Wednesday, September 30, 2015

St. Jerome

Today is the feast of St. Jerome, the irascible old genius who lived in a cave near Bethlehem and translated the Bible from original texts into Latin, the ordinary language of the day: the famous Vulgate. He wrote that "ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ." He was tormented by visions of what we would today call "exotic dancers" from his student days in Rome.

Kim Davis Sequel: Pope Dislikes Pro-Gay Mayor of Rome

Rome Mayor with two cohabitating homosexuals who have obtained children.

Pope Francis really doesn't like Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino! There is a humorous article in The Guardian which involves a flash of papal anger on the flight home from Philadelphia, and a prank call from an Italian radio show called La Zanzara (The Mosquito).

The caller pretended to be Italian Primer Minister Matteo Renzi. The target of the prank was Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the head of the Pontifical Council on the Family.

"The Pope was furious!" said real Archbishop Vincenzo to fake PM Renzi. Archbishop Vincenzo made fun of the mayor's customary sash. "He really looked like a fool," the Archbishop said.

But the reason this may be more than a little fun is this factoid: the Mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino is not only a lefty, but is a big pusher of homosexual marriage (see above photo).

So the Bear finds three encouraging data points recently: (1) the Pope's speech to Congress; (2) the improbable meeting with Kim Davis; and (3) that the Pope can't stand Rome's lefty mayor who backs homosexual marriage. And so we continue to read the tea leaves, but it would be nice if the Pope would come out and state the obvious that homosexual marriage is an impossibility. Maybe he prefers to let the Synod reach that conclusion so the nature of family rests on a broader base.

One thing we know for sure: the Pope hates talking about below-the-belt issues. The only time the Bear can remember him spontaneously speaking strongly about such an issue was his famous "rabbit" remark.

Pope Meets With Kim Davis

The Bear should write a satire about a satirist who was presented with a scenario so bizarre that he believed it to be a satire.

That was the Bear's reaction when reader Sandpiper directed him to a story that Pope Francis had secretly visited Kim Davis. The Bear responded rather obnoxiously, so he must apologize. (The comments section have been slightly frustrating for the Bear, but that's another story.)

The story is here, at Inside the Vatican, and is being widely reported by NPR and other outlets.

To be fair to the Bear, he did say it was bad satire. And so it was. Because it was the truth.
"The Pope spoke in English,” she told me. “There was no interpreter. ‘Thank you for your courage,’ Pope Francis said to me. I said, ‘Thank you, Holy Father.’ I had asked a monsignor earlier what was the proper way to greet the Pope, and whether it would be appropriate for me to embrace him, and I had been told it would be okay to hug him. So I hugged him, and he hugged me back. It was an extraordinary moment. ‘Stay strong,’ he said to me. Then he gave me a rosary as a gift, and he gave one also to my husband, Joe. I broke into tears. I was deeply moved.
Davis was in Washington, D.C. to receive an award. Pope Francis met with her after his address to a joint meeting of Congress, and before flying to New York City.

This is where some people accuse Pope Francis of a subtle game of misdirection, and others go into transports of joy that he's one of us after all. And a poor old Bear has to pretend to make sense of it.

Kim Davis was a Kentucky county clerk who went to jail rather than violate her Pentecostal religious beliefs by issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals.

The Pope also visited 100 prisoners in Philadelphia, speaking to each one. The question is, did Pope Francis visit Davis as a (currently freed) well-known prisoner of conscience, or specifically as someone who went to jail rather than issue homosexual marriage licenses?

The Bear thought this was interesting in the Pope's speech to Congress:
Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.
If the Bear were some pro-homosexual marriage bishop packing for the Synod, he would not feel encouraged by the Pope's speech.

When you look at his secret meeting with Kim Davis in light of these words, the natural conclusion is that the Pope is trying to calm fears before the Synod that the Church will somehow normalize homosexual unions, and possibly to make a preemptive strike against any coup.

There is really no other interpretation, and the Pope would have known this. Well, one could surmise that it is a cynical feint to catch everyone off guard when he rams through some unspeakable abomination. Not likely, unless we have a psychopath as a pope.

The fact that it was secret is no big deal. This was not going to remain secret. The Pope surely knew this, too.

