The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Eight Unconnected Thoughts

Diane and me at GU (Statue: Bishop John Carroll)
Hoya Hypocrisy. Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic university in the United States, has invited Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, to speak as a part of the university's Lecture Fund. Not only does Ms. Richards run the largest abortion provider in the nation, she also recently bragged about aborting her fourth child because three children were enough. In response to criticism, the Jesuit-run university claimed that Georgetown “deeply values our faith tradition that encourages the free exchange of ideas." I'm embarrassed to admit that before I entered the Naval Academy back in the early 60s, I attended Georgetown for a year. It was a very different institution back then. And I suspect GU's founder, Bishop John Carroll (1735-1815), would not be pleased with the changes.

Tough Guy. Some months ago Donald Trump publicly denigrated John McCain, a highly decorated Navy pilot and POW, as a bogus war hero because he was shot down, captured, and tortured by the North Vietnamese. This from a man who spent the Vietnam War dodging the draft. He talks real tough -- "I'll bomb the s--- out of ISIS" -- but doesn't have a clue about what that really means to those who must do the bombing. I expect the young Trump was motivated by the same thing that motivated most of the draft-dodgers I met during the Vietnam era. After a few beers they would let down their guard, drop the political excuses, and admit they just didn't like the idea of getting shot at. News flash: Who does? But when you do everything you can to avoid serving...well, we used to call that cowardice.

Just Wages. In his general audience Pope Francis stated that the Church doesn't want donations from the affluent if they exploit or underpay their workers. And while I completely agree with the Pope, I think he should direct some of his attention internally. Every survey I've seen indicates that the Catholic Church pays its lay employees somewhere between 15-30 percent less than those in equivalent jobs in Protestant churches and even less than those doing similar work in the private sector. In many instances the Church does not pay what could reasonably be considered a just or living wage, and retirement benefits are often non-existent or minuscule. Perhaps we should clean our own house first as an example to others. Too many Catholics simply do not support the Church and its mission, and too many bishops seem afraid to demand that they do so. Here's an article on the subject: Just Wage

Historical Myths. I've been a part-time student of the history of Islam for years and have always been puzzled by those historians who claim that Islamic Spain was a multicultural paradise in which Christians and Jews were treated with respect and dignity by their Muslim rulers. This is especially puzzling since virtually all of the contemporary evidence contradicts this belief. If you would like to learn the truth about Islamic Spain, you can find it in this wonderful, well-documented history by Darío Fernández-Morera, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise. It's a page-turner. Read it. 
The Beheading of St. Eulogius of Cordoba in Muslim Spain
Catholic England. Another book of revisionist history has been around awhile. First published in 1992 and republished in a second edition in 2005, The Stripping of the Altars, by Cambridge professor Eamon Duffy, tells the story of the late medieval Catholic Church in England. It covers the period immediately before and during the early years of the Reformation, from 1400 to 1580. I've been meaning to read the book for years but just never got around to it. And then the other day I spotted a copy on our parish's free book shelf and grabbed it. It's a lengthy tome (over 600 pages of fairly small print) but filled with remarkable insights. 

Pistol-packin' Deacon. A few days ago my son, a former Marine, and I stopped by a local gun shop here in Florida where I picked up the forms needed to apply for a Florida concealed carry permit. When I mentioned this to one of my brother deacons he was apoplectic: "You're an ordained deacon, how can you carry a weapon?  It's not something Christians do." When I asked if Christians had a right to defend themselves and their families, he seemed to think it was alright but not if they used guns. I refrained from asking if I could use an ax. When I mentioned that as a Christian I always carried a sidearm when I flew as a Navy pilot, he mumbled something about wartime being different . As they say in New York, "Go figure!" Actually I just enjoy shooting and a permit will let me carry a pistol or revolver to a range without a lot of hassle.

God Exists. I keep encountering new, at least to me, revelations of God's presence in His creation. One day last week, in the late afternoon, while Maddie (our dog) and I were strolling through the neighborhood, I noticed the flicker of a fast-moving shadow on the nearby grass. Looking up I encountered a  marvelous sight: 42 white pelicans (I counted them) flying in two equally balanced V formations. The setting sun cast an amber glow that turned their wings to gold. They were perhaps 200 feet overhead and, despite their numbers, flew by us in complete silence. It was another of those beautiful, unrepeatable experiences that force you to accept the truth: the world is no accident. "And God saw that it was good."

Critical Vote. While the November elections in the United States could well determine the direction our nation will take for years to come, they are not the only 2016 elections with long-term worldwide ramifications. On June 23 the British people will vote in a referendum on Britain"s continued membership in the European Union (EU). Cleverly called "Brexit" (British Exit), the referendum has been scheduled as early as possible by Tory Prime Minister Cameron in the hope that the EU's growing troubles won't escalate much before June. Interestingly, although Cameron strongly favors continued  EU membership, many in his cabinet and as many as 150 Conservative MPs favor Brexit. Daniel Hannan, an elected Member of the European Parliament, explains here why Britain should vote to leave the EU and put him out of a job.

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