Category Archives: analogy

Symbols mean things

I’m a big supporter for formalism/”New Criticism.”  I always forget who said which, but often, when writers are asked what things in their books “mean,” they say things like, “I wrote a poem, not a puzzle,” (pretty sure that’s TS Eliot) or “If I wanted to write an essay, I’d write an essay.  I wrote a story” (Flannery O’Connor, paraphrased).
I

A Parable

I’m borrowing this metaphor a bit from the folks at Creative Minority Report, just making it a bit more direct to the case:

A man’s wife and children are put into protective custody pending an investigation of an abuse allegation (note, of course, that the law protects the claimant in such allegations).  Technically, the accuser has the right to anonymity in such a case, but in this case, the abuser has contacted several authorities, and the man has learned who the person is.

The man files a lawsuit against his accuser.  Then he announces to the world, “There is no way to prove my innocence of these allegations.  My wife has treated me unfairly, and these allegations are false.  I am therefore abandoning my wife and children.  I will be seeking a divorce.  I’ll still be a husband and father, but I just won’t live with them or do anything for them, because  that would require fighting for my innocence and putting me in an adversarial relationship with them.  Just don’t call me ‘Dad.’  I’ll still visit and write to my children, even though DSS says I’m not allowed to see them right now. ”
So, DSS issues a statement saying, “We’ve dropped the investigation since he moved out and filed for divorce a few weeks ago.  His family have moved back into their home.  Plus, he’s intimidated some of the witnesses, so we can’t investigate.”
The man replies, “Oh, by the way, I am not actually getting a divorce.  It’s more like a separation.  Again, I’ll still be a husband and father.  I just won’t be living with my family, doing any household chores, or teaching my kids anything or romancing my wife or anything like that.  That stuff was really a minor part of my life as a husband and father, anyway.  Most of my time was spent earning money, and I’ll still be sending child support checks and coming over to take my kids out to the park and stuff like that. And don’t blame my wife.  It’s not her fault.  She’s still a good wife and mother.  She just never lifted a finger to help me the entire time I was being investigated.  She threw me under the buss.  But she’s a good woman.  It’s just that, when I got sick, I had to pay for it with my own health insurance and my own money.  She never gave a dime to pay my bills.  In fact, she’s never supported me in any way.  She’s always mostly ignored me while I was travelling on business all the time or staying long nights at the office.”
The wife says, “I tried asking him all the time to spend more time at home with me and less time at the office, and he kept refusing.”
The guy says, “She just wanted my money.”
The guy says, “By the way, the person accused me of abuse anonymously, so I have no way to really defend myself because I can’t know who my accuser is.  My accuser is my former next-door neighbor.  I know for a fact this person is an alcoholic.  But I can’t defend myself.”  “Oh, you found out about the lawsuit I filed?  Well, I did that on the advice of my father-in-law.  Yep, it was the only way to defend myself against these accusations. ”

What would we say of such a person?

So, what makes a person?

It’s the question “pro-choice” people hate to address. It forces them to examine what they really stand for. I’ve applied it, Socratically, in many an online discussion to get one of the following results:

1. The person tries to say I’m improperly using Socratic logic or analogy.
2. The person says the question is absurd and refuses to answer it
3. The person is honest and admits there are standards by which he or she would deny the right to life to a born person.

So, the question is:
“Is it OK to kill blind people?”
Presumably, the person will say, of couse not.
To this, I respond,
“Well, then, the lack of sight doesn’t deprive one of the right to live?”
No.
“OK, well, what about the lack of hearing? mobility? and so on.”

What faculty do you believe is necessary for a person to have human rights?
At what point does the loss of some particular faculty deprive one of human rights?

After all, an unborn baby is deprived of the right to life merely because of some missing faculty. For many who support abortion, especially our president, that missing faculty is visibility. Wait–for Barack Obama, it’s not even visibility, since he says it’s OK to starve or suffocate newborn babies to death if they’re born in “botched” abortions.

And for the average person who *has* an abortion, visibility is the missing factor, because people don’t take the time to think about such things.

It’s a personal decision


Like Francis Cardinal Arinze says in his special way: “What if I said, ‘I’m pro-choice on killing politicians. I personally think killing politicians is a bad thing, and I’d never do it myself, but whom I to say it’s wrong for someone else to do?'”

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kv3MRyKfEHA]

Funny how oppression works

Everyone who supported slavery was free; Everyone who supports abortion has been born.

“He hit me first!”: Nations are basically Four Year Olds

It’s gotten tougher as the family has diversified, but one of my rules is the “King Solomon Rule.” When two kids are fighting, I don’t care who started it. I care who’s willing to end it first. If they’re fighting over something, and they can’t make a compromise, I take the item away.

We’ve all heard it as parents, and we did it as kids: “He hit me first!” “Because he made a face at me!” “Because he was teasing me!” “Because he took my toy!” “Because he wouldn’t let me play with it!”

Nations, whatever their pretensions, are basically a bunch of preschoolers.

Call it my liberal public school education, but one thing I have never understood, since I was in kindergarten, was why we ever refer to “good” and “evil” in international relations. As a kid, I naively thought, “Isn’t everyone basically good?” Of course, as I got older, it changed to “Isn’t everyone basically evil?”

After all, I was taught in school that, while Communism was itself evil, the people in Communist countries didn’t really want to be Communist: deep down, everyone wanted to be democracies just like the United States. I figured that, if the “Russians” didn’t really want to be Communists, and they didn’t like their dictators anymore than we did, then why did we call the Russians “evil”?

The Holocaust was an act of unspeakable evil. Invading someone else’s country is also an act of unspeakable evil. Josef Stalin killed millions more Jews and other dissidents than Hitler did, and this is an act of unspeakable evil. The United States killed and sterilized thousands of disabled people in the 20s-40s, and this is also an act of unspeakable evil. The United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasake, and this is also an act of unspeakable evil. The United States and Europe and so many other countries are aborting millions of children a year, and this is also an act of unspeakable evil.

I finally read the trade paperback of the first issues of the new IDW GI Joe continuity. In a passage I’d already read in an online preview when IDW’s series started a while back, the Joes take down a weapons shipment by a small terrorist group from Macedonia.

“They have a grievance that goes back to before Alexander was born,” says Duke.

“They blew up our buildings!” “They shot at us!” “We have the right to wipe out everyone else because everyone has been mean to us!”

Recently, famous White House correspondent Helen Thomas has gotten into hot water over comments she’s made about Palestine (one of the basic rules of Journalism is never to become the story). Indeed, she’s now been fired by Hearst after a half a century as a White House correspondent.

Thomas is Lebanese, of Melkite Orthodox belief, and has a history of favoring the Palestinians, though usually in a more subtle manner.

Well, she went a bit too far recently, apparently. When asked at a Jewish Heritage Month function what she thought was the solution to the crisis in the Middle East, Thomas said that Palestine is occupied territory, the Palestinians are under occupation, and the occupiers, the Israelis, need to go back to their home countries. Sadly, she used some profanity I won’t repeat here, and, though she listed “America” among the countries, the way she said it was “Germany, Poland, America, or wherever else they came from.”