And yet, Pope Francis is a chameleon. It is hard to say anything with one-hundred percent certainty. Nonetheless, the Bear will remain encouraged. And we should not overlook the thoughtful and kind nature of the meeting on a personal level, where Pope Francis seems to be at his best.

Important Blog Note

"Important Blog Note" sounds patently nugatory.

At any rate, the Bear is suspending comments for three days to let things settle down a bit. Many people are reacting to the Bear's new focus for the blog, as displayed on the title: "counsel the doubtful, comfort the afflicted and fish." The Bear gets this.

However, the Bear would like to let the fact of the change, and what it means, sink in. He is sure his readership can understand that it makes little sense to narrowcast a message of faithfulness as a plain ol' Roman Catholic, secure in the indefectibility of the Church, while more words are devoted to a contrary message by commenters. The Bear wants this to be a place where things are calmly considered in context and in faithfulness to the Roman Catholic Church, and the faithful are not scandalized.

(And there's no way to say this nicely, but you understand no blogger is obligated to allow all or any comments. We provide a private, free service for readers on our terms. The first person who says the word "censorship" loses.)

The Bear has been criticized for using the term "crypto-schismatic mentality." He didn't know that was a trigger to trads. As the Bear uses it, it means a concealed or latent turning away from the plain ol' Catholic Church in attitude, to some other authority: a spirit of separation.

If you say things like:

  • if the Synod on the Family does x, then we'll all know what we must do
  • private revelation reveals that the institutional Church is no longer authentic, and only a faithful remnant remains
  • I just can't take FrancisChurch any more, so I'm heading for the SSPX (or SSPV or wherever)
  • what will you do when your parish does x (installs laser lights, a jumbotron, bongos)?
  • the Novus Ordo Mass is invalid (or is an outrage)
  • Pope Gregory XVII was the last real pope (or Pope Pius XII, for that matter)
  • Vatican II is invalid

These are Bear trigger words.

And that's what the Bear means by a crypto-schismatic mentality. You are outside of the heartland of the plain ol' Catholic Church that God has seen fit to publicly give the rest of us poor stooges, and reprobates. You are evincing a willingness to turn to someplace other than the plain ol' Roman Catholic Church for your liturgy, instruction, and loyalty. 

You can remain technically in the Church while committing schism "in your heart." 

It is not having legitimate concerns that you are trying to work out while remaining consciously faithful to the Roman Catholic Church. And not some invisible, or hidden "real" Church, either, but the actual real Church, the one in Rome, whose Pope commands the attention of the entire United States and world. The city built on a hill, the one with St. Peter's and the 2000 year-old brand. That Church. 

Bears can change. They can abandon one fish if they find a better one. The Bear has always enjoyed his combox. When this was a general-purpose conservative Catholic blog, there were great discussions from some of the best commenters on the internet. The Bear invites you do three things:
  1. Don't caricaturize the Bear's approach as a defense or apology for what we all agree is not the best -- "bad but stay," not "bad therefore leave." This is about the indefectibility of the Church and loyalty to the one visible institution in which salvation may be found.
  2. Don't continue to rehearse every complaint against the Church and the Pope. We've covered that and are not going to wallow in our own crapulence here. The Bear will continue to provide appropriate commentary in context, entertainment and agitprop.
  3. If you can be respectful of this blog's mission, and contribute to the discussion, the Bear invites you to a New and Promising Future in the woodlands a mile and a half to the east of the old woodlands, as regular ol' Catholics, secure in the indefectibility of and loyal to their Church.

Dear Reinhard -- MAD!

Once again, we look over the shoulder of Germany's favorite advice columnist, Reinhard Marx, as he opens up his mailbag...

Dear Reinhard,

I am "Multi's" sister and "Strudel's" aunt. I have read your so-called "advice" to this unfortunate family and could strangle you! On your say-so, my idiot brother-in-law continues to cheat with his prostitute, only now you've got them in some sort of perverted threesome with my sister! Do you not know the basics of Catholic morality? Or are you playing some sick game of how many people you can send to Hell with your ridiculous, no, evil advice?

But forget the grownups for a moment. My dear "Strudel," as my niece has been called, is, thanks to you, living in a brothel! This Magdalena continues to work as a prostitute in my sister's home! I could strangle all of the grownups in this sorry mess, starting with you!

You need to realize that your advice has consequences! It has consequences here and hereafter, if you even believe in that. From the way you act, I don't think you believe anything Catholic at all!

