Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Bishop Alan's book

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

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

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

It's a sad world

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bishop Conry's hypothetical syllogism

I don't mean to dwell on this guy and his situation but I had to wince when I saw this story about him in The Tablet today ... Bishop says church hierarchy had no idea of his affair with woman six years ago ...

The Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, who this week said he was “relieved” that a relationship he had with a woman six years ago had come to light, said that the church authorities did not know about the affair. Bishop Kieran Conry said that if they had known, his fellow bishops would have done something. He told the Catholic Herald: “someone would have said something to me, someone would have taken me aside, and nobody did”.

Oh look, a hypothetical syllogism (If A, then B. Not B. Therefore not A) ...

1) If his fellow bishops had known of his affairs, then they would have done something about it

2) His fellow bishops didn't do anything about it

3) Therefore, his fellow bishops didn't know of his affairs

Another example ...

1) If God had wanted us to swim, then he would have given us fins

2) He didn't give us fins

3) Therefore, God did not want us to swim

The thing is that while hypothetical syllogisms seem logical, they aren't always an accurate portrayal of reality ... the assumption made is that if A is true, then B must also be true, but that isn't always so. Conry asks us to take for granted his assertion ... "if they [his fellow bishops] had known, his fellow bishops would have done something" .... but I don't see why we should believe this to be a fact. It seems quite possible that the other bishops did know about his affairs but declined to do anything about the situation.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The UK Catholic Church: liberals, conservatives

- source: The Times

I've been thinking about the Catholic church in the UK because of the recent story in the news of Bishop Kieran Conry retiring upon his affairs with women being made public.

Here in the US, the leadership of the Catholic church is conservative, so much so that one might think the USCCB is a wing of the Republican party. But it's different in the UK ... there the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, is considered a liberal, as are many (most?) of the bishops. I say "considered" because he is nowhere near a liberal from my own liberal point of view (he opposed both gay civil partnerships and marriage equality) but of course "liberal" takes on a whole new meaning when you're within the Catholic establishment.

But anyway, the scandal about Conry is being treated in different ways by those who are liberal and those who are conservative (Conry is thought of as a liberal bishop). The comments to a post about him at Damian Thompson's conservative blog are mostly critical of Conry, while comments to a post about him at The Tablet (liberal, sort of) give Conry a pass.

It's kind of disturbing to see politics inform people's reactions to Conry's ethical failure.

Photos from the yard

Saturday, September 27, 2014


- Who knew there was a mystery series about Aristotle? :)

- Warning: This Post Will Change Your Brain

- From the UK ... Bishop Kieran Conry had affairs with two women, one of them married

- Obama to create world’s largest protected marine reserve in Pacific Ocean

- Does Santa Claus Exist? Choose your own adventure ...

Another 'ringer'

I had an earlier post about one of the women chosen by Cardinal Muller of the CDF and approved of by the pope to the International Theological Commission (Tracey Rowland) here. Today I saw a post by Thomas Reese SJ about one of the other women chosen for the commission - Sr. Prudence Allen. She's conservative and anti-feminist (Fr. Z loves her). Here's a bit of Fr. Reese's post ...

[...] In an April 30, 2010, interview with the National Review, "Nun Sense: Women in the Catholic Church," Sister Allen was asked what she thought of the Network sisters who supported passage of the Affordable Care Act at a time when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops were opposing it.

"Were they representative of the Catholic Church?" asked Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online.

Her response:

"By comparing the statements of the Network religious sisters on health care with the statements of Cardinal George and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on health care, it is clear that there are fundamental contradictions between them. Thus, the Network religious sisters have separated themselves from the head, and therefore cannot be included in the meaning of “catholic.” Therefore, they are not representative of the Catholic Church" ...

When asked about having women involved as priests and in the hierarchy, she responded, "this question is wrongly framed within a political model of power struggles." Rather, she continued, "the Church is a communion in which all the baptized are called to holiness through complementary vocations."

