Dec 15, 2007

Pope Benedict: Prudent Assessment of Environmental Issues

Pope Benedict XVI appears to be challenging environmentalists to base solutions to global warming on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology. For World Day of Peace on January 1, 2008, the Pontiff is advising the international community that environmental policies must be based on science rather than dogma. Some of the news media have interpreted the Pope's forthcoming remarks as suggesting that "fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering." The Pope's actual words are less dramatic.
Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves. Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from the goods of creation destined for all. Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances. Full message here
The new message repeats Benedict's previous observations that human beings must choose an environmental way of life beneficial to their descendants. The created world is a great gift of God but is presently "exposed to serious risks by life choices and lifestyles that can degrade it... " In particular, environmental degradation makes poor people's existence intolerable." The Pope emphasized that it is the poor people in slums who suffer the greatest environmental problems. He is obviously concerned about clean water and air, as well as nutritional food not contaminated by pesticides that can harm human health. [Some of the worse environmental conditions are in China because of water pollution due to intense fish farming and air pollution due to many new uncontrolled fossil-fueled power plants.]

I totally agree, and believe good environmental science naturally adheres to proverbs I learned as a child.
  1. Cleanliness is next to godliness.
  2. Waste not, want not.
  3. Haste makes waste.
  4. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  5. A place for everything and everything in its place.
  6. A stitch in time saves nine.
  7. One man's junk is another man's treasure.
  8. One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.
  9. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  10. Better safe than sorry
  11. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
In his current address prepared for the 2008 World Day of Peace, Benedict XVI is advising us to avoid "hasty conclusions" through "prudent assessment" in the absence of "ideological pressure." This advice is needed to find truth and unfrock charlatans that wear the mantle of science to pursue political agendas.The most appropriate proverb and its corollary might be:
  • A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
  • A little knowledge selected from a large body of knowledge can be used to prove anything.
Over the past 30 years, what I call super-environmentalists have brought science into servitude to political goals. Quite a few "environmental problems" that were [and some continue to be] claimed to cause enormous harm to human populations have now been proven to be "duds." [BTW, scientists are easily swayed by grant money to fund studies of politically-charged subjects such as the ones below. They almost always conclude there is a likely serious problem and they need more funds to study it.]
  1. Nuclear winter
  2. Acid rain (here, here, and here)
  3. Nuclear power plant accidents
  4. Radon gas (low levels)
  5. Mercury tooth fillings
  6. Cell phones
  7. Second-hand smoke
  8. Population bomb
  • [Above links give only a snapshot of the actual scientific work performed to disprove these catastrophes. Notice that a repeat of the New Madrid earthquake is NOT listed.]
Global warming and GMOs may be the next duds added to the list. I'll try to address in a future post whether global warming actually exists, the models that say it does, and if it does, two possible causes (human versus natural).

Halleluja for Vatican Summaries!

Rorate Caeli points readers to a summary of the Doctrinal Note on Evangelization, as well as the full document. A SUMMARY! Halleluja! Executive summaries and abstracts have long been used for busy readers. For example, search engines shorten whole articles by extracting only key words. Scientific articles are preceded by Abstracts with key findings. Business reports are outlined in Executive Summaries. But I've never before seen a long Vatican document summarized!

Finally, FINALLY, the Vatican has caught on to the needs of readers who have too little time to digest the entire meal contained in an encyclical or other document. These readers can now review and appreciate the essentials of lengthy new Church documents in short Vatican-prepared summaries.

Pope Benedict XVI: What's He Doing?

