Soft reboot?

Anyone who has spent much time around computers has had some concepts burned into their lives.  One is, in the case of some small but insurmountable problem in performance, it is necessary to “reboot” the computer.  The power stays on, and if everything goes as advertised (never an absolute given), when the computer is ready to obey the User, function is restored and nothing has been lost.  Think of the scene from Airplane when a passenger is given to hysterics and a simple shaking, then a slap, followed by a long line of “well-meaning” passengers attempt their own methods to silence her.

Not so the “hard reboot.”  Nope.  This is necessary when the computer completely freezes – nothing works, not keyboard, not mouse.  Removing all power is required.  Of course this means losing all work that has not been saved; and as if to prove karma, this only happens when the most critical work of the day is hanging in the ether and is lost forever.  But, at least the computer, sufficiently chastised, assumes its humble role of servant once again.

Could this SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 be God’s “soft reboot”?  Not a “hard reboot” like Sodom and Gomorrah.  But just taking by the shoulders and shaking to tell an errant world that is not too far gone…yet.  More like in the basket, but only half-way to Hell – still time to bail.

The rumor-mongering surrounding this pandemic, like someone said, is the only thing that is spreading faster than the virus itself.  As if pulled from some B-movie, only the names have been changed to protect the poor acting and script, we have a man-made virus that has gotten out of control.  A bio-weapon that has turned on its master and has wrecked havoc, not on the “bad” guys, but on the “good” guys.  There are other conspiracies, but all involve unspeakable devastation, the bad guys hunkered down in some underground bunker, the innocent utterly destroyed, pillage the order of the day, the good guys down – but not out.

There have been other world-wide calamities, some in our recent past – apparently all forgotten, conveniently for the most part.

What makes this one different is the politics.  For some reason, what we call it is important.  Not that it has upset the world economy.  Not that is makes people sick. Not that it kills people.  But the moniker we hang on it.  The ugly head of PC has been raised once again.

For about a hundred years, we have called the flu that appeared at the end of World War I – and killed more than the war did – the “Spanish flu.”  No one has objected to insulting the Spanish for secretly unleashing the flu on a war-weary world.  It seems we can’t associate this modern day flu with the country of origin because that is “racist.”  Yet we never hear the mob that is so PC about today’s flu say that identifying that flu of a hundred years ago is racist.  But what is sublimely ludicrous is that the “Spanish flu” did not originate in Spain at all.  In fact, irony of ironies, it is the fact that the USA and Europe, fearing revealing their own military capabilities censored the news of this flu; while Spain, neutral during the war, reported it.  Thus, by telling the truth, the Spanish have been discriminated against for a century.  So of course, in the frenzy to not make Red China “feel bad,” we say that today’s flu magically appeared out of nowhere.  We don’t even want to say that it ultimately came from the animal kingdom – oh no, don’t blame the bats, it is human behavior that created this virus.  At least now I know what a “wet” market is.  And any appetite to eat bats is forever off my plate (with apologies to Anthony Bourdain, of course).

But whatever we call it, could it be a “wakeup call” – one so desperately needed?  It seems that governments learning nothing from the SARS pandemic of recent memory – stockpiles of commodities like masks just didn’t happen.  Physical brick-and-mortar hospitals are being augmented by tents – yes, in March, the tail end of winter, when weather is, at best, “unsettled.”  As far as health-care providers are concerned, some are surprised to learn that these people cannot work 24/7 for very long; and, shudder, they get sick too!  How dare they?

As far as religion is concerned, the Roman Catholic Church has become, well to be kind, an embarrassment.  At least here in the United States, the USCCB, so long attached to the Party of Death, and afraid of its own shadow, has closed churches in the name of “social distancing.”  For 1,500 years, the Church has preached that attending Mass is an obligation – if not fulfilled, then that basket you’re in makes it all the way to the River Styx.  Now, public Mass is not available – not even private Mass in a person’s home.  Once again (not the first time, for those conveniently ignorant), the bishops are anything but apostolic.  The Faithful Church is being driven underground, while the apostates run around on the surface like so many headless chickens (apologies to the fowl that were blamed – kinda – for that other flu).

Proof that the Stock Market is irrational (could anyone doubt that now?), the money world has suffered far worse than either medicine or religion.  At least it will recover – it always has, the open market (aka capitalism) is ruthlessly efficient.  And it will finance medicine.  The Catholic Church on the other hand will never be the same – thank God.  It is many months till November and the incumbent in the White House is in the perfect position to pave the way to another four years, while the Party of Death rearranges the deck chairs on its own sinking ship.

Yes, 2020 is turning out to be very “interesting.”

Revenge

Altho early for me, I was not the first one in my neighborhood to put up lights for the Christmas Season.  It just seemed that, in this Bizarre Year of 2020, we just needed a little Christmas – early.  Most of my neighbors beat me to it.  In any event, I splurged and bought new lights.  Oh, I still have the strings (and strings) of miniature lights that have increasingly more sections of dark (one of these days, I’ll get around to troubleshooting – yes, I said the same thing last year).  But, after carefully measuring how much I would need, I carefully read labels and bought six boxes of “cascading LED icicles.”

