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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Before we get all excited ...

about the idea of women deacons (Pray Tell), let us recall a few things .....

- that this was brought up a few months ago by Cardinal Kasper and that the "deaconesses" as he termed them, would bear no resemblance to male deacons in their duties and that they would not be sacramentally ordained but just blessed into their positions.

- and that the statement of Archbishop Zollitsch confirms what Kasper said ... The statement makes it clear that he is calling for a new office specifically for women rather than admission of women to the sacramental diaconate.

- and that even if we were talking about women as "real" deacons, it’s depressing to realize that women actually were deacons in the early church - all we would be doing is regaining what was lost.

- and as James Martin SJ points out (in this Episcopal Cafe post), even this truncated idea of "women deacons" is just an idea ... There's been no 'decision' made at all, not in Germany, not in the Vatican. Keep in mind that the Archbishop is only floating the idea.

The hierarchy doesn't seem to understand that throwing women a bone like this will not satisfy those who hope for equality in the church. As my blogging friend Todd comments at the Pray Tell link .... It seems like we’re just talking lay ecclesial ministry then ... I’m inclined to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Monday, April 29, 2013

On Heaven and Earth: women

I see that Leo Boff thinks Francis will fix what's wrong with the church, but I saw another article today about Francis and women that makes me pretty depressed. Yes, Francis is down with LT, and that's good thing after the last two anti-LT popes, but the problems facing the church aren't reserved to that one issue and the church will not be "fixed" for many people, especially women, LGBT people, and sex abuse victims, until those other issues are also addressed.

Will they be addressed? I don't think so. An example is given in an article at NCR, Pope Francis, women and 'chauvinism with skirts', that details Francis' views of women and their place in the church through the reading of his book On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century. One thing is clear from what he's written: he is a fan of JPII's view of women (i.e. 'new' feminism) which holds that women are ontologically different than men, women have a special nature that's defined by men, Jesus doesn't want women to be priests.

I don't doubt that these beliefs about women (and Jesus) held by conservative Catholics have their advantages - you can devalue half the population without taking any personal responsibility for injustice or the pain it causes.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

CS Lewis interview

Today I came upon CS Lewis' last given interview (two parts). Here's the beginning of part 1 .....

The Final Interview of C. S. Lewis
By Sherwood Eliot Wirt
Assist News Service – CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND (ANS) -- I drove to Cambridge, England, on May 7 [1963] to interview Mr. Clive Staples Lewis, author of The Screwtape Letters and one of the world’s most brilliant and widely read Christian authors. I hoped to learn from him how young men and women could be encouraged to take up the defense of the faith through the written word.

It was quickly evident that this interview was going to be different from any that I had ever been granted. I found Mr. Lewis in a wing of the brick quadrangle at Magdalene College, Cambridge University, where he is professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature. I climbed a flight of narrow, incredibly worn wooden steps, knocked at an ancient wooden door with the simple designation, “Prof. Lewis,” and was shown in by the housekeeper.

Passing through a simply furnished parlor, I came into a study that was quite Spartan in appearance. Professor Lewis was seated at a plain table upon which reposed an old-fashioned alarm clock and an old-fashioned inkwell. I was immediately warmed by his jovial smile and cordial manner as he rose to greet me; he seemed the classic, friendly, jolly Englishman. He indicated a straight-backed chair, then sat down, snug in his tweed jacket and two sweaters, and we were away .......

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Reckless and The Grays

My latest book from the library is Reckless, a fantasy novel by Cornelia Funke, who also wrote the Inkheart series. Here's the beginning of a review of the book in The Guardian ...

Warning! This book contains fairies. And dwarves. And elves. There's even talk of dragons. I apologise for being so blunt but there's no easy way to break this kind of news. Fantasy of this nature (with a very capital F) is Marmite stuff, and there's little that can be done to soften the impact if you're not a Fan.

Talking of capitalisation, I should really have given capitals to all the fantasy-world denizens listed above because that's what Funke has done, as if trying to ascribe nationalities to them. And it's not just the beings we're familiar with – she also does the same with her own creations, notably the Goyl, a humanoid race who provide the necessary strand of cold-blooded menace in the book. They are a species most notable for having stone for skin, which comes in many semi-precious varieties – a rather beautiful idea. Into this world step Jacob and Will, not brothers Grimm but brothers Reckless, following their father, John Reckless, who passed through a mirror in his study long ago and disappeared. As the novel gets moving, we learn that Jacob has in fact spent many years visiting the Mirrorworld, a place where he has made friends and enemies, worked, fought, killed and fallen in love. Now Will, discovering the secret of the mirror, has followed him and promptly been slashed by the claws of a Goyl, as a result of which he is slowly turning into one of the stone-skinned beasts and losing his personality in the process. Jacob, with the assistance of Will's girlfriend, Clara, and Fox, a shapeshifting girl, determines to prevent his brother's demise. What ensues is a fast-paced romp through the world of fairytales ...

I had retrieved another book from the library and tried it first - The Grays by Whitley Strieber - but it was just too creepy. I had read a book by Strieber years ago, The Wolfen (I posted about the movie made from this book here) and so I thought I might like The Grays but I guess I'm just not much of a horror fan anymore. Maybe, if I get up the courage, I'll try renting the movie starring Christopher Walken that was made from another of his books.

Friday, April 26, 2013

At San Francisco's Grace Cathedral

Rob Bell talks to Jane Shaw at Grace Cathedral - listen to the podcast here Towards the end he said something about the future of the Evangelical Churches that could really be applied to the US Catholic Church ....