I was amazed at the many different things the Pope is involved in when I entered "Pope Benedict" into Google's News search engine. Here are some of the topics showing what he has said and done just in the past few days.
  1. Evangelization is a means to restore a tired society--his address to Japanese Bishops during their ad limina visit.
  2. Nuclear- arms proliferation, environmental pollution and economic inequality are threats to world peace - but so are abortion, birth control and same-sex marriage--his address for January 1 World Day of Peace.
  3. Consumerism and materialism leads to the victimization of children through sexual abuse and prostitution.
  4. Christians "must preserve" the spiritual heritage of the decorated tree and Christmas creche.
  5. University students must uphold the faith in a European culture whose thoughts have been "disengaged from God", an address to Rome's university students. [Curmudgeon references a sad article on Italian culture.]
  6. Cancelled a meeting with the Dalai Lama, reportedly to facilitate the ordination of a new Papally approved bishop in Guangdong, southern China.
  7. Papal travel confirmed to the U.S, France, and Australia in 2008.
  8. Emphasized the importance of education and the need for negotiated settlement of international disputes, in a December 13 meeting with 7 new ambassadors to the Holy See.
  9. Supported Jorge Cardinal Urosa Savino, showing Pope's solidarity in the face of the attacks the Venezuelan Catholic leader suffered recently.
Not too bad for a week's worth of work from an 80-year old Pontiff. So what does the opposition say? [Only read this if you can stand the venomous language that shows how much St. Peter's successor is hated--a good thing! I've linked the associated websites for documentation, but please spare yourself the hateful harangues and your own extreme righteous indignation.]
  1. "The Pope Sucks"
  2. "A hate-mongering bigot"
  3. Homosexuals "hold their nose[s] in disgust" at the Pope claiming gay families are a threat.
  4. The Muslims are worried because the Pope wants to evangelize those not yet Christian
  5. "Nothing but a vile, cruel and nasty bunch of bigots who wouldn't recognise Jesus Christ if they tried." See Roberto's comments at Pink News.
  6. "Darth Ratzinger strikes another blow for the forces of darkness and evil."
  7. "Infallible Pope Benedict Releases Bigoted Encyclical Vilifying Atheism."

Ice Storms--Beautiful and Bad

Alison commented on my earlier photos that her ice storm was much more severe than ours, but even we had two tree limbs strike our house. My husband has spread out the fallen limbs for cutting once the weather improves. Yesterday he was able to clear and cut up most of the limbs that had fallen in Mother's yard. Now we have a new snow storm and the roads are quite slick.

Our electricity was out five times during the storm, but each time electrical servicemen were able to restore power within six hours. Yesterday evening, I followed a tall man in line at the grocery store, and he was wearing an IBEW jacket with a lightning strike pictured on the sleeve. He looked a little tired and so I guessed he was one of the men who had worked to restore our power. I enthusiastically told him "Thank you for being one of those who helped to restore our power five different times!"

The electrical worker was clearly elated at being thanked, asked where I lived, and yes, he had been in our neighborhood working to restore power. So far he had worked a 26-hour shift, an 18.5 hour shift, and a 20-hour shift. He said many people came outdoors to thank him, one gave him hot chocolate and another gave him a thermos of coffee.

However, he was disgusted that the electrical contractor hired to support his fellow workers had sent all their trucks and servicemen to Springfield, MO, which left the local servicemen to handle all the power outages in our area. I explained that southwest Missouri had been hit much harder than Kansas City, and even emergency vehicles could not get through on impassable roads covered with ice, downed trees, and fallen power lines. [Unfortunately, Alison lived through the same situation.]

I couldn't mollify the serviceman for his complaint that he had to pay $107 to retrieve his dog. Apparently the dog got loose during one of his long shift duties, was picked up by the dogcatcher, and was kept in the pound for only one day. When the man tried to explain his work situation, no quarter was given. Frankly, I thought the fee was excessive.

The man said he often saw dogs running in poorer neighborhoods while on duty, and claimed that the dogcatchers don't pick up those dogs because owners have no money to retrieve them. So the man concluded it's a good financial scenario only to pick up loose dogs in neighborhoods with better paying "customers."

Our situation in the ice storm was far better than that of a daughter whose electricity was restored only after more than six days of outage. Lack of hot showers was a main complaint, but a good fireplace kept the house mostly heated. Everyone went to bed earlier and slept longer than usual. The oldest boy helped his dad split firewood that was needed to keep the house warm. Yesterday they had to cut more wood and bring it home on the trailer.

The youngest grandkids played hide-and-seek in the dark house. An older one had a lot of practice time on the piano. The oldest boy pretended to be a monster to find and chase the littlest ones in the dark. The grandkids won't remember the difficulties; they'll remember they had a grand time in a big house without electricity.

Dec 13, 2007

The Most Important Christmas Gift We Should Give

The Curt Jester says the hardest person to buy a Christmas gift for is Jesus. "What do you buy for the person who made everything?" Seriously, it's the most important gift to select for the whole Christmas season.

This year I'm thinking seriously about promising Jesus to imitate St. Alphonsus Liguori who vowed never to waste time. The saint kept his vow until he died at the age of ninety-one. Even though my promise will not be a solemn vow, less time reading junk and being a "couch potato" will result in more prayers offered, more good spiritual and temporal works performed, and more consistency in writing this blog.