Thinking ahead (yes, rare for me), I unboxed the first set and plugged them in – before climbing a ladder and putting them up.  I remember my dad digging out the strings of incandescent bulbs and painstakingly trying to find the one errant bulb that prevented any others from lighting up.  Not quite what Clark W Griswald inflicted on his son, Rusty – but close.

That was the easy part.

So, 20 icicles on a string of ridiculously thin wire ten feet long.  Unbox that, knave!  (Gaunlet optional.)  The clock is running.

I have often wondered what the people who make stuff for the American market think.  Clothing items for people with more money than sense are probably beyond understanding for sweatshop labor that might have a single pair of “shoes.”  But, at least these lights were assembled in a country that is not hellbent on destroying the infidel USA.  Maybe.

So, where’s the end to this snake’s nest?  I found the end I needed to plug in; but how to unravel?  Or, untie?  Or, overcome?  I could not give up.  I could not stuff that bunch of plastic icicles and miles of wire back in the box and trek back to Costco (I had seen the line of people who were already returning stuff).  I could not admit defeat.  How hard could it be?  (And this was box number one.)

Thinking that the assemblers were paid on piece-rate, they must have a system that allowed them to very quickly take this nightmare and stick it in a box.  Soon, so it seemed, a few of these damned icicles were grouped together, and then the whole conglomeration stuffed in a box.  You know: like five groups of four.  Or, is that three?  How about a random number?  (By the time I had opened the sixth box, I decided it could be any number between one and five.  I think.)

In fact, I was convinced that not only did they not have a fixed number of icicles per bundle, but neither had anyone stipulated how to, well, tie the bundles together.  Turns out, logic was not my friend.  Remember: I unboxed six boxes and found absolutely no consistency.  Except for all of the LEDs working.  Not that I actually counted them: maybe ten LEDs per icicle, 20 icicles per string, six strings; after an afternoon going up and down and up and down a ladder, I could not possibly have cared less.

I wasn’t worried about the warning that only three strings could be strung together: extension cords I got.  But, after trying to find the synthetic twine (you know the kind that unravels and frays as fast as you can use it) that I used to string up last year’s lights (remember: the miniature colored lights that are still in the box this year), I resorted to fishing line.  You see, I have 40 feet of wood fence – about as common as moss here in the Pacific Northwest.  Ha!  Fishing line?  Why in the world do I have 4 pound monofilament fishing line?  I don’t have a pole and if there is a hook somewhere in my shed, I haven’t seen it lately.  (Or poked myself with it.). I really ought to throw that damned stuff away.  No, really.  (Yes, it is now in some obscure corner of my shed.)

About that time, my neighbor from across the street sauntered over and asked if I had thought about using a staple gun.  I said, no; and besides I didn’t have one.  He said he had one if I’d like to borrow it.  I asked him if he had plenty of staples.  That is the longest conversation I have had with him in the five years we have lived in this house.

Two lessons: 1. When you move into a new place, make it a point to meet your neighbors – they just might save your bacon someday.  2.  Christmas came early this year.

Boom!  Putting up the icicles on the fence took a fraction of the time that I was expecting.  A big shout-out to the neighbor whose name I still don’t know (we’re guys, we don’t hug and we don’t brush each other’s hair).

Yes, I will buy my own staple gun and TWO boxes of staples during one of my countless runs to HomeDepot in the next few weeks.  As my “new” neighbor said, “Having the right tool …” you know the rest.

And yes, the instruction booklet expressly recommends against using staples.  What do they know?  After all, the page-after-page of warnings (in a thousand different languages) used flawless English – yep: I’m still in shock.

Hours later (or, before it started raining again), I put the ladder away and stumbled into the house.  I thought I had set the timers, or at least had intended to set the timers.  Nightfall happened without fanfare, or lights.  Oh well, I still have another day before the First Sunday of Advent.  So, there I was, Saturday in the rain, climbing a ladder to set the timer.  Oh, and wrapping the electrical connections in plastic and zip ties.  (The connections on the strings of icicles are probably water-proof to a hundred meters – but I know my extension cords are only water resistant to the next cloud that comes by.)

So, I say Bravo, or Bully to the demons who created those LED icicles and then wrapped them up: it took me longer to get them out of the box than it did to string them on my house.  (Full Disclosure: they slipped out of the box – that part took three, maybe four seconds.  It was the unwrapping that took ages and ages.)

Is revenge a dish best served cold?  Well, it isn’t snowing here (and isn’t likely to).  And it really isn’t all that cold, either (except maybe compared to Vietnam, where these things were said to have been assembled).  But, I just gotta think that, all these years later Ho Chi Minh is thumbing his nose at western imperialism (and rightly so).  And by the time next year rolls around, I will have forgotten the ordeal of putting up lights this year (assuming that ridiculously thin wire has endured).

