Saturday, August 18, 2018


At the risk of beating a dead horse, I'll take a few more whacks with the meat pounder: It's my impression that many Catholics are Catholic because they think their sect is the repository of salvation. Given that outlook, I think many Catholic parents have a cynical, calculated attitude. Child abuse is the price they pay in exchange for salvation. 

An acid test of friendship is putting people in a competitive survival situation. At the most generic level, the quickest way to turn neighbors into murderous adversaries is when demand for some essential good or service exceeds supply. "Friends" and neighbors turn on each other.

A cheesy variant on this theme is the Jem'Hadar, who are dependent on a supplement ("the white") to stay alive. That ensures their allegiance to the Founders.

Or consider the literary trope of the village that makes an annual offering of sacrificial virgins to the local dragon. If they don't placate the dragon by human sacrifice, it will incinerate their crops, causing famine. Another example is Shirley Jackson's notorious The Lottery.

Even though those are fictional examples, they have a lurid basis in reality. Historically, pagan parents did practice child sacrifice to appease the gods or solicit their favors. 

For all their outrage, Catholic parents reflect the same ruthless quid-pro-quo. Child abuse is the unfortunate but necessary payoff to secure sacramental grace–like protection money. 

Sex abuse ring

As Fr. Thomas Berg recently explained, the issue is sexually active priests and bishops. In the main, the persistent problem is with homosexually active priests.  Fr. Roger Landry argues—rightly, I think—that most priests who persist in infidelity with women eventually leave the priesthood, but priests who cheat on their vocation with men often continue to live a double life. Most of the issues stem from this kind of duplicity. Networks of active homosexual priests have developed: They protect and promote their own and others who will tolerate them. They become a major problem when they insinuate themselves into positions of power (in a seminary, in a chancery or diocese, in a religious order, in the Roman curia)—as occurred in the case of Theodore McCarrick. 

"I just couldn't believe..."

Cosmic simulation

I was asked a follow-up question on this post:

What you would say if an atheist said for the sake of argument that he accepted that the transcendental argument is valid and reason and logic do need a transcendent source, but that we’d have no way of knowing if that source is the Triune God or Billy the alien programmer? 

i) To begin with, the notion that we're virtual characters in a computer simulation presumes the possibility of artificial intelligence. But that's hotly-contested. According to the hard problem of consciousness, mind is not reducible to a physical arrangement. 

ii) An alien can't be the source of abstract objects. An alien can't be the source of logic because an alien is a contingent being, so he can't ground the necessity of logic. If logic is simply how he thinks, then logic lacks normatively. He's a fluid entity. 

iii) An alien can't be the source of numbers because he has a finite, timebound mind whereas numbers are timeless, infinite, transfinite objects or ensembles. 

iv) An alien can't be the source of possible worlds because he himself exemplifies a possible world. 

v) Can he be the source of truth? If there were no minds, there'd be no true beliefs. As a contingent being, his nonexistence is possible. If truth has a contingent source, then the nonexistence of truth is possible. But is it true that the nonexistence of truth is possible? 

Udderly transgender

The boy wipes his forehead and takes a chair at the breakfast table. "'Morning, Dad," he says, while he heaps up his plate with pancakes. "Elsie calved last night."
"Is she all right?"
"She seems so." The boy is fairly gulping down hunks of pancake and syrup, speared on his fork.
"Did you assign the calf a sex yet?"
The boy's face clouds for a moment. "I was waiting to talk to you about that first."
Dad considers. "Well, we assigned the last three calves to be cows, and it seems we need another bull now, to keep things even. It's only fair, you know."
"Dad," says the boy, putting down his fork and looking across the table, while his parent takes a seat and sprinkles salt and pepper over a small plate of scrambled eggs and spinach, "why do we keep cattle? I mean," he says, exhaling audibly, "I mean, I don't know what I mean."
"Son, that's easy. We keep cattle because we run a dairy farm, and we sell beef."
"Yes," says the boy. "And cows give milk."
"That's right."
"And we keep a bull or two for stud, and the others we sell."
"But we have six cows right now that will never give milk."
"Son, do you have a crystal ball or something? Do you know the future?"
"No," says the boy, "but a cow, I mean a bovine animal, needs an udder, and the -- the equipment."
"Back to your old biological essentialism," says Dad, with a little bit of a scowl, and pursed lips. "How many times have I told you that that has been disproved. Science," says Dad, and the boy interrupts.
"But I have eyes, Dad!"
"Oh now look, you've gotten syrup on the table. Such a mess," says Dad, reaching for a napkin and wiping the table with more energy than is needed.
"Dad," says the boy, after an uncomfortable silence, "we now have four pens," which he enumerates on the fingers of one hand. "We have a pen for the cows that have udders, a pen for the cows that don't have udders, a pen for the bulls that have, you know, and a pen for the bulls that don't. Last year we tried to mate a bull that doesn't with a cow that doesn't, and the cow ended up mounting the bull."
"I really fail to see," says Dad, tossing a strand of hair over the forehead, "what the problem is."
"We also tried to mate a cow with an udder and a bull with an udder. All they did was sniff one another and eat grass."
Dad grows visibly upset. "You are questioning ME! How many years I've worked that farm when you were too little to understand -- to understand these things, and now you are questioning me!"
"Don't cry, Dad," says the boy. "I'll do what you say. I'll assign it -- what did you say? -- I'll say it's a bull calf."
"You'll SAY? You'll SAY?"
"It's a bull calf."
"All right then."
The boy gets up from the table and takes his plate over to the sink, where he scrapes a half of a pancake into the garbage.
"When you're done at the barn," says Dad, "I want you to ride your bike down to Aunt Jenny's and take her these vitamin supplements. Her prostate is acting up again."
"Okay, Dad."
"You're a good boy," says Dad, giving the boy a loud smooch on the forehead. "By the way, I saw a very nice tutu at the sporting goods store yesterday. I think it has Somebody's name on it."
"But Dad," says the boy, "shortstops don't," and Dad interrupts.
"Don't tell me about shortstops," says Dad. "I was quite the player in my time! Now go and finish your chores, and don't forget Aunt Jenny."
"Okay, Dad."
"Oh, and take these Maxipads to Uncle Bob."
"And don't forget to curry the cat!"
The boy leaves the house, letting the screen door bang behind him....