Dec 10, 2007

Economics for the Future

I'm far from being an economist and so tend to read and listen to people I trust. Pat Buchanan's recent columns on "Sinking Dollar, Sinking Country" and the "Crash of 2008" can be compared to the advice of market timing giants such as Bob Brinker who believe that this is a bull market. Real assets on the market will rise simply because they are priced by the declining dollar--over 50 percent in the past seven years in comparison with the Euro, and a similar decline with respect to other currencies not tied to the dollar. People who live on a week-to-week paycheck and month-to-month payments are going to be affected by a loss of purchasing power that is associated with a less valuable dollar.

Buchanan summarizes two ways that the Fed can partially deal with U.S. economic problems:
If a recession is generally a sign the Fed should loosen up, a run on the dollar is a sign the Fed should tighten by raising interest rates to make dollars and dollar-denominated assets more attractive.
This is contradictory advice if there is a simultaneous recession and a run on the dollar, right? And how do you think this will affect how Americans will live in the future? Not to mention health care rationing.

Dec 9, 2007

New Chinese Bishops and Bibles

Things are changing in China, even though they have a very long way to go over a very rocky path. ChinaDaily reports that a new Catholic Bishop was ordained for the Guangzhou diocese (formerly Canton) to fill the vacancy caused by the death of his predecessor six years ago. The Vatican approved of this ordination, as well as that of another bishop who was consecrated in Yichang, Hubei Province.

An official of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association says that other ordinations will be forthcoming as the process of selection and ordination of young bishops is sped up. Many dioceses of the Patriotic church have been without bishops for a long time and other dioceses are led by very old bishops.

Apparently, the new Bishops will not be selected by the Vatican, which can only hope that new and good Bishops are elected by Chinese priests, nuns, and "representatives of church followers." The Vatican seems to be able to only accede or not accede to an elected Bishop, who may or may not publicly declare his solidarity with the Pope. It remains to be seen how the Patriotic church and the faithful underground Catholic church can be reconciled.

In apparent response to the recent news that China will restrict visitors to the China Olympics to bringing in only one Bible, the same ChinaDaily article goes on to say that the government has renewed a contract with the Amity Foundation to print millions of Bibles.
The number of Bibles - with both the old and the new testaments - printed in the country is set to exceed 50 million this month, according to Zhang Liwei, deputy general secretary of the Nanjing-based Christian Amity Foundation which operates the country's sole Bible printing house.

The Chinese Christian Society prints the largest number of Bibles in the world, Rev Cao Shengjie, president of the China Christian Council, said earlier.

The Amity Printing House had printed about 43 million Bibles in Chinese and eight ethnic minority languages to serve the country's 16 million Christians by November.

Doubts About Medjugorje

A recent email that recommended a news item published on the Spirit Daily website of Michael Brown has caused me concern, and so this post reprints a private but pertinent letter sent to some good friends almost twenty years ago. My letter dealt with my doubts about Medjugorje and was based primarily on a 1988 pamphlet written by the late Michael Davies, Medjugorje, A Warning, originally published by THE REMNANT PRESS. [A much more detailed document was later published by Davies in 2004, shortly before his death.] Davies noted that:

Since the Second Vatican Council there has been a grave crisis of authority within the Catholic church. The ordinary faithful have not received the firm and unequivocal teaching and guidance from their ecclesiastical superiors…Rome itself has sometimes appeared to speak with an uncertain voice.

But certainty is what the faithful seek, and when they do not receive it from the Magisterium, they will seek it elsewhere. Some have sought certainty in the charismatic movement which, if examined objectively, renders the Magisterium unnecessary, for what need is there of a teaching authority when each individual Christian can communicate directly with the Holy Ghost?

Other Catholics have put their faith in one of the numerous apparitions which are allegedly taking place in many countries. Once again, if heavenly guidance can be communicated directly through the sect which is witnessing the alleged apparitions, then what need is there of a Magisterium.

My 1989 letter to my friends asked: Is the seeking after signs and wonders a sign of health in the people of the Church? And do the following details of the Medjugorje apparitions appear to contradict their authenticity?

1. The local bishop of the diocese in which Medjugorje is located has condemned the apparitions. Bishop Zanic based his judgment on his own experience with the seers and their advisors and on an investigation by a diocesan commission. Almost all other bishops of Yugoslavia stand with Bishop Zanic, with the exception of the Archbishop of Split.

