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Monday, March 31, 2014

I love spring

It's raining today here in drought-land and the plants are all very happy, especially the periwinkle ...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Photo of a rose

It's starting to get tattered but somehow it still looks beautiful, at least to my bad eyes ...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cosmos: Sagan, Tyson, and science vs religion

I've been watching episodes of Cosmos on the computer (you can watch episodes for free here) and in the second episode the 16th century burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno by the Inquisition was mentioned. There was a post about this at America magazine's In All Things, Here's a bit of it ...

[...] Where Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” began with the ancient Greeks, whose wonder at the marvels of the heavens led them to ask questions about the world around them, Neil deGrasse Tyson begins his history with a long animated sequence on Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for heresy in 1600 AD. Many others have already pointed out the historical fallacies in Tyson’s portrayal of Bruno as a modern freethinker martyred by the oppressive forces of Christianity, and these misrepresentations are indeed significant. But I think this loses the forest for the trees.

To my mind, the real issue is that where Sagan wanted “Cosmos” to introduce everyone to our marvelous universe, Tyson’s remake is a triumphalist exaltation of the power of science, and this is the true poverty of the new “Cosmos.” In Tyson’s “Cosmos,” true discovery begins with the Renaissance and the last 400 years of history are seen through the lens of an immense struggle between progressive Science and the oppressive forces of Religion. In this “new-atheist” vision, we now know so much about our universe that we have no need for God and should instead allow Science to take its rightful place as the true path to knowledge and human security ...

Just wanted to make a couple of comments ...

First ..... Carl Sagan's earlier version of Cosmos *did* obliquely mention the "immense struggle between progressive Science and the oppressive forces of Religion" in an episode about the murder of Hypatia by followers of Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria (later made a saint) ...

For those interested, I had a post on the film about Hypatia (starring Rachel Weisz) here..

Second ...... There's no pint in having a thin skin about the Inquisition. No amount of spinning by Catholic apologists will make it non-scandalous, much less make it go away. Yes, many early scientists were also vowed religious and the demarcation between science and religion was more fuzzy in the middle ages than is usually represented in popular culture. But there is no getting around the fact that the Catholic Church initiated an Inquisition process in a number of countries and in various times that lead directly to the torture and murder of tens of thousands of people in God's name, and Giordano Bruno was one of them.

- Further reading: The Top 10 Questions Everyone Has About the Inquisition by Cullen Murphy

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A few things

- President Obama and the pope :) ...

- Augustinian priest: Teaching that women are not like Jesus is 'heretical'. The whole article is worth a read, but here's the beginning ...

The explanation for a male-only priesthood that views women as not fully in Jesus' likeness is a heretical teaching that implies women are not fully redeemed, said Augustinian Fr. John Shea in his second such letter since 2012 to U.S. bishops on the issue of women's ordination.

"This teaching that 'women are not fully in the likeness of Jesus' -- qualifying, as it does, as a theological explanation -- is utterly and demonstrably heretical.

"This teaching says that women are not fully redeemed by Jesus. This teaching says that women are not made whole by the saving favor of our God. This teaching says that the 'catholic' church is only truly 'catholic' for males," Shea wrote ...

- My latest kindle book is God: A Guide for the Perplexed (2013 edition) by Keith Ward. Here's the Library Journal blurb from the Amazon page ...

"Believing in God," states Oxford divinity professor Ward, "is just a bit more complicated than you might think." For a quarter century, Ward (God, Chance and Necessity) has been a reliable guide to spirituality and religion. Here he provides a whirlwind tour of how God has been conceived in Western thought, beginning with Homer and Descartes and progressing through thinkers like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Kant and poets like Blake and Wordsworth. Along the way, he discusses the prophets, the Ten Commandments, the idea of evil, and more. What makes this work Ward's own is his leitmotif: a belief that the trouble with much of the popular understanding of God is that it is too literal. To help us go beyond such popular conceptions, Ward, with humor and skill, deftly and accurately guides us through the ages of reflection on what can and cannot be known about God. The danger of such an approach is that it will leave readers with caricatures of the great thinkers' positions. The value is that readers will become intrigued and will go directly to the sources listed in Ward's "Find Out More..." bibliographies at the end of each chapter. In the end, this book inspires considerable thought and thus belongs in every library.

I'm only just starting it but I hope to post excerpts as I go along.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

At Westminster Abbey

Listen to a 2013 talk by Timothy Radcliffe OP on Óscar Romero at Westminster Abbey here

And listen to a lecture by Keith Ward on faith and secularism given at Westminster Abbey in 2012 here

Heh ... in Keith Ward's lecture he said at one point ... Here's a confession about my psychology: when anybody says anything to me, even if they say it about religion, my first reaction is not "that's wonderful". My first reaction is "what's wrong with that?" And that's how you can tell a philosopher. ... and I think that really sums up my own personal style, perhaps due to my BA in philosophy :)

Pell, sex abuse, church money

Watch a really good 2013 interview on ABC TV with journalist David Marr on George Pell, sex abuse, and the money. It's harrowing but really worth a listen if you want to know what kind of person is this man in which the pope has placed so much trust ... David Marr on The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell ...

I bring this up because as Australian Cardinal Pell Admits Limiting Compensation to Sex Abuse Victims, Afraid Church Will Go Bankrupt (since the notorious Ellis sex abuse case in which Pell was involved the church in Australia has been immune to law suits), and leaves for Rome and his new job, it's revealed that the money is there after all: Catholic Faith and Sex Abuse: Royal Commission Confirms Sydney Catholic Archdiocese is Rich, Has $1.24B Worth of Assets Plus More. This reminds me of the luxurious Domus Australia built in Rome by the Sydney Archdiocese and which Pell supervised and where he often stays (video).

I find incredibly depressing that given all that has been revealed about Pell in particular and the sex abuse problem in general, Pell has been given such power by Francis and nothing has yet been changed in the area of abuse ... see what Fr. Thomas Doyle has written - Pope's new abuse commission is another promise waiting to be broken

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Have You Ever

Monday, March 24, 2014


In the book I've been reading - Praying the Truth: Deepening Your Friendship with God through Honest Prayer by William Barry SJ - I've come to a part that mentions Charles Taylor. I don't know much about him, aside from having once watched a video lecture by him on his book, Secular Age, but I knew he wrote about the "disenchantment" of the modern world. Here's an example of Taylor's thought, from an interview ...

Steve Paulson: Let me invoke the great sociologist Max Weber whom you've written about at length. He argued that modern society had lost its sense of living in a magical world and he made the case that we now live in a disenchanted world. Do you share that assessment?

