Posts Tagged ‘catholic church’

The Only Good Marxist

December 17, 2013

I have not weighed in on Pope Francis’s recent remarks on economics and capitalism in part because I was afraid that I might be misunderstanding his comments in context and also in part because, not being a Roman Catholic, I do not feel obliged to follow his lead on any subject, nor am I under any obligation to defend him. I do take some exception to some things the pope said when clarifying his positions.

Pope Francis, who made headlines in recent weeks by lambasting ‘trickle down” economic theories as unfair to the poor, is shrugging off criticism from political conservatives who dubbed him a Marxist.

“The Marxist ideology is wrong,” Francis told the Turin-based newspaper La Stampa for a story released this weekend. “But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

Marxism is an ideology that is responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people throughout the world. It has condemned billions to lives of poverty, fear and oppression. Every country that has adopted a politics based on Marxist principles has become a vile tyranny with no regard for the lives of its citizens and the greatest persecutors of religion in history. The Marxist ideology is more than simply wrong. It is evil.

Those who call themselves Marxists are associating themselves with the most ruthless and evil tyrannies in the history of the world. To say that that there are Marxists that are good people is the same as saying that Nazi ideology is wrong but there were many good Nazis. There were good people who were Nazis, just as there have been many good people who have been Marxists, but their support of an evil, murderous ideology outweighs whatever good they may have done. They are not, then good people.

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DOMA

June 26, 2013

I wasn’t going to write about the unfortunate decision by the Supreme Court that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, but I read some comments on this ruling from a Catholic priest on Yahoo News.

As a Catholic priest who has performed hundreds of marriages, I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and to leave the Proposition 8 law unresolved. The DOMA decision, in particular, drives a wedge between Christian and secular rights unnecessarily.

If I now decline to perform a same-sex marriage because my church, the Catholic Church, only allows marriage between a man and a woman, how long will it be before my civil privilege of witnessing marriages will be challenged?

I lived in Mexico for four years, where religious and civil marriage ceremonies are entirely separate. When I performed marriages there, I was usually presented with a certificate proving that the couple had first gone to the civil authorities to register their union. My church ceremony was not recognized by the state and the civil marriage was not sacramental and therefore not binding in the eyes of my church.

I am beginning to think Mexico has it right. Let’s get religion out of the civil marriage business so that I and other ministers of religion can perform marriages that uphold the standard of one man, one woman, and one sacramental union. This is not to say that my church refuses membership to gays.

The Catholic Church teaches that same-sex attraction is not evil and that in regard to homosexuals, “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (CCC –The Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358).

Notice the strange word “unjust.” As religious people, we are convinced that marriage is a huge part of God’s plan to share love and bring children into the world. We believe the core of family life is wife, husband and their children. We believe it is our right under the First Amendment to discriminate and limit marriage to members who are heterosexual.

Will the government invade our religion insisting that our schools teach that same-sex unions are marriages? Will our textbooks have to support this new definition of marriage? I hope not.

One thing is sure: Catholic Americans will have to show a new determination to embrace their brothers and sisters whose orientation is same-sex. We Catholics must be inclusive and sensitive in all of our dealings with our church members regardless of sexual orientation.

Maybe the Supreme Court’s decisions today will force us Catholics (and other religious groups) to be clearer about our beliefs, especially those that are counter to the culture in which we live.

I would hope that the First Amendment will protect my right to practice my religion and live my faith.

I am afraid it won’t work. The next step will be for the homosexual zealots to attack any church that refuses to perform same-sex marriages. They simply will not tolerate any dissenting views on this subject. Already, we have seen a bakery, wedding photographer, and a florist punished for refusing to violate their religious beliefs by providing their services to a gay wedding. Can anyone really believe that churches will be left alone?

The gay bullies will not leave anyone alone and will certainly not respect anyone’s religious beliefs. If you are a Christian and believe that homosexual behavior is a sin, your belief is infinitely less important that the homosexual’s right to act as he pleases without any condemnation from anyone. You are not even permitted to keep to yourself and leave them alone. Support the gay lifestyle with all your hearth and all your soul and all your strength, or be publicly condemned as a bigot.

 

 

Francis’s New Saints

May 12, 2013

The new pope, Francis I, just canonized hundreds of new saints for the Roman Catholic Church, some of whom are martyrs. I found the story I read in the Associated Press interesting.