But what do I do with the box of miniature lights – some working, some not – that sits at my feet?

Maybe that is the true revenge?

Merry Christmas.

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“We need a little Christmas,” from Jerry Herman’s Mame

Clark W Griswald courtesy of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Darnel

You know that ancient story of the farmer who discovered that his wheat field was full of weeds.  He concluded that only an enemy could have done that – a person had consciously and deliberately (“with malice and forethought”) sewn his fields with a plant that would reduce his yield, and could possibly make people sick from his otherwise healthy crop.

A little research revealed that it is commonly thought that the weed was darnel.  A plant that looks like wheat (and as a city-dweller, I am sure I could not tell them apart) until it is harvest time.  Apparently, darnel turns black and remains standing, while wheat becomes “amber waves of grain” and leans over.  Without doubt they have to be separated because the darnel can make humans sick – but it would be best to wait until harvest to be sure of what is which.

While no one could say I have a “presence” on the internet (more like Churchill’s belief in a proper martini: merely turn toward France, but vermouth did not even have to be in the room), I was recently attacked by a “hater.”  Someone had gone out of their way to accuse me of some vile things.

I linked the two: the old story and the new experience.  Imagine purposely cultivating weeds to have enough seed to ruin someone else’s livelihood.  Living in suburbia, that would be like collecting dandelion seeds and then throwing them in my neighbor’s lawn.  Or, trolling the internet and then sending an email to my former employer asking the inflammatory question of whether or not they wanted an employee like me (turns out, it didn’t – given a choice, that former employer preferred the accusations from an anonymous source, than someone who had been an employee for 35 years).

Like I say, someone took pains and went to great lengths to smear my reputation.  On the one hand, it is probably someone I know, because some familiarity is usually a factor in such behavior.  But, what I was accused of came from someone who obviously has no idea who I am.

So, that old story took on new meaning.  I now have a clear example of applicability between my life now, and a story from 2,000 years ago.  The villain used a great deal of effort and the tools at hand to try to destroy someone else.  Of course, in that old story, the villain was probably thinking the farmer would have to sell the field at a discount.  In my case, it isn’t likely I was moved out to make room for someone else (but here in 2020, stranger things have happened).

In any event, I now better understand human nature (especially on the internet).  In that old story, the darnel was also collected at harvest time, and thrown into the fire.  And so I will treat the “haters” on the internet.  I suppose I should feel flattered that anyone took the time?

While I would certainly prefer that Life was all skittles and beer, I know that I would become fat and lazy if I didn’t have to work at it.  Some ask why bad things happen to good people and to me the answer is easy: it’s called opportunity.  Of course that is a Christian way of looking at Life.  A pagan point of view (something I would expect of a darnel) might be that “Mother Nature” (aka “Fate,” or “Destiny”) is capricious and arbitrary and that this life as we experience it is all there is.  While there are no gods on Mt Olympus and the stars couldn’t possibly give a fig about us, the natural world presents each and every one of us with choices.  Some have to choose between silver spoons, most of us have to worry about our paycheck (and the vast majority of people worldwide worry about their next meal).  But for those of us who have some choices, how we decide does determine how we exist in the Next Life.  To borrow from a movie, “Choose wisely.”

You see, I firmly believe that Eternity is a Long Time.

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Matthew 13:25

“Indiana Jones”

Profound or Profane?

I was able to tough my way thru “Another Life,” only because I enjoy Katee Sackoff (having discovered her in “Longmire” a few years ago); but it was tough going.  The Netflix series seems to be an adult version of “Lost in Space,” and since I do love sci-fi it was a given that I should try it.

But all I found was that it was trying.  Katee was fine; but the dialogue was unbelievably juvenile, beginning with the now ubiquitous “F-bomb.”

Yes, I am a word snob.  Somewhere in my past I developed a love and respect of the written word.  Now, thanks to the internet, I have learned that the language evolves and is often obliterated to fill the needs of the users – as it should be.  Language should not be confined to the hallowed halls of museums; but at the same time, it shouldn’t lose its ability to communicate.

And the recurring message I got from the over-use of the F-bomb was that the writers were either extremely unskilled, or the audience that they were writing for is extremely unimaginative.  In any event, relying on one word for every verbal interchange became an exercise in resistance for me.  I was never able to see past the constant, staccato pinging (no, I did not count how many times it was used – what would be the point in that?).

I have a co-worker who really is a rocket scientist, and one of those individuals who remembers “everything.”  I asked him once if he can recall everything he ever read and he said no, just the page numbers.  He is, quite literally, my workgroup’s very own internet.

Sadly, he uses “curse words” in every day life like the characters in “Another Life” use the F-bomb.  It does not help that, as an intellectual elitist, he does not respect either me or my religion; but beyond his blasphemy, his vocabulary is stilted, stunted and inadequate.

