Thursday, 17 July 2008

His Holiness' Barangaroo Speech

Dear Young People,

What a delight it is to greet you here at Barangaroo, on the shores of the magnificent Sydney harbour, with its famous bridge and Opera House. Many of you are local, from the outback or the dynamic multicultural communities of Australian cities. Others of you have come from the scattered islands of Oceania, and others still from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. Some of you, indeed, have come from as far as I have, Europe! Wherever we are from, we are here at last in Sydney. And together we stand in our world as God's family, disciples of Christ, empowered by his Spirit to be witnesses of his love and truth for everyone!

I wish firstly to thank the Aboriginal Elders who welcomed me prior to my boarding the boat at Rose Bay. I am deeply moved to stand on your land, knowing the suffering and injustices it has borne, but aware too of the healing and hope that are now at work, rightly bringing pride to all Australian citizens. To the young indigenous - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders - and the Tokelauans, I express my thanks for your stirring welcome. Through you, I send heartfelt greetings to your peoples.

Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Wilson, I thank you for your warm words of welcome. I know that your sentiments resonate in the hearts of the young gathered here this evening, and so I thank you all. Standing before me I see a vibrant image of the universal Church. The variety of nations and cultures from which you hail shows that indeed Christ's Good News is for everyone; it has reached the ends of the earth. Yet I know too that a good number of you are still seeking a spiritual homeland. Some of you, most welcome among us, are not Catholic or Christian. Others of you perhaps hover at the edge of parish and Church life. To you I wish to offer encouragement: step forward into Christ's loving embrace; recognize the Church as your home. No one need remain on the outside, for from the day of Pentecost the Church has been one and universal.

This evening I wish also to include those who are not present among us. I am thinking especially of the sick or mentally ill, young people in prison, those struggling on the margins of our societies, and those who for whatever reason feel alienated from the Church. To them I say: Jesus is close to you! Feel his healing embrace, his compassion and mercy!

Almost two thousand years ago, the Apostles, gathered in the upper room together with Mary and some faithful women, were filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:4). At that extraordinary moment, which gave birth to the Church, the confusion and fear that had gripped Christ's disciples were transformed into a vigorous conviction and sense of purpose. They felt impelled to speak of their encounter with the risen Jesus whom they had come to call affectionately, the Lord. In many ways, the Apostles were ordinary. None could claim to be the perfect disciple. They failed to recognize Christ (cf. Lk 24:13-32), felt ashamed of their own ambition (cf. Lk 22:24-27), and had even denied him (cf. Lk 22:54-62). Yet, when empowered by the Holy Spirit, they were transfixed by the truth of Christ's Gospel and inspired to proclaim it fearlessly. Emboldened, they exclaimed: repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:37-38)! Grounded in the Apostles' teaching, in fellowship, and in the breaking of the bread and prayer (cf. Acts 2:42), the young Christian community moved forward to oppose the perversity in the culture around them (cf. Acts 2:40), to care for one another (cf. Acts 2:44-47), to defend their belief in Jesus in the face of hostility (cf Acts 4:33), and to heal the sick (cf. Acts 5:12-16). And in obedience to Christ's own command, they set forth, bearing witness to the greatest story ever: that God has become one of us, that the divine has entered human history in order to transform it, and that we are called to immerse ourselves in Christ's saving love which triumphs over evil and death. Saint Paul, in his famous speech to the Areopagus, introduced the message in this way: "God gives everything - including life and breath - to everyone ... so that all nations might seek God and, by feeling their way towards Him, succeed in finding him. In fact He is not far from any of us, since it is in Him that we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17: 25-28).

And ever since, men and women have set out to tell the same story, witnessing to Christ's truth and love, and contributing to the Church's mission. Today, we think of those pioneering Priests, Sisters and Brothers who came to these shores, and to other parts of the Pacific, from Ireland, France, Britain and elsewhere in Europe. The great majority were young - some still in their late teens - and when they bade farewell to their parents, brothers and sisters, and friends, they knew they were unlikely ever to return home. Their whole lives were a selfless Christian witness. They became the humble but tenacious builders of so much of the social and spiritual heritage which still today brings goodness, compassion and purpose to these nations. And they went on to inspire another generation. We think immediately of the faith which sustained Blessed Mary MacKillop in her sheer determination to educate especially the poor, and Blessed Peter To Rot in his steadfast resolution that community leadership must always include the Gospel. Think also of your own grandparents and parents, your first teachers in faith. They too have made countless sacrifices of time and energy, out of love for you. Supported by your parish priests and teachers, they have the task, not always easy but greatly satisfying, of guiding you towards all that is good and true, through their own witness - their teaching and living of our Christian faith.

Today, it is my turn. For some of us, it might seem like we have come to the end of the world! For people of your age, however, any flight is an exciting prospect. But for me, this one was somewhat daunting! Yet the views afforded of our planet from the air were truly wondrous. The sparkle of the Mediterranean, the grandeur of the north African desert, the lushness of Asia's forestation, the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, the horizon upon which the sun rose and set, and the majestic splendour of Australia's natural beauty which I have been able to enjoy these last couple of days; these all evoke a profound sense of awe. It is as though one catches glimpses of the Genesis creation story - light and darkness, the sun and the moon, the waters, the earth, and living creatures; all of which are "good" in God's eyes (cf. Gen 1:1 - 2:4). Immersed in such beauty, who could not echo the words of the Psalmist in praise of the Creator: "how majestic is your name in all the earth?" (Ps 8:1).

And there is more - something hardly perceivable from the sky - men and women, made in nothing less than God's own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26). At the heart of the marvel of creation are you and I, the human family "crowned with glory and honour" (Ps 8:5). How astounding! With the Psalmist we whisper: "what is man that you are mindful of him?" (Ps 8:4). And drawn into silence, into a spirit of thanksgiving, into the power of holiness, we ponder.

What do we discover? Perhaps reluctantly we come to acknowledge that there are also scars which mark the surface of our earth: erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world's mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption. Some of you come from island nations whose very existence is threatened by rising water levels; others from nations suffering the effects of devastating drought. God's wondrous creation is sometimes experienced as almost hostile to its stewards, even something dangerous. How can what is "good" appear so threatening?

And there is more. What of man, the apex of God's creation? Every day we encounter the genius of human achievement. From advances in medical sciences and the wise application of technology, to the creativity reflected in the arts, the quality and enjoyment of people's lives in many ways are steadily rising. Among yourselves there is a readiness to take up the plentiful opportunities offered to you. Some of you excel in studies, sport, music, or dance and drama, others of you have a keen sense of social justice and ethics, and many of you take up service and voluntary work. All of us, young and old, have those moments when the innate goodness of the human person - perhaps glimpsed in the gesture of a little child or an adult's readiness to forgive - fills us with profound joy and gratitude.

Yet such moments do not last. So again, we ponder. And we discover that not only the natural but also the social environment - the habitat we fashion for ourselves - has its scars; wounds indicating that something is amiss. Here too, in our personal lives and in our communities, we can encounter a hostility, something dangerous; a poison which threatens to corrode what is good, reshape who we are, and distort the purpose for which we have been created. Examples abound, as you yourselves know. Among the more prevalent are alcohol and drug abuse, and the exaltation of violence and sexual degradation, often presented through television and the internet as entertainment. I ask myself, could anyone standing face to face with people who actually do suffer violence and sexual exploitation "explain" that these tragedies, portrayed in virtual form, are considered merely "entertainment"?

There is also something sinister which stems from the fact that freedom and tolerance are so often separated from truth. This is fuelled by the notion, widely held today, that there are no absolute truths to guide our lives. Relativism, by indiscriminately giving value to practically everything, has made "experience" all-important. Yet, experiences, detached from any consideration of what is good or true, can lead, not to genuine freedom, but to moral or intellectual confusion, to a lowering of standards, to a loss of self-respect, and even to despair.

Dear friends, life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose (cf. Gen 1:28)! Life is not just a succession of events or experiences, helpful though many of them are. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this - in truth, in goodness, and in beauty - that we find happiness and joy. Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.

Christ offers more! Indeed he offers everything! Only he who is the Truth can be the Way and hence also the Life. Thus the "way" which the Apostles brought to the ends of the earth is life in Christ. This is the life of the Church. And the entrance to this life, to the Christian way, is Baptism.

