Friday, December 14, 2012

Good News (Not in the News); Assumptions; December 21 and the Mayan Calendar

Earlier today I shared some good news from Illinois, and part of what we're learning about Mars and Titan. Then I read about a mass murder in Connecticut:
As I said before, about killings in Connecticut, no pressure: but prayer couldn't hurt.

More News: Good; Drearily Familiar; and Garbled

This post starts with good news from New York State.

The other two items are the usual establishment stuff, what I think of it; and another look at how folks react to the Mayan calendar.

About December 21, 2012: If you're counting on the world ending next Friday: I'd change your plans. The start of a new cycle in the Mayan calendar has about as much cosmic significance as Guy Lombardo's orchestra had each New Year's Eve at the Waldorf Astoria.
  1. Cardinal Dolan and News: But Not the Establishment Kind
  2. 'News:' The Establishment Kind
  3. Maya, oh Maya

'The Establishment?'

In my teens, 'the establishment' was a sort of gentlemen's club. Although "Irish Need Not Apply" signs had disappeared by then, upward mobility was easier for a man who either was WASP, or could fake it. Women with ambition had the option of marrying a WASP.

(Non Sequitur, Wiley Miller (December 14, 2012) used w/o permission)
" in leading the way back to traditional America, one of us here is now a janitor and another one goes to the secretarial pool."

As I've said before, I do not want a return to the 'good old days.' My memory's too good.

Today's establishment, the folks in America with wealth, influence, and political power, look different; have different preferences; but still act like 'the establishment.' (September 15, 2011; June 24, 2011)

1. Cardinal Dolan and News: But Not the Establishment Kind

"HHS Mandate Decision"
Cardinal Dolan, The Gospel In the Digital Age, Archdiocese of New York (December 12, 2012)

"Did you hear about the decision last week by U.S. District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan in the lawsuit brought by the Archdiocese of New York, ArchCare, (the agency coordinating our Catholic healthcare in the archdiocese) and three plaintiffs from the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, against the administration for the unconstitutional HHS mandate?

You probably did not, as there seems to have been virtually no mention of the decision - in favor of the archdiocese, by the way - in any local newspaper or on television. As far as I can tell, and I've looked rather carefully, there hasn't even been a story in the New York Times, which couldn't wait to publish an editorial this past October, admonishing the bishops, when a federal judge in Missouri found for the administration and dismissed a similar case brought by a private, for-profit, mining company. (The Times also didn't have much to say last week, when the appeals court temporarily blocked the bad Missouri decision the Times had gushed over.)...
I'm not surprised that The New York Times once again followed its 'all the news we feel like printing' policy. I've discussed the 'Gray Lady' before, in another blog.

America's presumed newspaper of record is, I think, a hometown newspaper, run by a relatively small number of folks, who have well-defined ideas about the outside world:

"...Still a Long Way to Go..."

As Cardinal Dolan says, "...there is still a long way to go before these cases are final...." I am, however, confident that America will eventually decide that forcing citizens to violate our conscience is a bad idea: even if editors with The New York Times believe otherwise.

(A tip of the hat to David Huber , on Google+, for the heads-up on Cardinal Dolan's post.)

2. 'News:' The Establishment Kind

"ABC uses video of hateful Westboro Baptist Church to illustrate opposition to gay marriage"
Scott Whitlock, (December 11, 2012)

"Apparently, ABC News can't tell the difference between opponents of gay marriage and hateful, anti-American bigots. As 'World News' reporter Terry Moran highlighted the Supreme Court's decision Friday to consider the legality of same-sex marriage, video of Westboro Baptist Church picketers appeared on screen to visually represent 'opponents.'...

(ABC News, via, used w/o permission)


Fred Phelps and his merry hecklers from the Westboro Baptist Church are against same-sex marriage, among other things.

But not all people who oppose recognizing same-sex marriage are part of Fred Phelps' little group.

