Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ask Tony: What's the big deal about the Synod on the Family?

Answer: There is no clear objective answer; so much depends on one’s ideological or ecclesial perspective.

First of all, let’s discuss what a synod is. Synod is a general word for an ecclesial gathering, and can range in size from a few local priests to as many bishops from around the world as can fit in St. Peter’s. Synod and council, according to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, are synonymous terms. Only when the bishops of the world are gathered under the presidency of the pope is it deemed an ecumenical or general council capable of legislating for the entire Church.

If we leave our description here, it would seem that this Synod is simply a “talk shop”, a manufactured event in which the participants can discuss change without actually changing anything ... much like a session of Congress. It’s not quite that simple or cynical an exercise.

We in the West — especially in America — tend to assume that our concerns are shared by the whole world, or at least that they ought to be, and that the only people who matter are the people who think just like we do. This isn’t the case; what may sound like a splendid idea among American or German Catholics may not fly with Catholics in Estonia, or Burkina Faso, or South Korea.

For as much as has been made of Francis being the first pope from a Third World country, culturally he is in many respects as much a European as were his predecessors. Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has been carrying the standard for divorced and remarried Catholics, is a German of the Germans. The synod allows the pope and Cdl. Kasper to float trial balloons in an arena where the response is more international, and isn’t shaped by the Western media.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to Get Men to Fix Things Around the House

So my cousin's daugher (my first cousin once removed), April, posted this picture on her timeline, with a little laughing rant about how we should do things right away, without talking about it, "unless you enjoy hearing us nag you".

Well, on the positive side, it helps to be reminded every now and again.

One thing I've noticed over the years, though, is that the things that stay longest on the "honey-do" list are tasks that will 1) take plenty of time (especially if you don't do that kind of repair work for a living), 2) require plenty of physically strenuous effort, and 3) necessitate a minimum of two (2) trips to Lowe's or Home Depot — the second to get the things you didn't know you needed or forgot to get the first time around.

In other words, it's not gonna be something the man can do when he gets home from work, or when he's "got a free minute" while he's doing something else. They won't be things he can multitask; you can't talk to the COO about the rollout of the latest cybersecurity package while you're struggling a water heater out of a space not big enough for a coat closet ... even with Bluetooth.

And, in most cases, it'll be something that's mostly cosmetic, or something you can do without for now, so it'll be lower on the priority list. At least, lower on his priority list; sometimes, it'll be higher on her list because she can't stand to have a kitchen that looks like it was modeled after an A&E Channel reality series (the kind that makes you moan, "YECCH! How can people live like that!?"). And will that unfinished pergola look good when it's half new and half weather-stained?

Monday, September 29, 2014

9 Best Things About Being Filipino-American

Number 10 is that Filipino-Americans are great friends to have. (Shout-out to my buddy, fellow Knight of Columbus Ray Huie!)

I've mentioned before in this blog that I lived for over a year in the Philippines when I was a child, back in 1969-1970. Clark AFB, in Angeles City (about 40 miles northwest of Manila on the big isle of Luzon), was my dad's last station before he retired from the Air Force. I learned the pole dance; and I grew to love chicken adobo, a very simple dish the recipe of which includes quite a bit of — yes, you guessed it — vinegar. By the way, vinegar IS an all-natural, effective household cleaning solvent.

Although there are quite a few Buddhists, Moslems, and  Protestants in the Philippines, it's a predominantly Catholic country, a legacy of Spanish domination. And yet, while many Filipinos have at least a Spanish first name, only a handful of people still speak Español, and only a little over a million people speak Chavacanos, a collective name for six creole languages that use Spanish words in Austronesian grammars. So I hesitate to call the Philippines a Latin or Hispanic country; it's more an Asian/Polynesian hodgepodge with a Latin brio.