This evening I wish therefore to recall briefly something of our understanding of Baptism before tomorrow considering the Holy Spirit. On the day of your Baptism, God drew you into his holiness (cf. 2 Pet 1:4). You were adopted as a son or daughter of the Father. You were incorporated into Christ. You were made a dwelling place of his Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 6:19). Baptism is neither an achievement, nor a reward. It is a grace; it is God's work. Indeed, towards the conclusion of your Baptism, the priest turned to your parents and those gathered and, calling you by your name said: "you have become a new creation" (Rite of Baptism, 99).

Dear friends, in your homes, schools and universities, in your places of work and recreation, remember that you are a new creation! Not only do you stand before the Creator in awe, rejoicing at his works, you also realize that the sure foundation of humanity's solidarity lies in the common origin of every person, the high-point of God's creative design for the world. As Christians you stand in this world knowing that God has a human face - Jesus Christ - the "way" who satisfies all human yearning, and the "life" to which we are called to bear witness, walking always in his light (cf. ibid., 100).

The task of witness is not easy. There are many today who claim that God should be left on the sidelines, and that religion and faith, while fine for individuals, should either be excluded from the public forum altogether or included only in the pursuit of limited pragmatic goals. This secularist vision seeks to explain human life and shape society with little or no reference to the Creator. It presents itself as neutral, impartial and inclusive of everyone. But in reality, like every ideology, secularism imposes a world-view. If God is irrelevant to public life, then society will be shaped in a godless image, and debate and policy concerning the public good will be driven more by consequences than by principles grounded in truth.

Yet experience shows that turning our back on the Creator's plan provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order (cf. 1990 World Day of Peace Message, 5). When God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose, and the "good" begins to wane. What was ostensibly promoted as human ingenuity soon manifests itself as folly, greed and selfish exploitation. And so we have become more and more aware of our need for humility before the delicate complexity of God's world.

But what of our social environment? Are we equally alert to the signs of turning our back on the moral structure with which God has endowed humanity (cf. 2007 World Day of Peace Message, 8)? Do we recognize that the innate dignity of every individual rests on his or her deepest identity - as image of the Creator - and therefore that human rights are universal, based on the natural law, and not something dependent upon negotiation or patronage, let alone compromise? And so we are led to reflect on what place the poor and the elderly, immigrants and the voiceless, have in our societies. How can it be that domestic violence torments so many mothers and children? How can it be that the most wondrous and sacred human space - the womb - has become a place of unutterable violence?

My dear friends, God's creation is one and it is good. The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection upon the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable. Our world has grown weary of greed, exploitation and division, of the tedium of false idols and piecemeal responses, and the pain of false promises. Our hearts and minds are yearning for a vision of life where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion. This is the work of the Holy Spirit! This is the hope held out by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to bear witness to this reality that you were created anew at Baptism and strengthened through the gifts of the Spirit at Confirmation. Let this be the message that you bring from Sydney to the world!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Treason and its dirty tricks....

That it should come to this ?
I am incredulous with both shame and anger at the Catholic Hierarchy in this country; and their duplicity and betrayal of His Holiness in regard to Anglo-catholics and their reception into full communion within Holy Mother Church.

Did any of you read today's front page of The Independent ?

An 'exclusive' which declared His Holiness was trying to keep the Anglican church together by sending in a crack team to Lambeth and telling all Anglo-catholics seeking full communion
to get lost and stay in their own church !!!

Of course this has Ecclestone Square and Tabletista 'anti-Benedictine' and 'anti-Anglo-catholic' propaganda written all over it - The Peppermint Spinster was even quoted in the report ; 'pontificating' through her papal-despising teeth as usual.

How did they think they'd get away with this retreat from reality ?

Yes the Pope does not wish to intervene in the Lambeth debacle and cause such a hyper-reaction that it would create an ultra-protestant pragmatic relativist secular club for those who have nothing better to do on Sundays - The Pope is doing what he can - praying and working behind the scenes to ensure that charity is served to all; and that even our ideological enemies are treated with a courtesy and mercy they wouldn't reciprocate. Yet for all who seek to return to the fold - the doors are open and our arms are extended in welcome - and there will be rejoicing beyond our imagining in Heaven.

To think that the Tablet-maniacs could have the audacity to say that the Pope is not catholic ??? Here's what our real policy is :

Given last Friday, this is an excerpt from the address of Archbishop John J Myers, the Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision:

"We are working on expanding the mandate of the Pastoral Provision to include those clergy and faithful of “continuing Anglican communities.” We are striving to increase awareness of our apostolate to Anglican Christians who desire to be reconciled with the Holy See. We have experienced the wonder of several Episcopal bishops entering into full communion with the Catholic Church and we continue to receive requests from priests and laity about the Pastoral Provision. "

Does this sound anything remotely like being 'sent away with a flea in their ear ' ; as the Independent's Paul Vallely declares ???

Of course we cannot really blame the reporters at the Independent - they were merely gullible enough to believe that a major catholic media source and the spokespersons for the Catholic hierarchy of England and Wales would actually possess a modicum of integrity and sincerity in reporting the Papal position .
Sadly we all know that Messrs Macintyre and Vallely were hoodwinked with a dose of spin and deceit from all and sundry....
How bitterly ironic that this crowd profess to be so ecumenical ; yet when it comes to real ecumenism they do everything within their power to ensure Anglo-catholics are felt less welcome than Paul Inwood at a music appreciation society.
What's worse is knowing behind it all that there are more than a handful of the Conference of Bishops' hierarchy involved in this conspiracy with the Tablet....Shame on them !!!

People's lives are undergoing great upheaval and the Tablet yet again wants to merely throw custard pies and spread dissension from the wings - anyone from this point who pays to read that rag should head for the confessional immediately afterwards.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Be Warned - You might regret reading this....

An Epistemological Nightmare
Raymond M. Smullyan, 1982

Scene 1
Frank is in the office of an eye doctor. The doctor holds up a book and asks "What color is it?" Frank answers, "Red." The doctor says, "Aha, just as I thought! Your whole color mechanism has gone out of kilter. But fortunately your condition is curable, and I will have you in perfect shape in a couple of weeks."

Scene 2
(A few weeks later.) Frank is in a laboratory in the home of an experimental epistemologist. (You will soon find out what that means!) The epistemologist holds up a book and also asks, "What color is this book?" Now, Frank has been earlier dismissed by the eye doctor as "cured." However, he is now of a very analytical and cautious temperament, and will not make any statement that can possibly be refuted. So Frank answers, "It seems red to me."


I don't think you heard what I said. I merely said that it seems red to me.

I heard you, and you were wrong.

Let me get this clear; did you mean that I was wrong that this book is red, or that I was wrong that it seems red to me?

I obviously couldn't have meant that you were wrong in that it is red, since you did not say that it is red. All you said was that it seems red to you, and it is this statement which is wrong.

But you can't say that the statement "It seems red to me" is wrong.

If I can't say it, how come I did?

I mean you can't mean it.

Why not?

But surely I know what color the book seems to me!

Again you are wrong.

But nobody knows better than I how things seem to me.

I am sorry, but again you are wrong.

But who knows better than I?

I do.

But how could you have access to my private mental states?

Private mental states! Metaphysical hogwash! Look, I am a practical epistemologist. Metaphysical problems about "mind" versus "matter" arise only from epistemological confusions. Epistemology is the true foundation of philosophy. But the trouble with all past epistemologists is that they have been using wholly theoretical methods, and much of their discussion degenerates into mere word games. While other epistemologists have been solemnly arguing such questions as whether a man can be wrong when he asserts that he believes such and such, I have discovered how to settle such questions experimentally.

How could you possibly decide such things empirically?

By reading a person's thoughts directly.

You mean you are telepathic?

Of course not. I simply did the one obvious thing which should be done, viz. I have constructed a brain-reading machine--known technically as a cerebroscope--that is operative right now in this room and is scanning every nerve cell in your brain. I thus can read your every sensation and thought, and it is a simple objective truth that this book does not seem red to you.

Frank (thoroughly subdued):
Goodness gracious, I really could have sworn that the book seemed red to me; it sure seems that it seems read to me!

I'm sorry, but you are wrong again.

Really? It doesn't even seem that it seems red to me? It sure seems like it seems like it seems red to me!

Wrong again! And no matter how many times you reiterate the phrase "it seems like" and follow it by "the book is red" you will be wrong.

