17 October 2009

The Lion, the Marine, and the NYT

A friar sent me this. . .along with a guarantee that I would love it.  So true.

A Harley rider is passing the zoo, when he sees a little girl leaning into the lion's cage. Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the cuff of her jacket and tries to pull her inside to slaughter her, under the eyes of her screaming parents.

The biker jumps off his bike, runs to the cage and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch. Whimpering from the pain, the lion jumps back, letting go of the girl and the biker brings her to her terrified parents, who thank him endlessly. A New York Times reporter has watched the whole event. The reporter says, "Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I saw a man do in my whole life."

The biker replies, "Why, it was nothing, really, the lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger, and acted accordingly. Right." The reporter says, "Well, I'm a journalist from the New York Times, and tomorrow's paper will have this story on the front page...So, what do you do for a living and what political affiliation do you have?"

The biker replies, "I'm a U.S. Marine and a Republican." The following morning the biker buys The New York Times to see if it indeed brings news of his deed, and reads, on front page:


More books for the Angelicum!

As noted in an updated post below, my first try at begging books for the Angelicum library went exceedingly well. . .thanks to the always reliable generosity of Good Catholic  Folk Everywhere!

After the list was emptied, several of you asked if I would be posting any additional books for donation.

Yup.  Sure am.

And they are now posted.  The first five books on the WISH LIST are now designated as donations to the Angelicum library.  I've listed volumes that contain introductory essays by top philosophers.  These essays are generally historical in nature and provide a great deal of important background for undergrad students in philosophy.  As I noted below, our library is underfunded, and somewhat "behind the times" when it comes to the most recent developments in modern philosophy.  It is difficult to formulate reasonable Catholic responses to contemporary philosophical problems if you don't know what those problems are!

So, send them to me, and I will give them to Fr. Miguel Itza, OP, our librarian.

A HancAquam Experiment

Leaving aside your dictionary for a moment. . .how do you define "information," "knowledge," "wisdom," and "truth"?

I mean, just in your day to day thinking and talking, how do you use these words?  Do you distinguish, say, information and knowledge?  Wisdom and truth? 

Is all information knowledge for you?  Are all truths wisdom? 

16 October 2009

Coffee Bowl Browsing (Miscellany)

Abusing money for the sake of art

A house for those owned by their pets

Hunger is the mother of invention:  recycling bread crumbs

Recycling used pets

Mini-philosopher sums up postmodernist ethical theory

Great quotes from skeptics

St Paul Outside the Wall:  website

Ten Bizarre Aspects of Catholicism (only ten!?)

Double standards for B.O.'s screw-ups and hypocrises

Obamacare:  Revenge of the Lunch Czar!

Oh sure. . .you feed them, keep them warm, give them a good eduction and then they grow up and eat you while you sleep.

Heath-care reform & the Church

Rocco notes a recent NCRegister interview with Francis Cardinal George on health care reform.  The good cardinal does an excellent job of summing up Catholic teaching on this tumultuous issue.  
The money quote:  "Everybody should be taken care of, and nobody should be deliberately killed."  
Please note. . .
"Everybody should be taken care of" does not necessarily mean a right to government-run health care.
But "nobody should be deliberately killed" does necessarily mean the right to legal protection from government-run killing.

Addiction or Vice?

The French philosopher and cultural theorist, Michel Foucault, argued that one of the many effects of our modernist obsession with Reason and Power is the pathologization of the human condition; that is, rather than attributing our worse qualities as people to our fallen nature, we turn these faults into diseases.  Sexual deviancy becomes a neurosis.  Acts of violence are treated as hormone imbalances.  Even death is medicalized into an affliction.

We've all watched as criminals are found "not guilty" by juries that buy the defense attorney's claims that his client was born premature, had an abusive father, an alcoholic mother, etc.  Usually, society is blamed at some point--systemic poverty, lack of proper health care, repression of sexual desire by religious dogma, bad diet, etc.  All of these may be reasons for criminal behavior, but do they add up to reasons to excuse the behavior?

Most of the long process of pathologization is about power and control--human power and control.  Plain, old-fashioned sin requires non-human intervention to fix.  Thinking of sin as a disease, a natural, material disorder places its cure squarely in the realm of the human.

Foucault's basic insight is that a dominant discourse (e.g., heterosexuality, Christianity, bourgeois capitalism) maintains social and political power by making criminals/patients/sinners out of non-conformists.  Criminals, etc. do not actually exist as objective things but only arise out of a dominant discourse when thought and behavior work against what is considered "normal."  Patients, especially psychological patients, criminals, sinners are created in the various dominant discourses--the Law, Health, the Saved, etc. 