This has been taken by many to indicate that she wants another Holocaust. Yet it seems like Germany these days is pretty darn safe. After all, with all the laws designed to prevent “anti-Semitism,” including laws against “holocaust denial” (and some of what I’ve said here can be construed as “Holocaust denial” by those for whom the Holocaust is THE WORST EVENT EVER IN HISTORY [TM]). If I could go to a country where it was 100% illegal to say anything against my religion, my ethnic background, or even to question my views on historical facts, versus living where I run a constant risk of being killed by terrorists, and I could afford to emigrate, I’d go there in a heartbeat. Indeed, if anyone can set me up with a good job teaching English in Malta, let me know.

Anyway, another of Thomas’s controversial statements is questioning why the International Community is giving Israel a pass for attacking a flotilla of humanitarian aid being sent to the Palestinians. If any other country did this, she noted, it would be immediately condemned worldwide.

I’m not a fan of Israel. I’m not a fan of Palestine. I am a supporter of my Christian brothers and sisters, and I know that Christians in Palestine–except the ones who collaborate with Muslim terrorism–get it from both sides. I also know, from what happened in the 1990s, that “peace” in the “Holy Land” means death to Christians, since the Jews and Muslims only stop fighting each other to turn their attention on their common foe.

I also don’t understand the fascination with the Holy Land. It’s a piece of dirt. I understand why Jews and Muslims are so obsessed with it, but why Christians? Shouldn’t Christians be actively working to *convert* the Jews and Muslims?

Otherwise, who cares who runs it? St. Francis of Assisi was a great devotee of the Holy Land, and yet he also realized what a mess it was in his day. So he started a great many devotions–Christmas Creches, Stations of the Cross, and the Portiuncula Indulgences, to name a few–that said you can get the same graces you’d get from going to the Holy Land just by practicing those devotions and bringing the Holy Land to you.

If the people of Israel want the land God promised them, then let them keep up their part of the covenant: offer animal sacrifices, don’t associate with Gentiles, and keep the Sabbath–not just the Sabbath day, but the Sabbath year and the Jubilee. It was failure to forgive debts and stop working for a year every 7 years, and 2 years every 50, that lost them the Holy Land to begin with. Is it anti-Semitic to suggest that they should actually practice their own religion?

In any case, “Israel” isn’t “the Jews” any more than “USSR” was “the Russians” or “PLO” is “the Palestinians.”

People are people; governments are governments, and there is no such thing as a good government. There is no such thing as a good earthly power. All earthly powers are corrupt. All are subsidiaries of the Prince of this World.

I don’t understand why criticizing the faults of a country mean one “hates” that country. Indeed, as G. K. Chesterton observes in Orthodoxy, a friend merely likes a man the way he is; a wife loves him and wants him to be *better*.

In any case, to take sides in any international conflict is really like taking sides with a conflict between toddlers. Very rarely is either party completely innocent. International relations should be handled just like parenting: “Stop fighting, or you’re both in trouble. Work it out. Make peace.”

People want to come up with all sorts of platitudes about why they favor Israel over Palestine, but what it boils down to is that there should be no favoritism. The only way to have peace is for both sides to quit being selfish, and for the world to treat both sides with an even hand, just as that is the only way to make peace among little kids.

Explain this to me: Roman Polanksi and the Catholic Church

Have Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Monica Bellucci, Tilda “the White Witch” Swinton, David Lynch, Harvey Weinstein, Whoopi Goldberg, Debra Winger, or any of the other 200 movie industry people listed on this site ever condemned the Catholic Church?

I know Goldberg has.

Yet these very people are supporting child molester Roman Polanksi, who, after evading authorities for 30+ years, is complaining that his case is too old to be prosecuted, and it’s not right to accuse him of a crime because he and his victim “were in love.”

Gee.  Didn’t Rembert Weakland say something similar?

Why don’t people see the hypocrisy of these people?????

I heard the comment the other day, regarding the Church, “Why, after all the lies, does anyone believe these people?”
Yes, after all the lies of the New York Times, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, etc., why does anyone still believe them??

These people are blatant hypocrites!  They condemn the Catholic Church for a small fraction of priests who do what they themselves advocate, only because the Church condemns it!

I was on some site recently where some idiot commented, “I wonder what the age of consent is in the Catholic Church.”
Someone else said, “I bet they set it really young, ha, ha”
I replied, “There is no ‘age of consent’ in the Catholic Church, since we don’t believe in fornication.  The earliest one can marry in the Church is 16.”

Which of course raises the point that many of the victims of these “child molesters” were 16 or 17.

Yet Roman Polanksi is this martyr of liberalism.  I really don’t understand.

What do atheists, child molestors, abortion supporters and wall street investors have in common?

If they don’t repent, they’re all going to end up in the same place.

And that’s true on either end of Pascal’s Wager.

After all, if the atheists are right, the final destiny of all these people is to be food for bugs, so why does anything in this life matter? Why do they pretend that it matters? Why do atheists conveniently claim moral indignance over one select matter while proclaiming freedom of lifestyle choice in regard to others?

A Parable about Christianity

There once were two sons whose father worked very hard to build a fortune. He worked physically hard his whole life, scrimped and saved, etc., to give his kids a good life. When they were growing up, they had to work hard, too, doing chores around the house and helping their father with his family business.

While the father was very strict with his rules, and extremely modest in his own means, he was always generous with his children if they followed the rules.

Eventually, the time came the father’s metaphorical “ship came in.” The family had more money than they needed, as well as a thriving corporation. They no longer needed to work hard to be successful. As long as they kept the company in business, they could sit back and enjoy their wealth.

The younger son, Luther, said, “My father did all this hard work to save me from having to work as hard as he did. As long as I lay my claim to the estate, I can sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labor. I’d be dishonoring his hard work if I worked hard myself.”

The older brother, Peter, saw the situation the opposite way: “My father worked hard and gave me this money. I have more money than I could ever need, and I don’t need to lift a finger again. But if I really honor my father, I need to honor his example and make good use of the gifts he’s given me. I need to work hard to maintain the gifts he’s given me and share them with others. I will continue to work to honor my father’s sacrifice.”

Rape and Abortion.

I’ve been engaging in a rather long and heated, yet interesting, discussion on InsideCatholic with an alleged Catholic who supports abortion in the case of rape, but who echoes the kinds of comments made by “Operation CounterStrike.”

To sum up, the person in question has stated the following positions:
1. That we should not “force” women to have pregnancies they don’t want
2. That a baby conceived from rape is the “progeny of a rapist,” and therefore deserves to die
3. That enduring a pregnancy resulting from rape is like reliving the rape.
4. That abortion in the case of rape is self-defense.

I have made repeated attempts to get this person to explain why she thinks this, but she refuses to give the points remises that underlie these opinions or the syllogisms that connect them.