This is fantastic! Suppose instead of the phrase "it seems like" I would say "I believe that." So let us start again at ground level. I retract the statement "It seems red to me" and instead I assert "I believe that this book is red." Is this statement true or false?

Just a moment while I scan the dials of the brain-reading machine--no, the statement is false.

And what about "I believe that I believe that the book is red"?

Epistemologist (consulting his dials):
Also false. And again, no matter how many times you iterate "I believe," all these belief sentences are false.

Well, this has been a most enlightening experience. However, you must admit that it is a little hard on me to realize that I am entertaining infinitely many erroneous beliefs!

Why do you say that your beliefs are erroneous?

But you have been telling me this all the while!

I most certainly have not!

Good God, I was prepared to admit all my errors, and now you tell me that my beliefs are not errors; what are you trying to do, drive me crazy?

Hey, take it easy! Please try to recall: When did I say or imply that any of your beliefs are erroneous?

Just simply recall the infinite sequence of sentences: (1) I believe this book is red; (2) I believe that I believe this book is red; and so forth. You told me that every one of those statements is false.


Then how can you consistently maintain that my beliefs in all these false statements are not erroneous?

Because, as I told you, you don't believe any of them.

I think I see, yet I am not absolutely sure.

Look, let me put it another way. Don't you see that the very falsity of each of the statements that you assert saves you from an erroneous belief in the preceding one? The first statement is, as I told you, false. Very well! Now the second statement is simply to the effect that you believe the first statement. If the second statement were true, then you would believe the first statement, and hence your belief about the first statement would indeed be in error. But fortunately the second statement is false, hence you don't really believe the first statement, so your belief in the first statement is not in error. Thus the falsity of the second statement implies you do not have an erroneous belief about the first; the falsity of the third likewise saves you from an erroneous belief about the second, etc.

Now I see perfectly! So none of my beliefs were erroneous, only the statements were erroneous.


Most remarkable! Incidentally, what color is the book really?

It is red.


Exactly! Of course the book is red. What's the matter with you, don't you have eyes?

But didn't I in effect keep saying that the book is red all along?

Of course not! You kept saying it seems red to you, it seems like it seems red to you, you believe it is red, you believe that you believe it is red, and so forth. Not once did you say that it is red. When I originally asked you "What color is the book?" if you had simply answered "red," this whole painful discussion would have been avoided.

Scene 3
Frank comes back several months later to the home of the epistemologist.

How delightful to see you! Please sit down.

Frank (seated):
I have been thinking of our last discussion, and there is much I wish to clear up. To begin with, I discovered an inconsistency in some of the things you said.

Delightful! I love inconsistencies. Pray tell!

Well, you claimed that although my belief sentences were false, I did not have any actual beliefs that are false. If you had not admitted that the book actually is red, you would have been consistent. But your very admission that the book is red, leads to an inconsistency.

How so?

Look, as you correctly pointed out, in each of my belief sentences "I believe it is red," "I believe that I believe it is red," the falsity of each one other than the first saves me from an erroneous belief in the proceeding one. However, you neglected to take into consideration the first sentence itself. The falsity of the first sentence "I believe it is red," in conjunction with the fact that it is red, does imply that I do have a false belief.

I don't see why.

It is obvious! Since the sentence "I believe it is red" is false, then I in fact believe it is not red, and since it really is red, then I do have a false belief. So there!

Epistemologist (disappointed):
I am sorry, but your proof obviously fails. Of course the falsity of the fact that you believe it is red implies that you don't believe it is red. But this does not mean that you believe it is not red!

But obviously I know that it either is red or it isn't, so if I don't believe it is, then I must believe that it isn't.

Not at all. I believe that either Jupiter has life or it doesn't. But I neither believe that it does, nor do I believe that it doesn't. I have no evidence one way or the other.

Oh well, I guess you are right. But let us come to more important matters. I honestly find it impossible that I can be in error concerning my own beliefs.

Must we go through this again? I have already patiently explained to you that you (in the sense of your beliefs, not your statements) are not in error.

Oh, all right then, I simply do not believe that even the statements are in error. Yes, according to the machine they are in error, but why should I trust the machine?

Whoever said you should trust the machine?

Well, should I trust the machine?

That question involving the word "should" is out of my domain. However, if you like, I can refer you to a colleague who is an excellent moralist--he may be able to answer this for you.

Oh come on now, I obviously didn't mean "should" in a moralistic sense. I simply meant "Do I have any evidence that this machine is reliable?"

Well, do you?

Don't ask me! What I mean is should you trust the machine?

Should I trust it? I have no idea, and I couldn't care less what I should do.

Oh, your moralistic hangup again. I mean, do you have evidence that the machine is reliable?

Well of course!

Then let's get down to brass tacks. What is your evidence?

You hardly can expect that I can answer this for you in an hour, a day, or a week. If you wish to study this machine with me, we can do so, but I assure you this is a matter of several years. At the end of that time, however, you would certainly not have the slightest doubts about the reliability of the machine.

Well, possibly I could believe that it is reliable in the sense that its measurements are accurate, but then I would doubt that what it actually measures is very significant. It seems that all it measures is one's physiological states and activities.

But of course, what else would you expect it to measure?

I doubt that it measures my psychological states, my actual beliefs.

Are we back to that again? The machine does measure those physiological states and processes that you call psychological states, beliefs, sensations, and so forth.

At this point I am becoming convinced that our entire difference is purely semantical. All right, I will grant that your machine does correctly measure beliefs in your sense of the word "belief," but I don't believe that it has any possibility of measuring beliefs in my sense of the word "believe." In other words I claim that our entire deadlock is simply due to the fact that you and I mean different things by the word "belief."

Fortunately, the correctness of your claim can be decided experimentally. It so happens that I now have two brain-reading machines in my office, so I now direct one to your brain to find out what you mean by "believe" and now I direct the other to my own brain to find out what I mean by "believe," and now I shall compare the two readings. Nope, I'm sorry, but it turns out that we mean exactly the same thing by the word "believe."

Oh, hang your machine! Do you believe we mean the same thing by the word "believe"?

Do I believe it? Just a moment while I check with the machine. Yes, it turns out I do believe it.

My goodness, do you mean to say that you can't even tell me what you believe without consulting the machine?

Of course not.

But most people when asked what they believe simply tell you. Why do you, in order to find out your beliefs, go through the fantastically roundabout process of directing a thought-reading machine to your own brain and then finding out what you believe on the basis of the machine readings?

What other scientific, objective way is there of finding out what I believe?

Oh, come now, why don't you just ask yourself?

Epistemologist (sadly):
It doesn't work. Whenever I ask myself what I believe, I never get any answer!

Well, why don't you just state what you believe?

How can I state what I believe before I know what I believe?

Oh, to hell with your knowledge of what you believe; surely you have some idea or belief as to what you believe, don't you?

Of course I have such a belief. But how do I find out what this belief is?

I am afraid we are getting into another infinite regress. Look, at this point I am honestly beginning to wonder whether you may be going crazy.

Let me consult the machine. Yes, it turns out that I may be going crazy.

Good God, man, doesn't this frighten you?

Let me check! Yes, it turns out that it does frighten me.

Oh please, can't you forget this damned machine and just tell me whether you are frightened or not?

I just told you that I am. However, I only learned of this from the machine.

I can see that it is utterly hopeless to wean you away from the machine. Very well, then, let us play along with the machine some more. Why don't you ask the machine whether your sanity can be saved?

Good idea! Yes, it turns out that it can be saved.

And how can it be saved?

I don't know, I haven't asked the machine.

Well, for God's sake, ask it!

Good idea. It turns out that...

It turns out what?

It turns out that...

Come on now, it turns out what?

This is the most fantastic thing I have ever come across! According to the machine the best thing I can do is to cease to trust the machine!

Good! What will you do about it?

How do I know what I will do about it, I can't read the future?

I mean, what do you presently intend to do about it?

Good question, let me consult the machine. According to the machine, my current intentions are in complete conflict. And I can see why! I am caught in a terrible paradox! If the machine is trustworthy, then I had better accept its suggestion to distrust it. But if I distrust it, then I also distrust its suggestion to distrust it, so I am really in a total quandary.

Look, I know of someone who I think might be really of help in this problem. I'll leave you for a while to consult him. Au revoir!