Perhaps the most prominent example of our medicalization of the human condition is the rise of the category of addiction.  We no longer hear medical professionals talk about habitual moral failure, or a lack of will power to resist temptation.  Instead, we label these failures as acts of addiction.  There is little doubt that there are organic dysfunctions associated with what we call addictions.  And there is little doubt that medical treatments often help to curb addictive behaviors.  What's often missing in these treatments is the moral element, that part of us that links our behaviors to our choices and their consequences. 

What prompted this post?  While buzzing around the net this morning, waiting for my coffee to start buzzing around in me, I ran across a post titled, "Top Ten Modern Human Addictions."  They are:  Laziness, Sitting, Having My Way, Obsession with Trivia, Amusement/Escapism, Idolization, Sex, Being Cool, Obsession with Technology, and Always Needing to be Right.  My first thought was:  "These aren't modern.  They're just human."  Classical western literature is stuffed full of examples of all of these.  In fact, it wouldn't take much to link each of these to one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

So, what's the motivation behind labeling them addictions?  There are two, I think:  1). we think of addictions as medical conditions, so they are amoral, and we are therefore blameless and 2). as medically treatable diseases, addictions are curable, or at least, able to be mitigated by medical treatment.  How often have we heard (or said!) something like the following:  "I can't quit ________ b/c I'm totally addicted!"  Labeling a vice as an addiction allows us to acknowledge our bad behavior and at the same time excuse it.  Neat, uh? 

Most modern medical treatments for addiction rely heavily on behavioral modification therapy in combination with "talk therapy."  What is not part of the treatment regime in the modern therapist office is grace.  The Church has always practiced behavioral modification.  We call it virtue--forming good habits.  We have also always practiced talk therapy.  We call it confession and spiritual direction.  However, the success of our therapies is conditioned on an acceptance of God's grace.  We are freed from the burden of guilt and shame when we receive and work with God's gift of Himself to us in Christ Jesus. 

That's the difference that makes the difference in getting truly, wholly well again.

Nobel decadence

[. . .]

The unanswered question at the center of this odd Nobel is whether Barack Obama admires Old Europe for the same reasons it admires him.

When it was a vibrant garden of ideas, Europe gave the world more good things than one can count. Then it discovered the pleasures of the welfare state.

Old Europe now lives in a world of unpayable public pension obligations, weak job creation for its youngest workers, below-replacement birth rates, fat agricultural subsidies for farms dating to the Middle Ages, high taxes to pay for the public high-life, and history's most crucial proof of decay-the inability to finance one's armies. Only five of the 28 nations in NATO (the U.K., France, Turkey, Greece and Spain) achieve the minimum defense-spending benchmark of 2% of GDP.

[. . .]

Not to mention numbers of births below the replacement rate and liberal immigration policies.

Being a decadent European peace-nik is a luxury paid for by American military spending.

15 October 2009

Coffee Bowl Browsing (Conspiracy Theory Edition)

As I have noted before, I'm a fan of conspiracy theories. (CT)  Why, you ask?  Conspiracy theories satisfy a basic human need to make sense of information in an orderly fashion.  It is a well-accepted notion that humans never experience the world in its raw form.  We always interpret what we experience.  Think about trying to recall every detail of sense data you receive in a day.  We filter.  We collate.  We store for recall.  The information we remember is highly selective for the simple reason that we would explode if we had to remember every single detail of a day in order to function.  Not only is our memory selective but our actual perception is selective as well.  Physically, we are limited in what we can experience, e.g. four dimensional space-time, a small section of the light spectrum, limited aural range, etc.  Our senses are easily enhanced with instrumentation (microscopes, telescopes, etc.).  But even these are limited to enhancing our five senses.  Throw in the collating and heuristic power of mathematics and you have a potent means for connecting a lot of cosmic dots.  Conspiracy theories seem to be one of the ways some of us filter, arrange, and understand vast tracts of information.  With the rise and wide availability of the internet, CT's have become the daily bread of on-line paranoids worldwide.

Besides, they're fun.

By far my favorite CT:  We are secretly ruled by a reptilian race

Videos proving that many of our global leaders are actually evolved reptiles.

Here's another fav:  the Mayan-Masonic connection using numerology.