I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn't work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized Evangelical subculture that was told we're were going to change the thing and they haven't. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And I think when you are in a part of the subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because that's very painful. So, you sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt that means you have to come face to face with [the fact that] some of the ways we've talked about God don't actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people. And we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. We've done it in the name of God and we need to repent.

Spring in the yard

I like spring - all the plants in the yard are happy. The downside, though, is that the grass never stops growing. Also, sadly, it's often the time when stray cats appear (or at least I think they're strays - it's hard to tell for sure). When I see them my compassion struggles with my personal dread ... I wonder "are they sick, lonely, hungry? But I so don't want a pet!" Then I go and donate to Alley Cat Allies to assuage my guilt :( Yesterday I looked out the window and saw this strange cat getting a drink. I said "Hi kitty" but he ran away ....

Thursday, April 25, 2013

France, the Church, the protests

Reading about the violent protests in France against marriage equality. I have some questions and an answer:

Are the protests about freedom of religion? I'd say no. Although it's assumed that all religious groups are against marriage equality in France, the Fédération protestante de France has issued a statement saying it will not protest against same-sex marriage. As for the Catholic Church, as this Bloomberg article mentions ...

France's historical connection to Catholicism doesn't have much bearing on the practices, beliefs or mores of the French themselves. A report by the Pew Research Center published in March showed that only about 15 percent of French Catholics considered their religion "very important," a lower level than in Germany, Italy and Spain, not to mention the U.S. The French also have the lowest record of church attendance, with only 9 percent of Catholics saying the attend every week.

Are the protests about protecting traditional marriage in France? Again, I believe not. More from the article ...

This surge to defend the sanctity of traditional marriage is all the more puzzling as French people, heterosexual or not, are increasingly unlikely to participate in the institution, even in its civil form. Hollande himself lives in the Elysee Palace in unmarried bliss with his partner Valerie Trierweller. And he had children with his previous long-term partner, Segolene Royal. None of this was even bruited as an impediment to his rise to lead the French state, probably because marriage is less and less of a consideration when it comes to child-rearing: almost 57 percent of kids born in France in 2012 had unmarried parents.

While conservative political motives are in part sustaining the protests, I think they're mainly about one thing: anti-gay bigotry. The French Catholic Church should distance itself from these violent protests - it already has enough badness to make up for.

Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?

I'm into season 3/4 now of Fringe and the episode I watched tonight, Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep? derives its title from the PK Dick novel which was adapted into Blade Runner :) Fringe's version of replicants are instead shapeshifters from the parallel universe: beings part human, part machine with mercury for blood (sounds very Terminatorish). One of the shapeshifters in this episode was played by actor Sebastian Roché (see above).

Meanwhile, there's still music to be listened to on Fringe as well :). Here Walter listens to Mozart's Requiem in a pose that imitates the Maxell cassette ad ...

But I like this clip better, in which he listens to the Marriage of Figaro and the Miami Vice theme :)

I'm going to miss this show.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


- Hopkins

This week's movie rental was Hitchcock. The movie starred Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and Scarlett Johansson, and is ...

a 2012 American biographical comedy-drama film directed by Sacha Gervasi and based on Stephen Rebello's non-fiction book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho .... Hitchcock centers on the relationship between director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville during the making of Psycho, a controversial horror film that became one of the most acclaimed and influential works in the filmmaker's career.

I was looking forward to seeing this as I've seen many of Hitchcock's movies. I've posted about some of them here ... Rebecca ... Notorious ... Vertigo ... I Confess ... and I've also seen Strangers ona Train, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, and Marne. I didn't like them all - some of the storylines, especially the way the women characters were written, were disturbing - but overall I liked most of those I've seen, I guess because they remind me of my grandfather.

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars in his review (sad to think I won't be able to rely on his reviews anymore). For those who plan to see the movie but don't know much about Hitchcock, there's an article in The Atlantic that's informative - Catching the References in 'Hitchcock,' From 'The Birds' to the Blondes

Here's a trailer ...

I think I'll look for some more of his movies at the library :)

David Bentley Hart ...

Talks he gave at the Biola Art Symposium 2013: Violence & Peace in Contemporary Art.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Yellow, orange, red. Uh oh, it looks like something's been eating the orange rose ;) ...

Where the Hell Is God?

There's an interview at US Catholic with Richard Leonard SJ, author of Where the Hell Is God?. Here's the introduction to the interview ...

At dawn on his birthday, October 24, 1988, Father Richard Leonard’s phone rang. It was his mother, telling him that his sister Tracey had been in a terrible car accident. Her neck broken and her spine crushed, Tracey became a quadriplegic at age 28.
At the time of her accident, Tracey Leonard was the kind of woman some people call a saint. A nurse, she had spent more than three years working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. When she returned to her native Australia, she worked in a remote aboriginal community. “My sister was an extraordinary person. This was not a woman who was frivolous or who wasn’t, even by Catholic standards, doing heroic things with her life. She was doing all of that,” says her brother.

That’s why Leonard, a Jesuit who lectures worldwide on film and faith, was blown away when he read the letters that friends and acquaintances sent his family. Some claimed Tracey must have offended God; others said God had blessed her by sending such terrible suffering her way.

Meanwhile Tracey was asking her brother to kill her.

From this furnace of suffering, Leonard wrote Where the Hell is God? (Paulist Press, 2010) in which he scrutinizes our attempts to make sense of God’s role in human misery.

