doctor would look at Adam's full stature, his developed limbs and (possibly) facial hair, and taken altogether might say, "Thirty years old." Indeed, he would appear that old, and perhaps he would have the height and stature of a thirty year old man. Medical tests of his biological systems might even confirm that he was an extraordinarily healthy thirty year old man. But he would be only five minutes old.

In the same way, the fact that light from a star supposedly takes billions of years to reach here or a certain strata of rock is supposed to be one hundred million years old doesn't concern me - if God created things complete, they would look complete. Light would be created in viae from the star, so that it doesn't necessarily need a billion years to get here. A star a billion light years away could have been created with its light already in course, so that it would have been visible to the first man the moment of his creation - mountains are created complete, so that if you were to ask how long it would take for the continents to push them up, well of course millions of years if they were created that way, unless they came forth from the hand of God immediately and completed to their smallest detail at the moment they were brought forth. This doesn't have to do with evolution, but the age of the earth, so I won't go much more into it. I just think it is interesting.

Back to theistic evolution. I think an even bigger problem for evolution is the concept of "sin before death." It is a truth of the faith that, as it says in Romans:

Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned (Rom. 5:12, Douay).

Now, let's say we adopt the theistic evolutionary point that the human body has evolved from preexisting material. That "material" presumably means other organic bodies that were born, grew up, and died. Evolution is all about slow change over time as things are born and die. But if evolution produced the first human body(which God then presumably 'ensouled'), doesn't it require that thousands upon thousands of previous sub-human beings were born and died to get to that stage? And if it was the sin of the first man that brought forth death, how could death have been present and active in the world before sin? And if death was already happening before the first man sinned, what was so different about man's punishment after the Fall? That he would die? If his body evolved from preexisting non-human bodies, then there would have already been death for thousands upon thousands of years, and Genesis and Romans clearly say that death came about originally through the sin of Adam.

To put it simply, it is a truth of the faith that death entered the world through sin. Theistic evolution asserts that death entered the world prior to sin. Therefore, theistic evolution is not compatible with the faith.

This is just my opinion. Disagree if you want to.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Newman on the Month of May

This has been sitting on my desk for a while but I figured I'd better get it in now before May is over and I have to wait another year! This is taken from John Henry Newman: Prayers, Verses and Devotions published by Ignatius Press (1989), taken from a sermon on the month of May entitled, "May the Month of Joy":

Why is May called the month of Mary, and especially dedicated to her? Among other reasons there is this, that of the Church's year, the eccelesiastical year, it is at once the most sacred and the most festive and joyous portion. Who would wish February, March or April to be the month of Mary, considering that it is the time of Lent and penance? Who again would choose December, the Advent season - a time of hope, indeed, because Christmas is coming, but a time of fasting too? Christmas itself does not last for a month; and January indeed has the joyful Epiphany, with its Sundays in succession; but these in most years are cut short by the urgent coming of Septuagesima.

May on the contrary belongs to the Easter season, which lasts fifty days, and in that season the whole of May commonly falls, and the first half always. The great Feast of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven is always in May, except once or twice in forty years. Pentecost, also called Whitsunday, the Feast of the Holy Ghost, is commonly in May, and the Feast of the Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi are in May not infrequently. May, therefore, is the time when there are such frequent Alleluias, because Christ has risen from the grave, Christ has ascended on high, and God the Holy Ghost has come down to take His place.

Here then we have the reason why May is dedicated to the Blessed Mary. She is the first of creatures, the most acceptable child of God, the dearest and nearest to Him. It is fitting then that this month should be hers, in which we especially glory and rejoice in His great Providence to us, in our redemption and sanctification in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

But Mary is not only the acceptable handmaid of the Lord. She is also the Mother of His Son and the Queen of all Saints., and in this month the Church has placed the feasts of some of the greatest of them, as if to bear her company. First, however, there is the Feast of the Holy Cross on the 3rd of May
[not anymore - now it is "World Day of Prayer for Vocations"] , when we venerate that Precious Blood in which the cross was bedewed at the time of our Lord's Passion. The Archangel St. Michael, and three Apostles, hace feast days in this month: St. John the beloved disciple, St. John and St. James. Seven popes, two of them especially famous, St. Gregory VII and St. Pius V; also two of the greatest doctors, St. Athanasius and St. Gregory Nazianzen; two holy virgins especially favoured by God, St. Catherine of Siena (as her feast is kept in England), and St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi.; and one holy woman most memorable in the annals of the Church, St. Monica, the Mother of St. Augustine. And above all, and nearest to us in the Church, our own holy Patron and Father, St. Philip, occupies, with his Novena and Octave, fifteen out of the whole thirty-one days of the month. These are some of the choicest fruits of God's manifold grace, and they form the court of their glorious Queen.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Feast of Pope St. Gregory VII

Today, besides being Memorial Day, is the commemoration of two of my favorite saints: St. Bede the Venerable and Pope St. Gregory VII.

St. Gregory VII is especially pertinent in today's world, as the secular and ecclesiastical powers in our country are once again coming to odds. The drama of the Investiture Controversy and its immortal climax in the snowy grounds outside Canossa are well documented; Norman F. Cantor wrote a great work on the Investiture Controversy in England that I read when doing my senior thesis on Kingship. Although today's counterparts to Henry IV are unlikely to repent at the censure of popeor bishop, the issues of the Controversy remain ever valid: shall the Church govern itself as it sees fit or shall it bow to the pressures of the world and of worldly politics?

Often ignored is the role that the triumph of the papacy over the Holy Roman Emperor played in the blossoming of what has been called the renaissance of the 12th century. Following the Concordat of Worms in 1122, the Church entered into a cultural and theological flowering that endured into the late 13th century. While I don't deny the role of the rediscovery of the texts of Aristotle in this movement, I think the freedom of the Church that was ushered in after the Investiture Controversy must have been a large factor in bringing about the atmosphere of ecclesiastical liberty and intellectual curiosity that led to this renaissance.

Then again, we always have to be wary of using the term "renaissance." First there was just the Renaissancek, then people talked of the Carolingian Renaissance, and now the renaissance of the 12th century. As my old history professor Dr. Christopher Beiting used to say, "It seems like any time somebody put a pen to paper in the Middle Ages it is called a 'renaissance.'

Then there is St. Bede the Venerable. For a long time I went back and forth as to when the "Golden Age" of the Church was. For a long time I was convinced, like Dr. Warren Carrol, that the height of Catholic civilization was the 13th century. Later, I began to change my mind and believed that the Church was most pristine in the century following the Catholic Reformation. Of course, there are good arguments for the 4th century post-Nicaea period as well due to the great multitude of eminent saints and doctors all living at the same period and discoursing together. I later pegged the so-called "Dark Ages" as the best time in the Church's history, from around 400 to 700, because the Church's monastic tradition was strong and pure, its evangelical fervor at its greatest and it had not yet been plagued by the philosophical sophistry and subtle theological divisions that began to pester it in the Scholastic period and beyond. There is a certain charming simplicity to the period of St. Bede and the Anglo-Saxon saints, a simplicity I have tried to reawaken in my posts on "Obscure Anglo-Saxon Saints." If I had to choose a favorite time in Church history, I'd have to pick the middle to latter part of the first millennium, the age of Benedict and Bede, Augustine of Canterbury and Anskar of the Norse, the age of obscure saints with names like Wilifrid, Willibrord and Oswin and even obscurer kings with names like Rollo, Ecgfrith and Offa, the age that was ushered in by Clovis and ushered out by Charlemagne and the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire. This is definitely my favorite time in Church history, and we would do well to emulate some of the spirit of that time.