Scene 4.
(Later in the day at a psychiatrist's office.)

Doctor, I am terribly worried about a friend of mine. He calls himself an "experimental epistemologist."

Oh, the experimental epistemologist. There is only one in the world. I know him well!

That is a relief. But do you realize that he has constructed a mind-reading device that he now directs to his own brain, and whenever one asks him what he thinks, believes, feels, is afraid of, and so on, he has to consult the machine first before answering? Don't you think this is pretty serious?

Not as serious as it might seem. My prognosis for him is actually quite good.

Well, if you are a friend of his, couldn't you sort of keep an eye on him?

I do see him quite frequently, and I do observe him much. However, I don't think he can be helped by so-called "psychiatric treatment." His problem is an unusual one, the sort that has to work itself out. And I believe it will.

Well, I hope your optimism is justified. At any rate I sure think I need some help at this point!

How so?

My experiences with the epistemologist have been thoroughly unnerving! At this point I wonder if I may be going crazy; I can't even have confidence in how things appear to me. I think maybe you could be helpful here.

I would be happy to but cannot for a while. For the next three months I am unbelievably overloaded with work. After that, unfortunately, I must go on a three-month vacation. So in six months come back and we can talk this over.

Scene 5.
(Same office, six months later.)

Before we go into your problems, you will be happy to hear that your friend the epistemologist is now completely recovered.

Marvelous, how did it happen?

Almost, as it were, by a stroke of fate--and yet his very mental activities were, so to speak, part of the "fate." What happened was this: For months after you last saw him, he went around worrying "should I trust the machine, shouldn't I trust the machine, should I, shouldn't I, should I, shouldn't I." (He decided to use the word "should" in your empirical sense.) He got nowhere! So he then decided to "formalize" the whole argument. He reviewed his study of symbolic logic, took the axioms of first-order logic, and added as nonlogical axioms certain relevant facts about the machine. Of course the resulting system was inconsistent--he formally proved that he should trust the machine if and only if he shouldn't, and hence that he both should and should not trust the machine. Now, as you may know, in a system based on classical logic (which is the logic he used), if one can prove so much as a single contradictory proposition, then one can prove any proposition, hence the whole system breaks down. So he decided to use a logic weaker than classical logic--a logic close to what is known as "minimal logic"--in which the proof of one contradiction does not necessarily entail the proof of every proposition. However, this system turned out too weak to decide the question of whether or not he should trust the machine. Then he had the following bright idea. Why not use classical logic in his system even though the resulting system is inconsistent? Is an inconsistent system necessarily useless? Not at all! Even though given any proposition, there exists a proof that it is true and another proof that it is false, it may be the case that for any such pair of proofs, one of them is simply more psychologically convincing than the other, so simply pick the proof you actually believe! Theoretically the idea turned out very well--the actual system he obtained really did have the property that given any such pair of proofs, one of them was always psychologically far more convincing than the other. Better yet, given any pair of contradictory propositions, all proofs of one were more convincing than any proof of the other. Indeed, anyone except the epistemologist could have used the system to decide whether the machine could be trusted. But with the epistemologist, what happened was this: He obtained one proof that he should trust the machine and another proof that he should not. Which proof was more convincing to him, which proof did he really "believe"? The only way he could find out was to consult the machine! But he realized that this would be begging the question, since his consulting the machine would be a tacit admission that he did in fact trust the machine. So he still remained in a quandary.

So how did he get out of it?

Well, here is where fate kindly interceded. Due to his absolute absorption in the theory of this problem, which consumed about his every waking hour, he became for the first time in his life experimentally negligent. As a result, quite unknown to him, a few minor units of his machine blew out! Then, for the first time, the machine started giving contradictory information--not merely subtle paradoxes, but blatant contradictions. In particular, the machine one day claimed that the epistemologist believed a certain proposition and a few days later claimed he did not believe that proposition. And to add insult to injury, the machine claimed that he had not changed his belief in the last few days. This was enough to simply make him totally distrust the machine. Now he is fit as a fiddle.

This is certainly the most amazing thing I have ever heard! I guess the machine was really dangerous and unreliable all along.

Oh, not at all; the machine used to be excellent before the epistemologist's experimental carelessness put it out of whack.

Well, surely when I knew it, it couldn't have been very reliable.

Not so, Frank, and this brings us to your problem. I know about your entire conversation with the epistemologist--it was all tape-recorded.

Then surely you realize the machine could not have been right when it denied that I believed the book was red.

Why not?

Good God, do I have to go through all this nightmare again? I can understand that a person can be wrong if he claims that a certain physical object has a certain property, but have you ever known a single case when a person can be mistaken when he claims to have or not have a certain sensation?

Why, certainly! I once knew a Christian Scientist who had a raging toothache; he was frantically groaning and moaning all over the place. When asked whether a dentist might not cure him, he replied that there was nothing to be cured. Then he was asked, "But do you not feel pain?" He replied, "No, I do not feel pain; nobody feels pain, there is no such thing as pain, pain is only an illusion." So here is a case of a man who claimed not to feel pain, yet everyone present knew perfectly well that he did feel pain. I certainly don't believe he was lying, he was just simply mistaken.

Well, all right, in a case like that. But how can one be mistaken if one asserts his belief about the color of a book?

I can assure you that without access to any machine, if I asked someone what color is this book, and he answered, "I believe it is red," I would be very doubtful that he really believed it. It seems to me that if he really believed it, he would answer, "It is red" and not "I believe it is red" or "It seems red to me." The very timidity of his response would be indicative of his doubts.

But why on earth should I have doubted that it was red?

You should know that better than I. Let us see now, have you ever in the past had reason to doubt the accuracy of your sense perception?

Why, yes. A few weeks before visiting the epistemologist, I suffered from an eye disease, which did make me see colors falsely. But I was cured before my visit.

Oh, so no wonder you doubted it was red! True enough, your eyes perceived the correct color of the book, but your earlier experience lingered in your mind and made it impossible for you to really believe it was red. So the machine was right!

Well, all right, but then why did I doubt that I believed it was true?

Because you didn't believe it was true, and unconsciously you were smart enough to realize the fact. Besides, when one starts doubting one's own sense perceptions, the doubt spreads like an infection to higher and higher levels of abstraction until finally the whole belief system becomes one doubting mass of insecurity. I bet that if you went to the epistemologist's office now, and if the machine were repaired, and you now claimed that you believe the book is red, the machine would concur.

No, Frank, the machine is--or, rather, was--a good one. The epistemologist learned much from it, but misused it when he applied it to his own brain. He really should have known better than to create such an unstable situation. The combination of his brain and the machine each scrutinizing and influencing the behavior of the other led to serious problems in feedback. Finally the whole system went into a cybernetic wobble. Something was bound to give sooner or later. Fortunately, it was the machine.

I see. One last question, though. How could the machine be trustworthy when it claimed to be untrustworthy?

The machine never claimed to be untrustworthy, it only claimed that the epistemologist would be better off not trusting it. And the machine was right.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Be ye perfect...

May the grace of God preserve me from :
A comfort-loving life,
An unrestrained tongue,
A dissipated mind,
An unexamined conscience,
Slothful prayers,
Slovenly sacraments,
An esteem of myself, and
A love of anything short of God.


[F. W. Faber]


Regrettably last Saturday we had two members of our department off work ; so I was unable to attend the Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Rite [or should I now say Gregorian Rite ? such a wonderful name ! The watcher's rite - so symbolic of our transcending space and time to calvary itself !!] at Westminster Cathedral.
Many Catholics in the blogosphere attended and their blogs are laden with details.
The words of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyas in the interview prior to the Mass brought me to tears ;

Many of the difficulties come out because they don’t know the reality of the Gregorian Rite – this is the just [correct] name for the Extraordinary Form, because this Mass was never prevented, never.
Today for many bishops it is difficult because they don’t have priests who don’t know Latin. Many seminaries give very few hours to Latin – not enough to give the necessary preparation to celebrate in a good way the Extraordinary Form.
Others think that the Holy Father is going against the Second Vatican Council.
That is absolute ignorance.
The Fathers of the Council, never celebrated a Mass other than the Gregorian one.
It [the Novus Ordo] came after the Council … The Holy Father, who is a theologian and who was in the preparation for the Council, is acting exactly in the way of the Council, offering with freedom the different kinds of celebration.
This celebration, the Gregorian one, was the celebration of the Church during more than a thousand years … Others say one cannot celebrate with the back to the people. This is ridiculous. The Son of God has sacrificed himself to the Father, with his face to the Father. It is not against the people. It is for the people …

[notice the re-affirmation of the true notion of a sacrificial shepherding ordained priesthood ?]

