Miscellaneous Meanderings on the signs of the times (Vol. 8, No. 95)
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
December 1, 2017
~A Bible verse a day keeps the Devil away.
~These post-terror statements by various church and government authorities are really getting tiresome…New York’s Cardinal-Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s response to the terror attack that killed 8 and wounded 12 in NYC on October 31, 2017 (see https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/cardinal-dolan-calls-new-yorkers-to-unite-in-faith-and-love-after-attack-87660) speaks of the usual “senseless violence” (I’m sure the terrorist didn’t think it senseless) and of “put[ting] our differences aside,” as if the terrorist were a typical partisan political actor.
~More dumb statements from Catholic bishops – this time a tweet after the Texas church shooting that killed 27 on November 5, 2017 (see https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/11/05/texas-bishop-wake-church-shooting-no-war-no-violence-no-guns): “No war, no violence, no guns.” Not sure what war has to do with this incident. And without a good guy with a gun, the shooter would not have been stopped. Moreover, “violence” is a neutral term: it can be either good or bad depending on the uprightness of the end and intention. Finally, where is the moral agency in this tweet? How about this as a future tweet? “No criminals, no crazies, no crap”?
~For his many critical and insightful columns on Islam, such as this one (see http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/islam-step-backwards-humanity), William Kilpatrick should win a Pulitzer, but won’t. He’s much too sane and makes way too much sense.
~Pope Francis says it is wrong not only to threaten to use nuclear weapons, but also to possess them for deterrence (see https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/11/13/nuclear-disarmament-now-moral-imperative-pope-francis-rejects). No word on whether North Korea (or Iran or Pakistan or China) agrees.
~Francis is still affirming the “primacy of conscience” when it comes to sexual ethics (see https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/11/11/pope-francis-reaffirms-primacy-conscience-amid-criticism-amoris-laetitia). Now I thought that Christian morality affirmed the “primacy of Christ,” even in the area of sex.
~Speaking of Francis, this piece (see http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/morality-amoris-laetitia-not-thomistic) argues that Amoris’ moral theology is not Thomistic, as the pope claims. I agree with the author of the article on this point.
~The former diplomat Charles Hill of Yale University has written a fine critique of the Ken Burn’s Vietnam documentary (see https://www.hoover.org/research/vietnam-war ). Published on November 2, 2017, it’s one of a number that have appeared over the last month or so critical of the film. It’s especially valuable for its author’s personal experience living in Vietnam in the early 1970s as a foreign services officer.
~“Don’t write off the next big thing too soon” (see https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/dont-write-off-the-next-big-thing-too-soon-rbf2q9sck). Why? Well, Matt Ridley argues: “From steam engines to computers, the law of new technology is that excessive hype is followed by excessive skepticism.” But then there’s a come-back so to speak, when the technology finally arrives and makes significant changes. He makes a point worth keeping in mind as AI and driverless cars continue to make the news recently.
~Well, of course social media is “tearing us apart” (see https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/times2/social-media-is-tearing-societyapart-sj7km2ds7). Jaron Lanier is the Silicon Valley guru making this claim. For me, this claim is uncontroversial. I have been saying it for a longtime now. We know so much about each other now, that we can’t stand each other anymore.
~Two articles on technology and war (see https://www.hoover.org/research/technology-and-future-war and http://www.nationalreview.com/article/453682/military-technology-revolution-cyber-robots-space) are fascinating for what they reveal about warfare in the future. We must be prepared.
~The BBC News reports that a man dressed as Jesus attacked a ‘Jedi Knight’ in Dundee (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/uk-scotland-tayside-central-41858779). I guess we now know that Jesus is not a Star Wars fan.
~Washington D.C.’s Cardinal-Archbishop, Donald Wuerl, says Catholics must respond to racism (see https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/cardinal-wuerl-we-must-address-the-challenge-of-racism-70258). I agree, of course. But it must be done right. Not in the way that the world has been responding to the issue in recent years. For one thing, I think that we must emphasize more of what we have in common (e.g., our human nature and the goods that comprise it) and emphasize less what we don’t have in common (e.g., a particular cultural or racial background). Once we can agree that we are much more similar than different then we can celebrate our particular cultural or racial gifts without fear that they will divide us.
~Whenever I see pictures of criminals on TV – usually after they’ve escaped from prison – I can’t help but think, from the looks of their pictures, that these criminals take photos of themselves looking tough knowing that someday they’ll be arrested and law enforcement and the media, needing a picture, will have to show the one of them looking like a “bad ass.”
~The left always accuses the right of “that’s not reality,” especially when it comes to sex. But their views on sex are the true denials of reality – the denial of (fallen) human nature – as we are seeing all too clearly these last two months with the mass revelations of sexual harassment in entertainment, politics, and the media (And I say this not as an excuse in any way for sexual immorality).
