Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rabbity Catholics

Papal lackey Dave Armstrong has been defending the pope's statement about Catholic who breed like rabbits. What's striking is the pushback from normally loyal Catholics. The pope's remark hit a sore nerve among the faithful:

wfee said...
I appear to be one of those "irresponsible parents". My wife has had 7 c-sections.
I agree with your facebook visitor.

Multiple C-sections are grave matters and should be considered carefully -- but in many cases the "danger" statistics are overhyped.

Examine your wikipedia statistics:
13 per 100k c-sections result in death -- That means that 99,987 did not die. Yes it is mathematically 3x worse chances, but it still a small chance.

On our firstborn, my wife experienced a partial accreta. Thank God we had a very expert OB/GYN who was able to effectively dig it out. We were warned every time that the odds were increasingly worse to have this occur with each subsequent pregnancy -- the likely fix would be a hysterectomy. 6 additional c-sections later... no accretas.

Your Wikipedia statistics say we were up to a "6.74% [chance of accreta] after six or more. " That's still 93% chance of no problems.
The chance of a car accident on the way to the hospital is probably higher. (Maybe not higher than the chance of a deadly accident, but you'd have a pregnant lady in the car...)

Our OB/GYN would portray these statistics in such a manner that would scare my wife all the time -- If I followed the verbal math she gave us, by the 3rd c-section we had a 175% chance of accreta and certain death. Of course we were offered sterilization options with every c-section.

If I told you that I had a financial investment that promised a slow growing return of 20 years that would cause you to lose all of your investment only 3% of the time would that scare you away? What about 7% of the time? If you still invest it at at 7% risk are you financially irresponsible? Of course not, there is still a 93% chance of good return. Those are significantly good odds of everything going well.

I disagree with the appeal to medical knowledge & statistics here. The culture I witnessed going though this scenario for real was that the medical facility wanted to sterilize us so that we couldn't have children after the very first c-section.

I disagree with having multiple c-sections being characterized as a "mistaken perspective". Your facebook friend is correct -- the pregnant woman & her husband's reasoning is very much required to determine "irresponsibility".
JT WIlson said...
If I'm following this reasoning, there is a significant risk of mortality with the woman's c-section, making in it wrong for her to bear another child. What happens when that logic is applied to prior centuries?

In the 1850s, a British woman's chance of death in childbirth (forget limiting to c-section) was 5/1000. Should any woman in prior centuries have risked more than one child? Certainly there was a great risk of orphaning the first. Looks like a population problem to me.

David L Alexander Uh, if that is indeed what he [Pope Francis] did, and given what little he could possibly know of the circumstances … probably not.

Jesus Perez Dave. Interesting article. Is your contention that the simple fact of having 8 C-sections [is] irresponsible parenthood or that plus a number of other factors? I have difficulty with this.

Michael Liccione Even granted that the Pope's view of that particular woman’s choices is correct, I think it was an error to cite a particular individual. Doing that only caused some women with many children to sympathize with her and resent the Pope's remark.

Jesus Perez This is a tough one Dave. My wife has had three c-sections and we were told not to have more children after our second child. I don't think we're being irresponsible. We want to have more, and we know many faithful couples who've had multiple c-sections.

David L Alexander Dave: "It's not about having eight children, but about having eight c-sections. The two scenarios are vastly different from each other. But …" … but those are medical judgments, not strictly moral ones, and the Holy Father risks being outside his area of competence, much less his authority. Thus it is no surprise if "that only caused some women with many children to sympathize with her and resent the Pope's remark."

David Palm Scott and Kimberly Hahn have six children and I think all of them were born via c-section.

David Palm Were the Hahns irresponsible to have six children via c-section?

David L Alexander Dave: My son from a prior union was born via c-section, and his mother had three miscarriages (one before, at least two after that we know of), and any subsequent births would most likely be c-section, as she was of small stature. We were in consultation with more doctors than I could shake a stick at. 

I question that such public displays are an appropriate venue for such rebukes, whether it's the Pope, or the pastor who lives down the lane. That it was indelicate and ill-mannered is my argument. I don't need to copy and paste from medical journals, and I don't need schooling from you on the risks involved. I had a ringside seat, and saw lives and a marriage ruined. Including mine.

Brendan Malone Dave, I love your work, but I've got to disagree with you on this one - as others have already said here, the issue is whether or not it was appropriate to actually publicly utilise that woman, and that specific scenario as an example of parental irresponsibility.

Surely her human dignity demands more than to be treated as an object lesson in irresponsibility for all the world's media?

Brendan Malone One other thing - I know of two very responsible and faithful local Catholic families who have been really hurt by the fact that Pope Francis used their specific family situation as an example of parental irresponsibility in front of the world's media.

Earlier today the wife of one of those families posed an important question on Facebook: 

"Everyone talks like NFP works all the time. It doesn't. I'm thankful for that cos I wouldn't have had all my kids if it did! But what if the woman highlighted by the pope HAD used it and was still in the same situation? Irresponsible then too?"

Paul Croarkin "There are many thousands of pro-life doctors". BS. Try finding one who won't prescribe contraception.

