Saturday, June 20, 2015

Two Catholic Men and an Interview

The Two Catholic Men were recently interviewed by Fr. Robert Barron!!!

Just to avoid any confusion, the "Fr." abbreviation stands for "Friend'. This friend of ours is not the famous apologist Fr. Robert Barron (wouldn't that be a hoot), but Robert Barron, the editor of the Joliet Cursillo Newsletter located in the dioceses of Joliet, IL.
  • Learn about the mysterious origins of Two Catholic Men and a Blog
  • Find out what makes us tick
  • See a goofy photo of us trying to pose like this...

I love how it starts on the cover...
"You’ve seen those ubiquitous moving vans, ‘Two Men and a Truck’, the name of the company being its marketing slogan as well as implying its proposition - a low cost move providing you all you really need to get yourself from here to there. In much the same way, two Catholic men, Ben and Joe, through their blog are helping many get from faith to reason and back and see the ways that science and logic actually make the case for God’s existence and the teachings of his pilgrim Church on earth."

Read the rest HERE starting on page 8.
You know you want to...Don't pretend like you don't want to.

By the way, Cursillo is a movement within the Catholic Church that helps the essential realities of a Christian to come to life. Cursillo refers to a short course or study in Christianity, and for me it's all about those vital things Christians forget or just don’t realize.

Monday, June 1, 2015

What If We Compare Marriage Rights to Voting Rights?

God is the author of true marriage, but this does not resonate well with same-sex marriage activists. The “Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve” argument doesn’t go very far. Reflex rebuttals include, “You have no right to impose your religion on others.” and the familiar “Separation of Church and State”. When the dialog shuts down I find that secular arguments tend to re-boot the discussion.

Why is the government in the marriage business? Why does the government grant certain rights at all? Why would one set of rights be seen as unfair and another fair? To help answer the question it can be helpful to compare what is perceived to be a problem to what is perceived to be OK.  This can also help to determine if there is actually any problem at all.
No comparison is perfect, but comparing voting rights in the context of elections to marriage rights in the context of procreation comes eerily close. The granting of special rights normally implies some special responsibility with regard to said rights. If one is granted the right to vote or the right marry, it follows that you should do something with that right for the common good.

So what can we say about voting rights? The base rationale for voting is to conduct elections. People given the right to vote are generally anticipated to actually vote, but no one will force you and no one will take away your right because of non-participation.

Not everyone is allowed to vote. There is an age limit because a serious responsibility is involved, and a unique status called citizenship is required. The French are not allowed to vote in a U.S. election and neither are the Chinese. This not because of hatred toward the French and the Chinese, it is because they are not applicable to the situation.

The sought after outcome is a functional government. We all know that voting & elections do not guarantee a functional government, but if we have a one, the elected members will strive for the common good and everyone ultimately wants that.

So what can we say about marriage rights? The base rationale for marriage (as far as the government would ever care) is procreation. People given the right to marry are generally anticipated to procreate, but no one will force you and no one will take away your right because of non-participation.

Not everyone is allowed to marry. There is an age limit because a serious responsibility is involved and a unique status of a male-female union is required. Close relatives are not allowed to marry and (in many places still) gays are not allowed to marry. This is not because of hatred toward close relatives and gays; it is because they are not applicable to the situation.

The sought after outcome is a functional family. We all know that marriage & procreation does not guarantee functional families, but if we have them, the created members will strive for the common good and everyone ultimately wants that.

Visuals are most helpful:
And then we get into all the “Buts”…
  • But gay couples could raise a functional family too.
    • And the French could vote in a U.S. election, possibly resulting in a functional government, so we should let them? The French are not applicable to a U.S. election just as gay partnerships are not applicable to procreation.
  • But they can adopt.
    • Adoption is not procreation; it is dealing with children that are already with us.

  • But what about surrogacy and impregnation?
    • This is procreation, but that’s all it is. Any one person or group of people can arrange it. If this is how to achieve functional families, then special marriage rights would not be intrinsic for either gay or straight couples.

  • But marriage rights have nothing whatsoever to do with procreation. Childless married couples prove this.
    • Just like voting rights have nothing whatsoever to do with elections. People who don’t vote prove this…Really?

  • But if you give those who don’t procreate the right to marry, you have to let gays marry.
    • And if you give those who don’t vote the right to vote, we have to let the Chinese vote?

  • But marriage is about love.
    • And voting is about patriotism? Are we after some tangible objective for the common good or just granting rights for the sake of granting rights; rights for the personal happiness and gratification of individuals?

In the last analysis, if there were no elections, there would be no voting. If there was no procreation, there would be no marriage. Of course, if there was no procreation we would not be here to discuss it, but let’s say humans reproduce asexually; would marriage exist at all? Seems silly, but think about that one. Do you suppose that defining marriage throughout history and throughout the world the way humans reproduce, as one man and one woman, is some kind of weird coincidence?

