Gravitational waves and cosmology, reposted from the Orthosphere

Today, the BICEP2 team announced the detection of what they claim is an imprint of long wavelength gravitational waves in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background.  If this holds up (a big if:  lots of exciting discoveries don’t hold up when some neglected systematic error turns up), it will be the most important discovery in cosmology since the first evidence for dark energy, and for physics in general I would rate it more important than the detection of the Higgs boson.

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“Bravo” “Good for him”

What a disgrace is the American episcopacy, congratulating people for embracing sin and perversion.  I hope to expand on this in the Orthosphere in a few days, but I think this is a major reason the Left feels so emboldened lately to impose their immoralism on the rest of us.  Why fuss over Christians’ conscience rights when Christian leaders (especially the selectively non-judgmental prelates of the Catholic Church) make it so clear that they don’t really believe any of these doctrines anyway?  It’s absurd to demand that our enemies respect our beliefs more than we do.

The danger of a John Paul II canonization

I actually think he was a man of apparent holiness who did a pretty good job as pope.  However, I remember this dust up from a few years ago.  The main facts of the case being 1) Wielgus signed a statement to cooperate with the communist secret police, 2) he indicates it was the price he had to pay for permission to leave the country for work-related reasons, and 3) there was, last time I heard, still no reason to doubt his claim that no one was accused or hurt by his “spying”.  Nevertheless, this was considered a major scandal.

Now, I don’t particularly care about Bishop Wielgus, and behind the drive to expose communist collaborators is at least the rare but laudable recognition that communism is a bad thing.  However, consider this.  In communist Poland, as in any other totalitarian society, you don’t get to climb above the rank of toilet scrubber without in some way giving the regime an assurance that you’re willing to play ball.  You don’t get to leave the country, say to attend an ecumenical council.  You certainly don’t get appointed as bishop, since the communists had a direct veto over episcopal appointments.  The fact that Karol Wojtyla did both means he must have “collaborated” in some way.  At the very least, he must have agreed to avoid anti-communist associations and to report his activities while abroad (which, remember, is all Bishop Wielgus admitted to doing). The entire Polish hierarchy must be implicated to some degree, just because they were allowed to be the hierarchy.

And I don’t blame them for it.  History shows that they manipulated the communist system better than it manipulated them, and Poland and the rest of the world are better places because of it.  However, the general response to clerical collaborators has not set us up to make this case.  The Polish Church behaved quite properly in investigating the behavior of its priests while declining ahead of time to make the results of this investigation public.  There is absolutely nothing to be gained from a public release.  Why would any anti-communist want to humiliate the institution that everyone realizes was the most vigorous opponent of communism?  Even setting aside damage to the Church, it would have been far better for all the former communist states of Eastern Europe to have destroyed the records of their secret police before anyone could see them.  The main revelation of all these records is the great degree to which ordinary people could be induced to spy on their neighbors.  This is a bad thing to know.  A healthy organic community depends on social trust.  Convince people that their neighbors are a bunch of willing Stasi spies, and they will fail to trust their neighbors, turning instead to the government for protection.  The government thus becomes all-powerful and can then institute the actual Stasi and start recruiting actual spies.  The only ultimate beneficiary of a witch hunt against communist collaborators is communism itself.

Anyway, Western Catholics criticized the Polish Church for its culture of secrecy, but I don’t think we’re going to like what they’ve found.  They presumably know the extent to which all the Polish cardinals and bishops were “collaborators” but think they can just sit on the knowledge forever.  However, they’re not the only ones with access to it.  (If they were, Wielgus would still be Archbishop of Warsaw.)  If any damaging information is in the hands of the Church’s enemies, why haven’t we heard it yet?  Well, suppose you are an enemy of Church, and you have what you consider a compromising document–say a written promise by young Father Wojtyla to discourage social unrest and to turn in to the police anyone who he hears plotting the overthrow of the communist state (all of which would be defensible from the Catholic doctrine on duty to established authority, even if he really did mean it and wasn’t just gaming the system by planning to excuse himself whenever his friends started to talk rebellion).  What do you do, run to the press or sit on it?  Well, ask yourself this–which would do the maximum damage:  going to the press the day before John Paul II’s canonization or going to the press the day after?

