Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, September 30, 2005

One down, One to go...

With Roberts sworn in, the question now is of course, "Who is the next nominee?"

Hillary Clinton had an idea:

Sen. Hillary Clinton said Thursday she has urged President Bush to choose a Supreme Court nominee who would not "tilt the balance" on the high court, adding that the next nominee's role could prove more crucial than that of Judge John Roberts.

That would be why her husband replaced Justice White (the other justice in addition to Rehnquist who dissented from the Roe v. Wade decision) with Justice Ginsburg...?

Needless to say, if Bush replaces O'Connor with someone as far to her right as Ginsburg was to White's left, none of us pro-lifers will be complaining. Janice Rogers Brown, anyone?

Smells Like Home

It's raining ashes here in Los Angeles. Brush fire season kicked off the day we arrived with a blaze that's scorched 25 square miles from Agoura to the 101 freeway.

SoCal doesn't change...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Demographics

SurveyUSA has an interesting study out where they asked people if they identified as pro-life, pro-choice or were unsure. You can click on each state to see some interesting breakdowns at the state level.

Couple of things that I noticed, mostly doing comparisons between California (a very liberal state I've lived in) and Texas (the fairly conservative state I now live in.)

In Texas, young people are more pro-life than middle aged people. In California, the young people are the least pro-life. However, in California 5% fewer young people are pro-choice than middle aged people. Those five percent list themselves as "not sure".

In both states, people who never attend church are overwhelmingly pro-choice, while those who attend church "regularly" are majority pro-life -- though in CA it's a slim majority (51% to 36% with 12% undecided). In TX, the number of pro-choice church attenders is only slightly lower (34%) but the number of undecideds is much lower (only 5%) with the extra people going into the pro-life column. It almost makes it look as if aprox 35% of church-goers are determined to be pro-choice no matter what they hear from the pulpit or the wider culture, but in a more conservative state fewer religious people fall back on "don't know".

In both states, people who describe themselves as "conservative" are more universally pro-life than people who identify themselves as Republicans. Similarly people who describe themselves as "liberal" are more overwhelmingly pro-choice than people who identify themselves as Democrats.

"Whites" are more pro-life than "blacks", "Hispanics" or "others". I assume that trend would break down if you normalized for religious fervor and income level, but the survey doesn't seem to have done that.

In California men are more pro-choice than women, while in Texas equal percentages of both men and women identify as "pro-choice" but more men than women identify as "pro-life". (More women than men fall into the "not sure" category.)

I'm not sure what it all means, but it's definitely all interesting.

Keeping our country safe

The TSA helpfully searched our checked back full of toiletries (they left a little note in the bag telling us we'd been searched) and in the process un-screwed and left-off the lid to MrsDarwin's conditioner. This, combined with changing pressure in the luggage compartment, may have increased the nation's safety, but it did not increase the safety of our luggage...

Otherwise, the trip was about as memorable as a plane trip with two toddlers can be, including motion sickness at 30,000 feet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The 7th Heaven for Bibliophiles

Scott Carson of An Examined Life points out one of the coolest things I have seen in a long time. LibraryThing will allow you to catalog your thousands of volumes with ease. If you have more than 200 books (and don't most sentient beings?) you'll have to cough up $10 for a lifetime membership, but hey, it'd be worth it, right?

Not like I don't have a lot of other things to do than catalog my library at the moment, but things this cool deserve to be used.

Blog Lite

We're off tomorrow on a trip to the City of Angels to visit Darwin's family, so blogging will be light, as they say. We'll try to throw up a few posts while we're gone -- after all, Los Angeles isn't the boonies; we're sure to find a wireless internet connection somewhere -- but we'll be busy sitting in traffic and avoiding Disneyland and things. You know how it is.

Say a prayer for our packing efforts....

Demographics of World Catholicism

John Allen's Word from Rome column last Friday was on the demographics of global Catholicism. The whole thing is definately worth reading, but here are a few selections:

American Catholics

The 67 million Catholics in the United States represent 6 percent of the global Catholic population of 1.1 billion. We are the fourth largest Catholic country in the world, after Brazil (144 million), Mexico (126 million), and the Philippines (70 million).

Despite impressions of a rocky relationship with the Vatican, much of the rest of the Catholic world believes the American church already gets too many strokes from Rome. For example, we have 6 percent of the population, but 12 percent of the bishops in the Catholic church and 14 percent of the priests. In fact, the United States has more priests by itself than the top three Catholic countries combined (41,000 in the U.S. to 37,000 in Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines)....

This context is important to keep in mind when American Catholics wonder why Rome seems to be slow to respond to our crises and needs. From the point of view of many in the Catholic church, America has been at the top of the heap for too long.

I can't help wondering if part of the seeming over-large number of American priests and bishops has to do with church attendence rates in the US and opposed to in Latin America. Although Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines have very large Catholic populations, their church attendance rates are also lower than that for US Catholics.

Africa: Africa in the 20th century went from a Catholic population of 1.9 million in 1900 to 130 million in 2000, a growth rate of 6,708 percent, the most rapid expansion of Catholicism in a single continent in 2,000 years of church history. Thirty-seven percent of all baptisms in Africa today are of adults, considered a reliable measure of evangelization success since it indicates a change in religious affiliation. The worldwide average, by way of contrast, is 13.2. Islam in Africa grew equally dramatically in the same period; today there are 414 million Muslims in Africa. These numbers will continue rising, since Africa has one of the world's most dramatic rates of population growth. Along with the rapid expansion in Catholic population has come an explosion in African bishops, priests, brothers, sisters, and deacons. There are today more than 600 African bishops and almost 30,000 priests, and Africa and Asia each number approximately 30,000 seminarians. In 2004, roughly 20 priests were ordained for all of England and Wales, while Nigeria alone ordained more than 200.

For comparison, in the US only 7.3% of baptisms are of adults. And that's including the fact that African Catholics have a much higher fertility rate than US Catholics. If African Catholics are having twice as many children as US Catholics (a conservative estimate) and the percentage of adult vs. infant baptisms is nearly five time higher in Africa than in the US, that means that the number of adult converts in Africa considered in relation to the size of the extant Catholic population is ten times that in the US.

Traditional Sexual Morality: Catholics in the developing world tend to hold traditional views on matters of the family and sexual morality -- homosexuality, gender, and so on. As the South comes of age, the Catholic church will be proportionately less likely to tolerate liberal positions on these questions. For a point of comparison, consider the debate within the Anglican Communion after the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the United States. Anglicans worldwide number 76 million, but that includes 26 million in the Church of England, only 1.2 million of whom are regular communicants. Meanwhile, there are 17.5 million Anglicans in Nigeria and 8 million in Uganda, and in both places the vast majority is active. More than half the global membership of the Anglican Communion is today non-Western. Episcopalians in the States are only 2.4 million. The African bishops have declared that they are not in "full communion" with the Episcopalians, and some predict a formal schism.

Consider this comment, made just two weeks at a Sant'Egidio conference in Lyon, France, by Bishop Sunday Mbang, chairperson of the World Methodist Council: "I and many African Christians are always at a loss to comprehend the whole issue of human sexuality. What really informed the idea of same-sex marriage among Christians? What is the authority for this rather depraved new way of life? Then there is the issue of this same people, who have voluntarily excluded themselves from procreation, a gift given to all men and women by God, adopting other people's children. What moral right have they to do so? Why should people who do not desire to have children go after other people's children?"

Some suggest that as Africa develops economically, more relativized secular attitudes on sexual morality will take hold there as they have in much of the West. Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, told me some time ago that he finds this a patronizing Western conceit, as if to say, "Once the Africans get out of their huts and get some education, they'll think like us." He predicts that if anything, as Africa's self-confidence and development levels grow, it will become bolder about asserting its moral vision on the global stage.

It definately seems to me like Africa will be one of the powerhouses for the Church in the decades to come. Although Africa and Latin America may seem to have equally large chunks of the Catholic Church, overall church attendance in Africa is 82% as compared to 35% in Latin America.

Monday, September 26, 2005

De Civitate Dei

Rick Lugari is closing up shop over at Unam Sanctum and is starting a new blog, De Civitate Dei. Plus, he's blogrolled us as members of the City Council there! Go visit him and wish him well.

Comment Policing

I must confess, I've finally got tired of deleting comment spam. So I've followed everyone else's lead and put in word verification for comments. Sorry to be tedious and all...

The reports of civilization's death have been greatly exaggerated

Well, the mass hysteria has calmed, and it turns out that whoa, maybe civilization didn't quite collapse in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Here's an article from the New Orleans Times-Picayune (what a great name for a newspaper) that tells us that reports of deaths and rapes in the Superdome seem to have been blown out of proportion.
After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.
Read the whole thing.

