Friday, August 3, 2012

Life, the Universe, and Badminton

There's more to being Catholic than going to church on Sunday and getting my forehead smudged each Ash Wednesday.

There's also more to citizenship than politics, but with an election coming up, I can hardly avoid it:
  1. "A Great Force for Good," but Not Perfect
  2. "The Beginning of the End of Religious Freedom?"
  3. Planets, Galaxies, Grandeur, and a Badminton Team
We're told that "...citizens should take an active part in public life...." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1915) I think that's a good idea. Since I'm an American citizen, being a good citizen includes voting.

There's an election coming in November. Some of today's issues make this one very important.

One of the major questions is whether the right to practice our faith will be restored to American citizens. As of August 1, the rules changed: not for the better.

Freedom: Every Day of the Week

Don't get me wrong: I'm still allowed to go to the parish church each Sunday for Mass. And, since I don't have any employees, I'm not required to choose between violating my conscience or staying in business. That's the good news.

The bad news is that, as of Wednesday, nearly all business owners are required to help kill human beings who aren't 'real people' under American law.

I suppose I should be grateful that Catholic employers are allowed allowed to practice their faith one out of every 168 hours of each week.

When 'Legal' and 'Right' Don't Match

My guess is that some Americans have no problem with paying someone to kill an innocent person: provided that it's legal, and won't cost too much. As a practicing Catholic, 'judgmental' as this may seem, I think that's not right.

I think human life is sacred, and that killing an innocent person is wrong: even if it's legal. What the Church teaches is counter-cultural:
I do not want to force everyone to be Catholic. Even if I did, that's against the rules. Catholics must support religious freedom: for everyone. (Catechism, 2104-2109)

Vote: Responsibly

I don't think it makes sense to vote for a candidate based on hair style. I also think that voting a straight party ticket 'because my family always did' doesn't make sense, either.

I do think it makes sense to learn about candidates and issues. That's gotten a lot easier recently, at least for anyone with access to an Internet connection. This isn't a complete list of resources, but I think it'll do for a start:
Finally, here's my take on the week's news.

1. "A Great Force for Good," but Not Perfect

"Former Vatican ambassadors launch Catholics for Romney group"
Michelle Bauman, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (August 2, 2012)

"A bipartisan group of six former U.S. ambassadors to the Holy See has joined together to support presidential candidate Mitt Romney and is calling on other Catholics to do the same.

"The ambassadors said on July 31 that despite their own political differences, they all believe that Mitt Romney 'can be a great force for good in this nation.'

"They explained that they are united in their support of Romney's candidacy by the conviction that all Catholics are 'called to advance the moral teachings of Christianity in the life of our country.'

"Former ambassadors Frank Shakespeare, Tom Melady, Ray Flynn, Jim Nicholson, Francis Rooney and Mary Ann Glendon are the new national co-chairs of the Catholics for Romney coalition...."
I don't have a problem with these former ambassadors getting together and supporting a candidate. Like I said before, being a good citizen is part of the package for a Catholic: and that includes getting involved in deciding who gets to sit in the Oval Office for the next four years.

Right now, Romney looks like a reasonable choice. That's "reasonable choice," not "perfect candidate." In the decades since I turned 18 and started voting, I haven't run across a 'perfect' candidate: and don't expect to.

One point, before moving on, about "the moral teachings of Christianity." I'm pretty sure that the "morality" they mentioned is what I usually refer to as "ethics" in this blog. I've posted about ethics, morality, and language, before:

2. "The Beginning of the End of Religious Freedom?"

"Contraception mandate takes effect for businesses without 'safe harbor' "
Michelle Bauman, CNA/EWTN News (August 1, 2012 )

"Starting Aug. 1, the owners of many for-profit businesses are being forced to pick between violating their beliefs and paying stifling fines as the federal contraception mandate goes into effect.

"This initial implementation of the mandate 'marks the beginning of the end of religious freedom in our nation,' said Christen Varley, executive director of Conscience Cause, a nonpartisan advocacy organization that works to defend religious freedom and conscience rights.

"In a statement released shortly before the mandate was scheduled to go into effect, Varley explained that as of August 1, many employers would be faced with the 'unimaginable choice' of denying their faith or paying crippling fines that could put them out of business...."
Like I've said before, there's an election coming in November. American voters have an opportunity to swap out current leadership for a lot that's a bit less ethically-challenged. I hope that happens, and think there's some reason for that hope.

That's why I'm not entirely on the same page with the statement that the HHS mandate "marks the beginning of the end of religious freedom in our nation."

If enough American voters wake up and decide that being allowed to act as if their religious beliefs should be allowed to matter: I think America can recover some degree of religious liberty.

I prefer to remain hopeful.

I also think that there's an authority higher than opinion polls, the American President, or even the United States Supreme court. (June 23, 2012)

3. Planets, Galaxies, Grandeur, and a Badminton Team

"Gliese 581g Tops List of 5 Potentially Habitable Alien Planets"
Mike Wall, (July 24, 2012)

"The controversial exoplanet Gliese 581g is the best candidate to host life beyond our own solar system, according to a new ranking of potentially habitable alien worlds.