And you can watch a video by Fr. Leonard on the subject here - it's really worth a watch.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Evidence of evil - Church Times ...

[...] If more evidence of inhumanity were needed, it was found in a shipwreck in the Philippines that damaged a stretch of protected coral reef. The ship, from China, was found to contain ten tonnes of frozen pangolin, the result of widespread poaching and slaughter of thousands of pangolin (often called scaly anteaters). Trade in the Asian species of pangolin has been illegal since 2002, and the sailors who survived the wreck face up to six years imprisonment. Their cargo is an example of disregard for the survival of this beautiful and now rare creature, simply because its meat is prized in China, and its scales, although merely keratin, are believed to have medicinal qualities. The pangolin's survival technique, curling itself into an impregnable ball, is useless against a human predator.

The definition of evil is complex and elusive, but here is one of its roots: a disregard for the consequences of satisfying one's desires, particularly when this harms the innocent, whether human or insectivore. The carefulness with which God regards his creation, which is the definition of good, is the opposite: "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? ...

I've been aware of the awful way animals are treated in China for years ... bear bile farms ... the poaching of Rhino horns ... the killing of tigers for their bones
... the use of dogs and cats as food. This is why I do my best to boycott any products from China.

You can see some videos of the Pangolin at the BBC.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Vocations, Pius, and the Shroud

- Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a friend of the pope's, says he believes Francis will open up the Vatican archive material on Pius XII. I hope he's right. I've had numerous posts on Pius XII and how he shouldn't be made a saint (like Catholic scholars write B16 about Pius XII) and the info in the archives might make clear why Pius is not canonization-worthy (or not - would the Vatican save incriminating material?). Here's Rabbi Skorka, who is more charitable about Pius than I am ...

- The UK Catholic public relations group, Catholic Voices, mentions there's a rise in religious vocations in the UK, 41 men wanting to be priests. This sounds good from a conservative pov (you know, married men and women need not apply) until you compare it with the number of people wanting to be priests in the Church of England ... I don't know the figures for this year, but in 2010, Andrew Brown wrote that the C of E had 600 men and women training to be priests in the UK.

- I missed that the pope had made a short video about the Shroud of Turin. There was a post about it at the Episcopal Cafe - Shroud of Turin and physics of resurrection. I've been intrigued by the shroud since I read a science fiction trilogy years ago about it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pope Francis and Fr. Roy Bourgeois

I see that Fr. Roy Bourgeois is going to ask Pope Francis to reconsider laicizing him ... Ousted priest appeals Pope Benedict’s decision. There's also a post at NCR about Fr. Bourgeois and Pope Francis.

And Fr. Bourgeois has an op-ed in the NYT - My Prayer: Let Women Be Priests. Here's some of it ...

[...] I am 74 years old. I first felt God calling me to be a priest when I was serving in the Navy in Vietnam. I was accepted into the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in New York and was ordained in 1972. After working with the poor of Bolivia for five years, I returned to the United States. In my years of ministry, I met many devout Catholic women who told me about their calling to the priesthood.

Their eagerness to serve God began to keep me awake at night. As Catholics, we are taught that men and women are created equal: “There is neither male nor female. In Christ you are one” (Galatians 3:28).

While Christ did not ordain any priests himself, as the Catholic scholar Garry Wills has pointed out in a controversial new book, the last two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, stressed that the all-male priesthood is “our tradition” and that men and women are equal, but have different roles.

Their reasons for barring women from ordination bring back memories of my childhood in Louisiana. For 12 years I attended segregated schools and worshiped in a Catholic church that reserved the last five pews for blacks. We justified our prejudice by saying this was “our tradition” and that we were “separate but equal.” During all those years, I cannot remember one white person — not a teacher, parent, priest or student (myself included) — who dared to say, “There is a problem here, and it’s called racism.”

Where there is injustice, silence is complicity. What I have witnessed is a grave injustice against women, my church and our God, who called both men and women to be priests. I could not be silent. Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against others, in the end, it is not the way of a loving God who created everyone of equal worth and dignity ....

I have but one simple request for our new pope. I respectfully ask that he announce to the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world: “For many years we have been praying for God to send us more vocations to the priesthood. Our prayers have been answered. Our loving God, who created us equal, is calling women to be priests in our Church. Let us welcome them and give thanks to God.”

I hope Francis will allow Fr. Bourgeois to remain a Martknoll priest in good standing. If Francis continues to allow guys like Bernard Law to remain in office but shows no mercy in the case of an exemplary priest like Fr. Bourgeois, I'm going to be bitterly disappointed in him.


Is that a little spider jumping on to the rose? ...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pope Francis and the discernment of spirits

There's a post at NCR - Battle with the devil: Pope Francis frames the fight in Jesuit terms - that attributes Francis' many mentions of the devil to his Jesuit education in the discernment of spirits. For those interested in reading more about the discernment of spirits, I have a past post on it. Here's what I wrote ...


As it gets closer to the memorial of Ignatius of Loyola, here's another post about Ignatian stuff ....

Perhaps the most important gift of Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises is the practice of the discernment of spirits. Ignatius believed that our thoughts, feelings, and moods arise not just from our own interior processes, but can also be the result of the influence of good/bad spirits leading us toward or away from God. Discernment allows us to figure out which voices we are listening to. I find the concept of the discernment of spirits very challenging because it takes for granted the idea that not only good but also evil exists in the world and that we can be influenced by both ......

