Saturday, September 23, 2006

Circular Disqualifier: Motes and Beams.

Our Saviour's guide to criticising others:

" Judge not, that you may not be judged, For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. Any why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

Now, many times, this verse from the Gospel according to Matthew is quoted to either criticise someone who has made a criticism, or to shield oneself from criticism. Case in point for the former; Thomas Gumbleton, retired bishop, commenting on Pope Benedict XVI's recent speech at Regensburg:

But there's another short passage that Jesus proclaimed, that it seems to me if Pope Benedict had been thinking about this, he would have been much more careful in what he said.

Remember the part when Jesus is talking to the people who are correcting other people. He challenged them, "Look, you can see the speck in somebody else's eye, but you can't see the beam in your own eye!" If you look at others but don't look at yourself. Pope Benedict in speaking about Islam -- yes, at times, there has been those who have used it in a violent way, who spread their message through war, through killing. But you don't have to look very far into the history of the Christian religion to discover that we've done the same thing many, many times.

Now, the Mote/Beam missile can only be used by those who are entirely sure of their unquestionable holiness, or are completely oblivious to the irony of using an argument against criticism to criticise someone. It is a weapon that, once launched, negates the legitimacy of the launcher.

As for Gumbleton, and to bring this in full circle: Remember the part when Jesus is talking to the people who are correcting other people. He challenged them, "Look, you can see the speck in somebody else's eye, but you can't see the beam in your own eye!" If you look at others but don't look at yourself. Thomas Gumbleton in speaking about Pope Benedict -- yes, at times, there has been those who have questioned other's theology, who spread their message through blunt discussion, through unvetted polemic. But you don't have to look very far into the history of american Catholic prelates to discover that we've done the same thing many, many times.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Literacy Is Overrated

Chomsky is fine, Hugo, but what else have you been reading?

How about some counterbalance?

Or, maybe, we can help you with more deep-seated issues?

If not that, at least some instructive reading?

Monday, September 18, 2006

They Still Don't Get It

CNN's headline:

Possible pope link to nun's death

You cannot possibly link the nun's death to Islamic radicals in a headline, can you? @#(*&ing western journalists.

Gunmen shot and killed an Italian nun at a children's hospital in Mogadishu on Sunday in an attack that drew immediate speculation of links to Muslim anger over the pope's recent remarks on Islam.

Muslim anger. Anger is over at DailyKos. Insane rage is what these disciples of the Religion of Peace are displaying. And Somalia is a hotbed of that peace:

The assassinations were a blow to Mogadishu's new Islamist rulers' attempt to prove they have pacified one of the world's most lawless cities since chasing out warlords in June.
Borne out of local courts practicing strict sharia law, the Islamist movement in June seized Mogadishu from U.S.-backed warlords who had run it for the past 15 years.

The Islamists have brought some order to the capital, which was awash with guns and where assassinations were common. But the nun's death -- and the June killing of a Swedish cameraman -- will damage their claim Mogadishu is now safe for foreigners.

Critics of the Islamists say they harbor al Qaeda-linked extremists in their ranks. The top Islamist leader, hardline cleric Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, is on U.S. and U.N. lists of people accused of links to terrorism.

The Islamists deny that, saying the West does not understand them and is succumbing to U.S. propaganda.

Oh no, my peaceful friends, we understand you quite well at this juncture. The problem is, now, how to deal with you and the peace that you bring to the world. At least, that's what our western journalists tell us. And if we do not understand you and your peace, it is the fault of the Pope.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Complicit Media

Headline from Time Magazine's website:

The First Casualty of the Pope's Islam Speech

Not to let the mullahs have all the fun of gun-jumping, Time's headline posits the following:

A) The Pope's speech was about Islam
B) The Pope is to blame for Islamic reactions to his talk at a university.

Now, I can excuse religious zealots in developing nations for going mad. The educational standards in those places are low, they don't have access to the entire transcript of the Pope's lecture, and their religious leaders have everything to gain by getting their people amped up and outraged.

I cannot excuse journalists in the West, as we teach reading (at least used to) and some degree of logic in our universities, we have access to everything the Pope's ever uttered in public, and we pride ourselves on being literate and civilised.

I will try to be charitable, and say that, in the interest of saving headline space, poor word choices were the result. I'd hate to think that Western journalists are actually trying to foment more Muslim outrage, as a way to tear down the Catholic Church, the advocate of a theology that is anathema to Western Liberals.


Pope 'deeply sorry' for Muslim fury

Of course, I'm thinking the headline should read:

Muslim fury at Pope sorry

Feel free to suggest your own.