Paul Croarkin So, what was our option? Abort? V-bac was out of the question.

Rachel LaPointe I have to disagree with your comment a few up about whether nfp working or not has to do with this. In a way, it has everything to do with it. If NFP is unreliable, then responsible parenthood becomes extremely difficult for those who need to not have more kids. Say a young couple has six kids, by way of csection, can't risk another, but she's only 35. Do they have to abstain completely for the next 15-20 years, due to unreliable NFP? If you can't rely on NFP then you are risking a whole host of other issues.

Rachel LaPointe Paul, I know several people who have tried every modern method, and all have failed to correctly identify the fertile window. For most women, one method will work at least, whether creighton, Marquette, sympto thermal or billings (or any of the others). But I know at least one person, who right now is considering leaving the church because no method works and she can't justify using contraceptives or being sterilized and remaining in the church.

Rachel LaPointe And diocese support is crap in so many places. Excuse my language, but I've known too many people to get zero support. Some areas may be good, but many are not.

Rachel LaPointe Dave you can have unreliable signs. Constant mucus screws up lots of methods. Unreliable temps is easy to obtain for any mom if there's a sick kid or any other disturbance. And methods that rely on hormones can miss peak leaving you in unending highs and never ending abstinence if you struggle with cycles of varying lengths. 

This isn't the norm that I'm talking about. But never-ending abstinence when constantly hoping you might get one or two days every month or two is destroying marriages and faiths. The church teaches us that sex is important for marriage right? Celibate marriage is NOT the norm.

Rachel LaPointe Her husband is involved. It's a big burden for both of them.

Mary Ellen Wilhelm DeLong The pope chose a poor example to to make his point.. He should have chosen a woman with cancer who ABSTAINS as an example of responsible parenthood or an impoverished family with no means to sustain themselves or a mother with a serious heart condition etc. The example he used was subjective and poorly chosen.

Rachel LaPointe What if the woman in the example was perfectly following an NFP method, and had a method failure?

Rachel LaPointe I'm going to point out some hurdles to the advice given (all of which she's heard before, and I won't be pointing out again). 1. Money. NFP doctors aren't cheap, and insurance coverage can vary. 2. Every method has a method failure rate. It is possible that a woman could have such varying signs, without major underlying health issues, where she would fall into the category of none of the current methods working. 3. At some point, after numerous methods have failed to be accurate, there is a distinct lack of trust. Part of this stems from what I consider to be a normal response to nothing working. Another large part stems from a general vibe in the NFP community that something will just work or you aren't doing it right, or you aren't holy enough, or whatever. I doubt that those vibes are intentional, but the people who have issues ARE shot down and told they are imagining or it's otherwise their fault. That's "gaslighting" and is an abuse tactic. I'm part of a fairly large group of friends who have experienced these things, it's not an isolated experience of just a small handful of people.

I'm also only saying all this in an effort to bring our stories to light. We're all in the minority of people who do practice NFP. We don't want church teaching to change, because we see the wisdom in it. We love JP2 and the theology of the body. But that doesn't discount the trials, and I think when we are just told "suck it up" it's not enough, because that could mean life or death, or a baby coming that we can't afford or any number of very serious things. Not everyone is able to be like St Gianna. 

For this group, we were excited with the pope's remarks.. to us it was a pat on the back of "You are doing the right things by being prudent and avoiding pregnancy". It wasn't a "Well, if you get pregnant in life or death circumstances, you'll be happy anyway because NFP makes you open to life" (a common common thing to hear on certain very large NFP groups here on facebook). The NFP offices seem to put an emphasis on the "rainbows and butterflies", which makes anyone who experiences major struggles feel abnormal. Most of us probably don't look like the happy couples on the brochures. And combine that with experiences of people who get shot down when they ask for help, well, there's an issue. It's much larger than what I could put in a facebook comment, and it is something dear to my heart.

Benjamin Baxter Part of the problem is that this explanations adds suppositions which, while plausible, Pope Francis isn't mentioning. He's leaving a lot to guess at. It is certainly a failure of communication (as a remark made to everyone.) Pope Francis is not a good public speaker. He's a personal communicator, one-on-one. Trouble is, he's speaking publicly. 

Now, being a good communicator is not a requirement for sanctity. However, being a good communicator has been a quality of the papacy for the last thirty years. People listening to the pope and expecting that are understandably distressed. 

Bottom line: The role of someone who "gets the Pope" is not to condescend or assume hostile motives but first to recognize that someone is angry and, more likely than not, has a very understandable reason for it. 

Someone I know talked about these remarks as brilliant. They aren't. They're likely interpersonally effective in the moment but they are publicly scandalous because they are shared around the world. If someone is going to speak to "the little ones" about Pope Francis, recognizing the genuine distress is a huge first step, and recognizing it as a legitimate distress is the most important second step.

Kathy Jones When I was growing up , our family doctor (a wonderful Catholic guy) and his wife had 11 children......all by c-section. All healthy, beautiful etc. I can see the Holy Father's point....still he picks his spots to say "Who am I to judge."

John D. Lewis How many c-sections is responsible then?

