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Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween

- Pumpkinhead - Self-Portrait, Jamie Wyeth

My friend Susan has posted a short story for Halloween ... Halloween (a short-short). Susan and I first met at a writers BBS almost 15 years ago :) Anyway, she has inspired me to post a short story for Halloween too, one written back when I was at the BBS ...


Crestview Shopping Mall, 9:15 pm

David Fletcher crouched behind some crates in the dim cluttered storeroom/office at the back of the toy store, his stomach doing flip-flops. Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was just after closing time. David knew, from prior observation, that in moments the owner of the store, Mr. Sims, would come to this room to put the day's receipts in the small safe near the desk. That would be David's opportunity.

Seeking the courage necessary to his task, David turned his gaze to his ten year old daughter Emily. Lovely in her pink cotton dress, she leaned in silence against a crate further back in the shadows, staring at him. In that stare, he found the resolve he needed.

A sudden noise snapped his attention back to the door and he saw the owner walk through it, the cash-register tray in his hands. David pulled his pistol from his pants pocket and crept up behind the man as he bent to open the safe. Taking a deep breath, David swallowed down his trepidation and struck the other in the head with the pistol, felling him.

He dragged Sims' heavy inert body back to Emily, studying the man as he did so. In his fifties and overweight, the man looked little different than he had at the trial all those months ago. Unconscious, he seemed almost harmless, pathetic, and David cast a questioning glance at Emily as he reached her side with his burden. Her expression didn't change and he suppressed a sigh ... there was no mistake ... Mr. Sims was the one.

David opened a duffel bag that lay on the floor at Emily's feet, pulling out a roll of duct tape and a long bladed knife. Tearing pieces off the roll, he bound the store owner's wrists together and then his ankles. Last he placed tape over the man's mouth. The he sat on the floor, his back against one of the crates, to await Sims' return to consciousness. David could not perform the final ritual without asking one essential question of Sims. Once that question had been asked and answered, David could finally cut out the other's still beating heart.

* * * * *

Surrounded by his friends, Tom Fletcher walked through the parking lot of Crestview Shopping Mall, planning to spend a few hours in the mall's video gaming center. Those plans changed for Tom when he caught sight of his father entering the back exit of the toy store, carrying a large bundle. Tom knew who owned that store and his stomach did a queasy roll as he contemplated his father's possible intentions. Leaving his friends, he slowly walked to the toy sore's exit door, taking out his cell phone.

One year ago today, something terrible had happened to his family. His dad had been devastated and Tom had despaired of things ever getting back to some semblance of normality. Then a few months ago, his dad had suddenly improved in spirits. Things weren't the way they had been before, of course, but his dad seemed content, at peace. He'd begun working on some project out in his tool shed and Tom hadn't cared to inquire into the details. But now he had to ask himself ... what could his dad be thinking?

Tom reached the exit door and saw that the lock had been jimmied. Worried, he entered the toy store and walked down a dim hallway that led to the back room. He strode into a chamber filled with crates and with a desk at the far end. Turning down an aisle, he was startled to find his father standing there, a pistol pointed in his direction.

"Tom! God, I could have shot you! Why are you here?" David shoved the pistol back in his pocket and hugged his son.

As his father released him and stepped back, Tom saw Sims' body on the floor. "Dad, what's going on?"

"I know how it looks, son ... just give me a chance to explain." David led Tom over to Sims, who was now awake. "This is the man who hurt your sister last year. He has to be punished."

Tom looked down at Sims then back at his father, frightened. "Dad, there was a trial, remember? He was found innocent, he had an alibi."

"I remember, son. And I accepted the verdict. Until a few months ago. That's when your sister told me ..."

"My sister?" Tom interrupted. "Emily is dead ... she can't tell you anything anymore. Dad, tell me you know that Emily's dead." Tom searched his father's face anxiously, fearing the worst.

David gave his son's shoulder a reassuring clasp. "It's okay, son, I'm not losing my mind. I know Emily died last year ... her body, at least."

Tom's burgeoning smile of relief faded as his father continued.

David sighed. "Her spirit is still here, though ... bound to her body by the injustice of her death. She came to me in a dream, saying that Mr. Sims had indeed killed her, after ... " David's voice faltered. "After abusing her. The woman who falsely provided his alibi was his accomplice. Emily said that the only way her soul could be released was if the guilty were executed."