For example, the Catholic Church does not recognize sexual relations between two men or two women as "marriage." Our attitude toward the folks who get called "fags" by Fred Phelps is radically different:
"...They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided...."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358)
If you haven't read that in the news, I'm not surprised. Journalists don't seem to understand the Catholic Church, or Christianity. (April 27, 2012; March 6, 2010)

Assuming that a few angry people carrying signs are typical of a huge and diverse group isn't prudent, but it's nothing new. I think Fulton Sheen is right:
"There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church - which is, of course, quite a different thing."
(Bishop Fulton Sheen, Foreword to Radio Replies Vol. 1, (1938) page ix, via Wikiquote)
Denver News (1921), from The Library of Congress (American Memory Collection),, via, used w/o permissionI think America's cultural history contributes to the idea that religion and hate go together.

Burning crosses didn't help Christianity's image. Neither, I suspect, did rants against rock music, commies, Catholicism, and other 'un-American' influences. And that's another topic or two.

(from H.E. Fowler, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission)
"Crowley, Jeremiah J. (1913) 'The Pope: Chief of White Slavers High Priest of Intrigue,' p. 430"

From ''Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty'', 1926. Published by the Pillar of Fire Church in Zarephath, NJ. Copyright was not renewed.
(Pillar of Fire Church, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission)
"From ''Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty'', 1926. Published by the Pillar of Fire Church in Zarephath, NJ...."

(From Thomas Nast Portfolio, Ohio State University, used w/o permission.)
"The American River Ganges, a cartoon by Thomas Nast showing bishops attacking public schools, with connivance of Boss Tweed. Harper's Weekly, September 30, 1871." (Wikipedia)

No, I certainly don't yearn for a return to 'the good old days.'

"A Catholic Church (AKA Whore House)"

Fred Phelps' outfit has an all-too-familiar opinion of the Catholic Church:
"...We will say every time we come to a catholic church (aka whore house) we will remind you that Priests Rape Children...."
("Westboro Baptist Church Picket Schedule,", (from Google cache November 8, 2010))
I've heard about the pedophile priests, and think they're as typical of Catholicism as Fred Phelps and company are of, say, Protestants. Moving on.

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God?

"...Members of the small and extreme Westboro Baptist Church have disrupted the funerals of American military personal who were killed defending this country. According to Westboro Pastor Fred Phelps, U.S. soldiers are dying because of America's support for homosexuality. On June 13, 2005, the AP quoted him as saying, 'Our attitude toward what's happening with the war is the Lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives that are worth a dime.'..."
(Scott Whitlock)
Thinking that "the Lord is punishing this evil nation" may have a (small) kernel of truth to it. I've talked about natural law before.

Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was very effective in 1741. That may partly explain why so many American preachers are radio ranters seem intent on scaring people silly.

I think that God cares about what people do, and I think that actions have consequences.

But I do not believe that God killed:
  • 21st-century Haitians
    • As payback for a centuries-old alleged act
  • Japanese
    • Because of Pearl Harbor
  • Americans
And I certainly don't agree with Fred Phelps and his ilk. I've been over this sort of thing before:
Folks who take their cue from "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" notwithstanding, I really don't think the Almighty has anger management issues.

"God Hates Fags," "Pray for More Dead Soldiers," and ABC News

ABC News does not, as far as I know, agree with slogans like "God hates fags," or "pray for more dead soldiers."

But putting statements in a particular order can give a false impression:
"...Yet, Moran announced, 'For opponents of gay marriage, the very fabric of our society is at stake.' During this voiceover, video showed Westboro protesters with signs reading 'God hates America.' (Other signs that the group is known for include 'God hates fags' and 'Pray for more dead soldiers.') After that footage rolled, Moran's piece immediately cut to a Family Research Council (FRC) representative.

"Providing the only opposition in the segment, Peter Sprigg, a FRC fellow, asserted, 'The fundamental reason why marriage is treated as a public institution, rather than a purely private relationship, is because it serves the interest of society and serves the interest of children.'

"Having Sprigg immediately follow video of Westboro members undercuts the calm, reasoned argument he made...."
(Scott Whitlock)
I've told how rabid radio preachers led me to an appreciation of rock music: and, eventually, to a faith that made sense. ("Why I Became a Catholic")

I still cringe when I hear the latest 'End Times Bible Prophecy,' and that's almost another topic.