Pope Francis on Sunday gave the Catholic Church new saints, including hundreds of 15th-century martyrs who were beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam, as he led his first canonization ceremony Sunday in a packed St. Peter’s Square.

The “Martyrs of Otranto” were 813 Italians who were slain in the southern Italian city in 1480 for defying demands by Turkish invaders who overran the citadel to renounce Christianity.

Their approval for sainthood was decided upon by Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, in a decree read at the ceremony in February where the former pontiff announced his retirement.

Christian martyrs are people who died rather than renounce the faith, unlike Islamic martyrs which are people who have murdered as many innocent infidels as possible. This is where the article gets a little interesting.

Shortly after his election in March, Francis called for more dialogue with Muslims, and it was unclear how the granting of sainthood to the martyrs would be received. Islam is a sensitive subject for the church, and Benedict stumbled significantly in his relations with the Muslim community.

I am not sure whether it is the Catholic Church that is at fault for any problems it may be having with the Muslim community. It seems to me that everything is a sensitive subject with the Muslim community. Why shouldn’t the Pope honor Catholics who refused to convert to Islam even when threatened with death? Christians are often called upon to apologize for acts done centuries ago. When is a Muslim authority going to apologize for atrocities such as the attack on Otranto, not to mention the centuries of aggressive warfare various Muslim states have waged against Christendom? Persecution of Christians isn’t something that only in the distant past, as Pope Francis noted.

Francis told the crowd that the martyrs are a source of inspiration, especially for “so many Christians, who, right in these times and in so many parts of the world, still suffer violence.” He prayed that they receive “the courage of loyalty and to respond to evil with good.”

The pope didn’t single out any country. But Christian churches have been attacked in Nigeria and Iraq, and Catholics in China loyal to the Vatican have been subject to harassment and sometimes jail over the last decades.

Christians in Saudi Arabia must worship out of the public eye because the ultraconservative kingdom does not officially permit churches and non-Muslim religious sites.

In fact, all over the Middle East, Christians are afraid for their lives and fleeing the lands dominated by the Religion of Peace.

The other new saints include a Mexican and a Columbian.

The first pontiff from South America also gave Colombia its first saint: a nun who toiled as a teacher and spiritual guide to indigenous people in the 20th century.

With Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos among the VIPS, the Argentine pope held out Laura of St. Catherine of Siena Montoya y Upegui as a potential source of inspiration to the country’s peace process, attempted after decades-long conflict between rebels and government forces.

Francis prayed that “Colombia’s beloved children continue to work for peace and just development of the country.”

He also canonized another Latin American woman. Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, a Mexican who dedicated herself to nursing the sick, helped Catholics avoid persecution during a government crackdown on the faith in the 1920s.

Also known as Mother Lupita, she hid the Guadalajara archbishop in an eye clinic for more than a year after fearful local Catholic families refused to shelter him.

Francis prayed that the new Mexican saint’s intercession could help the nation “eradicate all the violence and insecurity,” an apparent reference to years of bloodshed and other crime largely linked to powerful drug trafficking clans.

The pope also hailed the Mexican saint for renouncing a comfortable life to work with the sick and poor, even kneeling on the bare floor of the hospital before the patients to serve them with “tenderness and compassion.”

Mother Lupita’s example, said Francis, should encourage people not to “get wrapped up in themselves, their own problems, their own ideas, their own interests, but to go out and meet those who need attention, comprehension, help” and other assistance.

Francis noted that the crowd included participants in an anti-abortion march of several thousand people, who walked a few kilometers (miles) from the Colosseum, crossing a bridge over the Tiber river to end near the Vatican while Mass was being celebrated in St. Peter’s Square.

He drew attention to a signature-gathering drive in many Italian churches to push for a European initiative to “guarantee legal protection for embryos, protecting every human being from the first instant of existence.”

Vatican teaching forbids abortion.

I doubt if that petition will get anywhere in the European Union.

Emigration to Mexico

February 27, 2013

One of the more contentious issues of our time is immigration, particularly illegal immigration from Mexico. Many conservatives fear an ever growing tide of immigrants who refuse to assimilate or become productive citizens and so become reliable Democratic voters. Many liberals hope for an ever growing tide of immigrants who refuse to assimilate or become productive citizens and so become reliable Democratic voters. Yet, there are signs that this debate is starting to become somewhat anachronistic as Mexico begins to develop economically and its birthrates decline. It may well be that in the not too distant future that Mexico will become the sort of country that people want to move to rather than leave. Walter Russell Mead writes about this in a couple of posts.

