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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Personhood

A subject that comes up perhaps more in philosophy than theology is whether someone/something is or is not a person .... in theology, the issue is more likely to be about being a human, not being a person. But theology should care about personhood because the morality/ethics around the subjects of abortion, euthanasia, IVF, organ donation, the treatment of animals, is often decided in society on the basis of personhood, not humanness.

Virginia Hughes at the National Geographic blog Only Human has a series on personhood ... Personhood Week: Conception Is a Process ... Personhood Week: Do Kids Count? ... Personhood Week: When Dead Bodies Become Dead People ... Personhood Week: People and Their Pets ... Personhood Week: Why We’re So Obsessed with Persons

Here's a bit from the first post, the one on conception ...

Earlier this month voters in two U.S. States, Colorado and North Dakota, considered new laws that would bolster the legal rights of a fetus before birth. Neither of these ballot initiatives passed, but they’re part of a “personhood movement” that’s been gaining notoriety among pro-life advocates since about 2008. Reading about this movement in the press (Vox has a great overview) has made me wonder about the slippery, contentious, and profound meaning of “personhood.”

[... snip ...]

I went to a Catholic high school, where I was taught in religion class that life begins at conception. I don’t remember my teacher getting into the biological details, but we all knew what she meant: Life begins at the moment that an earnest sperm finishes his treacherous swimming odyssey and hits that big, beautiful egg.

That’s what many Christians believe, and it’s also the fundamental idea behind the personhood movement. The website of Personhood USA, a nonprofit Christian ministry, highlights this quote by French geneticist Jérôme Lejeune: “After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being. It is no longer a matter of taste or opinion…it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”

That’s not a common belief among biologists, however. Scott Gilbert of Swarthmore calls the conception story a “founding myth,” like The Aeneid. As he jokes in a popular lecture, “We are not the progeny of some wimpy sperm — we are the progeny of heroes!”

In reality, conception — or more precisely, fertilization — is not a moment. It’s a process .....


Friday, November 21, 2014

Thor: The Dark World



It seems like I've been watching a lot of Marvel movies lately ... this week's rental was Thor: The Dark World ...

a 2013 American superhero film featuring the Marvel Comics character Thor .... It is the sequel to 2011's Thor and the eighth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was directed by Alan Taylor .... It stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba ....Thor teams up with Loki to save the Nine Realms from the Dark Elves led by the vengeful Malekith, who intends to plunge the universe into darkness.

The movie is set after The Avengers save New York from an alien invasion finessed by Loki. The story is pretty light entertainment, but has some fun bits ... Asgard has been upgraded to look sort of Rivendell-ish, Loki dresses up like Captain America while Thor breaks him out of jail ;) ...



And some of the movie is set in London, with shots of Stonehenge, Thor bouncing off The Pickle, and an alien attack at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich .....



Here's a review in The Guardian - Thor: The Dark World – first look review

And a trailer ...



Is it worth watching? If you read a lot of Thor comics as I did when a kid, you'll be happy enough :)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Joel Baden and Candida Moss on a married Jesus

In the news again, the possibility of Jesus having been married .

Two biblical scholars, Joel Baden and Candida Moss, have an article about it in The Atlantic, The Curious Case of Jesus’s Wife. The article begins with a review of the Karen King Gospel of Jesus' Wife event, but then it goes on to discuss the real impact of the idea of whether Jesus was married or not ...

Jesus’s bachelorhood is almost taken for granted today. In the Catholic tradition, his single status forms the basis for the theological argument that priests cannot marry. Those making this argument point to a simple, undeniable fact: the New Testament contains no mention at all of Jesus’s having been married.

That’s true as far as it goes. But as the Gospels present it, the biography of Jesus contains a gaping hole. None of the stories produced about him in the first century A.D.—stories with at least some potential to be accurate—tells us anything at all about his adolescence or 20s. During this time, was he employed, shy, heartbroken? Married or single? We have no way of knowing. One might assume that a man of that age living in ancient Palestine would have been married, but neither the Gospels nor the Apostle Paul has anything to say on the subject. The earliest Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, begins with Jesus in the final years of his life, on the banks of the River Jordan, poised to descend into the water for his baptism.