Nested commenting eliminated

I’m going to try an experiment with comments.  I find them easier to read when there’s only one conversation and all comments are arranged in chronological order.  If most people hate it, we can go back.

Life renewing itself

God is generous.  After months of growing dread that it would never happen, my wife, her local best friend, and my brother’s wife all found out they were pregnant at about the same time.  I’ve tried to explain this to Julie.  I told her, “Mommy has a baby in her tummy.”  She thought about this for a second and then told me “I have a baby in my tummy too.”  What’s most impressed her so far was when we went to get the second ultrasound.  Not the actual image of the baby–that just annoyed her.  What she found fascinating was, as she put it later, that “the doctors put glitter glue on mommy’s tummy”.  She doesn’t really get it yet, I suspect, but she will soon enough.

The baby is coming at the end of June, which is really excellent timing since I’m not teaching in the summer.  It’s also good timing in that I’ve got a bit of a lull in career pressure since passing the 3rd year review (with the highest possible rating of “adequate progress”) and a pretty respectable uptick in my publication rate.

It gave me some satisfaction refusing to have any genetic tests done, which I like to think of as giving the finger to the eugenic murder industry in my own little way.

At various times I’ve brought up on this blog the argument that having children is no longer a good thing in today’s world, because of the near certainty that they will be corrupted and never go to heaven.  If anything, the evidence for this view has grown even stronger than before.  As a calculation, an estimate of probabilities and expected outcome, I don’t see the flaw in this argument, even though I would very much like to.  However, I intuitively know that it must be wrong, because it’s crazy.  When your reasoning tells you to reject life, through suicide or sterility, your intellect is misbehaving, and you can know this even without seeing how it’s gone wrong.  For now, having children must be a leap in the dark for us.  Or, rather, a leap in the face of hopeless vision.  We’re trusting to God that things are not really quite as bleak as they appear.  Since He has charged us with bringing up a next generation of Christians (and I’m waiting to hear a voice in the sky before I’m convinced that we’re no longer charged to do this) we must hope that He will provide the graces to make this possible.  In my own case, I think the constant searching for some proof that things are not as bad as they appear is a temptation I must avoid, and not just because it leads me to waste too much work time surfing the internet.  It always comes down to my desire to have some kind of observable sociological force in which I can put my faith rather than putting it in God.  God has allowed Christendom to mess itself up to such a degree that there is no longer an obvious way for me to indulge this temptation.  Perhaps this is the reason I was born into these evil times.  It’s not the sort of gift I would want, but He knows better than I what I need.

Are you ready for Pope Francis’ canonization?

Because you know it’s going to happen.  It’s getting to be pretty hard for recent popes not to be canonized.  They’ve even slated Pope John XXIII, the worst pope in the Church’s entire history, for sainthood.  If they can do it for Good Pope John, how can they not do it for Good Pope Francis?  After all, Pope Francis is perfectly replicating Pope John’s institution-smashing recklessness (Vatican II / the Extraordinary Synod) and deliberate downplaying of opposition to the most militant evil of the day (communism / sodomy) thus winning great personal popularity in exchange for the jeopardy of souls.  Francis is practically a Roncalli clone.

While we’re on that topic I honestly don’t understand why traditionalists get so much more worked up over the canonization of John Paul II.  It’s not that I agree with everything JPII ever did, but I’ve never doubted that he was fundamentally on the Catholic side against modernity.  He inherited an impossible situation, and he had to choose his battles.  Overall, I think he chose them wisely and fought them well.  Pope John inherited a strong, healthy church and murdered it.  Even Pope Paul VI, when he faced his judgment before God, had one glorious moment of courage to his credit.  When some day, God willing, the Second Vatican Council is forgotten, Humanae Vitae will still stand out as one of the glories of papal history.  (And, yes, they’re pushing for Paul’s canonization too.  I’m as ultramontanist as the next Catholic, but even for me this is becoming unseemly.)