Marriage should be reinforced, not redefined. Take that into the voting booth the next time you're there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Taking the "Girl" out of Girl Scouts

There are several ways in which we can understand ourselves to be made in the image & likeness of God. For example, God has a will and an intellect as do we; God is spirit and our souls are spirit. Another way relates to human gender and sexuality. Theology of the body explains how we can speak of the Trinity in terms of love and persons. From the eternal love between the Father and the Son proceeds a third person, called the Holy Spirit. In a similar way, the love between a husband and wife helps to create a third person, called a baby.

In Catholicism male and female matter and sexuality is not only physical, like it is for animals, and it’s not only spiritual, as if we were angels or “mini-gods”. It’s both.

In secularism, sexuality is spoken of in both physical terms and psychological terms, but seems to be treated as only physical or only psychological when it is convenient to the situation.

“It’s just sex” appeals to the idea that sex is for adult entertainment and it’s about physical pleasure. In this view the physical nature that brings the pleasure is what matters. Any psychological concerns that arise from extensive and varying forms of fornicating are merely the result of religious oppression, or other societal guilt. Unjust and unneeded remorse is forced onto individuals which keeps them from enjoying what comes naturally.

On the other hand, if a boy believes himself to be a girl or vice versa, the physical evidence of the body as male or female has no meaning. All that matters is the psychological concern.

The psychological only view has found its way into the Girl Scouts of America (GSA). A new GSA policy will now extend membership to boys who identify as girls. The group says on its website, "If the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe."

This basically means that the girls in the organization will be forced to recognize and accept transgenderism as “normal”. Boys from kindergarten through high school can join the Girl Scouts if the boy considers himself to be girl and “others” agree.

Boys in skirts and maybe a little make-up will become a part of the program and one would suppose they must also be allowed to use the same camping tents and bathrooms. It would not matter what the other girls in the troop or their parents think because the boy will essentially call the shots. If the boy believes himself to be a girl and the family and school/community agrees (whoever they are), it’s decided for everyone else. Physical evidence of being a boy means nothing.

I'm no expert on gender confusion, but I can't imaging a situation where the “school/community” leads a boy to think he might be a girl. Rather, it is more likely that the boy does or says things that would relate more to being a girl and the parents think “Let’s go with that lead.” and then look for support in the community.  In other words, the child, whose cognitive reasoning is not developed, leads the way, and we should ask ourselves in what society in human history have children ever been allowed to lead the way.

We’re losing our common sense and it’s a challenge to point it out because… “It is not a pleasant task to call attention to the obvious. To make others appear to be shortsighted, let alone blind, may easily evoke resentment.”
- Fr. Stanley Jaki
Are they sold by real Girl Scouts?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Month of Mary - Month of Mothers - Month of Life

I wonder if the March for Life in January each year might be more conducive to its ultimate end in the month of May, since May is the month of Mary and the month of mothers and the month of life. As new life springs up in the northern hemisphere and we forget all about the cold and dead winter, could thoughts about the sanctity of human life flow more naturally in the month of May?

In any case or in any month we can always say that human life beings at conception as an objective fact. My blog partner Joe recently sent me this link from about 41 quotes from the medical profession that prove human life begins at conception. Here are a few of my faves:
  • “Fertilization is the process by which male and female haploid gametes (sperm and egg) unite to produce a genetically distinct individual.” Signorelli et al., Kinases, phosphatases and proteases during sperm capacitation, CELL TISSUE RES. 349(3):765 (Mar. 20, 2012)
  • An embryology textbook describes how birth is just an event in the development of a baby, not the beginning of his/her life. “It should always be remembered that many organs are still not completely developed by full-term and birth should be regarded only as an incident in the whole developmental process.” F Beck Human Embryology, Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1985 page vi
  • “Although it is customary to divide human development into prenatal and postnatal periods, it is important to realize that birth is merely a dramatic event during development resulting in a change in environment.” The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology fifth edition, Moore and Persaud, 1993, Saunders Company, page 1 
  • National Institutes of Health, Medline Plus Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary (2013), The government’s own definition attests to the fact that life begins at fertilization. According to the National Institutes of Health, “fertilization” is the process of union of two gametes (i.e., ovum and sperm) “whereby the somatic chromosome number is restored and the development of a new individual is initiated.”
  • “….it is scientifically correct to say that human life begins at conception.” Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard Medical School: Quoted by Public Affairs Council 
  • Scarr, S., Weinberg, R.A., and Levine A., Understanding Development, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1986. page 86 “The development of a new human being begins when a male’s sperm pierces the cell membrane of a female’s ovum, or egg….
  • The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 6th ed. Keith L. Moore, Ph.D. & T.V.N. Persaud, Md., (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1998), 2-18: “[The Zygote] results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm … unites with a female gamete or oocyte … to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”
Sounds pretty clear, but what do people who write medical text books know about anything anyway? From here the discussion may often turn to “personhood”. The unborn “entity” may be human, but it is not a person. I remember someone telling me that life begins when you’re born. I asked, “If your son was born yesterday at 1:00PM, what made him not a human being or not a person at 12:59PM? What would be the distinction other than time and/or the surrounding environment?” He could offer no clear answer because he was simply making-up a threshold of his own liking.
When pressed under questioning, one wonders how supposedly educated people can be both pro-choice and recognize science & human rights all at the same time. This is such a harsh contradiction that one can see a need for a diabolical force to help the pro-choice movement along.

