Monday, September 20, 2010

POPE BENEDICT XVI

The last four days have been wonderful. I managed to watch almost all of the coverage of the Holy Father's visit to the U.K. It is unfortunate that the media here did such a poor job covering his visit, but then that is typical. CNN is usually the biggest offender. CNN seems to only want to focus on the sex abuse scandal while ignoring the significance of the visit given the history of the relationship with the Church and England. A century ago the idea of the pope visiting England would have been unheard of and yet here we are today celebrating just such a visit. And so many of us thought John Paul the Great would be a tough act to follow. Thank God for Benedict.

POPE BENEDICT XVI

Here is a link to the address by Pope Benedict XVI gave at Westminster Hall just a few days ago. Very good stuff. We are fortunate to be blessed by this pope's intellect.

http://romereturn.blogspot.com/2010/09/pope-benedict-speech-to-former-prime.html#more

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

THOMAS MERTON

I am now reading again the journals of Thomas Merton as well as his book "The Inner Experience." Even though Merton is often the whipping boy of fundamentalist Christians and a fair amount of Catholics, one can not argue with his intellectual honesty. There is something in his writing that is accessible to all regardless of education or background, something I discovered when I first encountered his writing, reading "The Seven Story Mountain" in 1975. I had the good fortune to speak with a fellow monk that was Merton's driver before he was sent to the Trappist house in Vina, California. The driver had some great stories. One story involved a beer run for the famous monk. Anyone that has not read Merton is really missing a chance to meet one of the finest writers of the past century. Perhaps it is time to pay another visit to the Trappists in Oregon for a short retreat, something that is also worth doing if one has yet to spend any time at Trappist monastery.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

CATHOLICISM

As Christians we believe in things that to others seem incredible. We believe that Christ was foretold, that he was born of a virgin, that he died and rose again, and that he will come again. And yet for some Christians, the notion that Christ would establish a church with the task to preserve those truths is unbelievable. I don't know everything, but it sounds like a good idea to me.

GLENN BECK RALLY

I am not sure what to make of Mr. Beck. On a recent Glenn Beck show he drifted into matters Mormon, rocks, and supposed suppressed history. It was very bizarre to say the least.


From my Cousin. Check his blog if you are inclined to hear a voice or reason.
http://web.me.com/bjwatt1/barkingdogoftheradicalright/Welcome.html

GLENN BECK -VS- THE ELITES
by Brian Watt on Monday, September 6, 2010 at 7:25pm
“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”
— George Orwell, Animal Farm

The conceit of elites is that they do feel that they have been graced with superior intellect, articulate speech, inherited wealth, power and influence and therefore feel that it’s perfectly natural that they should be revered as those more suited to tell the rest of society how to behave, who to vote for, what rules to follow and of course, remind us to mind our place and our manners. It is a courtly attitude that has survived well past the reigns of successive European monarchies that are no more or that no longer run governments.

In America, like ants attracted to a picnic spread upon the grass, elites over the years continue to leave chemical trails for others of their colony, to find their way to the seats of bureaucratic and political power in Washington D.C. or to financial and media power in New York. It’s the same courtly attitude that’s on display when the First Lady takes an entourage to Spain to shop and luxuriate while millions of Americans are still struggling to find work to make ends meet before they are foreclosed on their homes or evicted from their rental property. It’s the same courtly attitude that’s on display when Massachusetts Senator John Kerry berths his yacht at a marina in Rhode Island to avoid paying the taxes that less fortunate citizens of Massachusetts must pay because well, to paraphrase Orwell, he’s just more equal than other Massachusetts citizens.

In it’s most demonic form, elitism creates technocratic monsters like the late Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who continued to send American soldiers to die in Vietnam when he admitted in his memoirs that he knew the war had been lost. He is the poster boy for Hannah Arendt’s thesis on the banality of evil. Human beings for McNamara became numbers in a complex mathematical calculation. Nothing more. Arendt observed that evil becomes most ominous when an authoritarian state through its bureaucracies de-humanizes individuals. From a bureaucratic perspective the effortless erasing of a name or number becomes a banal effort. The bureaucrat distances him or herself from any emotion that they’ve just ordered the elimination of a human being.

