Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Monday, July 06, 2015


- Not a link, but here above is a pic of stray cat Misty and her baby. A neighbor said she was considering getting a kitten I hope I can convince her to take this one. If not, there will be 13 stray cats living in my yard and I will almost certainly go insane.

- After gay marriage, expect conservative amnesia

- Jesus Christ Wasn’t Down With Marriage

- Happy 80th birthday to the Dalai Lama ...

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Paul Martin

I was very sad to hear that a friend I had come to know through blogging had passed away today - Paul Martin. Some of you may have visited his blog, Original Faith, which is no longer up. I often mentioned his blog in past posts here, like David Hart and Nature, but he had been ill for a long time and eventually stopped blogging as his illness progressed. Paul did write a book, though - Original Faith - and you can read more about him and the book ...

Original Faith: A Spiritual Journey by Paul Martin

Interview Original Faith Author Paul Maurice Martin

Paul Martin, author of “Original Faith”: Book Blog Tour & Giveaway

Paul will be missed.

Saturday, July 04, 2015


Friday, July 03, 2015

Thomas Reese SJ: the Bishops and marriage equality

A great article by Thomas Reese SJ on How the bishops should respond to the same-sex marriage decision. Here are some bits ...

The bishops' fight against gay marriage has been a waste of time and money. The bishops should get a new set of priorities and a new set of lawyers.


If bishops in the past could eventually accept civil divorce as the law of the land, why can't the current flock of bishops do the same for gay marriage?


Those who compare Obergefell v. Hodges to Roe v. Wade have not looked at the poll numbers. The U.S. population has stayed polarized over abortion for decades, but the support for gay marriage has continued to rise. There is absolutely no possibility of a constitutional amendment overturning the decision. Gay marriage is not a matter of life and death. While it may be an issue in this year's Republican primaries, it is not in the population as a whole.


Let's be perfectly clear. In Catholic morality, there is nothing to prohibit a Catholic judge or clerk from performing a same-sex marriage. Nor is there any moral obligation for a Catholic businessperson to refuse to provide flowers, food, space and other services to a same-sex wedding. Because of all the controversy over these issues in the media, the bishops need to be clear that these are not moral problems for Catholic government officials or Catholic businesspeople.


Catholic colleges and universities that provide housing for married couples are undoubtedly going to be approached for housing by same-sex couples. Unless the schools can get states to carve out an exception for them in anti-discrimination legislation, they could be forced to provide such housing.

But since they already provide housing to couples married illicitly according to the church, no one should see such housing as an endorsement of someone's lifestyle. And granted all the sex going on at Catholic colleges and universities, giving housing to a few gay people who have permanently committed themselves to each other in marriage would hardly be considered a great scandal.

A second issue will be the provision of spousal benefits to gay employees in Catholic institutions, especially universities and hospitals. Again, these institutions already give such benefits to divorced and remarried employees. No one considers this scandalous. The fact that the church considers health care a right should be the deciding factor, not the gender of the spouse.


Church officials, including the pope, have argued that every child deserves to have a mother and a father, with the inference that without a mother and a father, the child will somehow suffer. There are a number of problems with this position.

First, it casts doubt on the millions of single parents who are heroically raising their children without spousal support.

Second, it has a narrow vision of the family. The church has traditionally recognized the importance of uncles, aunts and grandparents in the raising of children. There will be other sexes in the extended families of these children.

Third, often, same-sex couples adopt children whom no one else wants. Would these children be better off in foster homes or orphanages?

Finally, there is no evidence that children of same-sex couples suffer as a result of their upbringing. The original study that argued that children raised by same-sex couples did not do as well as those raised by heterosexual couples has been proven faulty.

In a 2013 amicus brief opposing the Defense of Marriage Act, the American Sociological Association said, "The claim that same-sex parents produce less positive child outcomes than opposite-sex parents -- either because such families lack both a male and female parent or because both parents are not the biological parents of their children -- contradicts abundant social science research."

Rather, "positive child wellbeing is the product of stability in the relationship between the two parents, stability in the relationship between the parents and child, and greater parental socioeconomic resources."

The American Academy of Pediatrics agreed and supported same-sex marriage because marriage provides needed stability in children's lives:

Many studies have demonstrated that children's well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents' sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents. Lack of opportunity for same-gender couples to marry adds to families' stress, which affects the health and welfare of all household members. Because marriage strengthens families and, in so doing, benefits children's development, children should not be deprived of the opportunity for their parents to be married.


