Saturday, April 18, 2015

Requiescat in pace, Cardinal George

Cardinal Francis Eugene George, OMI once said, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history."

I don't know how true that will turn out to be; I'm sure Abp. Blase Cupich isn't in any danger of residing in the hoosegow just yet. Nevertheless, for a man who braved many dangers in his seventy-eight years of life, that Cdl. George passed away in his own bed must seem as strange as John "Doc" Holliday dying with his boots off in a Colorado Springs sanatorium.

I’ve always said that the only thing I’d like people to remember about me is that 'he tried to be a good bishop.' I think I have been a good bishop, in many ways, and I take some pride in at least having tried my best. That’s enough. (from a 2014 interview)

I think it's fair to say that, in the seventeen years he reigned as the archbishop of Chicago, the first such archbishop to have been Chicago-born and -raised, he was a good bishop. Certainly he was a culture warrior; however, fighting the culture wars wasn't at the top of his priority list — it was just something that came with the seat and the miter. More important to him was the revival of the spirit of faith that lies at the heart of the Marian Oblates' mission. If more of our bishops were like Cdl. George, the conversion of the nation would follow quickly.

Euge, serve bone et fidelis. Intra in gaudium Domini tui!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Your chance to help a struggling mother!

... [C]harity to the deserving is not charity at all, but justice.  It is the undeserving who require it, and the ideal either does not exist at all, or exists wholly for them.
G. K. Chesteron, Heretics

My friend and fellow Catholic Stand writer, Susan Anne, is an amazing person. She’s the mother of ten (yes, ten) beautiful kids, works, participates in state politics, and usually finds some time to write heartfelt reflections. She's also a person of great inner strength; she's raising the children alone after pulling herself and them away from an abusive husband.

But even strong people need help. The work is sporadic; the roof she's trying to keep over her kids' heads need repair; and there's a potentially-threatening health issue for which she's being tested. If it ain't the troubles of Job, it's pretty darn close.

This is why some friends of hers from Franciscan University of Steubenville put up a GoFundMe page, with a goal of $20,000 for the repairs. She also needs prayers, so please add her to your prayer intentions; if you believe in the intercession of saints, I suggest Ss. Peregrine and Jude.

Thanks in advance for your generosity!

[Shout-out to Mark Shea, who also posted the link on his blog Catholic and Enjoying It!]

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Teacher trouble back in my home town

Omaha’s V. J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School was established in 1993, eleven years after I graduated from Northwest, so I never had the opportunity to attend. (In fact, I only spent my freshman year at a Catholic high school; I graduated from a public school.) It’s a college-prep school, with a small teacher-to-student ratio (1:16); in 2012, it was one of 50 private schools to win the prestigious “Blue Ribbon School” title.

Unfortunately, Skutt is in the news for a different reason. An English teacher and the school’s speech coach, Matthew Eledge, advised the Archdiocese that he is engaged to marry his boyfriend, Elliot Dougherty. The Archiocese advised him in return that, pursuant to his contract, he would not be invited to return to Skutt.

Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth ... not to mention the petitions and the endless bloviating about the Church “targeting” gay teachers.

People who complain about the Archdiocese poking its nose into its teachers’ private lives either miss or completely ignore a salient fact that shows up in most “morals clause” disputes: they arise when the teacher him/herself tells the (arch)diocese. It’s a fairly obvious rule: if you don’t want the Church to know your private business, then keep it to yourself. The Church no longer has an Inquisition; even when she did, it operated ad hoc, not on an ongoing basis (except in Spain, for reasons peculiar to that country). Teachers in adulterous relationships don’t notify the chancery of their infidelity. Contracepting teachers don’t put their estrogen prescriptions or receipts for Trojans purchases on the bishop’s desk. The Church isn’t “targeting” gay teachers; by confessing (so to speak) their violations of the morals clauses of their contracts, they consciously and willingly put bullseyes on themselves.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dawkins screws up Ishtar

The picture to your left is of Ishtar, or Istar, the ancient Akkadian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, sex, and (oddly enough) war. Her name is pronounced as it's spelled — Ish-tar — not "Easter".