"Darwinist" Dangers

I ran into an interesting comment in reading that ID thread on Mark Shea's site the other day by M. Z. Forrest of The Discalced Yooper :

There would not be a philosophy (note I didn't use the term science) called ID if the education of our children wasn't at stake. Science is not insular, no matter what the ideals are. The belief that men are not in the image of God is profoundly offensive to Christianity. Making evolution compatible with it requires a rather thorough understanding of science and of what has been alleged and what has been proved. As as inculcation, 6th grade science textbooks often introduce evolution. I don't see evolutionary biologists coming from the 6th grade. The primary purpose of putting it there is to sew seeds of doubt. Much like Luther, evolutionists may believe it is good thing they are doing. Like the Reformation, there are plenty of people on the sidelines itching at the bit to manipulate whatever they can to pry people away from the faith. Advanced science such as evolution requires a different understanding than one has when they are 12. Science at that age (and for too many as adults) is often considered inalienable truth. As you probably know, later in the sciences you recognize that science is an explanation only as valuable as what it can imitate and manipulate. This is not to demean science, just to offer some perspective.
Readers have probably caught on by now that I consider the theory of evolution to be the best current theory we have concerning biological origins of species on this planet (one tries to be careful and avoid phrases like "believe in evolution"), but it struck me this gets to some of the discomfort that many Christian parents have with allowing schools to present evolution to their children in science class.

Leave aside, for a moment, the question of what the history of life on earth actually is. Clearly, someone who believes that science can demonstrate that God created the world and all life on it via a miraculous event has less room to lose his faith in God than someone who believes that life on earth developed via a natural process -- but that God created the universe and the laws of order that allow it to be a welcoming place for life on earth. The more direct you think the evidence of God's hand in the universe is, the less room you have to doubt God's existence. (Now, if God had given us all "Child of God" birthmarks, we'd really be set...)

This leads some people, especially those who have little intellectual interest in science, to wonder: Why exactly should we be investigating these things anyway? We know God created the universe. We know that He intended each one of us since before the creation of the world. Sure he _could_ have used evolution. But since evolution is never going to impinge on our daily lives, and we only have to read the papers to see that many biologists use evolution to justify their atheism -- why should we teach our children about evolution? It seems like all danger and no upside.

Now, I don't deny there's a certain danger involved. And no one ever went to hell for not "believing" in evolution -- while quite a few people have gone to hell for refusing to believe in God. So I have no problem with people who have no interest in evolution. What does make me grumpy is when other Christians, because they like the idea of God's existence being readily demonstable in the scientific realm, seem willing to pile onto a biological theory they don't necessarily understand (and which may not be true) simply to thumb their nose at the specter of atheistic materialist scientists. But there is a danger inherent in ID. When we stake our faith on the back end of a bacterium, and say that we know there is a God because the flagellum is irreducibly complex, we build the house of our faith upon sand. There is a very good chance that the flagellum is not irreducibly complex, and if we have told countless people that God is to be found in the gaps, then when those gaps disappear so will God.

This is not to say that some scientists are not atheists, and that they draw on evolution as an explanation for why they "don't need God." However, evolution is no more capable of proving that we have no "need" for God than the theory that the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle, which is standing on another turtle, which is standing on another turtle and so on, could prove that there was no need for God to create the heavens and the earth. We know that the universe is a temporally finite. And we know that every effect in the material universe has a cause. And thus we must in the end either admit that some outside, eternal, uncaused force created the world -- else simply throw up up our hands and say, "The universe just is. I accept that it exists, but I'd rather believe that it exists 'just because' than that God created it."

The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy tells us: "The universe is an incredibly big place. So big, in fact, that most people choose to live in a smaller one of their own construction." Materialists, no matter how highly degreed, live in just such a smaller place. We as Christians, however, do not have to. There's no need for us to hide from evolution, because even if turtles descended from more primitive turtle-ancestors, who descended from amphibians, who descended from fish, who descended in turn from something else -- we know that the turtles do not in fact go all the way down.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Anonymous Teacher Person of Scrutinies has several interesting posts up today, dealing with (among other things) consciousness, pacing a high school class, and reading Chesterton. If you haven't discovered it already, do drop by. (Of course, I'm biased because the author has been kind enough to say some terribly flattering things about our efforts here...)

On Singing

Ever wondered what it would take to be able to project your voice like a cantor? Pauca Lux ex Oriente, who has cantored for Byzantine litugies for a number of years, has posted his advice for developing your vocal technique, inspired by a conversation with his deacon.
He asked whether I would be the only one singing, and I told him “yes”. Fr. Irinaeus then said that he was just as glad that I had come, because he couldn’t sing as loud as I could. I asked him whether he had ever received lessons in voice when he received his diaconal training, and he said that while there was a teacher with an operatic voice who taught him and others how to chant, he had received no vocal training. I said that that was a pity, particularly since I could teach him all that he needed to know about vocal technique in five minutes. He said, I’d like to see you try. So, I said, all of good singing can be summed up in the following words: balanced, suspended, crucified, open, incense, humming, and shifting.

This is just the advice one needs if, like me, you spent a semester in voice class in college with an increasing frustrated teacher telling you that if you would just relax everything would come so much easier.

Weekend in Austin with Austen

Well, not only did we here in Austin survive, but it's been a beautiful, breezy, and exceptionally hot weekend. We had no rain at all. Darwin moved the grill into the garage for naught. And instead of huddling by candlelight telling stories, Darwin and I spent all weekend watching Jane Austen movies. I took much of last week re-reading the Jane Austen canon, and I felt in the mood for a little adaption fun.

As I'd never seen it, we borrowed Pride and Prejudice (1995) from a friend. Darwin had set his face firmly against this version because he is a great fan of the 1980 BBC production (which is quite well done and has a fine Elizabeth) and because he thought the director made some foolish choices, and because he first saw it with a passel of silly girls. I must agree about the director's choices. I enjoyed Colin Firth's acting, though I feel that the director put him in some silly situations. Darcy plunging into a pond and then meeting Elizabeth at Pemberly in his wet shirt? That's so not Jane Austen, people.

Elizabeth was generally pleasant, although she smiled too much. I was quite disappointed in the supporting characters, most of whom were mere caricatures. Mrs. Bennett was very poorly cast indeed -- she was shrill and vicious and sharp, instead of weak and petulant but without malice. And Mr. Bennett didn't seem to have as much fun with his role as I would have hoped. Darwin and I have agreed that in our perfect Pride and Prejudice the late Sir John Gielgud would play Mr. Bennett. Anyone who has ever seen the BBC's Brideshead Revisited will remember his Mr. Ryder, and that's exactly the quality you need for Mr. Bennett.

And Jane was not pretty...

Then we rented Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibililty. Mansfield Park: two thumbs DOWN; almost completely unwatchable. Some of the reviews on Amazon stated that although the movie bore no resemblance to the book, it was a good movie on its own terms. T'aint so, dear reader, t'aint so. Only the names were lifted from the book -- the plot and characters were so altered as to be almost unrecognizable, and I soon left off telling Darwin what had been changed from the book and only let him know when the movie retained any detail. (And yes, he asked; I don't kibitz at movies simply for the sake of passing an epigram or a satire.) And since the director had tiresome secular moralizing tendencies, the subtext was all opium and incest and sexual license and slavery -- actually, they weren't content with leaving slavery as a subtext and rubbed our noses in it. There was not one likeable character in the movie, and as the director didn't share Austen's strong religious sensibilities, most of the character motivation was unbelievable or fatuous. Read the book, spit at the movie when you see in on the shelf at Blockbuster.

Sense and Sensibility (which I saw shortly after it came out) was completely the opposite of Mansfield Park: thoroughly delightful, faithful to the text, and charming in every way. Kate Winslet, pre-Titantic, unspoiled (though after having seen Heavenly Creatures I looked at her in a new light), was beautiful and passionate and, I believe, did her own singing. Emma Thompson, though a bit old to play Elinor, carried it off with such grace and restraint that you wonder that Colonel Brandon doesn't see how suited the two of them would have been... I never liked the pairings in Sense and Sensibility, but that's more a reflection of my own tastes than any shortcoming in the story. And Alan Rickman's voice is mellifluous, deep, and melting -- heck, he even gives Severus Snape sex appeal.

And since we were up 'til 3 AM frittering away our time, Darwin and I are sure to be exhausted all day, while the monkeys, who went to bed hours earlier, are already romping around the house. (Noogs has a princess obsession and goes around calling us Mommy Queen and Daddy King and floating about on her royal yacht The Water Princess. This comes of reading a book about the ballet Sleeping Beauty, which features -- you guessed it -- a beautiful princess and a handsome prince.) Their young highnesses are at this moment watching Sense and Sensibility, as two-year-old Princess Babs is quite technically proficient and loves to work the DVD player. I hope they absorb some manners from Austen....

Friday, September 23, 2005

Contrarian Hurricane Shopping

Hurricane fever has hit Austin. I think it must have a lot to do with people having watched all the coverage of Katrina on TV, but suddenly everyone has decided that, despite the fact Rita will have been reduced to tropical storm force by the time it strikes the Austin area a glancing blow, it's time to rush to the stores and buy everything non perishable they can thing of.

I first discovered this when I stopped to get diapers at Sams Club on the way home Wednesday. Sams was packed. All non-alcoholic bottled drinkables were long gone. People were hurrying through the store with carts overflowing with canned goods, breakfast cereal and granola bars. I collected the diapers and stood in line for forty minutes to check out...