As the Lifenews article shows, it is scientifically correct to say that human life begins at conception. To say the first stage of one’s life or one’s “personhood” begins at some other threshold of consciousness or viability is subjective; a matter of opinion. To declare something as important as this on something subjective is irrational when something objective is clearly available. In fact, irrationality is not a strong enough expression; it’s more like an invincible blindness.
Sorry, I can't see your personhood.




Monday, April 27, 2015

The Nothing of the Gaps

You may be familiar with the phrase “The God of the gaps”; it might be used when Christians (or any deists) use gaps in scientific knowledge as evidence for God’s existence. I can remember a comedian mocking believers by using a childish voice to answer “God did it!” to some ultimate questions of science.

Q: What caused the Big Bang?
A: God did it!

Q: How can a spontaneous “Big Bang” give us a highly fine-tuned and intelligible universe?
A: God did it!

Q: How can ordered, but dead matter & energy become alive?
A: God did it!

Q: How can something alive become self-aware?
A: God did it!

As science closes gaps between what we know and what we don’t know about the material world, will the god that lives in those gaps eventually be squeeze out of the minds of people? I should think that for every gap science closes several more gaps open up, but whatever the gaps are, is the more rational and intelligent answer to say “nothing did it”?
Any thinking Christian will, of course, acknowledge the many secondary causes that exist in all of reality, but God as the first cause of all things material and immaterial is a non-negotiable dogma. Likewise, a strict materialist or strong atheist will recognize secondary causes, but do they not essentially defer to “nothing” as the ultimate answer to certain gaps? So we end up with "the nothing of the gaps".
Nothing to see here...
Move along...

The Gap from Meaning:
Q: If we come from nothing for the purpose of nothing and are going back to nothing, what is the meaning behind it all?
A: Nothing.

One might strongly object and answer, “We make our own meaning!” Making our own meaning in life may be compared to multiplying a number by zero. No matter how huge the number, multiplying by zero always makes it zero. No matter what you achieve in life, when you decay to nothingness it becomes “zero”. No matter how many future generations you help, each one is “multiplied by zero” as the universe marches on indifferently.

Meaning is received, not made. Professor Joseph Ratzinger (future B16) gives a clever analogy to self-made meaning in his book Introduction to Christianity (2004 edition, pp 73). Imagine a man trying to pull himself out of a bog by his own hair. This is the absurdity of the statement, “We make our own meaning.”
Little help!?!

The Gap from Goodness:
Q: What is the ultimate source for the good, the beautiful and the true?
A: Nothing.

One might object and answer, “These are merely human opinions & concepts that evolve over time, so the ultimate source is human.”  And what is the ultimate source of humans? The answer would still come back to nothing if we truly come from nothing intelligent and with no intended purpose.

The Gap from Intelligence:                                                                  
Q: Since the universe is highly intelligible, where did its intelligibility come from?
A: Nothing.

Many atheists can gladly agree that the known universe began some 13.7 billion years ago and that every effect must have a cause, so if there was a big-bang there must also be a “big-banger”. They may even go so far as to agree that the big banger (whatever caused the big bang) must be something outside the known universe, but no matter how much consensus there is, it seems to stop at the gap of “intelligence”.

No matter how incredibly fine-tuned things are, like the universe, our planet, our minds & our bodies, their origins must be “dumb”. No matter how much evidence of design there is it can only be by chance. The thinking of the past was that a highly ordered and intelligible universe must clearly have an intelligent creator. Today’s “progressive” thinking is that a highly ordered and intelligible universe must clearly come from mindlessness…clearly. One might call this having an irrational "faith" in chance.

If we insist on “nothing” to fill the gaps for the most important question in life, then the effect of original sin that dims the intellect is easy to see.