I ask myself why, in these two examples, is such a limited vocabulary characteristic.  Being as generous as I can be, I have concluded that it is an attempt to be profound, when all it is is profane.

If language cannot be used to communicate, then the human race has not advanced all that far from our prehistoric predecessors.  To overuse and misuse words seems more to prevent communication than to enhance it.  The irony is that people who rely on a handful of words to express themselves are communicating something I believe they would flatly deny.

I would not call the United States a physically violent place to live.  I wish I could say the same of our rhetoric.  In order to endure the mindless onslaught, the message is missed.  As an optimist, full of hope, I know we can do better – we have done better.

Much of what is said about the human race, the earth, democracy sounds as if the end is in sight.  Only 12 years until our home becomes inhabitable, thanks to farting cows?  Ludicrous.  I believe none of us now will see “the end.”  This is not to say the status quo will prevail – as has been said, the only constant is change.  We need to use words as a tool to communicate, not as a weapon to subjugate.  If we can’t be anything else, can we at least be civil?

Maintain the Status Quo

While I have, in fact, visited the Middle East, I cannot say I have…what?  I was going to say that I have “no dog in that fight.”  Then, I thought, “no skin in that game.”  But, if anything like that were true, I wouldn’t feel compelled to write anything on the subject.  Yet, here I am.

We now have two representatives in Congress who have roots in the Middle East: Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Somali refugee; and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, a Palestinian-American.  Also Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is quite vocal, though I am not aware that she has roots there.  All three are women, which I think is “interesting,” given the Muslim repression of women.  All three are Democrats, which is not surprising, but another reason I have rejected the Demos.

What I don’t get is why the other cultures in the Middle East have given the Palestinians less support than the elected officials above.  That’s the first thing.  Why don’t the other Muslim societies support the Palestinians?  They don’t.  Period.  Countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia finance world-wide terrorism, but have they spent even one dollar on schools or hospitals in the area?  Do they finance education abroad to promise a brighter future for the people who live there?  Not that I know of.

I don’t see Middle East support for the Palestinians.  I don’t know why, I just don’t.  I presume, since they all live there, and have a vested interest in the Palestinians, they have a reason to look the other way.  But, if they don’t, why should we?  If they don’t, why should anyone on Capital Hill spend an iota of effort to help them.  Why should my tax dollars support them?

Israel has been a long friend, ever since they single-handedly wrenched a country and culture from the sand.  Visit Israel, if you dare.  The countryside is lush, the desert blooms.  Not so where Palestinians control the landscape.  Let’s see: sand or oranges?  Which do I prefer?

Ideologically, I’ve never heard Israel say the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim, yet almost daily I hear Muslims from all corners of the world espouse this attitude toward individual Jews and Israel in general.  That, right there, is all I need to know.  Yes, Israel has taken military action into lands that it does not “control.”  And, maybe some of that action has been pre-emptive; but mostly it is in response to a Hezbollah missile, or a suicide-bomber.  What would you do if someone killed someone you love, for no good reason?  If you would just roll over and say “Thank you, may I please have another,” then maybe you should strap on a vest.

So now we have three very vocal (I was going to say “noisy”) members of Congress who want to spend MY money getting further involved.  And, when it comes to American “diplomacy,” that invariably means boots on the ground.

Does “something” need to be done?  Well, how to interrupt or derail a never-ending history of violence of the worst kind is the question.  Apparently, the local Muslim population doesn’t want peace in the Middle East.  There is only one way to read their Not In My Backyard (NIMBY): they don’t want peace.  Even before the Jews established the State of Israel, the locals fought amongst themselves.  Since 1947, they’ve used Israel as an excuse to hide how poorly they manage themselves.  Don’t tell me Saudi Arabia doesn’t have enough money to “fix” the problem.  Don’t tell me Iran wants to better the lives of its own people.  Don’t tell me Assad is doing all that he can to raise Syria above the historical ashes.  Maybe individual Muslims want peace, but the powers that be certainly don’t know.

And it is those powers that need convincing.  To those three new members of Congress, I say start working on those powers in the Middle East.  The best way to help the Palestinians is to get the yoke of violence off their back – the yoke that is perpetrated by the established governments in the area.  Israel is just an excuse to continue with the status quo.  The powers in the Middle East need Israel to stay in power.  We now have three avowed anti-Semites in Congress; good luck changing the status quo.

Opposites Repel

I suppose, when it comes to romance, “opposites attract.”  But, when it comes to politics, it seems more and more that others are more likely to be repulsive than attractive.

The circus that some might call the Brett Kavanaugh hearings certainly proved one thing: the Demos are anything but civil.  I watched some of the proceedings (tho, by and large, found them too ludicrous to subject myself to), and admired the man for not getting up and walking out.  Clearly, he saw the bigger picture, he saw the prize.  And just as irrefutably, the Demos sitting on the panel, as well as those in the galley and on the street, completely lost sight of the bigger picture: the future.