Now, we have our usual pantry level of food already in the house, which means if pressed we could eat for a week or so without shopping, so I wasn't terribly worried about food. But on giving it some thought I figured the one thing that could happen around here that we weren't 100% prepared for was a power outage of several hours. We've got the usual household flashlights, but it seemed like a battery-powered lantern might be useful in case its dark and the monkeys need cheering up.

Where, you might ask, can one go to buy hurricane supplies in relative quiet when everyone is mobbing the stores. As it turns out, the answer is Target: which possesses nearly all the same stock as Wal Mart, but no one was bothering to go to. I dropped by, there were perhaps twenty cars in the packing lot (while there were 100s at Wal Mart and the supermarket) and had no problems picking up an electric Coleman lantern. Heck, they even still had bottled water.

Now, I keep reading in the Journal that Target is giving Wal Mart a drubbing due to its discovery that you can sell cheap stuff that still has style. But apparently their chic but cheap image wasn't what came to mind for people hunting for hurricane supplies.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Comments on Vatican II Implementation

A faithful Catholic who is quite dear to me sent me some remarks on the immediate reception and effects of Vatican II, apropos of our earlier discussion here on the blog.
Since I was an adult when V2 was in session, I well remember the aftermath. It seemed to the average lay person that the Church had thrown the baby out with the bath water. For those of us in the pews, it was sheer chaos, as there were as many interpretations of the documents as there were priests explaining things. My Dad, who was a convert had the best remark, " If I'd wanted this, I'd have stayed Protestant!"
I remember that it was hard for me, who had been taught that it was a mortal sin to eat meat on Fri. to reconcile the loss of one's soul to Hell for eternity, with "Oh, never mind, that's changed now". Forever is forever, so do those souls now receive a get out of jail card ? (Apparently that was not universally taught, but as I recall, if one thinks something is a mortal sin, and commits it, It is mortal for that person). Anyway, it was very confusing. What I resented was this attitude of changing something as"in the spirit of V2', when the change was not stated that way in the document, i.e.placing the Blessed Sacrament on a side altar out of sight.It makes me feel better now that some of this kind of stuff is being rectified. Those churches around here which have restored Adoration, Novenas, etc. are expanding.
I'd be interested to hear comments from more who remember the immediate effects of Vatican II. We'll do a bit of research from this end and see if we can find some other memories to post.

And a question from my correspondent, which I thought I would share here in hopes of some discussion:

By the way, is joy a function of the will? I'm thinking of the difference between happiness & joy. This is a bit fuzzy in my memory.

Dropping the level of discourse

Darwin has been, as usual, writing insightful posts about subjects religious and philosophical, and has in general kept a fairly high tone lately. Meanwhile, I just want to know what happened in last night's episode of Lost, which I missed because ABC changed the time on me. Would anyone be so kind (that means you, Julie D.!) as to summarize it for me, complete with spoilers, 'cause I don't know when or if there will be a re-run? Thanks...

I don't only think about TV, though -- we're making Rita plans and hosting a friend from Houston this weekend. The grill goes in the garage, batteries are stocked, we've laid in a bit of food (probably not enough) and Darwin bought a case of beer at Sam's, so you know he'll be all right.

We now return to regular thoughtful programming.

Br. Guy vs. Mark Shea

Mark Shea had posted some criticism of an interview given by Br. Guy, the director of the Vatican observatory, in which Br. Guy addressed the ID debate. Shea went on to quote Aquinas to the good father. Ah, but the internet is a wonderfully small place. Who should show up in the in the comment box but Br. Guy himself, who explained things clearly and charmingly as usual.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

To the moon!

Courtesy of The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living, learn the secrets of the Vatican Space Program! "In 1950 Pope Pius XII announced the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven--some seven years before Stalin's Sputnik program put a Soviet into space. Do you think this was an accident? Oh, you are SO naive…."

Legends of the Fall

When Catholics are confronted with suffering in the world, we often say that whatever the source of suffering is, whether direct human agency (war, crime, etc.) or natural phenomena (hurricane, earthquake, disease, etc.) are involved that this is "a result of the fall". This makes a lot of since, since as we learn from the bible, "Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned." (Romans 5:12)

One of the things that strikes me, however, is: If the suffering resulting from an earthquake or a hurricane is somehow the result of the fall, what would things have been like had man not fallen? Would there simply be no earthquakes of hurricanes or disease? And yet (unless you're the most literal of young earth creationists) the Earth and the physical processes that make it work were formed long before the fall. There could be a world without hurricanes and earthquakes, but it would be a world that worked a little differently than our own. So unless you want to posit that the physical nature of the Earth changed with the fall (an idea that I think Aquinas would certainly have rejected, since it is as incompatible with Aristotelian natural philosophy as with modern science) that leaves us to wonder what natural disasters would have been like had man not fallen, and why they would have existed at all.

In the past, I've toyed with questions about how perhaps natural disasters would have occurred, but man's reaction to them would have been radically different, because man would not have had the inherent fear of death and lack of trust in God that fallen man has. (Aquinas also thought that man would still have physically died had there not been a fall, and that 'death' in Romans 5:12 indicates spiritual death rather than physical.)

But here's another thought: To what extent was the nature of the universe changed because of the fall of the angels? I've heard it argued that because angels experience God directly, their choice to accept or reject him must have been simultaneous with their creation -- to the extent that that description means anything for creatures that are outside the physical world and thus either outside of time or operating on a much different experience of time than we are. Also, the angels had clearly fallen before the temptation of Eve, since Satan arrives to cause trouble.

So to what extent might the fall of the angels have affected creation?

Tolkein speculates about this in the Silmarilion, where Melkor and the other fallen angels descend upon the earth and assault creation. And indeed, if Satan was capable of tempting Eve, and thus helping to debase God's greatest creation, who is to say that he was not capable of sowing discord and suffering throughout lower creation. Is the nature that we see "red of tooth and claw" in some sense the result of that first fall that took place in the moment of God's first creation?

This is not to suggest a sort of Manichean dualism. Clearly, creation is God's work and the most Satan could ever do is torture it. We know from revelation and Tradition that God's power is such he can turn evil to good ends. When we sin (and when Lucifer sinned) we do not have the power to overcome God's will, even though we act contrary to his wishes. God holds all the cards and makes the rules of the game as well. When we sin, we nonetheless advance God's will, and indeed provide him with the material to achieve even greater good. ("Oh blessed fault! Oh happy sin of Adam!")

I think one of Tolkein's brilliant insights, and one of the ways in which he is thoroughly un-modern, is that he saw clearly in his theological vision of the world that the fallen nature of man and of creation in general was not just a defect to be lamented, but had been incorporated by God into his plan so that even greater examples of virtue and sacrifice might be achieved.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Futher Roberts Questioning

Kathy of Gathering Goat Eggs provides answers to the tough questions that NYTimes columnist John Tierney suggested asking Roberts. Prize selections follow, but do read the whole thing:

Suppose you'd been in Solomon's place when he proposed cutting the baby in two. And suppose neither woman objected. Would you have cut the baby? Flipped a coin? Or opted for foster care?

None of the above. That kind of stuff is what you have clerks for.

You've said you're a devotee of P. G. Wodehouse. Of the current justices, who is most like Jeeves?

Clarence Thomas.

Who's most like Bertie Wooster?

All the rest of them. Except Scalia, he's Aunt Agatha.

After Justice Souter's opinion in the Kelo case endorsed the use of eminent domain to seize peoples' homes for a higher "public use," a group proposed that the town of Weare in New Hampshire increase its tax revenue by taking Justice Souter's property there so that a developer could build a resort called the Lost Liberty Hotel. Would your family ever vacation there?

Heck, we'd consider a time share.

What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three legs in the evening?

Bill Clinton.

Does President Bush have a nickname for you yet?



I cannot say more than I have already said.


Ginsburg put me up to that.

Vatican II, round 2

Last week I mentioned in the course of another post on Vatican II that I'd read several articles worth linking to, but of course then I got busy and forgot about it... (Funny how that's so often a theme in life.)

Still, good article ought not be forgotten, and as a member of the post Vatican II generation, the council and its aftermath is a source of enduring interest for me, since I wasn't around for it and yet it seems to have effected nearly everything about Catholicism as I experience it.

Philip Blosser got permission to republish at the end of last month an article from New Oxford Review: "Why the Second Vatican Council Was a Good Thing & Is More Important Than Ever" by John Lamont.

Now, the gradual decline into isolation and snarkiness of NOR over the last decade has, to my mind, been a huge loss for orthodox Catholic readers, but this article definitely has the old flame burning bright. If you don't like NOR, please click through and give it a read anyway, it's a thoughtful piece and worth reading in entirety.

What's interesting about the article is that it's written from the point of view of a traditional leaning Catholic who nonetheless sees Vatican II very important to the revitalization of the Church. Lamont's purpose is as follows:

In its June 2004 issue, the NOR [New Oxford Review] asked the following question apropos of an article in Crisis magazine by George Sim Johnston: "Johnston's subtitle is 'Why Vatican II Was Necessary.' We'd dearly like to know why it was. We can think of a few things that Vatican II did that were good and necessary -- but only a few -- and we doubt if an ecumenical council was necessary to accomplish them." This is an excellent question that needs an answer, and this article was written to take up the challenge posed by it. It will not attempt to show that the Second Vatican Council was necessary, because it wasn't -- the Church would have survived if it had never happened -- but rather that it was a good thing.

