A friend of mine on Facebook was lamenting about the state of discussion in this country. His example involved liberals pointing out the absolute biggest morons amongst the ranks of conservatives as evidence of complete rot and stupidity in the entire movement. No place has this been more obvious than some of the over the top slanders of the Tea Party. He finished up his post with the following quote
Real discourse engages the best-stated opposing argument, rather than just mocking the worst, which is corrosive to public life.
And this is true but it isn't limited to Democrats.
A majority of my friends are conservative. I have some liberal friends but by and large I find myself in the presence of an Obama outburst far more often than an angry Bush tirade. Therefore I am prone to see this happen amongst conservatives more than liberals. Amongst my conservative contacts the number of rants, threads, posts and blog entries outlining the sheer stupidity of some wingnut as evidence of broad stupidity amongst liberals as a whole is equally unfair -- or as my friend said "corrosive to public life".
Quite frankly this is why I have a strong distaste for talk radio. It takes the positions of opponents and then engages in rash judgment about how they are evil socialists who hate America and are aiming to destroy America so they can remake it in their image. It is a narrative that gets people emotionally riled up. It is a narrative that will certainly prompt phone calls.
As Catholics though, is it right to participate in these rash judgments? The CCC deals with rash judgment as follows
2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:
- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor; ...
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.280 (source)
So the first question you should ask about a big assessment of character or intent is -- Is it TRUE?
. What evidence can we provide beyond a shadow of any doubt that it IS true. For example, mere association with a highly questionable character does not define with certainty the outlook of a politician -- even if it was his mentor for decades. Cite the politicians OWN and preferably recent words. An ill advised paper he wrote when he was young, emotionally charged, idealistic and prone to rash judgment himself is useless in helping define how a person has matured since.
The process to avoid rash judgment is a meticulous process. It requires that we give due diligence to determining where a person is coming from now and how they understand our own position. This process of deliberate consideration has become less and less apparent in our age of quick headlines, editor free press releases and blatant attempts to smear and thoroughly discredit opponents.
I only posted this to make a simple recommendation. Prayerfully and deliberately consider where your opponent is coming from. Do not rashly apply evil, antichrist, bigot, racist or stupid. It simply isn't going to help us progress as a society. Also remember, true discussion does not happen in 15 minutes with quick sound bites. That pacifies the choir. It does not change the people standing outside the door. Changing peoples minds requires love which demands respect for the dignity of your opponent. It also requires humility, which I often find I could use more of, because sometimes the point your are arguing happens to be ill informed -- and wrong.
US ordination class of 2010: 31% foreign-born; 10% are converts
Time machine, slightly different circumstances, alternate reality ... whatever
Mark Shea gets out a big told you so
regarding the apparent fact that Obama has authorized assassination of U.S. citizen.
Everyone without exception should be disturbed.
In an alternate reality I might get to find out how this would have been spun if Bush were president by both the left and the right. Would I hear an apologia from Rush, Hannity and the like? You know the left would hammer Bush for it.
The silence is disturbing.
The religious will inherit the earth
According to a new book whose author was interviewed by Mercatornet.
One thing that stands out to me is the following regarding the theory that Mulsims will eventually take over Europe ...
The short answer is that I don’t foresee a Muslim-majority Europe in this century or in the next. Why? Mainly because Muslim birthrates are plunging both in Europe and the Muslim world. Already, Iran, Tunisia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and several other Muslim countries have replacement-level fertility or below. In the UK, Bangladeshi and Pakistani fertility has halved in a generation and is now under 3 children per woman. This means their long-term growth will begin to tail off. The other part of the equation is the rise of non-Muslim immigrant groups (African and West Indian Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and other Eastern faiths) who are also increasing and therefore making Europe more plural and, in the process, rendering it harder for Muslims to increase their share of the population.
That said, Muslim membership retention and in-group marriage is exceptionally high (over 90 per cent) and they are a much younger population than the host society. So they are on course for steady growth. My colleagues and I expect their fertility to fall to host levels by 2030, but they will still make up 5-15 per cent of most West European countries by 2050 and 10-25 per cent by 2100. This is a major change from the 2-6 per cent levels of today.
One only needs to look at the trends for fertility rates in the Middle East. It has taken 20-40 years for them to do what it took the rest of the west nearly 150 years to accomplish.
Time to dust this old thing off and see what happens ....