A great deal rides on this question of Jesus’s marital status. Over the centuries, and up to the present, how people have answered this question has served as a cipher in discussions about clerical celibacy ....


When the Karen King fragment became public there was a Catholic defense of a celibate Jesus. James Martin SJ tried to convince us that only as a single person could Jesus have made a "single-hearted commitment to God". I find this argument incoherent ... most (all?) of the apostles chosen by Jesus were married, and there are many examples of married people devoted to God and their neighbors, such as Albert Schweitzer.

This time it's David Gibson making the case for a celibate Jesus - Five reasons we want to believe Jesus was married - and it's still not very convincing to me. I guess for most Catholics (maybe most Christians?) the idea of a Jesus with a committed intimate relationship with another individual is just too cringe-inducing. I'm probably the exception in thinking it would have been a good thing.

But anyway, the Atlantic article goes on to discuss the academic world's conclusions about Karen King;s fragment, that it's probably a fake, but ...

Indeed, in the scholarly world of ancient history and ancient texts, little is truly unimaginable—because so little, in the end, is truly known. Despite the piles of evidence suggesting that the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife is a forgery, there remains the possibility, however slim, that it is authentic. So the question becomes this: How much historical reconstruction are scholars willing to stake on such narrow grounds? Or, alternatively: Even if the fragment were proved beyond a doubt to be authentic, could one small piece of papyrus really be so important as to fundamentally change our understanding of the past? The problem with reconstructing the distant past is that with so little evidence available, the discovery of even the tiniest pieces can lead to outsize ramifications. It’s a situation ripe for abuse. The more sensationally these sorts of discoveries are reported, the more such abuse we can expect.

Was Jesus married? I don't know. One thing I do know is that the Catholic Church doesn't know if he was married either.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Links

- Pope Francis calls for peace after series of Jerusalem attacks. My friend Dina has a post mentioning the recent violence in Jerusalem - The trip from hell

- Oliver Sacks writes about Night of the Ginkgo

- Reading the rather creepy New Affirmation on Marriage from a Vatican traditionalist conference on complementarity in marriage. Apparently those who adopt children don't have "real" families ... Why do weddings still move us? We do not become emotional when business partners strike a deal. We shed no tears at a friendly handshake. We feel no such joy to hear of “casual” mating. A wedding is different. Here stand a man and woman, entering together into a new life. And yet it is more than this. They are about to enter the generations. Their union proclaims life: their parents and grandparents still live within them. Humankind lives within them. The cultures and creeds of the world live within them. They are there—in the blood ...

- See the trailer for a film on the Vatican Museums (3D) ...


Saturday, November 15, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past



This week's movie rental was X-Men: Days of Future Past ...

a 2014 superhero film based on the fictional X-Men characters that appear in Marvel Comics. Directed by Bryan Singer, it is the seventh installment of the X-Men film series and acts as a sequel to both 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand and 2011's X-Men: First Class. The story, inspired by the 1981 Uncanny X-Men storyline "Days of Future Past" produced by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, focuses on two time periods and Wolverine going to 1973 to save the future of mankind. The film stars an ensemble cast, including Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart.

The film has Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) working together to send Wolverine's consciousness back 50 years to 1973 so that he can altar events that will cause, have caused, a terrible situation by 2023. It was kind of fun, the 1973 bit of the movie .... there was a new character introduced, Quicksilver, who had an incredible scene in which he moved so quickly that time for everyone else seemed to stand still, and as he did so, the Jim Coice "Time in a Bottle" song played in the background ;) There was another scene with a tv showing Captain Kirk in a Star Trek episode - heh ...


- "We're going backward in time."

But I was especially touched by the end of the movie which takes place in a remade 2023 .... those who had been lost were now found and the lion could lay down with the lamb ... Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, it doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. Sometimes we need a little help ... hope.

I don't know if non X-Men fans will like the film, but I grew up reading X-Men comics, so for me it was fun. Here's a review of the movie from the Guardian ... X-Men: Days of Future Past review - 'like trying to follow two games of chess at once'

And a trailer ...


