Friday, August 10, 2012

Sikhs, Catholics, and Prayer; Evangelization; and Exploring Mars

I don't have much to say about the Olympics this week. The global sports get-together is in its 14th day:
Don't get me wrong: I recognize the cultural significance of today's Olympics, which is why I posted those links.

But I decided to write about something else today.

Murder, Suicide, and Prayer

I've mentioned what happened at a Sikh temple in Milwaukee before:
Bottom line, a lot of folks are hurting. This is just a suggestion, but prayer couldn't hurt.

I've got more to say about the multiple-murder/suicide in Milwaukee: also evangelization, and a robot on Mars.
  1. Sikhs, Catholics, Prayer, and Hate
  2. Matthew 28:19-20 Plus Two Millennia and Counting
  3. "We are Not Afraid of the Truth"

1. Sikhs, Catholics, Prayer, and Hate

"Wisconsin Sikh temple gunman killed himself: FBI"
Brendan O'Brien, Reuters (August 8, 2012)

"The white supremacist gunman who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, the FBI said on Wednesday.

"A police officer shot and wounded the gunman, Wade Page, 40, in the stomach outside the temple in Oak Creek on Sunday, said Teresa Carlson, an FBI special agent in charge.

" 'Subsequent to that wound, it appears that Page died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head,' she told a news conference...."

"...Federal authorities have said they are treating the attack as a possible act of domestic terrorism. Page, an Army veteran, was a musician who played in white power punk-metal bands. He was armed with a 9mm handgun during the attack...."
Like I said yesterday, the Church says that murder and suicide are wrong. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2268-2269, 2280-2283)

Putting murder and suicide on the 'don't do this' list isn't as arbitrary as it might seem. Both rules come from the idea that human life is sacred. (Catechism, 2258)

I have a very personal connection with suicide. (January 28, 2009) The Church says we must not despair for the eternal well-being of folks who killed themselves, and I'll get back to that. (Catechism, 2283)

Prayers and People

"Archdiocese offers prayers in wake of Sikh temple shooting"
CNA/EWTN News (August 6, 2012 )

"Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki expressed sorrow and promised his prayers after a gunman fatally shot six people at a local Sikh temple....

" ...'Our prayers go out to the congregation at the temple and to the entire Sikh community,' Archbishop Listecki said in an Aug. 5 statement responding to the Sunday morning murders, committed by Wade Michael Page at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.

" 'It is in times like these that we turn to God who is the consolation and hope for all of us,' the [Milkwaukee] archbishop reflected.

"The archdiocese expressed its closeness to victims as well as families, friends, and emergency responders involved in the shooting...."
I wrote this yesterday, but it bears repeating. What the Church teaches is based on fairly simple principles, like 'love God, love your neighbor;' and 'everybody's your neighbor.' (Matthew 5:43-44; Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:25-27; Luke 10:29-37; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1822, 1825)

Love and Approval

'Love God, love your neighbor, everybody's your neighbor' sounds simple. Actually believing it: that's another matter. Particularly since I'm supposed to love everybody: every human person. Even the one who stole the parish Gospel Book: even the man who killed seven people, including himself.

I've said this before, in another context: "love" isn't "approval." (April 26, 2011) Loving a mass-murderer is one thing: approving of mass murder is something else.


The man who killed six others, and finally himself, is being called a "white supremacist" and "neo-Nazi, depending on which paper or news service I look at. They're probably right, at least to the extent that Wade Michael Page hated what he saw at the Sikh temple.

Mr. Page was also white, a musician, a former member of the armed forces, and an American citizen. My guess is that it's just a matter of time before someone claims that we should fear:
  • Whites
  • Musicians
  • Veterans
  • Americans
I don't think so: but I don't think folks should be afraid of dangerous technologies, either: like movable type; LP gas; computers; or guns. (Apathetic Lemming of the North (January 18, 2012) I'll grant that it's reasonable to be afraid of what some folks decide to do.


