Miscellaneous Meanderings on the signs of the times (Vol. 8, No. 91)
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
August 1, 2017
~Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may very well be the World’s Most Annoying Man.
~Here’s one slogan you’ll probably never hear in a Catholic evangelization program: “Get your ass to Mass.” Although, it does have a nice ring to it.
~What is the average age of an empire? Columnist Georgie Anne Geyer says 250 years (see http://www.times-standard.com/opinion/20170627/the-average-age-of-an-empire-a-mere-250-years). Well, at 241 years, ours is fast-approaching the expiration date.
~George Will writes about the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia (see http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/will070217.php3). In the last paragraph of his column, he mentions “a treasure of photographs displayed in the museum. They are of people who were born before the Revolution and lived to sit in front of cameras. An unquenchable dignity radiates from the visage of nattily dressed Caesar, who was born in 1737, and was owned as a slave by four generations of a New York family until his death in 1852, shortly before a new birth of freedom in our complicated country.”
(For the photograph, see http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-portrait-of-caesar-the-last-black-slave-in-new-york-state-made-circa-104002219.html). One cannot look at this photo and not wish one could go back in time just for a moment to tell Caesar that freedom, however imperfect, would be soon in coming.
~I have always hated dumb lyrics. How about Jefferson Starship’s 1985 “We Built This City”? “We built this city, we built this city on rock an roll / Built this city, we built this city on rock an roll.” Well no, you didn’t. Really, I don’t think you had anything to do with building the city.
~Our secular culture loves, indeed craves labels, slogans, identity markers, etc. And with our significantly decreasing attention span, these labels have to be pithy… and catchy! For example, the late founder of Courage, Fr. John Harvey spoke of “persons with homosexual desires” – which could be rendered “PHD” for short! Of course, that would never catch on! As I see it, the “victim-status” communities’ desire deeply to appropriate words that at one time or another were slurs against them (and still are if we, who are not members of the community, use them). For example, take the term “fag.” Archie Bunker used it all the time on All In the Family in the 1970s and got laughs! The objects of those derogatory terms then turn them around and upside down and voila! They become terms that they proudly identify with and use as weapons to get back at their real or perceived oppressors. Rapper Jay Z told Oprah in a September 2009 interview how he (and other rappers) “took the power out of” the N-word (see http://www.oprah.com/own-oprahshow/jay-z-on-the-n-word-video) and now he uses it frequently in his songs! It’s now a term of “empowerment”! Oprah disagreed. I did too and still do.
~With respect to technology and progress, one often feels like much of our technology is created just to clean up the messes created by some other previous form of technology.
~President Donald Trump makes a comment to France’s First Lady about how she is in “such good shape,” and the media goes crazy (see http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-usa-trump-brigitte-macron-idUSKBN19Y2XT). That’s not how you speak to a woman, screams the Internet! So much for how the French and Europeans in general, are supposed to be much more open when it comes to sex, and we Americans are so hung-up and puritan in our attitudes. Like when Bill Clinton was having his fun with a young intern in the Oval Office and Europeans were wondering out-loud, “What’s the big deal?”
~You’ve heard of crack cocaine; well, after reading this story (see https://m.townhall.com/columnists/brentbozell/2017/07/07/fx-show-spreads-debunked-cia-drug-smear-n2351547), I’ve coined a new term: “crap cocaine.”
~When, 50 years ago, the Land O’ Lakes statement argued that “…the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself” (quoted in Fr. George W. Rutler, http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/idea-university-50-years-land-olakes-statement), I guess they forgot to mention how much they would let accrediting agencies have authority over them, not to mention government entities (For the full statement, see: http://archives.nd.edu/episodes/visitors/lol/idea.htm).
~I’m old enough to remember a time when ratings were king. Now, at least for videos, it’s all about going “viral.”
~In the digital age, the expression “It was a real page turner” no longer has the same relevance. “It was a real screen swiper”?
~Expectations come in many forms. For example, there are the kind we expect of others and the kind that we expect of ourselves. Funny how the ones we expect of others are often harsher than the ones we expect of ourselves.