The One True Gay Bathhouse

The first reason is that men with homosexual tendencies find it particularly difficult to live out the demands of chastity. The vast majority of scandals in the Church since 2002 involve homosexual priests profoundly failing in chastity. This is no surprise to me. Chastity, I’m convinced (and the evidence bears this out), is much harder for men with a homosexual inclination than for others.

Fr. James Lloyd, C.S.P., a priest with a PhD in psychology from NYU, has worked with homosexual men (including priests) for more than 30 years as a clinical psychologist. On the subject of chastity and homosexual priests, he says, “It is clear enough from clinical evidence that the psychic energy needed to contain homosexual drives is far greater than that needed by the straying heterosexual.”

Like many same-sex attracted men, I have at times compulsively engaged in risky anonymous behavior with other men. If I had been a priest, my sin would have been compounded by committing a horrible abuse against someone for whom I should have been a spiritual father. Fr. Lloyd’s insight is invaluable here: “The compulsion dimension attendant upon the SSA [same-sex attracted] personality cannot be ignored. Too long has the Church turned away as if nothing were happening. We can no longer blink at the obvious … Whenever there is a doubt about any candidate for the priesthood, the doubt must be resolved in favor of the Church!” If the Church wants to avoid sex scandals, it must stop ordaining the sorts of men who have the hardest time remaining chaste.

The second problem is directly connected with the first. If a priest isn’t abiding by the Church’s teaching in his own life, he won’t teach his parishioners to follow a teaching he doesn’t believe applies to him. Thus, a grave problem with homosexual priests is the high number of them who don’t agree with the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and covertly (or overtly) undermine this teaching, both in the pulpit and in the confessional.

A story from my own journey in chastity is instructive. Soon after reentering the Church in 2009, I sinned by having an anonymous sexual encounter with a man. Filled with remorse, I went to confession the next day, and shockingly, the priest (a stranger to me) told me that having sex with a man wasn’t sinful. Instead, he urged me to go find a boyfriend, saying, “the Church will change.” Later, when I discussed this priest with those who knew him, I was told it was widely acknowledged that this priest was homosexual himself. In his 1991 book Gay Priests, Dr. James Wolf interviewed 101 priests. All of them said they disagreed with Church teaching on sexual morality; only 9 percent of them said they would tell a layman like me to refrain from having sex with a man. Those men should never have been ordained.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Song of Songs

The Song of Songs has always been controversial in some circles. To some degree it retained its canonical status through the auspices of the allegorical interpretation. The motivation for the allegorical interpretation is the dubious that it would be unfitting for Scripture to celebrate erotic love in such sustained and uninhibited terms.

Some people would probably prefer that it never made its way into the canon. Yet if Scripture didn't include a book like that, we'd have a dualistic piety in which, on one side, we have a rather monastic biblical piety and on the other side, a sensual imagination and carnal lifestyle outside of Scripture. Given the centrality of erotic love in human experience, the Bible would be very defective if it failed to acknowledge that, and not just in abstract terms, but unashamedly concrete terms. Finally, despite the provocative imagery, it's very artistic depiction of sexual passion.

Finally, at a time when heteronormativity is under relentless attack from the queer lobby, the trans lobby, and their straight enablers in the liberal establishment, as well as the cautionary tale of mandatory celibacy in the Catholic priesthood, the Song of Songs has never been more opportune as an inspired testament to the heterosexual paradigm of erotic love between man and woman.

The Song of Songs needs to be supplemented by other Biblical stressing marriage as the proper outlet for sexual longings. Yet it makes an essential contribution to the overall package. 

