Monday, September 29, 2014

Must have been a slow news day: David Barash argues in the New York Times that religion and science are not compatible

A Canadian friend told me the story of his Catholic mother who heard a guest priest deliver the homily at Sunday Mass. The priest was a theology professor, and his sermon was so full of scholarly  mumbo jumbo that the congregation had no idea what he was talking about.

When Mass concluded, the priest stood at the door to greet the departing parishioners. "I don't care what you say," my friend's mother told the scholarly priest. "I still believe in God.

I thought of that story as I read David Barash's essay in the Sunday Times, arguing that science and religious belief cannot be reconciled.  Barash insists that  evolution is no longer just a theory but "the underpinning of all biological science."

David P. Barash
Human beings are indeed complicated, he goes on to say, but that does not mean that humanity was divinely created. Rather, since Darwin, "we have come to understand that an entirely natural and undirected process, namely random variation plus natural selection, contains all that is needed to generate extraordinary levels of non-randomness."

And, Barash continues, "[l]iving things are indeed wonderfully complex but altogether within the range of a statistically powerful, entirely mechanical phenomenon."

 Moreover, Barash argues, there is nothing unique about human beings that distinguish us from other animals. "[N]o literally supernatural trait has ever been found in Homo sapiens," Barash maintains. "[W]e are perfectly good animals, natural as can be and indistinguishable from the rest of the living world at the level of structure as well as physiological mechanism."

In short, in Barash's views, we are just animals.  I suppose all that distinguishes Barash from the crocodiles is that he has tenure at the University of Washington and a listing in Wikipedia.

Why does the New York Times  print this drivel? Does it believe some benighted Christian is going to read David Barash's essay and proclaim, "I have seen the light!" and quit the Methodist Church?

After all, Barah's critiques of religion are not exactly hot news. Madelyn Murray O'Hare made a good living as a professional atheist back in the 1980s.

I think the Times prints this stuff because atheistic intellectualism peddled by pinhead professors like Barash reinforces the postmodern world view of its readers. Barash's view--that humans are nothing more than highly developed animals, fits perfectly with the postmodernist philosophy that all values are relative, that there are no ultimate truths and that we are all free to seek power, fame, money, and sexual gratification--which is very much the world view of lions, tigers, and python snakes.

I don't claim to be a learned biological scientist like Barash apparently is. But I'm not stupid. I graduated with honors from one of the nation's top law schools (University of Texas) and I have a doctorate from Harvard (although I admit that is no big deal).  And yet I know in my heart that people are not just advanced animals.

No, we are human beings, and all humanity lives in the palm of God's hand. And I believe the Christian story that is the foundation of the Catholic faith. I believe in the core of my being that God entered history in the form of Jesus Christ, and I am strengthened at each Mass by Christ's real presence in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

Evolutionists like Barash like to think that people with religious beliefs are anti-intellectuals--maybe just plain stupid. But St. Thomas Aquinas argued, successfully I believe, that we can come to accept the existence of God through our intellect.

It is true that the Catholic faith goes beyond a mere belief in God. Catholics are in fact a mystical people. We believe in the intersession of the saints, in Mary's participation in God's plan for salvation, and in Christ's real presence in the Eucharist.  And of course we believe that men and women are more than animals rooting around for food and sex.

Young people who take Professor Barash's courses or courses from other postmodern professors will be attempted to abandon their Catholic faith. But I urge young people to do your own thinking. Read something other than what your professors tell you to read. Read How To Stay Christian in College by J. Budziszewski, for example.  Budziszewski is as smart as anyone a student is likely to meet on a college campus. In fact, he might even be smarter than Professor Barash. And Budziszewski is a Catholic.

And I recommend another book for people who need an antidote to postmodern gibberish like the stuff that Professor Barash slings about.  Read G.K. Chesterton's very short book entitled Catholicism and Conversion.

As for me, when I am tempted to abandon my faith to the sophistry of our modern age, I  meditate on the saints.  Why did Dorothy Day live as she lived? Why did Edith Stein die as she died? Why did Maximilian Kolbe volunteer to be starved to death in an Auschwitz bunker? Why did St. Kateri Tekawitha devote her miserable life to being a witness to the Catholic faith? Why did Father Damien live his life in a lepers colony on the island of Molokai?

I consider myself to be an intellectual. Yet as I have gotten older my faith has become more simple. I have come to believe that when I die I will be enfolded in the loving arms of God.  In some mysterious way, I believe I will be joined to the communion of saints throughout eternity.

