Friday, January 20, 2017

The Creepiest Defense Yet of Amoris Laetitia

Fr. Rogers of the College of Holy Cross

A certain Fr. Michael J. Rogers S.J. just published the creepiest defense yet of Amoris Laetitia. It was posted on Crux, which in fairness has published a diversity of views recently, some of them useful.

The basic idea of the article is that Catholic documents should read like the prose equivalents of 1970's era struggle sessions. Amoris is "murky," which is just how it should be. Teachers shouldn't teach by force unless you ask the wrong question, in which case you're expelled from the room and the rest of the class moves on.

The argument (such as it is) deserves mockery. Fr. Rogers deserves a class monitor. Not for his sake but for that of the kids. 

The actual text of the article is in black. My annotations are in red.
Pope Francis knew what he was doing in writing a document that provides few clear answers, while inviting the faithful to be concerned with the movements of the Spirit. He knows full well that life in the Spirit leads to the living of the law in its fullest, richest sense. Well, he didn't really write it, but fair enough. However, is this Catholicism or something else?
For three glorious years, I was a high school teacher. During those years I taught Religious Education to Freshmen and Sophomores at Boston College High School, and I have to admit that, while I genuinely loved my students and am still in touch with a good number of them, there was one type of question that came from them that I couldn’t stand. Glorious...genuinely loved my still in touch. This creeps me out.
Inevitably, I would get it before each test and usually, it had the same foundational reality foundational reality?. It would go something like this: “Mr. (I wasn’t a priest yet) Rogers, how do we answer the essay question?”
But there was no right or wrong way to answer the questions I posed them. There were certain guidelines that showed me that a student had engaged the material, had thought about it, and generally understood what it was about. Writing good essays (whatever the answers are supposed to be, or not supposed to be or whatever) is not merely about "engagement" with the material, etc. It's about giving logical arguments, expressing the arguments in good English, writing with effectiveness and style, and so on. And I should add, from someone who graded hundreds of philosophy papers, imprecision and ambiguity in defense of one's thesis, is usually a bad thing. Why was "Mr. Rogers" getting paid to not teach these things to his students? 
Some essays were, of course, better than others, but much more often than not they were good, honest attempts at answering the question such that the students received passing, and usually very good, grades. I'm sure being able to give "good, honest attempts" served his students well in college. 
The problem with the aforementioned question, though, was that underneath it was also the implicit question: “Could you please just give us the answer, or tell us what you want to hear so that we’ll get an A?” My students wanted answers. What idiots. But we still stay in touch. 
It’s not that easy. Actually, on certain issues, it is.
As any teacher will tell you, most of what you do when you try to teach is not merely delivering content nor is it pouring facts and figures into the brains of the youth so that they can spit them back. The educational project is rather about helping young people learn how to think and giving them the practical tools that they need to think critically. That's true to an extent, again depending on the subject or topic. But only to an extent. If you're teaching students the Catechism, you're teaching students the Catechism, not primarily teaching them to think critically about the Catechism.
It is never ultimately about passing a class, but rather, as most educators worth their salt will tell you, it is about passing at life. Puke. 
The image of those students, asking for the answers and not willing to struggle with the material Mao more than ever is, however, an image that came to mind several weeks ago when I deigned deigned? to post on twitter that the debate over Amoris Laetitia had gotten out of hand, and that it is time to accept the document and move on. What ever happened to thinking critically? 
The responses that I received pointed to a need for clarity, they demanded that I remove my tweet, and hounded me, many over the course of days, implying that such a lack of clarity was putting souls at risk. Full disclosure: I only made a few "demands" and they were written in pasted newsprint. And I only left ten messages on his cell phone, which I wouldn't call "hounding." 
The truth is that Amoris Laetitia is a murky document, it doesn’t give us quick and easy answers to our questions, and even famous footnote 351, which many take to be the place where the Holy Father allows divorced and remarried people to receive communion, is not obviously clear. This unfortunately reminds me of my kids' bathtub. But let's move on. 
Amoris Laetitia is a murky document second occurrence of "murky" - stop!, and how could it be anything but? It talks about some of the most wonderful and messy experiences of human life, places where things aren’t always immediately apparent, and where most of us are forced to simply do our best, hoping against hope that it is enough. Puke, again. Plus, divorce isn't wonderful, you stupid Jesuit. 
Pope Francis, having been both a pastor and a teacher before his role as universal teacher and pastor, knew full well what he was doing in writing a document which provides few clear answers while leaving the door open for the faithful to be concerned not so much with the letter of the law, but with the movements of the Spirit, knowing full well that life in the Spirit leads to the living of the law in its fullest, richest sense. That's deja-vu all over again (see the first paragraph, above). He taught writing? 
Of course, the problem with such an approach, in the classroom as much as in regular life, is that the obsession with having the correct answer, the need to be right, can often leave one missing the forest for the trees. People who seek the truth are irrationally obsessed. 
The need to be right, or more clever than the teacher my students tried to win, but I showed them means that those who worry about the famous footnote neglect that the document as a whole attempts to give families the tools that they need to never have to worry about that particular situation. Is he really arguing that people who truly "engage" with Amoris Laetitia will never get divorced?  
To paraphrase Cardinal Kevin Farrell in a recent Crux interview, the whole point of the document is to never have to concern oneself with being right about what footnote 351 does or doesn’t provide. Do you understand, Grasshopper?
If we spend time focused on one tree, or one footnote, we lose sight of the forest, or the document, which surrounds it. Yes master. I grock it. 
The goal of education, of teaching, whether it is in the classroom, the pulpit, or in a document like Amoris Laetitia, is not the memorization of rote facts, nor is it hoped that students will merely always be somehow justified because they are “right.”
Rather, the pedagogical enterprise is about imparting the skills and values that allow people to flourish as human beings. 
In short, the goal that is missed by so many critics of Amoris Laetitia is to help people be better rather than to be right.
The claim here, (such as it is) is insane. As if the Ten Commandments themselves should be criticized for literally inscribing rules into stone.
"Mr. Jesuit: Is it okay if I bludgeon my grandmother to death in order to steal her money and go on a date with Suzy?"
"I think it's better if you learn that for yourself."
"Mr. Jesuit: Is it okay if I sleep with Suzy tonight?"
"There are no right or wrong answers."
"Mr. Jesuit: Is it okay if I sleep with Johnny tonight?"
"That's a good question. Let's discuss it privately in my office."