But I have also come to realize that "Golden Ages" do not exist. Even in the 13th century, the alleged Golden Age, it is fascinating to read the writings of saintly men, contemporaries of Aquinas, who were sure the end times were upon them. Things were so bad, they reasoned, that the end of the world was surely upon them. The fact that even men of the 13th century though things were so awful that Armageddon was around the corner suggests that, while certain ages do have elements objectively better or worse than other ages, the designation of a Golden Age to any one period is somewhat utopian and unrealistic.

But I think the Church does indeed have a certain Golden Age, and this is what I have realized by studying its history and the lives of the saints. The Church's Golden Age occurs wherever a saintly man or woman fulfills Christ's commands in an exemplary way. So when is the Golden Age? Go to Auschwitz in Poland and witness the self-sacrifice of St. Maximilian Kolbe, and there is the Golden Age of the Church - or likewise, go back in time to the square of Assisi and watch St. Francis return his clothes and name to his father in pursuit of Holy Poverty, and again you are in the Golden Age. The grilling of Lawrence, beheading of Thomas More, the lonely martyrdom of St. Isaac Jogues and St. Jean Brebeuf among the savages of North America, all are instances of a "Golden Age" bursting upon us; or more humbler examples: the persistence of those praying outside abortion clinics, the humble peasant of yesteryear giving thanks to God for the fruit of the earth and the rains that bring it forth, or the quiet enlightening of the mind that happens as one reads G.K. Chesterton or C.S. Lewis for the first time, when they put the book down on their lap, gaze out the window and ponder realities they had never thought of before. All of these moments are the Golden Age of the Church.

So, reflect on these things as you enjoy your Memorial Day, and give thanks to God for the many blessings enjoyed in your life, unworthy though you be to receive them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What's wrong with missionary priests?

Today marks the third consecutive time that a parish I have attended had a guest missionary priest come in who was a liturgical progressive and of questionable orthodoxy. The first time, several years ago, we had a priest who just introduced himself as "Lou," ad libbed the entire Eucharistic liturgy and changed the prayers for the Pope, saying "We pray for the Bishop of Rome, Benedict," instead of "We pray for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict." But that wasn't so bad as the next guy we got a year and a half later - different parish, but similar situation: the priest preached all about how he helps the poor in Africa build things and fix things but never once mentioned witnessing to them or trying to bring them the faith. And again, this one ad libbed the whole Eucharistic liturgy and changed a bunch of stuff around.

But what I saw today takes the cake. I knew we were in trouble when he introduced himself simply as "Patrick," omitting the word "Father." Then "Patrick" opened his homily by saying that he had suddenly realized what Christ meant by "do this in memory of Me." His idea was that "do this" meant that "we ourselves, the community, have to become the bread that is broken." He then warned us, "Don't any of you dare come up to take communion; you need to be communion." This prompted a question from my daughter about why the priest just told us not to take communion, to which I could only say that he was "confused."

So, after telling us that the Eucharist was all about us, he gave a little spiel for his organization, then said he wanted to close with a song (!) and proceeded up to the choir loft to play piano and sing a tune from Les Miserables. I banged my head on the pew, eyes tightly closed, sweat running down my head, deep in prayer, trying to block out the horror, and asking God, "Why? Why?"

Well, it gets better. He came down and did the Eucharistic prayer, mostly ad libbed, and completely omitted the prayers for the pope. Where the pope should have been prayed for, he said, "Make us grow in unity together with all the poor and sufferng throughout the world," and neglected to mention the Holy Father or the local Ordinary.

At the orate frates he said, "pray that our sacrifice may be acceptable" (gesturing to the gifts), then repeated himself again, "this sacrifice may be acceptable," this time gesturing to the people! He also called God "Creator" instead of "Father."

By this time I was having a very difficult time staying focused on the Mass, which is a terrible by-product of liturgical abuse, by the way. I usually receive on the tongue and kneeling, just as a matter of due reverence towards our Lord. But today I was determined to do so as a statement and I was thoroughly looking forward to kneeling in front of this priest and putting my tongue out. But then came the coup de grace: just before distribution, he announced that he had an inherited "shaking disease" and that anyone who presented themself for communion to him had to receive in the hand! This put me in the position of receiving in the hand from a priest or on the tongue from a male Extraordinary Minister! An unjust dilemma! What would you do?

I decided to receive kneeling from the EMHC, and interestingly enough, so did most of the congregation. The EMHC's line was about three times longer than the priest's line. I received from the EMHC, kneeling and on the tongue, but bitter that my communion time was marred by having to make decisions like whether to receive from an EMHC the proper way or from a priest in an improper way. I'm going to write a letter to the organization (Cross International Catholic Outreach) complaining about what happened; I did this last time and got a pretty good response, saying that the priest in question would be "talked to" about it. Who knows.

It was not all a loss, however, for it was a real teaching moment. One father of eight later told me that he explained to his children, "Here you have a prime example of what has been wrong in the Church for the past forty years." Then he followed that up with a horrific thought: "Can you imagine what your mind would be like if you went to a parish where this was preached for forty years?"

I have several insights here:

First, this sort of liturgical progressivism seems to be endemic among missionary priests, at least in my personal experience of the past four years. I have three explanations for this: for one thing, the secularist-"Spirit of Vatican II" emphasis for the past forty years has been on the human community and service to each other. Thus, I think the most progressive of the progressives probably feel a natural inclination towards missionary work, which they see not in terms of converting the heathen but in terms of "sharing gifts" and that type of nonsense. Second, I think that even if missionary priests do not have this emphasis at the outset, once they spend ten or twenty years in Africa among the poor, I think it makes them more disposed towards interpretations of the Gospel that have an excessive emphasis on serving the poor and on service-oriented ideas of Christianity. Finally, I think their relative isolation in these remote regions for so long leads them to implicitly regard the liturgical minimalism that they must deal with in having Mass in 6 x 6 mud huts as the norm, thus regarding over time anything further as non-essential and therefore dispensible at a whim.

Also, though not related directly to the issue of missionary priests per se, is the notion of the priest saying everybody needed to receive in the hand because he had a problem with his hands shaking. This may have been the case (although he seemed to have well enough control over them while he played piano during the homily). But this has made me reflect on what I can only terms the "Swine Flu Method" of suppressing communion on the tongue.

The Swine Flu Method is just this: although the liturgical documents clearly state that no priest may forbid anyone from receiving on the tongue, some priests are minimizing this decree by implying that it only applies to forbidding persons for liturgical or theological reasons from receiving on the tongue. So, if a priest forbids you from receiving on the tongue because he does not approve of it, well that is wrong. But if he forbids you because he has a shaking disease, or because there is a flu going around, or because there is a werewolf on the loose with a propensity for biting priest's fingers, well in these cases it is acceptable to deny communion on the tongue. The possibilities are limited only by the creative priest's ability to imagine a million different pressing non-liturgical reasons why communion on the tongue is a bad idea.