Defining and classifying miracles

Free PDF:

The Mormon multiverse

This is related to a recent post I did, but I'd like to narrow the focus. It's my impression that some Mormon apologists invoke the multiverse to sidestep monotheistic passages in the Bible. The argument is that passages about idolatry pertain to the god of our universe. Yahweh is the god in charge of our universe. As members of this universe, we must confine our worship to Yahweh. But other gods have jurisdiction over other worlds in the multiverse. The monotheistic passages don't apply outside our universe. 

i) To my knowledge, the scientific evidence for a multiverse relies on one particular interpretation of quantum mechanics. Because quantum mechanics conflicts with the theory of relativity, there's the question of whether quantum mechanics is a final theory. And even if quantum mechanics is a final theory, there are competing interpretations. 

The multiverse might be true or it might be false. So it's a precarious foundation on which to build theology.

ii) I'm sympathetic to a version of the multiverse, but the same God who made the multiverse. One Creator of the multiverse. 

iii) In classical theism, God preexists the world he made. In Mormon theism, the world preexists the gods. The gods are contingent rather than necessary beings. The gods are products of a preexistent reality. A Mormon multiverse fails to explain the origins of the multiverse. It simply pushes the cosmological argument back a step.

iv) Is the idea that each god only exists in one universe? No god exists in more than one universe?

But according to the logic of the multiverse scenario, each parallel universe corresponds to changing one variable, with whatever adjustments that requires, while leaving other things intact. In one timeline I'm raised by my parents. In an alternate timeline I'm an orphan. In another timeline I'm raised by my dad. In another timeline I'm raised by my mom. In one universe I have a brother, in another universe I'm an only-child. In one universe my hometown is New Orleans, in another universe my hometown is Albuquerque. 

However, it wouldn't be a different god for each parallel universe. Changing the god is one variable, with a parallel universe (or more) corresponding to that altered variable. But many altered variables don't entail changing the god in charge. So the same god would exist in more than one universe. Even if we play along with the thought-experiment, Yahweh will have jurisdiction over a vast number of parallel worlds. 

Just run through OT history and mentally change a variable. Suppose Yahweh calls Abraham's brother out of Ur rather than Abraham. Suppose Isaac runs away rather than submitting to sacrifice? That creates alternate timelines, but Yahweh is the same deity in those alternate world histories. 

Is a foundation unrepeatable?

[God's household is] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (Eph 2:20). 

1. This may be the central prooftext for cessationism. Here's how a leading cessationist put it:

Ephesians 2:20, then, indicates that the apostles had a temporary, noncontinuing role in the life of the church. Their place was in the important foundation-laying phase of the church's history. Their function was to provide revelatory, infallibly authoritative, canonical witness to the consummation of salvation history in Christ's finished work. That function was fulfilled. It does not belong to the superstructure-building period to follow. It instead provides the completed foundation on which Christ continues to build the superstructure of the church...Ephesians 2:20 itself states one such implication—an important one. It affirms that the prophets, along with the apostles, have a foundational role...Ephesians 2:20 clearly implies that prophecy was a temporary gift, given for the foundation-laying period of the church. Therefore, along with the apostles, the New Testament prophets are no longer a present part of the church's life.

Here's one way to summarize the argument:

i) The canon is complete

ii) The canon is complete because there are no more prophets or apostles

iii) There are no more prophets and apostles because a foundation is laid once for all time. 

Here's another way:

i) Scripture is unrepeatable

ii) Scripture is unrepeatable because prophets and apostles are unrepeatable

iii) Prophets and apostles are unrepeatable because a foundation is unrepeatable

2. In my view, the argument is invalid. A fallacious argument is different from a false argument. A fallacious argument can have elements of truth, but the elements of the argument don't follow from each other by logical implication. For instance, I agree that the canon is complete. And I agree that there are no more apostles.

3. In fairness, I think there's a problem with how both sides (cessationists, charismatics) frame the issue. Revelation is separable from prophecy in the sense that, in principle, you don't have to be a prophet or have the gift of prophecy for God to reveal something to you. God could just speak to a Christian or send him a revelatory dream. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

4. Although apostles and scripture intersect, they don't coincide. On the one hand, not all apostles wrote scripture. On the other hand, not all NT authors were apostles. So the argument comes apart at that point. 

5. There's some circularity to the argument because they're using foundation, apostles, prophets, and scripture as mutually defining. Scripture is unrepeatable because prophets and apostles are unrepeatable. Prophets and apostles are unrepeatable because they belong to the unrepeatable foundation. The foundational phase is defined by prophets and apostles. Prophets and apostles are foundational in principle. 

But to say scripture and/or prophets and apostles belong to the foundation doesn't imply that the foundation is inseparable from prophets and apostles. For instance, Chinese immigrants had a foundational role in the transcontinental railroad. But that doesn't mean you can't lay new railroad tracks unless you employ Chinese immigrants.

6. Is a foundation unrepeatable? There are cultures that used to be more Christian, but they've become increasingly secularized. The foundation which missionaries laid in that country has eroded. There are situations where you have to lay a new foundation for a new generation, because the old foundation is gone. So there are times where, in the very same place, it's necessary to re-lay the foundation–not because the original foundation was defective, but because cultural gains aren't static. What one generation believed or took for granted may be lost to a newer generation.

It may be objected that to lay the foundation again implies the continuation of apostleship and/or scripture. But that objection suffers from equivocation (4-5).