Tom began stumbling backwards, shaking his head in denial, until he bumped into something. Turning, he saw Emily. Eyes bulging, he gasped. Was he seeing a ghost? Then he took in the seams in her grayish skin, held together with tiny regular stitches ... recognized the too bright sheen of polished glass eyes ... caught the stench of decay. Tearing his gaze away, he retched.

David held his son, then helped him to a seat on one of the crates. "That's the project I've been working on lately ... Emily asked me to exhume her, fix her up as best I could. Then she asked me to bring her here. She wanted to see Mr. Sims with her own eyes, so to speak, before I ... before he was punished. Speaking of which ... "

Tom watched in horror as his father picked up the knife and bent towards Sims. "Dad, no! This is crazy!"

Ignoring him, David pulled the tape from Sims' mouth. "Do you repent of your crimes?"

The older man began to weep, turning his eyes to Tom. "Please, you have to help me! I'm innocent, I swear ... oh God, please help me!"

David, visibly upset by the man's pleading, replaced the tape and began to unbutton Sims' shirt.

Trembling, Tom appealed to David. "Dad, don't do this. You're not behaving rationally." His father didn't respond. Tom tried again. "Just before entering the store, I called the police ... they'll be here any minute. Leave him and get out of here while you can."

Disappointment in his voice, David repeated Tom's words. "You called the police." He placed the point of the knife against Sims' now bare chest and looked up at Tom. "Then I guess I'd better hurry."

* * * * *

Nine months later

Tom lay in his cousin's darkened bedroom, listening to the other's even breathing as he slept. Once Tom's dad had been arrested for Sims' murder, he'd come here to live with his dad's brother. After all this time, the horror of seeing his sister's taxadermied corpse, of watching a man's living heart cut from his chest, was starting to fade a bit. But he knew that the horror of his dad's descent into madness would never go away. Tom closed his eyes and sought the sleep of forgetfulness. He'd barely drifted off before a familiar voice called his name.

"Tom ... Tom ... one more person still must die before I'm avenged ... you must cleave the beating heart from Sims' accomplice to set me free." Emily's whisper was not quite drowned out by Tom's screams.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Some links

- Good for Creighton University, the Jesuit school that hosts the online version of the 19th annotation of the Spiritual Exercises retreat that I once made .... they have decided to give benefits to same-sex spouses of employees

- Andrew Brown thinks the church could schism. I only wish ;) but I doubt it will happen ... A Catholic church schism under Pope Francis isn’t out of the question

- More chat about the ex-bishop Conry, who apparently has been having affairs with married women. The liberals have been defending him because he's a liberal and the conservatives have been critiquing him. I'm a liberal but I think living a double life is dishonest and creepy, no matter what your political stance.

- The pope saying evolution is ok has been in the news. Not really news, of course, but I can't blame people for wondering how a church that says it believes in evolution can continue to also believe in Adam/Eve/Eden, original sin, and natural law theory. From the Pew Forum ... 5 facts about evolution and religion Apparently, About a quarter of white American Catholics (26%) say that they do not believe in evolution of any kind, despite the church’s acceptance of it. The share of Hispanic Catholics in the U.S. who reject evolution and say that humans have always existed in their present form is even higher (31%).

- Indiana Jones, the Antichrist, and Hell :)

- Tattooing close up and in slow motion :) from Smarter Every Day ...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ross Douthat, Paul on communion, and getting God wrong

UPDATE: John O'Malley SJ, who write What Happened at Vatican II, has a reply to Douthat's article - Is a Precipice Yawning? John W. O'Malley, S.J., Responds to Ross Douthat

There's been a lot in the Catholic news about an article by Ross Douthat - The Pope and the Precipice - in which he goes on about the conservative Catholics whose devotion to doctrine will be betrayed if the pope allows divorced/remarried people to take communion. I haven't read it myself but I guess part of the "divorced/married people aren't worthy of communion" idea is based on 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. I think the verses are usually misunderstood as meaning *unworthy people* don't deserve communion, while it seems instead to be about an unworthy *manner* of participating in communion. Here's a bit about this from Ben Witherington's Making a Meal of It ....