It is time for the U.S. bishops to pivot to the public policy priorities articulated by Pope Francis: care for the poor and the environment and the promotion of peace and interreligious harmony. Their fanatical opposition to the legalization of gay marriage has made young people look on the church as a bigoted institution with which they do not want to be associated. As pastors, they should be talking more about God's compassion and love rather than trying to regulate people's sexual conduct through laws.

Amen! :)

Getting eggs thrown at my house

A few days ago a new cat showed up in the yard with two kittens. That makes three kittens I have to somehow find homes for :(

The new cats is pretty wild and so are the kittens, but I got a couple of pics of them through the window today as they were getting a drink of water. I can't see very well so the photos were my first chance to really see how they look ...

Last night someone threw eggs at the front porch. I think they were probably throwing the eggs at the cats, who hang out there. I'm not anybody's favorite neighbor, given my dilapidated house and unkempt yard. Add a bunch of stray cats living in the yard and I guess I'm not surprised at the hostility that seems the norm here, but it still makes every day a bit harder to get through.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization

The latest book I've been reading is Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization. Though I've seen the movie, the book is still interesting - it gives subtext to the action and explains a lot of the science stuff. I always feel a bit guilty when I do this - read a book about a movie or tv series - as if I'm not being adventurous enough to try something unknown, but oh well ;) For those who haven't seen the movie still, here's a trailer ...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


- Episcopal Bishops approve marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples: The Episcopal Church bishops vote to change marriage canon. The Archbishop of Canterbury is sooooo concerned.

- How Walking in Nature Prevents Depression

- :) Rats Dream About the Places They Want to Explore

- It would be great to have a progressive, kind Pope. Sadly, Pope Francis isn’t it

- Death and Medicine: Why Lethal Injection Is Getting Harder

Monday, June 29, 2015

Wayward Pines: the trilogy

The latest books I've been reading are a trilogy - Pines (The Wayward Pines Trilogy, Book 1). Here's the Booklist blurb at Amazon ...

Ethan Burke is on his way to the small town of Wayward Pines to find two fellow federal agents who have gone missing. He has a bad car accident on the edge of town, waking up in the hospital and not at all sure of what is going on. The psychiatrist on staff tells him that he has suffered a brain injury and warns him not to leave, but he takes off anyway. The town sheriff is less than helpful, and, with no ID or money, Burke can’t reach his superior or his wife, and he starts fearing for his sanity (reminiscent of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island). Matters turn ominous when Burke finds the ravaged body of one of the missing agents and realizes he needs to run for his life. Clearly, despite the idyllic beauty of Wayward Pines, something is seriously out of kilter: a helpful bartender disappears, picnicking mothers turn homicidal, and seemingly innocent children display maniacal tendencies. The suspense builds to an almost unbearable point, culminating with a twist that ratchets it up even further. Fans of Stephen King, Peter Straub and F. Paul Wilson will appreciate this genre-bending, completely riveting thrill ride, which mixes suspense, horror, science fiction and dystopian nightmare all rolled up into one unputdownable book.

The books were adapted to the tv series, Wayward Pines, and it was through watching the tv series that I came upon the books. The book would probably be classified as somewhere as horror/thriller/science fiction, with violence, sex, language that would get a mature audiences rating if it were on tv ... there were some bits I had to skip as too violent. The "big secret" of the story is revealed in episode 5 of the tv series and fairly early on in the book, so I guess it's ok to mention it here ... avert your eyes if you'd rather not know ...

- spoilers -

The reason people have been mysteriously waking up in Wayward Pines and cannot leave is that a millionaire scientist, fearing a coming ecological apocalypse, has abducted them, put them into suspended animation for 2,000 years, and has awakened them in a protected environment to endure the survival of the species. Complications ensue ;)

You can listen to the audio version of book one of the trilogy at YouTube ...

Sunday, June 28, 2015


- Washington National Cathedral

- The Jesuit Post: #LoveWins

- Frank Bruin: Our Weddings, Our Worth

- Jonathan Rauch: Here’s How 9 Predictions About Gay Marriage Turned Out

- Bishop Gene Robinson: Let This Inspire the LGBT Community To Be Something Greater Than We Once Were

- What a difference a denomination makes: Washington National Cathedral Applauds Supreme Court Ruling on Same–Sex Marriage

‘Little girl, get up!’

