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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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.

The republic has no need for geniuses

A writer at Nautilus explains why, in this democratic and egalitarian age, we should get rid of the idea of genius (having more-or-less already gotten rid of the reality).

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The most dangerous vice for women

Elusive Wapiti quoting Elspeth quoting Kieth Drury:

In a spiritual formation class we work on how Christians can get victory over sin as a part of their spiritual growth. To start the unit I ask students to list the sins Christians face most today. They list four sins immediately:

Internet Porn

Then they pause…they run out of sins…At the pause I usually ask, “OK, for each sin on our list let’s decide as a class if men or women are more inclined to this sin. In all three classes they have agreed that while women are sometimes tempted in these areas men are more inclined to these four sins.

So I say, “Only women participate now—decide among yourselves what four sins you’d add to the list to that you think women are more inclined toward. Silence. Furrowed brows. Thinking…

The last two times I did this activity the women unanimously agreed on what they considered the chief besetting sin of women:

Lack of self esteem

I’m serious. So were they. The last two times I did this when a women offered “Self esteem” the entire group of women audibly responded, “Yeah—that’s it!”

You see where I’m headed? Lack of self esteem? To the men in the class these co-eds were saying, “While you men struggle with pornography, lust, pride and anger we women struggle with not thinking highly enough of ourselves.

A while back, Sunshine Mary noted a real gem in Christianity Today:  “The Spiritual Sex:  why are women better Christians than men?”  (Degree of spiritual advancement was measured by anonymous self-assessment.)

By almost any measure, women are better Christians than men are. They’re more likely to read Scripture, believe it, practice what it teaches, and tell others about it.  (Studies suggest that women are also more devout Muslims, Hindus, pagans, etc.) And they’re feeling pretty good about it, too: in August, the Barna Group reported that 74 percent of Christian women say they are mature in the faith.

One of the only categories on which men scored more highly was agreement with the following:

I strongly believe God is angered by my sins,

Also according to Barna, women don’t struggle with any of the seven deadly sins:

Churches have long taught the seven deadly sins or modern interpretations of them: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. For women, these traditional sins do not seem to be a problem; they claim instead much more “modern” struggles. In fact, when asked what they struggle with, women most often point to disorganization (50%) and inefficiency (42%).

As for the traditional sins, women are least likely to admit to lust (8%). And, against common stereotypes, women also say they rarely battle jealousy or envy—less than one in eight women (13%) admit to feeling envious often or sometimes. When it comes to other negative behaviors and attitudes, about one third (36%) admit to feeling anger, one quarter say they struggle with selfishness (25%), one in five say they are prone to excessive arguing (19%) and just over one-sixth (16%) say they can be arrogant.

So, in case it isn’t obvious, the vice most likely to ensnare a Christian woman is PRIDE.

One may still wonder if this is something biologically innate or a result of cultural conditioning.

Muslim, Jewish, Christian intrinsic crazy modes

Lawrence Auster, I believe it was, coined the phrase “Sudden Jihad Syndrome” to describe the phenomenon of a seemingly peaceful and apolitical Muslim deciding without apparent provocation to wage homicidal jihad on the infidels in his vicinity.  The key assertion in this phrase is that an outside trigger is not necessary, that war on non-Muslims is a “meme” carried by Islam itself.  Note that one needn’t say that violent jihadis have the true, authentic version of Islam.  One may think that the question of “authentic” Islam is meaningless or uninteresting to non-Muslims, or one may believe that Islamists are distorting Islam, so long as one grants that this distortion is a natural one.  That war should be waged on non-Muslims is a reading or misreading of the Koran that requires no outside forcing (such as the provocation of Western oppression or contamination by Western ideologies) and so may be expected to reoccur irrespective of the non-Muslim environment.  Auster himself seemed convinced that it was not a misreading, that nonviolent Muslims are the equivalent of non-practicing Christians, but I prefer to remain agnostic on this question.