7. Foundations are geographically variable as well as chronologically variable. Just because a foundation was laid in once place doesn't entail that it can't be laid in another place. When missionaries move into virgin territory, they lay a Christian foundation for the first time in that area. The fact that a Christian foundation was laid in parts of the 1C Roman Empire doesn't mean it was laid in India, China, Japan, the Americans, &c. 

It may be objected that to lay a new foundation again implies the continuation of apostleship and/or scripture. But that objection suffers from equivocation (4-5).

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Football blues

Some boys live for football. Intramural football is the highpoint of their life. They know it's not risk-free, but they only get once chance to be teenagers, so they make the most of it. 

It's a big letdown after they graduate from high school. The rest of their life is an anticlimax. They continue to watch football, but that's not the same thing has playing football. They look back on that time of life with bittersweet nostalgia, yearning to recapture their long-lost youth.

Of course there are more important things in life than football. But here's my point: Those who die in Christian will be 17 again. Maybe not literally 17, but those who die in Christ will be rejuvenated. Youthful and ageless. 

You're not condemned to look back vainly and longingly at all you lost, for you can look ahead to restoration. In a sense you come full circle, but better than ever. Christians have so much to look forward to. 

Black Mass

L'Osservatore Romano

In 2023, the Devil Incarnate became a priest. Then, using his unique powers of persuasion, he rose through the ranks at a meteoric rate until he was elected pope. Day and night he sacrificed babies on the high altar at St. Peter's basilica. He poured their blood into a chalice. Through the miracle of transubstantiation, their blood became the True Blood of Jesus. It still tasted like human blood. When subjected to chemical analysis, it was indistinguishable from human blood. It had the "accidental" properties of human blood, but the substance was the True Blood of Jesus.

Pope Lucifer extorted the faithful into devoting their babies to be exsanguinated because he had a monopoly the Sacrament. The only way to receive the Host was from his consecrated hands. The faithful had no where else to go. To turn one's back on the infernal papacy was tantamount to Judas betraying Jesus.  

Okay, that's fictional, but compare it to real tweets by pious Catholics:

Daily Catholic Blurb
Please remember that you didn’t come into the Catholic Church because of the men running it, you came because Jesus is her spouse and here alone can you receive Our Lord in the Eucharist.

JM Kraemer/The Lego Church Project 
We need more people to come to Mass so we can show our support for the #GoodPriests.

chat alvarado
I can't get this tweet out of my head -- 1st We are Catholics (cradle & otherwise) not because of men but because the Catholic Church is HIS CHURCH. If we abandon HIS Church because of men's failings, then it is like the apostles abandoning Jesus because of Judas.

David Dunn
The miracle of renewal in my heart, the trembling going to Adoration for the first time, the relief of confession, the reality of the presence of Christ Eucharist is why I am Catholic. If the devil is using priests to do evil, it is because he hates the one true apostolic church.

Leticia Velasquez
Beautifully stated! Reminds me of St Francis who kissed the hands of a sexually active priest, because those hands brought Jesus to him.

John Barry
Remember that the Church is not about priests, bishops, Cardinals or even popes but about Christ.  And what a miracle it is that even through the hands of lowly sinners can he give us His true presence in the Eucharist! #MaximilianKolbe #prayforus

If the whole world fell away, I would remain Catholic. Not because I am strong or better than anyone else, but because I searched many years for the truth, I found Him, or He found me, & I’m not letting go. To Whom would I go? Christ is right here in His Church, no matter what.

John 6:68 "And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."

Troy Wynne
I was about to type in the same quote! Because it's true.

Nicholas C. Chancey
“Lord, whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68

Where would I go?

Thomas Fuller
...(the Church)has the words of eternal life.

Fyodor Garibaldi
Even a million pedophile priests aren't worth having a mortal sin on your soul. You should go to Mass tonight and Confession as soon as possible.

Terry Lawson
Would you have left Jesus when Judas proved to be less than he was called to be? Mother Church is still Christ’s Bride. Priests will always need our prayers. We are all fallen creatures. Come home.

Vincent StClair
If you don't believe Jesus and his sacrament is greater than the people performing them then you don't think too highly of the Lord. The truly sacred cannot be tainted.

Laura Meineke
Makes me wonder....he has consecrated hands and can turn bread into body of Christ.

Keener/Horton dialogue on cessationism

Fiery angel

On this occasion [Exod 3:2-3] however, the "angel/messenger" does not appear in human form, but as a flame of fire...The "Angel of YHWH" appears in the form of "self-sustaining fire"...The use of fire to represent the presence of God in accounts of theophanies may be due to its nonmaterial, formless, mysterious and luminous characteristics. Later in Exodus the "Angel of God" is identified with the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites during the day. T. D. Alexander, Exodus (IVP 2017), 82-83. 

Which confirms my own view that the traditional interpretation is mistaken. It wasn't a burning bush. Seen from a distance, it looked like a burning bush. But that was an optical illusion, caused by the luminous angel standing behind it or inside it. The bush was never on fire. Still a supernatural event, though. 

Did the angel take the form of fire, or did the angel have a humanoid but incandescent appearance? 

The angel seems to be metamorphic. It can take the form of a dust devil or fire devil–as well as humanoid form. And this isn't just an angelophany but a theophany. 