Friday, September 15, 2006

If You're Tired of Islamic Hypersensitivity..

. Raise your hand.

Our Pope manages to goad reactionaries with remarks buried within a reasoned discussion. Chances are, after picking up on a perceived slight against Islam, the rest of his discussion was completely incomprehensible to the 'Arab Street'. 'Tis a pity, because the foaming masses are going to prove old Manny Paleologus' argument.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached"

Where's me belayin' pin?

My pirate name is:

Iron James Roberts

A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. Two things complete your pirate persona: style and swagger. Maybe a little too much swagger sometimes -- but who really cares? Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

h/t GOP Soccer mom

I'd also like to add, to the above description, "scourge of panty-waisted crypto-protestant theologians at catholic universities. Keel-haul the lot from the Barque of Peter. Arrrgh."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Of all ironies

Sunday's reading from the epistle of James:
"Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
that he promised to those who love him?"

And compare to a recent headline in Time Magazine:

Does God want you to be rich?

..For several decades, a philosophy has been percolating in the 10 million-strong Pentecostal wing of Christianity that seems to turn the Gospels' passage on its head. Certainly, it allows, Christians should keep one eye on heaven. But the new good news is that God doesn't want us to wait.

Known (or vilified) under a variety of names -- Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, Prosperity Theology -- its emphasis is on God's promised generosity in this life. In a nutshell, it suggests that a God who loves you does not want you to be broke.

Its signature verse could be John 10:10: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." In a Time poll, 17 percent of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61 percent believed that God wants people to be prosperous.

I have heard more than one person express the desire that God burden them with fantastic wealth, but I prefer the cross already laid out for me.

Where were you when..

The day had started early, and our arts show producer needed to pre-record an interview with the conductor of the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra, talking up the concert program for the coming weekend. Maestro Polochik was in Baltimore, so the interview was by phone from our studio. Both producer and conductor laughed and talked enthusiastically about the upcoming show. For that hour, we were in a bubble which reality, happening in the outer world, had not burst.

Interview complete, we left the production studio, and walked past the broadcast studio as headed back to our desks. A TV monitor caught my eye, and I stopped to watch. I saw one of the World Trade Center towers smoking, and someone next to me said that an airplane had flown into it. An Air Traffic Control screw-up, I thought to myself, here come the lawyers… the thought came to a screeching halt when the second plane hit the towers. My stomach dropped to the soles of my feet. There was a dawning horror that something terrible was happening that would reverberate for a long time to come. News of the Pentagon crash and Flight 93 trickled in, and it was the start of one of the longest days in recent memory.

I’m sure that most bystanders’ stories converge at this point, a blur of television and radio news, phone calls to family and loved ones on the East Coast, scattered and fervent prayers to a deity of personal affection.

Later, after a day at work of which little labor was done, I picked up my wife and infant son from our apartment, and drove them across town. We spoke, in numb shock, of what had happened, of what was known at the time. As we drove , we saw people in panicked lines at gas stations, as if the world were going to end without gasoline.

My wife had an appointment, and I was supposed to take our son and do some shopping while she was at her appointment. I dropped her off, and went to our parish church, which was the only place I could think to go on this day. The parking lot was empty, and so I loaded the baby in our sling, and went to try the door, hoping it was unlocked.

The door yielded without complaint, and I was welcomed by the cool darkness of the unlit church. I wound my way to the tabernacle, and the lit candle beside it, indicating that our Lord was present in the Eucharist within. And there, I gave Him my grief, my sorrow, prayers for those others who were grieving at the loss of a loved one, and prayers for those whose hatred made this disaster possible. The darkness and the silence were comforting: it was just me (with the baby) and God.

After a long while, I took the baby outside, and sat on a swing in a nearby playground. As we swayed together on the swing, I told my son about evil, and how I hoped that some had found faith in the face of this disaster, and my fears for those who would lose it as well.

It’s been a long five years in the interim. Have you found faith, or have you lost it?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Surrender Saves Lives

1780, West Point, New York:

General Benedict Arnold, commander of the fort at West Point, doesn't mince words. "People are dying out there, and we have a means to stop it, but for the Continental Congress' insistance on fighting the British" Arnold states. At a meeting of the Concerned Tories of New York gathering, General Arnold laid out his opposition to the continued resistance to the Crown, despite the huge toll it's taken in colonial lives." There are these grand notions of taxation, representation, and civil liberties, but to demand that colonists lay down their lives for these principles is outside their experience. Accepting British rule and tyranny is the lesser evil."