Islam isn’t alone in having internal crazy modes (I’d call them “failure modes”, but who am I to say what the proper functioning of Islam is?)  Do you have a Jewish neighbor:  has lots of Gentile friends, isn’t offended by Christmas trees, isn’t much into religion or politics?  You never know–he might at any moment reconnect with his heritage and be stricken by Sudden Prophet Syndrome, announce that his host society is racist-sexist-homophobic, and go off on the social justice warpath.  How about a Christian neighbor?  Better stay on your toes.  She might hear one too many times about tax collectors and prostitutes getting into heaven before priests, and it may trigger Moral Inversion Syndrome, and she’ll go around haranguing her fellow Christians about the many moral lessons they can learn from prostitutes.  This sort of thing is not the proper interpretation, but I’m afraid all Christians are prone to it.  We know that we’re all sinners, so we tend to imagine that spectacular sinners have some deeper spiritual awareness, or at least they’re not “hypocrites” like respectable Christians.  Rather like in that most socially inverted of art forms, the murder mystery, in which the culprit is never the guy found on the scene who has a criminal record and a clear motive but always a respected pillar of the community whom no one but the detective would have suspected, we’ve told ourselves stories so often about repentant thieves and wicked respectable men that we’ve forgotten the whole point about this being unusual.  (Once, long ago, I read an article by a Jew who pointed out that Christians sometimes act as if they hold the ordinary virtues of the conscientious worker and family man in disdain.  If our prelates want to go look looking for elements of sanctification, this would be a better place for them to start.)

Each of these crazy modes is, in pure form, either too silly or too destructive to last long.  That they continue to plague our world is the work of the Manipulator.  In any religion, the manipulator is easy to spot.  He’s the Islamist who doesn’t feel the need to strap explosives to his own chest.  He’s the social justice partisan who’s forgotten socialism and is now careful only to invoke Jewish moral zealotry against Christians and lower-class whites.  He’s the Christian who only applies moral inversion to sins he doesn’t really believe are sins, i.e. the Dumbledore Fallacy.  (Ask him whether the doctrine of gradualism applies to the sin of “racism”.  I’m still waiting for some understanding for lovers of their own people.)

As Christians we must be especially on guard against Christian craziness.  We’ve just seen its destructiveness.  Yes, of course all men are sinners, and all are a mix of good and bad.  Nevertheless, it’s still true that being a prostitute is a bad thing and that being a housewife is a good thing.  And there’s no gradualness in our final destinations.

Post-Synod: The Left never loses by overstepping

Laura Wood summarizes the outcome of the Synod:

THE required two-thirds majority of bishops at the “Extraordinary Synod on the Family” has rejected three of the most controversial paragraphs in a draft midterm report, including one paragraph that spoke of the special “gifts” of homosexuals. However, the original wording will still be published and disseminated to dioceses around the world for discussion. And the parts of the report which offered nuanced, touchy-feely support for cohabitation, civil unions and contraception reportedly remain. (So far the final report is only available in Italian.) Francis in his final address spoke glowingly of the “animated discussions” that characterized the meetings, all of it so much pseudo-Catholic theater staged to achieve his revolutionary goals.

So, even after the revolt of the orthodox, the outcome of Synod is still a shift to the Left.  The Overton window has shifted. This is the achievement of the mid-synod summary, regardless of its being moderately rebuked in the small groups reports.  Nobody respectable is now so far to the Right as to find it unfitting for a Church document to emphasize the elements of sanctification in adulterous relationships.  Meanwhile, the idea of a man’s urge to bugger other men being a special gift to him and the Church is not formally approved but is considered so worthy of consideration that the Church will see to it that everyone is exposed to it.  The second week of the Synod was a victory for the orthodox, but even so it failed to completely overturn the Kasperite advance.  The Left never loses by overstepping.  If Leftists go too far too fast they may have to make a temporary retreat, but they never go back to where they were before their offensive, much less do they ever actually lose ground.  There is no real danger to the Left in attacking.  At worst, they encounter stiffer-than-expected resistance and only gain a little.

Also, it seems that the “law of gradualism” is now a centerpiece of Catholic moral theology, and the only thing to do is to figure out what it really means.  (I recommend Tony M.’s analysis.)  I’m not embarrassed to say that I’d never heard until last week of this core Catholic doctrine that negates the older idea of “mortal sin” that I learned from my Baltimore Catechism as a kid.  Thank God I was born when I was, because the new doctrine wouldn’t have kept me out of nearly as much trouble as the old one did.

Lastly, let us hold ourselves to a higher standard on the Right and avoid cheap shots like calling Cardinal Kasper a “racist”.  There’s no such sin as “racism”.  Let’s not pretend he doesn’t feel exactly the same way toward white conservative Catholics.  And I can totally believe that to someone arriving in the airport London looks like a third-world country.  Kasper is promoting the ultimate heresy.  That’s bad enough.