Dec 1, 2006

Recent Christian Science Fiction

I've been perusing web sites that discuss Christian and specifically Catholic science fiction. One of the most informative ones is Infinite Space, Infinite God that provides an overview of recent Catholic science fiction and related websites. The site advertises "a new anthology of fifteen stories about how the future Catholic Church uses--or fails to use--its faith, wisdom and imagination to grow with the changes of the future."

One of the 15 stories is reprinted on the site--These Three-- written by a homeschooling Mom and a spaceflight operations Dad (seriously!). [I just wish the main author Mom understood that 'real time' telescopic observations in space are not quite 'real time.'] The story begins on a spaceship with sisters of the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue.
Sister Magdalena ... was a sensible, practical woman, one of the first recruits to the order, which had been founded by the late Gillian Hawkins, who had gone to space to care for her husband and remained there after his death. She, too, had been a practical woman. Though a nurse by trade, she'd learned shuttle piloting, basic engineering, and business. She saw the exorbitant prices professional search and rescue units commanded and knew if she offered the same services for "air, equipment, and the love of God," her Order could undercut the competition and carve a place for Catholic religious in outer space.
The Claw of the Conciliator is written by Elliot, a Canadian Anglican, who specializes in Christian S-F. I very much appreciated his two comments on a recent post of mine. Elliot is the one who can tell you who wrote what and when, and he knows the history of Christian S-F probably better than anyone.

Nov 29, 2006

Faked News

Bloggers who read a news story and question it are the best bloggers of all--especially when they act as detectives and search for supporting evidence and ancillary facts. Googling names of key people is usually a great way to start checking what is really going on.

Flopping Aces has done a superb investigation to show how Islamists are using the web to fake news items. Don't miss his Getting the News from the Enemy posts regarding Capt. Jamil Hussein, the burning of mosques, and six torched Sunnis. Michelle Malkin has also been involved in the disentangling of the plot. Here are the results of her poll.

Private Marriage for Elderly?

I once wrote a post on Religious vs. Civil Marriage that included a story of an elderly widower who was living with a widow without being married because they would lose their benefits if they married. The question of whether a secret marriage is permitted in such cases is addressed by Fr. Brian T. Mullady, O.P. in the November issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review, a reputable priests' magazine now published by Ignatius Press and edited by Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J.

In the column Questions Answered, a priest asks Fr. Mullady about a couple who asked if they could be married privately in the Church, but not bother about getting a marriage license from the State. The questioning priest said he told the couple that he could not marry them under those circumstances because marriage is a public event, not private.

Fr. Mullady concurs with the priest in his decision not to privately marry the couple so that they can avoid the establishment of civil effects. He describes several problems with a private (or almost secret) marriage. A summary of Fr. Mullady's comments follow.

Marriage is acknowledged by the Church to be an act with both religious and civil consequences, and a secret marriage can occur only in very rare instances when civil law is contrary to the natural law. A private marriage that is not registered with the State does not recognize the institution of marriage as the bulwark of the civil order and ignores the State's duty to protect and encourage stable marriages. Canon Law recognizes the normal jurisdiction of the State as contributing to the civil order and marriage. If the Church does not recognize the State's jurisdiction, the State can doubt whether the Church really wishes to give to Caesar the things which are his.

Furthermore, a private marriage undermines public perception of marriage and gives bad example when couples are seen to live together. Fr. Mullady concludes that "pastors [must] respect the requirements of the public registration of marriages by the civil law."

Remember that Fr. Mullady's answers were published in the same priests' magazine as the prior article by David R. Carlin that discussed whether religious marriages should be separated from civil marriages.

Nov 28, 2006

Rehistory--Why Not?

The proposed story of The Sugar Ant Particle introduces the idea of Rehistory. This post addresses why cutting and revising the string of time in a sci-fi story is not an acceptable idea.

Genesis proclaims God created man in His own image—man has been given free will. Man’s free will means he is allowed to write history in his lifetime by his good, bad, and morally indifferent choices. ‘Forward history’ is written by man making choices (e.g., man selects a spouse, gets a job, is virtuous, commits sin). Man assists in writing history in time, a dimension that is one of God’s creations.