Arnold is currently on a speaking tour of the greater New York area with aide Major André, winding up in August.

In other, more modern news:

Bishop goes to bat for AIDS victims
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Bishop Kevin Dowling's toughest fight is agains HIV/AIDS, which infects more than 5 million people in his native South Africa

His most courageous battle is against the Vatican, which has denounced the use of condoms, saying they promote immorality and promiscuous behavior.

But they're also considered key to promoting safe sex, and in 1994 Dowling became the first African bishop to urge the Roman Catholic Church to consider lifting its ban.

'In certain moral issues the church closes off debate,' said the 62-year-old bishop. 'I don't believe that's healthy. Moral and ethical issues are not black and white.
For millions of sub-Saharan Africans, the whole concept of pre-marital abstinence and being faithful to one's mate, as prescribed by the church, is totally outside their real-life experience, Dowling said. Dowling compared the church's stance on condoms to the impossible rules Pharisees imposed on people during Christ's day.

'How do you protect life in a far from ideal situation?' he said. 'Why do we maintain this stance when the issue is that millions are dying? To be authentically pro-life, we can't focus entirely on issues like abortion.'

[ emphasis mine]

Continuing a tradition of traitors in New York.

So, the availability and advocacy of condoms is the answer for preventing STDs AND doesn't encourage an atmosphere of licentiousness? Well, then America should be disease free and very modest in it's respect for human sexuality. Oh, what's that you say? It isn't? Well, I guess that we should listen to the Magisterium instead of the horomonal urges, eh.

Monday, September 04, 2006


'Tis a sad shock to wake up this morning and read that "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin has died. For years, we've all sworn up and down that he'd get munched by a croc some day, probably right after saying "what a beauty!" But to have him killed by a stingray while filming was something we didn't see coming. Steve is survived by his more sensible wife Terri, and young children Bindi Sue and Robert.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Rwanda and Darfur

Once in a while, I come across something that, while I may want to write about it right away, I feel like I need to wait until the emotional turmoil dies down. I watched Hotel Rwanda this weekend. I couldn’t sleep later that night, and the pit in my stomach didn’t dissipate until well into the next day.

For those who haven’t seen it, Hotel Rwanda is a movie about the 100 day, Hutu-led genocide that claimed the lives of 500,000 to over 1,000,000 ethnic Tutsis and Moderate Hutus, in 1994.

First, the genocide underscores the belief that the United Nations is useless at preventing violence and protecting others from violence. Every decision is by committee, and thus any issue that arises must inspire widespread support to ever get acted on. Since none of the major players at the U.N. cared about African conflicts, the news of the Rwanda genocide was slow to permeate the consciousness of the delegates.

The U.N. had personnel there! Oh, but they weren’t allowed to intervene (the force was also small enough that intervention would have resulted in dead peacekeepers). Finally, Western governments responded, sending some troops, but it was only to rescue foreign nationals trapped in the country.

Something similar has been going on, for the last three years, in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Islamicist militias, with the tacit approval of the Sudanese government, is waging a campaign of murder, rape, and pillaging to drive non-muslim residents of Sudan into neighboring countries. The Sudanese government has obviously learned more from the Rwanda genocide than the U.N. has, including how to wage an internal war without foreign intervention. After three years, the U.N. has finally voted to gather some troops, and establish some peacekeeping operations in the region. Good luck with that, by the way.

It seems clear that anyone who’s depending on the U.N. for help is screwed. The Blue Helmets will show up in time to uncover the mass graves, tour the burned villages, and give candies to the children of all the rape victims. Is that the best we can do?

"Where are the French? We'd love to watch them surrender."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

On the Deutero-Canonical Scriptures:

Crossed the Tiber has a great article on the deutero-canonical scriptures, known (or unknown as the case is) to protestants everywhere as the Apocrypha:
Despite the fact that these books were part of the original canon up until the Reformation, they have in the past 600 years acquired a mysterious and questionable status in non-Catholic circles. I was recently asked why Catholics added 7 books to the Bible. The underlying assumption from the inquirer is that we "added" these books to justify our "unscriptural" doctrines and beliefs. My gentle response was to go back and look at the first Bible ever printed 70 years before the reformation, and before the Council of Trent. You will find the Gutenberg Bible contained all the books that Catholics supposedly added after the reformation to combat the reformation doctrines. Therefore, these books were always part of the original canon of Scripture from the fourth century when the Scriptures were first compiled, and it was the first reformer, Dr. Luther, who removed the books.

Read the rest there. As always, the faith and fervor of converts to the Church continually amazes me.