February 1895 Gulf Coast Snowstorm
Since it has snowed in Baton Rouge twice in the last two years I decided to look into the 1895 event that stands alone in Baton Rouge snow lore. Around here snow is always a magical event that turns even the biggest curmudgeon into a little child. On February 14-15, 1895 Baton Rouge received 12.5 inches of snow. That is like fairly tale stuff to someone who grew up here. This amount exceeds the next highest measured snowfall in Baton Rouge by NINE inches. During this same storm other places in south Louisiana received as much as two feet of snow. This event extended from Brownsville TX (5-6 in) all the way to Jacksonville FL. The Galveston Daily news summarized the events for their area:
There had been some hint of an unusual weather pattern developing the week before as an extremely frigid cold wave sent the mercury in Galveston plummeting to 15 degrees on February 7. The high temperature that chilly day was only 25 degrees, matching the record for the all-time coldest maximum temperature ever observed on Galveston Island.
In the next few days, temperatures gradually warmed up to near normal levels, before another strong cold front raced into the area on February 13, 1895. The new push of cold air kept temperatures below freezing all day on the 14th. In contrast to the previous blast of cold air, however, dark clouds began drifting over the area from the west and southwest as the day wore on.
Late on the 14th into early morning of February 15, huge flakes of snow began to fall so rapidly that that visibility was reduced at times to near zero and a thick blanket of snow began coating surfaces across all of southeast Texas.
By the time the snow moved out later that day, 15.4 inches of snow covered Galveston and an amazing 20 inches of snow choked Houston and Orange. As the storm moved east the snow spread across Louisiana to New Orleans and eventually to Mobile. Even more remarkable were reports of snow depths of 30 inches in southwest Louisiana near Lake Charles. (source)
Here is a listing of snowfall amounts in Texas that I was able to glean from a monthly weather report for February 1895 in the United States (source)
. My assumption is that there was only one significant snow event during that time frame as the numbers for these deep southern towns match the reports I have seen elsewhere. The reports are truly astonishing:
San Antonio TX -- 4.2 in
San Marcos TX (just south of Austin) -- 6 in
Stafford TX -- near Sugarland, Houston -- 20 in
Victoria TX -- 12 in
Brazoria TX - 18 in
Columbia Tx (I presume near Houston) - 20 in
Corpus Christi TX - 4.3 in
Cuero TX - 14 in
Galveston - 15.4 in
Houston - 20 in
Orange - 20 in
Still none of this holds a candle to the mind boggling 30 inches of snow that reportedly fell in Beaumont TX during the storm. (source)
-- Some accounts had similar amounts falling near Lake Charles.
Here is a listing of snowfall amounts in Mississippi according to the same journal
Biloxi MS - 6.2 in
Bay St. Louis - 5.5 in
Moss Point MS - 21 in (on the Mississippi gulf coast)
Woodville MS - 5.5 in
Hattiesburg MS - 8.6 in
Leakesville MS - 8.0 in
And Alabama and Florida
Mobile AL - 6 in
Pensacola FL - 3 in
Tallahassee FL - 2 in
Jacksonville FL - trace
It appears that the snow events were not just confined to the 14-15th. During the first cold snap (Feb 7th) it seems that snow fell in St. Landry parish. We can also see that it fell over the course of 3 days in Rayne to set the Louisiana state record. From the Teche Today paper
•(Feb. 7) This item from the St. Landry town of Sunset, dated February 7, appeared in the New Orleans Daily Picayune on February 8:
“At 7 o’clock last night a very heavy gale from the northwest struck this place and by 4 o’clock this morning a blizzard came upon us in full force and by 9 o’clock the thermometer registered 17 degrees. There has not been the least cessation in the occurrences of the wind and everything is frozen tight all day with prospects of a very severe night.”
•(Feb. 13) Fourteen inches of snow fell at Lafayette.
•(Feb. 13-15) Twenty-four inches fell at Rayne, still a state record for Louisiana.
The Lafayette weather form for February 1895 carries this note: “Snow began falling on the night of the 13th –stopped before daylight – began again about 6:30 a.m. on the 14th and kept up until about 10 a.m. on the 15th, about 14 inches of snow fall.”