The grandaddy of all CT's:  The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Jesus survived his execution:  Priory of Zion (made famous again by hack, Dan Brown)

Global governance by the elite:  New World Order

Anti-Catholic CT's abound

AIDS/HIV CT's:  made famous in 2008 by B.O.'s pastor, Jeremiah Wright

Can't forget the hundreds of CT's about the JFK assassination

The Evil Jesuits and their plots to control the world (this is true, btw. . hehehe)

The Jesuits killed Pope John Paul I. . . I have irrefutable proof but the Jebbies kidnapped me and put a chip in my head that prevents me from revealing the truth!

During the recent celebration of the Apollo moon landing it was revealed that the original pics of the landing were destroyed.  All we have left are pics of pics.  Suspicious much?

Reptilian agents, working with George Bush, Bono, and the Queen of England used advanced alien technology to bring down the World Trade Center on 9/11 in order to start the war in Iraq in a run-up to a global coup by the New World Order Committee of 300.  No, seriously.

Aight, that should be enough to keep you busy this weekend.  Remember the essential tools for filtering the information provided by CT:

Occam's razor:  does the alternative story explain more of the evidence than the mainstream story, or is it just a more complicated and therefore less useful explanation of the same evidence?

Logic: do the proofs offered follow the rules of logic, or do they employ fallacies of logic?

Methodology: are the proofs offered for the argument well constructed, i.e., using sound methodology? Is there any clear standard to determine what evidence would prove or disprove the theory?

Whistleblowers: how many people – and what kind – have to be loyal conspirators?

Falsifiability: is it possible to demonstrate that specific claims of the theory are false, or are they "unfalsifiable"?

Of course, we all KNOW that CT debunkers are actually working for the reptiles as a way of keeping their existence secret.  Sheesh.  Do they think we are stupid?

14 October 2009

Prison Dress Code for Mass?

Diogenes, always good for a snarky observation, offers this insight/question:

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons applies the following restrictions to persons visiting inmates incarcerated in federal detention facilities:

"Inappropriate/unauthorized attire is considered to be: transparent clothing; strapless garments; any garment which exposes the stomach or any intimate area of the body, tank-tops; halter tops; dresses, skirts and shorts which are shorter than four (4) inches from the middle of the knee; garments with obscene logos; low-cut blouses; obvious lack of undergarments."

So ask yourself: did the persons who presented themselves to receive the Eucharist at your parish last Sunday meet the prison decency code?


Coffee Bowl Browsing (Ecumenical Edition)

A few Zen stories to boggle the mind (I mean, boggle the No-Mindedness)

A Catholic guide for praying in the workplace

Bible research tools

A Christian think-tank with lots of links

Huge database on Christian topics of interests

Christian cartoons

Multilingual Bible translations in MP3 format (audio)

Everything you ever wanted to know about the catacombs of Rome

Lots and lots of free Christian images for download

More Christian clipart

Persecution of the Church worldwide

Have we gotten Jesus wrong?  (article)

Free interlinear Greek/Hebrew Bible software and a site for Biblical Greek

Christian penpals

The Official Peter Kreeft website (Dr. Kreeft is a Catholic philosopher): fixed

What do our Protestant brothers and sisters hear from the pulpit?

The story of the Shroud of Turin

Invitation to Prayer (Anglican)

The Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist

Reading the Word of God with the Church

Books for the Angelicum library (Sold Out 2!)

And the other two are sold and shipped!  All I can say is: Wow. . .thanks. . .and God bless! 

WOW!  My thanks to the generous soul who purchased seven of the nine books for the library!  Let me know if you need a letter for tax purposes. . .(leave a comment, I won't publish it. . .)

As regular readers of HancAquam know all too well, I am not shy about begging for books for my philosophy library.

What I want to do now is beg for some books for the university library!

Why the Angelicum library?  Our library here has a very good collection of books in medieval and early modern philosophy and theology.  (Remember:  this is the university of the great Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.and Pope John Paul II.)  Our holdings in contemporary philosophy are not so good.  Like most of the ministries in the Order, we are woefully underfunded and understaffed.  It's a rule in the Order that if a man is good with money, he's automatically excluded from consideration as a friar and sent to the Jebbies!  More than one friar has suggested that we turn our financial dealings over to our Jesuit brothers (ahem).  I think there have been serious moral objections made to this possibility. . .

Anyway, the university's student body is mostly composed of religious men and women from Central and South America, Asia, and Africa.  This means that their ability to purchase books for themselves is severely limited.  Profs, more often than not, resort to lots of handouts, or distribute class materials via the internet.  Because of the shortage of books, students are not allowed to check them out of the library. 

