Monday, March 31, 2014

Tribute to a Fine Man

You might think the Bear would be partial to the Chicago Cubs. Perish the thought! What more Catholic baseball team than the St. Louis Cardinals! He's looking forward to watching this afternoon's game with one of his sons, lately home from our country's current foreign adventure.

Let me say a word about my son. The unspeakable did not make him cynical. The inexplicable did not make him faithless. Treachery did not make him mistrustful. Ingratitude did not make him uncharitable. The necessities of war did not make him callous.

He is with us at Mass every Sunday without a word spoken. His intelligence, courage and honor make him a fearless and effective witness in season and out of season. He is a clear-eyed true son of the Church.

He is a better man than I. This is the easy way we learn true humility, because a father can only take genuine joy in such a statement.

Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the sons of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has
his quiver full of them.
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127.3-5 (NRSV)

UPDATE: Well, for knowing only about four players, it was fun to participate in a great American tradition, courtesy of Romania. (Something about a television coverage blackout and proxy I.P. addresses. Bears do not understand these things.) The Cardinals showed true Christian charity by giving the Reds six outs in the 8th instead of three, but still managed a 1-0 victory in a game neither side really seemed to want to win. Wong's precision two-out bunt with a man on first was odd, though memorable.

Nice not to have to give Cardinals updates during rare phone calls a world away, but to sit and enjoy a game together.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bringing Up Baby -- With Two Mommies

Picture for press. Baby has two cute mommies. Nice painting. For the nursery?

Nothing would be easier than to rake all concerned over the coals for two lesbian mommies getting a baby baptized in the Cathedral of Cordoba, Argentina. Source: Rorate Caeli. But the Bear is bigger than that, right?

Maybe not. He is going to take a deep breath and try to think this through, though.

  • women who prefer sex with other women pretending to be married is bad
  • that is a bad arrangement for rearing a child (which they shouldn't have in the first place)
  • the women are to be Confirmed at the baptism -- why, if they are not going to be Catholics?
  • if they have no intention of being Catholics, what is the likelihood of their raising baby as one?
  • if they are not going to raise baby as a Catholic, what is the motive for baptizing baby?

On the other hand, baptizing babies is good. Certainly it is not baby's fault that it was born into a screwed up world. Rorate Caeli cites canon law that says there must be a "founded hope" that the child will be brought up Catholic. The Bear does not know how that has been interpreted in the past. However, it is reasonable to fear that custodians who have gone out of their way to publicly flout the Church's teaching on sexuality may have a difficult time bringing up baby Catholic.

Yet, if they present themselves to the Church with godparents -- one of them possibly the President of Argentina, Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner -- and promise to raise baby Catholic, despite their living arrangements, is it fair to refuse baptism? After all, how many regular Catholic parents really fulfill their duty to raise their children to be Catholic? They don't provide a Catholic education, don't go to Mass, and don't set an example in their personal lives.

Yes, many parents, perhaps most, will fail to raise their baptized children Catholic in any meaningful sense these days. But...

...this situation is different and warrants refusal. (Most people will probably disagree with the Bear, but here he goes, anyway.)

There is no "founded hope" that the child will be raised Catholic when the custodians remain in public rebellion against natural law and Church teaching. They have made a mockery of the sacrament of Marriage, plan to make a mockery of the sacrament of Confirmation, and a mockery of the sacrament of Baptism. One is reminded of the lesbian who presented herself for communion at her mother's funeral after introducing her female sex partner to the priest. For certain people, the sacraments are nothing more than props in their political theater. One strongly suspects, given the shout-out to the president, that this may be the case here.

Furthermore, this is already a scandal. The image of two young, attractive, well-dressed and (by then) "normal looking" women with their adorable baby at the baptismal font next to the priest, and, who knows, the President of Argentina, will destroy all the reasoned arguments against same-sex sex pacts. It might as well give up its teaching on human sexuality and call them "marriages" and be done with it. You can't say one thing and show the opposite.

Perhaps Pope Francis could reach out to Archbishop Nanez and have an informal discussion, you know, bishop-to-bishop.

The Bear sees two options.
  1. Tell the women that the Church will be happy to baptize the baby if they renounce their unnatural sexual practices, submit to the Church as loyal daughters in all matters, and promise to raise baby as a Catholic in the true sense while living together as sisters. OR
  2. Tell the women that the Church will be happy to baptize the baby upon satisfaction that well-formed godparents will have an active role in the child's religious education. However it must be a private ceremony with no pictures, no participation by public officials, and, in fact, no publicity whatsoever. This is necessary to show respect for the Church's teachings on human sexuality and obedience and avoid scandal.
Surely, if the women are sincerely interested in bringing the unfortunate baby up Catholic, they will gladly agree to the requirements of Option 2, at least. After all, baby gets baptized, doesn't he? So, they don't get their 15 minutes of fame. It's not about them, or their cause, right?


(The Bear's mate  -- who is, he hastens to add, female -- wishes the record to show that she disagrees with his analysis because "It's a baby!")

Your argument is invalid. It's an Adorable Baby!

UPDATE: The Bear's mate feels strongly about this and has added an additional argument to "It's a baby!"

"What about guys in the Mafia? Should the Church refuse to baptize their babies?"

No. There's a difference. The private sinfulness of the parents is not the issue. The issue is that they have no intention of being Catholics at all if they are in open rebellion against fundamental moral teachings. They are publicly celebrating sin, and furthermore using the Church to promote it. The mafia don might order an enemy murdered, but he would not announce it at the baptism of his son and expect to be applauded. (Yes, I know Michael Corleone had Moe Green and everyone killed at his godson's baptism -- which the Bear thought was a little heavy handed on Coppola's part -- but he didn't brag about it during the ceremony.) And, by the way, Pope Francis publicly told the mafiosi that it's likely they're going to Hell, so the Church's position on mob hits remains clear.

Also, "gangster rights" is not a popular cause threatening to make mob hits a common thing and uprooting 2000 years of moral witness against murder. The Church cannot lend legitimacy to either murder or sodomy, which are both traditionally  sins that cry out to Heaven.

Last Chance: Thumbs Up or Down On the Bear?

Time is almost done to vote on the "Bear persona" for St. Corbinian's Bear. Please vote if you haven't already. Do you like the Bear, or are you like Edmund Stoiber, and see him as a "problem?" So save the Bear, or call in the Finnish bear hunters with their dogs. Right now, between "get rid of him" and "don't care" the Bear is wondering if it's time to head for the Alps.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Catholic's Guide to Suicide

Two Suicides

Rick Warren is a famous evangelical pastor who wrote The Purpose Driven Life. On April 5, 2013 his son Matthew killed himself with a handgun his parents knew he had after texting with his mother about suicide. Ten days before, he had attempted suicide by overdosing on pills.

Matthew Warren

Franz Joseph I was the formidable, but tragic Catholic Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During perhaps the most bizarre conclave in history, he was the last to exercise the Catholic Sovereign's right to veto candidates for pope, averting the election of a possible Masonic sex cultist (told you it was bizarre) and opening the way for St. Pope Pius X. His son, the heir apparent, Crown Prince Rudolph, concluded a suicide pact with his 17-year-old mistress, Baroness Maria Vetsera, at a hunting lodge outside of Vienna, Mayerling. He shot her first, then, several hours later, himself.