Mr. Page seems to have been driven by hate: which, directed against people, is a very bad idea. It's another thing that the Church says we mustn't do.

'Hate the sin, love the sinner' may sound corny: but it's pretty much what the Church says. (Catechism, 1765-1766, introduction to The Fifth Commandment)

2. Matthew 28:19-20 Plus Two Millennia and Counting

"Knights of Columbus called to be in front ranks of New Evangelization"
Michelle Bauman, CNA/EWTN News (August 7, 2012)

"As the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus must play a prominent role in evangelizing the contemporary world, said Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange, Calif.

" 'Certainly, there is a clear and demanding need today for the New Evangelization,' he stressed....

"...The convention drew approximately 2,000 participants from across the country and around the world, including 12 cardinals and more than 70 bishops, archbishops and abbots...."
One of my favorite bits of the Bible comes after Jesus stopped being dead, just before my Lord left:
"Go, therefore,12 and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,

"teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.13 And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.' "
(Matthew 28:19-20)
Two millennia later, we're still carrying out those orders.

What's new about the New Evangelization are some of the methods we use, and the culture we're working with. The basic message: that hasn't changed.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas

"...Bishop Brown called to mind the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas.

"Our Lady has a special significance to the Knights, who renewed their dedication to her during their meeting. The Knights also co-sponsored an Aug. 5 Guadalupe Celebration with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which drew about 100,000 participants...."
(Michelle Bauman, CNA/EWTN News (August 7, 2012))
There's more in the CNA/EWTN News article about Our Lady of Guadalupe. I think it's worth reading - but will admit to a bias. I live in the Americas, and the last I heard there's a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the next town down the road.

3. "We are Not Afraid of the Truth"

"Vatican Observatory head praises Curiosity rover landing"
CNA/EWTN News (August 6, 2012)

"Vatican Observatory director Fr. José Gabriel Funes thinks that 'everybody' should be happy with the successful landing of the Mars science rover Curiosity.

"Fr. Funes said he liked the rover's name because curiosity is 'a driving force to do science, to do research.'

" 'Human beings are basically curious,' he told Vatican Radio Aug. 6. 'We want to know how many things in the universe work, the logic, the "logos" in the universe.'

"The priest explained that this drive for knowledge has a basis in the nature of creation.

" 'Because there is rationality in the universe, we can do science,' he said...."
I don't see a conflict between the idea that the universe has observable, predictable, rational rules: and the idea that a rational God created this place. I also do not think that
  1. God can't exist
    • Because we've discovered a new elementary particle
  2. Science is a lie
    • Because the phlogiston theory of combustion was wrong
  3. The existence of oxygen proves that God doesn't exist
    • Because now we don't need God to explain fire
Maybe that list seems silly: but I was part of a discussion involving point #1 yesterday. Don't laugh: if I'd spent more time working up to that weird assertion, it might seem reasonable.

I won't do that, because "...the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God...." (Catechism, 159)


Phlogiston is a substance that doesn't exist. But around the last half of the 17th century it was a pretty good way to explain combustion. Experiments and observations eventually demonstrated that phlogiston couldn't exist, but for a while it was a reasonable way to explain how fire works:
About a century after the phlogiston theory of combustion was presented, some folks were still having conniptions about the idea.

Then we found out about oxygen, and that's almost another topic.

(Edgar Fahs Smith collection, Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library, via, used w/o permission)
"Doctor Phlogiston, The Priestley politician or the Political Priest...."

Joseph Priestly discovered oxygen, defended the phlogiston theory, and had quite a few other interesting ideas.

Why bring up some dude who's not Catholic, and discuss a scientific theory that didn't pan out?

I think phlogiston's history is a good example of how science works; I like that cartoon; and think that the 'trampling on the Bible' angle illustrates an all-too-common reaction to newfangled ideas.

Like phlogiston.

