Miscellaneous Meanderings on the signs of the times (Vol. 8, No. 92)
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
September 1, 2017
~I’m old enough to remember a time when you didn’t have to place the word “intentional” before the word “disciple” to know what a true disciple was supposed to be.
~Some Catholic bloggers/apologists have the kind of following that reminds me of the kind that celebrities like Beyoncé have: criticize one of them and be prepared for the equivalent of the “Beyhive” that goes on the attack to defend “Queen Bey.”
~It’s fascinating (and scary too) how technology often distorts our sense of time and space…Just think, to use a trivial example, of when you post something on social media on the east coast, it’s received on the west coast 3 hours earlier than when you originally posted it.
~Gene editing, IVF, and other forms of both licit and illicit research: In the secular media, they all get jumbled together – morally good and morally bad alike. For example, we have this headline, “US Scientists use CRISPR to edit a human embryo’s DNA,” vs. this headline, “Scientists use gene editing to successfully treat leukemia.” These are two vastly different – from a moral standpoint – procedures; the former morally evil, the latter morally good (See also http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/first-human-embryos-edited-in-the-usa-heres-why-its-problematic-26610/).
~What a consequential life the English-American historian and poet Robert Conquest (1917—2015) lived. “Remembering Robert Conquest: A Symposium” is as good a place as any to get to know his life and work, especially his poetry (see http://hopkinsreview.jhu.edu/current-issue/remembering-robert-conquest-a-symposium/). His exposure of Stalin’s millions of crimes, among them his forced starvation in the Ukraine, in his books The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties (1968) and The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (1986), will be among his lasting legacy.
~For this conservative Catholic, the so-called “Alt-Right” is a loony, albeit wicked, fringe movement; so much so a marginal group, that when I first heard the term Alt-Right, I thought it was a computer command of the likes of CTRL-ALT-DELETE.
~OrthoCathLibs is my designation for those Catholics who are theologically orthodox (at least they claim to be), but who are liberal (not classically liberal) on matters of the economy and politics and at times culture.
~Just as we saw during the Cold War (1947—1991), when many of the religious and cultural conflicts had a lid kept on them by communism in the Soviet Union and its satellites (the Eastern bloc counties) – with American conservatives united against a common enemy – and then how those same conflicts rose to the surface after the fall of communism (1989—1991), so too have we seen in the Catholic Church a similar process take place over the last several decades. Under the leadership of Popes St. John Paul II (1978—2005) and Benedict XVI (2005—2013), many of the disagreements in the Church were left to simmer below the surface without leading to outright “civil war” (This was preceded by a period of “re-centering” following the rampant dissent and confusion of the immediate post-Vatican II period [1965—1985]). But now, with the papacy of Francis (and, in the secular world, with the election of Donald Trump and before him Barack Obama – and to a lesser extent George W. Bush – to the presidency), many of these disagreements (some old, some new) have surfaced – or have resurfaced, as they did in the years following the Second Vatican Council (1962—1965), but maybe even more vociferously and troubling than before, being magnified, as they are now, with social media and conservative/orthodox Catholics fighting even among themselves and not simply with liberal/progressive Catholics.
~It often seems that we Catholics – with our long tradition of the harmony between faith and reason – have lost the ability to think like Catholics, i.e., in accord with this harmony.
~Information is to lead to knowledge, which is to lead to truth, which is to lead to wisdom, which is to lead to action, which is to lead to contemplation, which is to lead to worship.
~Information is killing us – both the good kind and the bad, but especially the latter. We’re drowning in it without a means to make sense of it, to put it together in some kind of whole.
~People today don’t quietly go away after they’ve been fired. They give interviews, they write open letters, or even protest. And if they work in government, they walk away with a nice fat [Can I say that?!] paycheck. A life of obscurity it isn’t.
~Most of the people taking down statues are very good at taking things down, but not so good at building things up.
~I hear their removing statues of Confederate generals, but good old Chris Columbus now… Well, receiving my Knights of Columbus Columbia magazine today, I thought, in light of the CC monuments being purged in our nation, the K of C will need to change its name and remove all trace of CC from the councils across the country… Now, isn’t this getting ridiculous?
~When liberals riot they’re “protesters” in the eyes of the media; when conservatives protest, however, they’re “rioters.”
~Will we now call the sports term “color commentator” racist?
~During our annual Sacred Heart Major Seminary faculty retreat this year, our retreat master, Bishop John Quinn (Winona, MN) spoke of making a “connection” with Jesus. It made me think of how we parents need to make deep connections with our children. But often we rely too heavily on our “biological ties” – simply sliding along – rather than making a conscious effort to bond over matters that transcend those blood ties such as the Christian faith, love, and the virtues.
~Notice how even the expression RIP (Rest In Peace) – one used by believers and non-believers alike – presupposes faith. “Rest” implies a place to rest and “Peace” implies a place of happiness.