It's been over forty years since I left. I'd love to go back.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Catholic Stand: Eugenics and the "Hitler Card"

The Fallacy Files website, which is devoted to exploring and exploding errors in reasoning, gives the following forms for “the Hitler card” fallacy (also called the “ad Hitlerum” or “ad Naziarum”):
Adolf Hitler accepted idea I.Therefore, I must be wrong. The Nazis accepted idea I.Therefore, I must be wrong.
Hitler was in favor of euthanasia.Therefore, euthanasia is wrong. The Nazis favored eugenics.Therefore, eugenics is wrong.
Hitler was a vegetarian.Therefore, vegetarianism is wrong. The Nazis were conservationists.Therefore, conservationism is wrong.
The author of the blog puts the fallacy as a sub-category of the “guilt by association” fallacy, and explains, “Some instances of the Hitler card are factually incorrect, or even ludicrous, in ascribing ideas to Hitler or other Nazis that they did not hold. However, from a logical point of view, even if Hitler or other Nazis did accept an idea, this historical fact alone is insufficient to discredit it.”

Certainly, comparisons to Adolf Hitler and the crimes of the Third Reich get over-played. For example, I recently saw a meme in Facebook which compared side-by-side quotes from Hitler and Hillary Clinton on the need for an authoritative government. However, you can pull similar quotes from many people whose goodness was unquestionable, or who were at least no better or worse than the rest of us. If you doubt me, check out Romans 13:1-7 — if that isn’t giving a full-throated approval of a strong governor, nothing is.

If all contentions, which invoked Hitler/the Nazis, argued to the wrongness of a specific position from the support of Hitler/the Nazis for that position, I would have no qualms with this taxonomy. The “broken clock” maxim applies as much to psychopathic dictators as it does to anyone else. However, in the case of eugenics and euthanasia, our logician is committing a fallacy — specifically, a straw man.

Read the rest at Catholic Stand!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Some thoughts concerning Ferguson

The Police State

From the way people, especially libertarians, are reacting, you'd think MRAPs and cops in body armor and BDUs appeared practically overnight. The emerging meta-narrative is, "One day we woke up and discovered that cops have become paramilitary soldiers."

First, if you really, really think about it, you'll realize that cops have been paramilitary forces for decades. Police academy training is a lot like boot camp, and rookies are trained to march and salute just as is every member of the armed services, including the Coast Guard. They're even part of defense planning in case of an invasion or civil insurrection. Who do you think they modeled police uniforms on — gas station attendants? Bellhops?

(Do you remember the TV series SWAT? The only difference between their uniforms and the BDUs I wore at MCRD San Diego is that they were dyed black. And that was the uniform for the Special Weapons and Tactics teams for many if not most cities that had such a unit; now many have night-pattern camouflage.)

Who or what is driving the meta-narrative?

Kevin D. Williamson tells us, "The different uniforms are meant for different kinds of policing: The traditional blue coat is for the policeman who walks a beat [has anyone seen a cop "walk a beat" in the last fifty years?], and the ridiculous stormtrooper suits are for those who roll through in an MRAP." Williamson kinda-sorta recognizes that there are different kinds of policing, but is too busy snarking to ask if there might be a valid social purpose behind the second type of policing.

We've all seen the picture of the cop on top of the MRAP, wearing grassland camouflage (really? In an urban environment?) and body armor, looking through the scope of his  rifle. That isn't what Ferguson police normally wear, or how they normally arm themselves, because rioting isn't a "normal" state, nor do cops take "normal risks" when people riot. — You do know there was looting and burning going on, don'cha?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The end of the Fisher More College fight

Five and a half months ago, I spent the first day of what would eventually become a layoff following, and then writing about, a controversy in my home diocese of Fort Worth. It seems oddly fitting that, on the night before I start my new job, I can provide a coda to that story.

On February 24, the newly-installed bishop of Fort Worth, Most Rev. Michael F. Olson, sent a letter to Michael King, President of Fisher More College, a letter announcing that celebrations of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form had been suspended. A few days later, Rorate Caeli broke the story, with headlines screaming that the letter gave no reason, and wondering if the ban were "an effect of [the] new Pontificate". Rorate Caeli has been one of the prime vendors of the "Pope Francis Hates the Latin Mass" trope, despite the pontiff's stated refusal to cancel or strongly limit Summorum Pontificum.