When our illustrious Damian Thompson asked :
So would the Pope like to see many ordinary parishes making provision for the Gregorian Rite?
His Eminence's reply:
All the parishes. Not many – all the parishes, because this is a gift of God. He offers these riches, and it is very important for new generations to know the past of the Church. This kind of worship is so noble, so beautiful – the deepest theologians’ way to express our faith. The worship, the music, the architecture, the painting, makes a whole that is a treasure. The Holy Father is willing to offer to all the people this possibility, not only for the few groups who demand it but so that everybody knows this way of celebrating the Eucharist in the Catholic Church.

It's Back !!! After decades of suppression - it's not going away - all we had hoped for but would never have dreamed of envisaging only a handful of years ago - has happened !!! This is the guarantee of Peter.

...of course the 'Tabletista' did their 'Rumpelstiltskin routine' in the shape of that grande-dame Eleni Curti :
Your Eminence, I think many Catholics are rather confused by this new emphasis on the Tridentine Rite, mainly because we were taught that the new Rite represented real progress, and many of us who have grown up with it see it as real progress, that there are Eucharistic ministers, women on the sanctuary, that we are all priests, prophets and kings. This new emphasis to many of us seems to deny that.

His Eminence countered:
What is progress? "Progredire", means [offering] the best to God… I am surprised, because many young people are enthusiastic with the celebration of the Gregorian Rite …

In the Motu Proprio, the Pope's emphasis is on one Rite and two forms, and he describes the Tridentine Rite as "extraordinary". Extraordinary therefore means exceptional, not something that we celebrate every Sunday.

Not "exceptional". Extraordinary means "not ordinary", not "exceptional."

Should it therefore supersede the new Rite? Should we go back?

It is not going back: it is taking a treasure which is present, but was not provided.
… But it takes time.
The application of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council took years. It takes time to understand the deep profundity of the old Rite.
The Holy Father is not returning to the past; he is taking a treasure from the past to offer it alongside the rich celebration of the new Rite. The second Eucharistic prayer of the new Rite is actually the oldest one [in the Church’s entire liturgy]. It’s not a matter of confrontation but of fraternal dialogue.

Now this is only the end of the beginning : Rough times lie ahead ; battles will be fought, personalities will clash; and power-struggles will ensue . Already Bishop Thomas MacMahon appears to have gone on an all-out massacre of the idea by sharing out churches/altars and pulpits with the anglicans ; something so redolent of our present Cardinal's nefarious and sacrilegious machinations of nearly twenty years ago when he was in charge of Arundel and Brighton - but the Bishops , recalcitrant clerics and the professional laity who feel all their power and vaudeville antics are soon to become 'historical anachronistic emotional spasms ' - cannot be allowed to suppress, shanghai or thwart the wishes of Holy Mother Church.

Now one thing really got my goat : Ms Curti's depiction of us all as 'Priests/Prophets/Sovereigns'
In other words , we're the Church now and Rome can get stuffed !
I answered this on Damian Thompson's Holy Smoke Blog:

We are anointed as priest, prophet and king solely because we are incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ , The Church.

This anointing invokes duties and responsibilities afforded by the consequences of Baptismal Grace from which the benefits are solely directed toward a salvific end.

NONE of us are priests, prophets and sovereigns with any autonomy outside the directives of Christ and the Church.
When we indiscriminately defy the church through thought, word and deed ; most significantly through the teaching [and publishing] of heterodoxy, heresy, apostasy and immorality ; by purporting it to be authentic Christian praxis and the ways of 'future-Church'; we renege on everything our anointing calls from us - we alienate ourselves from Christ.

The bitter irony of a 'tabletista' invoking the anointing which they abrogate at every turn to vindicate, excuse and equivocate their reprehensible agenda is arrant derisory hypocrisy ; and how anyone in this thread can accommodate such a perspective , and launch volleys against our host to defend mzzzz Curti's presumption is beyond me.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Novena to The Sacred Heart + Please Remember to Constantly Pray for Priests
World Prayer for Priests day was last Friday; but let's remember
that among us all it is our priests who desperately need our prayers.

Divine Jesus, You have said, "Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you." Behold me kneeling at Your feet, filled with a lively faith and confidence in the promises dictated by Your Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary. I come to ask this favor: (Mention your request).

To whom can I turn if not to You, Whose Heart is the source of all graces and merits? Where should I seek if not in the treasure which contains all the riches of Your kindness and mercy? Where should I knock if not at the door through which God gives Himself to us and through which we go to God? I have recourse to You, Heart of Jesus. In You I find consolation when afflicted, protection when persecuted, strength when burdened with trials, and light in doubt and darkness.

Dear Jesus, I firmly believe that You can grant me the grace I implore, even though it should require a miracle. You have only to will it and my prayer will be granted. I admit that I am most unworthy of Your favors, but this is not a reason for me to be discouraged. You are the God of mercy, and You will not refuse a contrite heart. Cast upon me a look of mercy, I beg of You, and Your kind Heart will find in my miseries and weakness a reason for granting my prayer.

Sacred Heart, whatever may be Your decision with regard to my request, I will never stop adoring, loving, praising, and serving You. My Jesus, be pleased to accept this my act of perfect resignation to the decrees of Your adorable Heart, which I sincerely desire may be fulfilled in and by me and all Your creatures forever.

Grant me the grace for which I humbly implore You through the Immaculate Heart of Your most sorrowful Mother. You entrusted me to her as her child, and her prayers are all-powerful with You. Amen.

My God, I offer You all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for the intentions for which He pleads and offers Himself in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in thanksgiving for Your favors, in reparation for my sins, and in humble supplication for my temporal and eternal welfare, for the needs of our holy Mother the Church, for the conversion of sinners, and for the relief of the poor souls in purgatory

‘O Holy Father, may the torrents of love flowing from the sacred wounds of Thy Divine Son bring forth priests like unto the beloved disciple John who stood at the foot of the Cross; priests: who as a pledge of Thine own most tender love will lovingly give Thy Divine Son to the souls of men.

May Thy priests be faithful guardians of Thy Church, as John was of Mary, whom he received into his house. Taught by this loving Mother who suffered so much on Calvary, may they display a mother’s care and thoughtfulness towards Thy children. May they teach souls to enter into close union with Thee through Mary who, as the Gate of Heaven, is specially the guardian of the treasures of Thy Divine Heart.

Give us priests who are on fire, and who are true children of Mary, priests who will give Jesus to souls with the same tenderness and care with which Mary carried the Little Child of Bethlehem.

Mother of sorrows and of love, out of compassion for Thy beloved Son, open in our hearts deep wells of love, so that we may console Him and give Him a generation of priests formed in thy school and having all the tender thoughtfulness of thine own spotless love.’ [St Therese]

Belated Birthday Wishes 2 - 1st June - Deborah Scalise Ukok

A barrel-load of prayers and good intentions to
one of our best catholic bloggers ; especially considering the way she can raise our spirits when life has thrown more than a fair share of adversity at both her and her family.

Anyway as she's invariably spreading the love around ; I thought I'd do her meme, especially when e-mails ask the questions and I ignore them - will bite the bullet and say an act of humility.

What time is your alarm clock set to? Well Jay has the alarm clock as I sleep through alarms [I could sleep through the march on Stalingrad !] and he wakes me at around 5.30 a.m. I have to ensure I maintain a sleep pattern in order to rise; this week I was up all night on two separate occasions with Rowan and then Jonathan being violently sick and unable to reach the bathrom in time - after six hours scrubbing the stairs and hallway have never been cleaner or more sterile !! [groan!] No matter what time I awake I'm invariably late for work anyway. I'm late for everything.

What is the first thing you notice about the opposite sex? It's never one thing : Working in a shop I have to deal with many female customers and you have to quickly deduce all manner of things from their demeanour and speech intonation - and consequently how to act [with humour, empathy or apologetically -sometimes conspiratorially] . If the question is about what attracts me, it's hair, eyes and voice.