One of the things that becomes clear as one works through 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 is that Paul expects the meal Christians share to be far more egalitarian in nature than a normal Greco-Roman meal .... Even though the community meets in the household of one of the more socially well-off Christians, Paul insists that they carry on in a way that comports with the equality that exists in the body of Christ, without regard to social distinctions and social status ..... the wealthy are being served first and getting the better portions while the poor are in the atrium getting the leftovers .... the goal of Paul's rhetoric here is to remove obstacles to ... unity.

[... snip ...]

The reference in 1 Corinthians 11:27 .... [is] to those who are partaking in an unworthy manner, not those who in themselves are unworthy, which presumably Paul would see as including any and all believers. No one is worthy of partaking of the Lord's Supper; it's not a matter of personal worth. Paul is rather concerned with the abuse in the actions of the participants, or at least some of them. Paul says that those who partake in an unworthy manner, abusing the privilege, are liable or guilty in some sense of the body and blood of Jesus. They are, in addition, partaking without discerning or distinguishing "the body."

[... snip ...]

Paul is saying something ... about those who have become sick and died. Those Corinthians had partaken of the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner and had been judged by God for doing so. Paul uses this as a solemn warning to the other Corinthians against continuing to abuse the Christian meal .... Paul believes the Corinthians are bringing judgement on themselves, both temporally in the form of weakness and illness, and possibly even permanently in eternal condemnation. Paul even says that because of this very failure "some have died" (11:30), a shocking conclusion.

I don't even go to communion anymore so I find it hard to get very excited about this whole issue, but what did strike me as disturbing was the conclusion Paul seems to take for granted ... that God lethally punishes people in the here and now for infractions. This is a belief that seems to be shared by Peter as well - think of Ananias and Sapphira. In that instance, in chapter 5 of Acts, God kills a married couple because they weren't upfront about sharing all their money with the early church community in Jerusalem ...

Ananias presented his donation to Peter. Peter replied, "Why is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?" Peter pointed out that Ananias was in control of the money and could give or keep it as he saw fit, but had withheld a portion of it. Peter stated that Ananias had lied not to men, but to God. Ananias died on the spot and was carried out. Everyone who heard about the incident feared the Lord. Three hours after Ananias' death his wife arrived, unaware of what had happened. Peter asked her the price of the land that she and Ananias had sold, and she stated the same untruthful price that Ananias had given. She also fell dead, apparently a punishment for deceiving God.

Really? It's depressing that Jesus hasn't been dead and resurrected for long before the disciples show how little they understood the God he revealed ... ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. If even the disciples closest to Jesus misinterpreted his teachings, I've got to wonder how much more so the church is doing the same with its "infallible" teachings on subjects like divorce/remarriage and communion.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


- Interview with science fiction writer William Gibson at Mother Jones - William Gibson: The Future Will View Us "As a Joke". I've only read his most famous book, Neuromancer, but my sister is a bigg fan.

- Article in The Guardian by Australian journalist David Marr (see his past talk, David Marr on The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell) .... Pope's fine words on homosexuality are useless while the Catholic church still calls it a sin

- A movie that looks like it will be very interesting ... Antarctica: A Year On Ice ...


Trina napping by the flower pot ....

Friday, October 24, 2014


Tap dancing priests :) I like tap dancing, from Fred Astaire to Gregory Hines to Riverdance.

'When God Talks Back'

A while ago I had a post about Stanford psychological anthropologist T. M. Luhrmann, and her book, When God Talks Back. Today I was remembering that and an article from Bryan Cones at US Catholic that had mentioned her - Look who's talking: Personal conversations with God. Bryan writes ...

It’s not often that you turn on the radio and hear someone talking about you—well, not you personally, but someone like you. That was the reaction I had listening to National Public Radio’s Terry Gross as she interviewed Tanya Luhrmann, a Stanford University anthropologist who had just published When God Talks Back: Understanding the Evangelical Relationship with God (Knopf). Luhrmann had been intrigued when she met a woman who “had coffee with God” and “talked about God as if he were a person,” so she began participating in a prayer group at a location of the evangelical Vineyard Church to see what was going on.

I was intrigued as well, since I have been talking to God as long as I can remember, and I know a lot of other people who have, too. I was mostly interested in the fact that such a relationship with God—“as if he were a person”—was such an object of curiosity.