Lake Charles resident F. V. Gallaugher recalled in a memoir: “The St. Valentine’s Day snow of 1895 lasted for three days and two nights. I was 15 and the snow was up to my knees.”(source)
The most interesting thing about this event is that places closer to the coast seemed to get the most snow. With recent events higher snowfall totals were further north as you would expect. That it happened the other way around speaks volumes of the penetration of the cold air for this event.
Here is an image of snowfall totals for the month of February 1895 in Louisiana. The snowfall for the month is on the far right. All of the south Louisiana totals happened during this event:
Snow in Houston
Snow in Galveston
Snow in New Orleans
The journal also produced a map of snowfall for the United States that month.
Environmentalists starting to raise the red flag on impact of chemical contraceptives?
A couple of years ago I made a post called Contracepting the environment – Birth-control poisoning of streams leave U.S. environmentalists mum
to which I received the following comment:
I'm a student studying Environmental Civil Engineering (most of our courses deal with water treatment and contamination issues), and I thought you might be heartened to know that this problem been brought up by professors and discussed in class several times. . . so not everyone with an environmental focus is as blind to the obvious as one might think.
Good news indeed!
On comments that are wildly off topic and link to your website
I will delete them. If you cannot demonstrate beyond some sort of reasonable doubt that you are a human being, then I will assume you are a robot:
Don't take it personally. If it's really important you can post it again with a "hey man, why did you delete my post" ... that is sufficient to suggest human to me.
Correspondence from senators and representatives
Is it just me or does all correspondence from our reps look something like this ...
Dear [my name]
Thank you for taking the time to contact my office.
[standard bi-partisan first paragraph: -- Replace with actual sentences. -- Blather about the democratic process and how every voice is important. Presume underlings failed civics in high school]
[standard bi-partisan second paragraph: Check out all the AWESOME laws I helped get passed. Check out how awesome I am. Seriously, did I mention how awesome I am?]
[standard Republican third paragraph. Delete if you are a Democrat. Statements about how awesome it is to be right + boilerplate talking points. Presume underling agrees with you -- remind people of how things used to be and mention any of the following: morals, life, small government]
[standard Democrat third paragraph. Delete if you are a Republican. Statements about how awesome it is to be in the know + link to web site to "get the facts" -- Underlings are not intelligent enough to understand your position. Remind people of their dreams and aspirations. Mention any of the following: poor, struggling middle class, corporate interests]
** note, it is better if your response actually deals with the topic that you were mailed about but it is not necessary. When in doubt, today's current topic is: HEALTH CARE
[standard bi-partisan we know what is best for you and we will fight for -- enter information about where you used to live before you came to D.C. --]
[name of senator or representatives]
I wanted to take a quick moment to apologize to my few readers. I will resume blogging sooner or later. My life is going through a difficult transition right now. I would prefer not to reveal all that is going on except that it is challenging me in ways I would have never expected.
Its not as bad as what we went through in March but it is scary still.
Please keep me in your prayers.
Cabon emissions by country .... all those who don't emit should contracept?
So next time someone feeds you a line about how reducing population in some non-industrialized nation is going to reduce carbon emissions dramatically ask them why it hasn't helped in countries where contraceptives are readily available. Mark Shea
Mercatornet has a good read on divorce
The new divorce divide
It seems that the wealthy and more educated are suffering less from divorce, whereas the numbers in poorer circles are getting worse. Here are a couple of choice quotes. Read the whole thing though ..
The bottom line here is that the West’s current preoccupation with personal happiness often conflicts with the value of marital permanency.
There is no going back to the divorce laws of yesteryear. No-fault divorce will not be repealed. But I think we can make divorce law more just by factoring in marital conduct into decisions about custody, property division, and alimony on a more consistent basis. What is crazy about our current system is that one spouse can, for instance, commit adultery and then walk away with primary custody of the children and a substantial share of the marital property. This is patently unjust. Some lawmakers, jurists, and family lawyers are beginning to think about ways to make the divorce process more just. If they succeed, this would also have the indirect effect of reducing divorce because people would be less likely to divorce in an opportunistic fashion if they know they will pay a serious price when it comes to child custody or the division of marital property.
Carl Heinrich Bloch - Sermon on the Mount
The third Luminous mystery
Can Catholics be united on health care in the face of abortion funding?
I am curious to see if the more conservative members of St. Blogs will still overwhelmingly reject just about any plan even if it doesn't include abortion funding citing the free market as the true means of handling this properly.