Do you think people talk about you behind your back? What's it Oscar Wilde says ? The only thing worse than people talking about you is their not talking about you. I think people do - I'm a disappointment to many, am never the most reliable, and have a predilection to rub people up the wrong way; together with having a vast array of faults and deficiencies I have to guess they do. Although I've been lucky enough never to overhear it - I have little confidence and I think I would scar me for life. I can cope with the obvious fact that people do; but couldn't really cope with the reality of it.

What movie do you know every line to? Well my memory's failing but I could have a good crack at huge chunks of : Spartacus, Some Like it Hot, Sons of the Desert, Carry on Screaming/Spying , Random Harvest , Operation Crossbow, Orphee, The Ninth Gate, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music plus a few foreign ones. Embarassingly I can sing the Disney 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' from start to finish [It was Jonathan's favourite film for years !]

What is your favorite movie? Three Colours: Red [my mate Dean thinks I say this because I'm pretentious - but it really is my favourite - even if I regulate my watching of it in order not to spoil it . I watch Nightwatch and Hero regularly

Is anyone in love with you? Pass. Can we ever be sure ? Whatever the answer I know I don't deserve it. I am told I am loved and hope it's the case.

Do you eat breakfast daily? A Grande-Tasse of Coffee every morning, two coffees mid-morning, coffee, vitamin pills and maybe cereal or a cheese sandwich early afternoon after work - I don't really eat [maybe a cooked meal twice a week -and that's forcing myself]

Do you sleep on your side, stomach or back? On my side in the foetal position.

Who was the last person to make you mad ? Well do you count the half-dozen who have already enraged me on radio 4's today programme or people I interact with ? If it's the latter it has to be work colleagues : Not the lazy ones [I can cope with that] ; it's the uncaring and thoughtless ones. Even though I'm a rampant leftie virtually anyone from new labour makes my blood boil ; and Tony Blair and his entourage of reprobates makes me rend my shirt even more than Thatcher ever could.

Are you a lover or a fighter? Both -all the time ! Is it ever possible to be one and not the other ?

Are you a morning or evening person? Neither: I'm a night person.

Are you a cuddler? Ask anyone - I'm always the first to hug. I think it's the only aspect of my children's lives I've personally nurtured.

Are you a perfectionist? Well I'm an enigma anyway: In some things I will be a hyper-perfectionist to the point of obsession ; in others I'm either more laissez-faire or full of good intentions but incapability prevents its fulfillment.

Have you ever written a poem? Yes : stupid comic things at school ; narcissistic sesquipedalian tomes later on, silly rhymes for the kids. Must have written dozens over the years but now thankfully they have either been consigned to the flames or the landfill.

Do you have more guy or girl friends? Um , I don't really have any friends - work associates, yes; people from the distant past with whom I keep in contact ; but regular hang-around friends ? Sorry, just not a very social person.

How many tickets have you gotten? Um - Gotten ? Are we back at the peasants' revolt ? Sorry just hate americanese like buoy [boo-wee] , acclimate and debark. None: Can't drive - Nicky's never received a ticket though.

Piercings? Had my ear pierced for a few months when I was nineteen ; but having a father who thinks having a ponytail is akin to being found in bed with the milkman I let it heal over when I returned home.

Do you have a tattoo? No ; but have worn fake chinese/ethnic and henna tattoos all over in many designs for years.

Are you patient? Depends: I tend to be of extremes in this regard. I have no qualms waiting for hours in a queue or for someone else - but when the broadband is slow I want to put my fist through the monitor.

Do you miss anyone right now? I miss everyone - kids when they're at school, Nicky when she's at work, family, people I haven't seen in decades [even those who hate my guts] I really miss my friend in Japan; but I don't like to think about it as some people were really close friends and then moved away and forgot me. It happens ! What's more frustrating is when people 'mis-remember' or deliberately choose to forget past relationships - it's the way it goes. One person in particular thinks I'm some sort of satan-spawn and I have no idea why - it's sad.

Tea or coffee? Coffee: too much coffee.

Regularly burn incense? Yes; but always the fresh citrus/alpine type or ylang-ylang/patchouli . Hate the spicy/musky ones and the chocolate/coffee ones are just awful

Ever been in love? Never been out of it [for my sins]

Best room for a fireplace? Would like an open fire in every room [except maybe the toilet]

What do you do when you’re sad or upset? Resort to legal stimulants, read my favourite books , re-enact it out in the mirror , visit the cemetery and talk it out with relations, clean the house or sort out the bookshelves. Spend a long time doing logic puzzles

Afraid of heights? Terrified ; except when I'm climbing .

Can you change the oil in your car? I don't even know how to open the bonnet or boot - I can just about fill it with petrol

Favorite flower? Don't know what they're called ; think the name begins with an A ; but they've really dark green and white petals.

Favorite hangout? Home [playing boardgames with the kids] or Coffee shop [reading something academic] or reading novels under any available tree

Middle name[s]? Ivan James Christopher Harkins

Most romantic sounding language? Ayrshire accent: French language

Ever been overseas? Lived in Ireland, travelled round Northern Europe with school , Lived in USA

Belated Birthday Wishes: 1 G K Chesterton

Last Thursday, 29th May was Gilbert's 134th birthday - Our country's last 'Defender of the Faith' ; the greatest writer in english of the 20th century ; probably one of this country's greatest thinkers - ever !

{I chose this as I felt it was pretty relevant regarding tonight's 'Apprentice' [fingers crossed Lucinda gets through] together with my only claims to fame being the plagiarising of the 'last man standing' and 'martyr' fallacies from his writings}

The Fallacy of Success

There has appeared in our time a particular class of books and articles which I sincerely and solemnly think may be called the silliest ever known among men. They are much more wild than the wildest romances of chivalry and much more dull than the dullest religious tract. Moreover, the romances of chivalry were at least about chivalry; the religious tracts are about religion. But these things are about nothing; they are about what is called Success. On every bookstall, in every magazine, you may find works telling people how to succeed. They are books showing men how to succeed in everything; they are written by men who cannot even succeed in writing books.

To begin with, of course, there is no such thing as Success. Or, if you like to put it so, there is nothing that is not successful. That a thing is successful merely means that it is; a millionaire is successful in being a millionaire and a donkey in being a donkey. Any live man has succeeded in living; any dead man may have succeeded in committing suicide. But, passing over the bad logic and bad philosophy in the phrase, we may take it, as these writers do, in the ordinary sense of success in obtaining money or worldly position. These writers profess to tell the ordinary man how he may succeed in his trade or speculation—how, if he is a builder, he may succeed as a builder; how, if he is a stockbroker, he may succeed as a stockbroker. They profess to show him how, if he is a grocer, he may become a sporting yachtsman; how, if he is a tenth-rate journalist, he may become a peer; and how, if he is a German Jew, he may become an Anglo-Saxon. This is a definite and business-like proposal, and I really think that the people who buy these books (if any people do buy them) have a moral, if not a legal, right to ask for their money back. Nobody would dare to publish a book about electricity which literally told one nothing about electricity; no one would dare to publish an article on botany which showed that the writer did not know which end of a plant grew in the earth. Yet our modern world is full of books about Success and successful people which literally contain no kind of idea, and scarcely any kind of verbal sense.

It is perfectly obvious that in any decent occupation (such as bricklaying or writing books) there are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding. One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating. Both are much too simple to require any literary explanation. If you are in for the high jump, either jump higher than any one else, or manage somehow to pretend that you have done so. If you want to succeed at whist, either be a good whist-player, or play with marked cards. You may want a book about jumping; you may want a book about whist; you may want a book about cheating at whist. But you cannot want a book about Success. Especially you cannot want a book about Success such as those which you can now find scattered by the hundred about the book-market. You may want to jump or to play cards; but you do not want to read wandering statements to the effect that jumping is jumping, or that games are won by winners. If these writers, for instance, said anything about success in jumping it would be something like this: "The jumper must have a clear aim before him. He must desire definitely to jump higher than the other men who are in for the same competition. He must let no feeble feelings of mercy (sneaked from the sickening Little Englanders and Pro-Boers) prevent him from trying to do his best. He must remember that a competition in jumping is distinctly competitive, and that, as Darwin has gloriously demonstrated, THE WEAKEST GO TO THE WALL."