~I call California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, “Nutty” Waters, for her many crazy statements over the years, the most recent being her associating HUD Secretary Ben Carson with “white nationalists” (see https://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2017/08/21/raging-waters-democratic-congresswoman-lumps-in-ben-carson-with-white-nationalists-n2371126).
~Kurt Andersen describes himself as a “liberal atheist.” His article, “How America Lost Its Mind” (see https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/how-america-lost-its-mind/534231/), in The Atlantic (September 2017), is a fun read on many levels. His criticisms of the loony left’s shenanigans in the 1960s are spot-on. But ultimately his article fails. I knew the gig was up early on when he began equating belief in angels, demons, and God with other superstitions and wacky ideas. When he writes, however, that “America has mutated into Fantasyland”, I can largely agree. I can also agree with him when he argues that since the 60s, “Americans have had a new rule written into their mental operating systems: Do your own thing, find your own reality, it’s all relative.” As he says, we live in a post-truth, post-reality society now. All true, in many ways. But, of course, it’s difficult to argue about or for truth in and to a society that rejects it or has different definitions of it. Reducing religion to the subjective and science to the objective, as he does, is not the way to go in my view. At least for Catholic Christians, with a tradition of harmony between faith and reason, we can hold our claims up to empirical warrant and need not reject modern science (I’d also like to ask the author if he thinks that transgenderism is a denial of reality).
~In light of the white nationalists, KKK, and Neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, VA and the “Antifa” movement to take down Confederate monuments, I think it’s time to turn to censoring TV shows and we can begin by putting a stop to televising re-runs of Hogan’s Heroes (1965—1971) – a comedy show about a German POW camp during WWII. The Germans on that show are called “Krauts.” I’m German and I find that offensive.
~I’m so old that I remember a day when the only person who went outside with shorts and dark socks and sandals was your dad.
~There are a lot of people today who either don’t think or can’t think. Further, they either can’t read or they read poorly. That’s probably why they can’t think.
~A line I wish I would have thought of first: “A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.” ~ Milton Berle
~I see that Michael Voris over at the controversial Church Militant has used the occasion of a George Weigel article in Catholic World Report, praising the Archdiocese of Detroit [AOD] and its Archbishop as a model for the New Evangelization, to go off on them for “center[ing] his entire renewal program around a Protestant course called Alpha” (see https://www.churchmilitant.com/video/episode/vortex-the-alpha-priest). I must say that it’s news to me that the AOD is using Alpha in precisely this way.
~Here’s another example – we could be here all year listing them – of how Catholics adopt the language of secular society in Catholic publications (see https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/08/18/my-father-was-pulled-over-ice-agents-same-day-charlottesville-happened). To cite some of the main ones in this piece: America’s “oppression of black and brown bodies” [It’s always “bodies” now rather than “persons”]; the sensationalization of radical Islamic terrorism”; “entrenched white supremacy”; and “America’s ingrained oppression.”
~In light of the mass-casualty terrorist attacks in Barcelona, Pope Francis has issued a statement (see https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/08/18/pope-francis-condemns-blind-violence-terror-attack-barcelona), that one could read and, unfortunately, have no idea what kind of terrorist attack it was – in this case, Islamic. His reference to “blind violence” is (once again) contradicted by the fact that the terrorists have real motives that are far from blind.
~Jeff Mirus writes about Charlottesville and the role of natural law – or lack thereof – in our moral debates today (see http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otc.cfm?id=1496). I would add to his splendid analysis by simply noting that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. famously appealed to the natural law (quoting St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas on unjust laws) in his classic Letter from Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963; see https://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/Letter_Birmingham_Jail.pdf). Rediscovering natural law moral reasoning, and especially King’s brilliant use of it in the context of the Civil Rights Movement, would go a long way, I believe, toward healing race relations and rehabilitating our impoverished moral discourse.
~At the National Catholic Reporter, it’s always time for “dialogue” (never faithfulness to Catholic teaching) about, what else? Sexual ethics (see https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/time-dialogue-sexual-ethics).
~This may well be the most ridiculous “defense” of abortion that I have ever heard (see http://www.dailywire.com/news/19560/watch-james-francos-reaction-when-professor-tries-james-barrett). I won’t even try to describe it; simply watch the video.
~As someone who has suffered three concussions – well, I’m aware of three; I’m sure my wife thinks I’ve suffered a few more and I probably have – I’m sensitive to the research that indicates the link between concussions and the brain disease C.T.E. Football players who have died and were discovered to have the disease (see https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/07/25/sports/football/nfl-cte.html), obviously raise questions for the future of the sport on all levels, but also other contact sports like boxing and soccer.
~“The Future is Riding on Ajax.” That’s a company’s slogan that I saw on one of their trucks on the main road by us undergoing construction. I thought to myself – a bit annoyed – “No, that’s not true, it’s Jesus that the future is riding on!” Then I put two and two together: they’re a paving company paving a road that cars drive on. Get it? I didn’t at first.
~I wish all the women with the name Theresa / Therese / Teresa / Tresa / Tressa / could get together for a meeting and agree on a common spelling of their name. The same goes for Clare / Clair / Claire.