John D. Lewis How many natural births is responsible then? (I ask this because I think the same logic can be obtained perhaps; for example, as teacher of NFP, my wife and I would usually flippantly say something like "The Church calls us to 'responsible parenthood' which means, most likely, God does not want us to have 0 or 1.3 children nor 25 children." But having just thrown that big 25 number out there, now I'm wondering what a truly "irresponsible" number would be? And how would one distinguish between "irresponsibility" and "providentialism" I wonder? I would think that having 0 children due to selfishness would be the worse sin than having 25 children due to irresponsibility. Am I wrong there? In conclusion, one thing I think we can all agree upon is that whether it's the 3rd or 13th c-section, when one looks at that precious new LIFE smiling at ya, you'd have to say "Oh happy fault!!!!"

Playing hooky

This is a sequel to a post I did several years ago:

As the Superbowl approaches, some pastors are decrying Christians who skip church to watch the Superbowl. A few quick observations:

i) i agree that many Americans have skewed priorities when it comes to sports. (And not just Americans. The same holds true for Europe, the UK, and Latin America.)

That said, unless you think professional sports is sinful, a prudent pastor should pick his battles. No point attacking something that's popular unless it's sinful. That's a lost cause. 

In cases like that, it's best to take advantage of the situation.

ii) At the risk of stepping on some toes, most church services are eminently forgettable. How many church services in your experience ever made an indelible impression? If you attended one less church service per year, what difference would that make? Would you remember the service if you hadn't played hooky that Sunday? 

iii) Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that watching football is more important than attending church. Mind you, that depends on the kind of church you attend. There are situations where you'd get more from reading a good Bible commentary. 

iv) Someone might object that this isn't a fair way to assess church attendance. The value of church attendance is cumulative and fairly subliminal. A form of spiritual maintenance. A regiment or discipline which helps to keep you from drifting. 

If that's the argument, I agree. But by the same token, skipping one service has negligible effect. 

v) A better question is what we do in our spare time generally. It's not enough just to complain about how many churchgoers fritter away their leisure time on trivia. They need advice on how to make better use of their free time. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

INFANT BAPTISM DEBATE: Gregg Strawbridge vs. James White in Orlando (March 23, 2015)


"Pregnant by chance"

Papal lackey Scott Eric Alt is once again attempting to save the pope's rancid bacon. 

Now, per­haps Mr. Hays has heard of a fal­lacy that goes by the name of argu­men­tum ad vere­cun­diam. It’s the obverse of an appeal to author­ity, and the gist of it is that some­one who has no creden­tials in some area lacks cred­i­bil­ity. The rea­son it is a fal­lacy is because you should judge an argu­ment based on its own mer­its, not any pre­sumed inex­per­tise in the per­son who makes the argument.

It's always nice to see a Catholic apologist openly admit that the claims of Rome are logically fallacious. At one stroke, Alt invalidates Catholicism by pointing out that appealing to the Magisterium is an illicit argument from authority. 

Actu­ally, all I really meant was that the woman was con­sciously set­ting out to get preg­nant.

So does he know that? Even if she wanted to get pregnant again, what makes him assume that she was "consciously setting out get pregnant again"? 

After all, having regular conjugal relations is good in its own right. And if in the process of having conjugal relations, pregnancy results, so much the better. That's a boon. A windfall. 

They do so by delib­er­ately hav­ing sex when the woman cal­cu­lates that she is most fer­tile. 

How does Alt happen to have such intimate knowledge of this couple's sex life? Does he have a hidden camera planted in their bedroom? 

What about sexual spontaneity in marriage? Is that a foreign concept to Alt? What about a married couple having conjugal relations whenever the mood strikes–which may or may not coincide with ovulation? 

First, he poses this ques­tion: “Do fer­tile cou­ples who engage in reg­u­lar con­ju­gal rela­tions delib­er­ately seek to achieve preg­nancy, or is that sim­ply the nat­ural out­come?”
Well, again, that misses the point.

That hardly misses the point when that is the very point which Alt is laboring to make.

 The pope was speak­ing to a woman who wanted another pregnancy. She was try­ing to get preg­nant. This wasn’t a sit­u­a­tion where the woman just became preg­nant by chance. 

"Pregnant by chance"? Isn't copulation designed to procreate?

His point to her was that she should make an effort to avoid pregnancy. If preg­nancy had hap­pened any­way, in spite of her effort to avoid it, there would have been no rebuke.

How should she avoid it? By refusing to have sex if her husband initiates a sexual overture at the "wrong" time? If you're going to abstain from sex, why get married in the first place? 

Surely it's easier to practice abstinence if you're not sleeping right next to a member of the opposite sex. Shouldn't you avoid putting yourself in that tempting situation in the first place? 

Sec­ond, Mr. Hays attempts to apply a sort of Pascal’s wager to another preg­nancy for this woman. If she got preg­nant again and the baby should die, is that child worse off than if he had never been conceived at all?
Of course, what Mr. Hays neglects to men­tion here is that Ms. Wahlund does not merely say that there is a grave risk to the baby’s life—there is a grave risk to the mother’s life too. “Her uterus,” she says, “is paper-thin.” Now, think about that. There is a grave risk that her liv­ing chil­dren will be left with­out a mother. So the wager that Mr. Hays pro­poses here is just non­sense, since we’re talking about both lives.

