Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The absurdity of redefining reality - a reality such as natural marriage

Brethren, Peace be with you.

Over at Crisis Magazine you'll find this great piece by James Jacobs, PhD, titled On Redefining Reality: A Dialogue, in which he tells us about how he engaged a shop owner who displayed the "equality symbol" in favor of same-sex "marriage." Whether the dialogue ever took place or it's just an instructive fable, it's worth a read. Here's an excerpt:
Regardless, it also struck me how utterly debased the notion of human rights had become if an entire genus of moral claims could be reduced to a grotesque assertion made on behalf of one-percent of the population. Yet, I also saw that it is the epitome of the contemporary zeitgeist in which a “right” is nothing other than a sentimental imperative, as Alasdair MacIntyre has put it: on the one hand, it is nothing other than a bold and impulsive desire; yet, this is compounded with the tyrannical demand that others submit to your insistence that that desire be satisfied. This meretricious notion of rights debases them by placing individual desire ahead of objective value, a move which ineluctably reduces to nonsense any and all claims to have rights. I thought I might make a test to determine just how dedicated the shop owner really was to this notion of human rights: did he in fact agree that subjective desire implied the sort of right he seemed to claim for himself? In other words, would he allow me to redefine reality to conform to my own desires?
Read it all  here.

This kind of high-level reasoning accessible to us it's the more urgent today as the State of Indiana is under fire by the sophistic classes and talking heads for its new Religious Freedom Law - which, btw, I categorically support. Read a discussion the law actually says here, and do plan your next family vacation in Indiana, please. Ignore the boycott proposed by the chattering classes.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, A.D. 2015

“The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!’” (Jn 12:12-13)[1]

Today is Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion and the beginning of Holy Week. We remember the day Jesus descended from the Mount of Olives and entered into Jerusalem. He proceeded into the holy city to offer himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

As he rode in on a borrowed donkey, making public his claim as the Messiah, the crowds shouted in cries of joy and praise. These words have inspired the Church for centuries. Known as the Sanctus, a part of the Eucharist Prayer, Christians have sung the end of this verse since before the fourth century.

The Sanctus, listed below, hints at a juxtaposition innate in the mystery of the Incarnation: Jesus as divine as expressed in the first stanza and Jesus as man, riding on a donkey, in the second. [2]

“Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts
Heaven and earth are full of your glory
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest” [3]

Like in the Sanctus, greatness and human frailty often co-exist in our life. However, Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension sanctified the human form and opened a path to eternal life for all who chose to follow his way. As we embark on Holy Week, may we enter into the final days of Jesus’ life and emerge joyous and renewed at Easter.

Written by Sarah Ciotti
Reviewed by Fr. Hugh Feiss, OSB, STD

[1] New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Michael G. Powell, “An Introduction to the History of Christian Liturgy in the West. s.v. ‘sanctus,’” http://www.yale.edu/adhoc/research_resources/liturgy/d_sanctus.html
[3] Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I support Patricia Jannuzzi's right to express her Catholic mind in public without fear of retribution

Teacher Patricia Jannuzi

Brethren, Peace be with you.

As you may know from numerous media reports, Patricia Jannuzzi is a (suspended) teacher at a Catholic high school in New Jersey. According to Aleteia.org,
Jannuzzi, a teacher at Immaculata High School in Somerville, was suspended with pay and benefits two weeks ago. Her bishop, Paul Bootkoski of the diocese of Metuchen, wrote that Jannuzzi’s now-deleted Facebook post was “disturbing and do not reflect the church’s teachings of acceptance.”

Placing private-school teachers on administrative leave is a common form of punishment that school district officials use to fire the employees, according to an official.  Has Bishop Paul Bootkoski made up his mind already? Has he terminated Jannuzzi?