Mexicans don’t want to leave their native country any more than Americans do theirs, according to a new Gallup Poll. Only 11 percent of Mexicans said they would emigrate if given the chance, down from 21 percent in 2007 and equal to the 11 percent of Americans who would do the same.

Fears that America will be overrun by a mass of poor workers from Latin America are looking more and more like yesterday’s news. Birthrates in Mexico are falling, and the economic situation continues to improve. At 5 percent, Mexico’s unemployment rate is nearly three points below ours. In 2012, its GDP grew by nearly 4 percent, and foreign investors, encouraged by the turnaround, poured $57 billion into stocks and bonds in the first nine months. Forthcoming reforms in the telecommunications and energy sectors may also help those industries to boom. The country’s economic forecasts are so promising that the Financial Times has dubbed it the “Aztec tiger.”

This is good news. As the Mexican economy improves, immigration pressures will continue to abate. Who knows? If the trends continue, maybe we’ll even see southbound migrants outnumbering northbound ones.

Another four years of Obama may well turn America into the sort of third world sewer that people risk their lives trying to escape. What of the Mexicans already in this country? Will they fail to assimilate, remain trapped in low paying jobs or government relief and so become Democratic voters forever? Maybe, but maybe not. Mead talks about some interesting changes.

There’s a lotof talk these days that the GOP has lost American Hispanics “forever.” A recent poll by Gallup suggests the picture may be a litte more complex. After the November Presidential election, some Dems hoped and Gopers fretted that the Republican Party face imminent death unless it attracted more Hispanic voters by changing it’s immigration position. But if Gallup is right, some other factors might be at work.

The poll doesn’t look all that political on its face. The survey found that 60 percent of Hispanic Protestants are very religious—measured by weekly service attendance and how important the respondents said religion was to them—compared to only 43 percent of Hispanic Catholics. In addition, the number of Hispanic Catholics has declined over time, while the number of Hispanic Protestants has stayed steady:

Overall, the finding that younger Hispanics are proportionately more Protestant and that all Hispanics are becoming proportionately more Protestant over time suggest that the percentage of Hispanics who are Catholic may continue to slip in the years to come…This will be particularly true if today’s young Hispanics maintain their proportionally higher Protestant identification.

Mead discusses the possible future of the Catholic Church in America, and the institutional changes which have made it less helpful to new immigrants, and so less likely to command their long term loyalty. I am more interested in the political implications.

But the most startling implications of the trends reported by the survey are political. Being religiously observant in any faith correlates strongly with voting Republican; this goes double for evangelical Protestantism. There are exceptions to this trend, of course. Many Black Christians who theologically and culturally fit in the evangelical tradition are reliable Democratic voters. But overall the correlation holds: evangelical Protestants who spend a lot of time in church are among the most reliably Republican voters in the country.

If a lot of Hispanics are picking up their Bibles and heading off to church, this suggests that over time the GOP share of the Hispanic vote will grow.  Over the decades, another trend will likely reinforce that one: as immigrant groups become better established in the United States, their economic interests and their issue priorities often change in ways that benefit the GOP.

Take immigration. This is a burning issue with serious personal stakes in many Hispanic households in America today. But Polish-American and Italian-American households don’t necessarily feel the same way. On the one hand, each succeeding American generation is a little farther from the homeland and the family ties are a little more attenuated; on the other, as other countries develop and their demography changes, there is less interest in the old country in coming to the new.

We will have to see what happens. I would caution anyone who is predicting the long term dominance of either political party not to be too certain. I seriously doubt that we will see again a forty year period of time in which one party is in complete, or near complete control of the government, predictions of demographic changes notwithstanding.

The Republicans really ought to do more to peel away some African-American voters from the Democrats. The fact that 90% of the Black vote Democrat these days has been an absolute disaster for them, witness Detroit.

 

Pope Benedict XVI to Resign

February 11, 2013

English: Pope Benedict XVI during general audition

I was a little surprised to learn that the Pope is planning to resign at the end of the month. Here are some details from the Wall Street Journal.

