Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Marriage equality and Óscar Romero

As William mentioned in a post, there is a happy confluence of events today ...

Ireland Votes to Approve Gay Marriage, Putting Country in Vanguard :) Many Irish out of the country returned to vote, including Hozier ...

Plus, Óscar Romero is beatified today - 6 Quotes That Prove Archbishop Oscar Romero Was The Kind Of Human We All Hope To Be - and this quote of his below from the Huffington Post article seems so relevant to the YES victory in Ireland ...

Friday, May 22, 2015

More photos

Misty the cat ...

The oleanders are blooming ...

Coral rose ...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ireland and marriage equality

Waiting to see what happens in Ireland's marriage equality vote tomorrow. I hope they vote YES. The hierarchy of the church is against it, but most Catholics and some priests too support a YES vote.

The continuing badness of Cardinal Pell

Senior Vatican official offered bribe to child sex abuse victim, inquiry hears ... David Ridsdale tells Australian inquiry that in 1993 he informed Cardinal George Pell about being abused and was offered money to buy his silence. (And PS - in Australia sex abuse victims are not allowed to sue the Catholic church for the abuse!)

This accusation will come as no surprise to those who have been watching Pell for some time. What is really mind-boggling is that Pope Francis has chosen him as one of his eight advisers and as the head of the Vatican's financial reforms.

Just to reiterate, Pell was the head of Vox Clara, the Vatican commission responsible for the much hated English translation of the missal (read Jesuit Philip Endean's Tablet article on the translation process), and he is a committed foe of conscience. One can also read an essay out about him - The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell by award-winning journalist David Marr (you can read an article by Marr on the book, with some extracts from it at ABC Religion & Ethics). Much of the essay has to do with Pell's handling of clergy sex abuse in Australia.

Here's a really good 2013 interview on ABC TV with Marr on Pell, sex abuse, and the money. It's harrowing but I strongly suggest watching it if you really want to know what kind of man Pell is ...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Photos: me, le skunk, roses

- Tee hee :) - a while ago a friend sent me an old distressed photo of us and others. Here's sleepy-looking me with the others cropped out (except for the dog, of course) ....

- There are skunks living under the house and they're getting so used to me now that sometimes they come out to eat cat food out while I'm there. The cats try to play with them ... eek! ... it reminds me of Pepé Le Pew ;) Here's one of them from this evening ...

- And some roses ...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

TV: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Ever since I had to give up tv service due to the expense, I've been trying to find worthy shows to rent from Netflix. The latest one I've tried was Fortitude ...

a British psychological thriller television series .... Fortitude is a fictional community located on Svalbard in Arctic Norway. It is described as an international community, with inhabitants from many parts of the world (Population 800 inhabitants and 4 police officers). The series was filmed in both the UK and at Reyðarfjörður, Iceland .... American actor Stanley Tucci appears in his first British television role as Detective Chief Inspector Morton from London's Metropolitan Police, who has flown to the peaceful close-knit community of Fortitude, as the local sheriff, played by Richard Dormer, investigates a violent murder.

I watched only one episode .... I think the show wants to be a better version of Insomnia. The icy landscapes were beautiful, but I just couldn't get myself to care enough about any of the characters to keep watching it.

A series I'm still watching (on set 3 now) and like pretty much is Foyle's War ...

a British detective drama television series set during and shortly after the Second World War, created by screenwriter and author Anthony Horowitz .... The first six series are set during the Second World War in Hastings, Sussex, England, where Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) attempts to catch criminals who are taking advantage of the confusion the war has created. He is assisted by his driver Samantha "Sam" Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks) and Detective Sergeant Paul Milner (Anthony Howell). From Series 7, it sees a retired Foyle working for MI5, navigating the world of Cold War espionage.

One series I've avoided is Game of Thrones. When I was a teen I read George Martin's medieval-ish fantasy books (from which the series is adapted) but I'm really tired of that genre ... I appreciate urban fantasy much more. From what I've seen in the news about the show, it's just as well I've not watched ... Irish Independent: Game of Thrones - has the sexual violence against women gone too far in the TV series? ... The Mary Sue: We Will No Longer Be Promoting HBO’s Game of Thrones

The shows that I've been consistently watching at HULU and that I love are three: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Once Upon a Time, and Sleepy Hollow (TIME: How I Lost My Head for Sleepy Hollow).