St. Ignatius of Loyola began to learn about the discernment of spirits while convalescing from serious battle injuries. He noticed different interior movements as he imagined his future .... Ignatius believed that these interior movements were caused by “good spirits” and “evil spirits.” We want to follow the action of a good spirit and reject the action of an evil spirit. Discernment of spirits is a way to understand God’s will or desire for us in our life.

Talk of good and evil spirits may seem foreign to us. Psychology gives us other names for what Ignatius called good and evil spirits. Yet Ignatius’s language is useful because it recognizes the reality of evil. Evil is both greater than we are and part of who we are. Our hearts are divided between good and evil impulses. To call these “spirits” simply recognizes the spiritual dimension of this inner struggle.
- Introduction to Discernment of Spirits

The one book I own that's specifically about the discernment of spirits, Spirit of Light or Darkness? by Jules Toner SJ, has this to say on the subject ....

"What is meant by "spirits" in this context? By that term we refer to the Holy Spirit and to created spiritual beings (angels, Satan, and demons). There are some who question the reality of created spiritual beings .... Ignatius without doubt was sure of their reality, and we will speak from his point of view. But is there any reason for us to concern ourselves with any spirit other than the Holy Spirit? With the good angels, no: for whatever way they would influence us would be what the Holy Spirit wants them to do. About evil spirits, however, we need to concern ourselves very much. Most of the rules [Ignatius' rules for the discernment of spirits] are taken up with discerning when the evil spirit is acting upon us and how to defeat him. In the context of our study, the term "evil spirit" will be extended to include not only evil spirits in the proper sense of the term, that is, created personal immaterial beings, but also the dispositions of evil within ourselves, the evil structures of society, all that can be a source of inner movements (of thoughts, affective feelings, and affective acts) contrary to what the Holy Spirit wishes to work in our lives through faith, hope, and love. The term will not include in its meaning those antispiritual movements themselves. Some commentators seem to understand evil spirit to mean such movements; They seriously misrepresent Ignatius's thought by doing so."

Most spiritual directors, I think, would tend to emphasize the good and bad spirits Ignatius writes of as metaphor for psychological states, but here's an interesting bit from JP Meier's A Marginal Jew, as published in Jesuit spiritual director William Barry's book With an Everlasting Love .....

... it is important to realize that, in the view of Jesus, . . . human beings were not basically neutral territories that might be influenced by divine or demonic forces now and then. . . . human existence was seen as a battlefield dominated by one or the other supernatural force, God or Satan (alias Belial or the devil). A human being might have a part in choosing which "field of force" would dominate his or her life, i.e., which force he or she would choose to side with. But no human being was free to choose simply to be free of these supernatural forces. One was dominated by either one or the other, and to pass from one was necessarily to pass into the control of the other. At least over the long term, one could not maintain a neutral stance vis-à-vis God and Satan.

For more on how William Barry SJ sees the discernment of spirits, take a look at How Do I Know I’m Experiencing God?, an excerpt from his book A Friendship Like No Other, posted at the Loyola Press Ignatian Spirituality site.

What made me think of posting on this subject was an article I read yesterday at The Way, a Jesuit spirituality journal, by Fr. Robert Marsh SJ - Discernment of Spirits: A Cosmological View. You can read or download it here.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Some links

- New Zealand chooses marriage equality :) the song they sing is Māori ...

- An interesting post at the NYT's philosophy blog on HP Lovecraft. Can't read the name Lovecraft without thinking Cthulhu :) ....

- I'm signed up for Rob Bell's What We Talk About When We Talk About God at the library, but in the meantime, here's Bell speaking at Vanderbilt University on the book. He's an interesting guy :) There's quite a bit of introduction so click on the video at about 14:45 minutes in to skip to where Bell actually begins speaking ...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Is Vatican II enough?

Catholics are excited to see that Francis has said Vatican II was “beautiful work of the Holy Spirit” but some “wish to turn the clock back”. I'm happy about this too, but it's a sad commentary on the last couple of papacies that the present Pope's endorsement of a Council of fifty years ago is met with such joy. Some have said that all the reform the church needs is a fulfillment of the promise of the Second Vatican Council. I wish I could agree - yes, V2 made great strides, but a lot of topics were not addressed at all (clerical celibacy, women's ordination, sex abuse) or were taken out of its hands by the pope (birth control). Those and other important issues are not just going to go away because we finally have a pope who isn't trying to rewrite history.

Broken tree

It's been very windy here and a tall dead cottonwood tree in the yard broke in half, the top half fortunately getting caught in some other trees instead of going into the street. My chore of the day: saw up the broken-off part ....

If dead timber was gold I'd be wealthier than Bill Gates ;)

Monday, April 15, 2013


Watching Fringe, I'm reminded of Timeline (and the movie of the same name, starring Scottish actor Gerard Butler). It tells of archaeologists/historians who travel (via a quantum foam wormhole - see IBM and Caltech on quantum teleportation) not into the past but to another universe in the multiverse with a 14th century so like ours as to be indistinguishable (read more at Scientific American - The Case for Parallel Universes).

One of the few to discuss the multiverse and God is Keith Ward, as in his Tablet article, The Quantum Leap, and his Gresham College lecture, Cosmology and Creation, and he also discusses the subject in his book The Big Questions in Science and Religion.

Here's an excerpt from Timeline, starting at page 123. A scientist, Gordon, tells some archaeology/history students that by using a new technology created by his firm (ITC), their professor has become lost in what appears to be the medieval past, - to make them understand, Gordon has to explain about quantum physics and the multiverse. I *almost* get it ;) ......


"You mean time travel," Marek said.