Crown Prince Rudolph and Baroness Maria Vetsera

Emperor Franz Joseph had the lodge razed and built a Carmelite convent, where to this day sisters pray for his son's soul. The altar is on the exact spot occupied by the bed where the doomed couple was found. (Probably not the best choice for more than one reason.) And the Warrens remain confident that their son is in heaven. It's only natural to hope.

The Church's Teaching On Suicide

Although suicide has been traditionally thought to be a guaranteed ticket to Hell (an unforgiven mortal sin), the Catechism of the Catholic Church now takes into account the likely unsound mental state of someone taking their own life. Crown Prince Rudolph was buried in the hallowed Hapsburg crypt on the basis of an official declaration that he was "mentally unbalanced."
Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.
Catechism of the Catholic Church 2282-2283.

The Bear will just say this doesn't sound like Plan A, but that is the official Church teaching. The Church has always taught consent of the will is necessary to commit any mortal sin, and that is the hinge upon which this teaching turns. However, this is by no means to presume that every suicide is ipso facto not a mortal sin. In fact, it would seem to be the exception, not the rule. The comforting words are best left for the survivors, not relied upon as a "loophole."

Suicide? There's an App for That

Fame, wealth, a good family, religion, or -- in Matthew Warren's case -- state-of-the-art psychiatric treatment are no guarantees against suicide. (In fact, many antidepressants carry FDA black box warnings that side effects include suicide.) More people die by their own hand than in car accidents now.

There may not really be a suicide app (yet), but there are whole websites devoted to the promise of quick, easy, and painless exits. Designer methods with catchy names like "Death By Hibachi" fill lengthy menus. They are full of chirpy advice. Like: "Modern automobiles have such clean emissions you'll want to find an older car for carbon monoxide poisoning." Or, "Remember, if you use toxic chemicals, be considerate and leave a note alerting responders."

Boomers: Going Out With a Bang

But the typical suicide is no longer the angsty young person. It is the burnt-out middle-aged man, typically in his 50s.

Boomers are increasingly opting to go out with a bang.

Many Boomers find themselves at the end of their rope, struggling to provide material and moral support to both aging parents and boomerang kids. The settled expectations of their parents long ago exploded for Boomers, who see the future as a dim and unwelcoming place financially, emotionally, culturally and spiritually. This may hit Boomers particularly hard since they were the first high-expectations generation. They have seen the future, and it still doesn't work. John Cougar Mellencamp's 1982 song Jack and Diane keeps running through their heads: "life goes on long after the thrill of livin' is gone."

For men, especially, the traditional compensations of old age -- security, status, grandchildren, and the aura of patriarchy -- are just not in the cards anymore. With the Boomer's typically low tolerance for disappointment, and the stigma of suicide being replaced by a respect for "self determination," suicide becomes just another option in a culture where everything's an option. Whether you were born may have been your mother's choice, but at least punching out is yours.

Catholics and Suicide

Catholics do commit suicide at a lower rate than Protestants. We haven't quite bought into the Culture of Death to the same extent as the rest of the culture. A coherent spiritual heritage is still available, although it takes a lot of discernment and some digging. There is the supernatural support of the Sacraments, and the constant availability of sacramentals to ease life's ills. But the Church is not the spiritual fortress of the past for most Boomers.

Catholics should not fool ourselves. As great spiritual doctors like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Bernard of Clairvaux realized, "melancholia" was separate from spiritual maladies, and handled with respect. We call it depression today. Not the ordinary blues that your quadruple-booked GP will write you a prescription for to get you out of his office, but a long-term, crippling disease of the mind for which there is no cure. Catholics can at least understand it as a cross to bear. St. Teresa called it a "mystery."

Catholics are not exempt from mental illness any more than they are from other human afflictions. Indeed, the modern notion that they should be filled with joy always can add nontherapeutic guilt on top of depression. Stand up and greet the person next to you! Our opening hymn is Lord of the Dance!

Mother Teresa, we now know, suffered from spiritual darkness, if not clinical depression, much of her life, but learned to find value in it. After suffering for 11 straight years, she wrote: "I have come to love the darkness. For I believe now that it is a part, a very, very small part of Jesus' darkness and pain on earth."

The Role of Pride

The Bear has a theory that, especially for men, the capital sin of Pride may lie at the root of the suicidal urge. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jeremy Boorda had achieved everything a naval career had to offer. But a controversy over whether he was entitled to wear "V" (for valor) devices on two of the many ribbons on his uniform led him to commit suicide on May 16, 1996 at the age of 56. Not to judge the state of Admiral Boorda's soul, or to discount other factors that may have played a role, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that his wounded pride -- that wound is called shame -- was the reason he committed suicide.

Pride is called a "capital sin" (or "deadly sin") because it leads to other sins. Men have historically committed suicide rather than live with a stain on their honor. The captain goes down with the ship. The Boomer goes down with his downsizing, his failed marriage, and his depleted retirement plan. In both cases, the situation appears irretrievably lost, and death is preferred to living with the consequences of failure, including shame.

None of this is to downplay problems people face. Some have more than others. Some are a result of bad choices in the past, some seem like bad luck. Some are widespread. The economy is bad; worse than most will admit. Sometimes there are no good options that we can see. Let's face it: from a worldly view, the cost-benefit analysis does not always favor living. Even so, that choice is not ours to make, the Church teaches. Whether it is contraception, abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, murder or suicide, the Church's command is unbending: human life belongs to God, and is not ours to take.

The Answer of the Cross: Jesus or Judas

Our God is a tortured man nailed naked to a cross at the end of a metoric rise and fall. History offers no more compelling picture of abject failure. Jesus asked the Father to be spared this, just like we do, and that's fair. But can we imagine Jesus hanging himself in the garden to escape the pain and humiliation, the taunts about his failed grand designs? Of course not! So why would Catholics think to spare themselves the cross? In a way, if you're suffering, you're doing it right, or at least have the opportunity to.

It was Judas who hanged himself. Did he have reason to feel bad about his prospects? He had sold his friend and rabbi for 30 pieces of silver and betrayed him with a kiss. He had watched as soldiers roughly seized Him and dragged Him away to be tortured and killed in a way so shameful polite Romans didn't even speak the indecent word: crucifixion. Judas didn't have a friend in the world, and was so consumed by guilt he hurled the silver back at the feet of the Jews. Judas would seem to have had a good reason to commit suicide if anyone did.

And yet, imagine a different story. Judas, instead of fixating on himself and the cosmic mess he had made of everything, falls to his knees at the foot of the cross and sincerely begs forgiveness. Can you imagine Jesus refusing? Judas' life would have gone on, albeit differently than he had once imagined, and your parish might today be named St. Judas the Penitent.

The subtle but crucial difference is giving into hopelessness versus embracing it to repentance. "For the sorrow that is according to God worketh penance, steadfast unto salvation: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." 2 Cor 7.10.