Back to Mars

(Curiosity, via NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, used w/o permission)

"This is a portion of the first color 360-degree panorama from NASA's Curiosity rover.... The mission's destination, a mountain at the center of Gale Crater called Mount Sharp, can be seen in the distance, to the left, beginning to rise up. The mountain's summit will be imaged later. ... Blast marks from the rover's descent stage are in the foreground." (NASA)

Curiosity, the robot that landed on Mars recently, sent that image back. I picked the picture up at the NASA website, along with two documents:
Wired did an article on a sort of 'family' website: I'm looking forward to what Curiosity finds. Even if we don't learn that there's life on Mars.

Fragile Faith?

I've been a Christian as long as I can remember, and persistently curious about what's in the universe, and how things work. I don't see a conflict between faith, reason, science, and religion.

I could be a Catholic and believe that Earth is flat, and about 6,000 years old. I couldn't, though, deny that God might have made other 'Earths.' That's against the rules, and has been since 1277.

There's a persistent notion that Christians are none-too-bright Luddites who think that everything discovered in the last few centuries is a Satanic lie. I've run into a few Christians who seem dedicated to reinforcing that set of assumptions.

But I'm a Catholic, so I'm not required to check my brain at the church door.

Another idea is that unequivocal evidence that life exists someplace other than Earth would shatter the faith of 'those Christians.'

Maybe there are folks whose idea of God would be destroyed by knowledge that creation has new facets. For that matter, maybe there are Christians somewhere who will stop believing if they learn that Earth isn't flat.

I'm not one of them, and neither is the Vatican Observatory director.

Humanity and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

"...For almost two years, the rover will explore whether the crater area ever had favorable conditions for microbial life, according to NASA.

"Fr. Funes said that the search for extraterrestrial life is one of the things that has motivated humanity to explore space.

" 'Until now, we do not have any evidence for life. But still, the search for life is worthwhile and we can learn many things,' he said, acknowledging that scientists may not find signs of life.

"The Vatican Observatory director rejected the idea that Catholics have anything to fear from the search for extraterrestrial life or from scientific exploration.

" '(W)e are not afraid of science, we are not afraid of new results, new discoveries,' he said.

" 'That's the reason why the Catholic Church has an observatory,' he explained. 'We are not afraid of the truth. Whatever the truth might be, we are open to new results, once they are confirmed by the scientific community.'..."
(CNA/EWTN News (August 6, 2012))
Related posts:


Bagsy's Soapbox said...

Hi Brian - congrats again on your commentaries.
As a Catholic I enjoy the sciences, to learn more detail of God's creation.
As far as life on other planets in the universe - if the planet is in a similar form as Earth and with in a life zone of a sun. Given such conditions I would expect that life could develop, but whether there would be Man - I am not sure.

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks, again.

I'm not even sure if there's life anywhere but here on Earth. Although a few years ago Hoyle (I think that was the name) reported a spectral analysis of an interstellar cloud that resembled what you'd get from a whole lot of bacteria.

Other astronomers aren't convinced, and the research goes on - - -.

Finding people like us: rational beings with physical bodies? That would be fascinating. I'm also not sure about that, either.

However, I'm strongly inclined to agree with a scientist at the Vatican observatory:

"...Frankly, if you think about it, any creatures on other planets, subject to the same laws of chemistry and physics as us, made of the same kinds of atoms, with an awareness and a will recognizably like ours would be at the very least our cousins in the cosmos. They would be so similar to us in all the essentials that I don't think you'd even have the right to call them aliens."
(Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? "Brother Astronomer," Brother Guy Consolmagno (2000))

That quote is from "The Catholic Church: Universal. Really" (April 19, 2010) Don't worry: the post is mostly about the Catholic Church being catholic.

A short video interview with Brother Consolmagno, from a Catholic News Agency piece, plus my take, might interest you. Then again, maybe not. :)

"Beauty, Science, and a Crazy Idea" (March 14, 2012)

It's nice to run into someone who is Catholic and also appreciates a study of God's creation.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

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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.