"Gliese 581g shot to the top of the list - which was published Thursday (July 19) by researchers at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo's Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL) - after a new study marshaled support for its long-debated existence....

"...This rocky world - if it does indeed exist - is just 20 light-years away from our solar system. It's likely two to three times as massive as Earth and zips around its parent star, the red dwarf Gliese 581, every 30 days or so. [Gallery: The Strangest Alien Planets]

"This orbit places the planet squarely in the star's 'habitable zone' - that just-right range of distances where liquid water, and perhaps life as we know it, could exist...."
The Gliese 581 planetary system is so close, by cosmic standards, that light from the star takes only about 20 years to reach us. Even compared to the rest of the galaxy, that's practically next door.

(from Department of Physics, University of Oregon, used w/o permission)

On this scale, each pixel is well over 100 light years across. Sun and Gliese 581 are in the same pixel.

The article also discusses Gliese 581d, another planet in the Gliese 581 system; Gliese 667Cc; Kepler-22b; and HD 85512b. HD 85512 is another close neighbor of ours, about 35 light years away.

I've been following news about the Gliese 581 system for a few years now. There's been a lively discussion over whether or not Gliese 581g actually exists: mostly because methods used to detect roughly Earth-size planets involve deciding what's data, and what's normal variations in the instruments.

It's sort of like deciding whether a variation in a candle's light, seen from a few miles off, is from a breeze or a circling moth.

Other Worlds?

When someone suggested that we might not be standing on the only world, other folks got upset. Discussions heated up, pressure built: and finally a bishop issued a proclamation that, to my knowledge, hasn't been rescinded.

Since I'm a practicing Catholic, I'm not allowed to say that God couldn't have made other worlds. That rule has been in effect for more than seven centuries. (July 5, 2011)

Planets and Priorities

I'm quite a bit more interested in news about the Gliese 581 system, than what's happening at the Olympic badminton games. Apparently there's been a bit of a fuss over a team that tried to lose. That strategy makes sense, provided one doesn't get caught:
On the other hand, I realize that quite a few folks would much rather watch the Olympics than read about some planet they'll never visit: that may or may not actually exist.

Maybe the 2012 Olympics is more important than news about astronomy: particularly since so many folks around the world are so intensely concerned about which nation's top athletes are better at chasing a ball, jumping over obstacles, or running really fast.

My opinion is that:
  • The Olympics are an important cultural event
  • What we're learning about God's creation is fascinating
  • Neither are as important as
    • Doing what is right
    • Avoiding what is evil

Living With Grandeur

I think it's a good idea to step back now and then, and look around. We live in a world of incredible beauty and grandeur, from the quantum foam which may be the basic fabric of space and time, to vast structures made of galaxies.

credit & copyright: Vicent Peris (OAUV / PTeam), Gilles Bergond, Calar Alto Observatory; via Astronomy Picture of the Day, University of Oregon, used w/o permission (October 22, 2008)
(credit & copyright: Vicent Peris (OAUV / PTeam), Gilles Bergond, Calar Alto Observatory, via NASA, used w/o permission)

"...spiral galaxy NGC 7331 ... About 50 million light-years distant in the northern constellation Pegasus and similar in size to our own Milky Way Galaxy, NGC 7331 is often imaged as the foreground of a visual grouping that includes an intriguing assortment of background galaxies some ten times farther away...."

I don't know why God decided to make this place so big, or so old. But I'm pretty sure it wouldn't do any good to complain. Besides, I like vastness.

I also think one way to learn about God is to study what God has made. And is making, which is another topic. (January 18, 2012)
"...the things of the world
and the things of faith
derive from the same God...
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 159)

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder's craft."
(Psalms 19:2)

"3 Terrible and awesome are you, stronger than the ancient mountains."
(Psalms 76:5)
Finally, as a recovering English teacher, I'd like to share what dictionary says about grandeur. It's the quality of:
  • Being
    • Magnificent
    • Splendid
    • Grand
  • Elevation of mind and
    • Exaltation of
      • Character
      • Ideals
      • Conduct
    (Princeton's WordNet)
Related posts:


JohnL said...

Hi Brian'

Enjoy your jottings - a sign of an enquiring and open mind, but one that could discern the sense of God and his creation.

Bye the way it is my idea that God has given matter the potential develop in much the same way as on Earth if the life parameters that make it possible on Eath are the same. However I suspect that intelligent life such as Man would require the intervention into that life development, in other words the dawn of consciousness was something that God prepared on this planet only.

John L

Brian Gill said...

John L,


Your speculation is possible, and touches on the belief that God " every moment, upholds and sustains..." every bit of creation. (Catechism, 301 )

It's possible that we're the only people in this creation. Or, not.

It seems likely that there's nobody with our yen for travel nearby.

Thanks for your comment.

Brian Gill said...

John L,

It took me quite a while to respond, because it's been a busy weekend: and I use comment moderation.

If I didn't, there would be quite a lot of off-topic spam cluttering the 'comments' area.

Thanks for your patience.

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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.