According to mycentraljersey.com, Jannuzzi’s lawyer said the bishop did just that. Attorney David Oakley told the publication that lawyers for the diocese of Metuchen said Jannuzzi would be fired in effect by the summer.
Her offending post, as captured by a gay activist,  was as follows:

Those were the expressions Bishop Bootkoski called “disturbing and do not reflect the church’s teachings of acceptance" and what triggered her current suspension without pay and her impending dismissal from her job, according to her lawyers.

For what is worth, I want to say I support Patria Jannuzzi. What she said about the gay lobby is true. Barring any other personnel issue that we are not aware of, that Bishop Bootkoski is making her an example for failing to adhere to his interpretation of a public comment by the Pope - in which I detect no will to prescribe policy changes to any local diocese's personnel practices - is sad and disturbing. More so if Bishop Bootkoski had not expressed himself specifically on issue before, and detailed these conditions in Mrs. Jannuzi's contract before employing her.

What happened here is that Mrs. Jannuzi told the truth, and the Thought Police went after her, and that her Bishop for reasons unknown, bent to the artificial pressure generated by gay rights activists and made an example out of her instead of protecting her right to speak her mind on a matter of concern to all Catholics, which now will cost Mrs. Jannuzi her livelihood.

Pelea Monga or Death by a Thousand Cuts

Yes, I'm aware that she hasn't been fired, but suspended but that in itself is an injustice. Her lawyers state the school will not renew her contract under any circumstances despite the diocese's tepid denial to the effect that they will not make hiring decisions "until late spring."

The thing is, and this is a constant I perceive in the administrative culture across our local churches, that if "they" don't want you - "they" is a social network consisting of the formal administrative staff of a bishop, his formal and informal advisers, or the bishop himself as the person with ultimate authority, alone or with all or some of his staff and advisers - "they" will make things so hard for the person they've targeted that the target has no choice but to resign whatever his or her ministry or position might be for the sake of their sanity, dignity, and sense of self-worth.

"They" will follow the playbook of what we call in Puerto Rico pelea monga (literally "flabby fighting" in the sense of inflicting a person's moral or administrative "death by a thousand little cuts") - consists of administrative inaction or slowdown affecting the victim's bureacratic existence; erecting increasingly insurmountable bureaucratic barriers, cutting off information flows; isolating the hapless person from peers; and delivering the victim to a life of utter professional and personal uncertainty.

This is all too common in Catholic local government circles I'm afraid. The end of this playbook is to avoid confrontation and false promises and representations made by people in authority that will cost them later. Also, to cool tempers, and anything that might compromise the local church's stance in the face of her critics - in this case, gay rights advocates. The playbook also aims at driving the problem away, instead of solving it with the charity the Gospel demands of all of us when treating people as persons, not as disposable accouterments to the life and government of the local church. It also dilutes the participants' sense of individual responsibility for the evil visited upon their target by convincing them that the outcome was "God's will".

I'm sure that "they" - as defined above - expected that Mrs. Jannuzi would submit to her fate quietly and then fade into the woodwork. I'm sure they were infuriated when she refused to.

All this could have been avoided had the diocese distanced herself not from Mrs. Jannuzi's truth-telling, but perhaps from her choice of words, while supporting her right to express her mind and avoiding punishing her altogether. Now's too late. "They" have become involved and "they" don't want to lose face. Mrs. Jannuzi should demand from the diocese a clear settlement of her state in black-and-white and ready herself for a continuing pelea monga until her opponents score their triumph.

Let us pray for Patricia Jannuzi: may she be reinstated and restored to her former position of respect and consideration, and may the Lord guide Bishop Bootkoski to a just and equitable decision in her case. Let us pray also for all our local churches, that the Spirit of God and not the spirit of bureaucracy and weakness,reigns and prevails in all the churches.

Read also:

Today We Remember the Annunciation and the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God

Brethren: Peace be with you. Today we observe the Annunciation of the Lord.