As a spectator beyond the beltway, in the hinterlands of suburban Southern California, one gets the impression, and perhaps unfairly, that too often, elitists lack any curiosity beyond seeing what’s on the first few pages of the New York Times or Washington Post or rubbing shoulders with their friends at cocktail parties inside the beltway as their sources of news about what’s happening in America. If this perception is correct, then this elitist attitude is probably also the reason that Democrats and establishment Republicans don’t quite understand what the Tea Party movement is all about. They are astute enough to understand that it is a threat to their power and as a result are doing anything they can to belittle, denigrate or smear it and its participants who are after all so, well….common.

The conceit of Washington elitism was on full display during the healthcare bill town hall meetings when constituents turned the tables on their public servants and lectured members of the House and Senate on what was in their own crafted legislation that they hadn’t bothered to read. And, of course, no one will, or should, forget the arrogance on display as Sheila Jackson Lee felt it was more important to take a cell phone call rather than listen to that annoying rabble that she had been elected to represent. She was an important Congresswoman with more important things to do. These were just ordinary, common citizens. What did they know? After all, Congresswoman Lee knew better than millions of Americans that men had actually landed on the planet Mars.

Of course, the sins of elitists become more serious when they hold the reins of power. Their lack of curiosity unfortunately leads to the flirtation or more amorous embracing of dubious ideas, schemes or beliefs that often have oppressive or dangerous consequences. Man-made global warming is one such belief. It continues to be discredited by thousands of real scientists who have demonstrated that several of the UN’s IPCC reports were not based on tested and provable scientific data but rather the work of environmental activists or academics hungry for government grants who conspired to suppress opposing views and omit other conflicting data and conclusions.

Man-made global warming is still fervently clung to by Mssrs. Kerry, esq., Graham, esq. and John McCain despite the continued erosion of the so-called science that was apparently all in. McCain, of course, is absolutely convinced of man-made global warming because he has seen the melting and disappearance of ice in the Arctic first hand, not realizing of course that he’s confusing effect with cause. There is a wealth of scientific literature that refutes man-made causes of global warming that continues to be ignored by the elitists in Washington for several reasons — a) because like science expert Sheila Jackson Lee, Senators and members of the House supporting Cap and Trade already know better than scientists who have devoted their entire adult lives studying astrophysics, climatology, meteorology, geology, and geophysics; b) because in the words of Albert Gore, Jr. “…the science has been decided” which demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of what science and the scientific method is all about; c) there is actually another agenda afoot to redistribute American wealth on a global basis; and d) very vocal proponents of man-made global warming like the aforementioned Mr. Gore stand to profit in the billions of dollars for their investments in new ‘green’ companies. I don’t know about you but my bets are on reasons C and D.

Other more morally reprehensible concepts like eugenics also sprung from the minds of so-called “intellectual” elites who needed a final solution for the advancement of the human race by purifying and eliminating from the gene pool those human beings with undesirable traits — the habitually poor, the destitute, the ignorant, the mentally impaired, the socially undesirable, the criminal and of course any ethnic group that could be, through twisted and evil logic, be associated with these traits or groups – Jews, Ukrainians, artists, poets, homosexuals, other intellectuals not willing to subscribe to the concept of eugenics or to socialist ideology. But of course, we unenlightened common Americans have nothing to worry about on that front. It’s not as though government-run healthcare would permit the elimination of an individual because they became too burdensome to the rest of society. No, that would never happen, would it?

As the father of an Autistic teenager with slight mental retardation, who is bipolar and who has lacked the neural connectivity and ability that enables him to engage in conversation for the last seventeen years, you might say that I’m probably a bit more sensitive about such topics as socialized medicine, social planning, eugenics, and abortion than adults who aren’t faced with these challenges. And as challenging as my situation is, I know it is hell on my son who is well aware of his condition, who comprehends it completely and comprehends so much more about the world around him but doesn’t have the words to express what he does know or his frustration. It is expressed in other ways — hand-biting, head-butting, kicking, and lashing out at others.