Three Important Points

In my considered opinion, it's important to:
  • Not live down to expectations
  • Study the news, not just
    • Read it
    • Watch it

3. Maya, oh Maya

"Vatican: World Not Ending, Despite Maya Prediction"
Associated Press, via ABC News (December 11, 2012)

"The Vatican's top astronomer has some assurances to offer: The world won't be ending in about two weeks, despite predictions to the contrary.

"The Rev. Jose Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, wrote in Wednesday's Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that 'it's not even worth discussing' doomsday scenarios based on the Mayan calendar that are flooding the Internet ahead of the purported Dec. 21 apocalypse...."
To begin with, Jose Funes is a priest in the S. J., Society of Jesus (Jesuits), so "the Rev.," although nice-sounding, is not what I'd call him. Oh, well: Associated Press has a record for not understanding Catholicism, the Catholic Church, or Christianity in general. (March 6, 2010)

Professor Funes is part of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, but that organization's head is called a "president" in my language. These are some of the folks who currently run the Academy, according to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences:
  • President
    • Werner Arber
  • Chancellor
    • Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo
  • Councillors
    • Paul Crutzen
    • Theodor Hänsch
    • Nicole Le Douarin
    • Jürgen Mittelstraß
    • Veerabhadran Ramanathan
    • Martin Rees
    • Rafael Vicuña
    (Source: Pontifical Academy of Sciences (English))
Here's José G. Funes' profile, with the name spelled correctly:
"José G. Funes, S.J."
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences

"...José Funes specialises in extragalactic astronomy. His field of research includes the kinematics and dynamics of disk galaxies and star formation in nearby galaxies...."
It took me maybe five minutes to get those names, Funes' profile, and drop the data into this post: but Sauk Centre, Minnesota, does have pretty good Internet service. Besides, I knew about the Academy, and use Google quite often.

Hostility, Ignorance, and Getting a Grip

Sometimes daft reporting of "religious" news may reflect hostility toward religion. Often, I suspect that we're looking at the result of profound ignorance.
Stable Supplies for Horse People, used w/o permission"...If establishment news covered the Super Bowl the way they cover religious news, we'd see expert discussions of the quality of this year's home runs compared to number of women employed by the NFL, and speculation about why the jockeys weren't wearing feed bags....."
(June 15, 2012)
Happily, we no longer depend on The New York Times, broadcast news, and a few studio executives, for information.

Folks need to exercise good judgment when reading blogs like this one, websites, or connecting with others in social media services like Twitter or Google+. Not everyone is careful about checking their facts, or distinguishing between what they know to be true, and what they'd like to be true.

But old-school journalism requires scrutiny too. Happily, now the rest of us can do our own research.

Happy New Year, Mayan Style

I see Funes' point, that "...'it's not even worth discussing' doomsday scenarios based on the Mayan calendar...." As a professional scientist, José Funes, S. J., is mostly interested in the realities of this universe: not a popular doomsday claim.

I'm fascinated by science, but I'm also fascinated by culture, calendars, and psychological quirks: among other things.

I don't take the Mayan calendar's starting a new cycle as terribly significant. On the other hand, I like to watch celebrations of another new cycle each New Year's Eve.

A bit more seriously, I know that some folks are troubled by my native culture's perennial doomsday predictions and prophecies. More about that after pushing some of my other blogs.

I started discussing the Mayan calendar in other blogs, along with goofy ideas:

Doomsday Predictions, Prophecies, and Scaring People Silly

Fear is a powerful motivator. Advertising for everything from life insurance to acne cream often appeals to fear: of being buried in a cardboard box; having a zit on Saturday night; whatever.

By itself there's nothing wrong with fear: or any other emotion. What matters is what we decide to do with our feelings. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1767-1768)

Fear's power may help explain why some frightfully religious folks in America come up with a new 'Biblical End Times' prophecy at fairly regular intervals. Their secular equivalents warn us of impending natural disasters, including:
  • The once-popular coming ice age
  • Global warming
  • Today's cautiously non-committal "climate change"
I take 'end of the world' warnings, secular and religious, with the proverbial grain of salt. Sometimes with the whole container.

Like I said, there's nothing wrong with fear, by itself. Sometimes it makes sense to be afraid. But that doesn't mean that scaring folks silly is a good idea. The key word there is "silly."

I've posted about fear, wisdom, and why emotions and reason don't play well together, before:
Other related posts:

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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.