The Cross As Choice

The point is not that you are not suffering. Of course we suffer, some of us horribly, and not always physically. There's an old saying that the best penances are the ones God sends us. (And sometimes we're someone else's cross to bear, which can be particularly painful.) Suffering is your opportunity to participate in the mystery of the Passion and gain spiritual merits that, according to the Church, God puts to good use in some mysterious way. You must be humble and trusting enough to let God take something as impossible as your life appears to be and reinvent you. This does not necessarily mean making your material or emotional circumstances better. But:
I will lead the blind into the way which they know not: and in the paths which they were ignorant of I will make them walk: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight: these things have I done to them, and have not forsaken them.
Isaiah 42.16. The cure for depression -- if it has one -- is in the wood of the cross. The smoke that drives away the demon of suicide is compounded of the gall of the crucifixion.

You notice I haven't spoken of the resurrection. That is not for now. Frankly, it's crass to tell someone in the black depths of Hell on earth, "Oh, don't worry! Before you know it there will be a glorious resurrection!" Try telling that to the mourning women as they made their sorrowful way to the tomb to anoint their Lord's corpse. There is a time for mourning without hope for a resurrection. Too many well-meaning people fail to respect that. They want to yammer on like Job's friends. No, the answer must be sought in the silent cross and the cross alone.

There is no resurrection without the cross. We know that, but we don't necessarily understand it. But those who do, who bear this truth patiently can be great witnesses in their failure, their futility, their fear and their pain. They are the ones who drink the chalice to the dregs with Christ. Truly they are white martyrs, God's unsung heroes, no matter what their lives look like to anyone else. Angels stand in awe at their secret battles.

As for those who toss the cup aside prematurely, we must not despair of their salvation. But that is the most we can say.

Due to the very positive reception this article has gotten, I added the following "action plan" for those who might wind up here via the search engines. I am firmly convinced that the key to depression and suicide lies in a genuinely Catholic appreciation of the spiritual dimension of suffering. This is respectful of the warrior -- that is the only word for those who never rest from this struggle -- and the very real enemies he (or she) faces. There are no easy answers and certainly no easy victories.

For Anyone Fighting a Hard Fight Right Now

Thinking about punching out? It probably makes sense at the moment. But that doesn't decide the question. Please consider the following
  • Wait three days -- what difference will it make?
  • Go to confession (!) And tell your priest.
  • Go to the National Suicide Prevention website or call.
  • There's a special site for Veterans. 1-800-273-8255.
  • Give the spiritual dimension of your suffering real consideration.
  • Be safe for now. Give your guns, razor blades, wood chippers  etc. to a trusted friend. Don't allow yourself to be victimized by a sudden impulse, whatever that takes. If you do take your own life, make it your choice, not a sudden loss of nerve coupled with an easy means of carrying it out.
One of many immediate
resources for the discouraged.

Recover your Catholic heritage and claim the heroism of suffering. Don't look at your situation with a worldly eye. For Catholics, success is failure, and failure is success; the high are brought low and the low are raised; the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Humility is a hard lesson, and contrary to everything men are taught. "Honor suicides" are NOT part of Catholic culture! Put pride aside. (Maybe that's what God is teaching you.) Pour out your heart to God. Talk to Him frankly about your fears, your failures, your poor prospects, your misery. But also use familiar prayers, like the Rosary. Understand that you have powerful spiritual enemies, and that many of your inner experiences may not even originate with you. Don't go down without a good fight against the Devil. Don't risk Hell. Maybe it is time for the "old you" to die, and that's what you're feeling. But that doesn't mean physically. Don't devastate those who care about you. Finally, give God a chance, even if He is the God of silence and darkness -- for now.

Francis vs. Dolan: No Pope Bump for Prez

The Bear still can't get over the photos coming out of the papal audience. Obama looks like a cardboard cutout or wax figure, his big smile only highlighting the emotional disconnect of the tableux. Kerry has assumed a jaunty pose: knee bent, shoulder dropped. You expect him to break out into a tap dance number. It is just weird.

And Pope Francis, "the fluffiest pope evah," as Fr. Z says, glowering.

Pope Francis is clearly learning the power of "optics," that impressions trump substance. He is not going to give Obama his "Cardinal Dolan Bump" when his administration is so openly hostile to the Catholic faith. He has learned a hard lesson about how the press can spin perceptions. This is Francis the head of the Vatican state, the Pope of the Catholic Church, who is aware of the spiritual dimension of geopolitics in a way that recalls John Paul II.

The Bear wonders if Pope Francis sees things a little differently from when he breezed into the papacy as the Bishop of Rome. A humble Bishop of Rome he may be, but all roads still lead there, and even the pope cannot change that.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Benedictine Advice on Prayer

The Bear would like to share some wonderful advice on prayer that recently came into his paws:

Fr. Archabbot Lambert Reilly, OSB gave many retreats to Mother Teresa’s nuns. Fr. Abbot has a great understanding of prayer and I’d like to share some things that he mentioned in his conferences to the sisters.

-          Prayer is our first duty in life.  Conversion comes through prayer and reflection.  You will not go to heaven without it. 

-          Pray as you can.  If you don’t, your prayer life will get worse.  Don’t stop because you think you are not good at it.  Pray to please God; not yourself.

-          The Eucharist is the best prayer.  Next is the divine office (the Hours).  If the Psalms were good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for me.  Lectio divina comes next as a way to pray.

-          Do not expect to become a prayer expert.  Most of us are not experts.  Saint Teresa of Avila knew one nun who never was able to meditate on her own.  But, she prayed the rosary constantly anyway and she was the most charitable person Teresa knew.

One of the advantages of lay persons associating themselves with sound religious orders is that you have "big brothers" to emulate and get advice from. They deal with these issues constantly and are experts.

"You will not get to heaven without it," isn't something you're likely to hear in a homily -- about anything. Don't stop, whatever you do, and don't expect to become an expert. 

We are results oriented. If we persist at something and find we seem to have no talent for it, the temptation is to give up. Not prayer. The Catholic faith is not about an emotional buzz. Indeed, the old saints are suspicious of apparent extra helpings of God. If that is why you are a Christian, you will cease to be a Christian when the "warm thrill of confusion, that space cadet glow" wears off, to borrow from Pink Floyd. If that's what you're looking for, just bring a rock band into church.

My reading of The Interior Castle has opened my eyes to how unrealistic our expectations can be. Bearing in mind St. Teresa of Avila was writing for cloistered Carmelite nuns, few of even them could expect to reach the higher slopes of prayer, let alone the prayer of union. What, then, should we expect, mired in the world? (Although she did say that those in the world could still have a rewarding prayer life.)

The letter also said God is always with us, even when it doesn't seem like it. "Et ego semper tecum." This beast is always with You. God is merciful. Pax.

The Book Pope Francis Gave Obama

SCB exclusive! As always, feel free to Share the Bear.

Pope Francis sends a special papal message.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Problem Bear

Memorial to Martyred Bruno

Bruno was a bear. He wandered across the Alps from Italy into Bavaria in 2006. Bears are thin on the ground in Germany these days, so at first he was welcomed. But then the Germans were shocked to learn that bears are not cuddly toys full of stuffing. Bruno did real bear stuff. 

He turned over the trash. (Well, boo-hoo.) He ate some sheep. (Sure, blame the bear for shepherds' negligence.) He might have even eaten a horse, but they never proved it. Anyway, since when do we kill bears for feeding as God designed them to? What's a few sheep next to a magnificent Ursus Arctos?