Finally, on a pragmatic level, for the sake of the poor and the sick whom these priests help, it would behoove them to tighten up their act. Do you think this priest got a lot of donations from our parish after pretty much denying transubstantiation and forbidding reception on the tongue? The priest's behavior today only damaged his ability to raise funds (the whole reason he was there) and did nothing to aid it. The work these priests (ought to) do is so important, and the last thing the poor need is a social-justice Gospel preached to them, and the last thing we need here is a bunch of liturgical progressivism thrown in our face just before the priest asks for money.

In conclusion, I'm going to give you this link to the homepage of the priest who was at our Church'll notice he's quite an important guy who has written on liturgy and done television broadcasts and books...he also seems to be a pal of Rembert Weakland. If you hear that this guy is coming to your diocese, you can go the other way.

By the way, this is the site that hosts this priest's bio, a site called "Vatican" Have a look around - it's pretty amusing, particularly their link about "doing theology in the spirit of Vatican II" and the section where they list a bunch of papal documents from the 18th century and say they are "at variance" with Vatican II. I don't see how it is logical to say something prior can be "at variance" with something later - usually we say things the other way around; nobody says "John F Kennedy's foreign policy was at variance with President Reagan's," but the statement does make sense if Kennedy and Reagan's places are switched. It just goes to show you that these radical "spirit of Vatican II" people really do think that nothing that came before Vatican II has any merit and that Vatican II is the most important thing to happen to the Church since the day of Pentecost.

Well, this is the type of stuff us Catholics stuck in Novus Ordo Land have to deal with. I pray that the fruits of Summorum Pontificum will spill over into the NO and lead to a more reverent celebration of the Ordinary Form - the sooner the better!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

No such thing as "traditional" Catholicism?

This morning I was perusing a back issue of The Wanderer and came across an article by George A. Kendall entitled "More on the Sacrifice of the Community to Progress" (Wanderer, Feb. 2009). The article was quite good, all about how the modern socio-economic establishment causes people to pursue economic efficiency at the expense of personal relationships and community.

Unfortunately, Kendall began the article with a statement that, while not at all central to the point of the rest of the piece, rubbed me the wrong way and made me wonder why in fact it was even brought up at all. He said:

The fact is there is no such thing as a traditional society. There is just society and not society...the same thing applies to talk of "traditional Catholicism." There is no such thing as traditional Catholicism. There is just Catholicism and non-Catholicism. If you are Catholic at all, you are traditional. If not, you are non-Catholic.

I could agree to this statement if the author meant it in the sense of "If you are not an orthodox Catholic then you have no business calling yourself a Catholic," but this is not the tone of his statement. He is rather approaching it along the lines of those who say that just being Catholic was "enough" for them and that the labels of 'traditionalist' or 'progressive' don't mean anything.

This would be true if all Catholicism was traditional. If all Catholicism was traditional Catholicism as it has been known in the West up until the 1960's, then of course the label "traditional" would not really make sense, since all Catholicism would simply be "Catholic" ; i.e., faithful to its own tradition. But labels do indeed come in when there is a deviation from the tradition or the historical norm. Something starts to deviate in practice or belief from what came before, and so it is called "progressive" to distinguish it from what has always been accepted everywhere. When the "progessive" position starts to become dominant, then it is the progressives who label what came before as "traditional." These labels do have real, positive value in distinguishing what type of Catholicism one is getting into.

To suggest otherwise is to say that there is no difference between the shameful Cardinal Schoenborn Youth Mass in Vienna or a Mass at Cardinal Mahoney's "Taj Mahoney" basilica and a traditional Mass in the Extraordinary Form done by the Canons of St. John Cantius or the FSSP, or that there is no real difference between the Catholicism of Richard McBrien and Father Corapi. The fact is, persons in both of these groups call themselves Catholic, but one or the other is more faithful to Catholicism. To insist that just the name "Catholic" somehow inserts one into the tradition is ludicrous - it puts the substance of the faith in the name only and follows the same mindset as those who would say that we can never have gay marriage but a civil union is acceptable - all that is preserved is the name "marriage," though the reality of what marriage is is lost if a civil union is accepted instead.

Just the same, to say there is no such thing as progressive or traditional Catholicism is to say that the essence of what it means to be Catholic resides in the self-identification with the name "Catholic," not in what that person believes, how they worship or how they live their moral life. This is the mentality that accepts Pelosi, Biden and Hans Kung as Catholics just as equally as Archbishop Burke or Ven. Solanus Casey, and woe to you if you suggest that the former group are not as faithful to Catholicism as the latter!

I maintain that the labels "traditionalist" and "progressive" are helpful and necessary; even the label "conservative" holds value if by it we distinguish Catholics who are orthodox but perhaps not as in tune to Tradition, though this distinction is somewhat more blurred and can overlap with traditionalists. Though no label is perfect, labels overall are helpful in drawing distinctions; if they weren't we wouldn't have them and use them. I may be misunderstanding Mr. Kendall, since he does not elaborate on his above quote and simply goes on to another topic. If I have miscontrued him I apologize in advance, but everything I said here holds true nonetheless. Perhaps someday we can have a Catholicism that is so universally in line with its own tradition that the labels are no longer necessary. But that time has not yet come.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Alleged "missing-link" is all hype

The scientific community has triumphantly announced that it has located the so-called "missing link" in human evolution - an alleged 47 million year old lemur-looking creature called "Ida." The media hype about the find was bigger than the find itself as science euphorically proclaimed that Darwin had been entirely justified and that there was no longer any thread of credible doubt concerning his theory of evolution.

As I read the varied reports on Ida, my first question was what makes this fossil so different from any other primate fossil that merits it being called the "missing link?" Apparently, many other scientists are asking themselves the same question. It seems that while the fossil of Ida is unique for its completeness and preservation (it is 95% complete, whereas most fossils from the same era are isolated teeth or single bones), the fossil tells science very little we did not already know. This senitment was echoed by various scientists interviewed in a Fox News report, viewable here. "What does it tell us about human evolution that we didn't know? Precious little," said Stony Brook University paleoanthropologist John Fleagle.

While pop science is proclaiming the "missing link," here are the facts: Even among evolutionary biologists who accept Darwinian natural selection, there is considerable disagreement on what common ancestor man in fact descends from. The prevailing view among evolutionary biologists is that anthropods came from an extinct precursor of the ape known as omomyids, which would have then developed into the modern human, monkey and ape. Some biologists also suggest the common ancestor is the tarsier, a form of primate that still has existing descendants in Asia. The majority of evolutionary biologists support either the tarsier or the omomyid hypothesis to account for the common ancestry of man.

The proponents of the Ida fossil as the missing link, however, are proposing a novel idea, even by evolutionary standards, in asserting that humanity descends neither from the omomyids nor the tarsier groups, but from a third group, the so-called adapids, another primate group that died out in the Eocene period. The idea that human beings and larger primates came from the adapid group is not a widely accepted one in evolutionary biology. Paleontologist Richard Kay of Duke University says, "They claim in the paper that by examining the anatomy of adapids, these animals have something to do with the direct line of human ancestry and living monkeys and apes. This claim is buttressed with almost no evidence. And they failed to cite a body of literature that's been going on since at least 1984 that presents evidence against their hypothesis."