That Trump was legally elected, in full accord with the existing laws of the land, can’t be denied.  “He’s there, deal with it.”  Have the “Never Trumps” made any effort at all to modify those laws, to somehow change the Electoral College so that someone with the popular vote gets into office?  Not that I am aware.  They still rail against the man.  Still throwing more money after bad.  Still living in yesterday.  Sure, he’s an easy target; Trump is no politician – if by “politician,” we mean someone who can fool enough people to overlook his warts.  However, the first job of a politician is to get into office – and he’s done that.  (The second job is to stay in office, and that is TBD.)

No, the horse has left the barn and the Demos continue to lament that someone – never themselves of course – left the door open.  Wide open.  And now, in the wake of Judge Kavanaugh’s swearing-in, the Demos are pushing the door ever wider.  For me, instead of building bridges (trying to look like a reasonable alternative), the Demos are setting the barn on fire.

That Judge Kavanaugh was nominated, and now sworn in, could have been an effort only to humiliate the Demos.  Judge Kavanaugh certainly paid a high price; his family has paid a high price.  For an appointee, he has been raked over the coals – largely, manufactured and fabricated coals – like we might expect someone running for the highest office in the land.  Maybe Judge Kavanaugh is just a surrogate for Trump?  What better way to move forward than to give the Demos enough rope to hang themselves with?  Self-immolation, more like it.

“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.”  I used to be a card-carrying Democrat.  They seemed “kinder and gentler” than the GOP.  My, my, my, how they have changed.  Not that the Republicans are now hugging trees.  But as party made up of individuals, the Demos continue to raise the bar on being uncivil.  For years, the Demos have developed a platform that seems to have only one purpose: destroy everything I hold dear.

I’m not saying I have somehow found the Holy Grail of truth, and that I never threw ice on anyone in high school (or, was it college?).  But I was taught by the old school: first my parents and then the Marine Corps.  I don’t feel all that old; but I do feel like a dinosaur.  Yes, we all know what happened to dinosaurs: they all died and now some smaller creature burns the oil and coal that they turned into.  Great legacy, huh?

Moving forward to the political arena in months to come, it will be harder and harder for the “guy on the street” to divine the issues and see thru the mud-slinging (I’d like to say “rhetoric”; but that would imply civility, and we no longer have that available to us).  And even if I can convince myself that “this person” has the same values as I do, how can I be sure the “system” will respect those values, respect that representation?  If my vote ever meant anything besides just a warm feeling, now it feels like a betrayal.  Do I continue to participate in a disgustingly flawed political system – and tar myself with the same brush – or, do I withdraw from the playing field.  Stick my head in the sand, or do the right thing?

Dunno what the future will bring; but one thing is sure: Judge Kavanaugh is very likely to outlive either President Trump or Hilary Clinton.

Two questions will be answered real soon: (1) What mud will the Demos throw – since they seem to have already fired their best shots at Judge Kavanaugh, and (2) will the GOP lower itself, or take the high road?

New wine, old skins?

I am not amused.  I have read, in too many places to number, that the bishops are going to investigate themselves.  Ha.  I have more faith in the fox guarding the henhouse.

Apparently, it was debated in some circles that sex between two males was somehow ok, because it wasn’t sex between a male and a female.  Maybe as an exercise in a debate class, but as a path toward becoming a priest?  Say wha?

I guess, looking at the speculative numbers, it is a wonder I was never approached, let alone violated, while growing up.  Yes, I was an altar boy.  Yes, I was extremely active in the CYO in high school.  How did I miss all that sex stuff?  Perhaps, as a teenager, I was too interested in girls?  Dunno; but do know that no man has ever showed an interest in me.  Thank GOD.

I kinda sorta walked away from the Church in my young twenties.  Didn’t run.  Wasn’t drawn away by some irresistible force.  It just kinda happened.  Then, in the Spring of 2005, like a two-by-four between the eyes, I did an about face and ran back.  Fortunately, there was a priest who welcomed me home like the father of the prodigal son (actually, a stunningly accurate analogy).  When I told him I would have come back sooner, except for the priest sex scandal, all he could do was sigh.

Fast forward to this “summer of horrors” (thanks to George Weigel).  It is indeed that.  But, if the captain of the Titanic had asked what was on the menu for dinner with water lapping at his socks, the Church hierarchy can’t possibly be more clueless.  In fact, as little factoids are leaked to the secular press (for no official Church mouthpiece has the moral courage) it is becoming increasingly clear that the bishops are not unaware – they have either been primaries or accomplices.

What to do?  Extol the virtues of the lifeboats, or assure everyone that the Barque of Peter is unsinkable (water well past the ankles at this point)?  I know: business as usual – or, that is how I interpret Pope Francis’ “I will not say a single word.”