I, and several others, have asked her what guilt the “progeny of a rapist” bears that requires the death penalty, why she thinks abortion in this case qualifies as “self-defense,” and why she thinks pregnancy is so traumatic, but she refuses to explain. Instead, using typical pro-abortionist rhetoric, she accuses us of being idiots, lunatics, fanatics and liars (I’ve been accused of all four). She accuses us of lying about who we are.

She talks disparaingingly of “minor traditions” like relics and indulgences. When I pointed out that those are not optional–you can’t have a valid church without relics, and if you say, “I don’t participate indulgences,” that means you never pray, read the Bible, go on pilgrimage, etc.

Anyway, the conversation is well worn out, but it once again shows how pro-abortionists really can provide no philosophical foundations for their positions, other than vague emotional appeals. The baby deserves to die, in their view, because the poor, wimpy women can’t separate the baby from the cause of the baby.

It dawned on me last night to point out one of my usual arguments on this issue: the rape is one thing. For a conception to result, God has to step in, so obviously God intends for the baby to exist. If you believe life begins at conception (as this person claims to believe), then God created that soul at the moment of conception (and of course, the conception could occur as much as five days after the rape).

I really *would* like to know why these people think this way. It doesn’t change the fact that they’re wrong, but it would make it a lot easier to refute them. I tried to suggest some of the reasons I’d heard before, but she accused me of misquoting her.

In any case, the “forcing” thing is a stupid argument. There’s a big difference between “forcing” someone to do something and taking away the option.

It is quite interesting, in fact, that pro-lifers oppose the UN’s International Criminal Court for its provisions on “forced pregnancy”. We’re assured that this does not refer to outlawing abortion, but rather to situations like women taken captive in war and forced into sex slavery.

Yet the pro-aborrtionists have adopted the rhetoric of “forced pregnancy” in the context of making abortion illegal.

“You wouldn’t force a woman to have a baby that would traumatize her?” they ask.

So I proposed, “What if the woman was abused and had a baby that looked like her abusive husband or parent or relative; wouldn’t that traumatize her?”
I was assured that this was an irrelevant analogy. I’m still not sure why.

What about, “You wouldn’t *force* a man who’s psychologiclaly compelled to rape to resist his urges, would you?”
“You wouldn’t *force* a person who’s psychologically compelled to murder to endure the trauma of not murdering, would you?”
“You wouldn’t *force* a person who’s desperately in need to *not* rob a bank, would you??”

It’s the most meaningless argument a person can make, and somehow they have no idea how meaningless it is. It’s baffling to me. And women say men are sexist when we accuse them of being emotional rather than logical.

Of course, another fall back in the discussion is always, “Well, abortion is legal, so deal with it.” Duh. That’s why we’re debating about whether to make it illegal.

Then there’s the Rousseauian classic, “Well, the Catholic Church is responsible for a lot of the social posroblems that cause abortion,” and “The Catholic Church facilitates rapists.”

OK, what a good, faithful Catholic you are.

Socio-economic circumstances don’t cause sin; original sin does.

“What about the women who have abortions?”

Pro-abortionists have a particular question they like to throw out at pro-lifers.  Like the Pharisees trying to trip up Jesus, they think this question particularly clever and creates an impossible dilemma.

My recent interlocutor, the pro-abortion terrorist and demonaic who goes by “Operation Counterstrike”, prides itself on its website for supposedly “confounding” pro-lifer bloggers with this question.  Although I answered the question on its blog, and the direct question never came up here in our lengthy exchange, this person (whom I strongly suspect has gender identity issues, given that its rhetoric sounds like NOW but seems to avoid the personal identification with abortion that radical feminists have) tried to say that I put its comments under moderation because of my inability to confront that question.

No, I put its comments under moderation because a) the arguments were getting circular and unprogressive and b) the person insisted on using language that was both rude and crude, as well as personally attacking my friends. This individual needs to learn about a modicum of civil discourse.

Anyway, the question goes like this:

“If abortion is made illegal, and you consider abortion to be murder, what should happen to the women who have abortions?”

They see this is an an “aha!” question, exposing us for either being hypocrites or for “not really thinking abortion is murder.”

The paradox, they think, goes this way:

1.  If you think they should be punished as murderers, they’ll call you “unreasonable.”

2.  If you say they shouldn’t, they say, “Then you don’t really think abortion is murder.”

Of course, these are the kinds of people, especially the CounterStrike person, who think that people like Scott Roeder, Paul Hill and John Salvi are the only consistent anti-abortionists.  According to their logic, a) if you believe abortion is murder, then b) the only way to punish a murderer is to c) kill him/her in an act of vigilantism.  Otherwise, you’re a liar and/or hypocrite in that a) you don’t “really” believe abortion is “murder” or b) you’re not “really” pro-life.

Of course, they set up the false dichotomy in that, case they set up the false dichotomy in this one, too.

Yes, the question does pose a paradox for certain kinds of Republicans and conservatives, but it shouldn’t pose a paradox for a Christian, or certainly any person with an understanding of psychology or legal responsibility.

There is a difference between the objective nature of an act and the subjective culpability of the actor.  When a teenaged girl has an abortion, is she really culpable?  Does she know abortion is murder?  Does she know the unborn child is a person?  (Not if the pro-aborts have anything to say about it; they do everything in their power to fight informed consent, waiting periods and sonogram laws–they know most women would reject abortion if shown this information).  Are they really making the “free choice” that pro-aborts allege?  Or are they pressured by family, society, money, etc.?  What is their mental state?

Is a girl who has an abortion fully morally culpable for what she does? 

Now, this is quite different from, say, some upper middle class white woman who gets an abortion to avoid the stretch marks or pursue her career or something.

Interestingly, Patrick Madrid has been involved in a parallel exchange from the other end, on his Facebook page, radio show and blog, in which a pro-life advocate apparently took a fairly hardline stance with some women who had repented of past abortions, insisting they were still “murderers”.

Of course, objectively, the woman who has an abortion is a “murderer,” but that leads to two issues: 1) her aforementioned culpability and b) her intention of repeating the crime.

A person who copies and pastes a bunch of paragraphs out of Wikipedia and Cliff’s Notes is, objectively, a plagiarist.  However, a good teacher knows how to distinguish unintentional acts of plagiarism from intentional academic theft.  Sometimes, especially in this example, the student just doesn’t know how to cite or how to write a proper research paper, and thinks the copied and pasted paragraphs constitute “research.” 

So, let’s say the teacher decides to give the student a second chance, or that a student who was expelled from one institution for plagiarism gets admitted to another.  In either case, our plagiarist has learned his or her lesson.  He or she remains a plagiarist, but the question is: will he or she *continue* to commit plagiarism?

Inspector Javert chases Jean Valjean for years because he thinks that one act of theft should mark a man for life.

Christians technically believe in repentance and forgiveness.  The pro-life movement is an embodiment of this.  Many of our leaders have themselves been directly involved in abortion in the worst ways: Norma McCorvey, Sandra Cano, Bernard Nathanson, John Bruchalski and so many others have come to the pro-life cause after repenting of their involvement in abortion, whether it was their own abortions, abortion practices, or political/legal work.