Furthermore, it is not even certain that the Ida fossil even belongs to the adapid group. It is purely conjectural. Other assertions that the Ida fossil must be a precursor to humanity by virtue of certain similarities in teeth, toe and ankle bones with other anthropods are not as convincing in light of the fact that other prehistoric lemurs, lemurs that everybody agrees had no part in human evolution, also share these characteristics.

Essentially the argument boils down to this: if Ida is an adapid (which we don't know), and if adapids in fact are the common ancestor of humans (which we also don't know and which most scientists do not believe to be the case), then Ida is (perhaps) a missing link. It really is circular reasoning: this fossil is the missing link because it belongs to the adapid family from which humans descended. How do we know humans descended from the adapid family? Because of the discovery of the Ida fossil. See the nonsense?

Besides all this, aren't we missing something major? What is a "missing link?" Missing link is the popular term for what Darwin termed "transitional fossils." Transitional fossils are supposed to be the remains of intermediary creatures demonstrating evolution in progress. So, if fish became lizards, we should find fossils of a creature in a via media, perhaps a fish with legs. The missing link in human evolution is supposed to be a creature that is part man, part primate. Darwin said the eventual discovery of these transitional fossils would justify his theory of evolution - he even went so far as to say that the lack of a notable amount of transitional fossils was a stumbling block to evolution:

The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, (must) be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory (Origin of Species, 10).

If Ida were a real transitional fossil, would we not expect it to look a lot more like a creature of the homo genus (i.e., like an upright walking primate or man)? Instead we have a small, lemur like creature. The most recent non-homo alleged ancestor of man is Sahelanthropus, who was undoubtedly an upright walking primate whom evolutionists say lived about 6 million years ago. Presumably, the "missing link" between primates and homonids would have to be something less than homo habilis but more developed than sahelanthropus; i.e., the real missing link, if it existed, would be a very "mannish" looking primate. How then does this lemur-looking creature, which lived 47 million years ago, almost 40 million years before sahelanthropus, suddenly become the missing link? It is like looking for a missing link between a turkey and an ostrich and then positing a hummingbird as the transitional form. It doesn't make any sense.

I suppose some could say that Ida is not a missing link between primates and humans, but between other lower mammalian creatures and primates - very well, but if so, what on earth does that have to do with human evolution? How is it prove anything about human ancestry to assert this fossil as an example of, say, a rodent turning into a lemur?

As I said, the claims that Ida represents a "missing link" are just hype. First, it begs the question that the common ancestor of humanity is the adapid family and not the omomyid or tarsier, as other anthropologists believe. Second, it makes a leap in asserting that Ida is an adapid, when in fact she has more in common with the lemur-tarsier family. That is not even taking into account inerrancies in dating these fossils, other explanations for their existence, etc. Those are all fascinating questions that merit more attention. But the evolutionists prime goal with this discovery is more to justify Darwin and take away any doubts that may have existed due to the lack of transitional fossils than to really learn about primitive primates.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Feast of the Ascension

Blessed Feast of the Ascension, especially for those of you in Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia and the State of Nebraska where it is still actually celebrated today!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yes, Planned Parenthood is still racist

The Pro-Life publication The Advocate recently conducted a shocking study into the attitudes of Planned Parenthood employees towards African Americans that revealed that PP, even at its lower levels, still embraces the idea of using abortion as a means to reduce the black population. I want to thank the Lubitz family of the Diocese of Albequerque for brining this to my attention via their excellent little publication, The Los Pequenos Pepper.

The investigation into the financial dealings of PP was very telling. Lila Rose, of The Advocate, explained their investigation this way:

"We obtained the information by having an actor call clinics across the country and pose as a donor. The actor who called, The Advocate’s advisor, communicated to them a very racist agenda—the one that Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood’s founder, had envisioned. He then asked to donate money specifically for the abortions of African-American babies in order to "lower the number of blacks in America" (source).

So an actor calls up with a blatantly racist agenda, asking to donate money specifically for a black baby. How does PP react to these calls? Rose says, "Despite his bigoted requests, no Planned Parenthood employee (or director of development, in one case) declined the tainted money. Some even asked to speak with other employees to get permission. In the first day of calling seven clinics, not a single Planned Parenthood representative expressed outrage or concern at the racism behind donations specifically "to reduce the number of blacks." In fact, some even went as far as agreeing with the anti-black agenda."

Here's a transcript of one of the calls from Idaho (remember, the "donor" is an actor):

Idaho donor: The abortion—I can give money specifically for a black baby, that would be the purpose?

PP Rep: Absolutely. If you wanted to designate that your gift be used to help an African-American woman in need, then we would certainly make sure that the gift was earmarked for that purpose.

Idaho donor: Great, because I really faced trouble with affirmative action, and I don’t want my kids to be disadvantaged against black kids. I just had a baby; I want to put it in his name.

PP Rep: Yes, absolutely.

Idaho donor: And we don’t, you know we just think, the less black kids out there the better.

PP Rep: Understandable, understandable.

Idaho donor: Right. I want to protect my son, so he can get into college.

PP Rep: Alright. Excuse my hesitation, this is the first time I’ve had a donor call and make this kind of request, so I’m excited, and want to make sure I don’t leave anything out.

Clearly, Planned Parenthood is still following right in the tracks of its racist founder, Margaret Sanger. You can view the entire story here and listen to the actual recordings of these phone calls.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Shades of Fundamentalism

The Jesuit Martyrs of Canada: "Fundamentalists" Who Took Their Faith Seriously

Sometimes we give ground to the enemies of the Catholic Faith (or Christianity in general) by doing nothing else other than discussing the issues on their terms using their vocabulary. I have come to see this as being the case whenever Catholics start using the words fundamentalism or fundamentalist in religious discussions. I am convinced that these terms cause more confusion than clarity, are almost completely meaningless and actually harm Christianity whenever they are used in conversation, even when being used by Catholics.

Fundamentalism is a tricky word. It is one of those rare words that we all seem to know what we mean when we use it, but would be hard pressed to put a definition to it. Everybody seems eager to reject all forms of fundamentalism today. We Catholics often think of baptist fundamentalists who condemn dancing and playing cards, and so perhaps fundamentalism is associated with a kind of purtanical approach to the faith.

Islamic fundamentalism is also a common phrase, and in this context I suppose it denotes violence.

We often hear the media talk about Christian fundamentalists who want creationism taught in public schools - and in the context in which the media adopts these words, then fundamentalism implies an anti-scientific mindset and a blind adherence to faith even when it contradicts (supposed) science.

For Catholics, a fundamentalist may be somebody who has an ignorant bigotry against the Catholic Church - someone who thinks it is the "Whore of Babylon" or something similar. Therefore, we could also add general ignorance to the mix of definitions.

So, we have puritanism, violence, anti-science and ignorance. In any case you choose, the media has made fundamentalist into a bad word. Nobody these days wants to be labeled a fundamentalist, and a lot of times Catholics who want to appear respectable will try to distinguish themselves from Catholic "fundamentalists" who take the Church's opposition to contraception and abortion seriously.

