Friday, October 21, 2011

My Take on the News: Harmony; Religious Freedom; Politics; and Routine

Another Friday, another post with my take on the news. I could indulge in conventional hand-wringing over these items, but that doesn't seem reasonable. Here's this week's selection:
  1. Goal: Harmonize Business and Family Life
  2. Martin Luther King Memorial and the G-word
  3. 'Congress is Irresponsible:' This is news?!
  4. And Now, North Dakota
  5. Zenit, Finances, and Two Millennia of History

Fearing the Coming Ice Age Global Warming Climate Change, History, and Me

So, how can I possibly not panic over [insert crisis du jure]? Basically, I know too much.

On the secular front, I've seen worries about the coming ice age turn into hysteria over global warming, and the currently-popular 'climate change.' I don't think we're supposed to think too much about whose fault it was that climate changed during the billion years before the Industrial Revolution, and that's another topic.1

From a spiritual viewpoint, there's the remarkable durability of the Catholic Church. Before converting to Catholicism, I studied Church history: and learned that what's happened in the last century is small change, compared to SNAFUS five hundred and a thousand years back. Then there was that awkward period when the Roman Empire faded.

That was then. This is now. The Catholic Church is still around today, carrying out the Great Commission, and dealing with daily routine:

1. Goal: Harmonize Business and Family Life

I suppose this could be taken as an example of the Pope trying to tell people how to run their lives. In a way, that's just what he's doing:
"Pope highlights need to harmonize business and family life"
David Kerr, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 17, 2011)

"Pope Benedict XVI called for new ways of doing business, in keeping with the dignity of workers and their families, during an Oct. 15 address to promoters of Catholic social doctrine.

" 'Family and work are privileged places for the construction of the vocation of man, collaborating in the creative work of God today,' he told ... a Vatican-based lay organization that spreads the Church's social teaching around the world.

"Its members met in Rome for a two-day conference on the relationship between family and business.

"In his speech to the foundation, the Pope recalled how the Second Vatican Council 'spoke of the family in terms of the domestic church, an "untouchable sanctuary" where the person matures in affection, solidarity and spirituality.'..."
So, who says that families are important? What about having a career, self-actualizing, or supporting some cause?

The Church says that families are important:
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.4

"He was obedient to them.5

"The Lord Jesus himself recalled the force of this 'commandment of God.'6 The Apostle teaches: 'Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother," (This is the first commandment with a promise.) "that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth." '7..."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 4 | The Fourth Commandment)
Maybe you've run into someone who used that 'honor your father and mother' commandment as an excuse to mistreat children. That's wrong, a really bad idea: and that's yet another topic.

The Church says that parents have duties, too. (Catechism, 2199, 2221-2231)

'Having a career' doesn't seem to be a problem, provided that it doesn't become the sole focus of someone's life. 'Self-actualization,' pop-psychology style, isn't a Catholic priority. On the other hand, we're supposed to be unique individuals:The Pope said that harmonizing family and business is important. What, exactly, does he expect us to do? Back to the article:
"...Pope Benedict recognized that the present economic crisis has hit families hard. He highlighted his 2009 encyclical 'Caritas in Veritate' as a guide to building a more humane society and economy, based on 'a new harmonious synthesis between family and work.'

" 'It is not the task of the Church to define the ways to tackle the crisis,' the Pope acknowledged.

"But Christians, formed by the Church's teaching, have a duty 'to denounce evil, to testify and to keep alive the values that underpin human dignity and to promote those forms of solidarity that promote the common good,' helping humanity become 'more and more the family of God.' "
With something like 1,100,000,000 Catholics in today's world, each living in different circumstances and dealing with different cultures: I think defining a goal and leaving details up to folks at a local and regional level makes sense. Micromanagement isn't a good idea.

2. Martin Luther King Memorial and the G-word

"Quotes without God on MLK memorial spark controversy"
Michelle Bauman, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 18, 2011)

"A new memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C. is drawing the attention of those who say that it disregards the civil rights leader's deep faith in God. But his niece hopes that those who see the monument will be drawn to study his life and thus learn about his faith.

" 'Not to include any mention of "God" in the quotes at the memorial is a betrayal of the life, legacy and teachings embraced and lived by Dr. King,' said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, D.C...."
"Betrayal," maybe. Consistent with establishment policy, yes.

I think I understand why references to G** were omitted from a memorial to the Reverend Doctor King. 'As is well known,' religious people are lunatics, anti-social, and sometimes dangerous. 'Everybody know that.' Just look at them:

(ArizonaLincoln (talk), via Wikipedia, used w/o permission)

How, from the dominant culture's point of view, could the Martin Luther King possibly be shown as taking God seriously? Martin Luther King is regarded as an icon of Civil Rights; defender of diversity; who, with Rosa Parks, delivered this nation from racism. From one point of view, it must seem indecent to suggest that he's one of those crazy people with religious beliefs.

Folks in that little "God hates Jews" crowd are, arguably, 'religious people.' I don't think they're typical of folks who have religious beliefs: but then I would think so, since I have religious beliefs myself. So do these folks:

(The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, used w/o permission)

Then there's the regrettable notion that 'freedom of religion' means 'freedom to agree with me, or be ostracized.' With friends like these, who needs enemies, and I'm getting off-topic again.