None of the above, apparently.  Instead the very group that should have ensured that the priest sex scandal should have been stillborn (pun intended), were in fact, condoning it, encouraging it, perpetuating it.  That very group, the USCCB, is going to “investigate.”  As the warden in Shawshank Redemption says: “It’s a miracle!”

I’d like to say, “I respectfully disagree.”  But wouldn’t I have to respect the bishops, first?  I suppose I could “politely” disagree, but that smacks of a nod and a wink.  Disagree, I certainly do; but only in the most vehement manner I can possibly muster.

I no longer contribute financially to the Church.  If it has millions, if not hundreds of millions, to throw at victims (can any amount of money ever heal those scars?), it doesn’t need my coin.

Is this a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater?  I think not.  As I heard recently, there is not one single bishop who could be called a hero in all this.  There are some who are guilty – whose souls are as black as their cassocks.  There are some who kept their pants zipped, but also, unfortunately also kept their lips zipped.  There are some who might have been completely ignorant.  But, no bishop, evidently, ever said No!

Rather, moving forward, the Church will get smaller.  Schools, buildings, positions, gone.  If secular authorities move in the direction of RICO, I hate to think what will happen – tho I am not sure it shouldn’t.  The new Church – the new wine – will find itself again.  It has before.  It is divinely ordained for all eternity.  Maybe St Peter’s will become a museum?

Maybe we devout Catholics are in the eye of the storm?  If so, look to Jesus: He commands the wind and the waves.  In any event, the old skins are leaking and need to be thrown into the bonfire of the vanities.

I have twin three-year olds.  I will “move heaven and earth” to have them grow up and love the Church.  Even if that means never going to Mass (too late for that, they’ve been, and been appropriately “appreciated” by the stodgy).  I would love for them to attend a Catholic school – a real one, certainly not associated with the Jesuits.

Some days, my only solace is in: “Your Heavenly Father knows what you need.” (Matthew 6:32).  Ah, but wouldn’t it be grand if He would drop me a clue?

And the hits just keep on coming.

What’s it gonna take?

If you hoped (as I did) that things would have improved since the Boston Globe ran its expose on the priest sex scandal back in 2002, you missed the recent 884 page grand jury report by the Pennsylvania Attorney General.  For convenience (and brevity), I’ll ignore the Chilean debacle, also Zavala, Bransfield, McCarrick, Wuerl, others?

Clearly, it has been business as usual, and Pope Francis continues to fiddle while Rome burns.  The official list of participants of October’s Synod of Bishops has been published, and three cardinals who should be fired have been named: Marx (Munich), Cupich (Chicago) and Tobin (Newark).

I guess Francis will drive the Popemobile off the cliff, not even slowing down, to say nothing of stopping or reversing.  The only question is: “Who will follow him?”

Way back when, Francis gave us his signature quote: “Who am I to judge?”  When we desperately need “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” we got a dismissive non-answer.  Since then, the priest sex scandal has done the impossible: cover-ups by bishops and cardinals have been exposed.  Some have claimed that Francis is not uninformed.  He certainly chooses to do nothing.  Perhaps “Not one single word” has become his legacy?

The Urban Dictionary has defined “cupich” in a manner that I hope its namesake finds unflattering: “A remark unparalleled in its combined stupidity, arrogance and insensitivity.”  An example: “Did you really just say climate change was a bigger issue than sex abuse in the Church?”  I am tempted to get their mug with this definition on it – soon to be a collector’s piece?

I don’t know how Church hierarchy can be clueless, so the only other explanation is that it is culpable.

In 1969, if you had hoped (as I did) that Cardinal Ratzinger’s statement, “The Church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning,” was just too pessimistic to ever come true, I’m afraid it might.  He probably hopes he will not see that day; but I would hasten to add that GOD has a sense of humor (judging from my own experience).

he original transgressions (sexually active priests) are bad enough.  Abusing minors is worse – far worse.  Facilitating all this, by moving priests to other locations (sometimes), is worse still.  And, the hits just keep on coming.  But, I believe this “summer of horrors” will be the tipping point.  I believe that the Church has proven – beyond reasonable doubt – that it will do nothing to either correct or prevent these abuses.

So, it becomes the duty of the secular press and secular law enforcement to do the “pruning.”  And, I believe they will get out the scythes – bad enough that the Church won’t do that.  And the absolute glee with which Caesar will attack the Church will be discouraging (try to find some Good News in the press these days).

I don’t know how often the ancient Hebrews were referred to as GOD’s chosen people; but I do know that their magnificent temple was utterly destroyed.