Friday, November 14, 2014

In the Catholic news

- The Catholic bishops in Kenyan have opined that the tetanus vaccine given to women of reproductive age contains a chemical that would cause miscarriages, but it appears that the tests on which they're basing this incorrect assumption are flawed. Read a comprehensive article on the subject ... The tense standoff between Catholic bishops and the Kenyan government over tetanus vaccines

- The guy taking Cardinal Pell's place as Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, has been getting good press - Fisher of Men – In Sydney, This Is The Day The George Has Made - but when I think of him, I think of his conservative views on marriage and against condom use or even the giving of information about condoms to married couples with HIV (he's from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family), and the comments he made about two sex abuse victims, one of whom committed suicide ...

THE Pope's expected apology to victims of sexual abuse by priests has been sabotaged by a senior Australian bishop, who criticised people for "dwelling crankily on old wounds".

The bishop organising World Youth Day, Anthony Fisher, made the remarks in response to questions about two Melbourne women who were repeatedly raped by priest Kevin O'Donnell when they were pupils at Sacred Heart Primary School in Oakleigh from 1988 to 1993.

The case was detailed on ABC's Lateline on Tuesday, but Bishop Fisher told the World Youth Day daily media briefing that he had not seen the program. "Happily, I think most of Australia was enjoying, delighting in, the beauty and goodness of these young people … rather than dwelling crankily, as a few people are doing, on old wounds," he said ...


- On a more uplifting note ... Vatican announces plan to provide showers for homeless ...

The archbishop who distributes charity on behalf of Pope Francis has announced that the public restrooms in St. Peter's Square will include showers where the homeless can wash ...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Photos - rainy day

It's raining ....



A good thing for the plants because of the drought, but still it gets pretty swampy here ...



And the creatures are *not* happy ;) Here's a squirrel who is trying to hide from me ...



The stray cats are especially not happy. I got them a little cat igloo ....



And tried to make the admittedly leaky and drafty garage suitable for them with some old cat furniture ...



But they're having none of it. Here's one of them up on the roof ...


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ichabod Crane on the midterm elections

:)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Yard photos

So many leaves (to rake), so little time ...



The newest stray cat is a little kitten I call Mouse. He's too afraid for me to get very close to him ...



The rather squid-ish looking walnut tree. Eeeek! - it has an eye ;) ...


Sunday, November 09, 2014

Outside Looking In

Reading about Cardinal Burke losing his influential post made me think of the lyrics to an old song ... Timothy Leary is dead, no no no no, he's outside looking in ... and that made me think of The Moody Blues. Here's a concert by them at a pub in Paris in 1970 (sadly not embeddable). I don't like all the songs but I skipped to the ones I did :) and here's one of them from that concert ...


A couple of articles from The Atlantic

Watching an old episode of Frasier that dealt with marriage. At one point, Daphne's mother says this ... You young modern people think marriage is some sort of promenade through paradise, when it's more like a march through Hell with a man strapped to your back and a litter of nasty babies swinging from your teats!

Heh ;) I thought of that when I saw these two articles in The Atlantic today ...

- A recent study shows What makes for a stable marriage. Many factors involved ... interesting, for instance, how the more one spends on the wedding, the more likely one is to end up divorced.

- The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity. An interesting (and depressing and creepy) article on sex and marriage and gender roles ... it's about Evangelicals but it might just as well be about conservative Catholics ..... think Christopher West's Theology of the Body sex classes, JPII's "new" feminism, the US Bishop's resistance to contraception, the upcoming traditionalist marriage meeting at the Vatican ... eeeek!

In the NYT ...



James Carroll (Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age) ... Jesus and the Modern Man

[...] retrieval of the centrality of Jesus can restore a long-lost simplicity of faith, which makes Catholic identity — or the faith of any other church — only a means to a larger communion not just with fellow Jesus people, but with humans everywhere. All dogmas, ordinances and accretions of tradition must be measured against the example of the man who, acting wholly as a son of Israel, eschewed power, exuded kindness, pointed to one whom he called Father, and invited those bent over in the shadowy back to come forward to his table.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

War of the Worlds meets Groundhog Day



This week's movie rental was Edge of Tomorrow ...

a 2014 American science fiction film starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. Doug Liman directed the film based on a screenplay adapted from the Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The film takes place in the near future, where an alien race has invaded the Earth and defeated the world's military units. It follows Major William Cage (Cruise), a public relations officer inexperienced in combat, who is deployed into a combat mission against the aliens. Though Cage is killed in minutes, he finds himself starting over in a time loop, repeating the same mission and being killed. Each time, Cage learns to fight the aliens better, and he teams up with Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Blunt) to defeat them.