Yes, we want to see abortion illegal so that it is stigmatized, and society can heal from the rift in Natural Law caused by legalized abortion.  Yes, we want to save babies’ lives.  Yes, those who are consciously and deliberately involved in abortion–and unrepentant–should be punished for it. 

Those who lack full moral responsibility, however, should be given clemency and understanding.  Those who have repented and turned over a new leaf should be given the benefit of the doubt.  They remain, objectively, murderers, but the real question is whether they will murder again.

There is no better illustration of this than a conundrum presented regarding George W. Bush when he was still Governor of Texas, a situation that puzzled liberals to no end.  It was the case where a woman on death row in Texas had converted to Christianity, repented of her crimes and showed a complete remorse.  Pro-life Christians argued that she should not be subject to the death penalty, and even that she should be released.

“Our God is the God of second chances.”

That’s what Christianity is all about: repentance of sins:

The origin of the blogger

There are two stories of how my parents met.

According to my mother, who was staying in a room at the home of her boss, her boss/landlord was having a party.  Dad’s band was playing for the party.  Dad was crooning away on his accordion when Mom came downstairs, angry at being unable to sleep, walked up to dad and said, “It’s three o’clock in the morning–would you please shut up?”

Dad insists they had run into each other prior to that, so that wasn’t their first meeting.  Technically, IIRC, their first official date was set up by the mutual friends in question.

So, you could say that there’s some doubt as to how, exactly, my parents’ relationship got started. 

Does that cast into doubt the fact that my parents exist, that their marriage exists, or that I exist as the offspring of that marriage?

Regardless of how they got here, they’re here.  Regardless of how I got here, I’m here.  Would it really have any effect on my parents’ relationship with me if they had met some other way?
What if it turned out, through some freak accident, I was switched as birth (highly unlikely due to genetic testing, let’s just ignore that fact): would I love them less if for some reason they turned out to be not my biological parents? 

Again.  They’re still my parents.  How they got here and how I got here are interesting stories, but they’re not really relevant to the relationship itself.

Nor is the mechanics of how God created me relevant to my relationship with Him.

I don’t believe in the existence of Barack Obama

Barack Obama doesn’t exist.

I have no evidence to prove to me that Barack Obama exists.

The guy on TV might be an actor, after all.  Then there’s the whole birth certificate question.  I’ve never met Barack Obama.  He’s never spoken to me, personally.  He’s never done anything that I can tangibly recognize in my own life.

So how do I have any evidence he actually exists?

Therefore, Barack Obama doesn’t exist, and I’m going to just yell over and over, “Barack Obama doesn’t exist!” and insist I’m right, and if you say otherwise, that’s just “gibberish” that I don’t want to listen to.

Sound irrational?

Of course.

So are the claims of atheists.

Who’s really looking for “easy answers”?

The basic claim of atheists is that they are superior to believers because, in their view, believers look for easy answers.  In their view, belief in God boils down to an easy explanation for all matters scientific, even though that is the last thing on the mind of most believers.

My contention, especially when I hear atheists speak, is just the opposite.  When I hear people like P.Z. Myers, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins speak, their attitude is not one of scientific inquiry but one of “closed book”: “I read Darwin, and Darwin had all the answers!  I didn’t have to believe in God anymore!”    They are the ones who have intentionally sought out a reason *not* to believe in God.  Why have they done this, if belief in God is such a simple answer?

God does not answer questions: God opens up a whole new realm of questions.  In reality, the study of science always opens new doors: first the molecule was thought to be the basic unit of matter; then the atom; then the proton, neutron and electron; now we have nuons, quarks, tachyons and other theoretical sub-nuclear particles.  What happened before the Big Bang?

For the theologian, the questions extend far beyond the big bang.

Scientific and philosophic minds ask these questions.  Atheists do not.  They settle on the easiest answers science provides and say, “God does not exist.”

Belief does not answer questions; it creates more.  It also doesn’t provide an easy way of life, since belief requires morality.  Atheists balk at the notion that atheism is inherently amoral, yet there really is no basis for any objective morality without a moral lawgiver.  Atheists can only be positivists, at best, and usually are moral solipsists, at worst.

What is the more challenging belief system?  One that says we evolved from apes, therefore we are little better than apes, therefore we can justify any action that we commit as due to our genetic heritage?

Or a belief system that says a higher being created us with a special dignity that we must live up to, that we are spiritual as well as incarnational beings, that our intellect and spirit should ultimately have control over our body?

This, of course, is why Darwin is so all-fired important to them.  Nevermind that it’s been perfectly obvious from day 1 that there are things in the Bible that are not miracles yet not sensical, either (such as blatant historical errors).  The Fathers taught that, if it comes to the Bible versus science or history in a matter of science or history, you go with science or history.

Whether God made Adam out of clay or out of a primate, it doesn’t really make a difference, but to atheists, who want an easy out, it does.  Darwin is so important to them because, with Darwin, they can discount Genesis, and it’s not the first part of Genesis 1 they really care about; it’s Genesis 2 and 3.

When Darwin becomes your Gospel, then you can discount Original Sin.

Who’s really looking for easy answers?

The Performer, the Politician and the Priest: Funerals, Fanfare and Felonies

Michael  Jackson admitted to literally sleeping with boys in his bed.  Let’s take that action alone.

I’ve read numerous cases against priests where the primary accusation was sharing a bed.  There are lots of accusations made against priests for “merely sleeping” without any alleged sexual contact (of course, the convicted pedophiles on the VIRTUS video explain in great detail how they were able to get pleasured by children without the children even realizing what was gonig on).

So, again, as I noted at the time of the Michael Jackson sobfest, a Catholic priest who is merely *accused* of doing as much as Michael Jackson *admitted*, without ever being convicted, has his life destroyed.  But everyone is supposed to admire this man who was little more than a porn star because of how much he impacted our culture (hardly for the better, morally or culturally) and how much money he allegedly gave to charity.

OK.

Now, we have this case of another instrument of the Culture of Death, from the other direction, whose passing has opened up debates about how well the Church speaks its voice against the grave moral evils of our world, how well the Church speaks out against politicians who support those evils, and about how the dead are honored in general.  Many have suggested that the questions of eulogies, non-Catholics receiving Communion at funerals, etc. are so commonplace as to be unimportant.

I didn’t realize that there was a certain number of times a sin could be committed and then it ceased to be a sin!

These two stories converge in my mind in the case of a presumably holy priest who is suffering in canonical limbo, due to an unproven allegation.  If what most people assume is correct, that allegation stems from trying to safeguard authentic liturgy even at the expense of grieving family members.

The priest is Fr. Christopher Buckner of the Diocese of Arlington.   I mostly know Fr. Buckner by reputation.  I only met him once, in passing, attended a couple of his masses, and I think I confessed to him once.    He struck me as a very sincere, devout and holy priest.  In his farewell homily to the parishioners of St. Mary’s in Fredericksburg (the only homily I know for certain I heard), he gave a sincere apology for how his notorious temper had hurt some people.