His winnowing fork is in His hand….(Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17)

 

References:

Faith and Future, Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, 2009

“Church allowed abuse by priest for years,” Boston Globe Spotlight Team (Carroll, Pfeiffer, Rezendes), Boston Globe, 2002 January 6, https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/special-reports/2002/01/06/church-allowed-abuse-priest-for-years/cSHfGkTIrAT25qKGvBuDNM/story.html

 “More than 300 accused priests listed in Pennsylvania report on Catholic Church sex abuse,” Michelle Boorstein, Gary Gately, Washington Post, 2018 August 14, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/08/14/pennsylvania-grand-jury-report-on-sex-abuse-in-catholic-church-will-list-hundreds-of-accused-predator-priests/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.8144c4cca83b

“Pope Francis taps loyalists for key roles in Synod of Bishops,” Elise Harris, Senior Correspondent, Crux, https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/09/15/francis-synod-appointees-reflect-papal-priorities/

Cupich Mug: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cupich

 

Summer of horrors, or opportunity?

Some dream of high office, few ever attain it.  I can only imagine that one of the first things that anyone would do is sit in that chair behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office and just…smile.  If ever there was a time to say, “I’ve arrived,” I think that would be it.  Similarly, whatever desk and whatever office the pope occupies, I would think the man would smile like a Cheshire Cat.

Finally: the opportunity to actually make a difference, to change the world.  Surely, that aspiration would go hand in glove with the pinnacle of power.

So, while the Summer of ’08 would seem to be the summer of horrors for the White House, it is no less than the summer of horrors for the papal palace.  While one occupant is probably sincere, and the other one anything but, both are blowing their opportunity.

It has been debated whether or not we have “free will” – the ability to make truly independent choices.  I won’t discuss that here.  But whether we have unlimited choices, or very limited choices, we still have choices.  Someone in the White House obviously has choices that a coal miner doesn’t.  The Bishop of Rome has choices no one else has.  Windows of opportunity come in sizes.

Next, there would be the ability to act upon the choices we make.  If we can’t act, then they really aren’t choices – at least viable ones.  Without ability, all we have are fantasies.  Again, a topic for another day.  Yes, some do win the lottery, tho for the overwhelming majority of us, the answer to the question of “what would I do if I won the lottery?” is just a fantasy.

You need both: opportunity and ability.

I just don’t understand why it is that two people in the news every day these days are squandering their opportunity.  It is said in jest that promotion requires a lobotomy; that, somehow, while we all start off the same, elevation in power is predicated on becoming more and more forgetful of our roots.  That people at the pinnacle truly forget how they got where they are, and therefore do not truly know where they are.

It is fitting that history judges most harshly those that have forgotten it.

I just finished watching an episode of NCIS where Gibbs switches some evidence.  Gibbs is usually unfailingly honest.  Integrity his highest code.  But in this episode he demonstrates that honor is more important than integrity.  There are other opportunities in the series for him to put integrity first, and he chooses another path (almost always honor).  But he “never” loses sight of the “big picture.”  He knows what he does and why he does it.

Neither Trump nor Francis seem to have a clue why they are doing what they’re doing.  I keep coming back to a book that I read years ago: The March of Folly, by Barbara Tuchman.  In it, she picks a few examples of leaders that, had they chosen to do absolutely nothing at all, events would have turned out far different, and probably in their favor.  By being out to lunch, history would have been far kinder, maybe even salutatory.  But, no, they chose to be active in the situation, and all hell broke loose.  Three examples come to mind (it has been years since I read the book): Renaissance Popes, King George and the American Revolution, Vietnam (pick either the French or the Americans, it really doesn’t matter).

Fast forward to the Summer of 2018.  Trump did whatever he could to be elected; it worked.  Since gaining the Oval Office, he has been on a death spiral.  The only question now is whether his four years will end before he’s impeached.  After he’s out, America will breathe a sigh of relief and wonder if we have survived.  Bergoglio got elected pope and has been bouncing around like a pinball.  I don’t believe there is any mechanism to remove him from office, so we are stuck with him for awhile (as long as his health holds out, I suppose; Benedict’s resignation still doesn’t feel right, Francis’ resignation doesn’t seem possible).

Is this the era of the truly stupid leader?  Are these the times for head scratching decision making.  As in, leaders make decisions that the rest of us just wonder at.

My fantasy is that Trump will hit his head on something, rearrange all those megalomaniac brain cells, and move this country forward.  While I agree with Meghan McCain (this country has always been great), we definitely need some direction from that chair in the Oval Office.  My fantasy is that Francis will take responsibility for the predatory priests, instead of facilitating their fantasies.  I don’t know that Trump “must” resign; but I am convinced Bergoglio must.

The rest of us hoi polloi  must do more than tilt at windmills.  In politics, we must become more active and participate.  In the Church, well, we have no idea who the next pope will be, but at the local level, we owe it to the bishops to keep them on track (we don’t vote for them either; but we can close our checkbooks).

Truly, the Summer of ’08 is a summer of horrors.  But, what are we going to do with the opportunity to make this a better world for our children?  As painful as these times are now, to do nothing would be worse, for eternity is a long time.

(Thanks to Georg Weigel and his essay in First Things for “summer of horrors”)

Jesus Christ. What’s the point.