What eternity will be like for me, I am not certain. But I feel quite sure I will be spending very little of it reading op ed essays in the New York Times, although I might find time to read Barish's recent book, Buddhist Biology.

References

Barash, David P. God, Darwin and My College Biology Class. New York Times, September 28,2014, Sunday Review section, p. 5.







Wednesday, September 24, 2014

News Flash! General Franco is Still Dead and Frank Bruni is Still Upset With the Catholic Church

Chevy Chase mocked deceased General Francisco Franco during the first season of Saturday Night Live, reporting on his nightly news spoof that "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is Still Dead."  The gag went on for two years, according to a Wikipedia article on this very topic.

Maybe Saturday Night Live needs a fresh spoof. How about this? "Frank Bruni is still upset with the Catholic Church."  Today's New York Times ran another of Bruni's attack essays against Catholicism. This time he reported that a Catholic priest in Montana denied communion to two men who recently got married in Seattle.

I agree with Mr. Bruni that all people should be treated with respect and that no one should be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. But the Church's stance on sexual morality forms part of the Church's core doctrine, and it is not going to change simply because Mr. Bruni continually criticizes the Church in the New York Times.  And flattering Pope Francis (as Mr. Bruni often does in his columns) will not make the Pope rewrite the Catechism.

Frankly, I don't get it. The Catholic Church's position on marriage is basically identical to the doctrine of the Mormon Church and the Southern Baptist Church. But Bruni and the New York Times don't constantly criticize those denominations.

Sometimes I think the the Times has a 24-hour hot line for disaffected Catholics, a line that automatically rolls over to Frank Bruni's cell phone. It seems like the Times never passes up an opportunity to undermine the Catholic Church.  Just last week, the Times reported that Vice President Biden was chummy with a group of disaffected nuns--a real non-story if ever there was one.

I suspect the Times and Bruni think that these relentless attacks will eventually cause people to leave the Catholic Church.  In fact, Bruni quotes Andrew Sullivan, another unhappy Catholic, as saying, "There is only so much inhumanity that a church can be seen to represent before its own members lose faith in it."

And of course some people have left the Catholic Church.  There are thousands of people who refer to themselves as "recovering Catholics," as if the faith they forsook is a disease.

But the Church is still strong in the U.S.--there are 70 million of us, and the Catholic churches in my part of the country are packed. Frank Bruni's essays may cause some Catholics to abandon their faith, but not all of them.

As I have said before, millions of Catholic died for their faith during the twentieth century. A small number were canonized--St.Edith Stein, St. Maximilian Kolbe and a few people who were killed by the Calles regime during Mexico's Cristero rebellion--but most died obscure deaths and have been forgotten.  A couple of million Polish Catholics were murdered by the Nazis and who remembers them?

But I am inspired by people who refused to renounce their Catholic faith even when faced with death. Does Frank Bruni think his repetitive and petty carping will weaken us?

If the Times is really serious about undermining the Catholic faith in the United States, it is going to have to do more than underwrite Frank Bruni. It is going to have to invest in some concentration camps.


Still dead and Frank Bruni is still upset with the Catholic Church





References

Bruni, Frank. 'I Do' Means You're Done. New York Times, September 24, 2014, p. A29.

Generalissimo Franco is still dead. Wikipedia. Accessible at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generalissimo_Francisco_Franco_is_still_dead


Friday, September 19, 2014

The New York Times Gets It Wrong Again: Jason Horowitz's Article About Joe Biden and Dissident Nuns Contains 2 Errors and One Glaring Omission

Jason Horowitz's article in the New York Times about Vice President Joe Biden's affection for a group of dissident nuns contains two major errors and one glaring omission.

First, contrary to the assertion in Mr. Horowitz's article, the Vatican is not unhappy with the dissidents because they pay "too much attention to social justice and too little to promoting church teaching on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage."

The Vatican has never criticized any order of nuns for paying too much attention to social justice. I defy Mr. Horowitz to give me one example of any communication from the Vatican that criticizes or reprimands any order of nun or any individual nun for paying too much attention to social justice.

This is not the first time that the Times has distorted the conflict between the Vatican and Network, a group of dissident nuns who have publicly disagreed with fundamental Church doctrine on such issues as the priesthood and sexual morality. The Times seems to think it is not possible for someone to be a social justice activist and an orthodox Catholic. Apparently, no one at the Times has ever heard of Dorothy Day.