Now, Fr. Buckner was the kind of priest one either loved or hated, and it depended upon where one stood in the culture wars.  If one stood on the Left side of the fence, or one sat on the “I’d rather not get involved” middle, Fr. Buckner was hated: hated by the Left for denouncing them; hated by the Middle for disturbing their “can’t we all just get along” mentality.

Interestingly, for a priest who was often accused of “driving people away,” Fr. Buckner managed to get a huge number of converts for RCIA classes every year–in part by simply advertising in the newspaper.  He was friends with many non-Catholics around Fredericksburg, perhaps friendlier with non-Catholics than members of his own parish.

He told my wife’s rabidly Democratic aunt that her Clinton/Gore bumper stickers were not welcome at his parish. 

One of my wife’s  best friends served altar with Fr. Buckner at a parish in Northern Virginia and always thought highly of him.  Indeed, having known Fr. Buckner mainly for his gruff reputation, Mary got another side one night, when she and a group of college friends were driving back to Williamsburg via Fredericksburg.  The aforementioned friend wanted to stop by St. Mary’s and see Fr. Buckner.  The prospect of knocking on the rectory door that late in the evening, particularly to the “infamous” Fr. Buckner, was daunting to Mary, but she was greeted by a whole other side of this priest.  He greeted them all warmly, served them snacks, and they had a great time.

After he left St. Mary’s, Fr. Buckner served as a professor at Catholic Distance University, and served as an assistant at a parish where another one of our friends attended.  She also thought highly of Fr. Buckner.

Fr. Buckner was also known for his youth pilgrimages to the Holy Land. 

We knew there were rumors–if nothing else that he was a bit too “touchy feely,” but they never seemed credible.  Having taken VIRTUS training, it is easy to see how Fr. Buckner *could* fit a certain MO (e.g., giving the appearance of virtue to most people, singling out the one victim, and the victim is not believed because of it).

Well, in May 2007, Arlington was rocked with Bishop Paul Loverde–who has a long history of silencing or otherwise disciplining outspokenly orthodox priests–announced the suspension of Fr. Buckner.

This carried with it a couple implications.  First, we *had* heard the rumor that his transfer in 2000 was due to allegations made by some former altar boys, so, on the surface, this seemed to prove those allegations.  However, Loverde had said, in reference to the Fr. Haley/Fr. Hamilton  situation in 2002, that Arlington had *always* had a zero tolerance policy with abuse accusations.  If the rumors we’d heard in 2000 were true, then that proves Loverde lied in his statements denouncing Fr. Haley (of course, Loverde did lie about Fr. Haley in other ways, too). 

In any case, all the diocese of Arlington ever officially said was that Fr. Buckner had been accused of “inappropriate conduct with a minor.” 

The date given was between 1992 and 1994.  Now, one of the reasons Fr. Buckner’s temper was so notorious, and why this relates to the recent debacle in Boston, is that there was, shortly after he arrived at St. Mary’s, a controversy regarding a funeral.

The family wanted a song sung at the funeral, and Fr. Buckner didn’t want secular music.  So the family defied him, and the decedent’s son sang the song anyway, and, after the Mass, Fr. Buckner allegedly cussed the kid out.

Now, I’ve been on both sides of this issue over the years, as my own view of liturgy has evolved.  So, I’m inclined to see both sides on this, if not lean towards the family.  But does speak volumes to the mentality that we should let anything go at a Catholic funeral, from crazy music selections to eulogies (which are explicitly forbidden by canon law) to sacrilegious communions just out of compassion for the grieving families.

OK, so, back to  the accusation.   When the accusation came out, most people who knew anything at all about Fr. Buckner and the parish, etc., figured it was probably from that incident.

The Diocese kept the accusation vaguee.  To date, more than 2 years later ,there have not been any charges filed against Fr. Buckner.  There has been no civil trial.  No criminal trial.  No canonical trial.  There hasn’t been any word about where Fr. Buckner is.  He’s just in canonical limbo, suspended as a priest, without any due process.

My mother in law told us that, shortly after the suspension, they brough this whole investigative crew to St. Mary’s.  They were told the people would be there for 4 weeks investigating the case against Fr. Buckner.  It was a regular witch hunt, and they summoned people in trying to dig up dirt.

And they couldn’t find any.

They left in less than two weeks because no one was able to corroborate anything, and no one was willing to denounce Fr. Buckner.

There was no evidence.

So, there you have it, folks.

1.  Rich celebrity accused of various accusations by teenaged boys.  Gets off scott free.  Admits to sleeping with them.  People excuse him and say what a great “artist” he was.

2.  Rich politician flaunts his defiance against God his whole life.  May or may not have repented on his deathbed (which is really irrelevant).  Certainly never publicly renounced his public heresies and public scandals.  Got a big to-do of a funeral, replete with numerous liturgical abuses, including a non-Catholic pro-abortion president delivering a eulogy. 

3.  Mostly holy priest with a bad temper, who tries to do what’s right and teach others to practice heroic virtue, lets his temper get the better of him in regard to a possible liturgical abuse at a funeral.  Has an unproven allegation made against him–perhaps stemming from that incident or perhaps unrelated–and even though he has brought numerous converts to the Catholic faith, even though he has, in giving people the sacraments, done infinitely more good than every entertainer and politician put together, this priest languages in a state of canonical suspension, with barely a mention in the media.

The salvation of a single soul through sacramental grace is worth more than all the money in the world, especially since money is worth nothing.

If even our bishops and the Vatican newspaper say that the alleged good works of Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy warrant them our respect and admiration, then shouldn’t the good works of Fr. Christopher Buckner and Fr. James Haley warrant even more respect and admiration?

Shouldn’t these two holy priests–one suspended for an unproven allegation, the other suspended for making proven allegations–get the same kind of “pass” as Ted Kennedy?

Is not a single Host of infinite worth and importance?  Is not a single Mass of infinite worth and importance?

Are you a hamartiaphile?

Well, this week, one way or the other, the Catholic Church in America has lost both a supreme embarrassment and a great hero.  Which one is which depends upon which side of the Culture Wars you’re on.

Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton is apparently getting ready to formally announce his resignation at the age of 63.  Reasons as yet are unclear, but it is a tragedy to lose such a stalwart defender of orthodoxy and the right to life. 

Sadly, this has given great rejoicing to the kinds of Catholics who say Ted Kennedy made them “proud to be Catholic” yet call Patrick Madridhateful

More on the Kennedys and the Catholics who worship them as false idols later.

But, reading someone on National Catholic Reporter’s blog call Martino a “homophobe”, especially amidst all the discussion how we should not “judge” Ted Kennedy, and “we are all sinners,” etc., I really got to thinking.

From now on, when liberals call us “bigots” and “homophobes,” we should start calling them hamartiaphiles.