I Was Alive and I Waited for This

And, yes, it's happening right here, right now.

In one hour, Donald Trump will take the Oath of Office.

Here is the Fox News Schedule (all times are in Eastern) for the remainder of the festivities. For all of its issues, Fox News is still the place to watch.
Friday, January 20 
8:30 a.m. - Private prayer service for Trump and his family at St. John’s Episcopal Church 
9:30 a.m. - Coffee date at the White House between the incoming and outgoing presidents 
11:30 a.m. - Swearing-in ceremony, with performances by Jackie Evancho, The Rockettes and more 
12:00 p.m. - Oath of office and Trump's inaugural address 
Afterward, Trump and Pence will attend the Congressional Lunch in the Capitol. 
3:00 p.m. - Inaugural parade 
7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. - Inaugural balls, which will be attended by the president-elect, vice president-elect and their wives. Below is information from the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee: 
The President-elect and Mrs. Trump and Vice President-elect and Mrs. Pence plan to attend all three inaugural balls to join in ringing in a new day in America.
Liberty and Freedom: The Official Presidential Inaugural Balls will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and, for the first time ever, the Presidential Inaugural Committee will provide all television networks the right to freely air the live two-hour show simultaneously in both balls, allowing Americans throughout the country to watch the President’s remarks and first dance with the First Lady. 
Liberty and Freedom: The Official Presidential Inaugural Balls will also feature special appearances from Sam Moore, Tim Rushlow and his Big Band, Silhouettes, The Rockettes, Pelican212, The Piano Guys, Circus 1903, Cache Olson, Lexi Walker, and Erin Boheme. The Salute to Our Armed Services Ball will feature special performances from Tony Orlando and Josh Weathers. 
The Salute To Our Armed Services Ball will take place at the National Building Museum. This ball is by invitation only, and tickets are being provided free of charge by the Presidential Inaugural Committee to invited guests, who include active duty and reserve military, Medal of Honor recipients, wounded warriors, military families, veterans, and first responders. 
Saturday, January 21 
10:00 a.m. - National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral... we'll have LIVE coverage throughout the day starting at 6:00 a.m. ET on "Fox & Friends Weekend" and followed at 10:00 a.m. ET by Neil Cavuto on "The Cost of Freedom." 
You can also watch the ceremonies live at or on the Fox News Facebook page and interact with us on Twitter using #Trump45.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Former Tallest Building in Tehran Collapses in Horrific Fire - Perhaps 30+ Firefighters Killed

The iconic Plasco Building, a fifteen-story concrete and steel-framed building in downtown Tehran, and the tallest building in the city from 1960 to 1963 collapsed earlier this morning in an horrific fire.

The collapse was witnessed by thousands on the ground and recorded live by hundreds of sources.

Though most news stories aren't mentioning it, it is of course impossible not to immediately think of the Trade Center collapse.