And this may presage the Transfiguration. Which would also explain the presence of Moses and Elijah, since both men were associated with supernatural fire. 

Papyrus ark

Papyrus was suitable for weaving into basket-like containers, and because its stems were highly buoyant it was also used to make small boats. It was an ideal material for the manufacture of a waterproof chest that would float safely among the reeds bordering the riverbank T. D. Alexander, Exodus (IVP 2017), 62.

So the account (Exod 2:1-10) has a natural setting. On the face of it, that's evidence for the historicity of the account. If this was a fictional story by a first millennium BC Jewish narrator in Israel, would we expect him to have that Egyptian botanical lore at his fingertips? Or is this realistic detail to more likely from a native of the Nile Delta?

Cosmic programmers

Recently I was asked how I'd respond to this question:

Your recent discussion with the pagan brought back a question I had thought of a year or so back when Elon Musk was making all those headlines for saying he thinks reality is a computer simulation.

What would you say to an atheist who tries to reverse the transcendental argument by saying that perhaps reality is the product of something we would understand as a simulation, that way it is true that everything in our universe does indeed receive its value and commands from a “creator” or “creators” outside it programming everything. We’d never have any way of knowing these creators apart from their revelation to us.

Further, suppose that many of the arguments theists use in this universe (the moral argument, the argument from the universe being finite chronologically) are true in this universe as the creator(s) of this universe did indeed make it, but they don’t necessarily inhere within the creator(s) universe. Perhaps there is a way in their universe for it to be eternal, or for them to have objective values inherent in themselves.

Further, what if this theory is said to do more to account for our reality. What if all the gods and goddesses in this history of the world were actually where their cultures say they were doing what they were said to have been doing. Perhaps they programmed Baal to be the ancient god of the Canaanites and Buddha to live amongst the ancient Indians. Wouldn’t this account for why so many different cultures are so adamant that their gods exist?

Finally, how could we know that the Christian God isn’t part of the simulation too? Perhaps they programmed it so that the Christian God did all the things we believe he did in the Scriptures, create this universe, foreknow, predetermine, call, justify, glorify, etc. Perhaps with regard to this universe the Christian God is indeed God, but there is actually, behind wherever he exists, other creator(s)/programmers.

Sounds like a really hyper-Marcionism, I know, but I’m thinking of modern video games like God or War where there are indeed multiple culture’s deities existing side by side, or a novel like Gaiman’s American Gods where gods throughout all history exist together.

Is this one of those times where we’d just have to have faith in God’s pronouncement that He alone is God? Even if he might not have any way of knowing there is anything beyond/above Him?

Lots of moving parts. 

1. Consider the nature of transcendental arguments:

Because of their anti-skeptical ambitions, transcendental arguments must begin from a starting point that the skeptic can be expected to accept, the necessary condition of which is then said to be something that the skeptic doubts or denies. This will then mean that such arguments are ineffective against very radical forms of skepticism, which doubt the laws of logic, and/or which refuse to accept any starting point as uncontentious; and it will also mean that they may be effective against a skeptic who is prepared to accept some starting point, but then ineffective against another skeptic who is not. But neither of these features of transcendental arguments need be felt to be disabling: for the skepticism of the radical skeptics is perhaps of dubious coherence, or at least of little interest because they seem so unwilling to engage with us, while the second limitation may mean merely that different transcendental arguments are required for different skeptical audiences.

Because of the need to find an uncontentious starting point, transcendental arguments will also then characteristically be first personal, by beginning from how I or we experience, think, judge, and so on. Thus, while it is perhaps reasonable to hold that there are necessary conditions for the possibility of ‘extra-personal’ entities such as material objects, substances, the universe, time and so on, a transcendental argument which is directed against skepticism is unlikely to be concerned with exploring such conditions, as the skeptic is unlikely to admit the existence of the things to which the conditions belong.

From this it follows that an atheist can't produce a transcendental argument along the lines you hypothesize because the thought-experiment is skeptical rather than anti-skeptical. You can't produce a transcendental argument to justify skepticism since the whole point of transcendental arguments is to defend realism and common sense rather than antirealism. 

2. It would be self-defeating for an atheist to raise this objection since, if taken seriously, the thought-experiment is equally incompatible with atheism and monotheism alike. Why should this be a problem for Christians but not for atheists? If polytheism is true, that falsifies atheism as well as monotheism. 

3. Or is this a variation on ufo religions, where human encounters with ancient extraterrestrial astronauts kickstart religion? But that only pushes the question back a step: how do the cosmic programmers originate?

4. Is the idea that Yahweh is the god of our universe, but not the god of the multiverse? Each god only exists in one universe? No god exists in more than one universe?

But according to the logic of the multiverse scenario, each parallel universe corresponds to changing one variable, with whatever adjustments that requires, while leaving other things intact. In one timeline I'm raised by my parents. In an alternate timeline I'm an orphan. In another timeline I'm raised by my dad. In another timeline I'm raised by my mom. In one universe I have a brother, in another universe I'm an only-child. In one universe my hometown is New Orleans, in another universe my hometown is Albuquerque. 