That is the kind of thing the book would say, and very useful it would be, no doubt, if read out in a low and tense voice to a young man just about to take the high jump. Or suppose that in the course of his intellectual rambles the philosopher of Success dropped upon our other case, that of playing cards, his bracing advice would run—"In playing cards it is very necessary to avoid the mistake (commonly made by maudlin humanitarians and Free Traders) of permitting your opponent to win the game. You must have grit and snap and go in to win. The days of idealism and superstition are over. We live in a time of science and hard common sense, and it has now been definitely proved that in any game where two are playing IF ONE DOES NOT WIN THE OTHER WILL." It is all very stirring, of course; but I confess that if I were playing cards I would rather have some decent little book which told me the rules of the game. Beyond the rules of the game it is all a question either of talent or dishonesty; and I will undertake to provide either one or the other—which, it is not for me to say.

Turning over a popular magazine, I find a queer and amusing example. There is an article called "The Instinct that Makes People Rich." It is decorated in front with a formidable portrait of Lord Rothschild. There are many definite methods, honest and dishonest, which make people rich; the only "instinct" I know of which does it is that instinct which theological Christianity crudely describes as "the sin of avarice." That, however, is beside the present point. I wish to quote the following exquisite paragraphs as a piece of typical advice as to how to succeed. It is so practical; it leaves so little doubt about what should be our next step—

"The name of Vanderbilt is synonymous with wealth gained by modern enterprise. 'Cornelius,' the founder of the family, was the first of the great American magnates of commerce. He started as the son of a poor farmer; he ended as a millionaire twenty times over.

"He had the money-making instinct. He seized his opportunities, the opportunities that were given by the application of the steam-engine to ocean traffic, and by the birth of railway locomotion in the wealthy but undeveloped United States of America, and consequently he amassed an immense fortune.

"Now it is, of course, obvious that we cannot all follow exactly in the footsteps of this great railway monarch. The precise opportunities that fell to him do not occur to us. Circumstances have changed. But, although this is so, still, in our own sphere and in our own circumstances, we can follow his general methods; we can seize those opportunities that are given us, and give ourselves a very fair chance of attaining riches."

In such strange utterances we see quite clearly what is really at the bottom of all these articles and books. It is not mere business; it is not even mere cynicism. It is mysticism; the horrible mysticism of money. The writer of that passage did not really have the remotest notion of how Vanderbilt made his money, or of how anybody else is to make his. He does, indeed, conclude his remarks by advocating some scheme; but it has nothing in the world to do with Vanderbilt. He merely wished to prostrate himself before the mystery of a millionaire. For when we really worship anything, we love not only its clearness but its obscurity. We exult in its very invisibility. Thus, for instance, when a man is in love with a woman he takes special pleasure in the fact that a woman is unreasonable. Thus, again, the very pious poet, celebrating his Creator, takes pleasure in saying that God moves in a mysterious way. Now, the writer of the paragraph which I have quoted does not seem to have had anything to do with a god, and I should not think (judging by his extreme unpracticality) that he had ever been really in love with a woman. But the thing he does worship—Vanderbilt—he treats in exactly this mystical manner. He really revels in the fact his deity Vanderbilt is keeping a secret from him. And it fills his soul with a sort of transport of cunning, an ecstasy of priestcraft, that he should pretend to be telling to the multitude that terrible secret which he does not know.

Speaking about the instinct that makes people rich, the same writer remarks---

"In olden days its existence was fully understood. The Greeks enshrined it in the story of Midas, of the 'Golden Touch.' Here was a man who turned everything he laid his hands upon into gold. His life was a progress amidst riches. Out of everything that came in his way he created the precious metal. 'A foolish legend,' said the wiseacres of the Victorian age. 'A truth,' say we of to-day. We all know of such men. We are ever meeting or reading about such persons who turn everything they touch into gold. Success dogs their very footsteps. Their life's pathway leads unerringly upwards. They cannot fail."

Unfortunately, however, Midas could fail; he did. His path did not lead unerringly upward. He starved because whenever he touched a biscuit or a ham sandwich it turned to gold. That was the whole point of the story, though the writer has to suppress it delicately, writing so near to a portrait of Lord Rothschild. The old fables of mankind are, indeed, unfathomably wise; but we must not have them expurgated in the interests of Mr. Vanderbilt. We must not have King Midas represented as an example of success; he was a failure of an unusually painful kind. Also, he had the ears of an ass. Also (like most other prominent and wealthy persons) he endeavoured to conceal the fact. It was his barber (if I remember right) who had to be treated on a confidential footing with regard to this peculiarity; and his barber, instead of behaving like a go-ahead person of the Succeed-at-all-costs school and trying to blackmail King Midas, went away and whispered this splendid piece of society scandal to the reeds, who enjoyed it enormously. It is said that they also whispered it as the winds swayed them to and fro. I look reverently at the portrait of Lord Rothschild; I read reverently about the exploits of Mr. Vanderbilt. I know that I cannot turn everything I touch to gold; but then I also know that I have never tried, having a preference for other substances, such as grass, and good wine. I know that these people have certainly succeeded in something; that they have certainly overcome somebody; I know that they are kings in a sense that no men were ever kings before; that they create markets and bestride continents. Yet it always seems to me that there is some small domestic fact that they are hiding, and I have sometimes thought I heard upon the wind the laughter and whisper of the reeds.

At least, let us hope that we shall all live to see these absurd books about Success covered with a proper derision and neglect. They do not teach people to be successful, but they do teach people to be snobbish; they do spread a sort of evil poetry of worldliness. The Puritans are always denouncing books that inflame lust; what shall we say of books that inflame the viler passions of avarice and pride? A hundred years ago we had the ideal of the Industrious Apprentice; boys were told that by thrift and work they would all become Lord Mayors. This was fallacious, but it was manly, and had a minimum of moral truth. In our society, temperance will not help a poor man to enrich himself, but it may help him to respect himself. Good work will not make him a rich man, but good work may make him a good workman. The Industrious Apprentice rose by virtues few and narrow indeed, but still virtues. But what shall we say of the gospel preached to the new Industrious Apprentice; the Apprentice who rises not by his virtues, but avowedly by his vices?

The "Middle Wife" by an Anonymous 2nd grade teacher

I've been teaching now for about fifteen years.
I have two kids
myself, but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own
second grade classroom a few years back.

When I was a kid, I loved show-and-tell. So I always have a few
sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness and usually,
show-and-tell is pretty tame. Kids bring in pet turtles, model
airplanes, pictures of fish they catch, stuff like that. And I never,
ever place any boundaries or
limitations on them. If they want to lug it in to school and talk
about it, they're welcome.

Well, one day this little girl, Erica, a very bright, very outgoing
kid, takes her turn and waddles up to the front of the class with a
pillow stuffed under her sweater.

She holds up a snapshot of an infant. "This is Luke, my baby brother,
and I'm going to tell you about his birthday."

"First, Mom and Dad made him as a symbol of their love, and then Dad
put a seed in my Mom's stomach, and Luke grew in there. He ate for
nine months through an umbrella cord."

She's standing there with her hands on the pillow, and I'm trying not
to laugh and wishing I had my camcorder with me. The kids are watching
her in amazement.

"Then, about two Saturdays ago, my Mom starts saying and going, 'Oh,
Oh, Oh, Oh!' Erica puts a hand behind her back and groans. "She walked
around the house for, like an hour, 'Oh, oh, oh!' (Now this kid is
doing a hysterical duck walk and groaning.)

"My Dad called the middle wife. She delivers babies, but she doesn't
have a sign on the car like the Domino's man. They got my Mom to lie
down in bed like this." (Then Erica lies down with her back against
the wall.)

"And then, pop! My Mom had this bag of water she kept in there in case
he got thirsty, and it just blew up and spilled all over the bed, like
psshhheew!" (This kid has her legs spread with her little hands miming
water flowing away. It was too much!)

"Then the middle wives starts saying 'push, push,' and 'breathe,
breathe.' They started counting, but never even got past ten. Then,
all of a sudden, out comes my brother. He was covered in yucky stuff
that they all said it was from Mom's play-centre, (placenta) so there
must be a lot of toys inside there."

Then Erica stood up, took a big theatrical bow and returned to her
seat. I'm sure I applauded the loudest. Ever since then, when it's
show-and-tell day, I bring my camcorder, just in case another "Middle
Wife" comes along.

Now you have two choices...laugh and close this page or pass this
along to someone else to spread the laughs. I know what I did!!!