So what is the problem with this phrase?

The problem with this phrase is that the categories listed above (puritanism, violence, anti-scientific tendencies and ignorance) have been subtly expanded by the media to include many other things beyond their scope. Take, for example, some common definitions of "fundamentalism" from the media and conventional wisdom. I have not cited these from any specific source, but anyone who has been paying attention has heard them ad nauseam:

"There's a lot of fundamentalists out there who think the Bible ought to be taken literally."

"I can't stand these religious fundamentalists who want to impose their religion on everybody else."

"We can't let religious fundamentalism get in the way of scientific progress in the field of stem cell research and technology."

"Religious fundamentalists don't believe in the separation of Church and State."

"Most Protestants and Catholics have accepted the use of contraception, but a small minority of fundamentalists continue to oppose it on biblical grounds."

There are more I could come up with, but I think you get the point. Originally, fundamentalism referred to a term that came out of the Niagara Bible Conference, a Protestant, millennarian-dispensationalist convention that met annually from 1878 to 1897. The Conference met in order to meet what it rightly perceived was the danger to Christianity posed by progressivism and biblical criticism, and therefore came up with a set of "fundamental" tenets of Christianity that (in the opinion of the Conference) one had to believe to be Christian. Some of the "fundamentals" they came up with were things any Catholic would agree with: the Virgin Birth, reality of Christ's Resurrection, His propitiatory death, etc. As the opponent was higher criticism, the fundamentals were directed against those who denied the historicity of Christianity. These positions were summed up in a series of books, aptly named The Fundamentals, that were published from 1910-1915.

Here we see problem one: at least originally, fundamentalism within the Protestant Churches was something traditional Catholics could sympathize with. It was their answer to the modernist rot that was spreading throughout Christianity as a result of the methodology of the German biblical critics. So, in its origin, fundamentalism simply meant adherence to the central tenets of historic Christianity. It was these "fundamentalists" who continued to assert the bodily Resurrection and the need for grace as the 20th century wore on and people, even Christians, increasingly rejected these beliefs.

This historical fact ought to give us pause: though "fundamentalism" means something a little more than that now, when we condemn Christian or Catholic "fundamentalists" we are using a derogatory word in the which, had we lived back then, we might not have seen as such a negative. Yes, I know we don't agree with Protestants, especially millennarians, on a lot of things. But at least they were trying to formulate some cogent response to modernism, which is admirable. So why should we use this word as a put down?

"Well, because fundamentalism means more than just that now!" This is true. Today, the word implies all the things mentioned above (violence, ignorance, etc). But who gave the word that connotation? Was it not those who oppose Christianity who started broadening the definition of fundamentalist and constantly using it in a negative light? What has happened is that fundamentalist has been universally deemed a negative word, and then once everybody agrees it is negative, the definition of what a fundamentalist is has been expanded until it actually encompasses all faithful Christians.

Let's look at the first sentence:

"There's a lot of fundamentalists out there who think the Bible ought to be taken literally."

So fundamentalists take the Bible "literally?" Doesn't the CCC teach that all interpretations of Scripture have their foundation in the literal? And if it is fundamentalist to take the Bible literally, then if I don't want to be a fundamentalist, how am I to take the Bible? Allegorically or metaphorically I suppose. I guess this statement is saying that if you don't take the Bible metaphorically you are a fundamentalist. This hang up about taking the Bible literally is really a subtle attack against people who take the Bible seriously. It is an extension of the argument that fundamentalists are puritanical, but it extends "puritanical" to mean anybody who takes the Bible at face value; i.e., all real Christians.

How about this statement:

"I can't stand these religious fundamentalists who want to impose their religion on everybody else."

This one is an extension of the idea that fundamentalism implies violence. Of course, the sentence does not imply violence, but there is an attempt to make a connection between the words "violence" and the word "impose." The effect is that, while nobody wants to be forced violently to adhere to another religion, this distaste for violence is extended even to persons who evangelize or witness about their beliefs. When people say they don't want others "imposing" their religion on them, they usually mean they don't want people speaking out about the moral tenets of their faith. So saying abortion is wrong, homosexual so-called marriage is immoral or that one needs Jesus to be saved, even just uttering these things, becomes "imposing" your religion on others and is equated with a kind of violence of opinion; i.e., the bugbear of "intolerance." Thus, it is deemed "fundamentalist" to wish to spread your beliefs and your faith.

With the statement, "We can't let religious fundamentalism get in the way of scientific progress in the field of stem cell research and technology," we have the same argument applied to science. Since the days of the Scopes Monkey Trial (1925), fundamentalism has been seen as opposing legitimate science. Whether it is evolution or stem cell research, the tacit assumption is that any questioning of either the morality or the soundness of the science in question is just religious scruple. I oppose evolution on scientific grounds. I oppose stem cell research on scientific grounds as well. I can debate those two issues without bringing up religion - but the issue itself is never debated, for debate is silenced by the charge of fundamentalism, the false accusation that objections to immoral science are purely "theological," and perhaps a passing reference to Galileo. Thus, fundamentalism has come to be applied to anybody who disagrees with the morality of certain scientific or medical procedures. Those who legitimately disagree about what is moral are treated as though they are simply ignorant. And since ignorance is one of the popular marks of a fundamentalist, nobody wants to risk being labeled ignorant.

It is often said that a sign of fundamentalism is the wish to establish a "theocracy." "Religious fundamentalists don't believe in the separation of Church and State," people say. This line of thinking places an absolute value on separation of Church and State and, as with the above issue, circumnavigates the question of whether Church and State should be separated with the unstated assumption that they of course should be, and then proceeds to denigrate the religious person who may in some way call this into question, as if to question Church and State separation itself if devious. The Catholic Church has frequently supported the state sanctioning of Catholicism, and so again we are drawn into a position where to simply do nothing other than adhere to what the Church has said is labeled fundamentalism.

With the last quote cited above we have again another extension of the idea of fundamentalism being puritanical: "Most Protestants and Catholics have accepted the use of contraception, but a small minority of fundamentalists continue to oppose it on biblical grounds." Fundamentalism certainly can be puritanical; I am not making a defense of Christian fundamentalism as we know it, but rather attempting to show how people have expanded this term to include all faithful Christians, and this is the case here as well. If the "fundamentalist" is accused of opposing contraception, either on biblical grounds or in accord with the Church's teaching, then what would be the unstated "non-fundamentalist" position? Why, to accept them, of course! If you accept contraception (because, of course, the "majority" does), then you are enlightened, progressive, fair-minded, etc. But if you continue to reject it in obedience to the Church, you are puritanical and fundamentalist for following Rome's "rules"; you're probably even one of those kooks who takes the Bible literally! So again we have fundamentalism expanded to simply mean anyone who is a loyal son of the Church or who takes the Bible at face value.