Since Angelicum students often go back to their communities tobecome superiors and/or bishops, the Ang is training the future leadership of the Church in those areas where the Church is growing the fastest. 

Here's how you can help train that future leadership. . .

If you click over to the WISH LIST you will find that the first nine books listed are philosophy anthologies. These books will give philosophy students here at the university much needed resources for research.

So, send me the books and I will give them to Fr. Miguel Itza, OP (our librarian) for inclusion in the university's holdings.  We can probably arrange a donation letter for tax purposes if you want one.

Don't be shy! Check 'em out. . .

Traveling Friar

I rec'd an odd request via email yesterday. . .

"Father Powell, where have you been in the world?  What countries?"

OK. . .

USA (obviously)
UK (incl. Gibraltar)
Italy (duh)

I've flown over Canada and Switzerland. 

Still on my list to visit:  Russia, Brazil, Thailand, Australia, India, and Egypt.  Frankly, I'd like to visit just about anywhere!

13 October 2009

Coffee Bowl Browsing

Heh. . . a bishop with a spine. . .who knew?

My Ph.L. thesis subject:  Rev'd Dr. John Polkinghorne, "God and Cosmology" (vids)

NJ politics, beer guts, and a governor too fat for the job?

Rocco reports that doctrinal talks are due to begin today btw the Vatican and SSPX. . .the new rector of the Angelicum and Dominican friar, Fr. Charles Morerod is part of the Vatican team.  Pray for the success of this effort.

Trailer for the new movie about the Fatima apparitions:  The 13th Day

SanFran tax assessor uses office to retaliate against RC archdiocese

Charles Krauthammer, "Decline is a Choice":  "The corollary to unchosen European collapse was unchosen American ascendancy. We--whom Lincoln once called God's "almost chosen people"--did not save Europe twice in order to emerge from the ashes as the world's co-hegemon. We went in to defend ourselves and save civilization. . ."

"What might Creation, the Spirit of Gaia, our Living Dew-Hearted Mother Earth spinning in the Infinite Cosmic Mystery, be asking of the church today?"  I think she's asking the Church why we allow morons who write junk like this to remain in Church leadership.

Good news in the fight against AIDS/HIV in Africa

Deconstructing five common pro-abortion dodges

And by the same author, "The New Catholic Manliness"

I want one of these

Oh $#!t moments. . .

What every Japanese redneck wants:  roadkill toys!

Finding toilets in Rome. . .or wherever you are!

Why does your pastor avoid the culture wars?

Doug Giles of Big Hollywood gives us "10 Reasons Why Pastors Avoid the Culture Wars."  He concludes, correctly:

If the ministers within the good old US of A would crucify their fear of man, get solidly briefed regarding the chief political issues, not sweat necessary division, not get caught up in last days madness, maintain their hope for tomorrow, understand their liberties under God and our Constitution, not become so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good, focus on the majors and blow off bowing to cash instead of convictions, then maybe . . . just maybe . . . we will see their righteous influence cause our nation to take the needed sharp turn away from the secularist progressives’ speedily approaching putrid pit.

Amen.  Give that man a pulpit!

OP's Out in Force, Baby!!!

Catholic Nerds from the Angelicum attend Sunday's Canonization

(L-R) Frs. Bernard (Malta), Yuri (Belarus), and Benedict (USA)

Vain reasoning, Darkened minds

28th Week OT (T): Readings
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
La Chiesa dei Santi Domenico e Sisto, Roma

We can blame Immanuel Kant. To save religious faith from the irreverent and potentially devastating demands of reason, Kant proposed that we remove faith from the preview of logic and science and seat it on a throne too high for the grubby instruments of empirical probing to reach. From this lofty perch, religious faith could rule the private world of each but never speak publicly to all. Kant gave us a way to be both rational in the modern sense and faithful in the traditional sense, both secular and religious without contradiction. Or so it seemed. Out of Kant's attempt to save faith from reason was born the human vanity of reasoning without God.* What happens to the human mind when we exchange “the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man”? What happens to our reason when we turn our minds from God?

Writing to the Romans, Paul notes that there are those who “suppress the truth by their wickedness.” These are women and men who know the truth as it has been revealed to them yet “for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.” It is one thing to be ignorant—simply not-knowing; it is an entirely different sort of thing to know the truth and reject it. These darkened minds “exchange the truth of God for a lie and revere and worship the creature rather than the creator.” For this sin, Paul writes, God “hands them over to impurity. . .” Nothing pure may be drawn from impurity; nothing whole and healthy can be found in brokenness and disease. When we remove the glory of God from the center of our lives—from our thinking, our feeling, our acting—and begin to think and feel and act apart from the truth that we know to be revealed in Christ Jesus, we begin a short journey to idolatry and the impurity of heart and mind that awaits those who know God and yet refuse to “accord him glory as God or give him thanks.”