"No," Gordon said. "I don't mean time travel at all. Time travel is impossible. Everyone knows that."

"The very concept of time travel makes no sense, since time doesn't flow. The fact that we think time passes is just an accident of our nervous systems - of the way things look to us. In reality, time doesn't pass; we pass. Time itself is invariant. It just is. Therefore, past and future aren't separate locations, the way New York and Paris are separate locations. And since the past isn't a location, you can't travel to it."

They were silent. They just stared at him.

"It is important to be clear about this," Gordon said. "The ITC technology has nothing to do with time travel, at least not directly. What we have developed is a form of space travel. To be precise, we use quantum technology to manipulate an orthogonal multiverse coordinate change."

They looked at him blankly.

"It means," Gordon said, "that we travel to another place in the multiverse."

"And what's the multiverse?" Kate said.

"The multiverse is the world defined by quantum mechanics. It means that - "

"Quantum mechanics?" Chris said. "What's quantum mechanics?"

Gordon paused. "That's fairly difficult. But since you're historians," he said, "let me try to explain it historically."

"A hundred years ago," Gordon said, "physicists understood that energy - like light or magnetism or electricity - took the form of continuously flowing waves. We still refer to 'radio waves' and 'light waves.' In fact, the recognition that all forms of energy shared this wavelike nature was one of the great achievements of nineteenth-century physics.

"But there was a small problem," he said. It turned out that if you shined light on a metal plate, you got an electric current. The physicist Max Planck studied the relationship between the amount of light shining on the plate and the amount of electricity produced, and he concluded that energy wasn't a continuous wave. Instead, energy seemed to be composed of individual units, which he called quanta. "The discovery that energy came in quanta was the start of quantum physics," Gordon said.

"A few years later, Einstein showed that you could explain the photoelectric effect by assuming that light was composed of particles, which he called photons. These photons of light struck the metal plate and knocked off electrons, producing electricity. Mathematically, the equations worked. They fit the view that light consisted of particles. Okay so far?"

"Yes. . . ."

"And pretty soon, physicists began to realize that not only light, but all energy was composed of particles. In fact, all matter in the universe took the form of particles. Atoms were composed of heavy particles in the nucleus, light electrons buzzing around on the outside. So, according to the new thinking, everything is particles. Okay?"

"Okay. . . ."

"The particles are discrete units, or quanta. And the theory that describes how these particles behave is quantum theory. A major discovery of twentieth-century physics."

They were all nodding.

"Physicists continue to study these particles, and begin to realize they're very strange entities. You can't be sure where they are, you can't measure them exactly, and you can't predict what they will do. Sometimes they behave like particles, sometimes like waves. Sometimes two particles will interact with each other even though they're a million miles apart, with no connection between them. And so on. The theory is starting to seem extremely weird.

"Now, two things happen to quantum theory. The first is that it gets confirmed, over and over. It's the most proven theory in the history of science. Supermarket scanners, lasers and computer chips all rely on quantum mechanics. So there is absolutely no doubt that quantum theory is the correct mathematical description of the universe.

"But the problem is, it's only a mathematical description. It's just a set of equations. And physicists couldn't visualize the world that was implied by those equations - it was too weird, too contradictory. Einstein, for one, didn't like that. He felt it meant the theory was flawed. But the theory kept getting confirmed, and the situation got worse and worse. Eventually, even scientists who won the Nobel Prize for contributions to quantum theory had to admit they didn't understand it.

"So, this made a very odd situation. For most of the twentieth century, there's a theory of the universe that everyone uses, and everyone agrees is correct - but nobody can tell you what it is saying about the world."

"What does all this have to do with multiple universes?" Marek said.

"I'm getting there," Gordon said.

Many physicists tried to explain the equations, Gordon said. Each explanation failed for one reason or another. Then in 1957, a physicist named Hugh Everett proposed a daring new explanation. Everett claimed that our universe - the universe we see, the universe of rocks and trees and people and galaxies out in space - was just one of an infinite number of universes, existing side by side.

Each of these universes was constantly splitting, so there was a universe where Hitler lost the war, and another where he won; a universe where Kennedy died, and another where he lived. And also a world where you brushed your teeth in the morning, and one where you didn't. And so forth, on and on and on. An infinity of worlds.

Everett called this the "many worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics. His explanation was consistent with the quantum equations, but physicists found it very hard to accept. They didn't like the idea of all these worlds constantly splitting all the time. They found it unbelievable that reality could take this form.

"Most physicists still refuse to accept it," Gordon said. "Even though no one has ever shown it is wrong."

Everett himself had no patience with his colleagues' objections. He insisted the theory was true, whether you liked it or not. If you disbelieved his theory, you were just being stodgy and old-fashioned, exactly like the scientists who disbelieved the Copernican theory that placed the sun at the center of the solar system - and which had also seemed unbelievable at the time. "Because Everett claimed the many worlds concept was actually true. There really were multiple universes. And they were running right alongside our own. All these multiple universes were eventually referred to as a 'multiverse.' "

"Wait a minute," Chris said. "Are you telling us this is true?"

"Yes," Gordon said. "It's true."

"How do you know?" Marek said.

"I'll show you," Gordon said. And he reached for a manila file that said "ITC/CTC Technology."

He took out a blank piece of paper, and began drawing. "Very simple experiment, it's been done for two hundred years. Set up two walls, one in front of the other. The first wall has a single vertical slit in it."

He showed them the drawing.

"Now you shine a light at the slit. On the wall behind, you'll see - "

"A white line," Marek said. "From the light coming through the slit."