Lamont goes on to explain what weaknesses had developed in the Church which Vatican II sought to correct:

The internal problems for which the Council was an appropriate remedy were subtler, deeper, and more difficult to discern. Following such scholars as Louis Bouyer, Alasdair MacIntyre (pictured left), and Servais Pinckaers, I see these problems as ultimately stemming from the influence of nominalism on Catholic thought in the late Middle Ages, an influence that gave rise to Protestantism, and that in the emergency of contriving a Catholic response to Protestantism was not properly eradicated. This noxious influence, which affected the whole spectrum of Catholic life and spirituality, consisted in a particular understanding of happiness and the will, which can be sen by contrasting the thought of St. Thomas and William of Ockham on these subjects. For St. Thomas, the will is directed by its nature toward goodness itself, the enjoyment of which constitutes happiness. Freedom consists in the ability to achieve this end; so the virtues confer freedom, and vices are enslaving. For Ockham, on the other hand, there is nothing the will seeks of necessity, and freedom consists purely in the ability to choose between contrary alternatives. Natue and virtue drop out of the picture, and the sole basis for morality is the obligation imposed by divine commands. Because God's freedom must be absolute, it is the simple fact of His commanding something that makes it good; if He had commanded murder, sodomy, or idolatry, these things would have been good and their opposites evil. Although these extreme views did not become generally accepted, the basic idea of seeing religion and morality in terms of obedience to commands, rather than in terms of fulfillment of the end of man, persisted.

The tendency to identify religion with obedience to orders, and to separate it from happiness and truth, is the fundamental internal weakness that the Council needed to address, and also the cause of the disaster that followed it. One manifestation of this tendency was anti-intellectualism and hostility to reason. If faith is a matter of obeying orders, then asking questions about Catholic belief is insubordinate; questioning the reasons for orders is what barrack-room lawyers do. This meant that faithful Catholics who were not scholars tended to become ignorant and intellectually lazy, while Catholic scholars often adopted the psychology of rebellious adolescents. Both groups became indifferent to reasoned argument, not just because of lack of intelligence and proper education, but because at the deepest level they felt that such argument was a tool for affecting behavior rather than a guide to truth. Only such indifference could make possible the wide influence of an obviously mediocrity and charlatan such as Teilhard de Chardin (compare his effect on Catholics to that of a real intellect and scholar such as Etienne Gilson).

The chaos resulting from the implementation of the council was, in Lamont's view, the result of the entrenchment of the very problems that the council sought to correct:

These attempts to address this fundamental weakness, however, were received by a Church that was still enthralled by them. That is what explains the disasters that followed the Council. Its attempts at overcoming the nominalist mindset were interpreted as rejecting the previous requirement of obedience. This freed all the bitterness and resentment that had been produced by such obedience, a bitterness untrammeled by any intellectual discipline or loyalty to truth.

He goes on to blame the Novus Order far more than I would for contributing to the post-Vatican II breakdown. Though far from being a liturgist, it seems to me that there is certainly nothing defective about the Novus Ordo as a rite, the problems have been with the Novus Ordo being abused in ways that were certainly never intended by those who originally created it.

I do think there can be some question as to whether simultaneously creating a new rite and allowing exclusive use of the vernacular right after a major council was pastorally a good idea. To the council fathers themselves the reasons may have seemed quite clear, but I think to many of the faithful (who had not been kept well informed at all about the council and its teachings) it seemed very much as if all of a sudden everything was being changed, and anything that hadn't been changed yet might be changed soon.

In order to avoid alarming and scandalizing lay Catholics who in many cases may not have been clear on the differences between doctrine, discipline and practice, it seems like a more gradual process might have been wiser. On the other hand, as I once heard an executive say regarding business change, sometimes change is like detox: it's going to be terrible no matter when you do it, so you might as well get through it quickly. Perhaps that's what the US bishops had in mind.

The other challenge coming out of Vatican II was that the shepherds themselves weren't in the best of shape. From the number of priests ordained in the 50s and 60s who we all heard growing up saying things like, "Back then everything was a sin. Eating meat on Friday could send you to hell." I have to assume that one of the major obstacles to evangelizing people about the council was that a lot of the priests and religious were themselves confused about the differences between doctrine, discipline and practice, and thus added to the confusion after the council by preaching confusion from the pulpit.

I've run into a few other interesting Vatican II articles recently, so there's more to come.

Monday, September 19, 2005

What to wear, what to wear

True story: I was driving just south of downtown Austin on my way back from a midwife appointment (Smaskig had the hiccups, apparently), when, as I was stopped at a light, I saw a man with long hair riding a bike that was too small for him. Nothing extraordinary, you say, and you'd be right, except that he was wearing shoulder-length dangly earrings. Well, I thought, this is Austin, and people make odd fashion choices. Then I realized that he was wearing a lacy top. And I felt sorry for him because maybe he was homeless and didn't have any other clothes. But upon further reflection, I believe he was a particularly unsuccessful cross-dresser.

When I say unsuccessful, I mean absolutely unconvincing. Of course he'd successfully worn the clothes, but there was no way he was ever going to pass for a woman. Later, I discussed this with Darwin and wondered why anyone would cross-dress if you weren't going to fool anyone. What was the point of dressing like a woman if you weren't going to look like a woman?

"I don't know," said Darwin. "I've often wondered the same thing about home-schooling moms."

And that is why I'll never wear a jumper.

Written in the stars

Did you know that The Onion has horoscopes (hat tip: An Examined Life)? Here's mine.

Sagittarius November 22 - December 21

It doesn't matter if you've done nothing wrong and been charged with no crime. CNN's Nancy Grace is certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're guilty and should be "put down like a dog."

Whoa, and it's true: I've committed no crime! But you were wondering what the stars have in store for Darwin:

Aquarius January 20 - February 18

It's really too bad you don't follow professional sports, because you'll soon be hit by a bolt of lightning and gain the ability to have the latest scores scroll across the bottom of your eyes.

How did they know? I'll tell you, though: I wish I were a Capricorn.

Capricorn December 22 - January 19

You never liked bears, never had any curiosity about bears, and hardly ever think about them, so it's no surprise that there aren't any around when you could really use one.

It's so true.

Um, Yeah...

Commonweal has discovered that the big problem with American Catholicism is that overly rigid young bishops installed by John Paul II are over-obsessed with ending legal abortion to the detriment of other very important things like making sure that we maintain a post New Deal approach federal power. As I'm sure you're aware, the magisterium is dead clear on how a post New Deal government is essential to the moral life. How we lasted the 1900 years from the time of Christ till the New Deal I really can't imagine. Perhaps since God exists in the Eternal Now he slipped up and didn't notice that he allowed a 1900 year dark age to intervene between the light of Christ and the light of FDR...

In other news, Greg Gutfeld over at the HuffPuff raises our awareness regarding the importance of raising awareness or raising awareness of...

If there is anything more important than raising awareness, I AM NOT AWARE of it.

But there are those in America who lack awareness concerning the importance of raising awareness. The worst part: most Americans are unaware that their lack of awareness about raising awareness is what's at fault.

And that's bad.

MEDICAL FACT:According to the Lancet, lack of awareness has contributed to 2.5 billion deaths. But the figure might actually BE HIGHER.“Because most people aren't aware of the link, they can't actually report it and then of course, they end up dead,” says study author Greg Gutfeld. “Research has shown that being aware can save you from any number of bad situations where being unaware could be deadly.”

The underlying philosophical thought behind raising awareness about raising awareness is that more people will be aware if you raise awareness about raising awareness. And that awareness, as any aware layman will agree, is key.

The Gay Priest Factor

Jcecil over at Liberal Catholic News has spent a lot of time over the last week writing about the rumors that the Vatican will issue a document directing that gay men not be admitted to seminaries. (In case you're wondering why I read a blog called Liberal Catholic News, I'd say this is probably the most well thought-out and generally calm blog out there from the "progressive" side of the theological spectrum, though he's got rather worked up over this question of banning gays from the seminaries, and so I try to keep up with what he says on the theory that it's important to know the best arguments that you opponents have, and he generally is going to have the strongest case of anyone with his viewpoint.)

One of his points that he made a number of times was that he believed that aprox. 70% of priests are gay, and so this would decimate vocations. His basis for this is two-fold, first having been in formation for six years with the TORs a number of years ago and found many of the seminarians and instructors to be gay, and second a demographic argument that went like this:

If there are 1.1 billion Roman Catholics world-wide, and a mere one percent of the general population is homosexually oriented enough to define themselves as exclusively gay in orientation, there are approximately 11 million gay Catholics world-wide.

This is an extremely conservative estimate.

Of this 11 million, which includes males and females, let's assume that a mere ten percent of them decided to take the Church's teaching seriously to try as best they can to live chastely and in celibacy. That would be 1,100,000.