In some ways the cases are similar. They both happened on a sunny morning and were witnessed in awe and horror by commuters. In one of the videos, an unseen voice wails in Farsi as the Plasco Building starts to fall. Though I can't say precisely what he said, the conveyed emotion was eerily the same as that expressed in some of the most well-known videos from 9/11.

As with 9/11, I assume this was an unprecedented tragedy for Tehran's firefighters. Reports have varied as to casualties but it's clear that many died.

There's some debate on the internet as to whether or not Plastco had a steel frame. I assume it did as it would be hard to construct a 15-story building without one. It appears as if the fire melted the metal frame past the breaking point.

Of course a fifteen-story "skyscraper" doesn't seem high by modern American standards. And Tehran itself now has many taller buildings and towers. Some of the firefighters were actually able to spray water through the top windows of the building from cranes, and indeed one narrowly missed perishing as the wall collapsed next to his elevated platform.

Obviously, this tragedy was on a much smaller scale than that of 9/11, and today's fire was a "mere" disaster, not a terrorist attack. Many of those in the Middle-East now mourning the Plasco collapse were cheering the collapse of the Twin Towers.

But that makes no difference to the firefighters who died today or their family members.

The building was built by Jewish businessman, Habib Elghanian who named it after his plastics company.

That was in the days when Jews were allowed to build skyscrapers in the Muslim Middle-East.

Elghanian would later be executed for "espionage" in an anti-Jewish purge shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Here is dramatic footage of the collapse on live television:

And here is the latest from Reuters via the Daily Mail:
Troops, rescuers search for trapped firefighters after Iran building collapse 
By Parisa Hafezi 
ANKARA, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Soldiers, sniffer dogs and rescue workers searched for trapped firefighters and medics treated dozens of casualties after a blazing high-rise building collapsed in downtown Tehran on Thursday. 
One witness described the 17-storey commercial building's collapse as like a "scene from a horror movie." 
State TV reported that at least 75 people, including 45 firefighters, had been hurt when the building came crashing down in a giant cloud of dust early on Thursday morning. 
Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said there were about 25 firefighters trapped under rubble and the semi-official Tasnim news agency said troops had been sent to help dig through the ruins. 
One of the first firefighters to be reached shouted "leave me alone, let me go back inside and save my trapped colleagues" as he was brought out, Tasnim reported. 
Most of the hurt had been taken to hospital and many were quickly discharged, state TV said. 
An electrical short circuit caused the fire, Tasnim said, citing an official in the Tehran governor's office. Reuters could not immediately verify the cause. 
Earlier, President Hassan Rouhani had ordered an "immediate investigation" and compensation for those affected. 
The building's occupants were evacuated but firefighters had still been trying to control the fire when the building came down. 
State TV said the occupants included garment manufacturers and broadcast footage of business owners trying to re-enter the wreckage. 
Sniffer dogs searched for signs of survivors buried under giant slabs of concrete and heaps of twisted metal. The rescue operation could last more than two days, state TV said. 
The Plasco building in southern Tehran was more than 50 years old. Tasnim said it "had caught fire in the past". 
A fire department spokesman told state TV that the building's tenants "had been warned repeatedly in the past months by the municipality to evacuate the building because of safety concerns." 
The owner of a nearby grocery store, forced by police to leave the area, told Reuters by telephone that "it was like a horror movie. The building collapsed in front of me." 
The semi-official Fars news agency said police had cordoned off the British and Turkish Embassies that are located near the Plasco building. 
"The flames could be seen kilometers away from the old building," the Fars news agency reported. (Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Richard Lough)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Introducing Papa Francis Girl

Malta, the Luther stamp, yet another review of Silence...

Just when you thought 2017 couldn't get any worse...

...I present to you, Emily Clarke.

I like Obama Girl better.

I liked the early Cindy Lauper better.

Clarke is a quasi-successful Irish singing personality who composed and sings the official anthem for Limerick.

She seems to be a faithful Catholic in many ways.

But she does appear to have this one little, ahem, obsession...

By the way, at the precise moment where she cozies up to the Mercy Logo in her slinky red dress and gives it the once over, the lyrics of the song ring out "...and how we went astray."

Next up, Austen Ivereigh and "Strangers in the Night."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Chelsea Manning Commutation: Chivalry Isn't Dead

Obama just commuted much of Bradley/Chelsea Manning's sentence for leaking classified military material.

Even though Manning is, as far as I know, still anatomically a guy, I'm going to call her a girl.

In truth, I think she looks better as a girl.

What are we to make of this?

Leaving Manning out of it for the moment, the White House has bragged that Obama has commuted more sentences than all of the last twelve presidents combined.