However, it wouldn't be a different god for each parallel universe. Changing the god is one variable, with a parallel universe (or more) corresponding to that altered variable. But many altered variables don't entail changing the god in charge. So the same god would exist in more than one universe. Even if we play along with the thought-experiment, Yahweh will have jurisdiction over a vast number of parallel worlds. 

Just run through OT history and mentally change a variable. Suppose Yahweh calls Abraham's brother out of Ur rather than Abraham. Suppose Isaac runs away rather than submitting to sacrifice? That creates alternate timelines, but Yahweh is the same deity in those alternate world histories. 

5. If the gods are necessary beings, then they must exist in every possible world or parallel world. So does it mean that each god has jurisdiction over one universe? How does that work? Are they assigned jurisdiction by one supreme god who's above the others? But then, he's in charge of the whole multiverse. Or do they simply agree to divvy up the multiverse? If so, what prevents a theomachy? A civil war in the multiverse between competing gods? 

6. Are the gods supposed to be virtual characters in a cosmic simulation–having no reality outside the simulation–or do they represent projections of the cosmic programmers, where there's a real agent behind the avatar? Do they only exist in the world of the story, like a video game, or do they stand for the cosmic programmers?  

7. Polytheism is a part of terrestrial world history, not a part of multiverse history. So it's not like Yahweh is the god of this universe while Zeus is god in a parallel universe and Baal is god in yet another parallel universe. Rather, these are territorial gods in the same universe. Patron gods of city-states or nations.

8. Are different cultures so adamant that their gods exist? Some ancient writers are quite skeptical about folk polytheism. In addition, there's lots of syncretism where the gods of one pantheon are amalgamated into the gods of another pantheon. To that extent they're not viewed as separate individuals, but more like stock fictional characters. 

Likewise, you had people who switch gods (e.g. a wife who adopts the religion of her husband). 

9. Some theistic proofs can be extended to a multiverse, viz. teleological, cosmological, argument from reason, argument from consciousness, argument from abstract objects, moral argument, principle of sufficient reason.

10. Suppose I can't disprove a skeptical thought-experiment? So what? If I can't disprove that you're a philosophical zombie, or a virtual character in the cosmic simulation, is it permissible for me to vivisect you? It's not murder if you're not a real person. But we don't take hypothetical scenarios that seriously–for good reason. 

11. Skeptical thought-experiments are like ethical dilemmas. If you're really caught in that situation, then you just do whatever you can do without compunction since you have no alternative. It's like On the Beach, where the doomed survivors decide how to spend their remaining months of life. 

“Pope Francis”: “We are full of homosexuals”

Here are multiple sources, isolating a key problem in the Roman Catholic Church:

Ruth Institute on Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

Is the current Catholic sex abuse scandal related to homosexuality?

Yes. The current scandal includes mostly revelations about male on male sexual abuse of seminarians, where the victims are adults. These kinds of cases were not even considered in the responses to the 2002 scandal, which was about the criminal abuse of minors.

Was the 2002 scandal also related to homosexuality?

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned two reports, one in 2004 and in 2011, by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to study the reported cases of clerical sex abuse from 1950 through 2002 and 2010 respectively. Both reports found that over 80% of the victims were neither girls, nor pre-pubescent children (true pedophilia), but pre-teen and teenage boys. These results clearly indicate that the problem was male on male predation by priests against under-aged boys.

Is there a “homosexual subculture” which exists within certain Catholic institutions?

Yes. In a 2002 survey of a national sample of 1,852 Catholic priests by the Los Angeles Times, 44% responded "yes" when asked if there was a "homosexual subculture in your diocese or religious institute". To the question, “In the seminary you attended, was there a homosexual subculture at the time?” 53% of recently-ordained priests responded “Yes” (reported in Hoge and Wenger, Evolving Visions of the Priesthood, p. 102. Their own concurrent survey yielded 55% “Yes” to the identical question.)

About the Ruth Institute:

The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization creating a mass social movement to end family breakdown, by energizing the Survivors of the Sexual Revolution. We especially focus on the impact of family breakdown on children: understanding it, healing it, ending it.

“Pope Francis” to the Bishops in Chile (all of whom tendered resignations) and assembled Bishops in Rome:

In the ten pages that Francis conveyed to the Chilean bishops in mid-May as an outline for “discernment,” he scolded those bishops and superiors who entrust “to priests suspected of active homosexuality” seminaries and novitiates, with their associated recruitment. He addressed a similar rebuke a few days later - behind closed doors - to the Italian bishops meeting in Rome for their plenary assembly. “We are full of homosexuals,” he lamented.

Reverend John William Wellinger

My wife and I were married in a civil ceremony on June 1, 1987. But being good Catholics at the time, we wanted to “get married in the Church”.

So after a couple of years living in Memphis, with our small son Jeremy, Beth and I traveled back to Pittsburgh, and we re-joined my home parish, and sought to have our wedding vows in a church ceremony. We thought it would be fitting to have a unified anniversary on June 1.