Let's assume roughly half are men, and we're down to 550,000 chaste and celibate gay men world-wide.

Let's assume half again decided that the best way to live celibately is enter priesthood where there would be access to sacraments, structured prayer, spiritual direction and some degree of respect for the choice not to marry. That's 275,000 chaste celibate men entering priesthood.

There are only 397,000 priests in the world according to the most recent Vatican statistics. The 275,000 would be 69 percent of the total priestly population.

Well, as you know, I'm always up for a demographic explanation for something, but this one just doesn't smell right to me. The key to the whole thing is that out of the 550 million Catholic men in the world (assuming that 50% of Catholics are men) there are only 397,000 priests. That works out to 0.08% of men being priests: one man out of 1250. That's just such a small number, that accounting for it out any almost any statistical segment of the population is easy. Think of it this way, out of 1250 men, assuming that this is a statistically perfect sample, you will have:

13-50 gay men (1-4%, depending on what stats you use)

263 divorced men (21% of Catholic men have been divorced)

3-8 asexual men (0.5-1% of people express no desire for intercourse, but 60+ percent of those are women)

131 men who still have never married by age 40-49 (10.5% of men 40-49 have never married, though some of those are probably gay or asexual)

163 left handed men (13% of people are left landed)

38 widowers (3% of men in the US are widowers)

And one priest.

So while almost anyone would agree that there are more men suffering from same sex attraction in the priesthood than in the general population, when it's sucha tiny percentage of the male population that we're playing with "well, what if 10% of X group went into the priesthood" will always work, and thus means nothing.

Clearly, Jcecil's experiences with the priesthood lead him to believe that a larger number of priests are gay. My own would suggest that only a very small number are. (I've known a dozen priests moderately well in my life, and never had any reason to believe any of them were homosexually inclined. Nor is the one person I know who's entered the priesthood nor the two seminarians I currently know.) Personal experiences will, however, by their nature vary.

In the end, I have two major quarrels with JCecil's thinking here:

1) I know I'm increasingly in the minority in the modern world with this, but I have issues with the "gay" and "straight" labels. Part of this is my classics background. Through most of history, people haven't looked on people as being "gay" or "straight" or "bi" but rather at what mix of people they have sex with and how. Even in supposedly "gay-friendly" cultures such as Classical Greece, men did not tend to be exclusively homosexual. Rather, love affairs with other men were seen as more intellectual and spiritual affairs (since women weren't given much credit for intellectual ability) while one had sex with a women to either bear children or just have a good time. And then there were times and places (say the Spartan army or the British navy) where women were just plain scarce and so men filled in with what was available: other men. That's why Church teaching addresses homosexual acts rather than homosexual orientation. And although it's clear that some people are, for whatever reason, primarily interested in having intercourse with their own sex, I think that this focus on action and general dismissal of inclination is the right way to go. Despite modern society's insistence in finding a source of identity in one's primary area of sexual desires, I suspect that in reality it's much sketchier than most people nowadays imagine.

2) From a religious angle, my problem with this whole line of thinking is that it seems to ignore the role of sacrifice in celibacy. St. Paul didn't urge his correspondents to be celibate because they had no better options. He urged them to do so specifically in order to give up this world's goods to focus on that which is beyond this world. So saying, "If you're going to insist on gays being celibate and also on having a celibate priesthood, then you should expect most of your priests to be gay" seems to a great extent to mean as well: "because straights honestly have something better to do than waste their lives being celibate for God."

Societies have at certain times in history willingly sent 10% or more of their young men off to die for their countries. You would think that if we truly preached the priesthood and its nature and importance we could get 0.08% or even 0.1% of our young men to agree to be celibate for their faith. It shouldn't be a matter of what you have to lose, but a matter of what you have to gain.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Another Day of Hearings

David Brooks of the NYTimes puts his comedy hat on today to provide us with an insight into today's hearings. Here's a sample:

Patrick Leahy Absolutely, Mr. Chairman! And let me kick off this morning's platitudes about the grandeur of our Constitution by quoting its first three words, "We the People." That means that here in America the people rule - except on issues like abortion, where their opinions don't mean spit.
Specter Very well put, Senator Leahy! And welcome Judge Roberts back before our committee.

Just War and Virtue

Neil over on Catholic Sensiblity quotes an article by Daniel Bell in Christian Century. This quote struck me as so interesting, I'm going to reproduce most of it, though I encourage you to go to Catholic Sensibility and read the comments, which are thoughful in the extreme:

This criterion is commonly reduced to a disavowal of revenge and a desire for peace. But just war as Christian discipleship involves a thicker account of intent, revolving around issues of character. First, right intent is a matter of a "just peace." As Augustine noted long ago, everyone desires peace; wars are always fought for peace--for a peace that better suits the aggressor. It is not sufficient, then, merely to be for peace. One must intend a peace that is truly just, and not merely self-serving.

Second, right intent entails that even in warfare we love our enemy. Anger is permitted, but not hatred. Indeed, in waging war, the right intent is not to destroy the enemy but to bring the benefits of a just peace to the enemy.

Third, right intent entails what can be called "complete justice." Intentionality is not always an easy thing to discern; for this reason character and consistency are relevant to evaluating intent. Thus, evaluating intent with regard to war might entail asking: Is this a people who characteristically and consistently seek justice? Is justice only selectively enforced? Is it carried out to completion? Complete justice entails looking forward (to how justice will be implemented) and backward (bringing the past before the bar of justice): Accordingly, this criterion may involve confessing one's own complicity in past injustice as one confronts present injustice. Likewise, intent understood in terms of complete justice provides space for consideration of "exit strategies" and how the victor deals with the defeated after the shooting stops.

It's a gloss on Aquinas' criteria for just war, and it's interesting in that it deals with war in the context of positive action rather than necessary evil. Historically, this is, of course, how the Church has dealt with questions of just war. While war undoubtedly does involve accompanying evils, neither war itself nor actions within the context of war are traditionally interpreted in the context of "war is hell, so we might as well do X" but rather "what is the right and just action in this situation?" After all, our Church has, historically, contained religious order dedicated to the protection of Christendom via just war.

Blogging as Performance Art

If you waste as much time in the blogsphere as I do, you start to run across some peculiar things. One of the minor trends I've noticed recently is what I can best describe as the blog as performance art. Essentially, the author chooses a persona in which to write a blog (which may be clearly imaginary, or perhaps even real but offbeat) and then he or she runs with it and writes a blog (perhaps mainly humorous, perhaps nearly straight) in that persona.

Most famously, you have Musum Pontificalis, the private musings of Benedict XVI.

Continuing along clerical lines, there's Blogging Ex Cathedra by bishop Leo Clayton of the diocese of Norfolk, VA. (Hint, there is no diocese of Norfolk.) Whoever is maintaining the bishop's site has a much drier sense of humor than the pontif, and seems to be sticking moderately close to reality.

There there's the Delia Gallagher fan club, devoted to obsession with CNN "Vaticanologist" Delia Gallagher. That one's just kind of, odd.

And speaking of odd, there's the Beach Bunny Vaticanisti, supposedly the product of a blonde, leggy, San Dieogo model with an interest in Vatican politics. Why do I have the odd feeling it's actually written by a man...? But hey, I've been wrong before.

ID Rages On

Scott of An Examined Life brings his typical insight to the most recent round of spats concerning intelligent design throughout the blogsphere. I must confess that I myself got sucked into the controversy over on Mark Shea's blog. (Never get into an online discussion of evolution if you have deadlines to hit.)

I'm sure those who disagree with me would object to this observation, but I shall be so rash as to make it anyway: One of the things that often strikes me about the ID movement is that many ID adherents are people who frankly aren't interested in the more speculative aspects of science anyway. The most extreme example of this was one I encountered back in my Steubenville days. I had succeeded in getting a negative review of a creationist book published in New Oxford Review, and the a temporary associate classics professor had written a pro-ID article for the same issue. I'd never taken any classes from him, but it struck me as an interesting coincidence, so I dropped by to talk. (As it turned out, he hadn't read my article anyway...) At one point in our conversation he brought up the gaps in the fossil record and lack of transition forms. My responded that while transitional forms are fewer among higher vertebrates (where the record is sparse in general) there were actually some quite well documented transitions in sea invertebrates such as mollusks. His response was: "Yeah, but who cares about mollusks?"

Now, his primary objections to evolution were moral. He was convinced that if evolution was true it was harder to believe in God, and if we did not believe in God than how could we lead a good life? But really, given that he had not interest in paleontology anyway, why go around arguing in favor of ID instead of arguing that we can tell from the existence of goodness that God exists? It's simple, it's easy, it's convincing, it was good enough for Aquinas, and it doesn't involve trying to do a hostile take-over of a field that doesn't interest you anyway.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Does Conservative Judicial Philosophy Trump?

There's something very interesting going on with the Supreme Court over the next six months, and it's not watching to see if Roberts will explicitly say he supports or rejects Roe nor is it finding out if the democrats will filibuster Roberts or whoever Bush nominates to replace O'Connor.