:( Appointing these particular women to the ITC is a disingenuous co-opting of the genuine hope women have of finding equal treatment in the church.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Science and religion

[I]n the end, everybody – I speak as a minister of the Church of England – everybody has their own religion, whether they tell you or not. .... and it is good that they do, because as you experience things in life, you come to frame your own view of how it is that your goals are going to be shaped by your ideals, and whether or not there is something objective, over against you, which demands that you act morally and rightly and which offers you the promise perhaps of something like a personal relationship.

Here's another Keith Ward lecture from Gresham College - Pascal's Fire: Scientific faith and religious understanding ...

Pascal's Fire: Scientific Faith and Religious Understanding - Professor Keith Ward from Gresham College on Vimeo.

The church and a dead shark

There's a post at Pray Tell about a new study telling why people leave the church. The main reasons will surprise no one and they reflect all of my own disagreements with the church ...

1) Issues with Church doctrine, especially among highly educated respondents citing concerns with the Church’s stance on matters such as birth control, women’s ordination, divorce and homosexuality among others.

2) An overall lack of connection to the Church, especially in regards to liturgy and spiritual practice. Many respondents noted that they were “dissatisfied” or “lost interest in going to the Mass.”

3) Ongoing scandals in the Church.

4) A “perceived lack of Christian values at the level of Church, parish or priest.” Many surveyed cited unfriendly or unwelcoming experiences personally or among friends.

What's disturbing is the church's response to the chasm between how Catholics and the hierarchy feel about these issues .... instead of considering the possibility that Catholics have validly discerned the failure of these doctrines, the church is figuring out ways to "re-evangelize" us, starting with the upcoming synod for the family. It won't work. The problem is not that we don't *understand* the doctrines, it's that we believe they are *wrong*. The church will continue to die away because those who lead it would rather be infallible than listen to and learn from its own faithful.

I don't like Woody Allen anymore, but let me quote from one of his early movies ... "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Music for a leaky roof

It's raining today. A lot. Unfortunately, the guy who was putting the tarps on my leaky roof hasn't finished yet and has taken today off for safety reasons, so it's raining in my bedroom at the moment :( Here's the song I always think of when the roof leaks. I first heard it on an episode of The X-Files, Terms of Endearment, which featured Bruce Campbell as a demon from hell who was trying to father a human offspring a la Rosemary's Baby :) But anyway, the song ...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Liberal Christianity

Another lecture by Keith Ward. The text can be read here. I really need a break form all the depressingly conservative stuff going on in my own church right now ;)

Liberal Christianity - Professor Keith Ward from Gresham College on Vimeo.

Not up on the roof

For the first time since I started tarping the leaky roof in 2001, I have hired someone else to do it for me because of hurting my back. Strange to be inside and hear someone walking around on the roof above. Hope the feral kittens who've been spending a lot of time up there don't panic at his approach and throw themselves off :( Here are some photos I took in past years when I was up on the roof tarping ...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Five women and thirty men

In the news, Pope names five women to International Theological Commission. As John Allen comments in his post on this ...

[...] The initial news flash about the new 30-member lineup for the ITC is the increased number of women – five this time, as opposed to two during the last five-year term. Once you run all 30 names, however, the thing that truly jumps out is the preponderance of figures regarded by most Catholics in the know as fairly conservative .....

Sr. Prudence Allen, also from the United States, is a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich. She’s the kind of nun unapologetic about wearing the habit, and in 2010 she publicly criticized progressive Catholic sisters who broke with the bishops by supporting the Obama health care reform despite abortion-funding issues .... Tracey Rowland of Australia is close to both Pell and Fisher, and would be seen as among the leading intellectual lights of the “Evangelical Catholicism” movement to which Umbers referred. She writes frequently for publications with a conservative editorial bent, and is seen as an articulate defender of traditional Catholic doctrine.