Mark 5:21-43, from Jesus of Nazareth

Saturday, June 27, 2015


A little cooler today thanks to some clouds ...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Catholic hate

The response from the US Bishops to the Supreme Court's decision on marriage equality has been predictably awful. And I saw that Fr. James Martin SJ received a number of hateful messages today on his twitter feed because of his tweets urging compassion for LGBT people ...

Thankfully these haters are in the minority ... polls have shown that most Catholics *support* marriage equality.

Yay! :)

Love is love ... the Supreme Court rules for marriage equality

Further reading - A New Right Grounded in the Long History of Marriage

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What the hell?

Heard a strange rumbling this early evening and came out to see what looked like a Goodyear blimp flying slowly over my house. Apparently it's been in town.

Did the pope really use the 'D' word?

In the news today ... Pope Francis Says Divorce Can Be 'Morally Necessary' To Protect Kids ... Pope Francis: Sometimes divorce can be a ‘moral necessity’

This supposed recognition by the pope of the sometimes necessity of divorce sounds good to me. But did the pope actually use the word "divorce" ... all the quotes I've seen on this story have him using the word "separation" instead. If he meant separation, then this is nothing new. As Cardinal Müller, the head of the CDF, stated on Vatican Radio in 2013 ...

Admittedly there are situations – as every pastor knows – in which marital cohabitation becomes for all intents and purposes impossible for compelling reasons, such as physical or psychological violence. In such hard cases, the Church has always permitted the spouses to separate and no longer live together. It must be remembered, though, that the marriage bond of a valid union remains intact in the sight of God, and the individual parties are not free to contract a new marriage, as long as the spouse is alive.

All this is stuff is in the news because of the upcoming synod on the family and the question of whether people who are divorced and remarried will be allowed to receive communion. I'd like to say I think the pope will lead the way to an acceptance of divorce, but actually I doubt he will budge from the traditional view.

Coincidentally, I saw this article from The Atlantic today about the Philippines, where the Catholic church has such control of politics that ... a husband and wife can part only through death, or the torturous process of annulment ... because divorce is illegal.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Fr. Roy Bourgeois

Here's a talk from last July by Fr. Roy Bourgeois. He speaks about his time as a naval officer in Vietnam (Purple Heart), how he came to join the Maryknoll order, his assignment in Bolivia, and his introduction to liberation theology. Later he went back to Central America, to El Salvador, just after Archbishop Romero had been killed, where he was put in prison for criticizing the military - he speaks too of the Jesuits who were murdered there. He then talks about his work against the School of the Americas.

He speaks also of his support for marriage equality, and the idea of women becoming priests. He's not alone on women's ordination: priests from Karl Rahner SJ to Willima Barry SJ have supported it, but there's a terrible climate of fear surrounding the subject in our church. It is to the Catholic church's everlasting shame that it excommunicated and laicized Fr. Bourgeois. When he was done speaking, the lady who introduced him ended with ... "Thank you, Fr. Roy. For us, it will always be "Father" Roy."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Last Ship

My latest try of a tv series, one made by Michael Bay (The Island), is The Last Ship ...

an American post-apocalyptic drama television series, based on the 1988 novel of the same name by William Brinkley .... After a global viral pandemic wipes out over 80% of the world's population, the crew (consisting of 218 men and women) of a lone unaffected U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the fictional USS Nathan James (DDG-151), must try to find a cure, stop the virus, and save humanity.

- Eric Dane plays CDR Tom Chandler

I'm about five episodes into the first season of the series and I like it very much .... it begins in Antarctica, the good guys are really good, and there's a dog :) Here's a trailer ...


Haven't posted much lately - a lot on my mind. Misty the stray cat, perhaps the most fertile cat on the planet, has had another kitten (or kittens?). I've been trying to get her spayed but she's very elusive. Now there is at least one kitten with Misty in a cat igloo in the garage, or so my sister tells me ... I can't see very well and can't crouch down to look in the igloo because my knee has been almost unbendable. After tests the doc said tatty cartilage and arthritis are causing fluid in the joint. Creepy to watch someone stick a needle into the side of your knee and draw out two big syringes of liquid. Anyway, I must find a home for the kittens somehow, saying I can catch them before they become feral and join the 9 homeless cats I'm already feeding ... argh! Now on to the links ...

- The next book I'm signed up for at the library is The Martian: A Novel (you know, the book from which the movie with Matt Damon was made). Anyway, saw this today ... The surprising story of how Andy Weir's self-published book 'The Martian' topped best seller lists and got a movie deal

- The (Re-)Invention of the Soul Mate. The synod for the family is coming up and it seems like those guys still don't understand contemporary marriage. Maybe this article would help them.