It seems to me like one of the real tests here is whether nominating justices with a conservative philosophy instead of a conservative ideology will get the pro-life movement what we want. Looking back thirty plus years to when Nixon (hardly a conservative himself) put Blackmun on the court, the liberal activist judicial philosophy was clearly in control and there wasn't a clearly stated conservative counter to it. Reagan and Bush I both provided very hit-and-miss judicial nominees (on the good side: Scalia and Thomas, on the bad side: Souter, O'Connor and Kennedy. Many, especially in the Catholic blogsphere, have suggested this was simply because Bush I and Reagan didn't care a fig about the pro-life movement. I think rather, the tenets of conservative judicial philosophy were still under development, and so what Reagan and Bush I tried (with very mixed results) to do was to simply pick justices who seemed somewhat conservative in preferences and/or temperament.

Over the last twenty years as conservatives have reasserted themselves legal academia through networks like the dreaded Federalist Society, they have developed a coherent conservative philosophy of law and government which holds much more sway now than it did twenty years ago. One of the virtues of this philosophically driven approach is that we can now count on as supporters even some who do not share our conservative moral beliefs.

Now, the general tenets of conservative judicial philosophy won't get us our final goal: an end to legal abortion in the United States. However, it could get us an end to the judicially imposed ban on restrictions of abortion. That would leave us to fight out abortion law at the local, state and federal level via legislation. At the very least, we would get what we deserved, not what was imposed on us.

The question is, though, will it work? Abortion (and other highly charged moral issues like gay marriage) bring up strong emotions. And so the question is: Will choosing judges solely on their judicial philosophy get us what we wan (an overturn of Roe) or when those judges come under pressure will they decide to vote ideology rather than their philosophy?

If the only way to end Roe is to select justices who vocally and personally oppose abortion, then all we're doing is the flip side of what Blackmun and Co. did in their original ruling: impose our moral beliefs by fiat. If, however, the conservative judicial achieves our aims, perhaps there's a chance that we can improve our country's lot without a full scale culture war.

Can't Win for Losing in Gaza

Belmont club pulls together two stories that tell a really sad, though perhaps not surprising story. An American Jewish philanthropic group contributed $14 million to purchase a number of settler-owned greenhouses in the Gaza stip. The settlers, being forced to evacuate, had otherwise considered dismantling them. However, the greenhouses employed over 3500 Palestinians and provided fresh produce to the area. The idea was, this way the 3500 workers could keep their jobs and the local produce production would continue unabated.

Unfortunately, once the settlers were gone mobs of Palestinians looted and dismantled the greenhouses. PA police stood by, saying they didn't have the manpower to protect them.

Sometimes you just can't do anyone a favor...

The Eternal Now

Maybe it's the result of growing up on Science Fiction and then reading Augustine, but one of the things I latched on to tight when I ran into it in college was Augustine's reconciliation of God's foreknowledge with Man's free will. In City of God XI, 21 Augustine says:

"It is not with God as it is with us. He does not look ahead to the future, look directly at the present, look back to the past. He sees in some other manner, utterly remote from anything we experience or could imagine. He does not see things by turning his attention from one thing to another. He sees all without any kind of change. Things which happen under the condition of time are in the future, not yet in being, or in the present, already existing, or in the past, no longer in being. But God comprehends all these in a stable and eternal present.... Nor is there any difference between his present, past and future knowledge."
Why must God experience things in an eternal present? Allow me to play wannabe mathematician for a moment. Picture two events that took place two thousands years apart (say today and Jesus' fifth birthday). Now, remember that since God is eternal he experienced infinite periods of time both before Jesus' fifth birthday and after today. By comparison to the periods of time before and after that two thousand year span, the span itself reduces to a near infinitely short period. Now take a point in time 100 million years before the birth of Jesus. God's existence before and after that span of 100,002,000 years is also infinite. So how does the hundred million year period compare with the two thousand year period? Well, as a percentage of eternity, they're equal. The 100.2 million divided by infinity is the same as 2000 divided by infinity.

Bring into this God's unchanging nature, and you have the Eternal Now.

Maybe this is a function of my overly intellectual approach to the faith, but this idea has always have a peculiar hold on me. In God all things are brought together. The life, death and resurrection of Christ is not some ancient event. For God (and for us in the mass despite our temporal limitations as finite beings) his suffering death and resurrection are always now. At every given moment Christ is suffering for our sins, past and present, because for God each moment of our lives is simultaneous with the crucifixion.

In this sense, I've sometimes thought of the sacrifice of the mass as our own moment out of time. In celebrating the mass we experience the same moment, fixed in real human history yet eternal in God's experience, in union with billions of other souls throughout history. As we gather round the alter, we share that eternal moment of God's sacrifice with Karol Wojtyla celebrating his first mass, with St. Therese, with St. Francis, with St. Thomas Aquinas, with countless Catholics throughout history whether gathered in grand cathedrals, small chapels or a priest with his mass kit on the battle field or in the catacombs, with the apostles themselves at the Last Supper, and with Mary as she watched her son and Savior hang upon the cross. All of us, the Body of Christ, experience God's Eternal Now once each week. Sometimes even once each day.

It may be hard to remember when the kids are squirming. But that's why we're all there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

PC Little Red Riding Hood

Via Happy Catholic (that indispensable source of links!), a PC re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood (I'm only giving a summary, so go read the whole version):
On her way to Grandma's house, Red Riding Hood passed a woodchopper, and wandered off the path, in order to examine some flowers.

She was startled to find herself standing before a Wolf, who asked her what was in her basket.

Red Riding Hood's teacher had warned her never to talk to strangers, but she was confident in taking control of her own budding sexuality, and chose to dialogue with the Wolf.

She replied, "I am taking my Grandmother some healthful snacks in a gesture of solidarity."

The Wolf said, "You know, my dear, it isn't safe for a little girl to walk through these woods alone."

Red Riding Hood said, "I find your sexist remark offensive in the extreme, but I will ignore it because of your traditional status as an outcast from society, the stress of which has caused you to develop an alternative and yet entirely valid worldview. Now, if you'll excuse me, I would prefer to be on my way."

Red Riding Hood returned to the main path, and proceeded towards her Grandmother's house.

But because his status outside society had freed him from slavish adherence to linear, Western-style thought, the Wolf knew of a quicker route to Grandma's house.

He burst into the house and ate Grandma, a course of action affirmative of his nature as a predator.

This and that

Slow news day at the Darwin Household, so here's a couple of tidbits and a question.

--First off, does anyone know when the new season of Lost starts? That wouldn't be tonight, would it?

--Britney Spears is having her baby! Big whoop, I've done it twice, and the tabloids didn't care. Since she's having a c-section, does that mean that she'll stop wearing low-cut jeans? Maybe stretch marks will be the new pink.

--For any who watch it and read this blog (all one of you raise your hand) FullMetal Alchemist will be resuming on Cartoon Network this Saturday at 11:00 PM CST.

--We're still working on it, but it does look like Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser will remove permanent marker from bathtubs and tile surrounds.

--You'd think a cat could take out a cockroach pretty easily, but in the end you'll have to yell for Darwin to come do it himself.

--A three-year-old is very sensitive and will think you're laughing at her at the dinner table even if you're making jokes about the John Roberts confirmation hearings.

--And a joke I heard on The Corner:
Q: What is George Bush's opinion on Roe vs. Wade?
A: He really doesn't care how people got out of New Orleans.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"Ill Wind May Not Blow to the White House"

The Corner posted this piece by Newton Emerson of the Irish Times:

As the full horror of Hurricane Katrina sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if this is the end of George Bush's presidency.

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided that every copy of the US Constitution was destroyed in the storm. Otherwise President Bush will remain in office until noon on January 20th, 2009, as required by the 20th Amendment, after which he is barred from seeking a third term anyway under the 22nd Amendment.

As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if the entire political agenda of George Bush's second term will not still be damaged in some terribly satisfying way.

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided that the entire political agenda of George Bush's second term consists of repealing the 22nd Amendment. Otherwise, with a clear Republican majority in both Houses of Congress, he can carry on doing pretty much whatever he likes.

As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if the Republican Party itself will now suffer a setback at the congressional mid-term elections next November.

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided that people outside the disaster zone punish their local representatives for events elsewhere a year previously, both beyond their control and outside their remit, while people inside the disaster zone reward their local representatives for an ongoing calamity they were supposed to prevent. Otherwise, the Democratic Party will suffer a setback at the next congressional election

As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if an official inquiry will shift the blame for poor planning and inadequate flood defences on to the White House.

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided nobody admits that emergency planning is largely the responsibility of city and state agencies, and nobody notices that the main levee which broke was the only levee recently modernised with federal funds. Otherwise, an official inquiry will pin most of the blame on the notoriously corrupt and incompetent local governments of New Orleans and Louisiana.

As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if George Bush contributed to the death toll by sending so many national guard units to Iraq.

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided nobody recalls that those same columnists have spent the past two years blaming George Bush for another death toll by not sending enough national guard units to Iraq. Otherwise, people might wonder why they have never previously read a single article advocating large-scale military redeployment during the Caribbean hurricane season.