There may have been a Germanic deity named Eoster, or Osterne, who may have been a fertility goddess like Ishtar; there's still some debate about her. However, only a handful of Germanic languages, including English, have a name for Resurrection Sunday derivative of that name; Eoster may be related to Ishtar, but little is known about her mythology. Connections with dyed eggs and rabbits have been suggested, but can't be confirmed by the scant evidence available.

Most European languages call the day by a derivative of the Greek Pascha, which itself is a derivative of the Hebrew Pesach — Passover. Passover is not an ancient fertility rite. Neither is the Christian Easter.

In case you're wondering what I'm talking about: there's a meme floating around, with Richard Dawkins' name attached to it, which asserts that the Christian Easter is really a celebration of ancient fertility rites, Easter eggs and all. I honestly don't know how many atheists believe it; unfortunately, I have this bad feeling that many will accept it without checking the facts, simply because "Dawkins is a scientist, and scientists are really smart people inherently incapable of f**king up the facts."

There's a variant of Gresham's Law which states, "Bad data drives out good data." Nowhere is this more true than on the Internet, where people who pride themselves on their skepticism and cleverness regularly parrot lies, half-truths, and tropes back and forth in the form of memes. Believers are just as bad about it as are unbelievers; conservatives as bad as liberals; doctorate holders as bad as high-school dropouts. And because confirmation bias is a human fault that neither has nor respects cultural boundaries, people are more likely to accept BS that bolsters their convictions rather than accept hard fact from an opposing source.

Then again, it's sometimes a case of duelling bulls**t.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Catholic Stand: Are Catholics the “Resurrection People”?

“We are an Easter people, and ‘Alleluia’ is our song!”

These words are attributed to St. John Paul II. And, indeed, he did deliver them; once, during an address at a black parish in Harlem in 1979, and again before leading the congregation in the Angelus at a Mass in Adelaide, Australia, in 1986. However, the Pope was paraphrasing a quote from St. Augustine of Hippo, some 1,500 years before: “We are a resurrection people, and our song is ‘Alleluia’.”

If you don’t hear or read these words again this Easter, you probably will next year. If nothing else separates the post-Vatican II Catholic from the traditionalist, it’s the trope of “the resurrection people”. I’m not trying to import what’s been called the “hermeneutic of rupture”, the belief that the Second Vatican Council changed the DNA of the Catholic Church or the substance of Catholic dogma. However, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the Council created, or at least promoted, a different style — a different perspective from which to view our doctrine and expound it. And the “resurrection people” trope is a key to that difference.

Error usually begins with the emphasis of one doctrine, or a collection of related doctrines, over the rest. For instance, had Martin Luther truly understood what St. Paul meant by works, he might have ended his days still an Augustinian priest in communion with the Church. Far be it from me to suggest that either Ss. John Paul or Augustine were in error by saying “we are a resurrection people”; for both men were well-versed in the evangelium. However, the saying can be easily misunderstood.

For it would be just as true, if not more, to say we are the “people of the crucifixion”.

Read the rest at Catholic Stand!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Thank you, Thomas L. McDonald

So Thomas L. McDonald, the tech-and-history guru of God and the Machine, decided to post a couple of series based on Lifehacker's "How I Work", the other one being "How I Pray", featuring other bloggers. After posting one featuring The Curt Jester's Jeff Miller, Tom extended an invitiation to his Facebook blogger friends to write "How I Work" posts.

I joke about "shameless self-promotion"; but really, I appreciate any chance I have to get either/both of my blogs promoted. It's all about extending the reach — the further the reach, the better possibility I can get to the one person in whose life I can make a positive difference. And the "How I Work" format got me to take a good look at my working patterns, to think through why I work the way I do, with the apps I use.

The actual “How I Work“ page is posted over on Outside the Asylum. And Tom, true to his word, has linked me up from his page. But what he says of me, I repeat of him: Add God and the Machine to your regular reading rotation. He's a clever guy and a good writer, and he bounces among topics with the freedom of a young soul.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Adam Smith and mob censorship

On August 5, 2012, I wrote about Adam Smith, a CFO for a medical supplies outfit. Smith was the man who posted a YouTube clip of himself giving a harange to young woman at a Chick-fil-A drive-thru window for working for "a hateful corporation ... a horrible corporation with horrible values." There's a couple of things I didn't know then, and I kinda-sorta wish I didn't know now.