Alt continues to miss the point. How is it a risk to the baby at all given the alternative (i.e. certain nonexistence)? 

“Con­tra­cep­tion,” he con­cludes, “is far riskier to the baby than a risky preg­nancy.” I frankly don’t know what Mr. Hays means here. How is con­tra­cep­tion risky to an unborn child? If a woman has already con­ceived, pre­sum­ably she’s not going to be using con­tra­cep­tion; she can’t get simul­ta­ne­ously preg­nant. If a woman is not preg­nant, and is using NFP rather than some illicit form of contracep­tion that, say, pre­vents implan­ta­tion only, then there’s no baby in the first place. You can’t put a life at risk that does not exist. So Mr. Hays just makes me scratch my head at this point.

I see that Alt is intellectually challenged. The alternative to a high-risk pregnancy is contraception–in which case (if successful) the existence of the baby is preempted. Therefore, contraception poses a greater threat to the baby than a high-risk pregnancy. How can you save "both lives" if you prevent one from ever existing? One scenario involves total deprivation. A lost opportunity.

To recur to my illustration: take a cancer patient who has a choice between terminal cancer and life-threatening treatment. Considering the alternate to treatment, the cancer is riskier than the treatment. Absent treatment, the patient has everything to lose. With treatment, the patient has a chance to survive. 

Third, Mr. Hays shifts the ground of argu­ment and tries to make it a ques­tion of risks due to age rather than risks due to poor uter­ine health. He asks: “Since when has it been church pol­icy to tell Catholic moth­ers to stop hav­ing chil­dren above a cer­tain num­ber or above a cer­tain age?”
Well, it’s not, and that’s not the issue here. The issue here is the health of the mother, not the age of the mother or how many chil­dren she already has. There may be issues that arise, in this woman or that woman, as a result of the aging process, which also make it fair to dis­cuss whether avoid­ing preg­nancy would be wise. But the real issue is the woman’s health, not the woman’s age.

Is Alt really that clueless? It's a question of consistency. Given increasing risk factors with advancing age or additional children, if it is "irresponsible" and "tempting God" to have a risky pregnancy, then the Vatican should tell Catholic wives to stop after having X number of babies due to mounting risk factors, or to stop having babies after a certain age due to mounting risk factors. 

But when in the history of the papacy has that ever been the case? Throughout church history, women kept having babies until they either hit menopause or died in childbirth. Since when did the papacy tell them to stop due to multiplying risk factors? 

I will, how­ever, say this. The idea that NFP is some­thing that is just “easy for celi­bate clergy to say” shows that Mr. Hays is deeply igno­rant of the defenses of NFP that have been writ­ten by married Catholics. He should take a look at this one. Sim­cha Fisher is very hon­est about how dif­fi­cult NFP is.

To  his credit, when Alt is confused, he's consistently confused. I didn't say NFP was easy for couples to practice. Rather, I said it was easy to people who don't have to practice NFP to impose that on others. It's easy for Catholic clergy to say it. The Magisterium is just like the Pharisees who "tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger" (Mt 23:4).

Did Francis violate the seal of the confessional?

Papal lackeys have been working overtime to defend the pope's instantly-infamous statement about rabbity Catholics and a mother who "tempted God" by becoming pregnant for the 8th time after having 7 c-sections. 
Some papal lackeys have speculated that Francis had additional background information about this woman's situation. 
However, a larger problem which this issue raises is how he acquired this sensitive, personal information in the first place.  An obvious source of information would be the confessional. But if he's publicly divulging confidential information disclosed to him in the confessional, then that's grounds for automatic excommunication. According to the CCC,
1467 Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents' lives.72 This secret, which admits of no exceptions, is called the "sacramental seal," because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains "sealed" by the sacrament. 
2490 The secret of the sacrament of reconciliation is sacred, and cannot be violated under any pretext. "The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore, it is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason."284
According to the Code of Canon Law
Can. 1388 §1. A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; one who does so only indirectly is to be punished according to the gravity of the delict.
Perhaps, though, the pope could weasel out of this by claiming that he is above the law:
Can.  1404 The First See is judged by no one.

"Stop talking about a first-century fragment of the Gospel of Mark!" - Larry Hurtado

This statement sums up Larry Hurtado's opinion on all this hearsay. I agree with him. Here are his reasons to stop talking about it:


In the Doctrine of God, “ontology and character are bound up with each other”