"Correct. It would look something like this." Gordon pulled out a photo on a card.

Gordon continued to sketch. "Now, instead of one slit, you have a wall with two vertical slits in it. Shine a light on it, and on the wall behind, you see - "

"Two vertical lines," Marek said.

"No. You'll see a series of light and dark bars." He showed them:

"And," Gordon continued, "if you shine your light through four slits, you get half as many bars as before. Because every other bar goes black."

Marek frowned. "More slits mean fewer bars? Why?"

"The usual explanation is what I've drawn - the light passing through the slits acts like two waves that overlap. In some places they add to each other, and in other places they cancel each other out. And that makes a pattern of alternating light and dark on the wall. We say the waves interfere with each other, and that this is an interference pattern."

Chris Hughes said, "So? What's wrong with all that?"

"What's wrong," Gordon said, "is that I just gave you a nineteenth-century explanation. It was perfectly acceptable when everybody believed that light was a wave. But since Einstein, we know that light consists of particles called photons. How do you explain a bunch of photons making this pattern?"

There was silence. They were shaking their heads.

David Stern spoke for the first time. "Particles aren't as simple as the way you have described them. Particles have some wavelike properties, depending on the situation. Particles can interfere with one another. In this case, the photons in the beam of light are interfering with one another to produce the same pattern."

"That does seem logical," Gordon said. "After all, a beam of light is zillions and zillions of little photons. It's not hard to imagine that they would interact with one another in some fashion, and produce the interference pattern."

They were all nodding. Yes, not hard to imagine.

"But is it really true?" Gordon said. "Is that what's going on? One way to find out is to eliminate any interaction among the photons. Let's just deal with one photon at a time. This has been done experimentally. You make a beam of light so weak that only one photon comes out at a time. And you can put very sensitive detectors behind the slits - so sensitive, they can register a single photon hitting them. Okay?"

They nodded, more slowly this time.

"Now, there can't be any interference from other photons, because we are dealing with a single photon only. So: the photons come through, one at a time. The detectors record where the photons land. And after a few hours, we get a result, something like this."

"What we see," Gordon said, "is that the individual photons land only in certain places, and never others. They behave exactly the same as they do in a regular beam of light. But they are coming in one at a time. There are no other photons to interfere with them. Yet something is interfering with them, because they are making the usual interference pattern. So: What is interfering with a single photon?"


"Mr. Stern?"

Stern shook his head. "If you calculate the probabilities - "

"Let's not escape into mathematics. Let's stay with reality. After all, this experiment has been performed - with real photons, striking real detectors. And something real interferes with them. The question is, What is it?"

"It has to be other photons," Stern said.

"Yes," Gordon said, "but where are they? We have detectors, and we don't detect any other photons. So where are the interfering photons?"

Stern sighed. "Okay," he said. He threw up his hands.

Chris said, "What do you mean, Okay? Okay what?"

Gordon nodded to Stern. "Tell them."

"What he is saying is that single-photon interference proves that reality is much greater than just what we see in our universe. The interference is happening, but we can't see any cause for it in our universe. Therefore, the interfering photons must be in other universes. And that proves that the other universes exist."

"Correct," Gordon said. "And they sometimes interact with our own universe."

"I'm sorry," Marek said. "Would you do that again? Why is some other universe interfering with our universe?"

"It's the nature of the multiverse," Gordon said. "Remember, within the multiverse, the universes are constantly splitting, which means that many other universes are very similar to ours. And it is the similar ones that interact. Each time we make a beam of light in our universe, beams of light are simultaneously made in many similar universes, and the photons from those other universes interfere with the photons in our universe and produce the pattern that we see."

"And you are telling us this is true?"

"Absolutely true. The experiment has been done many times."

Marek frowned. Kate stared at the table. Chris scratched his head.

Finally David Stern said, "Not all the universes are similar to ours?"


"Are they all simultaneous to ours?"

"Not all, no."

"Therefore some universes exist at an earlier time?"

"Yes. Actually, since they are infinite in number, the universes exist at all earlier times."

Stern thought for a moment. "And you are telling us that ITC has the technology to travel to these other universes."

"Yes," Gordon said. "That's what I'm telling you."


"We make wormhole connections in quantum foam."

"You mean Wheeler foam? Subatomic fluctuations of space-time?"


"But that's impossible."

Gordon smiled. "You'll see for yourself, soon enough."

"We will? What do you mean?" Marek said.

"I thought you understood," Gordon said. "Professor Johnston is in the fourteenth century. We want you to go back there, to get him out."


Sunday, April 14, 2013

By the sea

Gospel reading for today - the disciples go fishing and, in one of his post-resurrection appearances, Jesus makes a snack for them, makes Peter sad, and says something strange about John. The Gospel of John movie version of this part really touched me. Start watching at about 2:40:45 ...


Why Does Music Feel So Good?. A lot of the music I hear is heard accidentally: muzak at the store or that shows up on whatever movie or tv program I'm watching. Here are a couple of the latest :) - this from the White Tulip episode of Fringe ...

And this from Whole Foods muzak ....

Friday, April 12, 2013

Brother Guy

A recent podcast from the Irish Jesuits by Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno SJ .... 'EYES TO THE HEAVENS'. You can read more about Guy at Wikipedia. I wrote about his book in 2006 - Brother Astronomer .

From the podcast ...