One way to refuse to give God thanks is to pretend that His glory stops shining in our minds once we are in the public square. Kant gave modern man a way to be an “inside believer” and an “outside thinker,” that is, he imagined himself to be providing us with a way to be faithful without becoming irrational, a way of being rational without losing faith. What we have ended up with in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. is a social world divided between the Private Inside (where faith may rule) and the Public Outside (where reason without God is the only rule). Sadly, Catholics in these countries have, by and large, adopted this social logic and live by it without much complaint. It is certainly the easiest path for the spiritually lethargic. It is the path most likely to win its followers praise from their social “Betters.” And it is the path that will be most quickly lead to material advancement in a culture that prizes compromise over principle. But is this the way of Christ? Is the darkening of our reason at the altar of secular supremacy inevitable?

What does Christ say to the Pharisee who accuses him of uncleanliness? “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?” For the one who has seen the truth revealed in Christ Jesus, there is no inside/outside; there is no secular/sacred; there is no public/private. There is the mind of Christ—the mind taken on at baptism and fed with the logic of the Word and the food of the Eucharist. There is the Body of Christ, the Church—the Church, our mother and teacher; one body, one faith, one reason. And there is the glory of God—the One Who cleaned the inside and the outside and made us worthy of His rescue. You know the Truth. Speak his Name. Inside and out: speak his Name.

*Yes, yes, yes. . . I know.  I am oversimplifying this BIG Time.  I know.  I also know that blaming Kant for western secularization is controversial.  But remember:  this is a homily. . .not a conference paper. 

11 October 2009

Willful Ignorance? Can the LCWR listen to its critics?

Take some time today and give this article a careful read:  "Cross Examination:  Why is Rome Investigating U.S. Nuns?"   The author, Sister X, purports to be an ordinary religious sister who is genuinely confused about the reasons behind the Vatican's two on-going investigations: the quality of life for sisters and a theological assessment.

This article has two features that regularly show up in these sorts "we're so confused about these investigations" pieces:  1).  a failure to acknowledge the public and pervasive fall into radical feminist eco-paganism among some sisters and congregation; and 2).  a recitation of the tired feminist meme that these investigations are all about power-hungry men in Rome wanting to rein in unruly women religious. 

Right smack in the center of Sister X's piece is the absence of any sense at all that the theological assessment is a response to the LCWR's nearly 40 year history of public dissent not only from the Catholic magisterium but from just plain old Christianity itself!  Sister X minimizes the Vatican's concern: "Certain problems, Levada explained, needed to be addressed. As it turns out, these have to do with the LCWR’s alleged failure to express sufficiently rigorous doctrinal compliance with several recent church documents."  Yes, exactly, Sister. . .the Vatican is worried that when a sister is invited to the LCWR to give an address and in that address calls on your membership to "go beyond the Church. . .even beyond Christ himself" in their religious lives, the Vatican is worried that the LCWR is failing to express sufficiently rigorous doctrinal compliance.  Only in the insular world of eco-feminist religious women can the denial of Christ and his Church be construed as being insufficiently theologically rigorous. 

Another rhetorical move in these articles is to present the investigations as attempts by the Vatican to rein in unruly religious women.   Apparently, the Evil Old Power Hungry Testosterone Poisoned Prelates in the Vatican have been so juiced about oppressing nuns and sisters in the U.S. that it's taken them nearly 40 years to get around to asking a few questions about what these women really believe as self-professed Catholics.  Sarcasm aside, my point is simple:  if reining in unruly women is the objective of these investigations, why has it taken 40 years to start? 

What's most astonishing to me about this piece is the complete absence of any sense of responsibility on the part of these women for the decline and fall of women's religious life in the US.  Sister X blames just about everyone in sight but will not look in the mirror and point.  Religious women spend a great deal of time at their conferences and retreats patting themselves on the back for their courage, for telling the truth to power, for being open to difference, etc.  Good!  Are they courageous enough to devote their next LCWR meeting to speakers who will offer then substantial critiques of what they have done to religious life in the last 40 years?  LCWR constantly harps on the meme that the Vatican doesn't listen to them.  Do they listen to their critics?  Do they embody what they want from the Church? 

I think 99% of religious women could do just that.  But I doubt the institutional pros who haunt the inner-workings of the LWCR could.