Charles Taylor: Yeah. But I think that Weber sometimes slid around in his use of this word. I like his word “entzaubert” in German which means de-magicfication, the end of magic. And that change undoubtedly happened. We no longer, in the West, feel that we live in a world in which there are spirits of the woods that could threaten our cattle or could take us over, and so on. The sense of being vulnerable to this is really gone. We really feel we live in a deadened world, which is why some people react by saying “It’s too dead,” you know; we have to re-enchant it, right? ....

Along with the enchanted world was the idea of living in a meaningful Cosmos, a meaningful Universe, in which there were levels of being — some higher, some lower. So if you get Medieval Monarchy, or early modern monarchy, like in France, the idea was the king is on a higher cosmic plane than everyone else and therefore there has to be a king, because otherwise the society is badly ordered. And we've done away — we, moderns in the West — have done away almost totally with that, if you like, sacred canopy ...

I don't agree with the disenchantment story: the idea that modernity excludes meaning and value is untrue, the idea that the medieval period was like some romanticized "Rotary Club of the Shire" shows a lack of historical knowledge, and polls say that, in the US at least, a majority of people believe in the supernatural. Yesterday I came upon an essay by Bruce Robbins at Columbia University that challenges the idea of disenchantment (see The Joy of Secularism: 11 Essays for How We Live Now and a review of it in The New Statesman). Here's an excerpt from the essay ....

Enchantment? No, Thank You

[...] Taylor’s portrait of secular modernity is full of stale Brave New World-style cliché about Hugh Hefner, brightly-lit supermarkets, empty suburbs, and the triumph of the therapeutic. Things get a tad aggressive. Secularists, we are told, are utopians and proto-fascists by nature. And their lives, of course, are meaningless. Taylor is quite taken with the cliché that life in today’s secular world is beset with the malaise of meaninglessness. He repeats it without wondering whether, to the extent that it exists, it might be a result of rising expectations rather than disenchantment – a product of democratic progress to be set against centuries of resignation by the poor to their inevitable social fate. No, there was no malaise back then [the middle ages]. Why? Because people knew their places. Nor does Taylor bother to compare this putative malaise with the various sorts of sickness, figurative and literal, that people suffered through in the meaning-saturated medieval parishes that he is fond of evoking for contrast. The demons are not scary enough, and in any case they are casually omitted from ensuing lists of spirits, fairies, moral forces, and so on. There is not enough of the fear that vulnerability to literal rather than figurative enchantment would naturally elicit. There is not nearly enough about the ordinary bonds of work, family, play, and politics, the newly invented intimacies and the technologically-mediated attention to distant others, the infinitely varied and surprising forms of love and hope and tenderness that, despite a state of social emergency and the lack of any transcendental foundation, provide most of us, most of the time, with enough meaning to go on. In short, Taylor is telling the disenchantment story again, and telling it with a vengeance.


The call for re-enchantment cannot help doing precisely the opposite of what it wants to do. It seems to reject the disenchantment story, but it accepts too much of that story, for ordinary life must first be hollowed out and impoverished in order for re-enchantment to be granted the contract to fill it up and enrich it again. Wonder and surprise produce the problem they say they want to solve: “a consistent undervaluing of contemporary experience” (Levine, 37). The crucial move here is to present ordinary life as “routine,” which allows wonder and surprise (that is, that which is not routine) to sound like solutions to a problem. This is a terrible failure of imagination. Since when was life in history, fully experienced in all its dialectical twists and turns, ever a matter of predictable routine? .... When you look at the shirt on your back or the coffee in your cup and, for once, see through the object to the labor of the people far away who produced it, to the lives they are obliged to live, to the invisible but real links between their lives and yours, you may not find enchantment in their lives, but you cannot conclude that the world is dull. I cannot see the merit in making yourself blind to what’s in your path in order to ensure that you will be perpetually surprised. To decide that everyday life is rationalized, bureaucratized, or routinized is to kill it in order to get a pat on the back for rescuing it from the dead ....

My new shoes ...

have arrived. Hard to get shoes when you can't just drive to the store and must instead buy them online by guessing. But these look ok - they have alternative purple laces :) ....

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Happy :)

There's a post at Dina's blog about this infectious song which has gone viral ... it's to celebrate the official U.N. International Day of Happiness ...

And she's posted the Jerusalem version of it too, which lets you view many of the city's sites ...

Lyrics ...

It might seem crazy what I'm about to say
Sunshine she's here, you can take away
I'm a hot air balloon, I could go to space
With the air, like I don't care baby by the way

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do

Here come bad news talking this and that
Ggive me all you got, don't hold back
Wwell I should probably warn you I'll be just fine
No offense to you don't waste your time
Here's why

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do

Happy, bring me down
Can't nothing, bring me down
Love is too happy to bring me down
Can't nothing, bring me down
I said bring me down
Can't nothing, bring me down
Love is too happy to bring me down
Can't nothing, bring me down
I said

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do

Happy, bring me down
Can't nothing, bring me down
Love is too happy to bring me down
Can't nothing, bring me down
I said

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do

Three Jesuits

There's been a lot in the news about the pope's commission on sex abuse - O'Malley, abuse survivor named members of new Vatican clergy abuse commission

Speaking of O'Malley, in a meeting between him and some Catholic press, Mollie Wilson O'Reilly asked him about the pope making bishops/cardinals who had covered up sex abuse accountable, but he ignored that question and didn't respond.

This refusal to even address the question of whether bishops/cardinals like Law, Finn, Mahony, Brady, et al, will ever be reprimanded for what they've done makes me so angry. I saw that Law and Brady recently got together to celebrate St. Patrick's Day ... Cardinal Law guest at lunch in Irish College in Rome ... how can we trust a Vatican that treats these people as members in good standing to do the right thing with this new sex abuse commission?

But not everyone has ignored what they've done - I was reminded of a letter that was sent by clergy to Bernard Law when he was still in place in Boston, asking him to step down ...

Letter from priests to Cardinal Law

The following is the text of the letter signed by 58 Boston-area priests and sent to Cardinal Bernard F. Law on December 9, 2002:

Dear Cardinal Law:

It is with a heavy heart that we write to request your resignation as Archbishop of Boston. We have valued the good work you have done here in Boston, including, but not limited to: your advocacy for the homeless, your outreach to the Jewish community, your opposition to capital punishment, and your leadership in welcoming immigrant peoples. However, the events of recent months and, in particular, of these last few days, make it clear to us that your position as our bishop is so compromised that it is no longer possible for you to exercise the spiritual leadership required for the church of Boston.

As leaders of many parishes that make up this Archdiocese, we hear from the people their call for a change in leadership. The revelations that have come to light a few days ago challenge the credibility of your public statements. The people of this Archdiocese are angry, hurt, and in need of authentic spiritual leadership. We believe that despite your good work in the past you are no longer able to provide that leadership.

While this is obviously a difficult request, we believe in our hearts that this is a necessary step that must be taken if healing is to come to the Archdiocese. The priests and people of Boston have lost confidence in you as their spiritual leader.

