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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Are saints holy?

- Nevsky

I don't know how it happened but somehow I became singed up to receive emails from Fr. Robert Barron's sire. He's pretty conservative and I disagree with most of what he says, but still it's hard not to like him. Anyway, one of his latest emails has a video of him in Rome for the pope canonizations (you can watch the rest of his Rome/canonization videos here), and he says some stuff about the Catholic church and saints that sort of perplexed me: that the church exists for one purpose - to produce saints, to make us holy ...

I don't know what to think about this and I doubt there is a real correlation between "holiness" and all the people the church has made saints. Sure, guys like Francis of Assisi appear to be almost there, but what about the military saints like Joan of Arc or Alexander Nevsky who seem the antithesis of non-violence, or the virgin martyr saints like Lucy who were apparently chosen because they believed sex was a fate worse than death, or the convert saints like Edith Stein who often seem to have been chosen for anti-ecumenical reasons, or saints like Robert Bellarmine SJ who ran the inquisition and burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, or a saint like Gianna Beretta Molla who seems to have been chosen to promote a pro-life agenda? And don't even get me started on past pope-saints :)

I think the whole idea of holiness and how to get there is interesting ... the Wikipedia articls, Universal Call to Holiness, states this ...

Living a holy life, as defined by the Catholic Church, has little to do with perfection (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Chapter Two.) Rather, it is a lifelong process of seeking God himself, through the person of Jesus Christ ... The universal call to holiness is an important element in the spirituality of Opus Dei, which emphasizes the sanctification of the lay people. It is also fundamental to the Pro-Sanctity Movement.

Hmmm - so being holy is different than being good? Must read more.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I saw today that Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill will be appearing in Star Wars Episode VII. The movie ... forms the first part of the planned third trilogy of Star Wars films, following chronologically in the series 35 years after 1983's Return of the Jedi. Not long ago I read the novelizations of the earlier three Star Wars movies, so the series is pretty fresh in my mind. Here's a video blurb on the new movie ...

"Inequality is the root of social evil."

I know this is in reference to economics, but I wonder how the pope can overlook the other forms of inequality that the church supports, such as the male-only priesthood.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Edith Stein and the dual papal canonization

I don't know much about Edith Stein, but I do dislike her extreme complementarianism ... she thought women had different kinds of souls than men (she influenced JPII and his complementarian Theology of the Body) ... so I was interested to see her mentioned in this article by Susan Jacoby about the canonization of the two popes yesterday ...

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

[...] I am an atheist, raised as a Catholic by an Irish Catholic mother and a Jewish father who converted to Catholicism. I greatly admired John XXIII, though I was already an atheist at the time of his death, and I consider John Paul II to have been a disaster for Catholicism in the western world. It is no accident that during John Paul’s conservative papacy — when the church refused to reconsider sexual prohibitions applying to the laity but covered up sexual abuse of children by priests — millions of practicing Catholics decamped in the United States and Western Europe. According to a Pew poll conducted in 2009, more than one out of five native-born Americans raised in the church no longer consider themselves Catholics.

John XXIII, by contrast, generated immense enthusiasm among my contemporaries, who had known only the dour Pius XII as pope. Tears came to my eyes at age 15, in 1960, when I read that John had greeted a delegation of American Jewish leaders with the words from Genesis, “I am Joseph, your brother.” This was a reference to his name, Angelo Giuseppe (Joseph) Roncalli before he became pope.

The American delegation was presenting the pope with a Torah scroll honoring him for his work, as papal nuncio in Istanbul during World War II, in saving many Jews from the Holocaust by providing them with false documents for immigration to Palestine.

Just as clearly, I remember my anger when, in 1998, John Paul II canonized Edith Stein, a Jewish convert to Catholicism who became a Carmelite nun, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, and was gassed at Auschwitz in 1942. The canonization of Stein was considered an insult by many Jews (despite improvements in Catholic-Jewish relations during John Paul’s papacy) because it explicitly claimed that she was martyred at Auschwitz because she was a Catholic.