Whether that's good or bad, I think it's an odd thing to brag about. If giving people a "second chance" is a good thing, why not go all the way and pardon everybody? Or, at least 50%? Or at least 5%? Or even 1%? (As opposed to a fraction of 1%.)

I'm not being snarky here. I'm honestly asking. If I don't understand the logic, pardon me.

Obama also commuted the sentence of a Puerto Rican terrorist who pointedly refused to renounce terrorism. Google "Oscar Lopes Rivera". Rivera rejected an earlier commutation because it was conditional on him making a vow he didn't want to make. He served an extra 16 years for that. I don't think much of Rivera, his cause or his murderous principles, but in a sense he has more honor than Obama.

But back to Manning.

It's not unreasonable to claim that a sentence of 35 years for what she is excessive. It's out of line with some other cases. She didn't sell secrets to hostile foreign governments but rather leaked information (much of which was embarrassing and tragic but also true) to Wikileaks. She violated an oath. She broke the law. But it isn't clear to me that she "put American servicemen in danger" (as many now assert). Espionage is espionage, but not every leaker deserves 35 years in prison.

What Obama, Hillary Clinton and others have done to endanger our national security and the lives of Americans (Hillary actually directly got Americans killed and then lied about it) for a variety of motives was far worse. It has arguably treasonous. Tell me again how many years they're getting?

Manning actually would have been eligible for release anyway in only two more years (which either argues for or argues against the case for commutation depending on how you look at it).

Does she deserve clemency because she's "transgender"? Of course not. I reject that particular argument entirely. But by the same token, that doesn't mean she should be penalized for it. As it were.

Another twist here is that Julian Assange promised to allow himself to be extradited to the United States if Manning was given clemency.

Manning was given clemency.

What will Assange now do?

Monday, January 16, 2017

BREAKING: Wife of Orlando Pulse Terrorist Arrested by FBI

Modern Family

Apparently Noor Salman had been living in California. She was reported missing after the shooting but the stories make it sound as if authorities had been aware of her whereabouts.

From Jennifer Smith at Daily Mail:
BREAKING NEWS: Wife of Pulse nightclub killer is arrested by the FBI for obstruction of justice seven months after attack
  • Noor Salman was arrested at home in San Francisco, California, on Monday
  • The 30-year-old mother is reportedly accused of obstruction of justice 
  • Omar Mateen killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12
  • The 29-year-old was eventually shot dead by police after a four hour rampage 
  • FBI agents suspected Salman of going with her husband to scout out the club months before the attack
  • She said they were only in Orlando to take their three-year-old son to Disneyland
The wife of the Pulse nightclub gunman has been arrested by the FBI for obstruction of justice. 
Noor Salman, 30, was arrested by FBI agents in San Francisco, California, on Monday, according to an official who spoke anonymously. 
Her husband Omar Mateen was shot dead by police after massacring 49 people in the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12. 
Authorities are yet to make public the details surrounding Salman's arrest but she was earlier suspected of going with her husband to scout out the nightclub months before the attack. 
Agents also questioned her over her presence when Mateen was buying ammunition and a holster at a Walmart. 
Noor Salman (left) was arrested on Monday morning on suspicion of obstruction of justice. Her husband Omar Mateen (right) killed 50 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando last year. The pair are seen above with their young son 
She said the pair had visited Orlando, a two hour drive from their Fort Pierce home, to take their young son to Disneyland. 
The gun was not unusual, she said, because of her husband's job as a security guard. 

The pair exchanged text messages during Mateen's four-hour rampage on June 12.
Salman sent a message to her husband after 2am after being woken by a phone call from his mother asking where he was. 
'Do you see what is happening?' he responded. She text back 'no' to which he replied 'I love you, babe.' 
In her only interview since the atrocity, she told The New York Times: 'I was unaware of everything.

I don’t condone what he has done. I am very sorry for what has happened. He has hurt a lot of people.'
While she knew her husband watched jihadist videos, Salman said she never suspected him of violence because he had been cleared by the FBI. 
The 29-year-old was questioned in 2013 after boasting about having ties to Al Qaeda. and Hezbollah. 
He told co-workers he wanted to die a martyr and was questioned three times by agents but was never arrested. 
On June 2, as he was committing mass murder at the gay nightclub, Salman was at home with their son. 
She said he had only told her he was going to see a 'friend' when he left for Orlando. He had earlier given her cash for her planned visit to California to see her mother. 