And I'm looking forward to future shows like Minority Report ...


- Job, Gerhard Marcks,

Today I saw an article at the British Jesuits' site by Peter Knott SJ on why bad stuff happens to good people, using the Book of Job as an example. I found the ideas in the article just awful, actually. Sometimes I despair of ever getting the Christian thing right. Here are some bits from the article, and how I felt about those bits ...

Godtalk: Why bad things can happen to good people

One of the most consoling texts of the Hebrew scriptures is the Book of Job, which concerns itself with the theme of why bad things happen to good people .... While he [Job] cavils at God's providential ordering of men's affairs and beats his fists in vain against the gates of heaven he finds no peace of mind or respite for his tortured soul. But when he humbly acknowledges that the right relationship of man to God is one of unquestioning obedience and acceptance of the world as it is, his troubled spirit is at rest and adversity or success has now no power to smite him down or raise him up.

The right relationship between us and God is unquestioning obedience? I disagree, and there are examples in the bible in which it doesn't work for others either, from Abraham arguing with God about Sodom and Gomorrah, to the Canaanite woman arguing with Jesus about her daughter. Unquestioning obedience is for slaves, not children, not friends.

He has learned that it is not through material things that man fulfils his being but in dependence and trust in God. The book is teaching us that suffering tests the quality of our faith. The epilogue, Job's final restoration to prosperity, gives the conclusion that he had emerged triumphantly from his testing time and receives his reward.

Holy mackerel - Job wasn't upset just because he lost some expensive possessions .... all of his children were murdered! How exactly does restoration work when particular children are killed and then replaced with different people?

Job's real sin is man's perennial sin of self-sufficiency, his partial and myopic view of life which sees no farther than his own concerns and questions the whole structure of God's government of the universe on the basis of his own limited experience.

What else can he do? If his actual personal experience is worthless in decision making and questioning, then we might as well forget the whole relationship with God thing, not to mention Ignatian discernment.

In the end Job wins through from his despair .... He finds peace of mind and spirit in a humble acceptance of his proper place in the scheme of things as a creature living by faith under a sovereign Creator whose ways are beyond man's understanding.

Stockholm syndrome, anyone?

[I]t is only in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ that the afflictions of Job reach their proper evaluation. We have reached the heart of the message of Job when we can simply echo St Paul's words: ‘… I am convinced that neither death, nor life …nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Rom. 8: 35-39.

I don't understand what this means. How does Jesus being killed and resurrected make Job's situation .... God making a bet with the devil that torturing Job won't make Job repudiate him .... understandable or ok?

Monday, May 18, 2015


- Irish Catholics Could Change History by Voting for Marriage Equality This Week ... This Friday the Irish look set to vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage. If they do, they’ll be casting off the mantle of oppressive and suffocating religious doctrine.

- How TV Sex Got Real

- Oliver Sacks Knows What It Really Means to Live

- Jude Law to play hard-line American pope in new TV series

- Pope Francis says good stuff about spiritual directors, but (more) bad stuff about women ... The Church needs ‘the feminine genius’, says Pope Francis

- Self-driving cars are coming to California. How I wish I could afford one of them! Google Self-Driving Cars to Hit the Road in California this Summer

- Sorry, Evo Psych Fans. Our Caveman Ancestors Probably Practiced Gender Equality.

- The children of supposedly celibate priests ... Bishops must support the children of priests

- Diary of a Madman. Will the new Mad Max movie be any good? I'm a fan of the old Mad Max movie, or at least the first two, and have seen them many times. Perhaps most non-fans imagine Max was a scary bad guy, but actually he was good - a cop in post-apocalyptic Australia whose wife and baby were murdered by a brutal motorcycle gang - it's no wonder he went a bit mad, but he was still able to care. Here he is with his dog :) trying to elude the bad guys ...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The church won't let a 10 year old rape victim get an abortion

Why A Pregnant 10-Year-Old Is Being Denied An Abortion ...