NPR’s Gross at times sounded a little incredulous (though always respectful): “What’s the difference between the imaginary friend that you’re supposed to outgrow,” she asked, “and this approach to believing that . . . God or Jesus is like your friend, your buddy?” ...

Anyway, for those interested, here's the NPR interview with Luhrmann ...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The apocalypse - not

Given the recent synod with its attending NFP married couples and any lack of progress on the subject of contraception, plus given Pope Francis' move to make Paul VI a saint, there's been increased discussion online about Humanae Vitae. Today I saw an article by Peter Knott SJ on Paul VI and human sexuality. Here's a bit of it ...

[...] Humanae Vitae offered a vision of human sexuality as responsive to the will of God and faithful to the insight that the profound intimacy of sexual intercourse required a covenant of persons and an openness to the life that is made possible by the intercourse of man and woman. It warned of the risks of ignoring this vision: sex and women becoming a commodity, fragmentation of the spousal relationship and the distancing of parents from offspring.

Could it be that, unmoored from the will of God, spousal love and the reality and symbolism of reproduction, sex is reduced to a matter of unfettered liberty in fulfilling desire or the traffic of entertainment and commerce?

Those who think that God and ethics have nothing to do with the bedroom or reproduction have some hard questions to face. Are there no moral constraints at all on sexual or reproductive freedom? Is nothing morally required of us in matters of this significant part of human experience? Is one's ‘heart's desire’ the final answer for all our decisions?

One wonders what might be the source of the repression of compunction in priests who abused children, of parents or relatives who violated their own, of teachers who seduced their students. Such horrors have taken place for ages. But have they been done with such absence of guilt?

And what of sex itself? Do the large profits in pornography, the mounting rates of sexually transmitted diseases, the images of pop music videos or the edgy offerings of the television and fashion industries offer any vision of sex that is even remotely connected to love, commitment, or children? ......

The article raises some questions for me ...

1) Is it assumed that people who don't believe in God cannot have ethical and responsible sex lives?

2) What's the basis for the belief that it's God's will that married couples must procreate without restriction?

3) What's the basis for the belief that a lack of "an openness to the life" is in any way connected to "women becoming a commodity ... fragmentation of the spousal relationship ... the distancing of parents from offspring ... abused children ... pornography ... the mounting rates of sexually transmitted diseases"?

Hey, it's contraception use, not the apocalypse! It's this kind of reaction that makes it seem pointless to even discuss this subject, much less to try to explain why contraception use is actually considered by most people (including almost everyone at Vatican II) to be ethical, responsible, and just. Still, I'll try anyway with these two short videos by Melinda Gates (a Catholic, btw, and discusses Catholicism and birth control in the first video) ....

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some stuff

- Here's a pic of Lucy, one of the stray kittens I've been feeding. She looks kind of Halloweeny :) ....

- Reading about the "guardians of the galaxy in an article at ABC Religion & Ethics: s Existential Risk an Authentic Challenge or the Higher Moral Evasion?

- 2014 Wildlife photographer of the Year

- This week's movie rental was Star Trek Into Darkness ...

a 2013 American science fiction action film .... the sequel to 2009's Star Trek and the second in the reboot series. The film was directed by J.J. Abrams .... with Bryan Burk. Chris Pine reprises his role as Captain James T. Kirk, with Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, Leonard Nimoy, John Cho, and Bruce Greenwood reprising their roles from the previous film. Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Weller, and Alice Eve round out the film's principal cast.

I had already read the book and wrote this about the story in an earlier post ...

It's a re-imagining of an original Star Trek tv episode, Space Seed, and an original Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan. It was a great idea of J. J. Abrams' (I guess?) to give Star Trek a new timeline - it's something that's been used in some of the tv shows he's produced, like Lost and Fringe, and it gives writers a lot of freedom to recombine story elements in new ways. I was kind of surprised, though, to see that Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan.