Second, Mr. Horowitz also wrote that "President Obama "has long ties with Catholic activism."  That isn't accurate either. Mr. Obama once had a job that was funded at least in part by a Catholic agency, but it is a fantasy to say that the President has long ties with Catholic activism. In fact, Mr. Obama has shown utter disdain for the Catholic Church throughout his presidency.

What's wrong with this picture?
Finally, Mr. Horowitz omitted any mention of the fact that Mr. Biden is an apostate Catholic who supports abortion in direct contradiction to core Catholic doctrine. Some Catholic politicians have been denied communion for supporting abortion--Kathleen Sebelius, for example, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services.

To my knowledge, Mr. Biden has not been denied the sacraments because of his pro-abortion stance; but Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs has said that Vice President Biden should be denied access to communion for this reason.

I'm sure millions of Catholics agree with Bishop Sheridan. If Biden thinks he won any votes for the Democratic Party by hamming it up with a group of cranky, dissident nuns, I'm sure he is very much mistaken.

References

Horowitz, Jason. Biden, Drawing on His Past, Expresses Common Cause with Activist Nuns. New York Times, September 18, 2014, p. A18.




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Viva Cristo Rey, Y'All! American Catholicism is a lot stronger than its critics believe--especially in the South

Stephan Beale wrote an excellent essay in Crisis Magazine, arguing that the Catholic Church is becoming the most important refuge for Christians in America's post-Christian age. Beale challenged assertions made by Carl Trueman, who argued in a First Things essay that Reformed Protestantism is the proper refuge for today's Christians.

Beale makes a sturdy argument that the Roman Catholic Church is stronger than many people think.  As he accurately pointed out, the Catholic Church is booming in the South. Many people interpret the growth as being almost solely attributable to a growing Hispanic population in the South, but that is incorrect.

In North Texas, for example, the Catholic Church has exploded. In the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, Catholics have grown from about 2 percent of the population in the 1970s to about 25 percent of the population today.  The large Hispanic community in the Dallas area accounts for some of this growth, but not all of it.  St. Ann's Church in the north Dallas suburb of Coppell, is one of the largest Catholic parishes in the United States, with 6 Sunday Masses; and most of its members are Anglos.

And Texas, for some mysterious reason, seems to be particularly receptive to the Anglican Rite movement. Texas is home to six Anglican Rite Churches, all of them large parishes, that left the Episcopal Church to enter the Catholic Church as a body.  That is truly remarkable.

It is true that the Catholic Church has declined in the Northeast--in Boston and New York, in particular.  Philip Lawler's book, The Faithful Departed, accurately describes the collapse of Catholic culture in Boston--a sorrowful tale indeed. I think Catholics need to come to terms with the magnitude of the collapse of Catholic culture in the industrial Northeast--it is truly shocking.

In my view, the Northeast needs a huge spiritual revival, much like the one that Germany experienced during the 1860s and 1870s, when Germans responded to fervent preaching from evangelists from the religious orders, notably the Jesuits.  The Northeast needs strong religious evangelists--or maybe even lay evangelists, to remind Northeasterners of the splendor of the faith.

Regardless of how the Northeast goes, however, we should be heartened by the spectacular growth of Catholicism in the South.  In Louisiana, I myself have sponsored three men and three women who have  left  Protestantism to come into the Catholic Church; and I am certain that many Southern Protestants and nonreligious Southerners could be evangelized if only they were apprised of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This one mysterious and powerful tenet of our faith would bring hundreds of thousands of Americans into the Church if only they were confronted with it.

It is true, as Beale acknowledged, that the Catholic Church is being attacked all over the country, particularly in the North. As he noted, the Church has had to get out of the adoption business because it refuses to place orphans in the homes of same-sex couples.

But suffering will make us stronger. If Catholicism survived the persecutions and terrors of 20th century totalitarian--the Nazis, the Stalinists, the Maoists, the Calles regime in Mexico--we can certainly survive American postmodernism.

And we need to remind ourselves that Catholicism is stronger than the media elite thinks it is. The New York Times and other Northeastern based media, like to report on the decline of religiosity because they see the Church's decline in the Northeast and because they want to believe that Catholicism is on the wane.  Times writer Frank Bruno has already prepared our obituary and made funeral arrangements.  I think he's picked out a tasteful coffin for us.

But to all this postmodern nonsense, I say this: Viva Cristo Rey!  We will cling to the Ancient Faith and we will take strength from our saints and martyrs:  Edith Stein, Maximilian Kolbe, Dorothy Day, the Uganda Martyrs, the heroes who died during the Cristero Rebellion, and the unnamed millions of Catholics who died in Eastern Europe at the hands of the Nazis.