The Reverend John William Wellinger was the pastor of the church at the time. We attended several private sessions with Fr Wellinger at the rectory. We thought this was very good of him, to invite us there. (In my time at the church prior, the long-term pastor there rarely let anyone into the rectory).

In any event, Fr. Wellinger showed a great deal of playful interest with our three year old son, even pretending to be a puppy dog, and licking his face.

Fr. Wellinger had a ceremony for Beth and me, and for members of our immediate family, on June 1, 1991.

Apparently, later that month, Fr Wellinger resigned for “reasons of health”, although he served in several other parishes over the next several years.

Here is Fr Wellinger’s summary paragraph from the PA Attorney General’s Grand Jury Investigation Report:

On or about February 19, 1986, Father John Wellinger was sent to the St. Luke's Institute for a number of issues, including drug and alcohol abuse. Diocesan records received pursuant to a Grand Jury subpoena revealed that on the evening of October 8, 1987, Wellinger provided alcohol and drugs to an 18-year-old parishioner of the Holy Spirit church. The parishioner had a "bad reaction" to the drugs and had to be taken to Shadyside Hospital for treatment. Within days, Wellinger was confronted by the victim's parents. Efforts were made by the church to promote a reconciliation between Wellinger, the victim and the victim's parents.

On July 12, 1988, a letter was sent to Bishop Wuerl from "Concerned Parishioners" of Holy Spirit. This letter outlined concerns about drug use and excessive drinking to the point of intoxication by Wellinger. The parishioners also expressed concern about Wellinger exposing the young people of the church to illegal drugs.

On June 22, 1989, Father Theodore Rutkowski of the Office of Clergy and Pastoral Life received a letter from a parishioner at Holy Spirit. Bishop Wuerl was carbon copied in the correspondence. In this letter, the parishioner listed a number of problems that the parish was having with Wellinger. In part, the letter read "Just to refresh your memory and bring you up to date on John's ministry here at Holy Spirit here are some of the significant problems . . ." The list included: "Giving drugs and alcohol to teens;" "Teens in the parish have been warned by their parents about drugs from Father;" and "Young men staying at the parish house."

On June 3, 1991, Wellinger was drinking alcoholic beverages with a 24-year-old man in the rectory. Wellinger unbuttoned the man's pants and began to perform oral sex on him without consent. A few days later, the victim reported the incident to the Diocese. Wellinger was subsequently questioned by Diocesan officials, at which time he admitted to the unsolicited sexual activity with the victim. Wellinger was then sent to St. Michael's Community in St. Louis, Missouri for an evaluation. Wellinger' s absence from the parish was explained as a request for resignation for "reasons of health."

On January 2, 1992, a meeting took place between Wuerl and Wellinger. The Bishop agreed that Wellinger could return to priestly ministry and was appointed as Parochial Vicar (Pro Tem) at St. George in Allentown [PA, in another diocese across the state]. On July 30, 1994, Wellinger was stopped by officers of the Borough of Crafton Police Department for driving under the influence of alcohol. Father David Zubik [the current Bishop of Pittsburgh], Director of Clergy Personnel, subsequently notified Wellinger that he had been placed on a leave of absence until he returned from an evaluation at St. Luke's Institute. Wellinger was at St. Luke's from September 29, 1994 to March 27, 1995. Because he did not complete the required treatment, his leaving was unauthorized by the Diocese. On May 18, 1995, Wuerl granted Wellinger a leave of absence from June 1, 1995 to December 1, 1995 for "personal reasons."

On September 22, 1995, Diocesan officials met with the parents of a 17 -year -old boy. The parents said that a week earlier, their son told them he had been sexually molested by Wellinger. This abuse reportedly occurred in June 1991, when he the victim was 13 years old. The victim stated he and some of his friends were watching videos with Wellinger late into the night. They all fell asleep on the floor. The victim awakened to find that Wellinger had put his hands down the victim's pants and was fondling his penis. More than two weeks later, on October 10, 1995, Diocesan officials met with Wellinger to discuss the allegations. Wellinger admitted to spending a lot of time with the victim. Wellinger denied consciously touching the victim's genitals. Wellinger explained that he did fall asleep on the floor with the victim. He said it was "pretty tight quarters" so he may have "unknowingly" touched the victim's genitals. The Diocese did not report the matter to law enforcement for years. Instead, arrrangments were made to provide counseling for the victim. The victim later notified Diocesan officials that during counseling, he was informed that the sexual abuse that occurred was his own fault.

By the year 2004, the victim's allegations against Wellinger became part of a lawsuit that accused the Diocese of conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse of minors. By March 21, 2005, the victim had disclosed Wellinger had molested him on several occasions. He stated these incidents occurred both in the rectory where Wellinger lived and at the victim's home. In 2007, Bishop Paul Bradley settled the lawsuit, which included accusations from 32 individuals against 17 priests, for $1.25 million.

On November 9, 2012, a woman contacted the Diocese to report that her brother had just died in August of that year. She indicated that about a month prior to his death, he told her he had been molested by Wellinger, while Wellinger was assigned to St. James. The woman explained that her brother was an altar boy when the abuse occurred and he was about 11 or 12 years of age at that time. She estimated the assault(s) took place in 1981 to 1982. She added that Wellinger used illegal drugs and he provided drugs to some of the children.