“Those who run after nothing become nothing”
– Pope Francis
In the last analysis it's either all or nothing.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Religious Liberty & Analytical Problem Solving

One of the basic tenets of the analytical problem solving process employed by our company is to carefully compare what is perceived to be a problem to what is perceived to be OK.  The more closely related the two things are, the more relevant the comparison. From here one can fret-out distinctions between what is seen as OK and what is seen as a problem and use those distinctions to formulate possible causes, or to help determine if there is actually any problem at all.

This kind logic can be applied to the religious liberty debates going on right now. If refusing to sell goods & services for a same-sex marriage celebration because of one’s personal beliefs should be illegal, then other similar “refusals” to other similar “events” should also be illegal.

THIS ARTICLE from National Review does a good job of presenting some relevant comparisons. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Are we prepared to handcuff a feminist photographer who won’t take pictures at a strip club event?
We may not know whether or not the photographer hates the people in the club or loves them, she just does not want her business to be associated with this specific kind of event. Should she be punished?
  • Do we respect a black jazz band’s choice not to perform at a Ku Klux Klan chapter’s “Negro Minstrel Show”?
Here again, the band members may not hate white people at all. They just do not want to be part of this performance in any way. Should they be punished?
  • Do we respect a pro–gun control photographer’s right to choose not to snap pictures at a “Sharpshooter of the Year” banquet organized by the local chapter of the National Rifle Association?
It’s not that the photographer will never take any pictures of any NRA members at any event. It’s the meaning behind this particular event that is the concern.
  • Do we respect a Jewish calligrapher’s right to choose not to produce hand-written invitations for a Hitler Day brunch organized by a local neo-Nazi group?
Once again, the ideology behind the brunch and what it represents is the problem.

The following would be a dissimilar comparison:
  • A restaurant owner refuses to serve gay people because he personally believes all gay people are evil.
So what is distinctive between the first four examples and the last one? The focus of attention with the first ones is some event or celebration and the ideology behind it, not the actual person(s) involved. In other words, it’s about the principle, not the person. The difference is vast.
The more our society accepts transcendent things, like right vs. wrong, as only opinions, the more we will accept a kind of soft tyranny where the government takes on the role of “moral compass". They will tell us which way is just and which way is unjust, fair or unfair and you will obey or be punished. Religious liberty is a founding principle of the U.S. and watching its own citizens leading the charge against people of faith into this oppression may be the saddest part of the whole mess.
You will obey or be punished!


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Got Salvation?

I remember the first time I read Philippians 2:12. St. Paul’s instructions rang a bell, and once a bell rings it can never be un-rung.

“…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

In terms of salvation, “work out” implies some sort of process (not something that is instantaneous) and “fear and trembling” reminds us that it’s something that can be lost during said process. It seems St. Paul had a rather catholic understanding of salvation. But how does one receive salvation and eternal life? Is it really by faith alone as some might claim?

Perhaps the Bible alone will clear this up. St Peter’s speech at Pentecost made it clear as we read in Acts 2:38. After receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter said to the crowd “Repent and declare Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and ask him to come into your heart and you will receive salvation this very instant with no possibility of ever losing it.” Well, that’s not exactly what St. Peter said in the Bible, in fact, it is not written anywhere in the Bible.

So, are you saved?
How does one get saved?
What must we do?
What does the Bible teach?

Must you repent and be baptized, right?
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 2:38
How about just baptism alone?
“This prefigured baptism, which saves you now...”
1 Peter 3:21
Belief in Jesus alone?
“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.”
Acts 16:31
Belief in God alone?
“…whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.”
John 5:24
Words alone?
“I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.”
Luke 12:8
“By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Mt 12:37
 Works alone?
“Who will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works”
Romans 2:6-7
“See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
James 2:24
“…those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.”
John 5:29
Grace alone?
“On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way as they.”
Acts 15:11
Obedience alone?
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”
John 3:36
“But if the wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live. He shall not die!”
Ezekiel 18:21
Eating alone???
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life...”
John 6:54
Given all this, how can anyone claim, using the Bible alone, that salvation is by one thing alone? None of the above items can be dismissed as part of our salvation process, nor can any one item be emphasized at the cost of the others.

As a side, does the Bible really teach, or do people teach? If it is people who teach, it does beg some questions about who should teach, and by what authority, and would God provide for any such authority? The answer lies in the Church that teaches the fullness of faith as well as salvation in its fullness.

You're kinda lost without it...

Let’s now get back to the mother of all questions:
Are you saved?
Think of a man sinking in quicksand that wants to be saved and sees a rescue team on the way. He has every confidence that he will be saved and shouts “I’m saved!”, but he is not actually saved until he’s out of the mud. It’s this same with us as we “work out” our salvation as part of the Church militant on earth with great confidence that we will one day be members of the Church triumphant in heaven.

Much of the preceding post was inspired by a book called "Crossing the Tiber" by Stephen Ray; a former non-Catholic Christian turned Catholic apologist.