In this article, Derek Rishmawy cites Turretin and makes the point about the God of Exodus (indeed, the God of the Old Testament):
I thought it might be worth presenting a chunk of Turretin’s exposition of the divine name as a prime example of the tradition. It’s instructive in itself, not because everything in it holds up, but because many haven’t taken the time to look at what this type of argumentation looks like. Also, because it makes a key point that, whatever you do with the rest of it, still needs to be heard: ontology and character are bound up with each other. There can be no simple bifurcation between being and doing.
The etymology and signification of the word is such as agrees with God alone. From Scripture, it is evident that it implies most especially three things which are seen to be connected (Is. 44:24-26):
(a) The eternity and independence of God, inasmuch as he is a necessary being, and existing of himself, independent of any other, self-existent (autoon)–“I am that I am” (Ex. 3:14). Hence he is called simply the being (ho on, as the ancient philosophers and Plato especially acknowledged). John describes him by the three distinctions of time: “which is, and which was, and which is to come” (ho on kai ho en kai ho erchomenos, Rev. 1:4). In reference to this we have that expression of the ancient heathen: “Zeus was, Zeus is, Zeus will be, O great Zeus” (Zeus hen, Zeus esti, Zeus essetai o megale Zeu, Pausanias, Description of Greece 10.12.10).
(b) It implies causality and efficiency because what is the first and most perfect in each genus is the cause of the rest (for God is by himself so that he is the cause of being to all others, Is. 44:24).
(c) It implies immutability and constancy in promises because he really performs and does what he has promised by giving to his promises being (to einai), not only self-existent (autoon), but also essentially existent (ousion) and essence-making (ousiopoios). In this sense, he says that he had not been known to the patriarch by his name Jehovah (Ex. 6:3), not as to the signifying word (for the contrary is evident from the book of Genesis), but as to the thing signified (because he had not as yet given being to his promises concerning the multiplication of seed, the bringing of people out of Egypt, their introduction to Canaan, etc.). 
He had made himself known to the patriarch by his power in the creation of the world, in its government and in the bestowal of many blessings and their wonderful defense; but he had not as yet really declared himself to be Jehovah, by fulfilling the promises given to the patriarchs. But since eternal existence, omnipotent power and immutable truth belong to God alone, the name Jehovah (which embraces these three) ought to be peculiar to him alone. –Institutes of Elenctic Theology Volume 1, Third Topic, Q. IV, Sec. V
As I said, there are a few things that are instructive about this passage. For one thing, the diversity of sources appealed to is always enlightening to note, simply because at certain times Christians, or especially Evangelicals, have been accused (and been guilty) of intellectual ghettoization. Turretin can comfortably appeal to pagan philosophical and literary tradition in order to supplement his point.
Even more important is the point we see in subsection “c”. Turretin engages in some theological exegesis by appealing to the acts of God, the character of God, in order to ensure the point about the being of God. As Vanhoozer has argued, metaphysics is unavoidable because we must give an account what God is like in order to account for who he has shown himself to be. What must the God who acts in this story be like in order to do and say the kinds of things we see in the biblical narrative? 
In the Doctrine of God, “ontology and character are bound up with each other”. However, in Rome’s doctrine of “The Church”, ontology is the heart of Rome’s claim to being “the Church that Christ Founded™, and yet the character of its popes, bishops, and foundational characters throughout history is beside the point.

Are any Roman Catholics able to say why this is so?

HT: Peter Escalante

Quoted as saying, “pedophiles are seduced by children in ‘a lot of the cases’”

This story is from 2012, and the individual named here has since passed away, but this deserves some publicity because of the the attitude that is reflected within even lower levels of the Roman Catholic hierarchical structure, and the minor celebrity role that this priest played in the lives of many Roman Catholics: 
A Catholic newspaper has removed an interview from their website in which a priest said that pedophiles are seduced by children in “a lot of the cases” and the abusers should not go to jail.
During an interview with National Catholic Register, 78-year-old Father Benedict Groeschel was asked about his experience working with priests involved in abuse.
“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case,” Groeschel explained. “Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.”
“Well, it’s not so hard to see — a kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that,” he continued.
Groeschel called the abuse “an understandable thing,” and pointed to Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who he called a “poor guy.”
“Why didn’t anyone say anything? Apparently, a number of kids knew about it and didn’t break the ice. Well, you know, until recent years, people did not register in their minds that it was a crime. It was a moral failure, scandalous; but they didn’t think of it in terms of legal things.”
Groeschel pointed out that “sexual difficulties” were rarely prosecuted 10 or 15 years ago, and now if “any responsible person in society would become involved in a single sexual act — not necessarily intercourse — they’re done.”
“And I’m inclined to think, on their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime,” he added.
By Thursday, the original interview was no longer available on National Catholic Register, but could still be accessed [note: it is no longer available] in Google’s cache.
“Father Groeschel’s suggestion that sex abusers of any profession should not get jail for a first offense — because, he claims, they don’t ‘intend’ to abuse — is simply incomprehensible,” one Catholic told columnist Matt Abbott. [note: it is no longer available] “Doesn’t he know that a good intention does not by itself make an act good? Hasn’t he read the Catechism of the Catholic Church?”
“Moreover, with all due respect to Father Groeschel, it is utterly irresponsible to suggest that a priest, who is in a position of moral authority, should be excused for permitting himself to be ‘seduced’ by a young person.”
Groeschel has a PhD in psychology from Columbia University and hosts a television talk show on the Eternal Word Television Network, which also owns National Catholic Register.
On Thursday afternoon, National Catholic Register Editorin Chief Jeanette R. De Melo added a note on the page where the interview hadoriginally been published.
Note -- we may be grateful to this publication for the honesty to state at least this much, and to leave this statement up on its website. Especially given how frequently Roman Catholicism seeks to sweep this sort of thing under the rug.
“The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel’s comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse,” De Melo wrote. “Our publication of that comment was an editorial mistake, for which we sincerely apologize.”
“Given Father Benedict’s stellar history over many years, we released his interview without our usual screening and oversight. We have removed the story. We have sought clarification from Father Benedict.”
Calls to National Catholic Register were not returned by the time of publication.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Superbowl hijinx

Charisma News
Jan 25, 2015

Bill Nye "the science guy" took issue with Bill Belichick's scientific explanation of how the suspect footballs became underinflated.