At a previous job I was once amused by a fellow director who stormed into my department like a raging bull, red-faced, shouting at the top of his lungs in an effort to intimidate me for something that was entirely his own employee’s fault. I stood up from my desk and looked at him squarely in the face and said, “You know, if this is meant to somehow impress me, it’s not working. I have a six-year-old Autistic son at home who kicks holes in my drywall.” My son still kicks holes in the drywall only now with a lot more force and sometimes at 3 o’clock in the morning often for no reason other than he is just angry at something that unfortunately I cannot discern even after a barrage of questions because he does not have the ability to tell me.

The challenges of other parents dealing with children with even more extreme disorders, diseases or life threatening conditions is something that I reflect on when my own challenges seem overwhelming and it helps to keep me sane and grounded. For those of us who have tried or are trying to raise a special needs child or children we ought to be able to say “needless to say” when we relate our stories to those not familiar with these children. But often we cannot say it, because the task of raising these kids is beyond the day-to-day comprehension of parents with normal kids who you can reason with because they have their mental faculties, can speak and are simply being obstinate or misbehaving from time to time.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for parents and caregivers who devote their lives to special needs children and adults; and even greater respect for parents like Todd and Sarah Palin who knew that, even before their baby was born, they would be dealing with a special needs, Downs Syndrome child. Their example is to be applauded and revered. It is disheartening and so revealing when I hear arguments for abortion that say that it is justified because otherwise there would be too many children born into poverty, struggling to survive. The proponents of this argument apparently have remarkable powers of prophetic vision to be able to say with confidence what that child’s life will be like. And, of course, the next logical step in this argument is sterilization of the poor so they don’t get pregnant in the first place which helps to eliminate the guilt of abortion and the next step after that is eugenics and genocide to eliminate the poor altogether and those apparent genetic factors that must somehow cause someone to be habitually poor. Abortion, sterilization, eugenics and genocide – have all been entertained by socialist elites to a greater or lesser, yet still horrific degree.

As if this weren’t alarming enough, the whole-hearted embrace of Marxist ideology by the elites in power in Washington and throughout the country has the potential to usher in even more extreme aspects of socialism. After witnessing the history of the Soviet Union, of Communist China, of North Korea, and of Cuba we know that socialism penalizes talent, creativity, hard work and rewards sloth and parasitism. Yet the elites are as enamored with it as though this evil regimes never existed or hoping that if they tinker with it somehow, this time they’ll get it just right.

Elites in the White House, in Congress and squatting in seas of cubicles throughout the greater D.C. area, believe that “rich” people, however they are defined at any given moment in time (today anyone with a salary above $250,000), owe their hard-earned wealth to those less fortunate, less talented, less creative and slothful. As a result these “rich” Americans should be taxed at much higher rates than they already are. Remember that for an elitist bureaucracy it’s much easier to categorize human beings by a designated salary rather than have to deal with the individual human being behind that salary and what their particular issues may be — their debts, their monthly financial obligations, the number of children they may have, the business they’re trying to keep afloat, the employees they’re trying not to lay off. And never mind that the graduated tax system treats Americans unequally under the law and ought to be considered unconstitutional for that very reason. The encroachment of Marxism as the underlying structure of American government has been happening for the last one hundred years as a result of progressive policies and entitlement programs that have been pushed by Democrats and Republicans alike. Its most fervent adherents are academics, lifelong bureaucrats who’ve never run a business or tried to meet payroll, never created a company, never created much of anything tangible that has given another human being joy or provided them the means to survive, feed and clothe a family or build an entire community. This is the profile of an elitist bureaucrat. They move effortlessly in and out of positions of power in government to positions of influence in the media and back again. Sometimes changing political parties like unprincipled chameleons blending in with and feeding off of their surroundings that are paid for by taxpayers in the private sector.