'Forward history' is governed by cause and effect (God may intervene through a miracle; then He is the direct cause). Man lives in the sequential timeframe of ‘before, now, and after.’ For example, man did not eat in the past day, man now eats to satisfy his hunger, and man will be satiated for a time. Of course, hunger is not deterministic and a man can choose not to eat, and thus effect a different timeline of events.

If man can affect ‘forward history,’ can man also affect ‘backward history,’ such as by revising a physical environment in the past? Let's assume the answer is 'yes' so that we can see potential dead ends--irrational or erroneous conclusions. The figure below shows forward and backward histories as two time paths.

Figure 1. Rehistory Events and Paths

The top part of Figure 1 contains the original events that end when a rehistory event is generated. At this point, the original events (within the blue box) are deleted. All environments and people and activities no longer exist after the timepoint when rehistory begins to take effect. Time restarts with no memory of the original events—which never happened!

It isn’t as if events in the top blue box are changed. Both virtuous and sinful actions never occurred. Christ’s birth and redemptive act never occurred. Yet, as the author of time, God could still insert the Incarnation of His Son. This instance shows that rehistory means that God would be at the service of man who would control time and history, to which God must adjust. This is obviously a grievously defective conclusion.

The principle of cause and effect also is affected because rehistory is a cause that is out of order—it exists in the future rather than the past. Common understanding is that a cause must precede an effect, so a potential contradiction appears.

A former Jesuit priest once described God as holding the string of time in his hands. The string of history has a beginning and an end. God is outside of time and so he can ‘touch’ the string of time at any time and any point in the universe. He knows the beginning and he knows the end. That is why God is “I Am.” Is man prohibited from ‘touching’ the string of time? If man attempts to touch the string, does he also claim to be “I Am”?

Can man influence the string? Yes, he controls history by his actions. But can man cut the string, discard sections, and manufacture a new string? Is time able to be manipulated as man manipulates objects in space? If man controls the string of time, does that make man a competitor to God? Is time a dimension that is necessarily the province of God only? Is rehistory, because of violating cause and effect, a contradiction and a lie?

Is the Rehistory story of The Sugar Ant Particle potentially very interesting? Perhaps, but unless the above discussion precedes the story to show the philosophical difficulties, the story should probably not be written.

The Sugar Ant Particle

Some months ago I wrote an 8-part summary of “The Great Catholic Retreat.”
In this potential sci-fi story, a priest of the year 2100 writes a history book describing historical events of the Catholic Church in the 20th and 21st centuries. The Church history shows that the severe losses experienced in the Catholic Church during the latter half of the 20th century led to the inability of Christian civilization to oppose the advance of Islam. I concluded the story couldn't stand on its own, but would need to be embedded in a larger story.

In the proposed larger story, a particle accelerator is used in 2018 to attempt to answer two scientific questions on (1) the missing spin of the quarks, and (2) the absence of free quarks. A young scientist notes during the pre-collision process that tiny sugar ants have gotten into the 3-story tall particle detector system.

He watches a line of sugar ants move slowly across the detector surface when one ant suddenly moves sideways as if moved by a unseen force. A minute or two later, a second and a third ant are also observed to move sideways, in the same direction and distance as the first ant.

The physicist is working under a countdown scenario and is asked if his detectors are ready to proceed with the experiment. The physicist quickly uses a compressed air jet to clean the detector surfaces and the particle collision experiment begins. Three collisions occur at approximate one minute intervals. The expected spin is too low and represents only 30 percent of the expected energy/mass.

The physicist hypothesizes the missing particle spin could be found about ten minutes BEFORE the experiment. He concludes the missing spin is associated with a new particle that appears before the experiment is conducted, is very large, and decays within milliseconds. After verification experiments with salt crystals (instead of ants), the “before” particle is named the “Sugar Ant Particle."