In response, Ken Ham immediately challenged Nye to a DeflateGate debate. Ham blamed DeflateGate on diabolical hijinx. The Archfiend is attempting to disqualify or at least discredit the Patriots in advance of the Superbowl. 

Ham has chartered Joyce Meyer's Gulfstream IV to fly Brynne, Tess, and Savannah Larson to the Superbowl to intercept the deflationary demon by anointing each football with holy toenail polish. 

Joseph Prince will be in attendance, with his Kato suit and rakish hairdo, to bind the deflationary demon while posing for selfies. 

Finally, the Winchester brothers will paint a Devil's trap, in the form of a Heptagram, on the ceiling of each team's locker room to forestall any diabolical preplayoff hijinx. 

Between these precautionary measures, Ham assured his audience that the best team should win. Asked if the Seahawks was going to win, he said the question was redundant. After all, he already said the best team should win. 

“Everything That Rises Must Converge”

My actual statement was, "The more that more Christians live [and are taught] according to God's word, the more they converge".

To which an interlocutor said:

And it is glaringly false to say that people who sincerely study God's Word tend to converge. They just don't. The only way you can get that conclusion is to start with the assumption that your particular theological tradition is the only result anyone can get when they study God's Word, and that the many people who disagree do so because at some level they are insincere or inattentive or don't really accept the authority of God's Word. And that's a far bigger and more incredible assumption than any made by RC apologists.

The way to come to this conclusion is to make the presupposition that God is the author of the Scriptures; that God intends to present "truth", and that "truth" has a content that, if people are diligent to understand it, people (created by God, with an ability to understand also created by God) will agree. This is a basic, fundamental thing if God exists and if he reveals himself.

F.F. Bruce has some comments along these lines:

To many it seems safer and more comfortable to stay within familiar and old-established boundaries (which he had earlier identified as both written traditions such as the WCF and unwritten traditions that simply develop around various communities). The admission of more light (meaning clearer understanding of what the Scriptures say) may show up inadequacies in cherished traditions -- inadequacies that would otherwise have remained hidden -- and they may be disposed to question whether what is claimed to be "more light" is in fact light.

But light by its nature is self-evidencing, and John Robinson's choice of this figure (metaphor) for the further truth that might be learned from Scripture was apt. There are those who demand authority for truth, forgetting that truth is itself the highest authority. Where the Holy Spirit guides the people of Christ into further truth, that guidance (though meeting with some initial resistance) tends in the long run to commend itself to their general acceptance.

It will not conflict with truth already learned and established, even if it shows that some things previously reckoned to be truth were only imperfectly so, or not so at all It will be acknowledged to be in harmony with the mind of Christ, as His mind is revealed in Scripture and progressively appreciated in the church" ("Tradition Old and New", Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 1970, 18).

This is not "a far bigger and more incredible assumption than any made by RC apologists". Actually, RC apologists make a whole different set of assumptions:

1. God has revealed himself, but people can't understand him.
2. Therefore God has appointed a mediator to "authoritatively interpret" what God has said.
3. This mediator is the Roman Catholic magisterium

ISIS and Genocide

Critics of the Old Testament decry its support of genocide.  For the sake of argument, let's assume that the OT actually condones genocide.

These same critics seem to decry genocide in any context.  Genocide is always wrong.

Now, a simple definition of genocide might be: the extermination of any culture.

By most any definition, it seems ISIS is a culture.

Is it wrong to exterminate ISIS culture?

Saturday, January 24, 2015


When satire has a biting edge, it has been done correctly. One such instance was just done by The Onion in a piece called I Don’t Vaccinate My Child Because It’s My Right To Decide What Eliminated Diseases Come Roaring Back. The anti-vaccination crowd is based on extremely thin science—in fact, most of it is based on a single study that has since been debunked. But the real problem with the anti-vaccination logic is that even if everything they claimed about increased autism rates due to vaccination were true, you would still have to be pretty foolish not to vaccinate your children.

It is easy for us to forget the way the world used to be. Just a hundred years ago, we didn’t have antibiotics. People could die because of a blood infection they got just scraping their knee in the backyard. According to the CDC, the infant mortality rate for the United States in 1915 was at 10% (100 infants out of every 1000 births died before their first birthday). Today it’s at 0.6% (6.17 per 1000 births). A large reason for that drop is because vaccinations are keeping babies who would have died from various diseases like the measles or mumps from dying.