As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnist are asking how a civilised city can descend into anarchy.

The answer is that only a civilised city can descend into anarchy.

As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if George Bush should be held responsible for the terrible poverty in the southern states revealed by the flooding.

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided nobody holds Bill Clinton responsible for making Mississippi the poorest state in the union throughout his entire term as president, or for making Arkansas the second-poorest state in the union throughout his entire term as governor. Otherwise, people might suspect that it is a bit more complicated than that.

As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if George Bush should not be concerned by accusations of racism against the federal government.

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided nobody remembers that Jesse Jackson once called New York "Hymietown" and everybody thinks Condoleezza Rice went shopping for shoes when the hurricane struck because she cannot stand black people. Otherwise sensible Americans of all races will be more concerned by trite, cynical and dangerous political opportunism.

As the full horror of that sinks in, this columnist is simply glad that everybody cares.

I'm proud to be Irish...

Money, Sex & Out-of-Wedlock Births

The Wall Street Journal (increasingly one of my favorite sources of editorials) came out with this piece a couple weeks ago, and since it was originally not available online I good intentions of typing in selections to post. However, good intentions being what they are, I didn't get around to doing anything with it till I noticed today that it's now available on the OpinionJournal website. (Remember, as they are wont to tell their subscribers at every single chance, that the Journal will start being published on Saturdays beginning this coming week!)

Anyway, Amy L. Wax of the UPenn Law School wrote a piece called What Women Want about how, despite the fact it was mostly the upper and upper middle classes that pushed the "sexual revolution" the upper classes still invariably marry when having children, while the lower classes suffer from staggering rates of illegitimacy. Some selections:

When it comes to single-parent families, Everybody's Doing It. That, it seems, is the received wisdom--but it's not true. As Charles Murray noticed decades ago and demographers have known for some time, the structure of families has diverged drastically by social class. The out-of-wedlock birth rate among women with no more than a high-school education has skyrocketed since the 1960s but remains very low among college graduates. Divorce has declined among the well-off but is climbing among the unskilled. Although almost all college graduates still marry eventually, marriage rates are dropping steadily among those without a high-school degree....

What can we learn from these tales of working-class city life and the demographic facts behind them? First, the decades-old demise of clear standards following the sexual revolution, at worst a mixed blessing for the well-off, has hit the less privileged hard. The disparities in family structure suggest that people are not equal in their ability to handle newfound sexual freedom. The well-heeled don't often defend the 1950s, but they haven't left them entirely behind. That behavior differs by social position should come as no surprise. Foresight and capacity for self-governance are qualities that make for economic success. They also make for orderly families.

Second, marital and sexual behavior depend more on mores than money. Restraint and social norms, rather than economic circumstances, best account for class differences. As Christopher Jencks and David Ellwood at Harvard have noted, economic factors fail to explain why privileged women, who are best equipped to go the single-motherhood route, insist upon marriage before children. Work by sociologists indicates that men may be the key. What we know about why marriages endure suggests that better-off men more often honor monogamy and strive for sexual fidelity. In family life, as in education, degrees matter: The rare or hidden lapse is worlds apart from infidelity as a way of life.

Left-leaning scholars adamantly resist this picture. They insist that family breakdown is all about economic opportunity. The problem is not that people are behaving badly or that--heaven forbid--one class is more prudent than another, but that our policies are inadequate. Material conditions, not moral commitments, are the source of domestic chaos. To change behavior, we must give the poor more resources.

Decades of experience belie this view. Poor relief and welfare policy, whether strict or lenient, can't rescue disintegrating families. Rather, as Mr. Jencks and others have shown, the very opposite is true: Wise behavior can secure economic well-being. Men and women who stick together, stay out of trouble, and work steadily are rarely poor, and their children surmount poverty as well. Public money and policy gimmicks are no substitute for good conduct.

This reminded me of some work I read a while back studying the relative economic fortunes of different groups of Hispanic immigrants in the US. What the study found was that the relative economic fortunes of immigrants from various central and south American countries varied in direct proportion to the levels of illegitimacy that had developed within the different populations.

Some demographers assume this must be the result of poor economic conditions causing increased levels of illegitimacy, but it seems perhaps more persuasive that the varying economic fortunes of these groups result from their differing levels of out-of-wedlock births. Immigrant groups that manage to maintain a strong taboo against pre-marital sex are far more likely to life themselves out of poverty than those that allow familial breakdown.

The more interesting question is what causes the illegitimacy disparity between rich and poor; educated and non-educated. At least from immediate observation, it doesn't seem accurate that the children of the upper and upper middle classes have less pre-marital sex than those of the lower classes. Liberal opinion makers seem to feel that the difference here is that the well off have more access to birth control and abortion, and so the disparity can be solved by providing the poor with more "family planning services".

I think there's some of that. But there's also an attitude difference. According to Wax's article, the interviews that sociologists did with inner city single mothers showed (unsurprisingly) that they nearly universally desired stable married relationships in which to raise their children. However, they were willing to accept single motherhood as a second best when marriage seemed unavailable given the men in their social circles. I think that must be the key. Most upper and upper-middle class women do not seem to see single motherhood as an acceptable fallback position.

Speaking in the general sense (meaning that 5-10% of women having out-of-wedlock children when marriage is not available is not considered a trend, but 50% doing so is) it appears that the difference is that many in the upper and middle class pursue pre-marital sex for romance/recreation, but are not willing to have children except within marriage or a relationship that shows signs of leading to or being functionally identical to marriage. This isn't necessarily an exercise of extreme virtue on their part. Functional marriage is generally available to women in these social classes, and so it seems both wise and feasible to hold out for it before assuming the vulnerabilities and responsibilities of parenthood. Poor inner city women, by contrast, are often faced with a world in which it appears that there are no faithful, responsible men available to marry. Large numbers seem to then give up hope and essentially say, "Marriage would be nice if I could get it, but I won't let the lack of it keep me from having children."

It seems like nothing can break this cycle except the willingness to remain single and childless if no suitable marriage partner is available. And given how strong the reproductive urge is, most people only achieve this if they have strong religious or cultural pressures brought to bear on them to avoid per-marital intercourse and/or childbearing.

Wisdom from Futurama

(Yeah, the level of discourse really sinks around here when the nights get late.)

"He struck a chord with voters when he promised not to go on a killing spree."
"Unfortunately, like most politicians, he promised more than he could deliver."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Mean Girls take two

I remembered what else it was that I wanted to point out about Mean Girls. We watched some of the special features, and they contained a set of twenty-second promo pieces which featured the main characters discussing some issue. At the end of each segment, one of them would make a remark that revealed them to be Mean Girls (tm).

One of the featurettes had the girls talking about the plight of women globally. One girl said: "Baby girls in China are routinely given up for adoption," a phrase which grated a bit on Darwin and me. Far more baby girls in China are aborted than given up for adoption, and grown women are forced to have abortions and sterilizations. Being given up for adoption because you're a girl is certainly not the worst thing that can happen to a female in China!

And for those wondering how the segment ended, the girl ended up by pointing out that in this country, 7 out of 10 girls think they're too fat, to which the lead mean girl said, "So what? Six of them are right."

Curses! Foiled again.

With great excitement we set up last night to tape the return of Foyle's War to Mystery! on PBS. But alas! The girls having unplugged our VCR earlier in the week (and thus reset the clock) we didn't get it. Sigh... Now one must wait two weeks for the repeat on KLRU2.

In other news, we braved the rain yesterday to go downtown and attend the noon mass at Saint Mary's Cathedral here in Austin. Arriving damp and slightly late, we had to stand in the vestibule through mass, and the monkeys here simply terribly behaved. Very beautiful mass, though, with organ, incense and the works. The church was packed to overflowing and with a pretty good showing of young families and UT students. We'll have to go again some time and make sure we get there earlier enough to make it into a pew.

One of the great things about the Austin cathedral is that it's actually been subject to a restoration that left it looking far better than it did before. You can see a few pictures at their website:

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I had a ladle spill chequer...

Now, my spelling has never been great, though it's got better over the years. But can I just say that it's profoundly unhelpful of Blogger's built in spell checker to implement its incipient German sensibilities by combining phrases together into single compound words like "bunchvaguelyelly"? Now, I suppose bunchvaguelyelly has a certain evocative sound to it, but I'd prefer to be creative on my own rather than with computer assistance.

I suppose I should stop cheating and do my own proofreading...

Saturday, September 10, 2005

St. Paul & The Spirit of Vatican II

I've been meaning all week to discuss last Sunday's second reading from Paul's letter to the Romans:

Brothers and sisters:Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery;you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be,are summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no evil to the neighbor;hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom 13:8-10)

Now, as I held a squirming toddler in the vestibule last Sunday and listened to this reading, I had fresh in my mind some recent debates about the worth, or lack thereof, of Vatican II. (More on those later.) And it struck me: In a way this passage has all the same problems that I often hear people complain about in Vatican II.