Of course — like all of Jewish birth — she was murdered by the Nazis because she was a Jew. She was taken from her convent in the Netherlands and placed on a train to Auschwitz, while all of the Catholic-born nuns were undisturbed.

The Stein case, as it happens, sheds considerable light on the nature of the canonization process ....

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Living on the Titanic

It's hard to have the will to blog lately as things here get more out of control ... the house, the yard, and now the homeless cats. Here's one of them, who seems to be saying 'why aren't you doing more for me?' Arghhhh! :( ...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Holy Hill, Berkeley

- Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley

I've been reading a series of mystery stories recommended by my sister: The Periodic Table Mysteries. I'm reading the 7th now - The Nitrogen Murder by Camille Minichino - and in this one the main character, a retired physicist, travels to Berkeley for the wedding of a friend. In the part I'm reading now, she and her friend, Elaine, go for a walk around the neighborhood, which includes Holy Hill ...

Elaine and I returned to one of our favorite routes, up and down Holy Hill, the local name for Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union. Nine different Catholic and Protestant seminaries and a dozen other religious programs were centered at GTU. We played our traditional game of picking out religion or theology students from the other passersby. We checked out the spines of their books, noticing their medals, pins, and T-shirt logos (WWJD slogans were in the lead: What Would Jesus Do? A close second was Shanti, the Hindu word for peace).

We thought the snippets of conversation were uniquely Berkeley. "Deepak Chopra is old news," from a young man with very worn Birkenstocks. "I'm listening to an audiotape by Houston Smith."

"I thought he was dead," from his female companion.

A nun in a modified dark blue habit crossed the street in front of us. Her posture was ramrod straight; her veil hung off the back of her head, like a fabric ponytail.

"I didn't think they wore those anymore," said I, a long-lapsed Catholic with no factual basis for the observation ...

Friday, April 25, 2014

Canonization of John Paul II & John XXIII

- my college boyfriend named his two pet rats after saints Boris and Gleb :)

Thinking of the upcoming dual papal canonization. I'm pretty disillusioned. It's not just that John Paul's legacy [is] stained by sex abuse scandal, it's also the whole sainthood thing. Before I was a Catholic I knew very little about the saints aside from what I gleaned from movies and college classes. It wasn't until I became Catholic and began reading up on the subject that I realized that I had seriously misunderstood what sainthood was all about. People are *not* usually made saints because they are morally outstanding, they are made saints because they have been useful to the institution of the Catholic church, though words, deeds, or as examples. This weekend's double canonization seems to be no exception. Disappointing.

Further reading: What It Takes to Become a Saint and The Agenda in Making John Paul an Insta-Saint and Water to Wine? I Get Fifteen Percent

Thursday, April 24, 2014

More Easter and Earth Day

- Resurrection and Remembering - a message for Easter by Jeffrey John

Recently a group of Swiss psychologists published research showing that the closer we are to someone, the less visual our memory of them is. We are often better at remembering what strangers look like than our nearest and dearest. This is because we remember people we love at a deeper level, which the researchers called ‘an underlying consciousness of relationship’. So with family and friends we stop registering the colour of their eyes or clothes; instead what we recall is the totality of our relationship with them. In short, we remember we love them. I mention this because people often ask how we will know one another after death ....

- "Deep peace of the running wave to you ..."

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.

Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.

Deep peace of Christ, The light of the world to you
Deep peace of Christ to you.
Deep peace of Christ, The light of the world to you

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Earth Day

San Francisco is what comes to mind when I think of Earth Day ... don't know why :) ...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Easter

Joy in the resurrection, from the film Jesus ...

Mary finds the tomb empty and doesn't recognize the resurrected Jesus at first ...

Then she does ...

He asks her to tell the other disciples he's alive ...

Joy :) ...

Where was Jesus on Holy Saturday?

Did Jesus spend Saturday in paradise? Or was he in hell, and if so,, was he suffering or was he triumphant? Or maybe he was nowhere to be found at all. Or maybe he was here in his tomb? ....