From today’s Office of Readings
A Reading From a letter by Saint Leo the Great, pope

The mystery of man's reconciliation with God

Lowliness is assured by majesty, weakness by power, mortality by eternity. To pay the debt of our sinful state, a nature that was incapable of suffering was joined to one that could suffer. Thus, in keeping with the healing that we needed, one and the same mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, was able to die in one nature, and unable to die in the other.

He who is true God was therefore born in the complete and perfect nature of a true man, whole in his own nature, whole in ours. By our nature we mean what the Creator had fashioned in us from the beginning, and took to himself in order to restore it.

For in the Saviour there was no trace of what the deceiver introduced and man, being misled, allowed to enter. It does not follow that because he submitted to sharing in our human weakness he therefore shared in our sins.

He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.

Thus the Son of God enters this lowly world. He comes down from the throne of heaven, yet does not separate himself from the Father’s glory. He is born in a new condition, by a new birth.
He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, he hid his infinite glory and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be a man, capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death.

He who is true God is also true man. There is no falsehood in this unity as long as the lowliness of man and the pre-eminence of God coexist in mutual relationship.

As God does not change by his condescension, so man is not swallowed up by being exalted. Each nature exercises its own activity, in communion with the other. The Word does what is proper to the Word, the flesh fulfils what is proper to the flesh.

One nature is resplendent with miracles, the other falls victim to injuries. As the Word does not lose equality with the Father’s glory, so the flesh does not leave behind the nature of our race.
One and the same person – this must be said over and over again – is truly the Son of God and truly the son of man. He is God in virtue of the fact that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He is man in virtue of the fact that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

- Source: Universalis.com

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tidbits from Hither and Thither

Theo's extremely infrequent collected news and commentary collection

Brethren, Peace be with you.

I wanted to comment on things that may be old news, but still relevant in current debate.

1. On Congress's invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address them.I support it, if not for the reasons you suppose. President +Barack Obama needs reminding he doesn't rule by decree. I support every effort by Congress to check and balance President Obama at every possible turn. He refuses to compromise and to any deep debate about his policy initiatives. Tough, Mr. Obama reaped what he sowed.

2. About Netanyahu's speech in itself. Very smart speech. I have to hand it to Bibi, he's a great and very persuasive communicator. Having said that, I don't oppose, in principle, any negotiation with Iran and am reserving final judgment until I see the final agreement . As a Catholic Christian I'm commanded to seek peace and I am willing to give these negotiations a chance to succeed. I'm sensitive to Netanyahu's fanatical defense of Israel's security and understand it. I too want Israel to continue on right where it is as a primarily Jewish state. At the same time, I want to avoid a massive regional arms race and possibly, a vast regional war with global implications. I am for peace first, not at any cost mind you, but I'm convinced that  we should pursue peace first. I know the Gospel demands it from us.

3. About +Nancy Pelosi's statement about Netanyahu's speec "almost making her cry." Ms. Pelosi's statement belong to her "this or that outrage almost made me X" category of statements that are meaningless upon close analysis. I hold nothing but contempt for them. You should to.

4. About the GOP Senators Open Letter to the Iranian Leadership. Good show, I say. It's no different from +Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria's President Assad in 2008, or worse, to the Dear Comandante Letter Democrats sent in 1984 which undermined President Reagan's policy in Central America at the time. If memory serves, Secretary of State John Kerry, then a senator, was a signatory. Oh, my, what goes around comes around.

5. Regarding University of California students short-lived takedown of the American Flag flown at the Irvine campus. Probably one of the stupidest, most adolescent things happening of late, triggering widespread condemnation across the country, some of it extreme and regrettable in itself. Nevertheless, the resolution originating this flap  displays the PC, short-circuited logic prevailing in most universities in America today. I'm happy they rescinded their decision and apologized, but the resolution shouldn't have passed in the first place.