Bavarian Governor Edmund Stoiber declared Bruno to be a "problem bear." An enemy of the state. Crack Finnish bear-hunters were flown in to take Bruno out. But the wiley Bruno eluded them. 

Bruno was not without his supporters. Legoland in Günzburg, Bavaria, featured a display of Bruno and some not-to-scale sheep made out of Legos. It's the thought that counts.

The story does not end happily. Bruno was shot in June, 2006. There was much mourning in Bavaria, or at least some opportunistic marketing. Cars sported black pennants on their antennas featuring a bear's paw. 

Not content to take his life, they stole his dignity by having him stuffed. Today Bruno can be seen forever attacking a beehive at the ironically-named Museum of Man and Nature in Munich. He's next to the last bear seen in Bavaria before Bruno. He was shot in 1835.

So, the next time you hear a German complaining, "O my, vere are all der bears?" look him right in the eye and say, "Ask Bruno."

Six Degrees of Fr. Feeney: the Secret Mark Shea and Michael Voris Share

What surprises me is not that so few people read St. Corbinian's Bear, but that anyone at all does. Abraham, whose offspring would become as numerous as the stars of the sky, has nothing on Catholic blogdom. In fact, there are many more than the billion-something Catholics that currently walk the face the of the earth, so we've even got some wannabes. (Some guy named Ahmed in one of the 'stans is pounding out a Catholic mommy blog even as you read this. And it's way more popular than SCB.)

SCB is less a blog than a family. A very small family. You would think this would trouble the Bear. After all, publishing a blog is not a trivial enterprise, and there are ego considerations. I'd be lying if I said it didn't, but it doesn't much. Beside's, it's a wonderful exercise in mortification.

Secrets of Successful Blogs

People like controversy, especially if you can attach it to a personality. The one time the Bear hit it big was when Michael Voris plugged a story the Bear did on -- you guessed it -- Michael Voris. There are bloggers who, I believe, use this parasitic tactic to stay relevant. Remember Father Corapi? Haven't heard from him in ages. Let's write about that. And link him to Michael Voris. And then riff on the kind of Catholics you and I don't like.

Another big piece was on the Church's position on gun control. (Elimination of private ownership, in case you're wondering.) If I could find a hook, I could generate me some hits, by golly!

After perusing many blogs at Patheos today, I can't say what makes a blog successful. Probably, like most things, being in the right place at the right time. An above-it-all attitude doesn't seem to hurt. The Bear can't do that. This is a jawbone-ripping fight for souls.

Charting a Course to Happy Failure

This blog is about navigating the uncertainties and difficulties of being a good Catholic today, a particularly bad time to be Catholic. This is primarily on-going Catholic formation for my kids. So I have a stake in what goes into SCB.

There is something else about microblogs. They don't have to pull any punches. Since I don't believe it is to court damnation to point out a pope's departure from previous teachings, I can judiciously criticize the advice to seek wisdom from non-Christian religions. It's bad, dangerous, and scandalous counsel that is a clear departure from past Church teaching, no matter who tells you to do it. The motives behind it are highly suspect.

Read St. Teresa of Avila, and some other great saintly writers. Once you understand everything and have practiced it for a number of years, then, and only then, if your spiritual life is still lacking, study Buddhism. But only if you're sure you won't become less Catholic.

That's why I dip into the past so much. The encyclicals of the late 19th and early 20th centuries laid everything out for us, prophetically. Our saints are guiding lights. We have no excuse for being surprised about anything.

Still Catholicism's Only Real Bear Blogger

No, no entry about Mirari Vos is going to go viral unless Mark Shea says it is a load of crap and Michael Voris calls him a heretic and the Bear is somehow the only one to find out about it. But that is what sets SCB apart from the 3.2 billion other Catholic blogs out there, and you from their readership.

Bear-blogging is the niche of niches. As people are immortal, if one piece helps one person, I can't bemoan my lack of success. And being a Bear with a tiny readership is still being a Bear. Sure, everyone wants to be a success, but success isn't always what we think it is. And if something ever does go viral, you can play the Catholic hipster and casually mention to your friends, "Yeah, I was following the Bear before anyone had ever heard of him."

Now I have to finish another article. Six Degrees of Fr. Feeney: the Secret Mark Shea and Michael Voris Share. It's going to be big.

True Confessions

St. Ludger

Today's entry in the Pictorial Lives of the Saints told the story of St. Ludger. He was called to the court of Charlemagne to answer baseless allegations. Attentive to his Liturgy of the Hours (or Opus Dei as St. Benedict calls it, the Work of God) he ignored the summons for his audience with the king until he had had finished his prayers. The king was quite angry at the impudent bishop until St. Ludger explained to him God came before even the king.
Reflection.—Prayer is an action so sublime and supernatural, that the Church in her canonical hours teaches us to begin it by a fervent petition of grace to perform it well. What an insolence and mockery is it to join with this petition an open disrespect and a neglect of all necessary precautions against distractions! We ought never to appear before God, to tender him our homages or supplications, without trembling, and without being deaf to al-creatures, and shutting all our senses to every object that can distract our minds from God.

Praying the Hours FAIL

One of the duties of oblates is to pray the Hours, the same prayer for which St. Ludger delayed his meeting with the Charlemagne. The reflection is not pleasant. The Bear shall now confess what an unprofitable beast he is.

He says his prayers not according to a schedule, but whenever he feels like it.  Sleep in? (Bears do that a lot.) 11:30 a.m. is technically morning, right? Compline never seems to get done at all because it is just too hard to coordinate bedtime prayers between a lark and a nightowl. If he has court or some other engagement, instead of waking up early enough to do them, he does them in the car while his driver, bodyguard and factotum Red Death drives. St. Benedict would not approve.

Hostage Negotiations With Terrierists

If he does them at all, the Bear is very careless. He always forgets to put the dogs up, and they immediately become possessed, barking and rattling their dishes. Sometimes Buster presents himself, growling softly with a high value hostage in his teeth, like Red Death's drivers license. So then prayers stop for hostage negotiations, usually involving cheese. (You think the the Bear jests? Yorkies are evil geniuses. He knows when he has us at a disadvantage.)

Even without such distractions, the Bear's mind wanders. He is deep in the Bavarian woods, chasing imaginary ponies before he's halfway through the first strophe of the invititory.

Checklist Mentality

Prayer has become another box to tick off any old way. Same with another duty, our Bible reading. Isaiah goes on and on. We're almost done though! Mark him off the list and on to the next inspired book.

I'm not going to compare times. I have no real idea how pressured people felt in the 7th century from moment to moment. But things sure seem... busy now. Even when you're not doing much in particular. We have internalized busy-ness so that it is a personality trait, rather than being engaged in activities. When prayer isn't squeezed out, it still suffers from our daily checklist mentality. That can't be right! The Bear knows he should be more like his big brothers at St. Meinrad. But he's just such a Bear.

Sometimes it's hard not to just give up. But dissatisfaction has to be a good sign, right? Prayer is spending meaningful time with God, if it's anything. Sure there's something to be said for following a rule, even imperfectly, even if I don't "get anything out of it." To be the dumb beast, St. Teresa's "dolt." But I think that presupposes making a credible effort.