- Did Jesus Spend Saturday in Hell?, John Piper

- Why Von Balthasar Was Wrong About Holy Saturday, Stephen H. Webb

- Holy Saturday: Waiting to cross over, James Hanvey SJ

- Saturday Night in the Tomb, William Coleman

I like to imagine Him dancing there,
testing his limbs' limits once more, fitting
back into his body the way we might
slip back again into a forgotten
favorite shirt crumpled in the closet,
finding ourselves wrapped in an old love's
scent and remembering the moonflowers
opening in our gaze, steadying
for another long, glorious night of worship.
That's the God I believe in—the one
who can't wait to roll back the rock, leave nothing
behind, make an appearance everywhere,
yet who still loves these nights alone, the cool
darkness of His room, that sweet, solitary
music that keeps Him humming long after the dying's done.

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Understanding Good Friday"

The Via Dolorosa is not a sentimental journey. It is not the beautification of suffering, it is not the nobility of pain. God’s plan on Good Friday was not to invite us to contemplate a sense of cruelty redeemed, but rather of cruelty understood. We have to believe, and Jesus has allowed us to believe, that suffering can have a meaning. But suffering is not good, it is not beautiful, it is not destiny; it is not God’s will ...
- Understanding Good Friday, Ferdinand von Prondzynski

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Will You Draw Near?"

Shall I this year attend this drama of love and betrayal? Shall I bring to it all the anguish and ecstasy of my own loves and betrayals, or shall I stand at a distance, protecting myself awhile? Perhaps I can just be part of the chorus and do some suitable garment-rending for the purposes of a nice bit of "purgation of pity and fear"? Or is it that something deeper is required, something that costs not less than everything? I hover at the edge, uncertain at the alternatives set before me ...
- Will You Draw Near? Meditations for Holy Week - Sarah Coakley

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Thursday

I'm a bit early, but ...

I've always been more impressed by movies than the written word or images. Here are the two movie versions I've seen of Jesus washing the disciples' feet at the Last Supper. The first, from The Gospel of John, is the one I like best, partly because Mary Magdalene is included in the scene ....

The other is from The Passion of the Christ ...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hercules and confession

- Hercules reads a message from Nemesis

My latest DVD from the library is the first season of Hercules. I decided to pick it up because it's connected to some good memories .... I had been watching reruns of the series on tv back when my mom and cats were all still alive and while I was in RCIA class. The reason I especially remember RCIA is that towards the end of our classes we in the group were supposed to make our first confession and during that I mentioned to the priest that it would be nice to have a boyfriend like the tv Hercules ... he corrected me: 'you mean a *husband* like Hercules' ... heh ;) Yes, sometimes the special effects, acting, and writing leave something to be desired, but still the character of Hercules is just so good - kind, honest, brave, and willing to risk his life to help even strangers - that it almost makes up for the deficiencies.

Here's the theme music ...

And here's one of the many episodes that can be found online - it begins with Hercules and his best friend Iolaus camping out on their way to a festival ...

A Word to the Elect

Saw a link today at Thinking Anglicans to a post at Modern Church blog. Here's just a bit of the post ...

Hell: the worst theory ever

I have recently received an email warning me of eternal damnation in hell.


How do people who believe in hell cope with it?

1) At the height of medieval Christendom hell was only for a few people round the edges of the world. Most people could assume it was nothing to do with them or anyone else they knew. I think many Christians today take a similar view; they accept the existence of hell because that is what they have been taught, but they do not know much about it and they have never thought that anyone they know might end up there.

2) Some take pleasure in the prospect of criminals or unbelievers being punished in hell. In my experience these people tend to have a black-and-white view of humanity. This fits the belief that hell is something you either don’t get at all or get for eternity. They locate themselves among the people who will not go there – otherwise they would not have gained any pleasure from others going there.