Salman grew up in southern California but moved to Fort Pierce, Florida, with Mateen after their wedding. The pair met online using an Arab dating website.
She described him as a violent man who used to beat her when he was angry. 
She returned to California after the attack last June and has moved three times since. 
Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed her arrest on Monday, saying: 'We said from the beginning we were going to look at every aspect of this case, every aspect of this shooters life — to determine not just why did he take these actions, but who else knew about them, was anyone else involved, is there any other accountability that needs to be had here in this case. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Circus is No More


Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus just announced that it was shutting down after 146 years.

The official explanation involves animal rights lawsuits, competition from blockbuster movies and shortened child-attention spans.

The business model didn't work anymore. So they said. 

I think this is a social milestone in the same sense as smart-phones and the Pope's acceptance of divorce.

And yes, it's a minor tragedy.

Like I really want to run away and join Cirque du Soleil.

Man, I Ioved the circus as a kid. We went every year. My mother wouldn't let us buy those whirling glow sticks even though all the other kids had them...

...But she did buy for me the expensive historical programs. I read and re-read them reverently. I learned about the trapeze artists (many of whom perished), the Chinese ladies who drank tea while hanging by their hair, and that guy (Unus) who could stand on one finger.

Even Ernest Hemingway was touched by him.

How did all of those clowns fit inside the car? I hypothesized a trap door. Later, in my maturity, I understood that it was just, as it were, good clown packing.

Clown College shut down twenty years ago.

It wasn't just the clowns, or the tightrope walkers, or the animals. It was the...

I don't know, it was the promise...

I graduated from Tufts University, which was initially funded in large part by P.T. Barnum. The stuffed carcass of the huge elephant Jumbo presided in the entrance hall of the science building. Students used to put coins in the trunk for good luck on exams - until Jumbo (and most of the hall) was destroyed in a fire a few years before I entered.

Now the circus, too, will be gone.

The circus is dead. Long live the circus.

And may all its enemies go to hell.

From the New York Post:
Send home the clowns 
After 146 years, the curtain is coming down forever on “The Greatest Show on Earth.” 
Its last performance will be May 21 at the Nassau Coliseum. 
The show stoppers included high operating costs, declining attendance and changing public tastes. 
Not to mention a long and costly legal battle with animal rights advocates, which ended with its hugest stars — the elephants — being pink slipped. Elephants had been the symbol of the circus since an Asian pachyderm named Jumbo joined the show in 1882. 
Employes were told the sad news Saturday night in Orlando. 
The circus will perform 30 more times. Besides the show on Long Island, there will be one in Brooklyn. Other stops on its last tour include Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia and Boston. 
With its exotic animals and death-defying acrobats, the big top had been a huge draw from the mid-1800s to the mid 1900s. 
Phineas Taylor Barnum had made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits. Eventually, they merged and the modern circus was born. 
Its clowns, acrobats, horseback riders — along with their animals — were transported across the country in special cars on extra long trains. 
New York staged its own yearly spectacle. When the circus came to town, the performers, along with invited guests, rode elephants from the Sunnyside rail yards through the Queens Midtown Tunnel and then along Manhattan streets to Madison Square Garden. 
In its heyday, the circus attracted huge crowds. It had such a glamorous image that kids famously dreamed of running away from home to join.
But as years passed, children grew less enchanted. 
First blockbuster movies, then television and finally, video games and the Internet captured the circus’ core audience — both the youngsters and their parents. 
“The competitor in many ways is time,” said circus owner Kenneth Feld, adding that transporting the show by rail and other circus quirks — such as providing a traveling school for performers’ children — are throwbacks to another era. 
When the Feld family bought the circus in 1967, the show was just under three hours. Today, it’s 2 hours and 7 minutes, with the longest segment — a tiger act — clocking in at 12 minutes. “Try getting a 3- or 4-year-old today to sit for 12 minutes,” Feld said. 
Feld and his daughter Juliette Feld, the company’s chief operating officer, acknowledged another reality that led to the closing, and it was the one thing that initially drew millions to the show: the animals. 
In May of 2016 the company removed the elephants from the shows and sent them to live on a conservation farm in Central Florida. 
In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from groups including the Humane Society, ending a 14-year fight over allegations that circus employees mistreated elephants. 
Attendance has been dropping for 10 years, said Juliette Feld, but when the elephants left, there was a “dramatic drop” in ticket sales. While many said they didn’t want big animals to perform in circuses, many others refused to attend a circus without them. 
The Felds said their existing animals — lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas — will go to suitable homes. 
In recent years, Ringling Bros. tried to remain relevant, hiring its first African American ringmaster, then its first female ringmaster, and also launching an interactive app. 
“We tried all these different things to see what would work,’’ said Kenneth Feld. 
“We weren’t successful in finding the solution.”

Crossposted at Save Versus All Wands.