It's an unimaginably awful case — a 10-year-old girl is sexually assaulted by her stepfather and becomes pregnant. And, it gets worse, because Paraguay, her home country, prohibits all abortions unless a woman's life is in danger. Now, international human rights and health groups are condemning the government; both her mother and stepfather are in jail, and a little girl is five months pregnant. This child's plight is the latest battle between national governments that are heavily influenced by the Catholic Church's unrelenting anti-abortion stance and the human rights of victims of sexual violence ....

The United Nations issued a statement on Monday decrying the government's shoddy care of the girl and calling on officials to allow an abortion. “Despite requests made by the girl’s mother and medical experts to terminate this pregnancy, which puts the girl’s life at risk, the state failed to take measures to protect the health — as well as the physical and mental integrity — and even the life of the 10-year-old girl,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, The head of the Catholic Church in Paraguay has rejected criticism of his country's handling of the case of a 10-year-old girl who is pregnant after being raped ... Archbishop Valenzuela said the UN was promoting a culture of death by suggesting that the girl, who is around five months pregnant, be offered a pregnancy termination.

This isn't a unique case - a few years ago, the church took the same stance with a 9 year old rape victim whose life was in danger in Brazil, excommunicating her family and doctors when she got an abortion ...

The Church excommunicated the doctors who performed the procedure as well. "God's laws," said the archbishop, dictate that abortion is a sin and that transgressors are no longer welcome in the Roman Catholic Church. "They took the life of an innocent," Sobrinho told TIME in a telephone interview. "Abortion is much more serious than killing an adult. An adult may or may not be an innocent, but an unborn child is most definitely innocent. Taking that life cannot be ignored."

The church has no business making medical decisions for others - in both cases the doctors advised an abortion for the health of the mother. It's stuff like this that makes me hate the church.

Friday, May 15, 2015

B.B. King, RIP

B.B. King, Mississippi-born master of the blues, dies at 89

Here he is with Eric Clapton, playing "The Thrill Is Gone" ....

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A spiritual awakening

New research from the Pew Forum ...

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups.

The Atlantic has a story on this - American Religion: Complicated, Not Dead ... A new survey suggests that more people of all ages are choosing their own beliefs.

This reminded me of a book by history of Christianity scholar Diana Butler Bass ... Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening. She talks about her book in this video interview below. She sees the changes in religion not as sad or scary but as hopeful ....

Monday, May 11, 2015


- From the British Jesuits: Enjoyment without guilt

- At America magazine: Why 'Avengers' is So Much Better than 'Man of Steel' (And Why, for Catholics, It’s Important)

- Mormon Temple in West L.A. lets its landmark lawn turn brown. Will the Catholic churches here in drought-world do the same?

- Am I the only one intrigued by the Trivago guy? Nope :) ... What's the Deal With the Trivago Guy? Meet TV's Sloppy, Sexy Pitchman

- Written before the results of the UK election, this article was dead right about the SNP's win (I think Scottish independence would be a good thing) ... The End of Britain as We Know It?

- When the Catholic Church owns your doctor: The insidious new threat to affordable birth control

- So what's been happening to Fr. Roy Bourgeois since the Vatican excommunicated him for attending a woman's ordination? He's still trying to help women ... Rev. Bourgeois jailed in Washington, D.C., during sit-in at embassy

- To have a truly just church, Pope Francis must move beyond complementarity

- The Pope and Selfishness: Contradictions and Fictions

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Happy Mother's Day ...

Mama :) ...

More muzak

Song heard today on the muzak at Whole Foods :) ...

Friday, May 08, 2015

Questionable saint: Junipero Serra

From The Tablet: Questionable choice for next American saint

[...] Last Saturday Pope Francis described Serra as “one of the founding fathers of the United States, and a special patron of the Hispanic people of the country”.

Meanwhile Fr Vincenzo Criscuolo, a Franciscan from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said Serra was “a man of his times”.

Neither of these statements necessarily contradicts suggestions that, as the San Francisco Chronicle put it, “the missions were little more than concentration camps where California's Indians were beaten, whipped, maimed, burned, tortured and virtually exterminated by the friars”. But the paper's claims might prove difficult to reconcile with Francis’ comments about Serra’s “holiness” and “saintly example”.