Yes, I realize that one canonizes the man, not his policies, and it’s possible that Pope John was very holy and very stupid.  However, for a public figure like a pope, the policies are the main thing he’s known for.  Declaring someone a saint doesn’t just declare that this person is in heaven; it holds him up as an example.  If a pope does a bad job, and we don’t want him to be held up as an example of how the Church should be run, there’s nothing wrong with letting him enjoy the fruits of his holiness without official recognition.  It’s not like he’ll be kicked out of heaven.

Why do I bring this up?  Because it adds a new layer to that burden we reactionaries always feel, the weight of our descendent’s hatred.  Not for us is the comfort of imagining that history will vindicate us, that even if we fail, school children in the distant future will someday be taught that our cause was just.  We’ve always known that secular culture despises us now and will despise us more with each generation.  I suspect that even Catholic history in the future will condemn us.  The traditionalists criticized by Francis will be remembered in Catholic history like the Integralists are in the post-VII Church, as fools and bigots that the heroes had to overcome.  That, like yesterday’s Integralists, today’s traditionalists are actually right won’t mean anything to anyone, except God.

In what sense is it possible to believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Catholic Church?

Proph has posted an important post on the danger of a new “pastoral” Church practice that would contradict her witness on the indissolubility of marriage (more brazenly than our farcical annulment industry already does, that is).  Like everyone else, I think it possible and even probable that this will happen.  That is, I don’t think that God has given us any assurance that such an evil thing won’t happen.

There is then an important sense in which I don’t have faith in the Church, at least in that I don’t trust Rome to promote Roman Catholicism and discourage sin.  However, before anybody tells me to get lost and become officially Protestant, consider the fact that no one believes anymore in the reliability of Rome in the way that seemed like the self-evidently Catholic position one hundred years ago.  No one believes it for the very good reason that there is no way to believe it.  Every position one could possibly take involves effectively dismissing the Magisterium as a usefully reliable guide.  Consider the options:

  1. What Proph calls “the Magisterium of the moment”:  Pope Francis’s Catholicism is great, and what looks like a gutting of morality and the sacraments is really a Spirit-mandated work of mercy.  But if that’s true, then all the popes prior to Francis were completely wrong about what they thought was their most important duty.
  2. Magisterial minimalism:  basically, no special trust is to be extended to papal or episcopal statements per se when infallibility is not explicitly invoked.  The trouble with this (aside from it being explicitly repudiated in Lumen Gentium) is that it means the protection the Holy Spirit gives the Magisterium is practically worthless.  I have no guarantee that the pope and all the bishops won’t deny the existence of God tomorrow, just that they won’t formalize it in a particular way.
  3. Sedevacantism:  Since we all admit that the Church has gone off the rails, I don’t see how this is a crazier position than anything else.
  4. Catholicism is a false religion, and the contradictions between Pius X and Francis I prove it.

All of these undermine the Church’s authority in serious ways.  We Catholics should keep that in mind when we criticize each other.  Here, for example, is a sedevacantist website criticizing the SSPX for not trusting that the Holy Spirit would prevent the true Church from falling into error (although He won’t, apparently, prevent her from being usurped and replaced by a false religion without noticing it).  And here is the SSPX attacking sedevacantists for drawing a distinction between a ruler having legitimacy and him having authority, which again is an odd point for the Lefebvrists to be emphasizing.  I myself certainly will not criticize the SSPX, like most Catholics do, for “disobedience” given that I will never submit to a change in the doctrine of marriage, no matter how many popes should demand it of me.  (One could argue that I’m already in rebellion against the Magisterium for what I’ve written on this blog on the subject of immigration.  I would disagree, of course, but that would be my Magisterial minimalism talking.)  The fact is that any contemporary Catholic can be accused of failing to trust the Holy Spirit to take care of the Church.

