Surprise! Relatio Synodi now available

Isn’t it funny?  After the first week of the Synod, the Vatican managed to put out a scandalous (heretical and immoral) mid-synod report, with translations in multiple languages.  (A minor annoyance:  What the heck does it mean to put a synod document on the Vatican website and then call it “unofficial”?  This sort of reflexive irresponsibility is unbecoming of the Holy See.)  Then, after the synod ends, a week and a half goes by with the final report only available in Italian.  On October 29, The Remnant complains about how ridiculous this is.  The next day, an English translation finally appears.  (Don’t let the directory names fool you.  I’ve been keeping an eye on this site, and I can tell you it wasn’t there when last I checked on the 28th.)  Now, I don’t think the Kasperites running the Vatican website actually read The Remnant, but it’s not an unreasonable supposition that the final report was kept not-easily-available as long as this would draw attention away from it (and keep attention on the wicked mid-synod report), and a translation was only made available when it began to seem that its absence was actually drawing attention to the report.

Feminism destroyed adulthood

That’s basically the message of this New York Times Magazine article.  Most of it is the usual PC crap celebrating the coming demise of the oppressive white patriarchy.  The interesting observation comes near the end:

Looking at those figures and their descendants in more recent times — and at the vulnerable patriarchs lumbering across the screens to die — we can see that to be an American adult has always been to be a symbolic figure in someone else’s coming-of-age story. And that’s no way to live. It is a kind of moral death in a culture that claims youthful self-invention as the greatest value. We can now avoid this fate. The elevation of every individual’s inarguable likes and dislikes over formal critical discourse, the unassailable ascendancy of the fan, has made children of us all. We have our favorite toys, books, movies, video games, songs, and we are as apt to turn to them for comfort as for challenge or enlightenment.

This captures a key difference between the feminist-liberal and the traditional imagination.  The feminist doesn’t want to be just an archetype.  The traditionalist doesn’t want to be just an individual.  Does it constrict the soul or enlarge it to participate in a role that pre-exists and transcends the individual person?  Feminists are happy to smash the ideals of man and woman even as they realize that this will leave nothing left of our identities but childish consumer choices.

Ethnic cleansing in the era of big data

A long time ago, Occam’s Razor found this:

The federal government is getting serious about pushing racial and ethnic diversity into America’s neighborhoods–and is using big data and big money to achieve its aims.

A new interactive database will help regulators, local housing officials and individuals take action on a newly proposed regulation that would require agencies to “affirmatively further” the inclusion of minority residents in white neighborhoods.

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Two bishops, an experiment in what Pope Francis approves

From First Things:

Cardinal Godfried Danneels, primate of Belgium (1979-2010), aggravated the decline. He publicly questioned the Church’s teachings on the ordination of women, homosexuality, and contraception…

hen Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard succeeded Danneels as primate of Belgium in 2010, he made immediate changes. Not since the 1960s has the Belgian Church been so vocal. When Belgium recently legalized child euthanasia, the archbishop implored his faithful to pray and fast against the measure…Léonard revived traditional Catholic piety, too, quickly introducing the first Eucharistic procession on Corpus Christi in Liège since 1970. He celebrates the Latin Mass regularly, offering it as a remedy to the liturgical abuses of recent history…When Léonard gave a pro-life lecture at the University of Brussels last year, radical feminists doused him with water. Léonard started to pray and blessed his attackers.

Despite such attacks, Belgian Catholicism has started to show signs of growth for the first time in many decades. The numbers speak for themselves: in the 2012/2013 academic year, the number of Belgian seminarians has grown from sixty-seven to eighty-nine.

It is unfortunate that Pope Francis did not make Archbishop Léonard a cardinal at this year’s consistory. Given the state of disrepair into which Belgian Catholicism has fallen, Brussels mustn’t be an automatic cardinalate see, but the remarkable turnaround Léonard has made should have earned him the red hat…

Unfortunately, Francis has favored Cardinal Danneels, appointing him a synod father to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, a curious choice, given that, at eighty-one, Danneels not only has long exceeded the retirement age for bishops, but he can no longer participate in conclaves.

Imagine that!

Tips for pastoral effectiveness

Lots of homilies about the evil of contraception

When I say a strong parish-level assault on contraception would be “pastorally effective”, I don’t mean in the sense that a good pastor, caring for the souls of his flock, would want to focus a lot of attention on an unrepented sin of some 90% of them before they find themselves in the pit of Hell.  The new definition of “pastoral” is “doesn’t make practitioners of a politically approved sin feel negatively singled out”.  The sodomites feel that, to the extent we resist their agenda at all, we are singling them out, but there is a way to alleviate such feelings.  It turns out that the heterosexual population is guilty of exactly the same sin!  Contracepted sex and homosexual buggery are just two forms of the same unnatural act.  (Masturbation is a third.)  Our condemnation of the latter is a corollary of our condemnation of the former.  Thus, we can concentrate all our fire on the politically safest target, who also happen to be the most numerous and thus the most deserving of attention, safe in the knowledge that a Church known for its stand on nonprocreative sex won’t look like an easy target for pro-sodomy subversion.