As a practicing Catholic, I must care about religious freedom. (Catechism, 2104-2109) For everybody. (Catechism, 2106)

Some of my take on religion, freedom, and living in a big world:

3. 'Congress is Irresponsible:' This is news?!

"Citing 'global crisis,' advocates urge Congress to fund religious freedom agency"
Michelle Bauman, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 19, 2011)

"Catholics and other advocates are urging Congress and the White House not to let partisan politics to put an end to the vital work of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

" 'The reality is that there's a global crisis in religious freedom,' said Dr. Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

" 'Congress is being irresponsible and so is the administration,' Farr told CNA on Oct. 18...."
  • Religious freedom is important
    Catechism, 2104-2109
    • For everybody
      Catechism, 2106
From Congress: good news, bad news:
"...The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by Congress in 1998.

"With funding set to expire at the end of September, the House of Representatives on Sept. 15 voted overwhelmingly, 391-21, to fund the agency for two more years.

"However, according to press reports, a single unknown senator has put a 'hold' on the bill, preventing it from coming to a vote in the Senate. The anonymous senator is not disclosing any reason for his actions...."
There's an American election coming up in about 13 months. We've got an opportunity to swap out some of this country's leadership for a new lot. Maybe the next Senate will take a long, hard, look at rules that let one dude stop the legislative process.

4. And Now, North Dakota

"Pope gives North Dakota's capital new bishop"
CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 19, 2011 )

"On Oct. 19, Pope Benedict appointed Msgr. David Kagan from the Rockford, Ill. diocese as the new Bishop of Bismarck, N.D.

"Bishop-elect Kagan, 61, will succeed Bishop Paul A. Zipfel who has served as leader of the diocese since 1997. The Pope also accepted Bishop Zipfel's resignation, which he submitted at the mandatory retirement age of 75.

"Msgr. Kagan was born in Waukegan, Ill., and raised in Spring Grove. He holds an M.A. in Sacred Theology and a licentiate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome...."
This is important news for folks living in central North Dakota. And for me, since I've got family in that state.

I think it's also a reminder that the Catholic Church is universal. We're in 'important' places like New York City and Rome. We're also in places where it's a long, long trek to the nearest Tiffany&Co. store.

5. Zenit, Finances, and the Catholic Church: Pretty Much the Same for Two Millennia

"Former publisher clarifies Zenit's history, finances"
CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 20, 2011)

"Former Zenit publisher Fr. Thomas Williams has provided financial and historical details about the news agency in the wake of the recent resignation of Zenit's founder and six editors.

"In an Oct. 17 interview with CNA, Fr. Williams, a Legionaries of Christ priest who served as Zenit's publisher for 10 years, responded to concerns raised by the agency's founder Jesús Colina.

"Colina stepped down in late September after a decision was made by the Legionaries of Christ to enhance the Legion identity of the agency.

"Zenit, established 14 years ago as an independent agency, publishes in seven languages and sends its daily service to some 450,000 subscribers...."
There's a transcript of the interview, later in that article. I gather that there's the usual concerns about transparency, "a growing mistrust in the Legion," and the recurring journalistic conflict between economics and integrity.

Which 'proves' that the Catholic Church is a bunch of money-hungry hypocrites, cheating the ignorant Masses out of their money? I don't think so. As far as I know, everybody on the Zenit staff, past and present, is human. As the Book of Job says:
"2 But man himself begets mischief, as sparks fly upward."
(Job 5:7)
It looks like there are some reasonable questions about how ZENIT has been operating - and that the issue is getting attention. That's pretty much the way it's been for anything connected with the Catholic Church, for the last two thousand years.

As I've said before, one reason I became a Catholic was that the Church had experienced crisis after crisis, had occasionally-inept management, and was still here. The Church claims that it's being held up by God. I might have dismissed that claim, but the Church's wildly-improbable survival requires an explanation. Outside help, from the highest possible authority, applies Occam's razor to a situation which is difficult to explain otherwise.

Difficult, that is, without getting into assumptions about shape-shifting, space-alien, lizard-men. Or Elvis. That, I would have trouble believing.
Related posts:
1 Maybe Bishop Ussher (not a Catholic bishop) was right. Maybe the entire universe is about 6,000 years old. Maybe NASA, communications satellites, and the GPS system you use, are part of a conspiracy to keep us from knowing that we live in a relatively small universe.

I doubt that very much. But a remarkable number of folks seem convinced that much of what we've learned over the last few centuries isn't true: because 'it's not in the Bible.'

Assuming that every word of the Bible is literally true: and was written by and for people with a contemporary Western point of view, land floats on a primordial salt ocean: and the sky is an inverted bowl that keeps the "upper waters" from drowning us. Rain? That's what happens when the bowl leaks. (Genesis 1, footnote 2)

I don't think that's a reasonable assumption. At all. That sort of an approach to "Bible truths" could have me insisting that New Jersey doesn't exist: because it's not mentioned in the Bible. Not once.

I take the Bible very seriously. It's the Word of God. But I don't assume that it's the product of Western civilization, written with the profound lack of poetry and metaphor that plagues my culture. Which is yet again another topic.

What the Bible is:I've posted about science and religion, reason and faith, before:

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.