It is so frustrating and annoying for elites to have to confront interlopers to their courtly realm who haven’t the pedigree that they have by inheritance. That is why the likes of Ronald Reagan and Glenn Beck, self-educated men for the most part, who were, and arguably are, better read than they are, have confounded them so. They were not to the manor born. How dare they attempt to crash the party!

East Coast Republican elites detested Ronald Reagan — that actor, that B-movie actor! He was everything they were not. A self-made man who achieved his success in Hollywood, on the West coast not the East, by his wit, charm and intelligence. He was affable and articulate and it’s not difficult to understand why other actors thought he was more than qualified to speak for them as president of the Screen Actors Guild, his first taste of politics.

When he ran for governor of California he made the rounds to several companies throughout the state. At the aerospace company where my father and uncle worked, my uncle was assigned to escort Mr. Reagan to the venue at the plant where he would be speaking. When Reagan got into the back seat of the car that would take him to the site, my uncle noticed that he had a hole in the back of his sock. My uncle was convinced at that time, that Ronald Reagan wasn’t quite cut out to become governor much less aspire to any other office. My uncle in a very short time subsequently changed his mind. Reagan’s successful terms as Governor of California during a most contentious time in the state confounded elites more.

Elites continued to underestimate Reagan’s intellect, his command of the facts, his passion for his beliefs and his amazing ability to connect with a non-elitist audience. Establishment Republicans came to realize that Ronald Reagan played the political game much better than they had done over the years. He chose George Herbert Walker Bush as his running mate, who once criticized Reagan’s ideas to re-invigorate the economy as “voodoo economics” despite the fact that Reagan had a degree in economics and an understanding of how John Kennedy’s tax cuts helped to infuse energy in the economy during his abbreviated term in office. Reagan’s deft move to place Bush on the ticket took the wind out of East Coast establishment Republicans’ sails…or to put it more bluntly it shut them up, so he could concentrate on dismantling Carter’s pathetic claim for another four horrendous years in office.

The same mistakes that elites made with Ronald Reagan, current elites are making with Glenn Beck today. They don’t know him. They don’t care to know him. President Obama would have us believe that he ignores him and he might, just as he and many in his administration didn’t bother to read Arizona’s SB 1070 law but felt free enough to comment on how vile it was. When they’re compelled to comment on him, elites belittle Glenn Beck and have relegated him to the role of village idiot. He was an alcoholic without a university degree – not from an Ivy League school, not even from any college, even a community college (Beck’s honorary doctorate degree from Liberty University notwithstanding). He was a radio DJ, for God sake!

This confoundedness made itself evident just the other day, in the way that the very likable Chris Wallace anchor of Fox News Sunday and son of veteran CBS television journalist Mike Wallace, attempted to understand who Glenn Beck was exactly.

CHRIS WALLACE:
“I’m trying to figure you out. In the forty years that I’ve been in this business, I I’ve never seen anyone quite like you. You’re not a newsman, you’re not a preacher, you’re not a politician…What are you?”

GLENN BECK (obviously amused by the question, smiled and replied)
“I’m a dad, I’m a concerned American…”

What? No pedigree? How in the world can just a dad and a concerned American bring together half a million people or more to the Lincoln Memorial? Why it’s beyond comprehension. To Mr. Wallace and I dare say numerous other political and media elites, the only way to understand Glenn Beck is to believe that he’s some sort of mix of Elmer Gantry, Billy Graham, Tony Robbins, Amy Semple McPherson; a foam-at-the-mouth, right-wing conspiracy nut who has perfected the ability to cry on cue and thus mesmerize a crowd — but definitely someone that they just can’t quite put their finger on or push their collective thumb down onto. How dare he criticize what’s happening in Washington and what’s happening to this country. Who does he think he is?! Wallace even asked Beck earlier in the interview, “Who made you the God squad?” Again, let’s see your papers! The elites continue to ignore Beck’s intellect, his passion, his command of the facts, and his ability to connect with non-elites.