Hmmm - I've just noticed Khan's whole name was Khan Noonien Singh ... so similar to the name given later to the scientist who created the android, Data - Noonien Soong. But anyway, here's a trailer ...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Video talk

Steve Chalke caused quite a furor last year when he made public his opinion that same-sex relationships were ok from a Christian standpoint ... see his article: A MATTER OF INTEGRITY:The Church, sexuality, inclusion and an open conversation. Depressing that a Christian Evangelical can see the goodness in gay relationships but in my church, Catholic leaders at synod backtrack on welcoming gays to the church.

Anyway, today I watched a really interesting talk by Steve about Jesus. He tells some good jokes :) ...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ouch ;)

I've started going to physical therapy for my hurt back. My first assignment is to do a number of stretches every day. Some are pretty easy but there's one that's especially hard .... it reminded me of this funny bit from an episode of Frasier in which Niles and Daphne take yoga instruction :) ...

Saturday, October 18, 2014


As both the BBC and conservative Damian Thompson note, the hopes we liberals (well, me at least) had for the synod have been disappointed ... Catholic synod: Pope Francis suffers setback on gays (BBC) ... The Vatican cancels its earthquake. This is not Pope Francis’s finest hour (Thompson).

What had seemed so positive and hopeful to some in the earlier relatio has deteriorated to business as usual in the final document ...

Three sections on controversial issues did not receive the necessary two-thirds majority to pass: two paragraphs on Communion for the divorced and remarried and one on gay people. None was particularly revolutionary. The sections on divorced and remarried Catholics simply reported that some synod fathers favored finding a way to readmit such Catholics to Communion, and others wanted to maintain current practice. Likewise, the paragraph about gay people was rather tame. It referred to a 2003 document from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which hold that there are "absolutely not grounds" for calling same-sex unions "similar or even remotely analagous" to traditional marriage, and reemphasized the obvious truth that gay people should be treated with respect. - Synod day 14 presser the second: that's a wrap.

Some believe things might go better with the synod in 2015, but I have my doubts. As long as those in control of the church continue to profess that church teaching cannot change, the institution will become more and more irrelevant.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Some links

- Contagious: Love in the Time of Ebola

- As the Vatican document on outreach to gays edits out ‘welcoming’ to focus on ‘providing for’, I saw this from the Pew Forum ... Young U.S. Catholics overwhelmingly accepting of homosexuality .....

Fully 85% of self-identified Catholics ages 18-29 said in a 2014 Pew Research Center survey that homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with just 13% who said it should be discouraged. Older age groups are less likely to favor acceptance. But even among Catholics ages 65 and older, 57% say that homosexuality should be accepted.

- Why isn't anyone talking about the synod's paragraphs on contraception? ....

The synodal fathers seem insistent that natural family planning methods will remain the only form of contraception allowed to Catholic families and that all acts of sexual intimacy in marriage must be open to life. While in the U.S., many of us have the luxury of ignoring the church's teaching on contraception, in many developing countries, the church's position on birth control directly impacts the law of the land .... For the global poor, access to contraception can mean the difference between starvation and nourishment, poverty and stability, illness and health, death and life. Few issues are more crucial to the fate of poor families around the world.

- Archbishop orders inquiry into Kieran Conry resignation over 'relationship with potentially vulnerable female adults' .....

In his resignation statement, read out at all Masses in his former diocese, Bishop Conry said he wanted “to reassure you that my actions were not illegal and did not involve minors”. However, the husband of one of the women said to have been involved with the bishop claims he took advantage of his wife, and another woman with whom he was also involved, because they came to him for support when they were going through difficult situations in their marriages. It is believed this will be the main focus for the inquiry, in which Bishop Conry and the women involved will be invited to participate.

At the synod

Adolfo Nicolás SJ, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, is one of the few non-bishops with a vote at the synod. Briefly interviewed about the synod, he says something with which I agree, that marriage is not a Christian invention ...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rained here ...

in the land of drought last night :)

Antonio Spadaro SJ

So what's really going on at the synod .... stealth reform? Whatever is going on, I saw an interesting mention by Robert Mickens of a certain Jesuit taking part in the synod who may know ... Antonio Spadaro SJ. Mickens writes ...

[...] Keep your eye on Father Antonio Spadaro. The 48-year-old Italian is one of only six men that are not bishops but, nonetheless, are full voting members at the current Synod assembly .... Pope Francis personally appointed Fr Spadaro .... the journalist/editor has been more and more present in the Vatican ever since his interview with the Pope was published last year. And people on the inside say he’s even very much involved behind the scenes.