I liked it! Though it's pretty grim, there's a fair amount of humor as well, and I think Cruise does a really good job. The aliens are interesting too, both in the way they look and the way they move ... one scene of them taking over London via the Thames is quite creepy :)

You can read a review of the movie from The LA Times - Review 'Edge of Tomorrow,' Tom Cruise run loops around competition

And here's a trailer ...


'Please Don't Vote - A Message From The Republican Party'

If only what the guys in this video asked for hadn't come true - sigh :( Still, the video is funny in a depressing kind of way ....


Wednesday, November 05, 2014

No-cost annulments



In the news: Pope suggests no-cost annulments in divorce cases ... Yes! :)

Not being raised Catholic, my first introduction to annulments was when I was in RCIA. There was nothing taught about it in the classes, but before or after every meeting, the female facilitator of the classes would nag divorced me about applying for one ... you would think she was getting kickbacks. I did eventually visit my parish's marriage tribunal website to find out more. I was aghast at the byzantine labyrinth of legalisms but even worse was the cost. I had thought it might be around $50 for an annulment but it was $1000+! The word "scam" leapt to mind and I gave up on applying for an annulment.

Pope Francis said ...

We have to be careful that the procedure does not become some kind of business .... There have been public scandals. .... I had to dismiss a person from a tribunal some time ago who said: 'Give me $10,000 and I'll take care of both the civil and ecclesiastical procedures.' Please, not this! .... When you attach economic interests to spiritual interests, it is not about God .... The mother church has so much generosity it could provide justice free of charge.

Good for him!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Links



- It's election day ... go out and vote!!!!

- An interesting article on hell, heaven, and purgatory from Josep Giménez SJ here at Thinking Faith

- There's an article at NCR about Brittany Maynard's decision to end her life and the article asks whether suffering has value. I think the idea that suffering has some intrinsic value, that people like Brittany Maynard should embrace their suffering, is wrong and creepy. I believe David Bentley Hart and Karen Kilby would agree with me.

- Oh no :( Pope Francis to open Vatican conference on traditional marriage ... it looks to be another version of the infamous Manhattan Declaration thing. It's going to be chock full of conservatives from many different denominations and religions, including a rep from the Mormon church ... is it only me who finds it ironic that a spokesperson from a church that once advocates polygamy should talk at a traditional marriage fest?

- Here's an explanation of why Sleepy Hollow is better than Gotham. I've not watched Gotham but I love Sleepy Hollow! ....

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Snow Queen



I'm watching the current episodes of Once Upon a Time at Hulu and there's a new character - the Snow Queen. When I think of her I always remember the drawing by HJ Ford in the Pink Fairy Book. I once had all the differently colored fairy books and loved the art and the stories. But anyway, there's also a reindeer in this storyline ... I guess some of this is from the Disney movie, Frozen? ... and he we see Anna, the Snow Queen's sister, and her intended, Kristoff, and Sven the reindeer :) ...



Saturday, November 01, 2014

Heisting the Holy Grail



My latest book from the library is Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files, the most recent in the urban fantasy series about wizard/PI Harry Dresden (which has over 2000 reviews at Amazon - heh).

In this book, Harry is forced to sign on with the evil Nicodemus (who is actually a still living Judas,possessed by a fallen angel - it's a long story) to steal the Holy Grail from the underworld treasure trove of the Greek god Hades.



You can read the first chapter of the book here at Jim Butcher's site. In the beginning of that chapter, Harry is practicing parkour and I had to smile, remembering the anti-Romney election video by Joss Whedon that mentioned the zombie survival benefits of that activity ;) ...