“What?” you ask?

Well, I looked it up, and “hamartia” is apparently the transliteration of the Greek word for “sin.” 

 First, there’s the old issue of the grammatical idiocy of the term “homophobia,” which literally means “fear of self.” 

If we take the spiritual advice of St. Augustine, whose feast we celebrate today, fear of self is a good thing, so homophobia, literally taken, is sound advice 🙂

The fact that I do happen to fear homosexuals does not have any effect on my view of the morality of what they do.  I don’t particularly fear people who use contraception, but I still believe that those who use contraception use their spouses as prostitutes.

No.  But the Left could very easily be accuesd of hamartiaphilia, the love of sin.  The Left takes “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and then leaves out the part about “Go and sin no more.”

They may try to say they just want to end discrimination against homosexuals (even though Casti Connubii teaches that homosexuals *should* be discriminated against).  They may say they just want to protect women’s “freedom of choice” or to help women in desperate situations.  But by saying these things they are still implying that homosexual behavior and abortion are good, or at least morally neutral, acts, acts which can be licitly performed under certain circumstances.

In any case, the “i’m a sinner too” argument ignores the many teachings in the New Testament that call for admonishment of sinners, which is also taught by the Church to be a Spiritual Work of Mercy.  Read the letters of St. Paul and then compare them to the average “orthodox” Catholic blog.  If St. Paul were alive today, the folks at NCR, Commonweal or America would likely call him a “homophobe,” a “bigot,” a “hater,” and “out of touch” with “the rest of the  Church” (indeed, I’m sure many of them do). 

And that’s just St. Paul, who’s kind of wishy-washy and softspoken compared to Peter, John, Jude and James.

There is a difference between outright heresy and private sin.

There is a difference between public scandal and private sin.

There is also a difference between repeatedly, privately sinning and always repenting and trying better, on the one hand, and insisting no one can do better, on the other.

The thing about the Left is that they don’t want to demand a higher standard, because they love their sins.  Liberal A may not personally be guilty of abortion or homosexuality, but he may be guilty of contraception or divorce or adultery or swearing or engaging in unnecessary business on Sunday.  And he *likes* doing it.  He likes using and dumping women, relegating prayer to God to last-place status in his life and/or praying to Satan with every other sentence.

It isn’t a sense of guilt behind, “We are all sinners” but a sense of solidarity with the drug addicts, homosexuals and abortionists, which motivates the Catholic who votes Democrat.

What is a logical fallacy?

I often wonder if we need to revise the way we treat logical fallacies. Fallacy is reallly a matter of function more than content.

For example, the fallacy of redirection. It is not uncommon to see any given topic in Catholicism have the issue of sex abuse by priests come up. Depending upon *why* the issue is raised, it may be “redirection,” it may be “getting off topic,” or it may be a valid question to raise.

For example, if, in a discussion of some social issue, the issue is raised to question the credibility of the Church’s teachings, it *may* be very relevant, or if the issue is raised to illustrate a parallel error. On the other hand, the issue must be discussed only in that context in which it is raised, if that is the case.

One “fallacy” thats fallaciousness has always seemed suspect to me is “slippery slope.” If “slippery slope” is always a fallacy, then Humanae Vitae is fallacious.

Very often, however, slippery slope is exactly how things work. One man’s slippery slope is another man’s incrementalism.

Or ad hominem. When I teach critical thikning, I call on my students to carefully analyze who the writer is, who the publishers and sponsors are, and what ulterior motives they may have. If there’s researched involved, who paid for the research?

To examine such questions is not to engage in ad hominem but to examine the credibility of the source.

Also, when I teach writing, I tell my students to be careful about audience, to consider exactly who they are (indirectly) addressing their piece to. What are the needs of the audience? Their interests, agendas, existing knowledge, questions, etc.?

Mary has a friend who is now a professor at a Catholic college, who got banned from campus retreats when they were in college because of a discussion with a homosexual man.

Now, the conversation was, from the perpsective of Mary’s friend and his interlocutor, a mildly heated but fruitful intellectual dialogue. However, the interlocutor did not disclose that he, personally, was struggling with the sin of homosexuality. Mary’s friend, in retrospect, said that his argument would have been different if he’d known his audience was an actual homosexual, rather than thinking it was purely a discussion of principle.

In any case, some third party overheard the conversation and complained to the directors of the retreat ministry. So her friend was banned from leadership in that retreat ministry because of upholding the Church’s teachings.

In any case, the incident raises the question of self-explanation. If critical readers are to evaluate the writer’s possible motives and agendas, and if a good writer considers his audience’s motives and agendas, then shouldn’t writers be required in principle to offer some self-explanation?

The tradition of Western formal academic writing has grown that writers are not supposed to self-reference, but this is intellectually dishonest. It is really important that a writer express why the subject is important to him or her personally, what personal experience he or she has in that field, etc. What metaphorical axes is the writer trying to grind?

To do otherwise creates a huge impediment to actual dialogue.

A Liberal Catholic Looks at the Moon

“Hmm.  My senses tell me that the moon is made of green cheese.  But Scientists insist that the moon is made of grey rock.  This is a paradox, and my  brain can’t handle paradoxes.  So, let me see how I can delve into this mystery.”

“Well, if you think about it, cheese is kind of like a rock, because, at the molecular level, it contains minerals.  And, it’s in animate.  And it gets hard if you leave it sitting out too long. So, the moon could be made of cheese that appears like rock.”

“And color is subjective, so I might see green where others see gray.”

“So, in a spiritual sense, one can say that the moon is gray rock under the appearance of green cheese.  But I continue to insist that it’s just green cheese, because that’s what I can perceive.”

The Eucharist is a Mystery.  The difference between a philosophically oriented Catholic and a mystically oriented Catholic is that the philosophically oriented Catholic sees the Mystery as something to be solved, while the mystically oriented Catholic sees it as something to be pondered and embraced qua Mystery

Our feeble explanations can help us to delve the Mystery, or else they can do harm to it by giving us pat answers.

On Vox Nova, I’ve been accused of being “scandalized” by the Eucharist, or of failing to understand that it’s Mystery.  They’re the ones trying to de-mystify it by making it into nothing more than a spiritual abstraction.

The person who cannot really embrace the Mystery of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ–that is, the whole Christ–hidden under the appearance of Bread and Wine  but only sees a “piece of bread” is the one who adopts Rahnerism.

Protestants do not  become Catholics because they’re told John 6 is symbolic; if they do, they become bad Catholics.

No, Protestants become Catholics because they see Catholics kneeling in front of the Monstrance and are at first scandalized by it.

They become Catholics because they come into Catholic churches and know that God is there, not just spiritually, but physically, a palpable, corporal, physical presence that can be felt better than the presence of any living person.

A Catholic who cannot experience that in church doens’t need to study more philosophy.  He needs to study more spirituality and spend more time in prayer.