What Paul is doing here is taking a bunch of prohibitions and turning them into a positive command. Don't think that you just need to not steal, not kill, not covet, not commit adultery. All of these are partial ways of saying, "Love one another, for each human being is a unique and valued creature of the Lord your God." And so Paul seeks to innoculate us against our pharisaic sides by saying, "Don't focus on what you don't do, focus on what you must do."

One of the glosses of Vatican II that I've read which really rings true to me is that in a mood of profound optimism, the council fathers essentially sought to say: "Children, you have shown by your obedience to the law that you truly love God and wish to make yourselves pleasing to him. Thus, we would like to draw your eyes away from the law a bit encouragerage you to enter a more mature form of spirituality, not merely to 'do not' but to 'do'."

Now, I think they were right at a very deep level, in that to be spiritual adults we must not merely obey God's commands and the Church's disciplines but grow to have an understanding and love for God that is active in the world. But the danger is, if you say, "Let's stop emphasizing the letter of the law so heavily and start thinking about the spirit of the law" and your audience really was only up to understanding the letter of the law, their response will be "Oh goody! We don't have to follow that law any more."

And I think, honestly, that this is much of what happened with the chaos that Vatican II ushered in. The council fathers were right to think that many of the laity (and indeed the clergy) were on autopilot, going through motions and following laws that they didn't understand very well. The problem is, many of these people were so stuck on the motions and the laws, that all they heard from the council was "You don't have to worry about those laws so much anymore."

For instance, think of the Friday fast. This had, for many Catholics, simply become an identity exercise. So when the bishops advised people that instead of abstaining from meat on Fridays they could, if they so chose, substitute another act of penance or charity to be performed on Friday's in commemoration of Christ's death what happened? People didn't hear the "substitute another penance or charity" part of the equation, they just heard the "you don't have to abstain from meat" part. So now even most church attending Catholics do no particular Friday penance.

It's easy to say, as many do, "Vatican II just produced a bunch of vaguely worded 'pastoral' guidance that destroyed the solid old church." But given the way the practice of Catholicism fell apart so quickly in many areas, there must have been something wrong in the first place. Furthermore, we find Christ and the apostles themselves often making these kinds of "vague" pastoral statements. After all, how much have we seen statement's like the above passage from Romans abused by those who object to traditional Christian morality. "Christ told us the greatest command is to love one another, so how can we say that it's wrong for two men to love one another." What these people forget is that Jesus (and Paul in the passage above) is not saying that people do not need to obey the law, rather he is explaining to them why they must obey the law. The commands such as "do no kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery" are the training wheels: they help us form a proper understanding of what "to love" is. You cannot throw someone with an unformed conscience out into the deep by saying "Just love everyone and you'll be fine." Before someone can get by with only the command "love one another" he must first have a firm idea of why having relations with his neighbors wife could never be an example of "loving".

Without question the implementation of Vatican II in many places was deeply deficient, but at root the documents of Vatican II did us no greater disservice than Christ himself: they gave us not only the precise, training wheel-style moral instructions, but also the general principles on which they are based. And like Christ's words, Vatican II's more general statements have been twisted by those who object to it's specific teachings, in order to turn it back as a weapon against itself.

Mean Girls

We did watch Mean Girls last night, which turned out to be mostly a blast. I think, though, that Tina Fey (the writer) has never actually met any homeschoolers. Most homeschooled kids are as likeable and charming as Lindsay Lohan at the beginning (though not everyone has that body at 16 -- I myself didn't look like that 'til I was 17...).

We watched the special features at the end, however, and I took a nasty delight in noticing that in the documentary footage the actresses didn't look as perfect and svelte as in the edited movie. This may be the pregnancy pudge talking, though.

Mr. Orkin-man

Rejoice with us, o my friends: the Orkin man is coming this morning to wreak vengance on the colony of ants living in our carpet. (This is what happens a few months after two small girls grind an entire bag of brown sugar into the carpet.) The pestilence endeth!

(Or it had better, because we're not quite ready to put hardwood in the living room just yet, especially after the emergency tiling job in our bathroom because our idiot builder years ago put carpet by our bathtub and two small girls dumped water on it and it wouldn't dry out...)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Hurricane Wrap-Up

So after initially saying I wasn't in a position to say much about the hurricane, I guess I've said a fair amount... Here's my last go 'round.

Two articles caught my eye yesterday, both linked to by the Corner.

One is about FEMA insanity sending highly trained fire fighters to sensitivity training for eight hours before deploying them, and then only asking them to hand out information to help people contact the FEMA response line:

In a document that went out from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the agency asked for firefighters with very specific skills and who were capable of working in austere conditions. When they got to a center in Atlanta, they found out their jobs would be public relations.

"Our job was to advertise a phone number for FEMA," said Portage Assistant Fire Chief Bill Lundy. "We were going to be given shirts and hats with a phone number on it and flyers, and sent to shelters, and we were going to pass out flyers."

Lundy and Calhoun said they don't want to bash FEMA or its mission, Rogers reported. They said they only want to help, and that there were plenty of other firefighters in the room who felt the same way.

"There was almost a fight," said Portage Assistant Fire Chief Joe Calhoun. "There was probably 700 firefighters sitting in the room getting this training, and it dawned on them what we were going to be doing. And then it got bad from there."

Lundy and Calhoun's first task was an eight-hour course on sexual harassment and equal opportunity employment procedures, Rogers reported. Neither firefighter would be involved in technical rescues of trapped people or any of their other specialties.

The other is from the Washington Post, about how Louisiana receives far more Army Corps of Engineers money for civil works than any other state in the union (California comes in second with 1.5billion to Louisiana's 1.9billion) but much of that money was diverted to local pork barrel projects by the congressional delegation:

Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state's congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana's representatives have kept bringing home the bacon.

For example, after a $194 million deepening project for the Port of Iberia flunked a Corps cost-benefit analysis, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) tucked language into an emergency Iraq spending bill ordering the agency to redo its calculations. The Corps also spends tens of millions of dollars a year dredging little-used waterways such as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the Atchafalaya River and the Red River -- now known as the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway, in honor of the project's congressional godfather -- for barge traffic that is less than forecast.

The Industrial Canal lock is one of the agency's most controversial projects, sued by residents of a New Orleans low-income black neighborhood and cited by an alliance of environmentalists and taxpayer advocates as the fifth-worst current Corps boondoggle. In 1998, the Corps justified its plan to build a new lock -- rather than fix the old lock for a tiny fraction of the cost -- by predicting huge increases in use by barges traveling between the Port of New Orleans and the Mississippi River.

In fact, barge traffic on the canal had been plummeting since 1994, but the Corps left that data out of its study. And barges have continued to avoid the canal since the study was finished, even though they are visiting the port in increased numbers.

Pam Dashiell, president of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, remembers holding a protest against the lock four years ago -- right where the levee broke Aug. 30. Now she's holed up with her family in a St. Louis hotel, and her neighborhood is underwater. "Our politicians never cared half as much about protecting us as they cared about pork," Dashiell said.

Now, when Jonah posted the FEMA story to the Corner with the comment "Your government at work..." Rod Dreher (always good for a critical response) demanded, "And exactly who has been responsible for that branch of the government since January 20th, 2001?" This pretty clearly is also the kind of thinking Mark Shea has had going on at some length since his return to blogging earlier this week.

Now, as any reader here could attest I'm certainly one for looking at the politics of a situation. However, one of the things that has struck me in relation to a number of different issues lately (responses to the hurricane, the situation in Iraq, the governing of the Catholic Church especially in dealing with the recent abuse scandals, etc.) is that most people seem to have a very simplistic idea of how authority works in an institution. When the diocese of San Francisco made a court filing using the phrase "engaging in unprotected sex" in regards to a paternity suit against a Redemptorist priest, lots of people immediately started talking about "Archbishop Levada telling women to use birth control". This isn't just a defense of people I like either. Remember all the accusations that went around about "Clinton ordered this" and "Clinton was responsible for that" back during his administration?

Maybe I'm being overly forgiving here, but even in the moderately well run large organizations that I've been a part of, there is a lot that goes on under the authority of a leader that has nothing to do with his actual wishes. E.g. the VP of a division says "We need to cut operating expenses" and next thing you know some mid level manager is saying, "Based on the VP's instructions, you must now fill out this form and get approval before buying new staples."

I'm a big fan of some of the WW2 era British authors like Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell. Now, like many others, I'm a big admirer of Churchill, but read any account of what it was like to live in Brittain during the war years or serve in the army and you realize what how much money, energy, time and sometimes even lives were put into totally idiotic things. The opening chapters of Brideshead Revisitted (and just as much so Nick Jenkins' experiences in the war years of Dance to the Music of Time) deal with the absolutely soul numbing pretenses that made up much of army life.

I'm not sure exactly what to draw from all this beyond "humans have an amazing capacity to muck things up" but I think there's always a balance to be looked for in judging the performance of high level leadership. One wants to see some sort of administrative sanity enforced all the way down from the top to the bottom, but it seems that even among great leaders, when you're dealing with a huge organization like a government, the best you can often hope for is a good overall direction and perhaps the appointment of a few good upper to mid level subordinates. Then the Kenneth Widmerpools of the world take over, and whether anything else functional befalls us is very much in question.