VATICAN CITY— Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he planned to step down at the end of this month because of his deteriorating physical strength, a move that hasn’t happened in the Roman Catholic Church in centuries and that is likely to pave the way for a new pontiff by Easter.

In a speech in Latin to cardinals, the 85-year-old German pontiff, who has been in office since April 2005, said that leading the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics was a job that required strength of both mind and body. But the pope said his strength had “deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

A papal spokesman added during a briefing with reporters that Pope Benedict had been thinking about the move for some time, saying it wasn’t due to an illness. Father Lombardi, the spokesman, said the pope would retire to a life of prayer and writing. He also said the pontiff had “no fear” of any potential schism in the church as a consequence of the pope’s resignation.

The resignation, which the Vatican said would take place as of 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, will give way to a conclave, a gathering of cardinals who will elect the new pope. Normally, after a pope dies, there is a nine-day mourning period before the selection his successor. This time, the process can begin right away, said Greg Burke, the Vatican’s media adviser. “This means we’ll have a new pope by Easter,” he added. The holiday falls on March 31 this year.

That’s too bad, though I thought he was too old for the job when he was first selected to be pope. Even though I am no longer Catholic, I always rather like Benedict XVI aka Joseph Ratzinger, if only because the liberals and the secularists hated him.  I hope the next pope is a younger, more dynamic man who is up to defending the faith in an increasingly hostile world.

I didn’t know that a pope was allowed to resign and it certainly isn’t common. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, in order to end the Great Schism in which two or more men claimed to be the legitimate pope. From 1378 until 1414, there were rival popes at Rome and Avignon, with eventually a third pope at Pisa. All of Europe was divided between allegiance to one or the other pope until the issue was finally resolved by the Council of Constance, after which all of the popes were made to resign in favor of a new pope, Martin V who became pope in 1417.

That was a completely different situation, of course, and I don’t imagine there will be any trouble of that sort today. In fact, I would imagine that by resigning, Benedict will have more influence in the selection of his successor than he otherwise might have had.

Hobby Lobby

January 7, 2013

Here is a story that is becoming all too typical these days. I read about it at Breitbart.com.

In an authoritative and dynamic open letter written by David Green, the openly religious Christian CEO of Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts company with 525 stores, Green indicts the Obama Administration for its war on religion and his company’s decision to file suit against the HHS mandate that discriminates against the religious.  Hobby Lobby is a remarkable company; it started as a miniature picture frames business located in Green’s garage in 1970, now has stores all across the nation, and carries no long-term debt.

English: Benito Mussolini and Fascist blackshi...

Our future?

Green, fed up with the HHS mandate that threatens the Christian way he does business, minced no words. The text of the letter follows:

When my family and I started our company 40 years ago, we were working out of a garage on a $600 bank loan, assembling miniature picture frames. Our first retail store wasn’t much bigger than most people’s living rooms, but we had faith that we would succeed if we lived and worked according to God‘s word. From there, Hobby Lobby has become one of the nation’s largest arts and crafts retailers, with more than 500 locations in 41 states. Our children grew up into fine business leaders, and today we run Hobby Lobby together, as a family.

We’re Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I’ve always said that the first two goals of our business are (1) to run our business in harmony with God’s laws, and (2) to focus on people more than money. And that’s what we’ve tried to do. We close early so our employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed on Sundays, one of the week’s biggest shopping days, so that our workers and their families can enjoy a day of rest. We believe that it is by God’s grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We’ve not only added jobs in a weak economy, we’ve raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage.

Our government threatens to fine job creators in a bad economy. Our government threatens to fine a company that’s raised wages four years running. Our government threatens to fine a family for running its business according to its beliefs. It’s not right. I know people will say we ought to follow the rules; that it’s the same for everybody. But that’s not true. The government has exempted thousands of companies from this mandate, for reasons of convenience or cost. But it won’t exempt them for reasons of religious belief.

So, Hobby Lobby – and my family – are forced to make a choice. With great reluctance, we filed a lawsuit today, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asking a federal court to stop this mandate before it hurts our business. We don’t like to go running into court, but we no longer have a choice. We believe people are more important than the bottom line and that honoring God is more important than turning a profit.

My family has lived the American dream. We want to continue growing our company and providing great jobs for thousands of employees, but the government is going to make that much more difficult. The government is forcing us to choose between following our faith and following the law. I say that’s a choice no American – and no American business – should have to make.