They’re obsessing about nonsensical speculations about whether “Jesus moves” when the Monstrance is moved in the Eucharistic Blessing (I would say that the mystery there is that the Priest, as at Mass, is acting in persona Christi while holding the Body of  Christ).  When I am blessed at Adoration, I don’t see some silly spectacle of Jesus flying all over the place–unless it’s Jesus *on the Cross*–but  I see the hand of Jesus blessing me.

To worry about such particulars, though, is just to engage in intellectual games.  It’s irrelevant to the practical experience of everyone except the kinds of people who engage in such speculations.

We should be doing our best to promote Eucharistic adoration, not worry about such silly intellectual games.

I really don’t care how many angels dance on the head of a pin.  I know the angels are there.

I am able to handle the paradox that the moon does not look to me like what science tells me it is. 

I don’t understand why Catholics are unable to understand the paradox that the Eucharist does not look like what the Church says it is. 

As I teach my children from the Baltimore Catechism, however, and I read the writings of Catholics my age who have been deprived of their patrimony except as filtered through the mind of Rahner and his progeny, I am horrified at the utter destruction of catechesis.

The Exorcism of Lila Rose?

Young Pro-Life Vigilante “Lila Rose” has gained notoriety the past several years for various “undercover ops” involving Planned Parenthood: recording conversations with donation collectors, posing as a teenaged girl pregnant through rape or incest and seeing if Planned Parenthood reported it, video taping the counseling sessions, etc.

Some of these “sting operations” have gone to a bit of an extreme in forcing the Planned Parenthood employees to say things they probably wouldn’t have said or done.  Planned Parenthood has claimed she’s illegally recorded the conversations.

In the meantime, Lila Rose has become a young hero  to pro-lifers, and she has recently converted to Catholicism, apparently.

Well, my friend Joe Hargrave has raised an interesting take on the morality of her actions, and his observations deserve some thought.  Deal Hudson has offered a rebuttal, which also deserves some thought.

Haven’t read all the comments on either discussion, but I’d like to offer several observations:

1.  I come down pretty hard on people.   Years ago, Mary suggested I should start using, when anonymity was called for, the nickname “God’s Gadfly,” after one of my favorite passages in Plato.  The Prophet Socrates, in the Apology (also one of the two places where he predicts the coming of Christ), says he is a “gadfly” sent by god (specifically Apollo, since he discerned his vocation from an oracle at Delphi) to annoy the Athenians and rouse them from their complacency and make them examine themselves.  Much like Socrates, who was always looking for a wise man, and Diogenes, who was always looking for an honest man, I’m always looking for an honest Catholic.

But that I mean not just “orthodox”–and not even necessarily 100% orthodox–but someone who’s actually committed to living the Gospel, at least in theory, 100%.  Someone who tries as best as possible not to let worldly attachments cloud his or her judgement.

From my experience reading his writings and communicating with him online, Joe Hargrave is one of those rare people.  He is seriously seeking Truth. 

Years ago, I read Bob Casey’s memoir Fighting for Life. For several reasons, I think it makes an interesting bookend to Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, because, if you define “conservative” by the definition Kirk gives in his magnum opus, then Bob Casey is definitely a liberal.

Now, deriiving from my own views of politics pre-Kirk, and definitely after reading Kirk, I came to the following delineation of the basic differences between a “conservative” and a “liberal”. While the terms originally referred to economics, or refer to customs, or whatever, I use them, as Kirk basically does, to refer to interpretation of law.

Kirk says that conservatives are, by nature, pessimistic about human nature, while liberals are optimistic. Conservatives expect people to do bad. They want government to punish wrongdoing, but they generally want government to be restricted because people run the government, and people are prone to corruption. Liberals are optimistic. They think people are fundamentally good, and they think that various social reforms are the way to solve the problem of evil.

For various reasons, the Culture Wars most obviously, but my interpretation of subsidiarity and other church teachings included, I have always been a conservative. As I noted the other day, Michael Jackson and Madonna and MTV deserve a lot of the credit for that, as I was naturally repulsed by them as a kid, and didn’t understand why other kids’ parents weren’t as strict as my parents were, why they let their kids watch that junk.

Based upon the above description, I have long believed that Catholics should be conservatives because, if nothing else, of original sin. Our belief in human concupiscence fits nicely with the conservative paradigm.

OTOH, Bob Casey’s memoir/manifesto shows what I think a true “liberal Catholic” should be like. He was equally concerned with moral issues as I was, but he had a more optimistic view of human nature, and therefore of the role of government. It would have been interesting to debate with him on that one point. In practice, I saw my views converging with many of Casey’s, but in theory ,we were polar opposites.

So, Joe Hargrave is the closest person I’ve met to a “Bob Casey”. He’s fundamentally liberal, because he’s an optimist. But on most practical political issues, we agree.

2. While I’m searching for an “honest Catholic,” I’m always willing to grow myself. I’m willing to entertain new perspectives, provided that it all fits. I have many times, over the years, completely changed my views on particular issues when I’ve found the Church taught differently than what I thought–or, more precisely, when I’ve found out the Church has a teaching on that subject (and didn’t realize it previously).

Liberal Catholics often say, “Read the Social Justice Encyclicals.” Unlike many Catholic political conservatives, I *have* read several of them, and excerpts or summaries of all, and I’ve found that, while I am no longer a laissez-faire capitalist, I am not a socialist, either. I am a Chestertonian distributivist.

While Kirk refuses to accept Chesterton as a conservative, Kirk’s view is that conservatives should shun economic ideology in favor of economic pragmatism, and he is equally critical of both capitalists and socialists.

But while I’m willing to grow, there are often issues that come up where we really haven’t given them much thought.

Torture is one such issue. I never gave it much thought, one way or the other, till the past few years.
Now, the issue of lying as an intrinsic evil has been circulating the blogosphere, and Joe has raised the question in regard to Lila Rose–and, by extension, in regard to anyone who does “undercover work”?

Can you lie in the service of undercover work?

3. Deal Hudson responds with a similar view to what he’s posited on waterboarding. Killing is intrinsically evil. So, if it’s just or justifiable to do that intrinsic evil in certain circumstances (war, death penalty, self defense), why isn’t it just to do certain other intrinsic evils in similar circumstances? Of course, this carries a dangerous slope with it: for example, that contraception is justifiable under such circumstances. I will be gettin back to that issue whenever I resume my Iraq series.

4. A story: our old OB/Gyn in VA once told us about a “crazy Iranian abortionist” he knew. He was Irish, and his narrative seemed to be missing some points. He said this abortionist showed up one time in the delivery room wielding a handgun while he was delivering the baby of one of the abortionist’s former clients. I forget why, exactly.

Anyway, he also said the guy’s clinic in Richmond was shut down after several accusations of fraud were made against him. An undercover cop went in one day. The abortionist came in and said, “You’re pregnant. Want an abortion?”
The cop said, “That was a urine sample from my male partner. I’m a cop, and you’re under arrest.”

Well, would *that* be morally justifiable?

5. The real question Joe’s post raises is whether undercover work is permissible at all. Then there’s the question of whether vigilante overcover work is justified.