The young physicist and his team are awarded the Nobel prize for physics in 2028. Further tests and development of a new mathematical model and corroborative experiments show that the emitted location and particle force can be controlled.

The priest-author of the “Great Catholic Retreat” argues in 2100 to an academic audience that if Anatole Bugnini had not been in charge of the NO Mass following Vatican II, that the Church would have been spared a significant decline. Moreover, avoiding a decline would have enabled the Church to have countered the great expansion of Islam in the 21st century.

Rehistory is based on use of the Sugar Ant particle to change a physical phenomenon or environment in the past. The goal of rehistory is to change a prior event (1) with minimum effort, (2) to obtain maximum desired result, and (3) to limit any unwanted effects.

In chaos theory, changing something big with something small is called the lever effect or the Butterfly effect, where a butterfly wing flapping in a Chinese field can create air currents that grow and produce storms in the U.S. Once a butterfly flaps its wing, Arturian-Markovian statistics can be used to project successive happenings.

The priest-historian agrees to serve as a senior consultant for a rehistory event to prevent the Great Catholic Retreat of the late 20th century. Based on the sugar ant particle phenomenon, he presses forward to use rehistory to reveal Bugnini as a Mason at a much earlier date--before he damages the old Latin Mass.

Almost ten years go into the planning for the rehistory event, because the effort requires a complex Rehistory Impact Study (RIS, similar to an Environmental Impact Study). The rules include:

1. No injury can be done to persons (as simulated in the RIS)
2. Simulations must ‘prove’ rehistory will affect only target situation
3. A preferred way of dealing with miscreants is to ‘promote’ them out of the way
4. Simulation must show easy reversibility at a later time
5. Form of government cannot be changed
6. Form of religion cannot be changed

The ten-year planning effort is intense, but is plagued with unexpected difficulties as the project leader deals with:
1. Feasibility analysis
2. Simulations
3. Iterations
4. Final Plan

The Senior project engineer for rehistory is Shekel (actually Sheik Al, a secret Muslim) whose own idea of rehistory is to revise a small event before 1492 and so prevent Isabella and Ferdinand from winning the last battle of the Christians against the Moors. Shekel hides his intent by arguing that the best rehistory event would be to change something in an earlier time period so that the western hemisphere would have a long history of Catholic militancy to counter Islam.

You can imagine the rest of the story....

Now for why the story won't be written, please see the next post.

The Universal Indult

While Rorate Coeli remains the primary source of information, a new Catholic forum, Universal Indult, also shares news and discussions on the 'freeing' of the old Latin Mass. The most comprehensive post, The Road to Restoration, is written by Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro and is reprinted from the November 2006 issue of the Latin Mass Society's publication, Mass of Ages. Msgr. Barreiro summarizes events of the last year to show the direction that Pope Benedict XVI is taking.

Nov 27, 2006

Why the Pope is in Turkey

One of my children and Mrs. M from the nursing home both have asked me why the Pope is traveling to Turkey, considering the physical danger of his travels. I've already described one possible reason in a previous post.

The official reasons for the Papal visit are described in the Vatican communication on the Significance of Benedict XVI's Trip to Turkey: (1) a pastoral journey; (2) an ecumenical journey; and (3) a journey under the banner of interreligious dialogue. The basis for interreligious dialogue with Moslems is stated to be the Declaration Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) issued by the second Vatican Council. Here is what Nostra Aetate says about followers of Islam:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

Nostra Aetate is not one of my favorite documents, although I agree that the Pope and Moslems should "work sincerely for mutual understanding." It is easy for Westerners to learn about Islam through the Web or the Koran--just google 'Islam' or go to a bookstore or library. Unfortunately, computers, libraries, and bookstores with Bibles or Christian writings are not freely available to Moslems in Arab lands. Reciprocity of information sharing simply doesn't exist and is not likely to happen.

"Who Killed Christ?" and Benedict XVI

A TV presentation within the past couple of years asked the question, "Who Killed Christ?" They showed the evidence against Judas, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Roman soldiers, and Caiphas and the ancient Jews, all of whom were involved in the death of Christ. The final answer of The Discovery Channel was that Jesus willed and was responsible for His own death.

