Sunday, September 29, 2013

TFTD: Do We Really Want to Hear of Sin?

I find it interesting to see that certain Catholics had been complaining that the Church never talked about sin...

...yet, when the Pope speaks out about sins against charity it is easy for the affluent westerners to commit, these same Catholics get offended.

Perhaps they were more interested in seeing the Church condemn other people than to hear what we need to do to grow closer to Christ.

That's not to say those other sins are unimportant of course. But everyone should ask themselves whether they are concerned with salvation or vengeance.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Resources to get unedited stories from the Vatican

Several people have been asking me about the statements the media make from Vatican press releases. So I thought I ought to share some resources I use to counteract the mainstream media distortions.

For a daily email, you can go HERE to sign up with Vatican Information Service.

If you have a tablet, I recommend The Pope App for Android or iPad.

Given the media's rather suspicious reporting of the Pope, I recommend these highly.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

TFTD: The Pope, The Gospel and The Love of God

Today's Gospel reading is:

Matthew 9:9–13

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Pope Francis' on today's reading:

“And sinners, tax collectors and sinners, they felt that Jesus had looked on them and that gaze of Jesus upon them – I believe – was like a breath on embers, and they felt that there was fire in the belly, again, and that Jesus made ​​lifted them up, gave them back their dignity. The gaze of Jesus always makes us worthy, gives us dignity. It is a generous look. ‘But behold, what a teacher: dining with the dregs of the city!’: But beneath that dirt there were the embers of desire for God, the embers of God's image that wanted someone who could help them be kindled anew. This is what the gaze of Jesus does.”

Perhaps it would be good for the mainstream media and those bloggers who were scandalized by the Pope's interview to reflect on the reading and consider that just maybe the Pope's intent was not to deny the Church teaching, but rather was giving us a chance to consider whether we show Christ's love to the sinners we encounter.

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

TFTD: Male Bovine Excrement

"All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again."

--Battlestar Galactica.

Pope Francis gave an interview which was published today. The gist of the mainstream media coverage was that the Pope was indifferent to moral issues such as homosexuality, abortion and contraception.

The mainstream media coverage is a bunch of male bovine excrement of course,  but what irritates me is the coverage of certain conservative Catholic blogs. The reason it annoys me is because these conservative bloggers would in any other case challenge the media claims. Here many accept the media claims, assuming the Pope was speaking in a fuzzy manner allowing unclear language to confuse the message.

I believe this is also male bovine excrement.

This is not the first time this happened. A few years back, Pope Benedict XVI gave a book interview with Peter Seewald... which I blogged about HERE. The mainstream media took an excerpt from L'Osservatore Romano and proclaimed that the Pope was changing Church teaching on condoms.

He wasn't. He was giving a hypothetical example of a person beginning to think of moral consequences. He reiterated he held the Catholic position. But that was ignored by the media.

Then too, conservative Catholic bloggers took the media at their word. The editor of L'OR was bashed. The Vatican Press Office was bashed. The Pope was... gently criticized for being imprecise.

This is more of the same. The media grossly took out of context what was said...and conservative Catholic bloggers assumed the Pope was speaking in a fuzzy and vague manner.

He wasn't. What we are seeing is a Pope who is deeply in love with Christ and the Church established by Christ. He wants to show that Christ's love and forgiveness is available to all. He doesn't deny the Catholic moral teaching.  But he does want the whole teaching to be taught.  Not just that homosexual acts and abortion are evil, but that the sinner is loved by God.

If we leave that out, we forget a crucial message of Christianity. God sent His Son for our salvation. We need to keep this in mind or we will miss the point of why we preach the Gospel.

I think what pisses me off the most about this is the way certain bloggers have made a beautiful explanation of the faith appear to be fuzzy thinking. They undermine the confidence in the Pope when they should be challenging the mainstream media.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Underlying Assumptions

Occasionally I encounter materialist atheists who demand physical proof for the existence of God. Such demands are what is known as a categorical error. Science belongs to the category of the natural... that which can be observed and studied and tested. The category of the natural involves the entire physical universe.

The problem is, if something has existence in a way that goes beyond physical existence -- what we call supernatural -- then trying to apply the principles of the natural universe to studying the supernatural is using a tool which is entirely unsuited for the task. It would be like using a microscope to try to study the stars.

Atheists of this type make some underlying assumptions that they do not question. But the problem is, they make arguments using these assumptions but the underlying assumptions need to be proven before their questions can be considered justified.

Some of the assumptions are:

1) The supernatural does not exist
2) If God exists there must be physical evidence for that existence.
3) Belief in the supernatural comes from pre scientific superstition
4) Science has eliminated the need to believe in God

Others exist, but these are some of the basic ones.