There's a misconception out there that science is one way of obtaining fact and knowledge and faith is another way of obtaining facts and knowledge, and inevitably they're going to conflict, but neither of those things are true. We learn science in a classroom out of a big book of facts, but that's not what science is. The actual activity of science is the conversation we have about the things we don't understand in what data we have, and finding out maybe the data really aren't telling us what we thought they were. In the same way, faith is not something where I'm closing my eyes and I'm believing this because somebody told me. It's even with my eyes wide open, I don't know nearly enough to make the decisions that I have to make anyway.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My day

- mouse lemur

Hours of mowing and weed-eating (and sneezing) - I learned it's hard to disassemble and reassemble a weed-eater when you can't see very well, and what are those horrible sticky plants that are taking over everything - Cleavers?

Some time spent watching a video colloquium ... Cosmic Liturgy: The Vision of Alejandro García-Rivera

And a few minutes gazing at photos of baby mouse lemurs form the Duke Lemur Center :) You can watch some video clips of mouse lemurs at the BBC

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Some links

- Thoughts on the new pope by the head of Communion and Liberation. Some have wondered about the relationship between Francis and CL, so I thought this was interesting.

- An Evening with Cardinal Schönborn. A recent talk by him at the National Gallery in London.

- The Church of England has produced a new document, "Men and women in marriage". Thinking Anglicans has info on it with many links, and Bishop Alan Wilson has a good post on it - Gay Marriage: Must Try Harder.

- Marilyn McCord Adams writes about Jesus and exorcism - Strange exorcists

Monday, April 08, 2013

What I saw today ...

- MAGGIE AND ME: HOW THATCHER CHANGED BRITAIN. Until reading this, I didn't know much about Thatcher, but she appears to have governed like a cross between Ronald Reagan and George Bush - yikes!

- If the Catholic Church is serious about welcoming gays. ...

If Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Catholic Church are serious about showing that God loves gay, lesbian and transgendered Catholics, what practical actions can give life to their words? Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an organization of gay and lesbian Catholics. and Mary Ellen Lopata, a founder of Fortunate Families, which represents Catholic parents of gay and lesbian children, suggest six things Catholic leaders can do ...

- I'm still watching Fringe, in which the parallel universe has zeppelins that dock at the Empire State Building :) ...

- a song for snails ...

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Dohány Street Synagogue

Today I learned about the beautiful Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest from an article by Giles Fraser - Why Theodor Herzl's writings still have an urgent message Here's a bit about the synagogue with some pics from Wikipedia ....

The synagogue was built between 1854 and 1859 in the Moorish Revival style, with the decoration based chiefly on Islamic models from North Africa and medieval Spain (the Alhambra). The synagogue's Viennese architect, Ludwig Förster, believed that no distinctively Jewish architecture could be identified, and thus chose "architectural forms that have been used by oriental ethnic groups that are related to the Israelite people, and in particular the Arabs". The interior design is partly by Frigyes Feszl. The Dohány Street Synagogue complex consists of the Great Synagogue, the Heroes' Temple, the graveyard, the Holocaust memorial and the Jewish Museum, which was built on the site on which Theodore Herzl's house of birth once stood. Dohány Street itself, a leafy street in the city center, carries strong Holocaust connotations as it constituted the border of the Budapest Ghetto.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

A few links

- Meditations on Holy Week and Easter ... nine addresses plus the Easter Sunday homily at Salisbury Cathedral by Sarah Coakley

- a talk by Duke NT professor Mark Goodacre on "Myths of Mary and the Married Jesus" ....

- Fr. Tom Doyle OP, J.C.D on the sex abuse problem ....

Fr. Thomas P. Doyle from Multimedia Services on Vimeo.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Seal hunts

- my hero :)

Learn more about seal hunting if you've got the stomach for it.

Married priests in the UK?

In the news a few days ago ... Catholic MPs urge Pope Francis to allow ordination of married men ....

Catholic peers and MPs have written to Pope Francis asking him to consider permitting bishops in the United Kingdom to ordain married men as priests. The parliamentarians, led by Rob Flello MP and Lord Alton of Liverpool argue in their letter that it is anomalous that married Anglican priests can be received into the Catholic Church and ordained as Catholic priests but married Catholic men cannot do the same. The 21 parliamentarians from all political parties suggest that “if the celibacy rule were relaxed, there would be many others who would seek ordination bringing great gifts to the priesthood.”

The rest of the article is about why Pope Francis will probably not go for this idea, based on what he's said in the past on the subject of celibacy. I hope he changes his mind.

Brown Betty and White Tulip

Still watching Fringe and liking it more and more. There were two so interesting episodes on this week's disk.

One was Brown Betty ...

The episode begins with Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) [Harvard scientist released from an insane asylum to help the FBI] smoking his own strain of marijuana called "Brown Betty" while Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) [FBI agent] attempts to find his son, Peter (Joshua Jackson), who disappeared at the end of the previous episode after learning Walter stole him from a parallel universe. Because Dunham's sister Rachel (Ari Graynor) is unavailable, she brings her niece Ella (Lily Pilblad) to the lab for Walter and Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) to look after. To pass the time, Walter tells Ella a detective noir story in which Olivia is a private investigator.

At one point in the story Walter tells the little girl, Olivia the detective visits the fictional Walter's lab, where he shows her his inventions: bubble gum, flannel pajamas, rainbows, and singing corpses :) ...