I recognized three of the signatories to that letter ... Roger D. Haight SJ, David Hollenbach SJ, and James F. Keenan SJ.

David Hollenbach, who teaches at Georgetown University, got a mention in my blog: he was one of the signatories to a statement by US Christian Leaders against the anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

James Keenan SJ, who teaches theology at Boston College, has also been mentioned in a couple of my past posts ... he supported Bishop in South Africa Kevin Dowling and his stance on condoms, and he wrote an article on suffering that dwells on the work of Elaine Scarry.

Roger Haight SJ, who teaches at Union Theological Seminary, is perhaps the most well known of the three because he had the distinction of having been censored by the CDF for his writing. Francis Clooney SJ wrote about this at America Magazine ... The Silencing of Roger Haight, SJ ... and I mentioned him in some blog posts: Roger Haight on Schillebeeckx and Haight and Neuhaus

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hee hee :)

After Jimmy announces that The Tonight Show has banned dancing, Kevin Bacon breaks the rules with an epic entrance ... ala Footloose ...

The reading for today ...

... is about the prodigal son - Luke 15:1-3, 11-32. I like the way it's portrayed in the movie, Jesus of Nazareth. In the film, Jesus has gone to the home of Matthew the hated tax collector, which really ticks off his disciples, especially Peter. But Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son and manages to thus bring Peter and Matthew together ...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Take Me To Church and the Irish Vatican survey

I've still got this song on my mind - Take Me To Church by Irish singer, Hozier ...

Here's a bit from this interview with him from New York Magazine: Q&A: Irish Musician Hozier on Gay Rights, Sexuality, & Good Hair

"Take Me to Church" is a critique of oppressive institutions, with a woman or female pronoun used as a sort of savior.

"Take Me to Church" is essentially about sex, but it's a tongue-in-cheek attack at organizations that would … well, it's about sex and it's about humanity, and obviously sex and humanity are incredibly tied. Sexuality, and sexual orientation — regardless of orientation — is just natural. An act of sex is one of the most human things. But an organization like the church, say, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation — that it is sinful, or that it offends God. The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love. Turning your back on the theoretical thing, something that's not tangible, and choosing to worship or love something that is tangible and real — something that can be experienced.

But it's not an attack on faith. Coming from Ireland, obviously, there's a bit of a cultural hangover from the influence of the church. You've got a lot of people walking around with a heavy weight in their hearts and a disappointment, and that shit carries from generation to generation. So the song is just about that — it's an assertion of self, reclaiming humanity back for something that is the most natural and worthwhile. Electing, in this case a female, to choose a love who is worth loving.

The video parallels that — it's a statement against state oppression and homophobia in Russia.

Absolutely, yes. It references the very organized attacks against LGBT youths that are carried out with impunity, without action from law enforcement. There are a lot of far-right guys who film these attacks. Because the song was always about sexuality and about organizations that would undermine humanity at its most natural, we thought that — in Ireland, the church doesn't really have that kind of strength that it did, but there will always be organizations that will, and there will always be organizations that try. Hopefully there won't be one day, but there are, and this is a pure example of that.

It's people carrying out terrible acts through the justification of far-right traditionalism, and also a long campaign to make homosexuality equivalent with things like pedophilia and bestiality, which is absolutely appalling. So that's what we wanted to show. The video wasn't overexaggerating anything. We just wanted to tell it how it is.

The song makes me think of the results of the Vatican survey from Ireland which were just made public - the results exhibit the same feeling about church teaching as is mentioned in the song. Here's a bit from The Tablet ...

Irish survey findings reveal disconnect from church teaching - 19 March 2014 12:03 by Sarah Mac Donald

The Church’s teaching on marriage and family life is disconnected from the real-life experience of many Irish Catholics, the country’s bishops have acknowledged. Giving a summary of the responses to the Vatican questionnaire, the Irish Bishops Conference said it is not experienced by many Catholics as “realistic, compassionate or life-enhancing”. Many respondents expressed “particular difficulties” with the teachings on extra-marital sex and cohabitation by unmarried couples, divorce and remarriage, family planning, assisted human reproduction and homosexuality ...

Yard photos

The roses are appearing ...

And more violets ...

I've been leaving out food for the homeless black cat who I call Mr. Scruffy to distinguish him from my neighbor's black girl cat, Scruffy (for a long time I thought they were the same cat). But now a few more apparently homeless cats have appeared to eat the food, which I find sad and disturbing on a whole number of levels. Here's one of them, who I think of as Fluffy ...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

At Oxford University ...

Take a virtual tour of Oxford University and watch interviews and a science/faith/philosophy discussion with Keith Ward, Alister McGrath, and John Lennox. Keith Ward mentions in his interview a personal religious experience he once had of Jesus, and also that he has always preached at local churches (he's an Anglican priest) as well as taught. Wish I could find his sermons online somewhere. And in the discussion part, he asserts that believing in God is all about personal experience of God ... he's so Ignatian :)

Here's part 1 ...

And part 2 ...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Some poems

Our Better Angels - Marjorie Stelmach

we take the old precautions:
avoid wearing white on white,
remember in the pubs
to rise to no one’s bait,
betray no recognition
of the sooty gargoyles
lolling above
in their bat suits
and tongues.
Despite our loyalties,
we toss like you
on feather pillows.
On the underground
we evade the gaze
of those, transparently mad,
who have boarded with us
and are speaking
to God.

At least it’s peacetime.
Even so,
there’s October to weather.
By moonrise,
the lost ones
who huddle under bridges
will have burned the last
of the day’s trash;
some won’t survive
the night, and we
must learn again
how to bear it.
High on stone cornices,
sharpen icicles
on the pitiless winds,
while below in the shops
are trying on bones.

As November lengthens,
it’s hard to remember
our mission.
We’re so overdue for joy,
we hook up with strangers,
unfolding our shivering souls
beneath down comforters
that lie
as lightly as kin
on our bodies.
In our reckless need, we neglect
to hide our celestial flesh,
let slip our flawlessness, allow
our wings. By Advent,
we remember the reason
we left in the first place.
It wasn’t the wars, the callousness,
the cold. It may be
impossible to love you.

Sine Qua Non - A. E. Stallings

Your absence, father, is nothing. It is nought—
The factor by which nothing will multiply,
The gap of a dropped stitch, the needle’s eye
Weeping its black thread. It is the spot
Blindly spreading behind the looking glass.
It is the startled silences that come
When the refrigerator stops its hum,
And crickets pause to let the winter pass.

Your absence, father, is nothing—for it is
Omega’s long last O, memory’s elision,
The fraction of impossible division,
The element I move through, emptiness,
The void stars hang in, the interstice of lace,
The zero that still holds the sum in its place.