The problem is, when the atheist demands physical proof of God's existence, they are effectively making a universal negative claim about reality. The onus of proof is on them for making that claim, but being a universal negative, it is impossible to prove.

This is where you get ridiculous statements like "the burden of proof is on the person making the more extraordinary claim," or "since you can't prove a negative, the burden of proof is on the person making the positive claim."

It is always the person making an argument who has the burden of proof, so the atheist making these statements is guilty of shifting the burden of proof. He or she makes an assertion and then, instead of proving it, demands it be disproved. 

Such a tactic tends to be used on the Internet against believers who the atheist believes is not skilled in argument. When that particular believer lacks the skills to refute the challenge, the atheist then declares victory for "disproving" Christianity.

But he hasn't. Refuting a weak opponent doesn't automatically mean the case for Christianity is weak. It could just means the weak opponent does not know his faith well enough to understand a complex philosophical attack against it.


Once you can see the big picture, you can see this kind of attack is unquestioned assumptions that need to be proven combined with shoddy tactics used to confuse and intimidate the opponent and make observers think the atheist has proven a point he has not proven.

Unfortunately, the Internet being what it is, attention spans are short. Usually the best you can do is make your case -- politely -- in the hopes of reaching people of good will and encouraging them to consider what the truth is.

As an afterwards, I'd like to point out that not all atheists use these dishonest tactics. Nor is it limited to atheism. I've seen fundamentalist anti Catholics behave similarly, as well as radical traditionalists bash other Catholics.

The basic flaws in all cases are:

1) unquestioned assumptions used as a basis even though the opponents believe it to be false.
2) attempts to shift burden of proof
3) tries to make defeat of unskilled opponents into refutation of position.

The basic counters are:
1) don't let the false assumption go unquestioned.
2) don't let the opponent shift the burden of proof onto you when he made the assertion
3) study what you believe so as not to be an unskilled opponent.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

TFTD: Argument from Ignorance

Reading a post on a website this morning, I had the misfortune of reading the combox comments where a radical traditionalist was blasting a religious order (in this case, the Jesuits).

When this person was challenged by another commentator who pointed out that those who do wrong do not prove the whole order is bad, the response was a demand to name 5 good priests from that order.

In logic, we call this the argument from ignorance. It presumes that just because a person is unaware of examples of something it means that thing does not exist.

But just because a person does not know something exists, it does not follow that it does not exist. It may or may not exist.  That's to be determined by evidence.

Personally, I can only think of four living Jesuits by name off the top of my head who I think highly of... but So what? I can only think of two living Jesuits I think poorly of off the top of my head. 

For that matter, off the top of my head I can only think of a few good living Dominicans, Franciscans, Benedictines... and fewer bad ones.  Does the fact I can't list 5 good living Trappists by name mean the Trappists are rotten?

Fame and notoriety of some members of a group does not mean the whole is good or bad.

(In addition, the radical traditionalist was also guilty of shifting the burden of proof. One does not prove X by demanding proof of Not-X.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

TFTD: Judging the Church?

From Canon 212 §3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. (Emphasis added)

One major irritant I have with the Catholic blogosphere is the tendency of some bloggers to piss and moan about "the Church" when they don't like how the pastor, bishop, curia official or Pope handles something.

Now having a preference on how some things should be handled is not a sin of course. There are certainly things I wish had been handled differently.  However people can sin against charity in how they express themselves.

Also, with a charitable attitude of criticism (as opposed to pissing and moaning),  one should consider their qualifications and knowledge of the situation for saying "the Church oughta do it this way," if they're going to judge the Church.

Now, I don't want to come across as "holier than thou." I'm ashamed that in the early years of this blog, I had a very sarcastic view of our bishops and disrespectfully ranted on how ineffectual they seemed to me. While I did have some different ideas on what I thought would be best, I realize now that my expression was not an appropriate way to speak about a successor to the Apostles.

Nor do I want to sound like someone who supports the Church in a "my country right or wrong" kind of way. The administrative actions of the Church don't fall under the category of infallible.

But reason requires that we make an informed critique when we say "that is not a good way to do it!" Do we know all the factors involved in the decision?  Is it possible that the bishop would have loved to use tactic A, but because of obstacles, had to settle for B?

If we don't know, how can we avoid being guilty of rash judgment?

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
— of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
— of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
— of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Monday, September 2, 2013

TFTD: Did They Ever Consider There Might Be an Answer?

Reading through a bunch of comments on the internet, I came across several made by atheists which attempted to use mockery to show the "contradictions" of Christianity. What it boils down to is people not understanding the actual teaching, but they mock their misconception of what they think Christianity is.