Democracy in the Church

From that same article, another horrendous idea making the rounds:

That the Church in Germany is what preoccupies the quondam Holy Office today is shown by two new initiatives:  the memorandum signed by the director of the Karl Rahner Academy, Bernd Wacker, and the letter from the Kölner Kercheninitiative…in which they asked the Pope to open the procedure for the election of a bishop to the laity as well.  At Christmas, in fact, the conservative Cardinal, Joachim Meisner, will be 80 years old and soon will retire after five years of postponement.  Gerhard Müller has made clear that to change the rules of the procedure is not possible…

I’ve got a better idea.  Let’s just let the editorial board of the New York Times select bishops.  You know, eliminate the middle man.

Of course, this is what I say about democracy in general.  I seriously would rather that my enemies in the media directly control the government than that they indirectly control it through brainwashing the populace.  I have no problem with the rule of a few per se, and the inevitable devolution of democracy into media rule means that it doesn’t matter whether I have a problem with it or not; it is unavoidable.  However, direct rule is preferable to indirect rule–even if we grant that the brainwashing will continue (and it might slack a bit if it were no longer needed for controlling policy)–for three reasons.  First, unlike being the power behind the throne, being the recognized ruler comes with recognized responsibility.  For decades, we have followed the NYT prescription for social degradation, and it has had many deleterious effects, but no one now thinks to blame our true rulers.  Second, recognized rule can only justify itself by some sort of positive appeal to legitimacy or the common good, while indirect power can rely entirely on resentment toward scapegoats, that is, toward the nominal, powerless establishment.  Third, if the NYT directly ruled, it could impose things like gay marriage without the complicity of a majority of the populace.  Thus, fewer people would damn themselves with the making of each evil law.

The gathering divorce storm

The heretics Marx and Kasper aren’t even pretending that the upcoming Synod on the Family is about better teaching the Catholic theology of marriage, as opposed to overthrowing it.  (Note Cardinal Kasper practically promising that unrepentant adulterers will soon be able to receive the Eucharist.)

On the bright side, it looks like my name choice wasn’t so bad after all.  Divorce is turning into the great Catholic battle of our time.

The new Disney princess equilibrium

My three-year old daughter Julie loves The Princess and the Frog, one of the two or three actual movies she’s seen, and I agree that it’s pretty good.  It’s actually pretty impressive how well many of the Disney animated movies turn out given the restrictions they’re under.  Everybody in the world feels that they have the right not to be offended by Disney movies, and so they’re obsessively scrutinized by interest groups the world over.  Just think about the kind of grief they get.  “Ariel in The Little Mermaid was infatuated and irresponsible.  We need more strong, independent women!”  “Those hyenas in The Lion King sound black.  That’s racist!”  I remember reading these criticisms among many others in newspapers.  With each new movie, the writers must figure out how to accommodate the ever-escalating demands of political correctness.  And yet, they can’t go full-PC nonwhite-lesbian-commune-fighting-America either.  They don’t want to offend ordinary people, and they have to know that the whole attraction of the princess genre is heterosexual, strongly sexually differentiated, and non-democratic.  They’re selling people something they say they (or rather their children) don’t want but obviously do.  The trick in that kind of game is to sell the customer what she wants while giving her some plausible cover to say what she’s bought is really something different.  I suppose Disney could just drop the princess movie line and only write other kinds of stories, but that’s not going to happen while selling princess accessories to toddler girls is such a goldmine.  I’ve tried to mildly discourage it and encourage her in other things, but my daughter has latched onto princess and fairy stuff, and it’s slowly building up in our apartment.

By the way, I think this is the secret of Dora the Explorer’s success.  You want to indulge your toddler daughter’s girlishness a little, without going full Disney Princess.  It doesn’t work.  We’ve tried.

Last aside:  Julie does have some strong non-princess-and-fairy interests.  She’s fascinated by snakes and ceiling fans.  I should tell you stories sometime.

Anyway, three things impressed me about The Princess and the Frog.

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