~Secular liberals live in a world of what they’d like “things to be” rather than a world of “things as they are.” It’s nice to dream, but those dreams can quickly become nightmares.
~When I heard the Gospel reading for Sunday, November 12, 2017 – the “Parable of the 10 Virgins” – I thought that if Jesus were giving this parable today, instead of speaking of the oil for their lamps, he’d speak of the chargers for their cell phones.
~With social media, that angry motorist who flipped you off while you were praying in front of the abortion clinic years ago can now flip you off 24/7.
~There’s something about the November death of Charles Manson at age 83 (see https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/charles-manson-dies-at-83-wild-eyed-leader-of-a-murderous-crew/ar-BBFjTsQ?li=BBnb7Kz) that brings the legacy of the 1960s to (hopefully) a final (and fitting) end. A decade that began in secular optimism (Kennedy, material prosperity, etc.) ended in murderous madness with the August 1969 killings that Manson directed his cult “family” to carry out. Often associated with the spirit of “peace and love,” the 60s had a dark side, or shall we say a darker side, since even its’ “make love, not war” was more often “avoid war and have free sex.”
~Things are so screwed up (aren’t they always?) and we’re so powerless to change them (aren’t we always?), that if God didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him.
~At times, I find myself looking at my children or my granddaughter and saying to myself: “If they never existed, God would have to create them. And once they exist, we cannot imagine our lives without them.”
~With the claims of sexual harassment being brought forward on a daily basis, I and I’m sure many others, find themselves playing a game of “Whose next?” It’s both a shameful and yet hopeful time for our culture.
~More words I’m starting to really dislike: the trendy buzzword “voices.” As in the #MeToo, e.g.: “We hear your voices.” Why not “perspectives” or “concerns”? “We hear the perspectives of women on sexual harassment.”
~We keep hearing how “Diversity is what makes America great” (e.g., see https://www.facebook.com/NowThisPolitics/videos/1803842829647199/). I couldn’t disagree more. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it isn’t when you examine it closely. And this has nothing to do with racism or any other -ism. Most other countries today, and even throughout history, have found diversity a problem – a weakness, not a strength – even when they pay “lip service” to it. How do you unite people of different cultures, languages, religions, customs, etc., so that their obvious differences – which often can lead to disagreements – don’t end up leading to a civil war? To say it in a positive fashion: How do you create the kind of unity that best serves all the people in your society and respects their particular traditions and backgrounds?
~Newsmen and newswomen shouldn’t be the news’ story. Cutting their fat salaries might be a good start to that goal.
~Veteran ABC News’ correspondent Steve Osunsami, reported (see “Searching for missing high school student in Florida,” http://abcnews.go.com/Video/, Nov. 29, 2017) that a 17 year-old girl, a high school senior, had run off with a former boys’ soccer coach at her school: “He’s a 27 year-old grown man…,” said Osunsami. Aren’t most 27 year-old males “grown men”?
~In early October, news came of an upcoming Pontifical Academy for Life conference scheduled for October 5—7, 2017 (see https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-conference-tackles-new-technology-and-medicine-66204). According to the article, Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, chancellor of the academy, said discussion will also bring in elements of Pope Francis’ chapter on technology in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si’, raising questions such as: “Is the spread of technology creating more justice and reducing certain inequalities? Or are inequalities growing?” I think that this may present some problems on account of the fact that Francis’ views on technology are largely rather negative. As well, these questions, though important, are not the most crucial ones to ask. Also, as the article reports, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the academy, said there is an urgent need to reflect on life “not as if it were an abstract idea, but in the concrete reality of people of all ages, in the different conditions in which they live, so that human life rediscovers its meaning, its vocation, and also its responsibility in the entire context of the planet.” But who speaks of life as if it were simply an “abstract idea”? Most people today often refuse to engage in philosophical or theological debates about human life and are unaware of the solid arguments in support of human dignity across the life span. Finally, also troubling were Paglia’s concluding comments, as reported in the CNA story: So while beginning of life issues such as abortion or end of life issues such as euthanasia are crucial modern talking points, they aren’t the full picture, [Paglia] said, explaining that the academy seeks to address “defending life in all its conditions,” including childhood, adolescence, and old age, as well as when it comes to other topics such as the death penalty. First, I would say that those beginning of life issues are more than “modern talking points” – especially for the Church. Second, putting these other important issues, such as the death penalty, on the agenda – as called for by the academy’s new statues – will I’m afraid, water down the importance of the traditional “life issues.”
~November has always been one of my most favorite months of the year. One reason is it is in the Fall, probably my favorite season of the year. On a personal level, I celebrate my birthday (2nd). As a Church, we celebrate liturgically All Saints’ Day (1st) and All Souls’ Day (2nd) and either begin or are on the cusp of the Advent Season. As a nation, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day.
~Here’s to a Happy and Blessed December!