2. The supposed apparition of the Blessed Virgin opposed Bishop Zanic in 1981 by saying that two priests who had been suspended should resist the Bishop. The apparition is quoted by the visionary, Vicka, in her diary as saying, "the one most to blame in these disorders was Bishop Zanic. She said that Father Vego wasn't to blame and that the bishop had all power. She told him [i.e., Father Vego] to remain in Mostar and not to go elsewhere." In 1982, the two priests were expelled from the Franciscans by the Franciscans themselves, but continued to celebrate the sacraments illicitly. Recently it became known that one of the two priests made a nun associated with Medjugorje pregnant. In addition, another priest who came to Medjugorje has founded a new religious community without the Bishop's approval.

3. The first "apparition" occurred when the six seers were going to have a smoking party, but they told the bishop that they were going to watch the sheep, and later said they went to pick flowers. The seers stated they were seized by panic, one ran away in great terror and one simply fainted. In contrast, at the first vision at Lourdes, companions of St. Bernadette saw her on her knees while gazing in ecstasy at the Blessed Virgin Mary.

4. The "signs" given at Medjugorje have included watch hands turning backwards, colored balloons dancing around the sun and the apparition of Mary, and rosaries turning into gold. This last phenomenon is reminiscent of alchemy, the black art from Egypt that devoted itself in the Middle Ages to attempting to transmute base metals into gold or silver and to discover the secret of indefinitely prolonging human life.

5. At Fatima, Mary foretold in advance that on October 13, 1917 a public miracle of such magnitude that more than 50,000 people assembled to see it and actually did observe the miracle. The sun at Fatima did not damage eyes, while at Medjugorje, the sun has scarred the retinas of people who looked at the sun. Unlike Fatima, promised miracles have not materialized at Medjugorje.

6. The woman in the apparitions at Medugerje is an extremely chatty, even garrulous person—speaking day after day, year after year. On occasions the seers have seen the apparition in a police car and bursting out in laughter when the seers were sadly talking about the two suspended priests of Herzogovina. During the approved Lourdes and Fatima apparitions, the Blessed Virgin Mary was humble, somber, brief, and to the point.

7. The message of ”Peace, peace, peace, nothing else than peace!” at Medjugorje is not the peace of Christ that refers to the inner peace of a soul in harmony with God. Peace can also refer to the “peace of the grave” or the “peace of the knave.”

8. It is known that Sister Lucia, the seer of Fatima, forbade one of her relatives to go to Medjugorje.

9. When the children first asked the vision how long she would remain with them, the answer was "three days". The vision has now been appearing many years. [While women have always reserved the right to change their mind, it is (hopefully) restricted to our imperfect state in this world!]

10. After the seers asked for a public, incontrovertible sign from the apparition, the vision kept urging patience, finally saying a sign would come on December 8, 1981, then on Christmas, then on January 1....After that the seers declared: "We never told this."

11. A false ecumenism is taught by the apparition: "You are not faithful if you do not respect the other religions, the Mohammedan and the Serbian [schismatic]. You are not a Christian if you do not esteem them." [We can and should respect other people, but cannot esteem false religions.]

12. On December 23, 1985, followers of Medjugorje reported that one of the visionaries "acted silly, teasing Marija during the Mass. He's only 14, but even for 14 he seems immature. He wore his scarf on his head like a turban, just to be funny and in general cut up at Mass." Is this the way someone would act who had just seen the Blessed Virgin?

13. The description of heaven given by Vicka on ABC-TV seems simplistic and trite with everyone exactly “33 years old. And they're all dressed in only three colors. That's grey, pink and yellow, and above their heads there are little angels flying." St. Paul could only describe heaven in negatives: "Eye has not seen or ear heard..."

14. Marijana, another seer, has said the apparition asks people to pray four hours a day. In response to whether this applied to families with children, she replied "Of course". In contrast, the Virgin at Fatima requested a rosary be prayed each day.

16. One of the visionaries, Vicka, kept a diary from the beginning. Later she hid it by the order of Father Vlasic, who then swore before Bishop Zanic that he did not have any knowledge of it. Bishop Zanic has stated, "If the Holy Virgin appears in Medjugorje, she does not want lies, perjury and distortions of the truth."

16. In a September 4, 1981 diary entry, Vicka writes about a vision of Mary in which a bloody hankerchief is given to a conductor by a bleeding Jesus who asks the conductor to throw it in the river. The blessed Virgin Mary requests the bloody handkerchief but the conductor offers Mary his own handkerchief. When the conductor finally gives her the bloody handkerchief, Mary is quoted as saying, “If you hadn’t given it to me, that would have been the end of the world.” Bishop Zanic believes the Blessed Mother would not appear on this earth only to speak absurdities.