6. Regarding the State's Department sanctions on six Venezuelan officials due to human rights abuses. I'm all for it. These abusers should receive no accommodation anywhere and should be brought to justice as soon as possible. +Nicolas Maduro's reaction - asking again for special powers to rule by decree and spending money Venezuela lacks on useless self-defense exercises - bodes ill for a nation spiraling into poverty, corruption, and civil disorder.

7. On California's ban on their court officials to join the Boys Scouts. I was a Star Scout back in my time and I find California's judiciary's decision misguided and despotic. In fact, this is another instance of California tightening its fist around the necks of people of conscience, as demonstrated by its decree that faith-based institutions be forced to pay for abortion and birth control. This fight will reach the #SCOTUS and I hope they take it and rule in favor of conscience rights, as they've been doing of late against #ObamaCare.
That's it for now. May the Lord richly bless you.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

#Atheists love to stump people by demanding "verifiable evidence" for God. Not so fast.

Brethren, Peace be with you.

I've been doing some serious research in support of a formal paper I've decided to write on the relationship between scientific/empirical and theological languages and during my research I found this entry in the Internet's Encyclopedia of Philosophy written by Jennifer Hart Weed, PHD, titled Religious Language, containing a quote I wish to share and discuss:
Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) argued that the only way one could be certain of a statement’s truth or falsity was by verifying those statements through perceptions, observations, or experience. He offers the following example of the process by which a statement could be verified:
Let us take the statement P1: "This key is made of iron." There are many ways of verifying this statement: for example,: I place the key near a magnet; then I perceive that the key is attracted.
Here the deduction is made in this way: Premises: P1: "This key is made of iron"; The statement to be examined. P2: "If an iron thing is placed near a magnet, it is attracted;" this is a physical law, already verified.
P3: "This object – a bar – is a magnet;" statement already verified.
P4: "The key is placed near the bar;" this is now directly verified by our observation.
From these four premises we can deduce the conclusion: P5: "The key will now be attracted by the bar."
This statement is a prediction which can be examined by observation. If we look, we either observe the attraction or we do not. In the first case we have found a positive instance, an instance of verification of the statement P1 under consideration; in the second case we have a negative instance, an instance of disproof of P1. (Carnap 1966, 208).
Having established the principle of verification, Carnap then argues that metaphysical assertions such as, “The principle of the world is water,” cannot be verified. (Ibid. 210). Since metaphysical assertions cannot be verified, they are meaningless. One cannot assess the truth-value of a metaphysical assertion because such assertions cannot be empirically verified.
A.J. Ayer (1910-1989) agreed with Carnap, and thus inferred that since all statements about God cannot be verified, they too are meaningless, “But the notion of a person whose essential attributes are non-empirical is not an intelligible notion at all. We may have a word which is used as if it names this ‘person,’ [God] but, unless the sentences in which it occurs express propositions which are empirically verifiable, it cannot be said to symbolize anything.” (Ayer 1946, 144). Thus, on the basis of Verificationism, statements about God do not have truth-values that can be verified and, thus, are unintelligible expressions. So at least one solution to the problem of religious language is to claim that statements about God are unintelligible.
The fascinating thing is that this "principle of verification" has been rigorously discredited.  Here's the counter-punch:

But Verificationism was challenged by philosophers such as Alonzo Church and Richard Swinburne and largely abandoned in the twentieth century. A.J. Ayer identified and defended a “weak principle of verification” in his seminal paper, “The Principle of Verifiability.” He admitted that empirical propositions are not conclusively verifiable, but argued that in order for a claim to be factual, and thus to have its truth-value determined, it must be verifiable by some possible observations. (Ayer 1936, 199). While Ayer didn’t specify exactly what those possible observations must be, he argued that they need to be the kinds of observations that could verify an assertion.

In response, Richard Swinburne argues that the premises defending weak Verificationism are false. He offers the following example of an argument in defense of weak Verificationism: “It is claimed that a man could not understand a factual claim unless he knew what it would be like to observe it to hold or knew which observations would count for or against it; from which it follows that a statement could not be factually meaningful unless there could be observational evidence which would count for or against it.” (Swinburne 2000, 151).