Lot's Wife - Dana Littlepage Smith

Do not look behind you.
--Gen. 19:17

So simple a mistake. They say I turned to look;
instead it was to listen. I did not know: only the dead
can stand the music of the spheres made mortal.

Caught in my hood, the hard chords of chaos:
the childish scream, the mother's litany as she names
the loss which instantly unnames her.

And then the inconceivable: between the flint
blast and the crack of iron, I heard
the burning of the scorched moth wing,

the lily as its petals crisp to white fire,
but more than these, the footfall
of a naked man who runs to nothing.

And so I chose this brine,
now crystals shift. The salt dissolves
and I want to speak.

Whore of all hopes, I now believe
some stories survive
in order to remake their endings.

Cardinal Pell and the Ellis sex abuse case

Cardinal George Pell, who Pope Francis chose as one of his advisers and who the pope chose to be the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, has been shown to have misrepresented the facts in the notorious John Ellis sex abuse case in Australia ... George Pell’s account of handling of abuse case contradicted .... Royal Commission: George Pell was calling all the shots ... Royal Commission: George Pell participated in 'absence' of justice' for John Ellis.

Cardinal Pell was 'giving instructions' as Catholic church fought abuse claims ...

Claims by Cardinal George Pell that he had little to do with the conduct of the notorious Ellis case have been flatly contradicted by the church’s own lawyer in dramatic testimony on Tuesday to the royal commission into the institutional response to child abuse. “I didn’t have any doubt the cardinal was being kept up to date on developments in the case,” Paul McCann of church lawyers Corrs, Chambers, Westgarth told the commission. “He was giving instructions on various steps.”

John Ellis sued Pell and the trustees of the Catholic church in 2005 after being refused compensation for his abuse at the hands of Father Aidan Duggan. After a hard-fought contest, Ellis lost. The decision made legal history, confirming the Catholic church in Australia is unsueable. For years the church demanded Ellis pay its legal costs of $750,000 ...

Yes, you read correctly ... the Ellis case deemed the Catholic Church in Australia cannot be sued! You may have read recently that Pell said he thought the church could actually be sued ..... but ...

Don't ring the bells yet. The Catholic church isn't planning to open its wallet

Don’t start ringing the bells. The Catholic church is a long way from letting itself be sued like any other church. It knows it can no longer defend a privilege that has saved hundreds of millions of dollars since the child abuse scandal broke decades ago. But it isn’t planning to open its wallet.

One of the great powers of a royal commission is to embarrass. Cardinal Pell and the bishops can see terrible embarrassment looming as the royal commission into institutional response to child sexual abuse turns its sights on the privileged protection of the Catholic church from the courts.

As the gaunt figure of John Ellis took the stand at the commission this week, Pell and the bishops expressed regret once more for past mistakes and made vague undertakings to do things better now. Pell won sympathetic headlines by disowning the ordeal he put Ellis through: “My own view is that the church in Australia should be able to be sued in cases of this kind.”

Ellis had been abused for years as a boy and young man. He had been willing to settle for $100,000 but Pell called in his Melbourne lawyers and $1.5m was spent on fees to block Ellis and confirm the Catholic church in this country doesn’t exist in law, doesn’t employ its priests, isn’t responsible for their crimes and has successfully locked its assets away from victims.

Ellis told the commission how this 2006 defeat plunged him into even deeper depression for he knew his case had made things worse for victims. “Ellis” became the legal shorthand for decisions that force most victims to take what church protocols – the Melbourne Response and Towards Healing – care to offer them.


He [Pell] does not want the church to be given a corporate identity that would allow it to be sued. All other major faiths in Australia can be sued. So can the Catholic church in most countries in the world. But Pell wants to keep the current situation where victims of abuse by parish priests have no choice but to sue the priest or his estate of perhaps his bishop.

At present that’s futile because there is, at the end of the day, no money to be won from old priests, poor estates and retired bishops. he assets of the church remained locked up in property trusts. But Pell is proposing that the church itself should stump up the damages.

That is a historic proposition. Here he has the backing of the bishops. According to the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, which represents the church before the royal commission, the bishops have given verbal support to the principle that in future the church must pay damages when victims win in court.

But the bishops want this to flow from the fundamental change Pell flinches from: they want the church to become a corporate identity like other churches which would allow it to be sued and so be liable in the ordinary way when courts order damages to be paid.

Even so, suing the church would remain extremely difficult ...

Monday, March 17, 2014

For St. Patrick's Day

Music from Irishman Andrew Hozier-Byrne (New York Magazine: Q&A: Irish Musician Hozier on Gay Rights, Sexuality, & Good Hair) ...

Lyrics ...

Cherry Wine

Her eyes and words are so icy
Oh but she burns
Like rum on the fire
Hot and fast and angry
As she can be
I walk my days on a wire.

It looks ugly, but it's clean,
Oh momma, don't fuss over me.

The way she tells me I'm hers and she is mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine.

Calls of guilty fall on me
All while she stains
The sheets of some other
Thrown at me so powerfully
Just like she throws with the arm of her brother.

But I want it, it's a crime
That she's not around most of the time.

The way she shows me I'm hers and she is mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
Blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine.

Her fight and fury is fiery
Oh but she loves
Like sleep the the freezing
Sweet and right and merciful
I'm all but washed
In the tide of her breathing.

And it's worth it, it's divine
And I can have this some of the time.

The way she shows me I'm hers and she is mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine.

Take Me To Church

My lover's got humour
She's the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody's disapproval
I should've worshiped her sooner
If the Heavens ever did speak
She is the last true mouthpiece
Every Sunday's getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week
'We were born sick,' you heard them say it
My church offers no absolutes
She tells me 'worship in the bedroom'
The only heaven I'll be sent to
Is when I'm alone with you
I was born sick, but I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen

Take me to church
I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I'll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

If I'm a pagan of the good times
My lover's the sunlight
To keep the Goddess on my side
She demands a sacrifice
To drain the whole sea
Get something shiny
Something meaty for the main course
That's a fine looking high horse
What you got in the stable?
We've a lot of starving faithful
That looks tasty
That looks plenty
This is hungry work

No masters or kings when the ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin
In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am human
Only then I am clean
Amen. Amen. Amen

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Paul Nicklen photos

Saw some great photos by National Geographic wildlife photographer Paul Nicklen at his website, and here is a TED video with him showing his photos ...

"Those who cannot remember the past ..."

There's talk of the changes Pope Francis envisions, given the Vatican Survey on the topic of sexual morality and the upcoming synod on the family. Yet Francis has also been quoted as saying that be believes there need be no change in what's taught in Humanae Vitae.