So, where are left? Personally, I am left at the point where if you are going to say that anybody who takes the Bible literally and obeys the Church is a fundamentalist, then fine, label me a fundamentalist. If that's what you mean by the term, I can accept it. I am a Catholic fundamentalist. But I, for one, am going to reject the use of this term in referring to other Christian groups or otherwise, because it is so convoluted and twisted that I don't think it helps anything. If I oppose a certain baptist group's teachings, I am going to oppose them because they are too legalistic about cards; because they wrongly believe in the false doctrine of the Rapture; because they think the Church is the Whore of Babylon. Fine. Let's oppose them on those grounds. But will I call them fundamentalists because they take the Bible literally? Or because they believe in the Virgin Birth? No. To have Christians calling each other fundamentalists is not something I am willing to do.

Hence, I reject the use of this term when I am referring to other groups, but I happily appropriate it to myself, since it has come to mean nothing other than a faithful Christian. After all, isn't the Creed a list of "fundamentals" of the Christian faith? All real Catholics are fundamentalists, since ultimately fundamentalist denotes anybody who takes their faith seriously - and this is why the term is given a negative connotation, because it is nothing other than a veiled attack on Christianity itself.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Great Grabowski

Well it's finally here, the film you have all been waiting for - The Great Grabowski. This film was debuted at the Old St Patrick's Youth Group Spring Retreat, April 24-26th. It stars me as pot-pie obsessed old codger Walt Grabowski and is loosely based on Dicken's Christmas Carol. Get ready for an action packed adventure! Make sure you watch it all the way to the very end - don't stop just because the credits come up.

By the way, I had to shrink the video to get it to fit onto the blog, so it looks kind of pixilated when there is a lot of movement. For the best resolution, watch it directly on Blip TV, at this link.

A performance worthy of an oscar! The theme of the retreat was the sanctity of life, and the film was attempting to illustrate the evils of the philosophy of utilitarianism - depicted by Walt using people as means to an end rather than as ends in themselves.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Society & Redemption

Dante alone in the dark wood; an image of man's profound isolation from God in his fallen state.
Yesterday I acted in the role of a judge on a panel that was charged with evaluating a senior presentation at a local public high school for students in AP Literature. The particular student I came to evaluate was doing his report on society and redemption, focusing on Dante's Inferno. Very good theme, althought, to be fair, he should have included the other two books as well, but I understand that he was pressed for time and that Inferno presents the most easily accessible imagery.

He did fairly well. He was hampered a bit by the rules of the project that forced him to choose a theme and discuss it using a classic and a modern work, and it made the presentation a bit jumbled. He jumped from point to point with little sequence and abused Power Point (as everybody does) by just putting up a bunch of text with no images.

Nevertheless, he brought up a very interesting point that I had never dwelt on before. As we know, sin is a personal issue, both because we commit sin personally, and also because we must be personally absolved from it by God. It is thoroughly personal (not to underplay the reality of collective sins as well). So sin must be dealt with personally and atoned for personally.

Yet, we live in a social setting, and sin has social consequences. Nevertheless, the aims of society oftentimes conflict with the best good of the individual. The interesting thing he dwelt on was that sometimes society discourages repentance and redemption from sin by "rewarding" the sinners and looking down on the righteous. Of course, it is nothing new that the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, but I had never contemplated the social aspect of it: that society itself can encourage this arrangement.

The kid brought up a great point, how rock stars are "expected" to be dissolute and gain more noteriety and publicity because of this fact, thus discouraging any repentance or conversion. Likewise, a public person who cleans up their act and starts living righteously is no longer interesting and is quickly forgotten.

But he took this a little further and said that virtue is discouraged and vice encouraged because sin is made more economically appealing by society. Many Catholics who try to live justly know this firsthand. The temptation of witholding offerings to your church, or working on Sunday, putting in a lot of extra hours at the expense of family-time, tax incentives for single-parents and anti-family tax statutes, yielding to the temptation to take more money for something unjust, paying extra for an alternative product that was not produced immorally, shelling out extra cash for food that isn't poisoned, paying to send your kids to the (hopefully) Catholic school, paying for your children's upbringing while contracepting couples can blow their wealth on amusements...all these factors involve economically penalizing the person trying to live righteously and rewarding those willing to compromise themselves.

Some of them are up to us - it is my choice to work on Sunday or not, but when 3/4 people do choose to work on Sunday, the average income of everybody is higher and I am de facto penalized because I choose not to do what everybody else is doing and make less for it; even though I have done it to myself, it would not be a penalty is nobody else did it either and the option to take money for working on Sunday was not even a possibility.

Thus the Christian is put into a position where society both rewards and applauds the degenerate and also makes secularism more economically profitable than the Christian life. So there is social pressure as well as financial pressure to conform and become secular. This pressure creates a social climate in which even the decision to begin penance and undertake the first steps of the Christian life is extremely difficult.

Difficult, but by grace not impossible. This, I think, is why there were many more saints in ages past. Even though the wicked have always prospered by their own cunning and the righteous have always been stepped on, at least in the Middle Ages there was a general climate socially that encouraged piety and provided positive social reinforcement to those truly seeking sanctity. This means for us who are seeking sanctity today that we start in the negative right out of the gate. We set off to swim across the lake but have a weight tied to our ankle straightaway before we take our first stroke. That's why God's grace is ever more needed today than ever - perhaps that's why the message of Divine Mercy came to us only in the modern age.

It reminds me of St. Francis' saying when one of his disciples asked him if the people living at the end of time would be holier than those alive in his own day. Francis said that the people at the end of time would not be nearly as holy as those in his own day, and that very few would undertake lives of penance. But, he said, nevertheless they would merit more, because they will have to live against much greater temptations and difficulties.

Interesting things to ponder, and from a public schooler at that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Our Lady of Fatima

O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.

Have a blessed Feast of Our Lady of Fatima! Pray for the Church and the world, that God may extend His mercy to us all, unworthy though we be.

Rabbi pressures Pope to deny Jesus

The Pope's tour to the Holy Land has come under intense scrutiny, partially for things he has said and partially for things he has failed to say. Most recently he was fiercely criticized by Israeli Jews who came to hear him speak at teh Yad Vashem memorial for failing to apologize for the Holocaust. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said:

"I came to the memorial not only to hear historical descriptions or about the established fact of the Holocaust. I came as a Jew, hoping to hear an apology and a request for forgiveness from those who caused our tragedy, and among them, the Germans and the church. But to my sadness, I did not hear any such thing...everything that we feared came to fruition" (source).
This last sentence is particularly absurd.

At any rate, this demonstrates the fact that in Jewish-Catholic relations, the Jewish side does not really care about what the pope says, or what his message is, or building true understanding between faiths. They simply care about prying an apology out of the pope, and if this can be done, than everything he else he says can be let slide; but if he doesn't apologize, then nothing else he says matters. If you read the article quoted above, you will see that all the Jews who attended the pope's talk did so for the explicit fact that they "expected an apology." The same holds true for the Muslim leaders meeting with the Pope, who were all incensed that he didn't offer an apology for his Regensburg remarks (source).

The Pope certainly has nothing to apologize for on the part of the Church - the quote above is outrageous. It is one thing to say that certain segments of the Church perhaps could have done more to stop the Nazis. Maybe I'd entertain that - but to say that the Church "caused our tragedy," as the Knesset speaker said? That is ludicrous. The Church had no direct or indirect part in causing the Holocaust. Nor can he really apologize as a German, since the Germans have pretty much rejected him as somebody who can speak for the nation. Is every German born person until the end of time going to be pressured to issue all sorts of apologies for the Holocaust?