Lock up the dog. After two years, that's the advice the Bear can give about prayer. (Feel free to interpret that metaphorically if you wish.) Check back in two more years. ("Get out of bed first.")

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cardinals Give Kasper Marriage Speech Thumbs Down?

Rorate Caeli has good news on Cardinal Kasper's attack on marriage. We knew that the German demand to liberalize Church rules on divorce have recently taken fire from some big guns. Cardinal Caffarra of Bologna and Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, have both issued public smackdowns. They have pointed out that you cannot change Church practices with regard to divorce and remarriage without changing doctrine that came out of the mouth of Our Blessed Lord Himself.

As a matter of theology, If marriage #2 is okay, what has become of marriage #1? Without an annulment (a separate issue altogether) you essentially have bigamy. There would be no firm foundation for any Church doctrine on sexuality. Once the doctrine is compromised, any principled objections to cohabitation and same-sex marriage go out the window.

According to an article in La Stampa, however, 85% of the cardinals present for Cardinal Kasper's little rebellion disagreed with the German. Apparently Cardinal Kasper has been riding this hobbyhorse since the 70s. He appears to reflect the opinion of most in what remains of the Church in Germany. But, if La Stampa is right, marriage appears safe.

The Bear still worries about the surveys of Catholics that support Cardinal Kasper's position, however. There is still the opportunity for mischief come October even without a vote to end 2000 years of often agonizing and sometimes deadly moral witness on the sanctity of marriage. One thing we are learning is that the Church is doing a bad job of preparing people for marriage and broadcasting her teachings on the subject. No surprise there.

Perhaps Pope Francis' description of Cardinal Kasper's speech as "beautiful" was a bit of diplomatic magnanimity because everyone knows Kasper is beating a dead horse.

A nicely tenderized, plump German haflinger, perhaps. Oh come on, like you've never eaten a horse.

Flight 777: the Ibrahim Connection

Professionally-produced graphics
While it lacks our professionally-produced graphics, The Aviationist blog has a good run-down of what we have been told about missing Flight 370 that you might find interesting.

Unfortunately, despite knowledge of the various scenarios far exceeding the Bear's, it comes no closer to arriving at the final fate of the 777 and its passengers and crew.

The Bear still believes it was foul play, but when your only tool is a hammer, you see every problem as a nail. So that may be professional bias. Even, so, that accounts for the facts better than anything else. Who, why, how and where remain unanswered.

One curious fact is Captain Zaharie Ahmed Shah supported Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Now, Ibrahim had been acquitted of sodomy charges in 2012. However, hours before flight 370 took off, Ibrahim's acquittal was overturned at a hearing Shah supposedly attended. Shah has been called a fanatical supporter of Ibrahim. He was probably not happy with the reversal of fortunes, to say the least.

Where does that take us? A threat to crash into the Petronas Towers, provoking an embarrassing shoot down and massive coverup? Or just an opportunity to feed an information-starved press the hint of a tie-in with the political opposition? Like every other piece of the puzzle, it doesn't fit in with all the others, and so, however intriguing, must be set aside.

The big problem is that the investigation has been irretrievably confused by the authorities in that part of the world. We simply lack reliable data points to create any convincing scenario.

Now everything supposedly has been resolved by a hitherto unknown experimental "doppler satellite" technique that puts the airplane way down south in the Indian Ocean near Australia. What the heck was it doing down there? The Bear's not buying it, and neither is China. They've demanded to see the raw data.

This will be the last 777 update until something substantial turns up.

Pope Asks Us to Imitate Mary

Pope Francis urged us to imitate Mary's humility, meekness and obedience during his Annunciation homily. He reminded us that salvation was a gift, not something we could earn.

Source: Catholic News Agency

While set in suburbia, the Bear found this painting by Francis Collier to be a respectful depiction of the Annunciation. Mary is a winsome young lady -- something that does not always come through in more traditional paintings of old -- and the traditional elements are there. Sure, non-traditional art can be distracting if it departs in its essentials, but it can also make us look at the too-familiar in a new way. Renaissance paintings were hardly less anachronistic, after all. The "realistic" paintings that show a young Jewish girl cowering in her bed before a mysterious glow miss the mark more than this.

Instant Gratification!

As long as you have some sort of ID, i.e. aren't anonymous, your posts will not be moderated any more. The Bear wants the combox to be as easy and fun as it can be for his tiny number of loyal readers, so we'll give it a try. He keeps a pretty close eye on things, anyway. (After seven days, moderation will kick on for posts.)

Also, please vote in the poll in the sidebar to the right to determine if "the Bear persona" of the blog stays or gets dropped in favor of straight-up first-person human blogging. (Assuming the Bear could do that.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

True Devotion to Mary

Mary is reading Isaiah 7.14. Lilies are for purity.
The Angel Gabriel greets her: "Hail, Full of Grace!"
The Holy Spirit, represented by a dove, overshadows Mary
like the ark, as she folds her hands in acceptance.

Tomorrow is a great Marian Feast: The Annunciation. On every Marian feast, people all over the world consecrate or reconsecrate themselves to the Virgin Mary by giving everything to Jesus through her according to the devotion preached by St. Louis de Montfort.

By "everything," even spiritual merits are included. It is an act of radical trust in the human woman born free from original sin, and made a "cooperater" with God in the economy of salvation. Of course, True Devotion does not end with Mary; the mother always directs us to her Son, and tells us, as at the Wedding at Cana, "Do whatever He says."

God did not have to include Mary in His plans for our salvation, but He did. She is so much more than a kind of "surrogate mother" that non-Catholics think of her as. She is working even now as the Mediatrix of grace, and Jesus gave her to us as our mother from the cross.

Heaven breaks through to a world ruined by sin.

33 Days to Morning Glory is a new book that takes you through the traditional month-long preparation for consecration. (Apparently, Amazon will allow me to loan it to a person, and you don't need a Kindle.) It is excellent, and examines Marian spirituality from the writings of different saints, such as St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Mother Teresa, John Paul II and others. There is also a workbook available, which I wish I had known about.

The classic book is St. Louis de Montfort's own True Devotion to Mary. It focuses more on prayers, while 33 Days is more expository. Neither one should be missed, but this is the original. It is only 99 cents, and is put out by Catholic Way Publishing. They specialize in cheap, well-formatted Kindle Catholic classics. (If you don't have a Kindle, most other kinds of devices have Kindle apps available.)

May 13 is the (optional) Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. So the next opportunity to begin a retreat for consecration is on April 10.

We Shall All Roar Like Bears

You might have noticed some Latin on the Bear's title. He thought it might increase his credibility with the rad trads.
et ego ad nihilum redactus sum, et nescivi:
ut jumentum factus sum apud te,
et ego semper tecum.
Psalm 72.22-23 (Vulgate)

It means, "and I was reduced to nothing, and knew not; as a beast was I made before You, and I am always with You." Appropriate for the serious meaning behind the fun I have as "the Bear."

In a similar vein, our treasure St. Teresa of Avila writes that we should put ourselves in the presence of God during prayer and be content to stand like "dolts," rather than actively seek spiritual experiences. (The Bear remains puzzled why the Holy Father would encourage us to drink from non-Christian wells, when we could never exhaust the pure waters of our own Catholic saints.)