When people opine how far we've come with Francis on the issue of sexual morality, I think they forget history .... that most of the bishops at Vatican II were for ditching the church's teaching on birth control, that the Vatican's own Commission on Birth Control advised the same thing, and that hundreds of theologians and many bishops conferences around the world dissented when the pope ignored all this and wrote Humanae Vitae. We haven't taken a big step forward with Francis and his survey/synod ... we're at best marching in place.

First, here's a bit about V2 and contraception from John O'Malley's book, What Happened at Vatican II, and below that a bit from a US Catholic article on the Birth Control Commission, and below that a bit from an article in America magazine on Humanae Vitae and those who dissented ...


[...] Casti Connubbi was a long and wide-ranging encyclical [of Pius XI] that dealt with a number of issues connected with marriage .... What caused the encyclical to become one of the most cited even today is the relatively short but pointed and absolute condemnation of birth control. (p. 82)


Article 21 of chapter 4 was titled "The Dignity of Marriage and the Family". It was an explosive subject. The text did three things that roused the ire of council fathers like Ruffini, Ottaviani, and Browne. First, it avoided using the textbook terms "primary" and "secondary" ends of marriage, in which the primary end was the procreation of children and the secondary end was a remedy for concupiscence and the mutual help of the spouses. The document instead spoke at length about the holiness and the goodness of the love that bound the spouses; only then did it mention children as the fulfillment of that love. Second, it made the consciences of the spouses the deciding factor for the number of children they should have. Finally, it did not explicitly reaffirm a condemnation of birth control ....

Beneath the surface of the whole discussion of article 21 seethed the question of birth control, made more urgent by "the pill". The previous year John Rock, a Catholic physician who participated in the creation of an oral contraceptive, had published his widely reviewed book The Time Has Come, in which he advocated a change in approach by the churches, especially the Catholic Church ....

In discreet and indiscreet ways the bishops kept bringing it up, usually with at least an insinuation that the time had come for a change in the teaching. Thus spoke, for instance, Leger [Emile Leger, Archbishop of Montreal], Alfrink [Bernardus Johannes Alfrink, Archbishop of Utrecht], Joseph Reuss [bishop, Mainz, Germany] (speaking for 145 fathers "from various countries and parts of the world"), and Rudolf Staverman of Sukarnapura, Indonesia, who expressly argued that marriage had evolved like every historical reality and therefore the church could not just repeat old formulas - the way this schema spoke of marriage was, on the contrary, "healthy and liberating".

Saigh [Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh] was as usual boldly outspoken and direct. He began "I call your attention today ... to birth control." It is a pressing problem that the council must confront. For the faithful it is a sad and agonizing issue, for there is a cleavage between the official teaching of the church and the contrary practice in most families. Moreover, the population explosion in certain parts of the world is condemning hundreds of millions of human beings to misery without hope. The council must find a solution. It must ask whether God really wants this depressing and unnatural impasse: "Let me speak frankly: do not the official positions of the church in this matter require revision in the light of modern research - theological, medical, psychological, sociological?"

It was Suenens' [Leo Jozef Suenens, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel] speech, however, that caused a sensation .... First he more than intimated that a change might be in order. We have learned a few things, he said, since Aristotle and Augustine. He invoked development of doctrine and called attention to the population explosion. He injected a dramatic note into his presentation with the statement, "I plead with you, brothers. We must avoid another 'Galileo case'. One is enough for the church." Second, at the very end he called on Paul VI to make public the names of the members of the Papal Commission [Pontifical Commission on Birth Control]. That way, he said, the members will receive the most copious information on the subject, and the whole people of God will be represented ... When he finished, applause broke out ..... (pp. 236-38)


There was something both funny and touching in another account of the Commisions's debate on this subject from a 1995 US Catholic article by Robert McClory - Detour: the Commission on Birth Control. Here's a bit of it .....

[...] Bishop [Carlo] Colombo, alarmed by what seemed Gracias's defection from the conservative camp, interrupted the cardinal. If the Church backtracks on contraception, he warned his colleagues, they "would endanger the very indefectability of the Church, the teacher of truth in these things" which pertain to pertain to salvation. Wouldn't this mean the gates of hell had in some way prevailed against the Church?"

[Spanish Jesuit Father Marcelino] Zalba could not agree more. "What then," he asked, "with the millions we have sent to hell if these norms were not valid?"

Patty Crowley [a married Catholic from Chicago] could not restrain herself. "Father Zalba," she interjected, "do you really believe God has carried out all your orders?"

A momentary stunned silence followed, then some chuckles at this intrusion of common sense in these austere deliberations. Patty seized the moment and spoke further.

"On behalf of women in general, I plead that the male Church carefully consider the plight of at least one half of its members, who are the real bearers of these burdens. Couples are generous. Christian couples want to have children. It is the very fruit of their love for each other. What is needed is to rid ourselves of this negative outlook on psychological and spiritual values. Couples can be trusted. They will accept the progress of change, and they will have increased confidence in the Church as she helps them grow in love and demonstrates her trust and confidence in them."


And here's an excerpt from a 1993 article at America magazine, 'Humanae Vitae' 25 Years Later ...

[...] When Humanae Vitae first appeared it caused a furor. My yellow and crumbling copy of the National Catholic Reporter for August 7, 1968, carries the headline: "Pau1 Issues Contraceptive Ban: Debate Flares on His Authority." Tom Burns, then the editor of the London Tablet, has said the encyclical was "the greatest challenge that came my way." Burns opposed the encyclical. He surmised that "never in the 150 years of the paper’s existence has an editor of The Tablet been presented with a problem of conscience and policy so grave as that which confronted me with the publication of Humanae Vitae."

With that sentence Burns probably summarized the anguish of many bishops, priests, theologians and lay people around the world. Episcopal conferences began issuing pastoral letters on the encyclical. These ran the gamut from celebration to qualification. For instance, the Belgian bishops stated: "Someone, however, who is competent in the matter under consideration and capable of forming a personal and well-founded judgment--which necessarily presupposes a sufficient amount of knowledge--may, after a serious examination before God, come to other conclusions on certain points. In such a case he has the right to follow his conviction provided that he remains sincerely disposed to continue his inquiry." Of those who arrived at conclusions differ­ent from Humanae Vitae, the Scandinavian bishops stat­ed: "No one should, therefore, on account of such diverg­ing opinions alone, be regarded as an inferior Catholic." The Canadian bishops made a similar statement: ’These Catholics should not be considered, or consider them­selves, shut off from the body of the faithful."