Francis obviously trusts him and fellow journalist have found in Padre Antonio a reliable interpreter of the mind of the pope. The synod is yet another proving ground for the bright, friendly and media-savvy Sicilian. Rumors have been swirling the past several months that he is being groomed to replace his 72-year-old Jesuit confrere, Fr Federico Lombardi, as director of the Vatican Press Office or head of Vatican Radio. But Pope Francis could appoint him to be first head of a new office to oversee all the Vatican’s media operations. That bureau is likely to be created once Lord Patten and his 11-member commission finish reviewing the various communication sectors at the Vatican and offer recommendations to better coordinate them. That should happen some time next spring.

I noticed this story about Fr. Spadaro because I had posted about him before ... The Jesuits and Second Life ..... The Spiritual Exercises and the virtual world ... he's very into computer stuff, virtual reality, and how all that connects to Ignatian spirituality.

You can read the interview he had with Pope Francis in 2013 here - A Big Heart Open to God

He also blogs at CyberTeologia

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Synod Document

UPDATE (10/14/14): And now the Vatican spokesman and conservative cardinals/bishops/theologians disavow the document - sigh :( - Synod day 10 presser: Walk back? and Opposition grows to synod document that sees good in gay relationships, cohabitation and civil marriages and This Catholic ‘earthquake’ on homosexuality is splitting the Church


There's been much in the news about the document just released by the synod ... The Washington Post is excited: Vatican stuns Catholic world with greater openness toward gays and lesbians, TIME magazine not so much, though: What the Vatican Really Said About Homosexuality

From the religious press, you can read what John Thavis has - A pastoral earthquake at the synod, and also what Damian Thompson has - ‘Earthquake’ in Rome as Vatican synod talks about homosexuality and divorce

From what I've read of the document, which you can read here at The Tablet, it asks whether the church can change it's semantics and its pastoral attitudes to be more merciful toward those people that it has more or less condemned up to this point (LGBT people, divorced people, people who use contraception, people who have sex outside of marriage, etc.).

What the document does *not* do is suggest any change in doctrine or even any examination of doctrine. For instance, while the document asks if the church shouldn't be more charitable about gay relationships, it also writes that ... "[there are] moral problems connected to homosexual unions", and while people who use contraception are to be treated with mercy, the document also writes that "an unconditional opening to life [is] that which human life requires to be lived to its fullest".

Yes, this document is progress when compared with the church under JPII and B16. But let's put this in perspective ... the church's doctrine on these issues is *not* intrinsically Christian ... there is no other Christian church (that I'm aware of) that condemns people for using contraception, for getting a divorce, and there are many Christian churches that accept the ok-ness of gay relationships (the Quakers, Presbyterians, the Episcopal church, the United Church of Christ, etc.), so though this document may be a step in the right direction wow, do we have a long way to go!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The British Jesuits

The Jesuit who was my spiritual director when I made the online retreat in daily life version of the Spiritual Exercises speaks about how/why he became a Jesuit. You can watch other British Jesuits speak about their vocation too at their YouTube page here.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Minority Report

- The characters played by Max von Sydow and Tom Cruise sit together, talking ... hmmmm, where's the chess board? ;)

This week's movie rental was Minority Report ...

a 2002 American neo-noir science fiction thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and loosely based on the short story of the same name by Philip K. Dick. It is set primarily in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia in the year 2054, where "PreCrime", a specialized police department, apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called "precogs". The cast includes Tom Cruise as PreCrime Captain John Anderton, Colin Farrell as Department of Justice agent Danny Witwer, Samantha Morton as the senior precog Agatha, and Max von Sydow as Anderton's superior Lamar Burgess. The film is a combination of whodunit, thriller and science fiction.>

I saw this at the theater when it first came out but I'm going back over past Tom Cruise movies, and this was the first on the list. It was actually pretty good ... good acting, nice special effects, interesting concept as expected from Dick. The only thing I really disliked was the way it looked .... they bleach-bypassed the negatives to give it a "noir" feel but I thought it just looked washed out.

Rogerr Ebert gave the film 4 out of 4 stars in his review. Here's just the beginning of it ...