Sincerely, David Green, CEO and Founder of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

The threats and bullying by the Obama Administration against those of religious faith continue apace. But those of us who honor faith know that we will fight back: the pendulum will surely turn.

Do you begin to see a pattern here? Businessmen who wish to run their businesses by Christian principles, whether it be Hobby Lobby, Chick-Fil-A or hospitals run by the Catholic Church, are being singled out for harassment because they hold their principles to be of greater importance than the dictates of the state. In other words, they are rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Unfortunately, that is not good enough for our modern Caesars. They demand our sole loyalty and hate and detest anything that might come in the way; churches, businesses, families. It is bad enough that these people are entrepeneurs and do not rely on the state for direction. Now they insist on following their own conscience.

I think the following quotes will give a good idea what our Caesars are really after.

Against individualism, the Fascist conception is for the State; and it is for the individual in so far as he coincides with the State, which is the conscience and universal will of man in his historical existence. It is opposed to classical Liberalism, which arose from the necessity of reacting against absolutism, and which brought its historical purpose to an end when the State was transformed into the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the interests of the particular individual; Fascism reaffirms the State as the true reality of the individual. And if liberty is to be the attribute of the real man, and not of that abstract puppet envisaged by individualistic Liberalism, Fascism is for liberty. And for the only liberty which can be a real thing, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. Therefore, for the Fascist, everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value,-outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people.

That was from Benito Mussolini. Here are a few from Lenin that seem appropriate for our time.

It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed.

The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.

The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency.

One man with a gun can control 100 without one.

I used to think that Obama was an incompetent fool. Now I realize that he knows exactly what he is doing.

Obama read his book

Obama read his book

 

Freedom from Religion

March 11, 2012

I see that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is still working on winning friends. This time they have decided to attack the Roman Catholic Church with an advertisement in the New York Times. You can read the contents on their own website here. I’ll give a few excerpts and comments.

Dear ‘Liberal’ Catholic:

It’s time to quit the Roman Catholic Church.

It’s your moment of truth. Will it be reproductive freedom, or back to the Dark Ages? Do you choose women and their rights, or Bishops and their wrongs? Whose side are you on, anyway?

It is time to make known your dissent from the Catholic Church, in light of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ ruthless campaign endangering the right to contraception. If you’re part of the Catholic Church, you’re part of the problem.

Why is this so hard to understand? The Catholic Church is not denying anyone access to contraceptives. The Bishops simply do not want to be forced, against their beliefs. Why should the government force them? They take up the question a little further down.

our Church hysterically claims that secular medical policy is “an assault against religious liberty.” You are savvy enough to realize that the real assault is by the Church against women’s rights and health care. As Nation columnist Katha Pollitt asks: Is it an offense against Jehovah Witnesses that health care coverage will include blood transfusions? The Amish, as Pollitt points out, don’t label cars “an assault on religious liberty” and try to force everyone to drive buggies. The louder the Church cries “offense against religious liberty” the harder it works to take away women’s liberty.

It would be an offense against Jehovah’s Witnesses to force them to accept blood transfusions or pay for others transfusions. It would be an offense against the Amish to force them to buy cars. The analogy they use is backward. Obama is trying it do the equivalent of both these examples to Catholic institutions. But here is where they turn nasty.

Why are you propping up the pillars of a tyrannical and autocratic, woman-hating, sex-perverting, antediluvian Old Boys Club? Why are you aiding and abetting a church that has repeatedly and publicly announced a crusade to ban contraception, abortion and sterilization, and to deny the right of all women everywhere, Catholic or not, to decide whether and when to become mothers?  When it comes to reproductive freedom, the Roman Catholic Church is Public Enemy Number One. Think of the acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, unwanted pregnancies, social evils and deaths that can be laid directly at the door of the Church’s antiquated doctrine that birth control is a sin and must be outlawed.

A backer of the Roman Catholic presidential candidate says that if women want to avoid pregnancy we should put an aspirin between our knees? Catholic politicians are urging that the right to contraception should be left up to states? Nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court upheld contraception as a privacy right, we’re going to have to defend this basic freedom all over again?

You’re better than your church. So why? Why continue to attend Mass? Tithe? Why dutifully sacrifice to send your children to parochial schools so they can be brainwashed into the next generation of myrmidons (and, potentially, become the next Church victims)? For that matter, why have you put up with an institution that won’t put up with women priests, that excludes half of humanity?