Bp. Olson's Statement, 8 Aug 2014.
Well, there turned out to be a lot more to the story than just a new bishop's arbitrary decision to stomp on a poor, innocent college.

For one thing, the school was losing enrollments. For another, the leadership had approved decisions that had financially crippled the school, wiping out its endowment as well as the proceeds from the sale of its grounds. There was also some question about whether a suspended priest had performed a Mass — and whether the Masses were being said by priests from the schismatic Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). Furthermore, there were issues with the leadership of Pres. King himself, that his style of leadership and extreme "resistance" traditionalism had alienated staff members and student parents.

However, by the time this came out, most rad-trad blogs and sympathizers had accepted Rorate Caeli's version of the matter. It took a couple of days before most sites grudgingly accepted that the suspension wasn't causeless or out of the blue; Steve Skojec of Rorate still insisted that Bp. Olson was actively repressing the TLM, while Simon J. Dodd at Motu Proprio denied Bp. Olson's right to suspend the Latin Mass ... perhaps thinking that the new bishop didn't already have canon lawyers on his staff. Eventually, though, everything settled down.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

FOXNews' hit piece on Cardinal Dolan

Being the paladin and protector of all things conservative, FOXNews published on Tuesday a distorted, slanderous screed that perpetuates the "Pope Francis Hates the Traditional Mass" trope. The object of the attack: Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Although I'm on record as supporting the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (i.e., the Tridentine Latin Mass, or Vedus Ordo), I've criticized the segment of traditionalists that aren't happy unless they feel persecuted. In reply other traditionalists have scolded me as if I were a badly-educated Episcopal convert with chrism still on my forehead and heresy in my heart — I'm part of the "neo-Catholic Brute Squad". (One woman claimed I've “politely defecated” [?] on the traditionalist movement.) And half of them, along the way, unconsciously prove the points I make with their own criticism.

So here's my warning: I'm going to criticize that same segment again. As Bill Mauldin once said, "I make a certain kind of shoe; if someone wants to put it on and loudly proclaim it fits, that's their lookout" ... but don't assume it fits your family and friends as well. If it doesn't fit, it wasn't made for you. However, if it really doesn't fit, don't go describing it in terms that will make others think you're merely uncomfortable with how well it conforms to your foot.

Having said that ....

Has Cdl. Dolan gone "liberal"?

As is depressingly common throughout the media, including the Catholic blogosphere, Shaw conflates political conservativism with doctrinal orthodoxy. As is standard practice among the radical traditionalists I criticize, he also conflates traditionalism with orthodoxy as well. (Dr. Taylor Marshall, a traditionalist himself, refers to this as "gnostic ecclesiology".) So anyone who doesn't correctly pronounce any one of a dozen or more shibboleths is a goldang Neo-Catholic librul (as is anyone who dares criticize such faithful but lonely Real Catholics™). Example:

In New York, under the leadership of the once moderately conservative Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archdiocese was a place that allowed the traditional mass to be said without hassle after Summorum Pontificum.
However, since Pope Francis arrived, Dolan — commonly referred to as "America's Pope" [mostly by idiots who don't know anything about the Catholic Church except what they write] — has shifted to the left, so much so that even the New York Times has noticed. Dolan has become a spokesman for Francis' view of capitalism, has softened on gay rights, been an even stauncher advocate of amnesty for illegal immigrants and incredibly — criticized ObamaCare because it didn't provide free health care to illegals, putting him to the left of Nancy Pelosi [because, y'know, Real Catholics™ don't support free health care for anyone].