Those who are bearly Catholic recognize they are nothing but horse-eating beasts that must be harnessed to faithfully carry the burdens God places on them.

If you're bearly Catholic, you recognize that God always knows where you are. You are always with Him. Sometimes He scratches you behind your ears, but mostly not. You must never feel you deserve it, because He has already made us bears, the most awesome among all animals.

Here is a secret: you, too, can be a Bear. The Bible says Bearness is for one and all. "Rugiemus quasi ursi omnes." Isaiah 59.11.

We shall all roar like bears.

Today's 777 Update: Malaysia "Case Closed"

UPDATE: NEW THEORY. Various sightings, pings and satellite imagery have put the airplane at wildly different places. Malaysia was not forthcoming about its radar data at first, causing resources to be wasted off the coast of Viet Nam. (Remember when that's where the airplane was?) Everybody seems to have forgotten how squirrelly Malaysia has been throughout. Why?

911 Scenario

What if the pilot was active in opposition politics? (He was.) What if he got a mysterious phone call from a throw-away phone, the kind terrorists use, right before takeoff? (He did.) What if the airplane turned and dropped off tracking in the gap between Malaysian controllers and Vietnamese controllers? (It did.) What if Malaysian military radar saw this? (It did.)

The Petronas Towers are twin towers, the tallest in the world before 2010. They dominate Kuala Lumpur, the origin of the airplane and capital of Malaysia. This is the big what if. What if Malaysia sent up fighter jets to investigate the suspicious activities of the 777?

What if the Malaysian government ordered a shootdown?

Might they try to pretend they didn't track the airplane at first? (They did.) Might they divert attention from a backtrack course by encouraging searches in Vietnamese waters when they knew otherwise? (They did.) Might they try to avoid taking responsibility for shooting down a 777 for, oh, a million reasons?

Now, they say the 777 splashed down in the Indian Ocean and are trying to wrap up the story with no wreckage found. Watch for a wooden pallet or some small items to be "found." Of course, this depends on all the different pings, etc. to be spurious.


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced the satellite data confirms Flight 370 crashed into the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia. The announcement seems odd, given that no wreckage has been recovered. Almost like Malaysia is desperate to bring this story to an end. More about that in a moment.

For this to be true, the only scenario that makes sense is a decompression (or other catastrophe) that left the airplane intact and flying on autopilot with all the people on board dead.

In 2005, a Helios 737 lost pressure due to wrong configuration of the pressurization controls. A warning went off, but the crew thought it was a different kind of warning and ignored it. As the plane continued to climb, everyone aboard lost consciousness due to lack of oxygen. With one exception.

The bursar managed to hook himself up to portable oxygen and entered the flight deck. Greek Air Force F-16s saw him active up front, but he lacked the knowledge to fly the airplane. The 737 exhausted its fuel, the engines flamed out, and it crashed in Greece.

The problem with this scenario is that any time there has been a fire, or, in the Helios Flight 522 crash, pilots have alerted controllers. Here, the unscheduled turn occurred 12 minutes before a routine "good night" from the copilot. The transponder was disabled. And -- most importantly -- the so-called "ghost plane" decompression theory doesn't work below 10,000 feet. That's the first thing pilots do in a decompression is rapidly descend to 10,000 feet. Actually, Flight 370 was reportedly at 5000 feet, where it's even easier to breathe.

Nothing about this says "accident." Airline crashes are almost always an unusual sequence of events that overwhelm a pilot's ability to cope or the structural integrity of the airplane. Here, all we see is human intervention, either that or an incredible collection of coincidences.

We know next to nothing about this satellite data. It only makes sense in the "ghost plane" scenario, with which the Bear is not impressed. I can understand why the Malaysian government might want "closure," (and to clear its civil aviation) but the Bear must be doubting Thomas on this one, until he sees the recovered wreckage of a 777.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Today's 777 Update

Professionally produced graphic.
Remember when they found that oilslick off the coast of Viet Nam? And that floating door they had photographs of? Now they are looking for wreckage way down off the western coast of Australia on the basis of satellite data. Just how many planes went down in that quarter of the world, anyway?

This is true needle-in-a-haystack work without a flight plan to concentrate on. It is hard to imagine finding anything this way, but who knows?

Another lead is a two-minute phone call from a "mystery woman" to Captain Zaharie Ahmed Shah shortly before takeoff from an untraceable throw-away phone. The man who was earlier portrayed as a family man with three children now has a wife described as "estranged." He was also involved in Malaysian politics, on the side of the opposition.

This is like a picture slowly coming into focus. But you can bet we're eliminating as many potential havens as possible, ticking off airfields from a master list compiled by people a lot more knowledgeable than the Bear. The biggest worry is that a government somewhere is in on it. Plausible deniability is always a handy thing, no?

Meanwhile, the mystery of Amelia Earhart may be solved before Flight 370's disappearance. They have enhanced a photograph taken shortly after her disappearance of an object off the beach of a remote island. Researchers believe it may be the landing gear of the aviatrix's Electra.

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Electra

It's a Jesuit Thing. You Wouldn't Understand.

Top Jesuit Blathers, Bear's Catholic Geiger Counter Doesn't Click

Now Playing In Rome?
Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, head of the Jesuit Order, said this during a meeting in Rome: "Religion involves first of all a sensitivity to, an openness to, the dimensions of transcendence, of depth, of gratuity, of beauty that underlie our human experiences. But of course, this is a sensitivity that is threatened today by a purely economic or materialist mindset which deadens this sensitivity to deeper dimension of reality." Any non-Catholic guru could save said this junk.

He also said, "Blah, blah, blah..." (But he'd make a great special guest on Portlandia. When did Jesuits become the hipsters of the Catholic Church?)

And, of course, he said, "religion is first of all very much more like this musical sense than a rational system of teachings and explanations." That would be news to St. Thomas Aquinas. What is it with Jesuits and contempt for doctrine, anyway? Liturgy! Liturgy and music is what Jesuits are supposed to hate! Not doctrine!

So, casting aside doctrine and embracing an elitist, musical transcendence, he actually said that the Jesuits aim to create a "new kind of humanity that is musical, that retains this sensitivity to beauty, to goodness, to the suffering of others, to compassion."

Wow, way to give away the whole secret Jesuitical plot for the New Musical Non-Doctrinal Man. One remembers previous humanistic utopian fantasies for a new humanity. New Soviet Man, anyone?

New Soviet Musical Non-Doctrinal Man!

Musical Jesuits, embracing non-Christian traditions... NOW the Bear is starting to get it. "This papacy is a Jesuit thing. You wouldn't understand."

Source for Fr. Nicolas: National Catholic Reporter.

Mirari Vos vs. Evangelii Gaudium: Battle of the Infallibles

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last 
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? - W.B. Yeats

The Bear's encyclical pieces don't seem to be be very popular, but not everything can be about the latest news story. Consider them the vegetables on your plate. You cannot have a Catholic perspective without being somewhat familiar with the Church's past. They speak to today's issues.

Mirari Vos seeks to protect doctrines that are again under attack, like the sacrament of marriage. It also stands as a monument to lost causes, such as protection of the faithful from bad writings and religious indifferentism. It is a useful marker for how far the Church has wandered.