Charles Curran composed a statement critical of the ecclesiology and methodology of Humanae Vitae. The statement concluded that "spouses may responsibly decide according to their conscience that artificial contra­ception in some circumstances is permissible and indeed necessary to preserve and foster the value and sacredness of marriage." This statement was eventually signed by over 600 theologians and other academics, including well-known theologians such as Bernard Haring, David Tracy, Richard McBrien, Walter Burghardt, Raymond Collins, Roland Murphy and Bernard McGinn. A group of European theologians met in Amsterdam on Sept. 18-­19, 1968, and issued a dissenting statement. The signato­ries included some of the best known theologians in Europe: J. M. Aubert, A. Auer, T. Beemer, F. Bockle, W. Bulst, P. Fransen, J. Groot, P. Huizing, L. Janssens, R. van Kessel, W. Klijn, F. Klostermann, E. McDonagh, C. Robert, P. Schoonenberg, M. de Wachter.

These were heady days indeed. Overnight, dissent became a front-burner issue. Any number of episcopal conferences mentioned its possibili­ty and legitimacy. The American bishops in their pastoral letter, "Human Life in Our Day" (Nov. 15, 1968), even laid out the norms for licit dissent. Expression of dissent is in order "only if the reasons are serious and well founded, if the manner of the dissent does not question or impugn the teaching authority of the Church and is such as not to give scandal." Paul VI himself, in a letter to the Congress of German Catholics (Aug. 30, 1968), stated: "May the lively debate aroused by our encyclical lead to a better knowledge of God’s will." .......


I'm not sure what the pope hopes for from his idea that ...

Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended that confessors show great kindness and attention to specific situations. .... The question is not that of changing doctrine [against contraception], but to go into the depths, and ensuring that pastoral [efforts] take into account people’s situations, and that, which it is possible for people to do.

I think I can guarantee that this will not bring boatloads of Catholic back to confession .... most Catholics who use contraception do not believe it is wrong to do so, so there's nothing to confess. Catholics will simply go on as they have, ignoring the church teaching on this subject, and nothing will have changed.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tiny violets

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Capybara for Lent

It's hard for me as a vegetarian to take Lenten fasting very seriously, in part because of the slippery workarounds the church provides: if you feel terribly deprived by being unable to eat red meat on Fridays for a few weeks, you can always eat a capybara, a mammal that the church has deemed "fish". And it's not just capybaras ... as this First Thoughts post cheerfully gloats, you can also eat muskrats, and beavers, and alligators as well. Urp!

If you rather learn more about capybaras instead of eating them ...

Francis' first year

Today's the first anniversary of Francis’ election and there are and will be a ton of articles on the subject ... see the UK Catholic Herald's links to some of them here. I liked what Andrew Brown has to say on this.

I haven't read most of the articles yet but I assume that even though some of the articles are written by conservatives and some are written by liberals, many of them will reach the same conclusion ... that though the pope has made many changes in style, he hasn't made many concrete changes in the church, and that is because he doesn't have the power to do so.

The conservatives will say this because they really want it to be true, given Francis' repudiation of their carnival. The liberals will say this because they don't want other liberals to give up on Francis as being all talk and no action.

I'd like to contest the idea that the pope cannot make serious changes in the church. I'm no canon lawyer (though this Vatican page on the powers of the pontiff looks fairly convincing to me) but even a glance at the last few popes would show that they could and did make not only unilateral decisions but sometimes very unpopular decisions without breaking a sweat.

So why hasn't Francis made more changes, especially touching on women, gays, the divorced, sex abuse, and married clergy ... is that he thinks he cannot or that he doesn't want to? I don't know. Today The Tablet writes about a poll on the subject. Here's the beginning of the article ...

Developing the role of women, reforming the Vatican bureaucracy and improving the Church’s record on abuse are the three areas Pope Francis must most urgently address, according to a survey conducted by The Tablet.

Some 73 per cent said Pope Francis must prioritise developing the role of women, 72 per cent highlighted the need to press ahead with curial reform and 68 per cent said they wanted him to focus on “child protection, the censure of clergy who have abused or covered up abuse, and care for victims”.

More than 1,400 people completed an online poll on The Tablet’s website between 19 February and 4 March. Every continent was represented, with one third of respondents from the UK and one third from the US. One fifth were clergy ...

Wild Gratitude

Still reading Praying the Truth: Deepening Your Friendship with God through Honest Prayer by William Barry SJ and have come upon a poem in the book that mentions Christopher Smart and his cat Jeoffry :) ...

Wild Gratitude - Edward Hirsch

Tonight when I knelt down next to our cat, Zooey,
And put my fingers into her clean cat's mouth,
And rubbed her swollen belly that will never know kittens,
And watched her wriggle onto her side, pawing the air,
And listened to her solemn little squeals of delight,
I was thinking about the poet, Christopher Smart,
Who wanted to kneel down and pray without ceasing
In everyone of the splintered London streets,

And was locked away in the madhouse at St. Luke's
With his sad religious mania, and his wild gratitude,
And his grave prayers for the other lunatics,
And his great love for his speckled cat, Jeoffry.
All day today—August 13, 1983—I remembered how
Christopher Smart blessed this same day in August, 1759,
For its calm bravery and ordinary good conscience.

This was the day that he blessed the Postmaster General
'And all conveyancers of letters' for their warm humanity,
And the gardeners for their private benevolence
And intricate knowledge of the language of flowers,
And the milkmen for their universal human kindness.
This morning I understood that he loved to hear—
As I have heard—the soft clink of milk bottles
On the rickety stairs in the early morning,

And how terrible it must have seemed
When even this small pleasure was denied him.
But it wasn't until tonight when I knelt down
And slipped my hand into Zooey's waggling mouth
That I remembered how he'd called Jeoffry 'the servant
Of the Living God duly and daily serving Him,'
And for the first time understood what it meant.
Because it wasn't until I saw my own cat

Whine and roll over on her fluffy back
That I realized how gratefully he had watched
Jeoffry fetch and carry his wooden cork
Across the grass in the wet garden, patiently
Jumping over a high stick, calmly sharpening
His claws on the woodpile, rubbing his nose
Against the nose of another cat, stretching, or
Slowly stalking his traditional enemy, the mouse,
A rodent, 'a creature of great personal valour,'
And then dallying so much that his enemy escaped.

And only then did I understand
It is Jeoffry—and every creature like him—
Who can teach us how to praise—purring
In their own language,
Wreathing themselves in the living fire.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Fifth Estate

This week's movie rental was The Fifth Estate ...

a 2013 American-British-Belgian thriller film about the news-leaking website WikiLeaks. It was directed by Bill Condon with Benedict Cumberbatch as its editor-in-chief and founder Julian Assange, and Daniel Brühl as its former spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Stanley Tucci, and Laura Linney are featured in supporting roles. The film's screenplay was written by Josh Singer based in-part on Domscheit-Berg's book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World's Most Dangerous Website (2011), as well as WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy (2011) by British journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding.