I am also curious to see if the more liberal members of St. Blogs will argue that we have to pass something even in the face of the "divisive" inclusion of abortion funding arguing that private insurers do it anyway thus we aren't REALLY changing the abortion landscape at all. We have an opportunity here to be united!
Patrick Madrid: Is waterboarding a sin?
Patrick Madrid on torture
"It seems like a pretty clear cut kind of a open and shut type thing"
... This is also my gut reaction to it and where I struggle with talking to other Catholics. Query your non-Catholic friends who support waterboarding and ask if they think its torture. They don't seem to have the moral ambiguity on the matter that many Catholics do. They are at least willing to call a spade a spade.
If the Church didn't teach that torture was intrinsically evil then those who are confused about what torture is would all of the sudden find great clarity on its definition just like their pro-torture non-Catholic peers (especially regarding waterboarding).
It seems to me that only Catholics seem to be inflicted with a case of "whatistorturitis".
Marten de Vos - The Marriage at Cana
The second Luminous mystery
The fabulous wealth of the Vatican
Shortly after converting to Catholicism I was told be a friend that she could never convert to Catholicism because she couldn't reconcile its fabulous wealth with its mission to serve the poor.
It is not an objection that really gave me pause but it does for some people.
First off, the use of extravagant items in worship is not something that came about with Christ establishing the Church, nor did it come about during the time of Constantine. It can be documented in the Old Testament, requested by God himself.
Exodus 25:3-8 These are the contributions you shall accept from them: gold, silver and bronze; violet, purple and scarlet yarn; fine linen and goat hair; rams' skins dyed red, and tahash skins; acacia wood; oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; onyx stones and other gems for mounting on the ephod and the breastpiece. "They shall make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell in their midst." (read Exodus 25-31)
Furthermore, there is a reason for the use of this in worship. It aids the believer
* in understanding and in bridging the gap
** between him and God. IF art serves its purpose in this way then it helps to motivate people to do their part to uphold gospel values and take care of the poor. Second, it is a perfect refuge for someone, regardless of the troubles of their life to head into a church and experience an earthly interpretation of our future heavenly home. The riches of the Church are there for ALL to enjoy. The Church has carried down to this time priceless documents, works of art and music that would have been lost to the sands of time otherwise. To preserve classic works and history is a good (and expensive) thing to do. But what if the Church did sell all of its holdings and give it to the poor?
A similar objection was raised in Sacred Scripture in the following account
Mark 14:2-7 When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. "Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days' wages and the money given to the poor." They were infuriated with her. Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.
I think this makes the point well, but lets go ahead and follow the idea of selling the riches of the Church. First off, the Church would have to be ABLE to sell off its holdings. Priceless works of art do not have an unlimited market. Second, the faithful would be putting their trust that those who receive them would care enough to preserve them over time as carefully as the Church has. Also, many of the holdings of the Church, especially in cities that have experienced rapid decline in certain areas leave the church with a lot of property that is more of a burden than a boon to its pocketbook. Finally, after selling these priceless works of art, the Church would likely be able to feed the poor for a short period of time. At that point the poor would still be with us, just as Christ stated in Mark. The riches of the Church, from which we all benefit, would be gone -- never to serve their purpose again as the Church intends.