Like most older encyclicals, it was meant to be actually read, so it is short and to the point. It is well worth the few minutes it would take to learn it.

Now the honorable marriage of Christians, which Paul calls "a great sacrament in Christ and the Church," demands our shared concern lest anything contrary to it is proposed. Our predecessor Pius VIII would recommend to you his own letters on the subject. However, troublesome efforts against this sacrament still continue to be made. The people therefore must be zealously taught that a marriage rightly entered upon cannot be dissolved; for those joined in matrimony God has ordained a perpetual companionship for life and a knot of necessity which cannot be loosed except by death.

Religious Indifferentism
Now We consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. Surely, in so clear a matter, you will drive this deadly error far from the people committed to your care. With the admonition of the apostle that "there is one God, one faith, one baptism" may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that "those who are not with Christ are against Him," and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore "without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate."
We can now add "the profession of no religion whatsoever" to the evil of indifferentism.  Lest you think Mirari Vos comes from the dark ages, when cardinals toasted marshmallows at the nightly immolation of heretics in their thousands, it is recent, by Church standards. 1832.

But forget everything you just read! Indifferentism isn't a "perverse opinion," or "a fraud of the wicked" anymore. It's great!

How do you reconcile this: "Therefore "without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate." With this from Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium (if you can make it through the turgid writing):
Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live ‘justified by the grace of God’, and thus be ‘associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’. But due to the sacramental dimension of sanctifying grace, God’s working in them tends to produce signs and rites, sacred expressions which in turn bring others to a communitarian experience of journeying towards God.
"Communitarian experience of journeying toward God?" Who co-authored this,  Marty Haugen and David Haas? These pagan rites, Pope Francis goes on, while maybe not quite as good as the sacraments, are still inspired by the Holy Spirit, and we could learn a few things from them. Certainly they're good enough for non-Christians' salvation without any help from Catholics. The Bear cannot read "justified by the grace of God," "associated with the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ," or "sanctifying grace," any other way. So much for Pope Gregory's "fraud of the wicked." But it gets better.
While these lack the meaning and efficacy of the sacraments instituted by Christ, they can be channels which the Holy Spirit raises up in order to liberate non-Christians from atheistic immanentism or from purely individual religious experiences. The same Spirit everywhere brings forth various forms of practical wisdom which help people to bear suffering and to live in greater peace and harmony. As Christians, we can also benefit from these treasures built up over many centuries, which can help us better to live our own beliefs.
So, when you see Moslems orbiting the Kaaba in a stupifying mob, just remember that is the action of the Holy Spirit. (I wouldn't mention it to them, however, or you might become acquainted with another "sacred expression" of Islam.)

Moreover, did you catch the last line? Here, let's repeat it so you can enjoy it in its full, staggering impact. "As Christians, we can also benefit from these treasures built up over many centuries, which can help us better to live our own beliefs." Pope Francis is recommending to Catholics that we must take up these pagan "treasures," presumably because Catholic tradition is too spiritually impoverished for us to lead Christian lives without them.


"For all the gods of the gentiles are devils." Psalm 95.5. (However, the Bear has it on good authority that Pope Francis cried at the end of Apocalypto.)

A dumb Bear must only wonder at the apparent contradiction. Francis is the Pope. Gregory was the Pope. They are both infallible. Yet they are clearly teaching inconsistent things. Weird, huh?

One is in line with the historical consensus of the Church, the other is not only a novelty, but an absurdity. Who would write such a thing? Who would take it seriously? Are Catholics really that dumbed-down that someone can confidently publish stuff like that? Does the Holy Spirit contradict Himself? Do the Church's infallible teachings have a sell-by date after which they are no longer wholesome? Or did God just hit the reset button after Pius XII so we could start over with Vatican II? Why does only a dumb Bear ask these questions?

In other words, the man who says he is the shepherd calls, but I do not recognize his voice. Those who do recognize his voice do not seem to be of our fold. (Interesting discussion in the combox here about this Franciscan identity crisis with the sheep.)

It is becoming clearer why elements within the Church downplay doctrines, and theologies, dismissing them as "ideologies." These are the things that divide people religiously. There is a beast slouching towards Bethlehem, and it has no time for any religion but the New, the One.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Eponymous Flower On Nigeria

Good interview reported at Eponymous Flower from Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, President of the Nigerian Bishops' Council.
The archbishop also criticized the one-sidedness of the West, "though always with you when it comes to the so-called gay rights in Nigeria" you run, but to the ongoing terror attacks by the Islamic militia Boko Haram you only stammer. "Constantly new violence, burned and mutilated bodies, women and children who are killed in a terrible rhythm: this is the emergency afflicting our country," but nothing from Europe on this. But for  "gay rights"  the EU, the European Parliament and other international institutions will mobilize.
The Bear just saw a video of Moslems murdering Christians captured in a hospital in Syria. The Islamic black flag, the lengthy harangue, the cowards' masks, the whole nine Islamic yards. Mercifully, they shot their victims in the head, rather than sawing their heads off with a knife. Perhaps there were too many. Fr. Z posted the video via Facebook and you can find it at this link. Obviously, use discretion.

The Bear will never know how intelligent Catholics can look at Islam and praise it as if it were somehow on a par with Catholicism. Atheists make no distinctions among religions, which at least makes sense for them. To a dumb Bear -- let's be honest here -- Mohammed seems like a false prophet who denied Christ and deluded an excitable people that have been kept in ignorance and a fever-pitch of hatred ever since. The Bear spent a year in Bahrain one month. (Never to be forgotten: the wailing call to prayer drowning out the words of consecration at Mass. The Bear was never so happy to hear church bells than when he got back home to Sicily.)

On the whole, Islam is not only wrong, but it's like a bad antidepressant. It just doesn't work very well, and carries significant side effects. Suddenly, it's ten years later and you're still living in the 8th century.

Lucky for us, here in America, we can afford to take the high road, because we're not going to get blown up at Mass, like Nigerian Catholics. So let's agree that Islam is wonderful. It's an Abrahamic religion just like ours! We worship the same God, well, if we deny Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, anyway. Nothing is further from violence than Islam, the most peaceful religion ever.

Now let's focus on the real problem in Nigeria. The lack of gay rights.

Today's 777 Update: LOST

More ephemeral wreckage sightings in a different place; the usual lack of confirmation. The Bear is beginning to wonder if there are not always things that resemble wreckage at sea, and it's only when you look so hard for so long that you start noticing them.

Terrorism continues to be downplayed, although the word "barratry" has been introduced into our vocabulary. That is kind of the opposite of mutiny, when the captain seizes control of a vessel. (Might want to remember that one for other contexts, hmmm?)

And the inevitable psychic claims the plane crashed, but most of the passengers survived. She's seeing a place "with a lot of trees." This according to CNN. Hey, they have air time to fill, you know. But it sounds suspiciously like ABC's cult hit LOST to the Bear.

Malaysia has reported the aircraft climbed to 45,000 feet, then dived to 25,000 feet. This recalls perhaps the most bizarre hijacking attempt ever: FedEx flight 705 in 1994.