The other characteristic that Reagan had and that Glenn Beck has is that they were and are insatiably curious about the world. How it works. Why it doesn’t work. What is the truth? And where can it be found? Elites, on the other hand, already know the truth as it has been revealed to them from their parents, their friends over the years or as imparted to them by their Ivy League, ivory tower professors who also already know the truth. Is it any wonder then that former professor Barack Obama feels that if he just keeps lecturing us dimwitted dunderheads, we’re bound to eventually comprehend the amazing, insightful and visionary rationale of his policies on healthcare, the economy and foreign policy? My dear classmates, we better buckle down and study because Professor Obama is losing his patience with us.

Through perseverance over the years, making speeches on what he called the ‘mashed potato circuit’ and communicating his thoughts over the airwaves about the American idea, socialism, socialized medicine, taxation, etc., Reagan’s popularity grew to a point that he could no longer be ignored. When he finally won his party’s nomination in 1980 to take on Jimmy Carter, Reagan appeared more presidential and commanding than the president who was in office. Reagan’s legacy is one of prosperity, patriotism, and the restoration of pride that Americans felt about their country. Even though Glenn Beck has no desire to pursue political office, what he is doing is very reminiscent of the things that Reagan did to connect with the American people only this time he’s not simply relegating himself to the confines of a radio studio. He is using every tool and visual aid at his disposal on his television show, as well as social networking over the Internet, speaking engagements, rallies and if necessary large scale events like the Restoring Honor event. And it’s driving the elites crazy…because the message is getting through and Beck is connecting.

The unfortunate fact about the classical liberal, conservative movement that Reagan led was that it ended. The Bush presidencies, Bob Dole, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and other establishment Republicans returned to the elitist, progressive policies of previous Democrat administrations and unfortunately by doing so, they’ve ushered in more extreme socialists bent on fundamentally transforming America.

Where Reagan implored Americans to adhere to the principles of the founders, Glenn Beck has taken it one step further — to the very roots of the principles themselves in understanding just who the founders were and what motivated them and of paramount importance, for nearly all of them, their firm belief in God. As one who lived through the Reagan era, there was nothing like this during Reagan’s time on the American stage. Before he became president, Reagan, like Churchill prior to World War II, was often a lonely, solitary voice crackling over the radio at night. Beck, on the other hand, through the reach of his programs has introduced Americans to other historians and authors who are presenting well-researched alternatives to the politically-correct, ethnically fair, Marxist-tinged American history texts from Howard Zinn and others. Americans, especially younger Americans whose history was never taught them, are discovering what they should have learned in grade school, high school and college much of which was purposefully omitted. Historians once struggling for respect or even a place in Marxist-leaning and controlled universities are finally finding a hungry audience for their work. And that is driving the elites crazy as well.

The elite, liberal intelligentsia that has held sway for decades since the sixties is now being challenged at every turn. Tea Party activities of every ethnic background are now armed with information and facts and the elite’s version of the facts is being examined, scrutinized and rejected in the light of day.

The challenge for Glenn Beck and the Tea Party movement is keeping that passion and that flame alive. I believe that was one of the messages of the Restoring Honor event — that in order to restore America back to its founding principles that Americans had to first restore their own honor and integrity as individuals. The elite in power don’t quite know how to deal with millions of passionate, knowledgeable, and very active individuals. Elites prefer faceless crowds that can be lumped into categories. Easier to smear. Easier to control. Easier to eliminate or nullify if necessary.

Glenn Beck may have touched off something in the American consciousness that may eclipse what Ronald Reagan, as one man, with a much smaller group of devoted followers, attempted to do in his time on Earth. I believe the elites, particularly the socialist elites understand this as well…and it scares them to death.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

J.R.R. Tolkien

Here is a link to a fine piece on Tolkien from Called to Communion.
http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/j-r-r-tolkiens-sacramental-world-part-one/

IMAM RAUF

Last night I watched the CNN interview with Imam Rauf. What a joke. Not so much the evasive Imam, but the interviewer. Of course it was on Larry King Live so I suppose I should have not expected a hard hitting interview. So many good opportunities to ask tough follow up questions were missed. This is typical of the Larry King show and CNN in particular. It was all I could do not to change the channel. No pinning him down on where the Mosque funding will come from, his not giving a clear answer to whether Hamas is a terrorist group.