For one thing, I really had no full comprehension of what it means for a post, a meme, or a video clip to "go viral". Smith couldn't have taken a very long lunch break; however, by the time he got back to work — let me stress that this must have been within an hour of posting his rant on YouTube — he was informed by a wide-eyed, fearful receptionist that "The voicemail is completely full, and it's full of bomb threats."

So not only had a lot of people seen the clip in that brief time, they'd looked up where he worked and unloaded their ire on his employers. How many bomb threats the company actually received, I don't know, and I don't think is relevant — one is enough. Smith lost his $220k/year job and $1 million in stock options that same day. ABC News' 20/20 did an interview with him:

World News Videos | US News Videos

I'm still sorry Smith lost his job and his career, though in retrospect I can't blame Roger Vogel, the CEO of Vante, for letting him go; contrary to what I thought at the time, there obviously had to be enough information available for watchers to track Smith to Vante. It's obvious that conservative fall-guy, "the market", has imposed upon Smith a very strict penance ... though, in the manner of most postmodern penitents, his atonement is taking shape in the form of a book about his experiences. And I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes a New York Times best-seller, either; we Americans love reading tell-all books written by or about the celebrity villains we create.

Monday, March 30, 2015

About those trigger warnings and microagressions ...

© 2014 Darryl Bok/Creators Syndicate.
Well, that escalated quickly. Seems that the student government at Ithaca College recently passed a bill calling for an online system "to report microaggressions, which sponsors of the bill said will create a more conducive environment for victims to speak about microaggressions." And a less conducive environment for speech that will offend or upset victims.

Microagressions, as defined by the Ithaca Voice, are "statements by a person from a privileged group that belittles or isolates a member of an unprivileged group, as it relates to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability and more." Nick Gillespie at further explains that microagressions "are often meant in a spirit of inclusion by the speaker. For instance, depending on who's speaking and who's listening, complimeting someone on their hair, clothing, or whatever might count as a covert way of putting him in his place. 'That's a really fancy jacket' may really be code for WTF are you doing in clothes that are above your station?"

By the way, I really love the "and more" at the end of the Ithacan definition; it promises no end to the micromanagement of human conversation. And the co-sponsor of the bill says that "those reporting a microaggression would likely have to reveal their identity if they wanted to pursue any legal action." Legal action? What laws do they think microagressions transgress? Or was that just the co-sponsor's way of assuring everyone else that the database will exist only to record petty grievances?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

About Miley Cyrus and the blowup doll

Artwork © 2013 by Juan Andres,
Isn't watching the devolution of Miley Cyrus like watching a train wreck in slow motion? You know it's awful; you know so many people will be hurt by the time it's over; yet you can't pull your eyes away ... even when what you see makes you want to poke out your mind's eye, like her infamous twerking. (Hopefully, she definitively ruined it for everyone; it's the least sexy thing ever done on a dance floor, except for when Tom DeLay was on Dancing With The Stars.)

Okay, so perhaps Miley is the straw that breaks the camel's back. Nevertheless, I ran across this meme on Facebook, shared by one of my high school friends who's a rock guitarist. The picture is of Miley fellating a blowup doll — if you haven't heard of this, sorry to intrude on your peace of mind with it. On the meme, in the standard Impact font, is the following rant:

Umm yeah, and that's who your daughters look up to? Great Job America!

I would guess that the person who wrote this is my age ± 10 years, probably (though not certainly) male, and has at least one, perhaps two daughters. I say "probably" male because a female would probably not use such a graphic picture to make her point unless she were a third-wave feminist (and the sex organ in question were a vagina); given that the writer isn't celebrating Miley's sexual freedom, I'd say "third-wave feminist" is highly improbable.

After responding on my friend's thread, I shared it — then belatedly realized that the picture was Not Suitable For Most Locations and Audiences, Especially Young People. How ironic ... here I was, giving a lecture on rock's contribution to the degradation of public morals, while posting a picture including a graphic sexual act. Smooth move, Captain Oblivious. (It's deleted.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25: Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said:

Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.

And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38 DRA)

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.