- Assange first meets editors from The Guardian ... Guardian: Look, anyone can take a bundle of information... and toss it up on a website and call it news. And people buy our papers for something a little more discerning. Assange: People are still buying your paper? ;)

The movie was very interesting - it did a lot to explain the whole WikiLeaks thing to me, and it compelled me to read a lot more on the subject as well. On the good side, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) was very good as Assange. On the bad side, the story was not what you'd call objective: it's mostly adapted from a book by Daniel Domscheit-Berg who had a serious falling-out with Assange and it seems skewed against him. The Wikipedia page for the film has much more info about this issue, and you can read a story in the New Statesman - How accurate is the newest WikiLeaks story? - by Alan Rusbridger, an editor of The Guardian who had worked with Assange (portrayed in the film by Peter Capaldi - World War Z).

Here's a trailer ...


And here's an interview with Assange from 2010 ...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Thinking about my grandma

Here's a pic of her with my grandpa ....

And a later pic of her with my mother and me. I look freakishly tall in this, but I'm actually 5'4" so it's that grandma was short :) ...

And grandma on our trip to Hawaii - heh ...

I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. When we were kids we stayed with my grandparents every summer, and when I was in high school, we went to their house every day after classes. In college, after my grandfather died, we went over to her apartment a few times a week at night, in part because my mom had a boyfriend who would visit then. And later we always took her out to lunch every Saturday. She liked all my boyfriends and even the ex. Sometimes we would take her out to dinner and to movies too. It was because of her that we got a smattering of Christian info in our childhoods - she was a non-church-going Presbyterian. I still remember reading the paperbacks she had around the house when I was a kid, mostly Perry Mason mysteries :) And I learned about flowers from her, as she planted so many in their huge yard. I learned about sewing from her too, and how to embroider, and how to knit. She took us on a trip to Hawaii (photo above) and helped pay for our one trip to Europe. When I was little, my great hope was that I would grow up to be like her. I love you, grandma :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

The pope on Eve

- John Roddam Spencer Stanhope

I didn't post anything for International Women's Day but I thought I'd comment when I saw in the Tablet news that the pope had mentioned Eve yesterday . ...

“[Jesus] does not dialogue with Satan, as Eve did in the earthly paradise,” the Pope said at his noonday Angelus on Sunday yesterday. “Jesus knows well that you cannot dialogue with Satan because he’s so astute. For this reason Jesus, instead of dialoguing with him like Eve did, chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and responds with the power of the Word,” the Pope said, reflecting on the Gospel passage about the devil’s temptation of Jesus in the desert.

I'm not sure if the pope actually believes that Eve and Adam existed historically as described in Genesis (people as disparate as Andrew Sullivan and Cardinal Pell agree they didn't), or if he sees them as metaphorical, but his choice to use the "first woman" as an example of badness made me depressed. This is but the latest of the disappointing things he's said about women.

In Jerusalem with World War Z

I just finished watching World War Z for the second time - liked it even more. One of the most interesting parts for me was when the main character goes to Jerusalem to try to get information that will help fight the zombie plague. Why Jerusalem? Because the Israelis were among the first to learn of the zombie menace and to manage to protect their country.

To someone like me, who's never been to Israel, the Jerusalem of the movie looked realistic, but actually that part of the film was set in Malta. Here's a video which shows the behind-the-scenes stuff for the Israel segment, explained by German-Swiss director Marc Forster. There are also brief interviews with the actors playing Israeli roles, Ludi Boeken and Daniella Kertesz ...

And I liked the music from the soundtrack for the part in Jerusalem ...

Sunday, March 09, 2014

William Barry SJ and The Mission

Still reading Praying the Truth: Deepening Your Friendship with God through Honest Prayer by Jesuit spiritual director William Barry The chapter I read today was on talking to God about our bad stuff. At one point he mentioned the movie The Mission ...

The film The Mission tells the story of some Jesuits who worked with the Guarani tribe in South America in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Robert de Niro plays a former soldier who had enslaved Guarani. Now repentant and a Jesuit himself, he chooses as his penance to carry his old armor and weapons on his back as the Jesuits climb to the site where the Guarani live. It is a very arduous climb. When they reach the top, a Guarani races with a machete toward him. You think that he will kill his former enemy, but instead he lops off the baggage, which drops behind de Niro into the gorge ... (p. 80)

That scene makes me cry, imagining what it could be like to suddenly find all the pain and sadness in the world obviated by the revelation that all manner of thing are well.

For those interested, there's a review of the book at Thinking Faith - here

And some music from the movie ...

Saturday, March 08, 2014

More on The Son of God

Duke NT scholar Mark Goodacre has a podcast about the new Jesus movie, The Son of God. One interesting thing about the film is that Mary Magdalene is not, for a change, portrayed as a prostitute (yes!). Mark's review is quite positive. Take a listen ... NT Pod 72: Son of God Movie . And here's a clip ...

Interview with Fr. John Dear

at Religion Dispatches ... Fr. John Dear, Dismissed from Jesuits: "It Is So Strange to Be Hated by So Many Church Leaders"

And a talk he gave in February, 2014 ...

Friday, March 07, 2014

What I read today

- At America magazine, a podcast: Animal Ethics

- Fr. Tom Doyle: Pope Francis on abuse -- a disappointment

- Dalai Lama says 'okay' to gay marriage ... The Dalai Lama has voiced his support for gay marriage and condemned homophobia, saying that sex is fine as long as it is consensual.

- A new version of Carl Sagan's Cosmos debuts. When I think of Sagan, I think of Contact :) The new series will be hosted by astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson and when I think of him, I think of Stargate Atlantis. There was an episode of the show in which he and Bill Nye appeared as colleagues of the character of scientist Rodney McKay. It was pretty funny :) ...

Revisiting Jurassic Park

I just finished reading one of my all time favorite books - Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. I had read it years ago when it first came out, but then later I couldn't reread it because the print was too small and the unabridged version wasn't available in audio. But then I saw it was a kindle book :)

The last time I read the book I posted this about it ...

I've come to a place in the book that reminded me of complementarianism, that belief the Catholic Church holds that says men and women are not just biologically different, but also "ontologically" different, a belief used to justify disallowing women priests and also disallowing same-sex marriage (needless to say, I think compeimentarianism is just wrong).

In Jurassic Park, the subject of successive hermaphroditism comes up and I thought it mght be an interesting sort of challenge to the idea of complementarianism. In the story, the scientists at the facility have genetically engineered all the dinosaurs to be female so that there won't be any chance of them breeding. This plan fails, the dinosaurs do breed, and paleontologist Alan Grant tries to explain to the scientists why introducing amphibian DNA into the gaps in the dinosaurs' DNA is the cause ...

"[T]he phenomenon happens to be particularly well documented in frogs. Especially West African frogs, if I remember."

"What phenomenon is that?"