Another common gripe in the thread of Church wealth lies in the charge that the Vatican has enormous amounts of wealth stashed away under the Vatican that no nation on earth could compete with. This is a myth all the way down to the hidden stashes of gold. Consider the following about the operating budget of the Vatican:
To put it bluntly, the Vatican is not rich. It has an annual operating budget of $260 million, which would not place it on any Top 500 list of major social institutions. To draw a comparison in the non-profit sector, Harvard University has an annual operating budget of a little over $1.3 billion, which means it could run the equivalent of five Vaticans every year and still have pocket change left over. The Holy See’s budget would qualify it as a mid-sized American Catholic college. It’s bigger than Loyola-Marymount in Los Angeles (annual budget of $150 million) or Saint Louis University ($174 million), but substantially less than the University of Notre Dame ($500 million). The total patrimony of the Holy See, meaning its property holdings (including some 30 buildings and 1,700 apartments in Rome), its investments, its stock portfolios and capital funds, and whatever it has storied up in a piggy bank for a rainy day, comes to roughly $770 million. This is substantial, but once again one has to apply a sense of scale. What the Holy See calls “patrimony” is roughly what American universities mean by an “endowment” – in other words, funds and other assets designed to support the institution if operating funds fall short. The University of Notre Dame has an endowment of $3.5 billion, meaning a total 4.5 times as great as the Vatican’s. But what of the some 18,000 artistic treasures in the Holy See, such as the Pietà, that don’t show up on these ledgers? From the Holy See’s point of view, these artworks are part of the artistic heritage of the world, and may never be sold or borrowed against. Michelangeo’s famous Pieta statue, the Sistine Chapel, or Raphael’s famous frescoes in the Apostolic Palace are thus listed at a value of 1 Euro each. In fact, those treasures amount to a net drain on the Holy See’s budget, because millions of Euros have to be allocated every year for maintenance and restoration. The moral of the story is that the image of the Vatican as a playground for “masters of the universe” just isn’t reality. This is, for the most part, not an island of exaggerated privilege, but a normal bureaucratic environment in which the church’s civil servants are ordinary men and women trying to do their jobs as best they can. (source)
In recent years the Vatican has even run a deficit. It also is important to note that many other dioceses in the world are cash poor and struggling to make ends meet to service the needs of its missions, hospitals and helping provide the sacraments to the faithful. If the Church were fabulously rich, it would not need to ask for contributions each week nor would it require planned giving in order to ensure ends meet.
So hopefully you can see that asking that the Church sell all of its belongings to help the poor would be similar to asking the United States government to liquidate the assets of Washington DC including the Smithsonian Institute in order to assist the poor. I don't see anyone arguing that during these trying times of budget deficits and economic uncertainly. People do not suggest that because it stands to reason, just as it does for the Church, that the effort would be a net loss for all of us.
See also Vatican Riches
* From an early post I made on this blog -- The awe-inspiring works of art within the halls of the great cathedrals inspire and the remind us that there is something greater than us. Pope John Paul II in his Letter to Artists mentions that some of the earliest forms of art were depictions of passages from Sacred Scripture and that "The 'beautiful' was thus wedded to the 'true', so that through art too souls might be lifted up from the world of the senses to the eternal."
** From a post I made about modern architecture -- I want the art to complete that leap for me. It is far less work on my part and I start the contemplative journey far closer to the goal than if I have to make the effort to "see" what is implied rather than what is.
Diego Velazquez - Coronation of the Virgin Mary
The fifth Glorious mystery
On the Duggar's and their 19th child
I read some scathing comments about the Duggar's today that were WAY out of line. May God bless them for enduring the type of vitriol I read about them.
Every time I tell someone how many kids I have I get a list of excuses as to why they are not having any more. I presume your reasons are justified before you speak a word ... Seriously I do (and all my readers should as well) ... That said, if it bothers you enough to tell me, then maybe that is something you should take up with God.
Families with lots of kids are a visible voice to the truth about our purpose.
Families with lots of kids undermine weak excuses for not having more children by demonstrating, often on meager means, that it is possible.
There is no doubt that the future belongs to those who have children -- especially those who have them in great numbers.
The small family model is unsustainable as a value. It will eventually be replaced by those with values that give precedence to having children.
links to one
posts by Sherry Weddell on the falling numbers coming out of RCIA classes.
She suggests that part of the problem
might have to do with the turn of the generational tide and the coming into their own of the Millennial generation.
Of course when I entered into the Church there were not piles of people from my generation there (Gen X). My generation and the one that follows is largely absent from Church. That said, some of the younger end of the Millenials are making up a good percentage of the increase in vocations we are seeing around here (and presumably in other dioceses).
What we may start losing in numbers we may gain back in fidelity to the Church.
Jen over at Conversion Diary has a knack for asking really great questions to bloggers out there. She asks What is your defining post?
This was tough for me ... My blog usually has four types of posts.
1. Me complaining
2. Me trying to capture those touching stories about my family
3. Conversion story / apologetics
4. An occasional funny oddity
I chose Let the little children come to me
.. while it might not define the majority of the content in my blog, it defines more what I wish my blog were like. My second place choice would have been Faith like a child
or Halloween - the conspiracy
to Happy Catholic
for reminding me ...
Fundamentals of Dogma, Harry Potter style
Nicolas Poussin - The Assumption of the Virgin
The fourth Glorious mystery
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The third Glorious mystery