6. Then there’s the Catechism’s extreme position on lying, especially given the lies that prelates themselves often engage in.

7. Another anecdote. I heard an African bishop tell this story in an EWTN homily. Two Christian men were running from some pagans who wanted to kill them. They met an old farmer and said, “Grandfather, some men want to kill us! Please hide us!” So the old farmer told them to hide under a bale of hay. The soldiers arrived. “Did you see two men?” they asked.
“Yes,” said the old man. “They’re hiding under that bale of hay.”
“Fool! How dare you mock us?!” they cried, striking him to the ground.
The soldiers left. The fugitives came out from under the hay.
“Why did you tell whem where we were?”
“I knew they wouldn’t believe I was telling the truth,” he said. “The truth will set you free.”

7.

I love Plenary Indulgences!

You hear a lot of different things in apologetics and “Q&A” pieces about what exactly the theory behind indulgences is.  Some say that, back in the Middle Ages, when penances were things like carrying your armor up a mountain over and over and over again, indulgences were “easy alternatives.”

Then there’s the question of “time”.  In the old days, partial indulgences had certain numbers of “days” attached, like, “300 Days’ Indulgence.”  The common understanding was that this pertained to “days in purgatory.”  The popular criticism was that “there’s no time in Purgatory.”  But that doesn’t make sense, since Purgatory will end with the end of time.   Purgatory really is “time served.”  However, I’ve also read that the “days” really means that the grace is equivalent to X number of days on pilgrimage or X number of days living a monastic lifestyle.  But that doesn’t make much sense, either.

A popular maxim of liberal Catholics (TM) is, “Vatican II got rid of indulgences because they used to sell them.”  Uh, no.  The “sale of indulgences”, per se, has always been considered a form of simony.  There *were* priests who would, on their own, assign indulgences and penances to penitents that amounted to “give me $100 and your sins will be forgiven.”  That’s Simony (i.e., Simon the Magus in Acts), and has always been condemned by Holy Mother Church.  There have been, historically, certain indulgences attached to particular charitable donations, including contributing to the building of the Sistine Chapel.  Since this was so easily abused, it was ended at the Council of Trent.

What Vatican II “got rid of” was the days thing, reducing it to simply “partial” and “plenary” indulgences.  Now, the cool thing there is that we can see partial and plenary indulgences as paralleling another concept Protestants have a hard time with (even though it’s biblical): mortal and venial sins.  Venial sins harm our relationship with God, but do not sever it.  Conversely, partial indulgences help to build our relationship with God, but do not necessarily solidify it.

Similarly, while mortal sins sever our relationship with God, and, unrepented, guarantee we’ll go to Hell, plenary indulgences, so long as we are detached from sin and don’t backslide after earning them, guarantee we’ll go straight to Heaven, with no time served in Purgatory.

Now, here’s the trick: we can’t be certain we’ve “earned” a Plenary Indulgence ,and we definitely don’t know for certain that we”ll keep  it (that would be “Eternal Security”).  There’s a story about St. Philip Neri preaching about a special indulgence the Pope had granted for that day, and receiving the awareness that only two people in the congregation were actually deserving of that indulgence: himself and one old lady. 

You see, to truly earn a plenary indulgence, you have to be free from all attachment to sin, and that’s a tough qualification to achieve. 

You can earn up to 14 or 15 plenary indulgences per confession (up to seven days before or after the time of Confession).  So, if you go to Communion *every* day during those two weeks before and after Confession, and make sure you perform some devotion with a plenary indulgence attached, *and pray for the Pope*, you can earn potentially up to 15.  Now, what to do with them?  Give them away.  You can pray that any indulgences you earn on a particular day be assigned to a soul in Purgatory.  I’ve found it very efficacious to offer indulgences for certain deceased relatives and then get them into Heaven.

You wanna get Clarence Oddbody into Heaven?  That’s the way (forget all that “angel” and “getting his wings” junk).

Now, the best way to explain the *theory* of indulgences is to look for their origin.  I believe I”ve blogged this before, but the very first indulgence granted by the Church is the Portiuncula Indulgence.

St. Francis of Assisi, like many Catholics, especially during the Crusades, was very concerned with making pilgrimages to the Holy Land . Since he knew how hard it was to actually get there, he started several devotions which, through the Church’s approval, are intended to help give the same graces as one would get from such a pilgrimage.  One such devotion is the Stations of the Cross.

Another is the Portincula Indulgence.  The “Portiuncula” is a nickname of the Church of Our Lady of the Angels, the church that St. Francis literally “rebuilt” at the beginning of his career and served as his base of operations.

Aug. 2 is the feast of Our Lady of the Angels.  On that day, there is a plenary indulgence for going to *any* parish church, but particularly a Franciscan church or any named “Our Lady of the Angels.”  It’s considered as if you’ve gone on pilgrimage.  The indulgence also extends to visiting any church on its patronal feast.

So, yesterday (at this blogging) was the Feast of Corpus Christi, and we went to Corpus Christi Church in Lexington.  We were too late for mass, but we had been invited to the parish picnic.  Had a great time.  Four families we’re friends with from the homeschool group were there.  Then, before we left, Mary and I both went into the church individually to pray (all you have to do is say some prayers for the Holy Father).  Then we went to Mass somewhere else.

Isn’t that cool?

I once got in trouble for giving Mary’s religion class a pre-approved guest lecture on indulgences–during the Jubilee Year 2000–talking about the Jubilee Indulgence.   “We teach love and forgiveness here,” said the principal (I thought that’s what indulgences were, but she meant “forgiveness of sins without a confessional”).

We have a few weeks left in the Year of St. Paul: the special indulgence this year applies to any time one visits a church dedicated to St. Paul or St. Peter, or another church that has been assigned by the bishop.  I’ve already blogged about the new indulgence for the coming Year of Priests that starts on the Feast of St. John Vianney.

Of course, when you know the disparate ways you can get a plenary indulgence, some of them seem kind of redundant or overkill compared to others.  In addition to the Portiuncula Indulgence, common methods include 1) saying the rosary, with reflections on the mysteries, either with a group of people or in front of the Blessed Sacrament; 2) reading the Bible for a half an hour prayerfully; 3) spending a half an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament; 4) praying the Stations of the Cross in Church (always forget if this is exclusive to Lent, but I think it’s all year round); 5) reflecting on the Passion on a Friday in Lent (including the Prayer before a Crucifix; 6) going to Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday; 7) saying the Franciscan Crown Rosary (7 decades, a few different mysteries, but meditations aren’t required); 8) going on a three day retreat; 9) praying for the Dead, particularly at a cemetary, during the first week of November; 10) Saying the Office of the Dead (I think both morning and evening prayer; again, not sure if this is anytime or just first week of Nov).

You can only “earn” one plenary indulgence a day, but I dare you to try reading the Bible in front of the Blessed Sacrament for a half an hour, preferably using the Bible readings as Rosary meditations, while in a state of grace!!