A few years ago, I heard the question, “There is a reasonable hope that all are saved.”  Michael Voris was repeating what Bishop Robert Barron said Urs von Balthasar said Karl Barth said.  Voris was shaking his head as he said it; the bishop was not, and I suppose Balthasar and Barth also believed it.  That question prompted me to do my daily Bible reading with a particular focus: “Where in the Bible would anyone get that impression?”  Where does it say, or imply, that all are saved?

Over the past few years I have compiled quite a list of Bible references that seem to dispute this notion.  I have not been able to find the one quote that is so significant that no other passage could possibly stand.  Or, conversely, the one passage that supports the empty Hell theory.  Since I am no Biblical scholar or theologian, I approached trying to argue against a giant like Balthasar, or a brilliant priest like Barron with a great deal of fear: clearly I was missing something.  Clearly, any justification I might find that they could use, I was missing.  Clearly any justification that I might use, I was missing.

I met Fr Jack when I was in high school.  Some 40 years later, we still keep in touch; and altho he is now a semi-retired parish priest, he still reads the Bible in Greek and Hebrew.  He is absolutely convinced that Jesus left no wriggle room.  Nothing Jesus said leaves any doubt.  I have known Fr Jack for more than half my life; I could not possibly hold him in higher esteem.

But, a couple of weeks ago, finding yet another passage that just screamed “few are saved” I had a Damascus Road experience, an epiphany that was appropriate for me.  (So, no voices, no thunderstorm, etc.)

The most significant statement is not the Bible itself, or any words in the Bible.  There is nothing that Jesus said or did that speaks louder to the question than simply, Him.  He is The Word (gee, where have I seen that?)

While all things are possible with GOD, it was His original thought that we humans should have free will.  This is absolutely fundamental to who (what) we are.  This, I believe, is what is meant by we are created in His Image.  Free will is our sine qua non.

And so, Jesus Christ was born of a woman, just like the rest of us.  He spent some time with us.  Not too long and not too short.  Just enough to make a point – for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

You see, if we are all saved, if we are all going to Heaven anyway, there would have been no point in anything remotely like Jesus Christ, a Messiah.  I suppose some would have needed a magical figure to tell us we were on the right path anyway.  Or, it didn’t really matter what we did during this life, we were destined – whether we wanted it or not – to an eternity of milk and honey and song and dance.

But, that’s not what happened.  We did get Jesus Christ.  Thousands of years and thousands of pages and gallons of ink spoke of His coming.  Of the need for His coming.  Afterwards, a few hundred years and a few hundred pages told us of His life here.  If we are all doing the right thing, then why?  Why all those years of discussion and countless parchments and pages and gallons?  Just an academic exercise?  I think not.

There is that one passage in Isaiah where the lion lays down with the sheep (Isaiah 11:6), which might imply that, regardless of whether we are a lion or a sheep, in the end it won’t matter.  I’d like a Biblical scholar or theologian to help with this passage because I can’t really find that much credence in it.  I don’t mean to cherry-pick the Bible, but it doesn’t seem to me that either the lion or the sheep are living within Natural Law.  So, I don’t see this one passage as justification for the idea that all are saved.

In any event, the mere existence of Jesus Christ proves that we are not a priori saved.  Maybe we are, after all anything is possible.  But, then we wouldn’t need Jesus Christ.  We could ignore Him, casually, completely.

Some would argue that we don’t have Free Will.  Ok, if we don’t, then again, there is no point in Jesus Christ.  It seems to me that our Free Will absolutely demands Jesus Christ.  And, Jesus Christ proves that we do have Free Will.  Dunno if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ if you can have Free Will or not; I’ll save that for later (much later).

My years of careful, pointed, focused reading have lead me to just one conclusion: my salvation, at the very least, is not guaranteed.  It is not written in stone, or in some book somewhere.  I can still screw up – I pray that I don’t.  I pray every day that I do stay on the Right Road (and I am thankful that, for the grace of GOD, I did find the Right Road).  Maybe I just need Jesus Christ, and some do not?  Well, I don’t think that is true, and I certainly would not encourage anyone to think that they can do without.  But, I do have a Faith that requires that I do believe in Jesus Christ; and that He is “the point.”

Is there a “reasonable hope that all are saved”?  Obviously, there is a growing number of people who do think that; Voris calls that the “Church of Feel Good.”  And, he’s right.  For those who want this life to be as comfortable as possible, they must hope they can still sneak under the wire when the get to the Pearly Gates.  But this does not answer the question of why Jesus went to the Cross.  Whatever His life was like, it did not end well.  He’s in Glory now, but that transition from this life to Eternal Life was, well, hell.

So, I don’t belong to the Church of Feel Good.  I do “fear” GOD.  I know that Christ stands at the door of my heart and knocks (Revelation 3:20); and the things of this world make so much noise that it is damned hard to hear Him.

Oh, and don’t get me started on whether we are all going to see each other in Heaven.  Or, if our pets will join us.

Jesus Christ.  What’s the point?  My salvation.  For eternity is a long time.