Jesus is the High Priest who laid down His life to make the pleasing sacrifice to God the Father. While Jesus had the authority and power to prevent His passion, He voluntarily suffered death to make sacrifice for our sins and save all of us from hell. Truthfully, all sinners are responsible for the killing of Jesus Christ. That answer is supported by the New Testament, especially John 3:16-17, and John 10:17-18.
For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God sent not His Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by Him.

Therefore doth the Father love Me: because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it away from Me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
I've begun to wonder if Benedict XVI may have decided to expose himself to a potential assassination by Muslims to voluntarily imitate Christ's redemptive sacrifice. The Pope's willingness to sacrifice his life for peace in the face of intense hatred would likely make clear to some Muslims and a lot of non-Muslims the awesome charity of our religion in contrast to the evil nature of Islamism.

If such a terrible act of violence occurs, it would make Christians clearly come to grips with marauding Islamism. Moreover, a Pope martyr/saint has not been seen for many, many centuries and would fertilize the seedbed of the Church with his blood. Benedict XVI may believe this is necessary.

Nov 26, 2006

Little Changes in History

A lot of changes have occurred in my lifetime of almost 70 years. The big changes in religion, politics and law, and 'lifestyles' have been noted many times over. But it's the little undocumented changes that are also very important and show how much our society has changed (declined?) in the past 50 to 70 years.

MUSIC--When I was in grade school, the music on the noon radio was live cowboy music, mostly played with fiddles, a bass, and a horizontal steel guitar. The music was quite popular at the time. My favorite radio program was The Lone Ranger with its William Tell Overture as the accompanying music. My favorite movie star was the singing cowboy, Roy Rogers. I really liked to listen to the Sons of the Pioneers. I loved the colorful cartoons, especially the ones where the little yellow Tweety Bird says, "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy-Tat!"

While in college in the late 50's and early 60's, I purchased a small blue-green radio for about $30 earned from a summer job. Virtually all of the FM stations I received on that radio played exclusively classical or semi-classical music and with very few advertisements. Almost all the girls in my hall loved classical music, although they also crowded around the TV to hear Perry Como sing. [Over the years, the number of FM stations in KC has increased dramatically, but not one now plays classical or semi-classical music.]

BABIES--One of my freshman classmates in college was a very good student. I wondered why she did not return for her sophomore year and was told by another girl she had gotten married over the summer because of becoming pregnant. This was typical of the situation at that time.

Until my third or fourth child, changing a diaper meant changing a cloth diaper. A really dirty diaper was one that you washed out in the toilet stool before placing it in a covered bucket for later washing in a ringer-roller washing machine.

TOYS--The toys that my children played with were much more interesting and fun than toys of today. One particular toy for small children that was taken off the market, presumably due to safety reasons, was a wood block with an entry hole in the top on one side and an exit hole on the other side near the bottom. Dowels were placed in the entry hole and the child used a hammer to pound the round pieces of wood through the interior wood channel so they came out the exit hole.

SCHOOLS AND NUNS--When I attended early Catholic grade school, the tuition was $1 per month. Tuition for my first year of Catholic high school was $40 per year and my Dad thought that was high. In both cases, the nuns worked hard and received little monetary pay. By about 1950, one young nun had ~60 children in a first or second-grade class--and she kept order, too!

I remember my aunt driving the teaching nuns to the grocery store and other places they had to go on a weekly basis. The sisters never had a car and relied on parishioners to furnish them transportation. Parishioners also contributed food from their gardens to the nuns. Doctors who treated the nuns did so on a pro bono basis.

The nuns sold candy to the students every Friday afternoon and a nice sized candy bar cost 5 cents. Students were prohibited from buying more than two pieces of candy, if I remember. The selling of candy was a money raising effort for the school.