3) Some allow for the possibility that they may be heading for hell themselves. In that tragic period between the 14th and 17th centuries many people spent their lives in terror of what was to come after death. Few do that today, but I suspect that many more would, if they were more consistent about their beliefs. The author of this video gives no direct indication that he may end up there himself, but the very fact that he invests so much in this preaching makes me wonder whether, deep down inside, he fears that what he says to other people may also apply to him.

4) There are some emotionless ones who are committed to believing in hell, but have never felt the significance of it. This must say something about their personalities. Perhaps it is more common among career preachers who have learned the skill of earning their bread and butter by threatening damnation while keeping their personal lives completely separate. Is the author of this video one of these? Possibly, though my guess is that he is a very frightened man ...

I also wonder how people who do believe in hell manage to cope with such a belief. I assume people like Thomas Aquinas, who believed those in heaven enjoy the tortures of the righteously damned, must think they themselves and those they love could never end up there. And some, like CS Lewis, make peace with the concept of hell by changing its traditional nature, asserting that it's self-imposed. But I myself can't find a way to make hell ok.

Some further reading : Seeing Hell: Do the Saints in Heaven Behold the Sufferings of the Damned (And How Do They Respond)

And a poem ...

A Word to the Elect - Anne Bronte

You may rejoice to think yourselves secure;
You may be grateful for the gift divine–
That grace unsought, which made your black hearts pure,
And fits your earth-born souls in Heaven to shine.

But, is it sweet to look around, and view
Thousands excluded from that happiness
Which they deserved, at least, as much as you,–
Their faults not greater, nor their virtues less?
And, wherefore should you love your God the more,
Because to you alone his smiles are given;
Because he chose to pass the many o'er,
And only bring the favoured few to Heaven?

And, wherefore should your hearts more grateful prove,
Because for ALL the Saviour did not die?
Is yours the God of justice and of love?
And are your bosoms warm with charity?

Say, does your heart expand to all mankind?
And, would you ever to your neighbor do–
The weak, the strong, the enlightened, and the blind–
As you would have your neighbor do to you?

And, when you, looking on your fellow-men,
Behold them doomed to endless misery,
How can you talk of joy and rapture then?–
May God withhold such cruel joy from me!

That none deserve eternal bliss I know;
Unmerited the grace in mercy given:

But, none shall sink to everlasting woe,
That have not well deserved the wrath of Heaven.
And, oh! there lives within my heart
A hope, long nursed by me;
(And, should its cheering ray depart,
How dark my soul would be!)

That as in Adam all have died,
In Christ shall all men live;
And ever round his throne abide,
Eternal praise to give.

That even the wicked shall at last
Be fitted for the skies;
And, when their dreadful doom is past,
To life and light arise.

I ask not, how remote the day,
Nor what the sinners' woe,
Before their dross is purged away;
Enough for me, to know

That when the cup of wrath is drained,
The metal purified,
They'll cling to what they once disdained,
And live by Him that died.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


In the yard today ....

Holy Week links

- NT Wright: On Palm Sunday, Jesus Rides into the Perfect Storm

- James Alison: Three Holy Week Sermons

- John Milbank: The Ethics of Self-Sacrifice

- David Bentley Hart: An Orthodox Easter

- Vincent Nichols: Holy Week through art ...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Holy Week: and so it begins

I've been putting off thinking about the whole lead-up to Easter ... Lent, and now Palm Sunday. I guess tomorrow's event in the gospels was a happy one - Jesus being cheered by the people of Jerusalem as he entered town. Here's a clip from The Gospel of John ...

But I can't help thinking ahead to Friday. I used to be more upbeat about it all - even had a post once on the stations of the cross.