"Gender transition," Grant said. "Actually, it's just plain changing sex." Grant explained that a number of plants and animals were known to have the ability to change their sex during life -- orchids, some fish and shrimp, and now frogs. Frogs that had been observed to lay eggs, were able to change, over a period of months, into complete males. They first adopted the fighting stance of males, they developed the mating whistle of males, they stimulated the hormones and grew the gonads of males, and eventually they successfully mated with females."
- (p. 375)

My favorite character in the story is mathematician Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum in the movie) ...

The book has him die at the end but he's resurrected for the sequel, The Lost World. Anyway, the book is fairly different from the movie and is full of interesting stuff about chaos theory and genetic engineering, and lots of people get eaten by dinosaurs :) You can read an excerpt from the beginning of the book here at NPR.

Thursday, March 06, 2014


More from William Barry SJ

I'm still reading Praying the Truth: Deepening Your Friendship with God through Honest Prayer by Jesuit spiritual director William Barry. The part I read today touches on "the dangers of secrecy" and he uses the church's cover-up of sex abuse as an example (pp.18-19) ....

As we learn more about the present sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, it seems that some church leaders felt that they had to protect the reputation of the church or religious congregation by trying to keep secret the horror of sexual abuse of children and teenagers. This brought disastrous consequences for those abused, for the abusers, and for the very institutions they wanted to protect. In retrospect they might conclude that what looked like a sane approach was actually out of touch with reality .... Communities of a religious congregation can gradually become like the caricature of the English men's club, where no one dares say or do anything that will upset the routine even when the routine includes some strange and unhealthy behavior by some of the members. One would be hard-pressed to see in such a community a gathering of friends of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Francis' latest interview

The pope has taken part in another interview . You can read about it at NCR and in TIME magazine and at the BBC. You can read an English translation of the interview at ZENIT. I'd just like to comment on some of what he said (quoted from the ZENIT translation) ...

The scandals that perturbed the life of the Church fortunately are now in the past. On the delicate topic of the abuse of minors, philosophers Besancon and Scruton among others, asked you to raise your voice against fanaticism and the bad faith of the secularized world that doesn’t respect childhood much.
Holy Father: I wish to say two things. The cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very profound wounds. Benedict XVI was very courageous and opened the way. And, following that way, the Church advanced a lot, perhaps more than anyone. The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of the abuses come from the family environment and from people who are close. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that moved with transparency and responsibility. No one else did as much. And yet, the Church is the only one being attacked.

This is very discouraging ... the pope's assertions are absurd and shameful in the face of decades of worldwide abuse and cover-ups that only came to light because of investigative reporting and the work of civil authorities. Read what the editors at NCR wrote to Francis about his words here.

Many countries have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?
Holy Father: Marriage is between one man and one woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of coexistence, spurred by the need to regulate economic aspects between persons as, for instance, to ensure healthcare. Each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity.

Sorry, this is not the wonderful surprise that some are suggesting ... Francis said/did as much back when he was in Argentina. And anyway, this is so too little too late. No one is going to give up on the justice of marriage equality for the consolation prize of civil unions. And meanwhile, the disingenuous back-pedalingg has already begun.

How will the role of women be promoted within the Church?
Holy Father: Casuistry doesn’t help in this case either. It’s true that women can and must be more present in decision-making posts of the Church. But I would call this a promotion of a functional type. And with that alone, one doesn’t advance much. Rather, we must think that the Church has the feminine article, “la”: it is feminine by origin. Theologian Urs von Balthasar worked a lot on this topic: the Marian principle guides the Church by the hand of the Petrine principle. The Virgin is more important than any Bishop and any of the Apostles. The theological reflection is already underway. Cardinal [Stanislaw] Rylko [president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity], together with the Council of the Laity, is working in this direction with many expert women.

Sigh. Another case of too little too late. Depressing that Francis references Hans Urs von Balthasar on women ... he once wrote a complementarianist paper on why women couldn't be priests. And all the Marian stuff - yikes! The pope doesn't seem to get that giving women some managerial jobs at the Vatican will not at all address the women's ordination issue. I'd say most women want to be priests for the same reasons most men want to ... they feel called by God ... it's not about getting a management level job. See what William Barry SJ and Francis Clooney SJ have written about women being called by God.

Half a century after Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” can the Church take up again the topic of birth control? Your confrere, Cardinal [Carlo Maria] Martini [the late Archbishop of Milan] believed it was now time.
Holy Father: It all depends on how the text of “Humanae Vitae”is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended to confessors much mercy and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, as he had the courage to go against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to apply a cultural brake, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism. The object is not to change the doctrine, but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and to ensure that the pastoral ministry takes into account the situations of each person and what that person can do. This will also be discussed on the path to the Synod.

Really? Good luck with that. Despite the pope's popularity, people are not being swayed by him into accepting failed doctrines ... there is no way that Francis will be able to sell Humanae Vitae. It was rejected when Paul VI wrote it and it is even more so rejected now ...

More than 90 percent of Catholics in Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Spain and France support the use of contraception. Those less inclined to support it were in the Philippines (68 percent), Congo (44 percent) and Uganda (43 percent). In the United States, 79 percent of Catholics support using contraception.

Overall I found the interview disappointing .... Francis is not the pope I had hoped for.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


The plum trees are blooming :) ...

From the dreams of the blind to Vatican tourist attractions

- How the Blind Dream. Of interest to me, given my eye disease. Sometimes people are surprised to learn that though I can't see very well in real life, I can see perfectly in my dreams.

- Philip Endean SJ writes about Lent: On Not Giving Up Too Easily: Thoughts for Ash Wednesday

- Whatever Happened to Hippy Jesus? The articles contrasts the laid back movies of the 70s (example: Jesus Christ Superstar) with what seem like more seriously didactic contemporary films like the new Son of God and the past The Passion of the Christ. But they disregard the movie that breaks both those molds: my favorite one, Jesus ... I doubt you'll find another Jesus movie in which he tells bad jokes, considers marriage with Mary of Bethany, and tells the disciples that he made a mistake about his mission (the Canaanite woman).

- I find it sadly ironic that as Pope Francis asks religious orders to use their financial assets "for the service of humanity", the Jesuits have sold off an area of old growth forest and a retreat house to developers, against local protests.

- Meanwhile the pope himself gives what I think are mixed messages on finance, with his decision to open the gardens of Castel Gandolfo as a commercial tourist attraction (approximately $600 (?) for groups of up to 15 people to tour the gardens ... ouch!). Why not allow the public to view the estate for free? Learn more about the Properties of the Holy See at Wikipedia.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Just two friends

Prayer is a rather simple thing when you get down to it. It's just two friends hanging out with each other, sharing thoughts and feelings, asking and giving forgiveness, asking and giving advice. Prayer is what happens when two friends are together and aware of each other's presence.
- Praying the Truth: Deepening Your Friendship with God through Honest Prayer, William Barry SJ, p. 9