Once a month, mothers fixed breakfast for the students after the First Friday Mass because everyone had to fast from all food and water from midnight on. To make sure students avoided drinking water before First Friday Mass, the nuns covered the school drinking fountains with paper bags.

CLOTHES--Everyone dressed up if they went to church or to town for shopping. Women and men wore hats or the women wore scarves. Only leather shoes were believed suitable for dressing up. The first tennis shoes were said to be unhealthy for children's feet. X-ray machines in a few shoe stores were used to show how well shoes fit on a foot, although they were discontinued by the time WWII ended.

KITCHENS--There was no plastic wrap or aluminum foil when I was young. The kitchen was a plastic-less world. Wax paper was used to cover food. Milk was not homogenized and the cream came to the top of the glass bottles The cream could be poured off to put in coffee or make whipping cream or butter.

When oleomargarine was introduced, the dairy industry forced the margarine producers to make it white. Only the buyer could color the margarine by mixing in a packet of yellow dye. Eventually consumers complained to state legislators and the law was changed so that yellow margarine could be sold.

A primary activity in the summer kitchen was canning. I remember helping my mother can 80+ jars of strawberry preserves one year. She also canned lots of tomato juice and some pears.

Two Church Letters on Homosexuality

Cardinal Sean O'Malley has a blog where his letter on homosexuality issued November 23 was published. Here are portions from his letter.
The Church’s efforts to defend the institution of marriage has been interpreted by some as an indication of the Church’s hostility toward homosexual persons....

Right from the beginning of this controversy [sic] I have called on all Catholics to rally behind the cause of marriage....

The Church’s position is not based on an animus against people with a homosexual orientation. Each and every member of the Church is called to holiness regardless of their sexual orientation. The Church has often warned against defining people by their sexual orientation in a way that diminishes their humanity....

We do not want Catholics who have a homosexual orientation to feel unwelcomed in the Catholic Church. We remind them that they are bound to us by their baptism and are called to live a life of holiness. Many homosexual persons in our Church lead holy lives and make an outstanding contribution to the life of the Church by their service, generosity and the sharing of their spiritual gifts....

We must strive to eradicate prejudices against people with a homosexual orientation. At the same time the Church must minister to all people by challenging them to obey God’s commands, the roadmap for a meaningful human life that allows us to draw near to God and to one another.
The full communication by Cardinal O'Malley is published here, and you will notice a glaring omission--not one word is said about homosexual priests in the Catholic Church in Boston.

Contrast Cardinal O'Malley's letter with one published by Pope Pius V on August 30, 1568 "Against any cleric whosoever, secular or regular, who are guilty of a heinous crime."
A ghastly crime, by which the joined (papal) states were polluted enflamed by God’s fearful judgment, flares up our bitter sorrow, and gravely moves our soul so that we lend now our attentions to repress it as much as possible.

1. It was properly denoted by the Lateran Council, that whatsoever Cleric will have been discovered to suffer from that incontinence which is against nature, on account of which the wrath of God falls upon the sons of disobedience (cf. Vulg. Eph. 5,6), is to be ejected from the ranks of the clergy and be reduced to do penance in a monastery.

2. But lest the contagion of such a scourge, from the hope of impunity which is the greatest lure of sinning, more confidently grows in power, We determine that clerics guilty of this execrable crime are to be quite gravely punished, so that whoever does not abhor the ruination of the soul, the avenging secular sword of civil laws will certainly deter.

3. And thus because We have made a decree in this matter at the beginning of Our Pontificate, now in a fuller and stronger way intending it to be followed strictly, every and all priests, whoever they are, and other secular clerics, and regular clerics of any grade and dignity, busy at such a detestable monstrosity, We deprive of every clerical privilege, every office, dignity, and ecclesiastical benefice by authority of the present legal instrument. So it is enacted that once they are degraded by the Ecclesiastical Judge, they be handed over immediately to the secular arm, which will exact upon them the same (death) penalty, which is ascertained to have been constituted by legitimate sanctions against laymen who have slid down into this ruin. Nothing to the contrary withstanding, etc.

Did you notice the differences between of the two letters?