The only one of the five women chosen by CDF head Ludwig Müller and approved by the pope that I've heard of before is Tracey Rowland and she is indeed very conservative. Thought of as part of the Radical Orthodoxy movement, she's a fan of B16 and a staff member at the John Paul II Institute of Marriage and Family (yes, Theology of the Body, women's "special" genius, "new" feminism, and complementarianism). I cam upon one of her articles online, Is Totalitarian Liberalism A Mutant Form of Christianity?, and it probably would give you an idea of her right leaning perspective.

I suppose it was too much to hope that someone like Elizabeth Johnson or Margaret Farley would have been picked.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Another Jesuit leaving

Jesuit leaves church after firings

In light of recent firings of gays and lesbians from Catholic institutions, Benjamin Brenkert has left the Catholic church after 10 years of pursuing priesthood in the Jesuit order. "I can't be a Jesuit priest because I can't be a member of the Catholic church right now," Brenkert told NCR. "I can't be an openly gay Jesuit discerning priesthood in the Catholic church if LGBT employees are being fired from Catholic institutions."

Brenkert said the last straw for him was when a food pantry worker was fired from St. Francis Xavier Parish in Kansas City, Mo., after her marriage to a woman was mentioned in a local newspaper article. Upon his decision to leave the church, Brenkert wrote an open letter to Pope Francis, explaining both why he was leaving the Jesuits, and what he wants the pope to do in order to save his vocation to the church .....

You can read the whole letter here - Open Letter to Pope Francis: Help Save My Vocation. It begins like this ...

Dear Pope Francis,

In your time as pope, your commitment to poverty has awakened the world to the evils of globalization, capitalism, and materialism. Many now understand poverty to be a structural sin and a social evil. Through your public statements you have sparked the interest of Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and atheists. The world looks to you as a shepherd, a man filled with the joy of the Gospel.

Yet, while you have focused on physical and material poverty, members of my community -- lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender and queer/questioning men, women and youth -- have been neglected. They remain on the frontiers, the margins, living spiritually poor lives. Some need the voice of cardinals like Walter Kasper to tell them that God loves them. Others know that God loves them, but church leadership rejects them as disordered and disoriented. Your prophetic question "Who am I to judge?" encourages people everywhere to have a nonjudgmental attitude toward members of the LGBTQ community, but being nonjudgmental is not enough, especially when Jesus tells us to be like the Good Samaritan and "go, do likewise." ....

I think what this Jesuit has done is admirable. I have to wonder, though, if Pope Francis will care. He did, after all, agree to the dismissal of another Jesuit, Fr. John Dear, from the Society of Jesus when I assume he could have instead refused (John Dear SJ is leaving the Jesuits and The Jesuits and John Dear). I hope I'm wrong and that the Pope does indeed tell the US Bishops to stop firing gay teachers!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bishop Blase Cupich

There's been much in the Catholic press about the appointment of Cardinal George's replacement in Chicago, Bishop Blase Cupich. Appointed by Pope Francis, this is seen as an indication by some of the Pope's wish to have a more moderate leadership in the US ... Pope Francis names Spokane bishop to Chicago, dashing conservative hopes

I would argue first that Cupich is *not* at all a liberal, and secondly, I would ask whether it really matters at the end of the day where Cupich stands.

First, an example of Cupich's conservatism is shown in his views of complementarianism and marriage equality. As bishop of Spokane he argued vigorously in 2012 against Referendum 74. Here's a bit of what he wrote in Some Reflections on Referendum 74 ...

[...] If there is anything we have come to appreciate and value more fully in this modern age, it is that men and women are not the same. That is true not only biologically, but on so many other levels. Men and women are not interchangeable. They each bring something of their difference to complement each other. In a marriage union, a mutual sharing of each other’s difference creates life, but it also nourishes that life in a family where sons and daughters learn about gender from the way it is lived by their mothers and fathers. The decision to unhinge marriage from its original grounding in our biological life should not be taken lightly for there are some things enacted law is not capable of changing. Thoughtful consideration should be given to the significant consequences such unhinging will mean for children, families, society and the common good .....