- Pope Francis To Open 30-Bed Homeless Shelter Steps From Vatican Walls

- Envision 2050: The Future Of The Oceans

- Pregnant, Parenting, and Pro-Choice: A New Tumblr Reminds Us That Pro-Choice Is Not Anti-Baby

- I came upon this Georgetown University article by accident while looking for something else. Kind of a depressing historical anit-The Mission situation ... The Jesuits’ Slaves

- A review of the Jurassic World movie from the British Jesuit site, Thinking Faith - I'm so looking forward to seeing the movie :) Here's just the beginning ...

A thin crack appears in a fragile egg. There is movement within. The shell begins to split and a claw reaches out, grasping at the air of modern-day Costa Rica. Two worlds collide, yet again: primordial pre-history and contemporary capitalism; the base primitivism of dinosaurs, brought back to ferocious life for human amusement and consumption. In this scenario, creation breeds destruction, and life, death.

Thus begins the fourth film in the Jurassic Park series. But as one of the first blockbusters to be released this summer, Jurassic World marks more than just the rebooting of another, tired Hollywood franchise. This is a visceral, raw re-birth. Clinging tightly to the essence of 1993's classic original, Jurassic World retains much of what made its first predecessor so potent. There are some genuinely terrifying set-pieces, moments of real humour, and a cast that engages the audience and retains our interest ...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The sixth mass extinction

The Earth stands on the brink of its sixth mass extinction and the fault is ours ... The scientist Vaclav Smil, of the University of Manitoba, has calculated that simply measured by mass, humans now make up a third of land vertebrates, and the animals that we keep to eat – cows, pigs, sheep and so on – make up most of the other two thirds. All the wild animals – elephants, giraffes, tigers and so on – are now less than 5% by mass. It’s a measure of how they have been pushed to the fringes by humans.

One of the scientists who did the study, Anthony D. Barnosky, a Professor in the Department of Integative Biology, Curator in the Museum of Paleontology, and Research Paleoecologist in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, has advice: 10 Ways You Can Help Stop the Sixth Mass Extinction

As Pope Francis mentioned in his encyclical ...

It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

I hope people read Barnosky's advice linked to above ... I don't understand why a majority of people just don't care enough to make any efforts to save the plants ans animals of our ecosystem.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Pope's environmental encyclical

- Perito Moreno Glacier

You can read the encyclical many places, including here at The Tablet, and of course there's a lot of commentary on it everywhere, but The Guardian has a pretty good editorial on it here - The Guardian view on Laudato Si’: Pope Francis calls for a cultural revolution

I think it's really great that Pope Francis has written this encyclical, but I have a few criticisms ... 1) I believe access to contraception should be part of any effort to save the environment ... 2) I don't think Modernity is the bad guy in this scenario, but instead I think the bad guy is just age-old selfish human nature ... 3) I don't think it helps anything to keep harping on complementarianism, the differences between men and women, when what would be more helpful would be to notice all the things we both have in common.

I did like most of the encyclical, though. Here are a few of the bits I especially liked ...

It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

The God who created the universe out of nothing can also intervene in this world and overcome every form of evil. Injustice is not invincible.

We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity”.

Jesus lived in full harmony with creation, and others were amazed: “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” (Mt 8:27). His appearance was not that of an ascetic set apart from the world, nor of an enemy to the pleasant things of life. Of himself he said: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard!’” (Mt 11:19). He was far removed from philosophies which despised the body, matter and the things of the world.

Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices ....

We must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread. Furthermore, such actions can restore our sense of self-esteem; they can enable us to live more fully and to feel that life on earth is worthwhile.

Jesus says: “I make all things new” (Rev21:5).

Maybe sometimes people feel overwhelmed by the problems facing the environment and they don't see how they as individuals can make a difference for the better. I would say that you *can* make a difference, that every small effort helps. I'm no paragon of virtue in this area, but I try .... I'm a vegetarian: 10 ways vegetarianism can help save the planet ... I recycle: 5 ways recycling helps the planet ... I use an electric lawn mower: Mowing the Grass is Greener When You Don’t Use a Gas-Powered Mower ... I support environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the League of Conservation Voters, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife - these groups will be happy to email you action alerts about bills that will affect the environment so that you can write your elected representatives about how you want them to vote.