No self-respecting feminist, civil libertarian or progressive should cling to the Catholic faith. As a Cafeteria Catholic, you chuck out the stale doctrine and moldy decrees of your religion, but keep patronizing the establishment that menaces public health by serving rotten offerings. Your continuing Catholic membership, as a “liberal,” casts a veneer of respectability upon an irrational sect determined to blow out the Enlightenment and threaten liberty for women worldwide. You are an enabler. And it’s got to stop.

Obama has compromised, but the Church never budges, instead launching a vengeful modern-day Inquisition. Look at its continuing directives to parish priests to use their pulpits every Sunday to lobby you against Obama’s policy, the Church’s announcement of a major anti-contraception media campaign — using your tithes, contributions and donations — to defeat Obama’s laudable health care policy. The Church has introduced into Congress the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, ” a bill to place the conscienceless Catholic Church’s “rights of conscience” above the rights of conscience of 53 percent of Americans. That the Church has “conscience rights” to deny women their rights is a kissing cousin to the claim that “corporations are people.” The Church that hasn’t persuaded you to oppose contraception now wants to use the force of secular law to deny contraceptive rights to non-Catholics.

Again, no one is being denied contraceptive rights. And doesn’t the Catholic Church have a right to express its opinion? It would seem that the FFRF thinks not.

But is there any point in going on? After all, your misplaced loyalty has lasted through two decades of public sex scandals involving preying priests, children you may have known as victims, and church complicity, collusion and coverup going all the way to the top. Are you like the battered woman who, after being beaten down every Sunday, feels she has no place else to go?

But we have a more welcoming home to offer, free of incense-fogged ritual, free of what freethinker Bertrand Russell called “ideas uttered long ago by ignorant men,” free of blind obedience to an illusory religious authority. Join those of us who put humanity above dogma.

As a member of the “flock” of an avowedly antidemocratic club, isn’t it time you vote with your feet? Please, exit en Mass.

I sometimes wonder if the Freedom From Religion Foundation is some sort of false front intended to make Atheists all look like jerks.

The only thing that makes this different from one of Jack Chick’s anti-Catholic tracts is that the FFRF  is not saying that the Catholic Church is under the control of the Devil. Other than that they both show about the same amount of bigotry. Not surprisingly Catholic League President Bill Donovan has labeled this ad “hate speech”.  As far as I am concerned they are free to put out any ad they want to, but I triple dog dare them to put put a similar ad about Muslims.

They wouldn’t, of course. Catholics don’t blow up people who insult them.

Note the Atheists and Secularists who seem to approve of the ad. Perhaps I was wrong. FFRF is not a false front. Many Atheists really are bigoted jerks.

Letter to the Editor

February 17, 2012

Speaking of the previous subject, I saw a letter in the Louisville Courier-Journal which illustrates the intellectual confusion that many seem to have on this subject. I don’t honestly know if the writer is being deliberately obtuse or if he really doesn’t get it. Here is an excerpt.

As staunch Americans who believe in the fundamental and individual independence of citizens, my wife and I believe that each individual has the God-given right to practice their own religion according to the dictates of their own conscience.

History tells us that the founding of this great country was powerfully based on the freedom of religion. Remember, too, that the freedom of religion doesn’t just mean the freedom to practice your own religion(s). It also means the freedom from the practices of someone else’s religion.

As a married couple, we decided not to have children. This decision will cost us $38,000 (according to the numbers on birth control put forth by the White House recently, and our own calculations of actual birth control costs).

Religiously influenced legislation against free access to birth control currently being introduced into Congress abrogates our rights to practice our religious beliefs according to our own consciences, by enshrining one group’s religious-based arguments into law. Our religious beliefs do not agree with this attack on the health of women everywhere.

The Catholic Church should no more be allowed to dictate the availability of birth control, than imams should be allowed to dictate criminal case law. Rabbis should not be allowed to ban pork and shellfish to all Americans, nor should Methodists be allowed to ban bourbon from the shelves of every store in America.

But the Catholic Church is not dictating the availability of birth control. The Church simply does not wish to be obliged to violate its own doctrine by government fiat. The writer states that he and his wife believe in religious freedom, yet they would deny the Catholic Church the right to practice its beliefs. The more accurate similes would be an imam forbidden to preach Islam, a rabbi forced to provide ham sandwiches to his synagogue, or the Methodists required to support the local taverns.