17. There is too much of a similarity with what has happened at Palmar de Troya in Spain and at Puruaran in Mexico. In both places, pilgrims came by the tens of thousands to visit the sites of the “apparitions.” Eventually the priests in charge removed themselves little by little from all Church authority and made new “Popes.” The Blessed Virgin Mary cannot divide the Body of Christ, the Church.

18. A video tape of the seers shows one of them moving backward to avoid a simulated blow. The strike was meant to test if they, as they claimed, were completely oblivious to everything while having an apparition. The visionary claimed afterward that, at that exact time, she had seen the baby Jesus appear to fall from the arms of Mary, and had reached out to help. This explanation was difficult to understand since the seer's movement was backward, not forward, and Mary is now in a perfected state and unable to drop Jesus.

19. An April 1983 prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary composed by the apparition has erroneous doctrine: "...give me the grace to love all men as you loved Jesus Christ...give me the grace to be merciful towards you...if by chance, I should lose your grace, I ask you to restore it to me." Objections to this prayer are: 1) Jesus, who is God incarnate, must be loved above all men; 2) the Blessed Virgin, who is full of grace, has no need of our mercy: and 3) grace is never lost by chance, but only through sin.

If Medjugorje is not a genuine apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary (and in the last 60 years the Church has dismissed 240 bogus Marian apparitions), the long active strife between the secular clergy and the Franciscans in Bosnia and Hercegovina may have helped to build a massive hoax-perhaps abetted by the devil himself.

St. John of the Cross reminds us that "the devil rejoices greatly when a person desires to receive revelations." It is clear that the devil always plays both sides of the table-for the weak Christian, he offers sins of the flesh, lying, anger, etc.; for the pious, he offers scrupulosity, intellectual pride, signs and wonders, etc. "This generation seeks for a sign," but Matthew 12:39 reminds us that "It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign."

P and C, Fixer-Uppers of Society

The people I most admire are those who work to fix our decaying society. Mr. & Mrs. PC are one example and theirs is a very inspiring story, especially because of their backgrounds and former lives.

P's parents were divorced when he was entering his teenage years. He admits to leaving home to become a "street kid." The young man became involved in the drug culture, and in his instability found and left numerous jobs. At the urging of his Dad, he obtained a GED and entered the Navy, but was quickly discharged because of drug use. During this time, I remember writing several times to P and encouraging him to change his life, but P continued to make mistakes. Nevertheless, he was prayed for as one of our fallen-away Catholics.

C's life was much worse as she was the daughter of a drug-addicted mother and did not really have a father. When C met P, she was easily attracted to the tall, dark and handsome young man whose wit and intelligence continued to be betrayed by irresponsible actions.

P and C, as many young people now do, began to live together and their relationship became more serious with time. C was goal-oriented and learned a skill that allowed her to support herself. C's external loveliness mimics her interior beauty, which is demonstrated by a special kindness and patience that may have come from the sensitivity she developed as an injured child.

P's life before the age of 30 alternated between good intentions and irresponsible actions. While promising C that someday they would marry, it took ten years for the event to occur. By then P had finally obtained a good job in which he was advancing. I was fortunate to be invited to attend their wedding. Even though only an "occasional" Catholic, P assured me that a real wedding was a "church wedding," and so the marriage ceremony in a University chapel was witnessed by a Dominican priest.

The reception was where I found out that P's life had dramatically changed. Toasts were presented to the bride and groom by their friends, and I have never heard such strong and fervent accolades. Several young people took the mike and explained, some tearfully, how P and C had changed their lives by drawing them away from the drug culture and helping them to restart their lives. Frankly, I was in tears as I heard their stories, including the one told by C's mother when she publicly admitted that she was raised and taken care of by C, rather than the reverse.

One young woman's story is illustrative of how P and C committed to fixing part of a society gone bad. This friend from the drug culture had numerous boyfriends and three children by some of them. P and C took the young woman into their home and helped her to go to school and raise their boys. The boys now consider P their Dad and C their alternate Mother. The boys' mother now has a good job and lives a couple of hours away with her sons, but they visit P and C frequently on weekends. Best of all, the boys have turned out to be well-behaved kids who volunteer and help others.

What are P and C doing today? Well, they've found that there are three more children to help and P and C have stepped into the void of another drug-addicted (crack cocaine) mother. Initially they agreed to back up the step-grandmother who was taking care of the children, but because of her poor health, she could not continue. P And C are now taking care of these three children and are likely to adopt them.

What's wrong with the world? Is it that there are so many thrower-downers, or is it that there are not enough picker-uppers? Dear reader, please become a picker-upper to change lives--to change them for the better, just like P and C are doing.