But here’s the thing about keeping someone from dying. Suppose that we were able to magically cure a single disease right now—say, cancer. This would mean that there are now millions of people who are not dying anymore right? Wrong. It means there are now millions of people who will die from something other than cancer. That’s all. Everyone dies of something, and by necessity if you cure one thing, the other methods of death must rise.

Incidentally, this phenomena was observed during World War I. When soldiers were required to start wearing helmets, the number of injuries on the battlefield actually increased. Why, then, didn’t soldiers stop wearing their helmets? Because while the number of injuries increased, the number of fatalities decreased. Instead of a bullet killing a person when it struck them in the head, the bullet now merely injured the soldier because of the protection of the helmet.

So when we think back to medicine, when we cure someone of something that would kill them at a young age, then they will have many more years that they can live than they would have lived without the cure. But what that means is that they will have many more years to catch diseases that they would not have caught if they were already dead. So keeping infants from dying of the measles means that other diseases will necessarily have a slight uptick in their number of occurrences. This includes even the number of people diagnosed with autism, for instance.

Now not all the increased cases of autism can be accounted for by infants surviving longer than they would have without vaccines, and I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t look to find ways of mitigating that increase. But there is no evidence that vaccines are causing the problem. And even if vaccines were the problem, when enough people stop vaccinating it will mean diseases that could have been stopped will make a comeback, and it will mean that babies will die who otherwise would have survived. So even if vaccines cause autism, autism isn't fatal! Let's let something other than preventible diseases kill off our children.

Heaven Tourism

Now certainly I will have Pentecostal believers accuse me of being unfair. The examples I cite are in the fringe elements of charismatics and Pentecostals. I got that a lot back when I wrote on the Strange Fire conference. Some may even vehemently insist their churches do not promote such nonsense. Great! I am definitely encouraged by those assertions.
The reality, however, is rather stark. Thousands of people purchase the books and flock to hear the testimonies of heaven tourists, and the main culprits who devour them are charismatic and Pentecostals. Why is that?
Rather than getting all defensive that someone pointed out that obvious problem among charismatics and Pentecostals, I would think a better response would be to consider why they gravitate to heaven tourism stories. I don’t typically see the problem among Presbyterians, Reformed Baptists, or any of the Bible Fellowship style churches. If a Pentecostal or charismatic is seriously opposed to heaven tourism, they’d evaluate the reason why.
I suggest that is because Pentecostal and charismatic believers are doctrinally imbalanced when it comes to so-called supernatural manifestations. They are led to an experience driven theology that in turn causes them to be way more susceptible and undiscerning with these fantasies. It then becomes difficult to distinguish between a flim-flam hustler and a sincere, but confused person who exaggerates odd dreams he had after having a dangerous surgery, as traveling to heaven.

I agree with Fred that there's undoubtedly lots of smoke and mirrors in the charismatic movement. However, he tries to superimpose a preconceived theory on the phenomenon, and from what I can tell, his theory is a poor fit with the facts. Let's take four representative titles: 

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
W/Thomas Nelson

90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Life and Death
by Don Piper with Cecil Murphey

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A True Story
By Alex Malarkey, Kevin Malarkey
Tyndale House Publishers

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
by Eben Alexander
Simon and Schuster

i) Consider the publishers: One is secular publisher. The other three are evangelical. To my knowledge, not one is a charismatic publishing house.

ii) Consider the authors. Don Piper is a Southern Baptist pastor. Todd Burpo is a Wesleyan-Arminian pastor. Kevin Malarkey says he attends a nondenominational evangelical church. And I don't believe Eben Alexander is even a professing Christian. To my knowledge, not one of them is charismatic.

Likewise, look at all the Baptist churches Don Piper is invited to speak at. That's not a charismatic audience.

iii) Consider the consumer. LifeWay have been criticized for stocking this genre. However, LifeWay is a Southern Baptist book distributor.  

Isn't the Heaven Tourism genre retailed by evangelical bookstores generally? If so, where's the evidence that it's charismatics in particular who are buying these books? Isn't this really a problem for evangelicalism in general rather than the charismatic movement in particular? 

How would you even track the specific theological persuasion of consumers who purchase literature at LifeWay or Family Christian stores? Or purchase Christian literature online (e.g. Christianbook.com)? 

Papal handlers

Suicide by Pope? 
No doubt you've heard of suicide by cop.  Is the Catholic Church committing suicide by pope?  Francis the Foolish is now regularly coming out with silly statements. 
A guardian responsible for escorting a retarded child or adult in public. Highly alert and well trained, these individuals can sense when their "client" is ready to change from sweet and calm to loud and destructive.  
Warren broke free of his handler and began screaming and throwing trays around the restaurant. 
Urban Dictionary


The fact that House leaders pulled the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act " to appease proabortion Republican women has rightly been denounced. However, I can't help thinking that there's an ironic parallel with AHA.

When Republicans are in the minority, it's easy for nominally prolife Republicans to cast free votes restricting abortion. Since they know the proposed bill has no chance of passage, it costs them nothing politically.

When, however, Republicans are in the majority, the same nominally prolife Republicans suddenly buckle. 