[Italics in the original text; I’ve added bold face for emphasis.]

One of the young men in this account later committed suicide.

A Credible “Proposition”

In October 1984, I was accepted into a program to study for the priesthood by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. As a recent college graduate, who hadn’t majored in philosophy, I would be required to complete a year-long program of philosophy, prior to entering the theological seminary. I was 24 years old at the time.

I thought I was to begin in January, but the Diocese wanted me to take the full year in residence with other students (probably simply to keep me on a September-May schedule), which would have begun in September 1985. So, since I had nearly a year to wait (and think), I went back to Memphis to spend yet another year “on the road” with my good friend, Jeff Steinberg.

While I was in Memphis, I became a (loose) part of the Roman Catholic community there. When I was not traveling with Jeff’s ministry, I attended Mass daily at the small local Catholic Church near where I lived. As well, I befriended a priest at one of the larger churches, and in fact, I took a missionary trip (as a “seminarista”) to spend some time with a missionary church in Zacatecas, Mexico.

But at the small local church I attended daily, there was another, older Roman Catholic seminarian (perhaps in his 30’s). in fact, I think he had been ordained a Deacon, and was in preparation for ordination to the Priesthood. I’ll call him “Fr. Bernie”. He had in fact graduated from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. I didn’t know it at the time, but St. Mary’s had a reputation, being known as “the Pink Palace”.

In 2002, a genuinely devout Roman Catholic writer, Michael Rose, wrote a work entitled “Goodbye, Good Men”. The book discussed a broad range of “liberal” issues within the network of Roman Catholic seminaries, including a “gay subculture”.

The book was trashed by conservative Roman Catholic writers. But one paragraph rings true to me:

“a large number of students had been convinced by some liberal teacher that sexual promiscuity with the same sex was not a violation of celibacy”(pg. 59)

This is precisely the appeal with which “Fr Bernie” approached me. I was too unsophisticated to know what this was about at the time, but in retrospect, this did seem to me as if he had been trying to proposition me. I tended to avoid him after this.

Interestingly, “Fr Bernie” is still a priest in Memphis. I recently saw videos of several of his recorded Masses on YouTube.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Catholic catch-22

Even though we live in the information age, where there's so much scrutiny, it's striking how the Catholic church was able to get away with so much for so long. Just imagine how much greater the scale of corruption and abuse in past centuries prior to the information age. Imagine what happened behind closed doors at monasteries and Catholic orphanages. And back when the Catholic church had much stronger ties with the civil authorities–the better to conceal wrongdoing. 

Odds are that some victims of abuse committed suicide. Their ordeal was inescapable. No one believed them. They were punished if they told outsiders what was happening. It seems statistically inevitable that victims killed themselves to avoid further torment–or from unbearable depression, shame, false guilt. 

And here's the clincher. They were denied Catholic burial because their mortal remains desecrated the hallowed ground of a Catholic graveyard. 

So the very people who made their lives unendurable, who pushed them over the edge, to commit suicide, were the same people who denied them burial in "consecrated" ground because they died in a state of mortal sin. Can you imagine a more diabolical dilemma? Reminds me of some definitions of catch-22:

a situation in which there are only two possibilities, and you cannot do either because each depends on having done the other first.

an impossible situation where you are prevented from doing one thing until you have done another thing that you cannot do until you have done the first thing.

a difficult situation in which the solution to a problem is impossible because it is also the cause of the problem.

Catholic consiglieri

Ed Condon
A few people have asked me if I am not concerned about damage to the Church, and to her moral authority. I am not. The Church itself, and her authority, rests on God and his plan of salvation. The gates of hell will not prevail against it.

This is what happens when people are locked into the Catholic paradigm. It's inconceivable to them that there's any alternative to Rome. They have no Christian fallback. So they can't avoid becoming enablers. No matter how Satanic it gets, they will always support the institution that does it.

Atheists like to ask Christians what evidence it would take for them to give up on Christianity. Christians return the favor by asking atheists what evidence it would take for them to give up on atheism. I've discussed both questions.

By the same token, we should ask Catholic loyalists what evidence it would take for them to give up on Catholicism. Is there any tipping point?

They have lots of escape clauses. When Rome changes position, they may say that's a doctrinal development, or they may say that means the past teaching was fallible and reformable, or they may say that means the past teaching as infallible and irreformable while the change is fallible and reformable. So it's always heads I win, tails you lose.

Some Catholic loyalists seem to regard this as a test of faith. No matter how diabolical it gets, they stand by Rome. That's the acid test of fidelity. Faithful to the bitter end. Like a suicide cult.

That's why the outrage is ultimately so phony. Because nothing alters their unconditional commitment to Rome. 

And it isn't just wicked prelates. Consider all the Catholic consiglieri who've aided the hierarchy in the coverup. 

Meanwhile, the contributors at Called to Communion take refuge in the safety of their snowglobe, where it's always Christmas, with carols and tinsel and twinkling stars. The natural disasters of Roman Catholicism never intrude into the enchanted wonderland of the Catholic snowglobe. They never leave the Catholic snowglobe.