~Sinners today are some of the most self-righteous people on the planet.
~Prayers of the faithful you won’t hear at Mass: “Let us pray for a decrease in welfare dependency.”
~You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t realize what you did was a mistake.
~At his July parole hearing, O.J. Simpson said, “I’m sorry it happened, I’m sorry…” (See Ken Ritter, “Simpson could walk free from prison in Oct.,” The Detroit News, July 21, 2017, 15A). Not “I’m sorry for what I did.” No, he’s sorry “it” happened. What better way to distance yourself from moral responsibility for a crime. As we know, this is very common today.
~Some things are so bad that you can’t even say of them “It’s so bad it’s good.”
~Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s statement on the 50th anniversary of the riot in Detroit (July 23—28, 1967), “Remembering the 1967 Civil Disturbance in the City of Detroit” (see http://www.aod.org/our-archdiocese/newsroom/news-releases/2017/july/remembering-the-1967-civil-disturbance-in-the-city-of-detroit/), is brief but thoughtful. The emphasis is on Christ, as it should be for a churchman. I thought it wise of him to use the term “civil disturbance,” rather than the term “riot,” favored by conservatives or the term “rebellion,” favored by liberals. It enables him to get a hearing for his message as an authentic man of reconciliation rather than as simply another political actor.
~George Weigel’s recent column in First Things
(see https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/07/awkward-or-wise), speaks of what he calls the “Pinckaers Revolution” in moral theology, and how many churchmen past and present have missed it. This has consequences for the New Evangelization: “The Church of the New Evangelization is saying, ‘Here’s what we think makes for the happiness you seek. Here are the virtues that make for that happiness, according to millennia of experience. Let’s talk about it.’ That’s true pastoral accompaniment.” I couldn’t agree more.
~In a fascinating science story about preventing cancer metastasis (see http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/jun/20/researchers-say-theyve-unlocked-key-to-cancer-meta/), we read of a young female scientist at John Hopkins University who has shown that cancer doesn’t metastasize when tumors get to big, but when they get too dense. So, it’s not size, but density that matters. But it was her analogy that fascinated me: “If you look at the human population, once we become too dense in an area, we move out to the suburbs or wherever, and we decide to set up shop there,” [Hasini] Jayatilaka said. “I think the cancer cells are doing the same thing.” Since some “90 percent of cancer deaths are caused when cancer metastasizes,” as the article notes, solving this problem could be a significant path to reducing cancer deaths.
~Will the robots of the near future steal human jobs? (See http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/jun/20/researchers-say-theyve-unlocked-key-to-cancer-meta/). Well, as with most things having to do with automation, the answer is complicated. Some heavy loss, some gain, and some actual growth even in areas with more automation (see also Niall Ferguson, “From fubotics to robotics,” https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2017/07/31/from-fubatics-robotics/LNeMSrUwimNThcwLVPlq1J/story.html). The future is too unpredictable to predict.
~There’s some real confusion from the pastor of Blessed Trinity’s Catholic Church in Cleveland, OH. In the recent parish bulletin, From Fr. Doug’s Desk, we get a comparison of Popes St. John Paul II and Francis in “The Church’s Future in an Age of Conservatism” (see https://content.parishesonline.com/bulletins/14/0244/20170709B.pdf). In short, and astonishingly, Fr. Doug not-so-subtly-compares JPII to President Donald Trump (JPII wanted to “Make the Catholic Church Great Again”). While JPII was all about the Church as a club, with its dues and rules and privileges, Francis, on the other hand, sees Catholicism’s call to follow Jesus “as an invitation that puts us on a lifelong faith journey.” JPII was also closed-minded on theological dialogue, scientific theory, and equal rights for women. Whew. It’s been all-downhill, according to Fr. Doug, since the election of that pontiff and his like-minded followers. I feel sorry for his parishioners.