Live every day as if it is your LAST chance to make someone happy!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

'Rumours' from Rome

Although I never read the vile rag ; Fr Mildew informs us that [wait for it , have to get my crucifix and Holy water and garlic before I type the name] The Tablet [shudder! Now I really need a shower] and its 'rumour-monger from Rome' ; the screaming diva Bobbie Mickens; is suggesting George Bush may consider becoming a catholic !!!

Stopped laughing yet ?

Well miracles do happen !

And there's more chance of George Bush becoming a catholic than Mr Mickens !!!!

New Catholic Truth Society Website

Haven't looked at it yet; but thought I'd better help spread the word. [h/t Oliver Hayes]

More heat than light...

{Never knowing when to shut up, I jump headfirst into a little discussion amongst a few smug mutual back-patters on the Holy Smoke blog regarding the varying considerations of the child in the womb - the usual 'it's a blob for the first few months; and can be treated accordingly' bilge. There was also a snide aside regarding our 'gnosticism' regarding when ensoulment occurs. Unable to sleep [overtired - long story] : I started to type.}

I wish you'd stop presuming what catholics believe - we have absolutely no idea what a soul is except that it exists - we have no idea if there is a process called ensoulment at all [i.e. whether it is intrinsic to the material form by its being held in being by the Holy Spirit or if it is an external interaction] - we don't have to know in order to believe in its essential validity - the 'what' and 'how' we leave to Divine Mystery. I could still push you down the stairs without knowing Newton's laws of motion, I could slap you without knowing anything about quantum theory, electrostatics or neurons.

Ok here's my question :
Let's remove the whole 'human life in potential' argument from the equation and ask :

When in human development is it concretely valid to determine and classify the embryo/foetus as 'not a person' ?

Well you've probably all seen intra-uterine photos of 12 week old foetuses who look almost identical to sleeping infants - so I don't suppose any of you will use 'looking human' as a determinant;

what about intelligence ?
we already use that criterion to switch off the severely brain-damaged's ventilators ; and if the vital organs function we'll dehydrate them and starve them [it's a mercy isn't it ? nobody would wish to live like that would they ? anyway it's all perfectly legal since Jamie Bland] The same goes with abortion of the brain-damged foetus [a blessing - beter off not to be born and suffer]
yes, Intelligence seems an adequate determinant for 'personhood'.

well you might not like to know when we are at our most intelligent - the time when a human has the highest amount of active and interactive neurons and is at its optimum learning capacity with the highest IQ it will ever accrue - is seven months after conception !
You may be aware that before 22 weeks a foetus's brain has yet to develop folds in order to increase its mental capacity - what you may not be aware of is that even at this stage the foetus has the intelligence and learning ability of a seven year old child ! regress further week by week and you'll discover that a significant amount of foetal abortions happen to human beings of an intelligence quotient equivalent to ourselves and greater than any adult primate or cetacean [for whom we have so much sympathy] could ever achieve! we need to travel many many weeks further back to arrive at an 'insignificant' level of even human intelligence, let alone the animals we treat with 'human-like' sensibilities.

Do any of you remember that bitterly ironic day when the Liberal democrat party voted for the motion proposing abortion on demand and subsequently voted for the banning of the use of goldfish as fairground prizes on the grounds of cruelty ? who says evolution and civilization isn't a wonderful thing ?

Ok what about walking away from the brain thing and see what the biologists and geneticists say. How about working out the life-cycle of the human being and discerning how brief this embryonic development is in the totality of human development ? nine months versus three score years and ten - surely this will prove something.
Well ! If you remove the temporal length of stages one discovers that our life is more redolent of a mayfly than we'd believe. Out of the 41 stages in the human cell-life cycle we undergo 37 of them in the womb. If one accepts that past half-way is nearer the whole , technically the embryo is long past middle aged before its mother knows she's pregnant !

what about the foetus/embryo feeling pain ?
it's illegal to inflict pain on sentient animals; I kick a cat and I could end up in prison - some think it's barbaric to kill a spider and not humanely dispose of it in some other way.

Well the developing neural cortex attaches to the developing brain stem at 17 days after conception - the embryo certainly feels pain from that point - but is it aware of it ?

Maybe we should move onto sentience ?
there must be a time during human development where there is no self-awareness whatsoever - maybe embryology will give us an answer - then the abortion debate may become clearer - even if the embryo is undergoing a painful death surely not being aware of it or actually 'experiencing it' with self-awareness, cognition, memory etc might make it tenable to consider this as the killing of a non-person ?

Surely sentience and higher brain function, the ability to express oneself, portray emotion ,dream etc can't happen until well into pregnancy , maybe the last few weeks ? or even the last few months ? possibly it begins around or before the abortion limit of 24 weeks ? maybe slightly before but surely not earlier than say 18-20 weeks ?

Ooops !
it's impossible to determine when it actuates, but the mechanism for its functions cannot preclude its absolute absence; so we must be willing to face the possibility that it occurs at the beginning of the organ's development - when it goes online as it were:

Well guess what !
during the fourth week of development after conception the heart starts beating, blood starts to flow around the body to and from the yolk sac, buds start to turn into hands, the eyes are developing lenses....and
the brain divides into five separate vesicles : one of these is the telencephalon !
what's that ?
only the beginnings of the cerebral cortex [controlling memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness]
and the basal ganglia [controlling motor control, cognition, emotions, and learning].

In other words it is impossible to determine if any of these functions have not commenced by this developmental stage. No matter how ill-formed or 'embryonic' - it is still present and potentially as active as every other aspect of the embryo.
Yes, less than a month !

and it gets even worse for the pro-choicer

In order for the brain vesicles and especially the telencephalon to form and function it requires morphological and molecular transient 'segments' known as neuromeres.

These neuromeres are already functioning in order to combine and differentiate and form a co-ordinate system.

These neuromeres - the spark of our whole psyche, awareness , intelligence, will - all that makes us a 'person'....

[wait for it]

...begin to develop on the 18th day after conception.

What am I saying ?
am I daring to make the ludicrous, preposterous suggestion that this lump of cells is self-aware, sentient and capable of the minutest form of cognitive function with a direct purpose and even a determined will towards actuating an end other than a simple form of chemical processes genetically engineered by its DNA ?

Well guess what ?
I'm going further and beyond this !

What's all this massive fascination with stem cells ?
why are they the new miracle on the block ?
why are they almost treated like some magical elixir that can solve all the world's medical ills ?

it's not so much what they do ; it's what they are !
they function beyond what we would seem credible to our common sense - to the point that we may feel compelled to call them miraculous or magical !

Go back a week or so and cut the cells which would form the embryo's head off above the forming notochord - well that which is destined to ultimately become a head - and flush it down the sluice !
then take the bunch of cells which are already developing into a proto-form of the lower body and place it where the head should have been.

what happens ?
a head develops - fully functioning brain etc - full kit and kaboodle.
In other words there's a self-directing entelechy within the organism itself external to the genetic code [whether it's controlled by nucleic acid concentrations pre-determined by the genetic code makes little difference - the self-directing motivation is now inherant within the organism]

this entelechy aims itself towards self-preservation and development to the point of self-repair and redirecting itself [changing legs into a head to replace a lost one - love to see Paul Daniels try that one!]

even if it's all basic biochemistry we're talking about an entity which from the very start is not developing into something which will eventually develop self-preserving , self-regulating and self-directing attributes - it already possesses them to the extent that within the first few weeks it's not the amorphous blob as insignificant as an amoeba , nor is it something many months away from brain function, self-awareness, cognition, emotion ; rather once it enters the foetal stage it's barely a month away from smiling, dreaming, mnetically reacting differently to varying sounds and sucking its thumb - all within twelve weeks - half the abortion limit !
Is it a person at twelve weeks ?
when wasn't it before this ?
want me to go through it all again ?
we simply cannot tell !!!!

there's no embryologist who can irrefutably claim that thought [no matter how primitive or merely motor-regulating] does not possibly commence as early as the 18th day after conception when those microscopic neuromeres emerge - and who knows what processes led to this and when they began ?

we're never dealing with a mere blob...

All this available information - and it doesn't alter catholic principles one iota; because we have fundamental moral principles that Life [however potential and requiring all manner of necessary things to become all it is designed to be] commences at conception ; because from that moment we can never know what wonders may be wrought within the womb and beyond in that entity's regard.