I think that people on the Left simply have an immature concept of freedom. They seem to believe that they should be free to do whatever they want, and everyone else should be free to provide them what they want. Freedom for me but not for thee.

 

Charlemagne

December 30, 2011

Charlemagne was the single most influential ruler of the early Middle Ages. In his 46-year reign as King of the Franks and later the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, reformed the administration and laws of his realm, encouraged the works of the Catholic Church, and began an all too brief renaissance of learning and education. In a certain sense, Charlemagne could be considered the founder of modern Europe.

J. B. Bury’s Charlemagne and the Carolingian Renaissance is a good history of the great king’s life and times. Bury goes into some detail concerning Charlemagne’s ancestors, rise to power, conquests, his administration of his empire, and his relations with other nations and powers, including the Muslims of Spain. Quite a lot of attention is given to Charlemagne’s often complex relationship with the papacy. For all of that, however, I must confess I was a little disappointed with this book. For one thing, Bury barely mentioned Charlemagne’s attempts at a revival of learning and culture. For another, I would have appreciated his extending his narrative down to Charlemagne’s son and grandsons. I don’t think the story of the Carolingian Renaissance is complete without relating the ultimate failure of his vision by the weakness of Louis the Pious and the contentions among the grandsons of Charlemagne.

Despite the weaknesses mentioned, I do recommend this book to any interested in the so-called Dark Ages.

 

The Genesis of Science

June 27, 2011

The popular idea of the Middle Ages in Europe is that it was a thousand year period of ignorance and barbarism between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, a time of nearly complete intellectual stagnation. Everyone is supposed to have been illiterate with the exception of a few clergymen and the Catholic Church kept a tight rein on all learning,  burning any scholar who dared to have an independent thought or challenge the authority of Scripture.

Historians have recognized for some time that this stereotype is entirely false. The Middle Ages, or “Dark Ages” were, in fact, a time of extraordinary fertility and progress. Many of the concepts and institutions that came to distinguish Western Civilization were developed in this era, especially the beginnings of the intellectual enterprise we call science.

In his book “The Genesis of Science”, James Hannam traces the development of science, or natural philosophy as it was then known, through the Middle Ages, from the fall of the Roman Empire to the trial of Galileo. He begins in the very depths the Dark Age, the chaotic 5th to 7th centuries, where even then the Europeans were beginning to pull ahead in practical technology with such useful tools as the moldboard plow and the horse collar, which revolutionized agriculture.

The discovery of ancient Latin and Greek manuscripts from the Arabs and Byzantines led to the rise of the Scholastic theologians of the 11th to 13 centuries. The Scholastics, under the influence of Aristotle, established reason as the method for learning about God and His creation. There was some controversy in the Catholic Church about pagan learning but the Scholastics, especially Thomas Aquinas showed that faith and reason could be reconciled and the Church accepted the ancient learning to the extent that it did not contradict Christian doctrine. With the acceptance of reason as an adjunct to faith, the philosophers of the Middle Ages were prepared to see the natural world around them as the rational creation of a rational God, forming the foundation for later scientific thinking.

The Scholastics did not slavishly follow Aristotle, however. They were capable of observing that he was wrong in some instances and were willing to move beyond him. In fact, some of their ideas about motion and forces were surprisingly modern. Some, especially Roger Bacon stressed the importance of careful observation of the natural world.

With the increased knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome during the Renaissance of the 13th to 15 centuries, much of this learning was disregarded and forgotten. The Renaissance Humanists venerated the ancients and so were inclined to denigrate the achievements of their immediate predecessors. The authority of Aristotle and others was more respected than the thoughts of more recent philosophers. The Protestant Reformation did not help matters, as the Protestants were not eager to give the Catholic Church any credit.

Still, progress continued and in the last section of his book, Hannam explores the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries.  He closes with an account of Galileo. Although Galileo was a brilliant scientist who practically invented physics, he owed far more to his medieval predecessors than he was ever willing to admit. As for his troubles with the Inquisition, they had less to do with any Catholic opposition to science and were more due to politics and the folly of implying that the Pope was a simpleton.

The Genesis of Science is worth five stars. The perhaps over long summary that I have given above is only the merest foretaste to this brilliant work. I cannot recommend it highly enough.


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