Now for the comparison. With respect to AHA, nothing is easier than to take an "uncompromising" stand when it has no chance of happening. In that respect, AHA is like Republicans who are rhetorically prolife, rhetorically uncompromising. There's no price to pay. No real-world consequences. It's just self-congratulatory talk. 

Incrementalism actually makes a difference. 

The crazy uncle of the papacy

One of this pope's many self-appointed handlers, in this case a lay blogger named Scott Eric Alt, attempted to reply to some comments I recently made about Pope Francis.

It's revealing that Francis requires a phalanx of official and unofficial handlers to "clarify" his statements. That's usually a sure sign that a public figure is either losing his marbles or never had the Tombowlers to begin with.

In the com­box, Steve “Pur­ple” Hays (who also posts at Fail­ablogue) gives us a list of obser­va­tions, only a few of which inter­est me. 

Since purple is the color of episcopal vestments, I've flattered by Alt's honorific epithet, but I must decline the promotion. 

The first is a ques­tion: “What’s so bad about a C-section?” Well, noth­ing at all is “bad about a C-section,” Mr. Hays; and in fact, if you had both­ered to read the tran­script, you would have noticed that the pope was speak­ing of a woman who had already had seven of them and was going out of her way to get preg­nant again. 

i) Evidently, Alt's dad never told him about the birds and the bees. A woman who's been pregnant eight times doesn't need to "go out of her way" to become pregnant. Rather, that's the natural result of regular conjugal relations. 

ii) It is only in the case of infertile couples that the woman must go out of her way to get pregnant–by visiting fertility clinics. But, clearly, fertility isn't this woman's problem.

iii) A woman who's been pregnant eight times would need to go out of her way not to become pregnant again. Alt has it precisely backwards. In her case, the challenge isn't getting pregnant, but avoiding pregnancy–assuming, for the sake of argument, that that's even desirable. 

A Face­book friend and fel­low Catholic blog­ger, JoAnna Wahlund, explains why the pope was right to be con­cerned. (This was in a Face­book thread on my own page.)

Another one of this pope's ubiquitous handlers. Whatever else you might say about Ratzinger, he can speak for himself. 

All preg­nan­cies have the poten­tial to be risky. But seven C-sections dras­ti­cally increases the risk of pla­centa acc­reta, which can cause the uterus to rup­ture (killing both mom and baby). If a woman has had seven C-sections, her uterus is paper thin, and doc­tors tell her, “Another preg­nancy could very well kill you and your child,” then yes, it is risky and irre­spon­si­ble to delib­er­ately seek to achieve pregnancy in that sit­u­a­tion.

Several problems with that analysis:

i) Do fertile couples who engage in regular conjugal relations deliberately seek to achieve pregnancy, or is that simply the natural outcome? 

ii) Risky for whom? Not for the baby. In that situation, the baby has everything to gain and nothing to lose. Yes, there's a danger that the baby will die. If, however, the baby was never conceived in the first place, then he inevitably loses out. In a choice between possibly losing out and inevitably losing out, contraception is far riskier to the baby than a risky pregnancy. 

To take a comparison, if it's a choice between terminal cancer and life-threatening therapy, a patient will opt for therapy. With therapy, he may live or die. Without therapy, he's bound to die. The risk assessment speaks for itself. A chance at life trumps no chance at life. 

iii) To my knowledge, the risk of medical complications increases with the age of the mother as well as the number of pregnancies. Yet throughout church history, and in many parts of the Third World today, Catholic wives have continued to become pregnant until they either hit menopause or died in childbirth. 

Since when has it been church policy to tell Catholic mothers to stop having children above a certain number or above a certain age? Since the risk factors increase over time, with added age or added children, then by Alt's logic and Walhlund's logic, it is irresponsible for Catholic wives to keep having babies until they pass the childbearing years. If so, where can that be found in canon law? 

Now, what the pope says, in effect (if Mr. Hays had both­ered to read the tran­script and not just the lib­eral media), is not, Don’t have a C-section but, If you’ve had seven of them, maybe going out of your way to get preg­nant again isn’t the best thing. 

Since it's the husband who impregnates the wife, why blame the wife? If you insist on framing the issue that way, then isn't it the husband who's going out of his way to make another baby? 

Don’t tempt God. 

Have Catholic wives throughout church history (as well as Catholic wives in Third World countries today) been guilty of tempting God by continuing to conceive babies until the clock runs out? 

There are licit ways for you to avoid preg­nancy, which you should use. 

Of course, that's easy for "celibate" clergy to say. Catholic clergy practice contraception by having sex with altar boys. That's clerical family planning. Sodomy is a surefire way to avoid pregnancy. Pedophilia is the perfect prophylactic. 

If you do oth­er­wise, you risk that you will die, your baby will die, and your other chil­dren will be left with­out a mother. Respon­si­ble par­ent­hood.

Since when did patristic popes, medieval popes, Renaissance popes, Enlightenment popes, et al., set the maximum age beyond which it is unsafe (hence, "irresponsible") for Catholic wives to reproduce? When did patristic popes, medieval popes, Renaissance popes, Enlightenment popes, set the maximum limit on the number of children beyond which it is unsafe (hence, "irresponsible") for Catholic wives to procreate? I'd like to see the documentation.