At a time when movies think they have to choose between action and ideas, Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report" is a triumph--a film that works on our minds and our emotions. It is a thriller and a human story, a movie of ideas that's also a whodunit. Here is a master filmmaker at the top of his form, working with a star, Tom Cruise, who generates complex human feelings even while playing an action hero ....

And here's a trailer ...

It's a beautiful day

85 degrees F with a light breeze and wispy clouds ....

With Thor the cat sticking his tongue out at me ;) ...

And grape leaves starting to turn brown ...

Friday, October 10, 2014

The bread of life and the church as a firewall

I hate all these arguments at the synod about who is worthy of communion. The very idea that people need to pass some test in order to take part in communion has nothing to do with Jesus ... Jesus liked to feed people. Whether it was the 4,000, the 5,000, Judas at the Last Supper or Mary Magdalene, no one who desired to eat at his table was turned away (The Tablet).

Some in the church would like to believe they are the firewall around God, protecting him and us from unscripted interaction with each other. But they *cannot* come between us and God, for, as Ignatius of Loyola wrote, "the Creator [deals]l directly with the creature, and the creature directly with his Creator and Lord" (SE, 15th annotation), and as John has Jesus saying, "I am the bread of life .... I will never turn away anyone who comes to me" (John 6:35-37) :) ....

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

A Gnostic Gospel, a monster, and a visit to the bank

- the resurrected Ichabod Crane

Tonight I watched the latest episode of Sleepy Hollow at Hulu and learned about the Codex Tchacos ...

an ancient Egyptian Coptic papyrus containing early Christian gnostic texts from approximately 300 AD:

- The Letter of Peter to Philip
- The First Apocalypse of James
- The Gospel of Judas
- A fragment of the Book of Allogenes (or the Book of the Stranger, this is different from the previously known Nag Hammadi text Allogenes.)

The Codex Tchacos is important, because it contains the first known surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas, a text that was rejected as heresy by the early Christian church and lost for 1700 years. The Gospel of Judas was mentioned and summarized by the Church Father Irenaeus of Lyons in his work Against Heresies ...

And also about a (fictional) sketchbook belonging to Benjamin Franklin containing a drawing ...

which looks remarkably like da Vinci's Vitruvian Man ...

As Ichabod says, the drawing is of a creature assembled from parts of deceased soldiers, a kind of golem/frankensteinian monster created by Franklin at the behest of George Washington to go to bat for the good guys against the Headless Horseman, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Yep, those guys ;) ...

Before they can re-create the creature, they need the Headless Horseman's head, which has been secreted in a safety deposit box at the local bank ;) ...

Hard to explain here for those who haven't been watching the series the whole fantasy/history/religious horror background of the show, but it's a lot of fun!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

More on the synod

From Thomas Reese SJ on day 2 of the synod, a post about Greek philosophy and Jesuit Bernard Lonergan - No change in doctrine from synod, say bishops ...

The bishops at the synod on the family will not change any doctrines, according to reports from the Vatican Press Office on the second day of their discussions.

On the floor of the synod, "there was no language whatsoever of a need to change doctrine," reported Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica who attended the closed sessions. Rather, the desire was "to repurpose what we know in a way that's accessible" to all.

"I didn't hear anything about changing doctrine, but I heard a great desire to deepen our understanding of doctrine," he told journalists.

Over and over again, journalists are being told there will be no change in doctrine.

Jesuit Fr. Bernard Lonergan, the great 20th-century expert in theological method, is turning over in his grave. Hearing such language, Lonergan would have said that the bishops are caught in classical mentality and have not moved into a historical consciousness.

What did he mean? ......

A modern, historical consciousness recognizes that everything changes, even church teaching. The church's teaching on usury (interest) changed, the church's teaching on capital punishment has changed, and the church's teaching on religious liberty was changed at the Second Vatican Council.

The problem with most of the bishops is that they were taught in seminaries where the classical approach to theology was supreme and Lonergan was considered a heretic ....

Monday, October 06, 2014


- There's a post by the Anglican Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, at CIF Belief that I think is really good. What he says about the C of E applies to the Catholic church as well ... Any ‘biblical’ objection to gay marriage is nonsense. The C of E must admit this

- On feast of St. Francis, remembering that all creatures make up 'one family'

- So what's happening with the synod? ...