Lots of homilies about Hell

Suppose you’re a Kasperite who thinks religion is just a way to provide comfort and community; what doctrine could be better than one of universal salvation?  We could all relax in the conviction that everyone is going to heaven, except for those who are already there.  It doesn’t work.  The moment people stop believing in the danger of punishment after death is the moment they stop believing in an afterlife altogether.  Universal salvation just can’t be believed.  It’s too obviously a sappy wish fulfillment fantasy.  Men don’t believe in anything they don’t have to worry about, plan and prepare for.  It’s almost our definition of reality; only dreams and fantasies don’t make these demands on us.  In fact, I strongly suspect that the universalist theologians themselves don’t believe in an afterlife.  One can tell from how they criticize people who believe in a non-empty hell of being cruel pharisees who are sure they’ll be one of the elect and are gratified by the thought of most of humanity in torment.  They themselves choose their beliefs about the afterlife based on what seems most pleasant, so they assume the beliefs of non-universalists must be wish fulfillment as well.  That one might believe in a populated hell because this is the most natural reading of Jesus’ own words, regardless of what one wants to be true or how good one imagines one’s own chances of salvation to be, is inconceivable to them.  They can’t even imagine treating beliefs about heaven and hell as if they were beliefs about objective reality.

One of these days, priests must get around to giving
something distinctively true about Catholicism.

At some point, it’s got to occur to parishioners that if the whole message of Catholicism is fighting poverty, protecting the environment, and fighting racism, there’s no point to it.  Atheists are already leading the socialist, environmentalist, and anti-white movements, and churchmen offer nothing distinctive to these conversations (at least, post-Vatican II churchmen don’t).  One almost suspects that the clergy accept the Marxist/neoreactionary belief that Christianity is just for manipulating stupid people into doing things they can’t see the real reasons for.

It is ominous indeed that on those doctrines where Catholicism clashes most obviously with everyone else–on contraception, divorce, and Christ in the Eucharist–the majority of Catholics don’t believe Catholic doctrine, and the minority of clergy who are still orthodox don’t talk about them.  So, to the extent Catholicism has anything distinctive to offer, it is what the majority of practicing Catholics regard as falsehoods.

Smart people problems: a philosophy of ignorance

Richard Feynman concludes his second volume of memoirs, What do you care what other people think?, with a short essay titled “The Value of Science”.  Among the blessings of science, according to this great practitioner of it, is that it teaches us to be comfortable with doubt, with uncertainty, with admitted ignorance, so that we resist the urge to prematurely close investigation.  Carlo Rovelli, one of the inventors of loop quantum gravity, has recently made a similar claim.  Whenever I read these things, I’m amused at how bad the very intelligent are at imagining the perspective of ordinary people.  I know what I’m talking about, both because of my own cognitive limitations and my time spent teaching lots of students who probably shouldn’t have sunk their money into college at all.

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In defense of Lord Kelvin

You’ve probably heard the story about how in 1900 Lord Kelvin gave a speech claiming that, with the exception of a couple of minor unresolved issues (“clouds”), physics is basically wrapped up, and what’s left is just computing things to more decimal places.  Shortly thereafter, the solution of these two issues gave rise to the relativity and quantum revolutions, proving Kelvin spectacularly wrong.  Here’s the thing, though–I’ve read the speech, and Kelvin doesn’t say anything of the sort.  In fact, it’s clear that he regarded the unresolved issues as quite fundamental.

The speech itself is an interesting snapshot in time; it allows us to see the world through the eyes of a very intelligent person in 1900, without the foresight of knowing what was to come.  The first cloud is the Michelson-Morley experiment:  why do measurements of the speed of light in different directions not reflect the Earth’s motion through the ether (as, for example, the velocity of the air adds to the propagation velocity of sound waves)?  Kelvin admits no satisfactory explanation was yet at hand, but he relates an idea of Fitzgerald and Lorentz that perhaps motion with respect to the ether somehow causes matter to contract.  In other words, the Lorentz transformations have already been derived, but no one knows what they mean, and with benefit of hindsight we can see that Kelvin’s interpretation is heading down a blind alley.  However, putting oneself in his shoes, these do seem like reasonable (and, in their own way, quite radical) ideas to pursue.  Physics textbooks speak as if the Michelson-Morley result leads straightforwardly to special relativity, but in fact even with Lorentz having come up with the equations, Einstein and Minkowski had to make incredible conceptual leaps before people could understand what these equations meant.

The second cloud is the specific heat of molecular gases (not blackbody radiation, as some sources say).  Here, the story one hears about complacent nineteenth century physicists is completely unjust.  A full half century before Kelvin’s speech, Maxwell, in his own seminal work on the kinetic theory of gases, had proved that classical atomic theory couldn’t possibly explain observed reality.  Except for very simple (diatomic) molecules, the number of degrees of freedom will be too large, because each should contribute equal average kinetic energy, leading to heat capacities much higher than observed.  Boltzmann and Rayleigh also spoke of this as a severe problem.  In retrospect, we know what classical physics was missing–it was assuming all these degrees of freedom would be continuous.  In fact, there was already a hint that this wasn’t always true–if any had been able to interpret it as such–in the known existence of discrete spectral lines.  However, even with such a dramatic falsification of classical physics, the idea of discrete energy levels was a radical (one might say “quantum”) leap, something that wouldn’t have occurred to most of us.  Kelvin himself, from what I can tell from skimming, seems to have thought that Maxwell’s error came from the ergodic hypothesis–the long-term equiprobability of all states.  In fact, ergodicity breaking is an interesting topic in physics (cf. spontaneous symmetry breaking), but for this problem Lord Kelvin is once again not heading in the most fruitful direction.  However, one cannot accuse him of timidity; he’s calling the whole mathematical basis of statistical mechanics into question.

Kelvin is also attributed with the following quote “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now.  All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”  As Wikipedia explains, this quote is found only long after the alleged statement, always without citation, and is very likely apocryphal, a misreading of an earlier statement by Michelson.  The actual 1900 speech is itself strong evidence that Kelvin believed no such thing.