- Crucifixion from the Stations of the Cross at The Cloisters in New York City. The inscription reads, "Through the Sign of the Holy Cross, from our enemies, our God frees us." - Wikipedia

But now I just feel sort of morose about Holy Week.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Crossing Lines

Those to whom evil is done do evil in return. - an Auden quote from the first episode

My latest DVD rental is the tv series Crossing Lines ...

an English-language French and German television series .... Former NYPD officer Carl Hickman's life has fallen apart after he was injured on the job; he has become addicted to morphine and is working as a garbage collector at a carnival in the Netherlands. He is recruited to join the International Criminal Court's special crime unit, (a fictionalized unit). Based in The Hague, it investigates a variety of crimes that cross international boundaries. The unit includes an anti-mafia covert specialist from Italy, a tech specialist from Germany, a crimes analyst from France, and a weapons specialist and tactical expert from Northern Ireland.

So far I like it. The actor who plays the American ex-cop is William Fichtner, who's done a lot of work but is best known to me as the blind scientist in Contact. His character is very interesting with his physical and emotional wounds. A neat thing about the show too is that we get to see lots of European locations, and I like listening to the accents, especially that of the character from Northern Ireland. It is violent, though, for those who care about stuff like that. Here's a trailer ...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jesus' wife and Shakespeare

The papyrus fragment which mentions Jesus' wife has been found to be authentic, time-wise ... Harvard Magazine: The Jesus’s Wife Fragment: The Scientific Evidence. For more information, see Duke NT professor Mark Goodacre's post: The Jesus' Wife Fragment is Back.

Would it matter if Jesus had been married? Depends on how you look at it. The Catholic Church would, I think, have a harder time justifying mandatory celibacy for priests if Jesus had been married, and James Martin SJ has a post asserting that Jesus was *not* married ... Did Jesus Have a Wife? No. One of the arguments Fr. Martin makes for why he believes Jesus wasn't married is that being single would have allowed Jesus to make a "single-hearted commitment to God".

I'm unconvinced by the idea that being married would get in the way of being wholeheartedly devoted to God or others ... most (all?) of the apostles chosen by Jesus, including Peter, were married, and there are many examples of married people devoted to God and their neighbors (like Albert Schweitzer). Love and devotion aren't like a finite pile of widgets that gets depleted if used in intimate personal relationships ... loving only increases love. As Shakespeare had Juliet say ... My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite :) ...

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Church, the Philippines, contraception

- photo credit: AFP

Philippines Goes Against Church and Upholds Family Planning Law

This is a good thing for women in particular and the Philippines in general. The Church has blocked women's access to birth control in the Philippines for over a decade, and organized protests against the Supreme Court's approval of the Reproductive Health Bill, deeming it "evil" and threatening to excommunicate the President for signing the bill.

A Jesuit, Joaquin Bernas SJ, wrote that the separation of church and state means only that the state cannot institute a state church, not that the church shouldn't be able to influence the laws of a state ... John Courtney Murray SJ would spin in his grave.

The Church's opposition to birth control in the Philippines has played out against the backdrop of terrible poverty, one of the fastest growing populations in Asia (100 million people), and an unintended pregnancy rate of 50%. And unfortunately, though the Court has approved the HR Bill, the Church was able to restrict some of its provisions ... the court declared unconstitutional the inclusion of abortifacients as contraceptives, a requirement that church-run health facilities provide contraception, and a ban on health-care providers who refuse to offer contraception. (The Tablet).

Mind-boggling that the Church chooses to make such a stand on such a questionable and contested teaching.

Read more about all this ... Women of Philippine slum welcome birth control victory

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

More roses ...

from the yard. A yellow one from the miniature rose bush ...

A pink tea rose ...

One of the coral-colored roses ...

A little white rose bush ...

The tall climbing red rose bush ...

Monday, April 07, 2014

What I thought about today

- reading about St Walburge's Church

- Ancient Egyptian Mummy Found With Brain, No Heart. This reminded me of ancient art history class, in which we learned about canopic jars, and a ceramics class in which I made one :)

- Beautiful gecko!