We have to draw a distinction here: we are rightfully upset if someone expresses anti-Semitism, or denies that the Holocaust happened or similar things. But to see so many people get outraged because, to quote another article, the Pope "failed to express enough remorse for the Holocaust" is stupid (source). Since when is "failing to express enough remorse" a crime, and besides, who judges when someone has "expressed enough remorse"? What is the definition of "enough remorse"? Another Jewish columnist described the Pope as "restrained, almost cold" (source). What does that matter? Is the way a journalist interprets the demeanor of the pontiff any grounds for wild accusations? That's almost as absurd as the Medjugorje enthusiasts claiming JPII approved their apparitions because he smiled at a banner (see here).

Equally shocking is the recent request by a Rabbi that the Pope explicitly declare that Jews do not need to accept Jesus to be saved. Dr. Deborah Weissman, co-chairwoman of some interreligious dialogue council, expressed regret that the Pope's statements on theological issues were still a bit "ambivalent" and stated:

"The pope still had not made it absolutely clear that Jews did not need to embrace the belief that Jesus was the messiah to be redeemed."
The Rabbi mentioned above cited, of course, Nostra Aetete to the fact that Jews need not accept Jesus and called on Benedict to make this declaration more specific (source).

This, of course, would be nothing other than a denial of Jesus Christ, pure and simple. Am I being too extreme here? I think not. It was Christ Himself who said (listen carefully, Dr. Weissman) that "nobody comes to the Father except through Me" and "anyone who comes in any other way is a robber and a thief."

This is what interreligious dialogue comes to: it is nothing other than a collective attempt by the other religions of the world to force the Catholic Church to institutionally apostasize by declaring error to be truth and truth to be error and is demonic in origin. Look at the tremendous pressue the Holy Father is under to deny that all persons are in need of Christ! I wish he'd stand up in front of them all and say, "Repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!" Would that damage relations with Muslims and Jews? Well, they're not that great right now, despite all the egg-shell walking and pussyfooting around the issues. Why not just say what the Church has always said and let the Jews and Muslims deal with it? As I've mentioned before, we don't need any "alliance" with the other monotheistic religions against secularism. As far as I'm concerned (and I think Scripture and Tradition bears this out), when it comes to the Church against the world it is sola ecclesia; we don't ally with Pagan X so we can better defend against Athiest Y. That was the mistake of Israel: thinking they had to ally with Egypt and Syria against Babylon and Persia.

As was the case then, so it is now: the Church's monotheistic "allies" don't care about preserving the Church - they care about weakening it and compelling it to deny its perennial teaching. One rabbi recently called for the establishment of a "UN of religions"; wouldn't that be great! (source) All the ineptitude of the United Nations mixed with the theological muddiness and stupidity of the worst of the interreligious dialogue movement.

Pray for the Holy Father, for he is under pressure by enemies within and without to publicly deny Christ, which any assertion that Jews don't need Jesus would indeed be. I wish the Pope would come to the Holy Land someday and just totally ignore all the other religions there - I wish he'd just visit Bethlehem, the Cenacle, the different Christian sites, give addresses to only Christians and then just blow off the rest of them. Meeting with these other leaders of different religions has become too compromising, and they are only out for blood - chomping at the bit just waiting for the Pope to "apologize" for something and then raging when he doesn't.

Please Holy Father, stop going on these trips. It is too difficult to watch.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Confirmation Link

Here's a link to a great blog post on Confirmation at our parish, along with some pictures of our priest, the bishop and some of the Confirmandi. There is a hilarious picture of me running with my thumbs up as well. This is an all around great blog dealing with the joys of raising a large Catholic family in America. I'll have it linked up on the sidebar.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Monarchial Dilemma

It has been several months since I came out and admitted that, with Pius IX and scores of humans throughout history, I have come to accept that monarchy has proven to be the best of all governmental systems. Since then I have not bothered to say much on the subject, though I have been browsing some monarchist websites and blogs. Like many other things on the Internet, I'm sure the really good monarchist stuff takes a little bit of scrounging around to find. Most of the monarchist stuff I turned up was pretty incoherent and lacking in any systematic apologetic for monarchy. I'm sure there is somethhing like that out there, but I have not seen it.

Quite a bit of the stuff out there is British monarchist, advocating a return of the United States to the useless House of Windsor. Returning to the fold of the British Commonwealth is emphatically not what I ever meant by my support of monarchy. Our system is far from perfect here, but can you imagine trading it for that slug Prince Charles?

But this brings out what I think is a serious difficulty in the monarchist position: if we were to adopt a monarchy, from whence would it come? The way I see it, we would have but two options: reconnect with one of the existing aristocratic families of Europe, or create a brand new royal house out of thin air.

The first idea suffers from the very serious setback that the existing aristocracy of Europe is worthless and utterly spent. They have been out of power for so long that they probably no less about ruling that even they did when they were in power; in many cases, like Prince Charles, they are globalist progressives. I can' t think of a single royal family whom I would trust over a country, perhaps excepting the descendants of Blessed Karl von Hapsburg. But generally speaking, reuniting with the crusty old royal houses of Europe is something abhorrent to me. I'd take the Constitution and the buffooneries of Washington D.C. anyday over allegiance to King Charles or Juan Carlos.

That brings us to our second possibility: creating a new royal family. To me, establishing a new fiat royal family by decree suffers from all the same setbacks and problems with legitimacy as establishing a new fiat Mass by decree. Monarchy is something that exists as given, not created. A king is a king because he was the son of the last king, and so forth. The worst times, historically, for monarchies come when one branch of the royal family has failed to produce an heir, or a war establishes a new family as the royal house. A family simply set up by law to be the royal family that has not ruled previously will simply lack legitimacy and not be taken serioiusly. In England, the Hanoverians were established in power this way, but their ascension was marked with a flurry of new Parliamentary laws aimed at reducing the power of the new royal family, so that in exchange for obtaining the throne the Hanoverians lost much of the power behind it (many of these laws were enacted in the time of William III as well). Thus, the British monarch cannot be said to rule the country in any true sense.

But at least the Hanoverians had some connection to the previous dynasty. The issue becomes much more complicated when we remove it from the realm of the hypothetical and try to imagine what th establishment of a monarchy in this country would look like. Who would we establish as our king? Since we have no tradition of monarchy in this country, any king we would set up by fiat or the passing of some law would lack any legitimacy. As I said, a monarchy exists as given, and the person of the king is symbolically and politically representative of the life of the nation itself. Nobody we could set up, no matter how smart or good, could become this. A person does not become king by being intelligent or just, but by being born king.

It seems there is a dilemma: if you want a monarchy, you have to already have a monarchy. Otherwise your monarchy is false and shallow, unless, that is, you are reconnected with some existing royal family, which as I explained above, is undesirable from a Catholic viewpoint (from mine at least). All these difficulties are compounded when we examine them in light of establishing a monarchy not just in general but in this country in particular.