~The following July 25, 2017 headline, “Western Men Could Struggle to Become Fathers as Sperm Count Halves in 40 Years” (see http://www.newsweek.com/sperm-quality-sperm-count-641662), made me immediately think of the late P.D. James’ novel, The Children of Men, later made into a movie of the same name in 2006. Read the novel, if you haven’t, to find out why I thought of her 1992 book. You’re in for a good read. But pray real-life doesn’t imitate fiction.
~Like my mother, I have always liked the music of Johnny Mathis. Recently, however, the now-81-year-old spoke of “progress” on issues of race and gay rights in a fascinating interview with Billboard (see http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/magazine-feature/7617724/johnny-mathis-anniversary-interview) in December last year. Mathis, who “came out” as gay in the early 1980s, said: “Things take time. People are stubborn about what they perceive to be the right thing or the wrong thing, and it takes a long time to filter this human condition. There’s a waiting period until people catch up. But if you have patience — which it takes when someone thinks differently from you — everybody always catches up.” I appreciate JM’s magnanimous attitude. But he seems to reduce morality and moral principles to a socio-cultural phenomenon, rather than something that transcends what is merely a matter of tastes, manners, or prejudices. And how, pray tell, do we determine what constitutes progress without a foundation in natural law? Well, we don’t.
~It’s evident that most Catholics seem unaware that there are moral problems with the use of technology.
~Sin is horrible not only for what it does to other persons and ourselves, and simply for what evil it is in itself – an offense against God and neighbor, either venial or mortal – but for the incredible time it wastes. Instead of sinning, one could be doing something good.
~The zeitgeist is the “spirit of the age,” whereas the weltanschauung is our way of looking at that spirit, in a word it is a “worldview.” Since Jesuit Bernard Lonergan’s famous distinction in the mid-1960s between the “historically-minded” worldview and the “classicist” worldview, underlying our debates over particular issues in the Catholic Church – especially those pertaining to morality – have been arguments about which “worldview” should be the worldview. Those who favor historical-consciousness, speak of their openness to change and an evolutionary world as opposed to the alleged dogmatic and static and unchanging worldview of the classical thinkers. The former are all about experience, the empirical, and the scientific method while the latter are a-historical, deductive in method, and so on. It’s a complicated subject. But you can see where this is going, right? For one thing, this is where we get people saying ridiculous things like, “Don’t be on the wrong side of history.” Vatican Council II, however, took notice as well of the rapid pace of change in the modern world (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html, nos. 4—9), but the Council Fathers also noted that some things don’t change because they have their “ultimate foundation” in the person of Jesus Christ, “Who is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” (GS, no. 10; cf. Heb 13:8).
~“I Don’t Accommodate Uncontrolled Men” (See what see won’t accommodate here: https://weareezer.com/2017/06/26/i-dont-accommodate-uncontrolled-men/). Well, good for you. And I don’t accommodate unreasonable women.
~11-month-old Charlie Gard, the child at the center of an international medical-legal case (see http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/euthanasia-mindset-looms-behind-disabled-babys-legal-fight-ethicist-warns-75818/), had his life-support withdrawn in a London hospice at the end of July (see https://www.bioedge.org/bioethics/charlie-gard-dies-in-london-hospice/12364). He had been suffering from an extremely rare genetic disease. One will always wonder if this sick little one could have benefited from the experimental treatment – denied several times by the court system – if it could have been provided earlier. There is also a lesson here, of course, on the dangers of a government-provided health care system. Charles Krauthammer offers (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-to-do-for-little-charlie-gard/2017/07/20/6e7916d2-6d65-11e7-96ab-5f38140b38cc_story.html) what I believe to be a sound position on the case and one that I tend to agree with, given the available facts. The doctors are medically right, but in the end the parents are the ones who must decide (This parental right is not absolute in every case, e.g., when the parents are abusive or neglectful). That does not mean, I would add, that the reasoning of the courts or doctors was morally right. Their quality-of-life arguments are the grease on the euthanasia machines.
~The Trump White House better get its house in order or the conservative agenda will be in the outhouse.
~What happened to July?