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RIP Robin Williams (1951 – 2014)

Photo credit: Alyssa Pierdomenic/Reuters.
"Comic genius" is such a pale, shopworn expression ... the exemplar of cliché. They use it of Groucho Marx; they sometimes use it of Adam Sandler, too. Overworn to the verge of meaninglessness, an empty compliment of the kind in which Hollywierd specializes.
And yet, how else do you describe Robin Williams, a man whose mind worked so furiously yet on a level few comedians can reach? How else can you describe a comedian whose improvisational talent was so reliable that, on his first television series, the writers would leave whole sections of dialogue unscripted, noting only, "MORK CAN GO OFF HERE"? A talent so seemingly free yet so disciplined he could embue it with dramatic portent, or ruthlessly restrain it, for his best cinematic performances?

It's only in retrospect that anyone could say Williams' suicide was "not surprising". Certainly he left enough bread crumbs in his trail, especially the drug and alcohol addictions which plagued his life. The manic pacing of his routines and his delivery always had this desperate edge to it, as though his life depended on getting a laugh out of every line. (He must have had flops in his early stand-up career; his first album includes a sketch that begins, "Come inside my mind and see what happens when a comedian bites the big one.")

Nevertheless, his public face was so frantically alive, so relentlessly funny, and often so touchingly warm, that you were distracted; you never asked if his demons had been put to rest.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Catholic Stand: The Identity of a Woman

As if identity politics weren’t bad enough, it’s taken a turn for the bizarre. In New Yorker magazine, Michelle Goldberg tells us of an ongoing struggle between radical feminists and the “transgendered” — a term that includes not only pre-op and post-op transsexuals, but also men and women who for their own reasons wish to identify as the other or neither sex. The problem for radical feminists is that men who claim to be women, even those who undergo “gender-reassignment surgery”, aren’t really women.

Not because the transgendered don’t have the right parts, or because the parts have been artificially implanted; oh no, that would simply be common sense, and who wants that? (“Common sense,” Stuart Chase once sniffed, “is that which tells us the earth is flat.”) No, the radical feminist objection is that the transgendered haven’t been raised with the suffering and victimization inherent in a paternalist society, and that transgenderism represents a kind of male-imperialist encroachment on uniquely female territory.

To make matters worse (?), radical feminists seem to be losing the fight. The universities and PACs, which once hosted — or at least suffered — their message of male oppression, are now starting to push back wherever that message conflicts with transgender rights. Says Rachel Ivey, “If I were to say in a typical women’s-studies class today, ‘Female people are oppressed on the basis of reproduction,’ I would get called out.” Other students, she adds, would ask, “What about women who are male?”

Women who are male. In four words, the surreality of the transgender Weltanschauung is encapsulated. This is the apotheosis of strong social constructionism, which “proposes that the notions of ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ are themselves social constructs, so that the question of whether anything is ‘real’ is just a matter of social convention. … It reasons that all reality is thought, all thought is in a language, all language is a convention, and that all convention is socially acceptable[;] hence, it uses language to socially program.”

Read more at Catholic Stand!

Friday, August 8, 2014

The death of "freethinking"

If there are Christians who don't get Christianity, there are also scientists who don't get free will. Oddly enough, some call themselves "freethinkers".

From "How Would Humans Know If They Lived in a Multiverse?" by Tanya Lewis at LiveScience:

... [I]f a multiverse does exist, it could have some wacky consequences. A world with an infinite number of universes would virtually ensure that conditions in one universe would repeat in another, [Columbia theoretical physicist Brian] Greene said. In other words, there would almost certainly be another version of you reading this article, written by another version of me.
In such a multiverse, you might decide to read the article in one universe and not read it in another. What would that mean for the notion of free will?
Perhaps it's a moot point. "I think free will bit the dust long before multiverse theory," Greene said.
Scientific equations describe the particles that make up all matter, including humans, Greene said. While more-complex structures arise that have no relevance to a single particle — temperature, for instance — everything still has a "fundamental microphysical underpinning," he said.
That means free will is merely a human sensation, not actual control.
"When I move my teapot, that sensation is absolutely real," Green said. "But that's all it is. It's a sensation."
Maybe in another universe, there's a Brian Greene that believes in free will.

And thus ends "freethinking", in a slavery more thorough, complete and unremitting than any brainwashing: material causality.