Thomas Reese SJ is in Rome for the synod and here's his post about the first day ... Simplified annulment process coming from synod

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Happy St. Francis Day

My favorite bit from Brother Sun, Sister Moon. It reminds me a bit of when Théoden is saved by Gandalf :) ....

The Barefoot Prince from Travels in Transmedia on Vimeo.

Friday, October 03, 2014


- aliens of Defiance

- Is the Catholic idea of marriage coming apart with the pre-synod debate between cardinals on communion for divorced/remarried people? One can only hope ;) I loathe Cardinal Müller's idea of what love and marriage are like - Archbishop Müller: Care of remarried divorcees must not be reduced to the question of receiving the Eucharist.

- Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF :(

- From Oxford University's practical ethics blog on the first Ebola case in the US ... How Much Freedom Should We Give Up To Avoid the Spread of Infectious Diseases?

- I've never been to Central Park but I've read about it in novels like Time and Again and Reliquary. Who knew it was so biologically diverse ... The Central Park Zoo Hidden From View

- Check out The Telegraph's best fiction of 2014 here

- Finished watching season 2 of the science fiction series, Defiance. It's not perfect, but one thing I especially like about it is the relationship between the main character and his adopted alien daughter. Here's a trailer ...

Thomas Reese SJ on divorce and the synod

Jesuit Thomas Reese is one of the few writing on the upcoming synod who I believe has an accurately low level of expectation about the process and the outcome ... see his earlier post, The makeup of Synod of Bishops on the family is disappointing . Today he has an interesting post about the synod and divorce/annulment. He has a unique perspective as his father was a divorce lawyer, and in my opinion as a child of multiple divorces and divorced myself, what he wrote really nails the issues. Here's a bit of his post.

Synod needs to understand there are no simple solutions for today's family crisis

[...] The truth is that once women had the economic independence to survive without husbands, millions of them bailed out of failed marriages that women in the past were forced to stay in. Those who think there was some idyllic period when all families were loving and perfect simply are blind to historical reality. True, there were successful, loving marriages, but many were held together by economic necessity. Wife-beating and male infidelity were all too common, and the wife had few options except to put up with it .... In the past, most women could not walk out because they could not support themselves. We held families together by suppressing women's freedom. That won't work today. That day is long gone .....

Divorce is a sad reality with multiple and varied causes. Often, the couple should never have gotten married in the first place. Financial problems are also a big cause of divorce. Making a marriage work is hard work. But too often, marriages don't work. Blaming the victims is no solution. No one gets married just so they can get a divorce.

What does all this mean for the synod on the family? I think it calls for humility in the face of complicated problems that have been around for centuries. There are no simple answers. Simply repeating church teaching won't make any difference. Allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to go to Communion is necessary and compassionate, but it will not cure what ails families .....

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Bishop Alan's book

Reading about a new book by the Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson ... More Perfect Union? Understanding Same-sex Marriage. Here's the blurb at Amazon ...

In this important and timely book Alan Wilson argues that allowing gay people to marry is a moral purpose. Wilson says: ‘I asked myself “what does God want for gay people?”. After re-revisiting the Bible, and more importantly getting to know gay people of all types and varying backgrounds, he decided the answer was that God wants for them the same as everyone else – flourishing faith, hope and love, involvement and inclusion. Meanwhile, from a scientific perspective, More Perfect Union? asserts that homosexuality is part of a wide range of human sexual longing and expression, not an anomaly, a sickness, not merely a lifestyle choice. The vast majority of people Wilson encountered on his journey toward being in favour of same-sex marriage were not anti-gay, were ‘just trying to love their neighbour as themselves’, even if, in some cases, their heads lagged behind their hearts on the issue of gay marriage. The ultimate aim of this book is to help Christians unite head and heart in a fully positive response to gay people marrying, and to enable them to wholeheartedly rejoice in such union, in doing so shaking off the hangover of years of stereotyping, fear and discrimination about gay people. Alan Wilson is Bishop of Buckingham, and a leading voice in favour or same-sex marriage.

Read more about the book at Thinking Anglicans. Visit Bishop Alan's blog here.

It's a sad world

Listening to this song today from Donnie Darko and thinking this really is a sad (and mad) world :(