When Spanish King Carlos III requested in 1780 that the California missions free the Indians, give them legal representation, and stop whipping them, Fr Serra’s responded "spiritual fathers should punish their sons, the Indians by blows... I don't see what law or reasoning my Indians should be exempt from being whipped…We can not free the Indians, relinquish directing their future, or give up the authority to use punishment."

In a letter to Spanish commander Fernando Rivera y Moncada, asking that a group of four Indians who attempted to escape Carmel Mission several times in 1775 be punished, Fr Serra requested, “… two or three whippings which Your Lordship may order applied to them… If your lordship does not have shackles, with your permission they may be sent from here. I think the punishment should last one month.”

So why canonise Blessed Serra and why do so now?

Fr Harvey Egan, a Jesuit and professor emeritus of theology at Boston College said in 2013 "Sainthood is often as much about politics and image as anything else." .... It is suggested that within 10 years half of American Catholics will be Hispanic/Latino. I think Francis and the Church think the canonisation will be a boost for Latinos – even though Serra was Spanish, not Latino – and a boost for Latino Catholicism at a time when increasing numbers are being attracted to Evangelical Churches ......

This reminds me of B16's comments in 2007 on a trip to Brazil that ... American Indians had been "silently longing" to become Christians 500 years ago.

I've remarked many times on the blog about how disillusioning it was for me as a new Catholic to read about the lives of the saints .... I finally had to come to the conclusion that most saints were not chosen because they were morally very good people but instead because their canonization would in some way benefit the institution of the church. It appears that Junipero Serra is an excellent example of this. People who like hagiography often respond that saints are only human like the rest of us, but if they are only human like the rest of us, why set them apart as saints in the first place? Oh right - PR.

More reading: To Some in California, Founder of Church Missions Is Far From Saint

Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Avengers, the Black Widow, and sexuality

The latest Avengers movie is in the news .... Avengers: Age of Ultron' to stay on top as 'Hot Pursuit' makes debut ... even Christians apparently like it ... Surprised by hope: Why Christians flocked to ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron,’ an atheist’s film

There's been talk about the movie related to sexuality. Some of the talk was critical about the dialogue in the film ... Is There Really a Rape Joke in Avengers: Age of Ultron? ... but most of the talk has been about the Black Widow ... The Avengers’ Black Widow Problem: How Marvel Slut-Shamed Their Most Badass Superheroine.

The issue came up on Saturday Night Live ...

For me (and many others) a creepy thing was the recent interview in which Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) and Chris Evans (Captain America) deemed the Black Widow a slut, a whore, and as having a prosthetic leg - ableism and slut-shaming ....

Perhaps this seems harmless to some but I'll let Spencer Kornhaber at The Atlantic make the case for why it's not ... Black Widow's Smurfette Problem

I'm still looking forward to seeing the movie and also the cross-over Ultron episode on the tv series Agents of Shield which I've been watching on Hulu ... Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Inside the tie-in to Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The church: seeing women as afterthoughts

Here's the beginning of Frank Bruni's New York Times' article, Catholicism Undervalues Women. The whole thing is really worth a read.

Like a Pringles vendor sounding an alarm about obesity, Pope Francis fashioned himself a feminist last week.

You are not reading The Onion.

It was an epic mismatch of messenger and message, and I say that as someone who is thankful for this pope, admires him greatly and believes that a change of tone even without a change in teaching has meaning and warrants celebration.

But a change of tone in defiance of fact should be flagged (and flogged) as such. And neither Pope Francis nor any other top official in the bastion of male entitlement known as the Vatican can credibly assert concern about parity between the sexes. Their own kitchen is much too messy for them to call out the ketchup smudges in anybody else’s.

Francis actually went beyond concern. He vented outrage, calling it a “pure scandal” that women didn’t receive equal pay for equal work.

He left out the part about women in the Roman Catholic Church not even getting a shot at equal work. Pay isn’t the primary issue when you’re barred from certain positions and profoundly underrepresented in others .....

What surprises and depresses me is that most Catholics, clergy and lay, are happy enough with their pope and happy enough with their church that the stuff mentioned in Bruni's article doesn't bother them at all.