- The Catholic church must apologise for its role in Rwanda's genocide. This reminded me of my past post: The Church and Rwanda

- From Michael O’Loughlin: Why does progressive Pope Francis allow anti-gay bishops to preach hate? ... and related ... The Pope’s Tone Softens — But The Vatican Is Still Fighting LGBT Rights Around The World

- Finally, I looked up a clip from the movie The Gospel of John showing Jesus (Henry Ian Cusick) raising Lazarus. I have many questions about this event ... why did Jesus wait until Lazarus died ... why is this raising from the dead so much more politically volatile than the raising of the little girl or the guy in Nain ... why did he raise them: is being alive better than being dead? ....

My un-cat, Fluffy

I've been trying very hard not to have a pet since Kermit died - I worry I can't see well enough anymore to take care of a pet, not to mention not being able to afford the vet bills - but one of the stray cats who have been hanging around has been especially persistent ... I call him/her Fluffy. Please God, let Fluffy be a boy or fixed! ;) The cat is too shy to even let me close enough to touch him so the relationship is limited to me leaving out dry food and him eating it. Four stray cats now eating the food ... I'm so doomed.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Captain America and the Mad Hatter

*** Beware: a spoiler below for Captain America: The Winter Soldier ****

I've not yet seen the movie but hope to soon. I've been a fan of Captain America since I was a little kid reading Marvel comics, and I like the film version of him even more. This second edition of the series looks like it will be interesting, given the political anti-ends-justify-means theme of the story (think the opposite of Zero Dark Thirty) ... from Mother Jones: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" Is About Obama's Terror-Suspect Kill List, Say the Film's Directors ...

[...] "[Marvel] said they wanted to make a political thriller," Joe Russo, who directed the film with his brother Anthony, tells Mother Jones. "So we said if you want to make a political thriller, all the great political thrillers have very current issues in them that reflect the anxiety of the audience...That gives it an immediacy, it makes it relevant. So [Anthony] and I just looked at the issues that were causing anxiety for us, because we read a lot and are politically inclined. And a lot of that stuff had to do with civil liberties issues, drone strikes, the president's kill list, preemptive technology"—all themes they worked into the film, working closely with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely ...

Some backstory ... in the first Captain American film, Steve Rogers tried to join the army to fight the Nazis (WWII) with his best friend, Bucky Barnes, but he was rejected as too frail and sickly ....

Later, he participated in an experimental super-soldier procedure that made him much stronger ...

And he became Captain America and did fight alongside his friend till a tragic accident ended Bucky's life ...

Or did it? ;) In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Winter Soldier referenced is a mysterious masked assassin who surprisingly turns out to be Bucky. A clip showing the Winter Soldier ...

The reason I bring up the Winter Soldier is that the actor who plays him is more familiar to me as the Mad Hatter from Once Upon a Time. Here he helps the evil queen travel via his hat's magic to Wonderland :) ...

Pink rose

If you double click to look closely, you can see a little big on the bottom petal of the rose :) ...

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Today's muzak

As I stood at the ice cream cold case in the grocery store, gazing at the Häagen-Dazs vanilla, this song began to play on the muzak :) ...

Friday, April 04, 2014

More photos

Columbine flower :) ...

Another rose, somewhat eaten ...

Violets ...

Thursday, April 03, 2014

John Milbank and Stanley Hauerwas

Remembering today a pretty interesting podcast ... Theological Reflections on Being a Theologian and the Task of Theology ... a conversation at King's College London, October 18th, 2010 with John Milbank and Stanley Hauerwas. It begins with Hauerwas talking about his autobiographical book, Hannah's Child, but it does eventually get to John Milbank too, at about 13 minutes into the podcast. You can go straight to the podcast here. They mention something interesting .... I think of both these guys as conservative, yet both are married to women who are ministers/priests. BTW, Hauerwas clicks his pen throughout the podcast ... don't let it drive you batty ;)

Eureka Street and David Marr on George Pell

Today NCR linked to a number of posts about George Pell, some of them from the Australian Jesuit site, Eureka Street: Commission hearings' trail of collateral devastation by theology professor Neil Ormerod, Church honours market over Gospel in abuse cases by Jesuit Andrew Hamilton, and Deeper dysfunction behind the Ellis case by journalist Tim Wallace.