~Philosopher Howard Kainz’s recent article, “‘The Benedict Option’ and Natural Law” (https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2017/08/19/the-benedict-option-and-natural-law/), trots out one of the more common criticisms of the so-called “New Natural Law” theory of Germain Grisez and John Finnis: that they buy into Hume’s naturalistic fallacy (You can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”). Kainz finds “these efforts unconvincing and even unnecessary, due to fallacious interpretations of Hume.” But that’s not quite how Grisez and Finnis understand the matter. Here, e.g., are two passages from an 1981 article (http://twotlj.org/OW-ajj6.pdf) where the authors are responding to several misinterpretations in a 1980 article by (the now deceased) Ralph McInerny: “Nothing in our accounts of practical reason in general or of ethics in particular belittles or excludes as irrelevant to ethics a nonpositivist, teleological understanding of nature and of human persons insofar as they are part of nature.” (pgs. 23-24). And this passage: “We have never said that one cannot pass from metaphysical and/or factual truths together with principles of practical reasoning to normative conclusions. Our point rather was that there can be no valid deduction of a normative conclusion without a normative principle, and thus that first practical principles cannot be derived from metaphysical speculations.” (pg. 24) [Note that I have omitted all the footnotes. Note too that I studied with Finnis and McInerny back in the late 1980s]
~When our computers and other electronic gadgets break down, we turn to the IT experts who are the “surgeons” of the digital age.
~What should we do about North Korea? (See http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/a-theologians-take-on-how-to-avoid-conflict-with-north-korea-14611/). Or is the question better phrased, what can we do? Something will soon have to be done. We have kicked the can down the road far too long.
~Dr. Sally Satel favors material compensation for organ donation in order to increase supply (see http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2017/07/sally_satel_on.html). Most Catholic ethicists have rejected this. Is it time to reevaluate this position?
~I saw this on Church Militant (Okay, I check out their stuff once in a while!). In 1979, Jean Guitton, a personal friend of Pope Paul VI, was repeating to a journalist the details of a conversation he had been having with the pope shortly before his death. Guitton said:
“Paul VI was right. We can see that today. We are experiencing an unprecedented crisis. The Church, indeed the history of the world, has never seen the like of it. When Christ was walking in the streets of Galilee, the world was pagan, but so many pagans of the West and East at least had a sense of mystery. We could say that for the first time in its very long history, humanity as a whole is a-theological. It no longer has a clear — or even confused, for that matter — sense of what we call ‘the mystery of God.’ This crisis besetting our sense of the mystery, afflicting humanity as a whole, has also infiltrated the Catholic Church.”
I must say that I agree.
~I didn’t know that Democrat Senator Al Franken (and former member of SNL) was even capable of having “complex ideas.” (See http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450208/al-franken-not-funny-not-senate-giant). For Democrats, complex ideas are usually of the “Let’s just pass a law to raise wages in order to give people good-paying jobs!” variety. These “solutions” are the economic equivalent of the child wanting to print more money when you’re running out of money.
~The following on the Ford Intranet – regarding algorithm development to help cars make moral dilemma decisions like humans – happened to catch the eye of a friend of mine: “A new study demonstrating that human ethical decisions can be implemented into machines has strong implications for managing the moral dilemmas autonomous cars may face on the road. Can a self-driving vehicle be moral, act like humans do, or act like humans expect humans to? Contrary to previous thinking, a ground-breaking new study has found for the first time that human morality can be modelled meaning that machine based moral decisions are, in principle, possible.” Well. The computer’s “moral agency” is only going to be as good – morally and functionally – as the software engineer/computer programmer’s moral agency. We may have to come up with a new word to describe the kinds of “ethical decisions” machines will be making. If we have “self-driving”/autonomous cars, then they are going to have to make “moral choices”: e.g., to avoid an accident, do “you” (i.e., the driver-less car) hit the dog or the kid?
~A Facebook friend writes: “90% of Antifa [anti-fascist] are white college students! Heat Street reports that the study found that 92 percent of the protesters at these anti-fascist rallies that are believed to have committed violence still live with their parents. Heat Street also notes the following findings from the study: 84% are male, 72% are aged 18-29, 90% are single, [and] 34% are unemployed.” My reply: So, a guy in his 20s with no job, no wife, living at home with his parents, and getting into trouble…? In an earlier day and age, we had a name for him: “loser.”
~I’m astonished to read defenses of our atomic bombing of Japan that sound like they come from Planned Parenthood headquarters – despite the fact they use the example of lying to Planned Parenthood workers as justified to expose their evil (see http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/trumans-decision-least-worst-option). The authentic Catholic position is found here (see http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/trumans-decision-great-moral-evil) and not here (see http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/combatants-non-combatants-double-effect), in my judgment.
~When life hands you lemons…drop them off at someone else’s house.
~“Don’t judge” is a judgment.
~Here comes the fall… No, not that fall – autumn!