A disgruntled FedEx flight engineer (the third man in the cockpit on older airplanes) packed a guitar case with an assortment of hammers and a spear gun. A desperate fight ensued during the flight, with the hijacker delivering crippling blows to the flight crew. The pilot used the airplane itself as a weapon, violently maneuvering to defend himself, even as he drifted in and out of consciousness. He even flew the DC-10 upside down. Eventually, the hijacker was overpowered and the plane landed safely.

Barratry still seems more likely, and there is no way for us to know how much stock to put in Malaysian radar reports. As always, the Bear will keep you informed on this story, whether you like it or not.

Pope's Homily on March 21: Misuse of the Gospel

Pope Francis warned against those who use the gospel to support their interests, their ideologies and their theologies. The message came during an original interpretation of the familiar parable of the wicked husbandmen at the March 21 homily at St. Martha's guesthouse. He said the evil men who killed the owner's agents, and finally his son represented "the tragedy of [the Pharisees] and our tragedy, too!"

The homily seemed to say that the vineyard was the Word of God, which evil men of all ages wish to make their own to serve their own selfish interests. Yet in so doing, they "kill" the power of God. Christians do this when they are "not open to the newness of the Word of God," and "are not obedient to the Word of God."

The Pope stressed humility and prayer to achieve docility to the Word of God, and warned them to "not cage the Holy Spirit."

Source: EWTN

The Bear's Interpretation

The parable of the wicked husbandmen has always been interpreted two ways.

The "literal" interpretation is a recapitulation of Jewish history, as Israel is frequently described as a vineyard in the Old Testament. The agents the owner sends are the prophets, who were often treated shamefully. The son is, of course Jesus, and herein Christ predicts (and provokes) his passion. The owner -- God -- takes away the vineyard from the Jews and gives it to another people, that is, the Gentiles.

The moral (or "tropological") sense is that we must respond to God's repeated offers of grace, or we will be no better than the wicked husbandmen, and will be condemned by our Judge.

Pope Francis' emphasis, however, is on the motive for the violence of the wicked husbandmen. They want to possess the vineyard as their own. We must not use the Word of God as a tool to promote our own selfish interests, to "steal" it. We must conform ourselves to the Gospel. Catholics have always been taught this. Certainly, by speaking of ideologies and theologies the Pope cannot be hinting at any uncoupling of the Word of God from the Church's teachings contained in her historical consensus nor a criticism of Catholics who follow them.

Who uses Holy Scripture outside of the Church's unique authority to interpret them, and seeks to "possess" them according to their private interpretations and theologies? The only possible answer is those who have separated themselves from the Church: both formally, as have Protestants, and practically, such as those who wish to change the Church's teachings.

So what do you think? Is the Bear properly understanding the Pope's homily or not? He would love to hear your opinion.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Today's 777 Update: Pakistan to Washington

Hiding in Pakistan? (Ring a Bell?)

Retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney was on FOX News asserting that Boeing thinks the missing 777 is in Pakistan. As you know, the Bear has believed that the airplane was hijacked, possibly by the pilot, and landed safely somewhere. 

Pakistan would be a slight stretch according to fuel estimates floating around online, but since I have not seen exactly how much fuel was put on board, these are at best educated guesses based on normal operations. And, by the way, why haven't we seen the fuel document? There has to be a copy; the pilot must sign off on it, since it is ultimately his responsibility that the airplane has the required fuel. Same for the cargo manifest. Was there anything on board that would make the theft of an entire airliner worthwhile?

As for fuel estimates, until we get the actual numbers, guesses based on normal operations mean nothing. Extra fuel might very well have been loaded aboard. Limiting fuel to cover your destination and various contingencies is primarily just a matter of economy. You don't want to burn expensive fuel to carry the weight of fuel you don't really need. It isn't like the airplane couldn't take off with extra fuel and have a much greater range. The 777 is the longest-ranged commercial airliner in history.

The change in course occurred twelve minutes before the co-pilot acknowledged a routine hand-off from one controller to the next with the normal "Good night." If this was a hijacking, he was either under duress or in on the plot. But if under duress, there are ways he could have secretly signaled the fact. And if you're going to steal an airplane, doing it in the "gap" after you are handed off, but before you check in with the new controller would seem to be the best time to do it. This comes amid reports that Israel is taking extra precautions with its air defense. 

Meanwhile, once again, reports of wreckage have proved to be a bust.

Of course, Pakistan claims it is impossible for a 777 to have slipped into its airspace undetected. Pakistan, it should be pointed out, is not the most reliable partner. Osama bin Laden lived their for years next door to their version of West Point, and they are sometime partners with the Taliban against our troops in Afghanistan. (They supply IEDs. Oh, you didn't know that either?)

Why Would Islamic Terrorists Want a 777?

There are at least five airstrips in Taliban-controlled Pakistan capable of handling a 777. It's time to observe that Malaysia is 65% Moslem, and the flight crew was Moslem. Then there were the two Iranians on board with stolen passports. That whole part of the world is a mess. There have been unhappy incidents with Moslems and commercial airliners in the past. The Bear is hoping someone besides the Malaysians is digging hard and deep into the contacts and attitudes of this captain and first officer.

What could the Taliban do with a 777 (and a motivated pilot)? We know what happened on 9-11 with smaller airplanes not specially prepared as piloted cruise missiles. How would it sneak to a target? Remember, despite all the talk of radar, commercial airliners are normally tracked only by a transponder. That's just a transmitter that pings a four-digit number assigned by the controller and dialed in by the flight crew. If that's turned off, the plane becomes invisible to controllers. What military radar might see depends on a lot of things such as coverage and altitude. And picking out a rogue 777 from among thousands of flights in busy air corridors would be nearly impossible. (Remember how everything was grounded after the 9-11 attacks. It's the only way.)

A fully-fueled 777-200ER can fly nonstop from Chicago to Seoul, Korea or London to LAX, i.e. 7725 nautical miles. Or, more to the point, from Pakistan to New York City or Washington D.C. Of course, Israel, or the Vatican, for that matter, is much closer. We need to solve this mystery quickly. We will find this airplane. Of course, if it is terrorism, they know that, too.

And therein is the answer to the biggest objection to the Bear's theory: if it was hijacked, why has no one taken credit, or issued a ransom demand? It wasn't that kind of hijacking.

Counter-Theories Debunked, Sketchy Behavior and One Possible Ending

Having said all this, the most popular "startlingly simple theory" is that the plane experienced a fire, and the the course change was a diversion toward the nearest runway of sufficient length: Palau Langkawi, on a Malaysian island. The theory is explained in Wired here. And debunked in Slate here. It does not adequately account for everything we know.

Just too much just doesn't make sense. Airplanes have gone down before, even in the middle of the ocean. Air France 447 went down in the Atlantic in 2009. We had wreckage within five days. It's been over two weeks. But the main thing is that too many governments are acting sketchy on this one. To put it bluntly: we're not being told everything they know. Complicating things is that everyone has enormous interests at stake. Boeing will blame the pilot to protect the reputation of its $260-million dollar airplane. Pilots will stick up for pilots. Malaysia doesn't want the reputation of an unstable Moslem-majority country with untrustworthy aviation.

I feel very sorry for the families of the passengers and crew. It must be agonizing to just not know. I still hold out a ray hope, though, that the passengers are alive, and may yet return home. But I feel the only way that will happen is at the end of a dramatic rescue by American soldiers.

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