Another of the articles about Pell mentioned at NCR was by journalist David Marr - A cup of tea with the cardinal: what George Pell did in the Ellis case. In an earlier post I had pasted a news interview with him on this subject. Here it is again ...

You can read a couple of past related articles from Eureka Street: No copping out of abuse blame and Coming out of Cardinal Pell's shadow, and a related article from ABC Religion & Ethics - Restoring faith: Child sexual abuse and the Catholic Church.

And if interested, see my past posts about Pell ... Pell, sex abuse, church money ... Cardinal Pell and the Ellis sex abuse case ... Cardinal Pell

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

"Why did God make us?"

"Why did God make us? Because God wanted children. So what are we for? Well, we are not for anything, in one sense. We are not tools or slaves. But in another sense we are meant to be children of God, who will develop our own unique characters and grow in companionship with one another and with God. That is why God cares about what we do -- because, like any good parent, God wants us to be ourselves, to grow and flourish and live well as human persons."
- Keith Ward, God: A Guide for the Perplexed (2013 edition), p. 88

I don't have children but I've had pets and that is how I felt about them - that they weren't "for" anything, they didn't have "jobs" they had to fulfill ... they were wonderful just because they existed :) If God loves us the way I love my cats, maybe he's not so scary after all.

The conservative Catholic Supremes

In the news: A Supreme Court out of control! How McCutcheon will spur corruption and inequality. This isn't the first depressing decision this conservative Catholic version of the Supreme Court has made ... there was the decision against the disabled from 2012: Supreme Court: Discrimination laws do not protect certain employees of religious groups ... and from 2010, the decision to see corporations as people: Conservative justices and free speech. I recall being disturbed when conservative John Roberts was appointed by George Bush, especially given his wife's role in Feminists for Life, the organization of which Sarah Palin, is a member.

But anyway, that last case mentioned above reminded me of a lecture by Eugene McCarraher on corporations as persons ...

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The doctrine of analogy

Still reading Keith Ward's God: A Guide for the Perplexed (2013 edition). Here's where I am now (p. 60 - 61) ...

* * * * *

[...] When the second Isaiah says, 'Your Maker is your husband' (Isaiah 54:5), he is not saying that God is a male who has gone through a wedding ceremony. He is saying that the Israelites are not just slaves of God, bound to submit to the divine will in fear. They are in a much closer and more loving relation than that, something like the relation a wife should be in with her husband. There is an analogy between the relation of husband and wife and the relation of God and created persons, or at least some created persons.

God cannot really get married, and is not even a person, much less masculine in gender. But if you think of God as a loving husband, it will put you in the most appropriate and fulfilling relation to God -- or so the prophet Isaiah says, anyway. And many generations of Jews and Christians have found that to be true in their own experience. Thinking of yourself as married to a totally faithful and loving person is good for your self-esteem, your sense of security, and your general happiness. Moreover, when you do think like that, you may well tend to have experiences of God's love or compassion or presence which reinforce the image you took on trust from the prophet to begin with. At any rate, enough people do have such reinforcing experiences to make that religious tradition an enduring and powerful one.

There is of course a danger that you might just adopt that way of talking because it provides comfort and security. That is what critics of religion say -- faith is just a crutch for emotionally insecure people. There are two things to be said to that. First, there is nothing wrong with emotional security, and anything that helps us to have it deserves at least a second look. Second, these images of shepherds and husbands did not evolve because they give emotional security. They arose from an overwhelming prophetic experience, in moments of inspiration, and it is simply good luck that they are also emotionally satisfying (some of the time, anyway).

The basic images and analogies of religion are not are not invented by philosophers: they are spoken by prophets, and the rest of us have to get on interpreting them as well as we can. The general interpretation given by Aquinas is usually called 'the doctrine of analogy', and it is this: 'So far as the perfections signified are concerned the words are used literally of God ... but so far as the way of signifying these perfections is concerned the words are used inappropriately' (in the Summa Theologiae, Ia, 13, 3).

* * * * *