CATHOLIC WEBSITE DISCOVERY

I just discovered a great website. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/
It is very informative and I love the background of the authors.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Stephen Hawking

The below from Father Baron.


Father Barron weighs in on renowned scientist Stephen Hawking's upcoming book release in which he offers his "scientific" view on the existence of a creator. So another prominent British academic has weighed in on the God question. Stephen Hawking, probably the best-known scientist in the world, has said, in a book to be published a week before the Pope’s visit to Britain, that the universe required no Creator. (I’m sure, of course, that there was no “intelligent design” behind that choice of publication date!). I confess that something in me tightens whenever I hear a scientist pontificating on issues that belong to the arena of philosophy or metaphysics. I will gladly listen to Stephen Hawking when he holds forth on matters of theoretical physics, but he’s as qualified to talk about philosophical and religious issues as any college freshman. There is a qualitative difference between the sciences, which speak of objects, forces, and phenomena within the observable universe, and philosophy or religion which speak of ultimate origins and final purposes. Science, as such, simply cannot adjudicate questions that lie outside of its proper purview—and this is precisely why scientists tend to make lots of silly statements when they attempt to philosophize. Here’s an example from Hawking’s latest book: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.” Well, first of all, which is it: nothing or the law of gravity? There’s quite a substantial difference between the two. If Hawking is saying that the universe, which is marked in every nook and cranny by stunning and mathematically describable intellegibility, simply came forth from Nothing, then I just throw up my hands. The classical philosophical tradition gives us an adage that is still hard to improve upon: ex nihilo nihil fit (from nothing comes nothing). Any teacher worth his salt would take a student to task if, in trying to explain why and how a given phenomenon occurred, the student were to say, “well, it just spontaneously happened.” Yet we are expected to be satisfied with precisely that explanation when it comes to the most pressing and fascinating question of all: why is there something rather than nothing? In my dialogues with atheists, I often come up against this total non-explanation, and I can only smile ruefully. Apparently, the affirmation of God involves far too great a leap of faith, yet the assertion that the universe just popped into being is rationally compelling!So suppose we say (to return to Hawking’s rather incoherent statement) that gravity is the ultimate cause of the universe. This would mean that a force within nature is the source of the being of the world. To be sure, this sort of claim has a long pedigree, stretching back at least to the pre-Socratics, but it remains highly problematic. The question “why is there something rather than nothing?” is not searching after a thing within the universe, but rather the being of the universe. It is wondering why (to use the technical term) contingent things exist, that is to say, things that do not contain within themselves the reason for their own being. You and I are contingent in the measure that we had parents, that we eat and drink, and that we breathe. In a word, we don’t explain ourselves. Now if we want to understand why we exist, we cannot go on endlessly appealing to other contingent things. We must come finally to some reality which exists through the power of its own essence, some power whose very nature it is to be. But that whose very nature it is to be cannot, in any sense, be limited or imperfect in being, and this is precisely why Catholic philosophy has identified this non-contingent ground of contingency, this ultimate explanation of the being of the universe, as “God.” To claim that something as finite and variable as the force of gravity is this ultimate explaining value is simply ludicrous. However all-embracing or powerful it is, gravity is still a worldly nature, something within the contingent cosmos. There is a line from one of the articles describing Hawking’s book that I found, actually, quite helpful and illuminating. The author said, “in his new book, The Grand Design…Hawking sets out a comprehensive thesis that the scientific framework leaves no room for a deity.” Quite right. Since the true God is not a being alongside other beings, not one thing in the universe among many, he is not circumscribable within a scientific frame of understanding. He should not, therefore, even in principle, be either affirmed or denied from a purely scientific perspective. There is, of course, rampant today a “scientism” which would reduce all legitimate knowing to the scientific mode of knowing. You can find this form of dogmatism in the writings of all of the prominent “new” atheists: Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, etc. I must confess that I’m disappointed that Stephen Hawking appears to have joined their company.Father Robert Barron is the Director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.