Swinburne then argues that the premise of the above argument is false, since one could understand a statement if one understands the words forming that statement and if those words are organized in a grammatically significant format. Thus, there could be factual statements that do not have evidence either for or against them and one could understand them. Consequently, metaphysical assertions invoking God and his properties cannot be ruled out as meaningless by weak Verificationism.

Ayer modified his principle of verification for the second edition of his book, Language, Truth and Logic, as follows:
A statement is directly verifiable if it is either itself an observation-statement, or is such that in conjunction with one or more observation-statements it entails at least one observation-statement which is not deducible from these other premises alone; and I propose to say that a statement is indirectly verifiable if it satisfies the following conditions: first, that in conjunction with certain other premises it entails one or more directly verifiable statements which are not deducible from these other premises alone; and secondly, that these other premises do not include any statement that is not either analytic, or directly verifiable, or capable of being independently established as indirectly verifiable. (Ayer 1946, 13).
In a review of the second edition, Alonzo Church argued that even according to Ayer’s revised principle of verification, any statement whatsoever or its negation is verifiable:
For let O1, O2, O3 be three “observation-statements” (or “experiential propositions”) such that no one of the three taken alone entails any of the others. Then using these we may show of any statement S whatever that either it or its negation is verifiable, as follows. Let -O1 and –S be the negations of O1 and S respectively. Then (under Ayer’s definition) -O1O2 v O3–S is directly verifiable, because with O1 it entails O3. Moreover S and -O1O2 v O3–S together entail O2. Therefore (under Ayer’s definition) S is indirectly verifiable – unless it happens that -O1O2 v O3–S alone entails O2 , in which case –S and O3 together entail O2 , so that –S is directly verifiable. (Church 1949, 53).
Church’s objection was so devastating, that Ayer’s definition of verifiability from the second edition of his book was largely abandoned. Despite repeated attempts by various thinkers such as Kai Neilson to reformulate a principle of verification successfully, Verificationism has been continually rejected as an inadequate methodology. As Ruth Weintraub points out in a recent paper, almost no one defends Verificationism in the twenty-first century. (Weintraub 2003, 83).
To oversimplify Alonzo Church's argument: things need not be directly verifiable in order to have "a truth value" (to be true), for true statements may be directly or indirectly verifiable or negated based on its prior set of observable conditions. (I think that's what it means, I'll accept any constructive criticism on my take)

How does this translate into faith vs. atheism debate? Well, the atheist-empiricist needs to formulate a sufficient number of experiments to rule out absolutely and completely, albeit indirectly, the notion "God exists" or if you prefer, "God created the cosmos out of nothing" without dismissing outright the notion of "God" as meaningless.

Moreover, the dismissal of "verificationism" forces the skeptic to formulate his or her own metaphysics, no matter how the skeptic loathes the notion of metaphysics, to include the probability of a Creator God and predicate His nature in an intelligible way. In other words, there's no escape from metaphysics. Whether a thinker holds an orderly metaphysics based upon some basic, explicit epistemological principles, or one based on systematic suspicion and doubt, appears to bookend a wide range of personal choices. Yet the choice remains inescapable and shallow atheist evangelists of the kind you find in the Internet must make their own choices and recognize their own biases if they wish to be perceived as honest folk.

To put it in even simpler terms: philosophical and theological arguments in favor of the existence of God and others such as creation "out of nothing" cannot be logically dismissed by a demand for verification or "evidence" without the requester falling into sloppy thinking himself.

That means, then, that what you read in the Bible, in the Gospels, in St. Thomas Aquinas even, may and do transmit true statements about God and nature without their "truthiness" being denied by command from above - no pun intended - by arguing about their "unverifiability." Tell that to the next tinpot Internet sophomore who Tweets you sardonically demanding verifiable "evidence" for your belief in Christ.