If marriage is only about relationships, why limit unions to two people? Why does the new law include the traditional prohibition of close kinship unions for both opposite and same sex couples? The threat of genetic disorders in children is not an issue for same sex couples. Is it not reasonable to assume that a closely related same sex couple will in time successfully challenge this prohibition as an unreasonable imposition? .... In the coming weeks I will provide through the Inland Register, and our websites ( and materials based on what we believe God has revealed to us about creation, the meaning and value of marriage and family, and the way we are called to live as Christ’s disciples.

Second, does it make a real difference to Catholics if their bishop holds certain views? Despite the arguments of Cupich and other Washington state bishops, referendum 74 was not only passed, but a group, Catholics for Marriage Equality, held a prayer vigil in support of the referendum ... Catholics defy bishops to pray for gay marriage ... and 63 ex-Catholic priests backed the referendum as well.

I couldn't even tell you the name of my own bishop, much less where he stands on important issues ... I think we can assume he disagrees with me about women's ordination, marriage equality, contraception, divorce, holding bishops accountable for covering up sex abuse because he would not have been made a bishop otherwise ... and his views would have no impact on my beliefs. It's not just me ... Pope Francis faces church divided over doctrine, global poll of Catholics finds. So, I guess I'm just bemused by the furor over Cupich's appointment.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A photo from my yard ...

The sky is a strange brownish orange today, I guess because of all the forest fires in the area ... Record Drought Hastens Dramatic Spread of California Wildfires. Here's a satellite image from Wikipedia of the fires burning back in May ...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Young Beautiful in a Hurry

Some music for Friday ...

The singer reminds me of another version of Captain Hook ;) ....

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scottish independence: it isn’t about nationalism

UPDATE: Scotland rejects independence with No vote set for victory ... ;(

Tomorrow the Scots will vote on whether Scotland should be independent of the UK or not. There have been mean-spirited assertions of nationalism against the independence movement. I find this criticism laughable given that those who are against Scottish independence support an empire upon which the sun once never set ...

More Than Scottish Pride: Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself.

Robert Bellarmine SJ and the Inquisition

Today is St Robert Bellarmine SJ Day. He's well liked but when I think of him, all I can think of is his position in the Roman Inquisition, which handled the trials of Copernicus, Galileo, and Giordano Bruno, among others ...

Clement VIII, set great store by him. He was made rector of the Roman College in 1592, examiner of bishops in 1598, and cardinal in 1599. Immediately after his appointment as Cardinal, Pope Clement made him a Cardinal Inquisitor, in which capacity he served as one of the judges at the trial of Giordano Bruno, and concurred in the decision which condemned Bruno to be burned at the stake as a heretic. - Wikipedia

There have been recent discussions about the church and Bruno ... an episode of Cosmos about the church's treatment of Bruno sparked a kind of backlash by those who believe the church wasn't really against science but murdered Bruno for his religious rather than scientific views. Here's one discussion of the issues ... Defending Giordano Bruno: A Response from the Co-Writer of “Cosmos”.

Bellarmine is, I think, considered reasonable about the scientific views he investigated ... he suggested disingenuous workarounds that would allow continued scientific study without a resulting auto-de-fé. In a letter, Bellarmine wrote about Galileo's ideas ...

that interpreting heliocentrism as physically real would be "a very dangerous thing, likely not only to irritate all scholastic philosophers and theologians, but also to harm the Holy Faith by rendering Holy Scripture as false." Moreover, while the topic was not inherently a matter of faith, the statements about it in Scripture were so by virtue of who said them—namely, the Holy Spirit. He conceded that if there were conclusive proof, "then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary; and say rather that we do not understand them, than that what is demonstrated is false."

So, the church wasn't necessarily against science per se, and yes there were lots of Jesuit scientists ... the church was instead against anyone proposing views that the church didn't endorse.

However, the idea that this death-dealing thought-police methodology (the Inquisition) can be spun by some as positive because it wasn't inherently anti-science is just mind-boggling to me. And I can't admire anyone, whether they're a saint or not, who would judge a person worthy of burning at the stake, now matter what that person's beliefs were.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Müller on women

An interview with Cardinal Müller, who I find quite disturbing in his past stated beliefs about love and marriage. The interview begins like this ...