So as it stands now, for me, monarchy is a noble idea, a concept at the height of a theoretical pyramid of possible governments ordered according to their justice and efficiency. But it is not something I am prepared to actively work towards establishing in this country, since I cannot see any practical way to bring it about with a desirable outcome.

On a related subject, this is an interesting article on the virtually ignored dissolution of the last real monarchy in Europe due to the opposition of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg to euthanasia.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Request from readers

I am doing my senior thesis at Madonna University on the divorce case of Henry VIII. Can anybody find the name of the bull of Julius II dispensing Henry from the impediment of affinity to he could marry Catharine? Better yet, does anyone know of an online text of this bull? Don't bother going to - they don't have anything by Julius II.

More Swine Flu Silliness

So I went to noon Mass at a chapel near my work this afternoon and the priest announced that "by order of the Bishop" communion would only be offered in the palm, citing concerns about swine flu. You could hear the congregation sigh; it is a fairly devout chapel where most communions are on the tongue. The priest had a smirk on his face which looked somewhat amused but also forlorn, as if the absurdity of the whole situation would be comic if it weren't so serious a matter: communion in the palm or none at all. Some attendees were very troubled by this; I saw one woman who went up to communion nervously examining her palms at least twice after returning to her seat and then sticking them under her arms, the way we do when we are trying to hide our hands for some reason.

And why, you ask, was I watching other people and not praying after communion? Because I didn't receive. I made up my mind years ago that I was never going to receive on the hand again after I became convinced that it promoted irreverence, and upon being told that I had to receive on the hand I opted to not receive at all. Interestingly enough, I had a great tangible consolation after leaving Mass, the consolation of feeling that I'd done the right thing and been blessed for it. I was thankful that I was not in the position of the other woman, a worried look on her face anxiously examining her palms.

Maybe I'm an idiot, but to me reception in the hand is much more unsanitary than reception on the tongue. Is the idea that the priest's finger might touch your tongue and he might catch what you have? In the eight years I have been a practicing Catholic I can think of only one time out of the thousand of communions I have made that the priest's finger touched my tongue; oh wait, it was the finger of an EMHC, not a priest. Come to think of it, no priest has ever touched my tongue. I'm sure it happens, but I'm guessing very infrequently. Priests put communion in people's mouths for a living; they are competent enough to do it without getting slobber on their fingers. If anyone says the issue is about saliva, I think that is very disingenuous, especially when referring to the reception of the sacred host (versus from the chalice). There is virtually no saliva transmission via communion on the tongue.

Perhaps the idea is that the person, when opening their mouth to receive, will breathe on the priest and spread a virus that way. Okay, first off, let's agree that when we say "breathe on" we mean exhale, right? To breathe on something or someone is nothing other than to exhale. And when do we exhale? Does anybody exhale immediately after opening your mouth? Try opening your mouth right now as if you were receiving communion - don't you kind of instinctively inhale when opening your mouth? Now try to open your mouth an exhale simultaneously - you can do it, but doesn't it feel weird and unnatural? Who exhales the second they open their mouth?

"Yes, Boniface, but if you've had your mouth open for a time, then it is natural to exhale with your mouth open."

Point granted. But, who stands in line with their mouth open before they get up to receive? You'd look like an ass doing that and nobody does it in reality. Furthermore, you have to say "amen" when the priest says "Body of Christ," so even if you did have your mouth open, you'd have to close it momentarily to say "amen," so the mouth does not open really until the moment when the host is coming towards your it - at which point, as I explained above, it is very unnatural to exhale. It would necessitate you saying "Amen" and the immediately opening your mouth and exhaling just as someone is putting something into it. Try doing that now: say "amen," then immediately open your mouth and exhale. Who would receive like that?

And who exhales when something is being put into their mouth anyway? Do you exhale while eating putting a cracker into your mouth? What about while drinking something? I'm not being facetious with this emphasis on exhaling, because exhaling is what would spread a virus most likely, not a very unlikely contact with saliva.

One other thing: which is dirtier, the human hand or the human tongue? Isn't the single biggest factor in human hygienic improvement in the last century the fact that people learned to wash their hands? As one person said in my combox to another post (sarcastically), "Because you know, hands are clean and sanitary, because they don't touch thousands of nasty, public objects all day long. And tongues are dirty because they're not tucked away safely, and they aren't covered in enzymes that sanitize and destroy contaminants." If a priest did accidentally touch a tongue, it would be a lot less worse than accidentally touching a hand!

When giving communion, what is more probable, that a priest will accidentally touch a tongue or a hand?

What is more unsanitary, a tongue or a hand? The tongue is encased in sanitizing enzymes - but who usually washes their hands before Mass?

I think this directive (if it is a real directive since there is nothing on the diocesan wesbite about it) is not well thought out and very illogical. Besides, if someone in the congregation did have swine flu, don't you think even if everybody received on the hand and didn't shake at the passing of the peace that just the fact of being in a cramped room with hundreds of people would be dangerous enough? One of the symptoms of swine flu is excessive coughing. So, nevermind that the guy two pews behind you is coughing nonstop all Mass long - as long as we have communion in the hand everything is okay! Never waste a crisis.

Well, okay, whatever.

Monday, May 04, 2009

First Communion Pics

My eldest daughter Jenna made her First Holy Communion at our home parish this past weekend, May 2nd. Thought I'd share some pictures of it with you, my extended blogging family:

This first one is of Jenna with our parish priest, Fr Gerald, immediately after the Mass was over. There was a ton of people trying to take pictures during the reception of Communion itself, which I of course did not do. Fr G served the First Communicants by intinction, which was very nice since they got to receive the Precious Blood and didn't have to be entrusted with holding the chalice, which they had not practiced. I should also mention that the dress and crown/veil Jenna is wearing were used by my mother at her First Communion and date from the ealry 1960's.

Here is myself and Jenna posing for a photo in front of the Church right by the Michigan Historic Site marker. Our parish is the oldest English-speaking parish in the state. I guess any shred of anonymity I was pathetically preserving is destroyed with the posting of this photo:

Here's a nice one of my whole family (at least 4/5 of it) in front of the stone wall on the grounds of our parish. My son, Phillip IV, is for some reason missing from this picture. I think he was off crawling around in the dirt or something (just kidding):

Now we come to the communion cake, which was a yummy chocolate cake with white frosting and some sort of raspberry jam on the inside. It was very tasty.

One thing I found very interesting was that the cake topper depicted a little girl kneeling to receive First Communion behind altar rails. How beautiful! Where is that ever done nowadays? This cake was purchased from a secular, run-of-the-mill cake shop, and the First Communion cake topper they happened to have depicted a reception according to the traditional way! Isn't it interesting how sometimes the traditional practices stay in people's minds a lot longer than they actually remain in practice. Hopefully we will see more First Communions with altar rails in the future, but I find it fascinating that when the people who designed this cake topper thought of First Communions, they immediately thought of altar rails, perhaps innocently ignorant of the fact that such receptions have not been the norm in the Church for a long time.

Last we come to baby Phillip IV, mowing on some tomatoes at Olive Garden after the Mass was over. He is such a great eater - tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, carrots - he loves all things vegetable!

I probably won't have a chance to post for a day or two - our parish is getting ready for Confirmation on Wednesday evening with Bishop Boyea. Pray for us!