If these Catholic saints and martyrs were strong enough to stand up for their faith under great trials and hardships, surely we can stand up to the postmodern media and the anti-religious Obamacrats. And let us take heart from this simple demographic fact: the Catholic Church is on the move in the South.  Viva Cristo Rey, Y'all!.





Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hey, Frank Bruni, leave us the hell alone: A Catholic's reflections during Mass in Arroy Seco, New Mexico

Of all the witless essays that Frank Bruni has written in recent years on the subject of religion, "Between Godliness and Godlessness," the essay he wrote in a recent Sunday issue of the New York Times, may be his most idiotic.

Like most of the New York Times's stable of commentators, Bruni often finds the inspiration for his columns in public opinion  polls and best-selling books. Currently, Bruni is enamored with Sam Harris, who obtained his 15 minutes of fame in 2004 by writing a book on atheism. Apparently, Harris wants another 15 minutes of notoriety, because he has another book coming out soon--also on the topic of atheism.

According to Bruni, Harris's new book will argue that much of what people seek from religious faith can be obtained outside organized religion. In other words, the meaning of life which many people find in their religious faith can be found in the natural world through such activities as meditation, listening to music, communing with nature, and (presumably) from reading Sam Harris's books. 

Of course, Bruni and Harris aren't the first people to try to discern the meaning of life on their own terms. In fact, both men are late to the party. King Henry VIII, Martin Luther, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and thousands of inspirational speakers have cobbled together self-constructed spiritual castles based on their own psychic, political, or spiritual desires--or sometimes just to make a buck.

In fact, Bruni's recent essay reminded me of  a New York Times essay that T.L. Luhrmann wrote awhile back describing a man who created is own god to help him lose weight. Hey--whatever floats your boat!

In my opinion, Frank Bruni is trying, whether consciously or unconsciously, to undermine Americans' religious faith and the faith of American Catholics in particular. He has certainly attacked the Catholic Church on numerous occasions. It's OK, he insinuated in his recent Times column, to have spiritual longings. Just try to fulfill them outside the faith and traditions of historical Christianity.

I thought about Bruni's essay while attending Mass recently at Holy Trinity Church in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico, in the upper Rio Grande Valley. Catholicism entered this part of the world when Spanish Explorer Juan de OƱate led a party of soldiers and settlers up the Rio Grande Valley from El Paso in 1598.  The Spanish founded Santa Fe in 1610, 10 years before the Pilgrims planted their self-righteous feet on Plymouth Rock; and Taos was founded around 1615.  Arroyo Seco, located just a few miles from Taos, must have been founded in the very early 17th century.

Thus, Catholics have been celebrating Mass in or around Arroyo Seco for more than 400 years. Indeed this ground has been watered by the blood of Catholic martyrs--most of them forgotten--who were killed by the Comanches over a period of more than a century. Over the years, the Catholics of the Upper Rio Grande Valley have clung to the Ancient Faith; and they have placed their confidence in several particular saints: San Isidore, San Pasquale, Santiago, San Miguel, Santo Nino de Atocha, and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

As I joined my Hispanic brothers and sisters in celebrating the Mass in Arroyo Seco, I wondered what they would say about the Tinker-Toy spirituality that Bruni proposed in his New York Times essay. Why, they would probably ask, would anyone who has been enfolded in the grandeur, the beauty, and the eternal truths of the Catholic faith throw that faith away for the do-it-yourself brand of quasi-religion that Bruni is hawking? Why would anyone abandon the real and mystical presence of Christ in the Eucharist to follow the advice of Sam Harris?

Bruni and his fellow travelers apparently think Catholicism is fading away and will soon be replaced by the postmodern sensibilities that the New York Times espouses. But that will never happen in Arroyo Seco.  The small congregation at Holy Trinity Church celebrated Mass with all the splendor that it could muster. The entrance procession included one priest, two deacons, and five altar children (boys and girls). Incense appeared on two occasions, and altar boys flanked a deacon with lighted candles as he read the Gospel. The liturgy, partly in English and partly in Spanish, was performed with all the piety and dignity of a High Mass at the Vatican. 

Cordero de Dios, que quitas el pecado del mundo, danos la paz, we all said before coming forward to receive the body and blood of Christ. Or in English: Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

And to  Frank Bruni, let me add this purely secular footnote: Leave us the hell alone.



References

Frank Bruni. Between Godliness and Godlessness. New York Times, August 30,2014. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-between-godliness-and-godlessness.html?_r=0