Naturally extroverted, he [Müller] half-jokingly begged that we not talk about women, but rather about Our Lady. Yet he still managed to steer the conversation back to our original topic, chatting about his relationship with women, and especially about the extraordinary affection he bore his mother.

Oh my :( It goes on to list his favorite female writers, none of whom are contemporary, and among them are Hildegard of Bingen and Edith Stein, both champions of extreme complementarianism. And then ...

Müller also found in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a number of women collaborators whose roles are anything but secondary. He does not hide his esteem for his secretary, Clothilde Mason, and other women colleagues, almost all of whom are married with families. He also says that in appointing women theologians to work at the Congregation, difficulties also arise, because, if they have a family, these women are not prepared to move to Rome. In addition, he alluded that the new International Theological Commission soon to be appointed by the Pope will include a larger number of women than the outgoing Commission: perhaps an increase from two to five or six.

Just to clarify, Pope Francis *told him* to add more women, and even with five or six women instead of just two, we're talking about a group of thirty theologians ... that's like one-sixth being women (if it indeed comes to pass).

With regard to female presence in the life of the Church — which he qualifies as quite different from male presence, even with regard to theological research — the Cardinal recalls a piece Bergoglio wrote on the Jesuits, in which the future Pope stressed that the difference between Catholics and Calvinists lies precisely in the ability of Catholics to take into consideration emotions too — and not solely the intellect — on the path that leads to God.

This is a striking reflection, especially today when Protestant denominations have opened the door for women to serve in ministerial roles, and therefore seem more “feminist” than the Catholic Church. In this respect, Müller emphasized that the presence of women should be recognized in its uniqueness and not as a mere imitation of the male role. For this reason he insists on the need to recall that the Church must primarily be a mother and not an institution; for an institution cannot be loved but a mother can. Moreover the family, the domestic church, is a primary model for the Church and women play a crucial role in it, albeit distinct from the male role.

Wow, he managed to insult both Protestants and women in one fell swoop. "Women as mothers" again .... where's Sigmund Freud when you need him?

The last question was the most pressing. It concerned the conflictual sequence of events concerning American sisters in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The Cardinal’s dealings with them have been complex as of late.

Complex? Yeah, that's how most would describe it, I'm sure ;) I won't bother to quote what he said about the nuns ... we all know it by heart now.

It's so depressing that this guy is head of the CDF but not surprising - I think his views of women and family life fit quite well with the pope's, more's the pity.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dualism and The Light Fantastic

The latest book I've read is The Light Fantastic, which follows the Cold Equations trilogy.

In that trilogy, Data (of Star Trek) was brought back to life, and in the book I've just read, he brings his daughter back to life. The title of the book refers to the fact that much of the story has to do with sentient holograms.

The story is really pretty good and brings in many disparate characters .... Data's daughter is kidnapped by the hologram Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame, and Data seeks the help of lounge singer hologram Vic Fontaine and original Star Trek character Harry Mudd in getting her back.

An interesting thing about the story is that almost none of the characters are organic human beings but are androids or holograms, yet they have lives, families, hopes and dreams. just as organics do. It would probably make JPII spin in his grave at the idea that it's consciousness that matters, not the body it's occupying (Veritatis Splendor) ... but I think Keith Ward would approve :)

The Doctor saves the day

No, not *that* Doctor :) This funny version of La donna è mobile has been on my mind today. It's from an episode of Voyager in which the Doctor, a sentient hologram, is daydreaming about giving a performance of that song for the crew, only to be interrupted by a Vulcan succumbing to the madness of pon far. Naturally, the Doctor saves the day :) ...

"Can we know what Jesus was really like? "

What did the apostles believe? What does modern historical research reveal about Jesus? And thus begins another lecture by Keith Ward, Anglican priest and former Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University. I've not read this lecture - The beginnings: a Jewish Messianic sect - or seen the video before so it should be interesting :) ...