But an earlier episode made more of an impression on me - White Tulip. Peter Weller (RoboCop/Buckaroo Banzai) played a scientist who masters time travel so he can go to the past to save his girlfriend from a fatal car accident. Walter tries to persuade Weller's character from changing the timeline by telling him of how he had stolen the child Peter from a parallel universe when his own son, this universe's version of Peter, had died. Walter said that through his guilt he had come to believe in God and had asked God to forgive him, showing that forgiveness with a white tulip. Weller's character tells Walter God doesn't exist and he goes ahead with his time travel plans, but with some changes - he doesn't save his girlfriend but instead decides to die with her, and before he goes, he has an envelope delivered to Walter containing a white tulip.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Roger Ebert on God

Sad to see that Roger Ebert has died. He's known for his movie reviews but he also wrote about religion. His most recent post on this (I think) was How I am a Roman Catholic (March 1, 2013). He wrote at more length in this 2009 post ...

How I believe in God

[...] I was an altar boy. Even in the dead of winter I rode my bike to church to serve at the early morning mass. In those days parents thought nothing of a grade school kid riding his bike all over town. One morning early in my service I got confused and didn't have the water and wine where they were required. I was maybe nine or ten When we got back to the sacristy, I burst into tears and Father McGinn took me on his lap and comforted me and said God knew I had done my best. If a priest did that today, he would be arrested, but no priest or nun ever treated me with other than love and care.


Catholicism made me a humanist before I knew the word. When people rail against "secular humanism," I want to ask them if humanism itself would be okay with them. Over the high school years, my belief in the likelihood of a God continued to lessen .... Did I start calling myself an agnostic or an atheist? No, and I still don't. I avoid that because I don't want to provide a category for people to apply to me. I would not want my convictions reduced to a word. Chaz, who has a firm faith, leaves me to my beliefs. "But you know you're one or the other," she says. "I have never told you that," I say. "Maybe not in so many words, but you are," she says.

But I persist in believing I am not. During in all the endless discussions on several threads of this blog about evolution, intelligent design, God and the afterworld, now numbering altogether around 3,500 comments, I have never said, although readers have freely informed me I am an atheist, an agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist--which I am. If I were to say I don't believe God exists, that wouldn't mean I believe God doesn't exist. Nor does it mean I don't know, which implies that I could know ......

RIP, Roger.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Equal footing as disciples

I've been cautiously optimistic about the new pope - sure, I love that he's humble, that he cares about the poor. But I've been waiting to see what he does about some important issues before I decide about him. As Grant Gallicho writes at Commonweal ...

[...] Nearly all the younger Catholics I talked with brought up four issues without prompting: homosexuality, the sexual-abuse scandal, tolerance, and women. “The church should be more accepting,” a teenager told me. Of what? “Gay marriage.” A secondary-school teacher said that “the biggest challenge Francis faces is making the church safe for children.” A college student raised in the Philippines recalled dinners her parents would host featuring members of several religious traditions. “There were no arguments. People got along. We need more of that.” The church “keeps women down,” a high-schooler flatly declared.

In a post at dotCommonweal, Grant zeros in on the "women" issue - Francis: women are first communicators of the Resurrection.. Some are saying that the pope's couple of references to women's "fundamental" and "special" role in the church are strides forward. But these words of Francis ...

[T]his is the mission of women, of mothers and women [grandmothers?], to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen! Mothers go forward with this witness! What matters to God is our heart, if we are open to Him, if we are like trusting children. But this also leads us to reflect on how in the Church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord ...

... seem to me an affirmation of the church's traditional attitude about women and their role - we're "special" - translation: we will never be allowed equal footing as disciples.


Alternative Scruffy.?

I don't know if this is Scruffy or Alternative Scruffy. One day I saw two of Scruffy together in the yard and now I'm never sure if the one I see alone is Scruffy ;)

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Easter and cats

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG preached an Easter sermon informed by the adoption of a new cat, his other having died last year.

[...] That, my friends, is the unanimous testimony of Scripture, words from long ago. But there is other testimony closer to us — as close as our hearts, if we will listen to God speaking in them and through them, assuring us that death is not the end. Death is simply part of the disorder that God put right in Jesus Christ. We will all still die — we will see, many of us, our parents, our friends, sometimes even our children, pass beneath the shadow of death. Some of us have already seen these things. But those of us who trust in God rely on the assurance of things not seen — of the hope of the resurrection, the restoration of order where all things were disorder, the lifting up of that which has fallen down, the raising up of that which had been buried ...

Here is the new cat ...


I've been borrowing my sister's computer and last night I found a video file on it - one of my cat Kermit from shortly before she died in 2008.  Kermit was looking out the window while I prepared her subcutaneous fluids.  While my sister waited for me, she started filming Kermit.  That's me talking in the background to my sister  about LOTR.  The video lasts for a few minutes but Blogger would only let me upload a few seconds of it.  So strange and kind of sad to see Kermit alive.  Miss her!

Monday, April 01, 2013


There was a post at dotCommonweal asking people how they had celebrated their Easter and all the comments were about attending church services. I guess that's to be expected but it made me realize how outside the Catholic and Christian perimeter I am. I actually looked for my old RCIA stuff, like this leaflet from my Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion ceremony, to remind myself I had really once been churched ....

It's not easy being a Christian (or a Catholic) when you don't go to church, when you have no RL Christian peeps, but it does make you ask yourself some questions about why you trudge on. I just know I can't bear to go back to what life was like before I made that retreat, that I don't want to give up on the tenuous relationship I keep trying to have with Jesus/God. So anyway, my Easter was spent watching a video on the 4th week of the Spiritual Exercises, watching a Jesus movie, and exchanging chocolate with my sister :)

Here's the video I mentioned ...