That's not really a good way to show oneself as a champion of reason and logic.

In fact, if Christians have an answer for those questions -- especially if those answers show the mocking questions miss the point of our beliefs -- doesn't that mean the atheist mockers are the ones behaving irrationally?

But that seems to happen when these kinds of attackers simply equate faith in God with stupidity and don't seek to learn about Christianity from someone educated in the faith.

Unjust Officials

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

(Declaration of Independence)


One of the things which trouble me about the recent laws, court rulings and actions of state and federal government officials is the disregard for the legal process -- particularly when it comes to laws concerning the protection of the traditional understanding of marriage.

The approach of these officials is essentially to ignore the laws passed when they disagree with the laws -- even if these laws were passed by the vote of citizens.

Are Laws Defending Traditional Marriage Based on Intolerance?

Now the argument used is to point to the racist laws of the past, claim that laws defending traditional marriage are also racist and therefore must be opposed.

But that's the point to be proven. We don't have laws that establishes separate drinking fountains for "heterosexual" and "homosexual." We don't have laws blocking where people with same sex attractions can live or if they can vote.

The link they try to make is that in the South they once banned interracial marriages due to intolerance. The traditional understanding of marriage assumes it can only be between a man a woman. Therefore this limitation is based on intolerance.

But the assumption that limitation must equal intolerance is the point to be proven. If one opposes so-called "same sex marriage" for reasons other than intolerance, then it is wrong to assume laws they pass in defense of traditional marriage is rooted in intolerance.

Actually the defense of traditional marriage is not based on intolerance but on the understanding of what marriage is for.

Reasons for Traditional Marriage

The traditional understanding of marriage is based on the recognition that marriage is an institution of family that generates and raises children passing down the values that sustain society from generation to generation.

So-called "gay marriage" simply cannot produce children and therefore cannot pass on to them the values that sustain society from generation to generation -- it is entirely outside of what is necessary for a society to survive. Producing children will continue to require heterosexual activity and the heterosexual family is needed to pass on the values -- including sexual morality -- to be a stable building block of society.

In contrast, so-called "gay marriage" cannot produce children.  Even when such pairings seek children it requires an outside sperm donor or surrogate mother or adoption.

Moreover, unless the homosexual pairings teach that these pairings are wrong, they must claim that reproduction and families are not an important value -- which hinders the sustainability of society that requires new generations.

In fact so-called "gay marriage" can only claim that marriage is nothing more than a sexual relationship, a view which means that the pleasure is given priority and reproduction of children is an inconvenience to be avoided.

Refusing to Consider All the Facts

So, one can see that valid reasons exist for protecting traditional marriage and the dilemma of "either gay marriage or intolerance" is a false dilemma because other reasons exist for defending traditional marriage which do not involve intolerance.

Thus, for people to continue to say it is intolerance must either be ignorant of these other reasons or they do know of the reasons and still disregard them.

So when Justice Kennedy says, "The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States"


"DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state- sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency."

We are justified in saying he speaks falsely about the reasons these laws were made.

But where does that leave us? If he did not know of these other reasons for defending traditional marriage then he failed to do what justice required -- considering all the facts before making a decision.

If he did know of the other reasons but chose to reject them, then we really have no choice but to say he behaved unjustly, regardless of the motivation that led to his action. Remember, courts are supposed to provide justice within the scope of the law and they cannot do do if they are ignorant of the facts or choose to disregard them.


Now I would also be guilty of the false dilemma if I assumed Kennedy was either an idiot or corrupt. But since I have demonstrated that the reasons for defending traditional marriage was not based on intolerance of people with same sex attraction, it cannot be avoided that his reasoning and ruling was unjust. The question is whether his injustice was passive or active.

This question also applies to government officials who refuse to defend the laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman. It applies to district judges who arbitrarily declare laws defending traditional marriage as unconstitutional. It applies to the bureaucrats who suddenly decide to issue marriage licensees to people want their same sex relationship redefined as a marriage.

They all assume the defense of traditional marriage is based on intolerance and act on that assumption, either unaware or uncaring of the fact that the reasons for the defense are not based on intolerance.

Thus we have government officials acting unjustly, regardless of the reason for their injustice. They invent rights that circumvents the proper procedure for passing laws, imposing instead what they prefer.

Indeed, if Christians behaved in the way of these officials, I have no doubt they would howl in protest.

Thus we need to ensure that all officials are required to act impartially and with justice -- making sure they have all the facts and judging accordingly.

And if they will not do so, they need to face the consequences for their actions.