I want to use your influence for good (for once -- I've been reading your column for some time). You tell my sister and her husband to kick Magdalena out of their home, stay away from her, and get some counseling from someone reputable!

Mad in Munich

Reinhard replies...

Dear Mad:

I detect some negative emotions in your letter, a lot of judgmentalism, and even threats. First of all, you should calm down. Perhaps there is a Buddhist center nearby where you could learn to breathe.

Oh dear, where to begin? 

Words such as "idiot," "perverted," "sick" and "ridiculous," are very judgmental and even hurtful. What you call "perverted" or "sick" is just the manner in which another expresses love. As Pope Francis said -- since you're so interested in Catholic teaching -- "who am I to judge?" So the Church does not judge, yet how fortunate we are to have Mad to show us all the way!

And before you pass judgement (again) on the marriage of "Multi" and "Muddled," you must understand that matrimony is an ideal. Of course we hope everyone is able to live their entire lives in fidelity to one spouse during one marriage, just as we hope all children are raised in a loving home without too much competition from other siblings. But these are ideals. Fidelity to one spouse in one marriage, for life, is something few can attain perfectly.

We must accommodate the sometimes messy realities that we meet in our pastoral practice. Sorry, Mad, but not everyone can live up to your perfect standards! The Church loves us when we are dancing in our traditional Bavarian costumes, and she loves us when we fall down in a drunken stupor in our own vomit. She no longer sets unattainable goals in matrimony that can only frustrate people and make them give up on the Church all together. 

Surely you don't want that, do you Mad? Little Strudel an atheist because you were too rigid about her parents' marriage? We want all the Strudels to stay in the Church! Now who cares about Strudel, hmm?

Above all, the Church has always been about love. Can you honestly deny this? The Gospels are a love letter to a fallen world. And you, Mad, who are so quick to condemn Magdalena for the profession that an unjust economic system forces upon women, should remember that Jesus ate and drank with prostitutes. All the time. Oh how the Pharisees criticized him! Just as you criticize me. 

I think I will continue to be like Jesus, and give the sweet counsel of love. You, Mad, can be whatever you want. Except, apparently, a Catholic.

Yours truly,

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Believe it 60 seconds every day.

Coming next: a new installment of Dear Reinhard -- "MAD!" Wherein "Multi's" sister and "Strudel's"  aunt gives Reinhard a piece of her mind.

Everything You Need to Know About the Franciscan Polyhedron

Are you sure Catholics can't work in
the Illuminati or Masons?
NOTE: In acknowledgement of Esquire picking up this old article on Pope Francis' polyhedron, the Bear thought he would bump it to the top. Apparently Pope Francis rolled out the ol' polyhedron again, in the context of the good kind of globalization. (Obviously the Bear's article was the only one the search engine turned up on "pope francis polyhedron.")

The Bear does not want his friends to be confused the next time the Pope talks about how the Church is not a boring old sphere, but a fascinating polyhedron. The Bear has scoured the internet for an easy-to-understand and remember explanation for those of us not quite up on our sacred geometry. It all goes back to Plato, who made the modern role-playing industry possible by inventing polyhedrons.

At some point, geometry became involved with mysticism. Johannes Kepler, in his 1619 book Harmonices Mundi included a complex illustration showing the occult elemental correspondences: tetrahedron and fire, octahedron and air, cube and earth, icosohedron and water and, fifthly and finally, dodecahedron and ether, or cosmos. The fact that there are only five possible Platonic solids and five traditional elements proved too great a coincidence for occultists and mystics to ignore.

St. Augustine was familiar with the mystical elements of Platonism and they survived well into the Renaissance, and even until today in occult circles.

At Caserta, Pope Francis employed the polyhedron in an ecumenical sense.

We are in the age of globalization, and we wonder what globalization is and what the unity of the Church would be: perhaps a sphere, where all points are equidistant from the center, all are equal? No! This is uniformity. And the Holy Spirit does not create uniformity! What figure can we find? We think of the polyhedron: the polyhedron is a unity, but with all different parts; each one has its peculiarity, its charism. This is unity in diversity. It is on this path that we, Christians, do what we call with the theological name of ecumenism. We try to have this diversity become more harmonized by the Holy Spirit and become unity.

When Pope Francis says that the Church is not a sphere, but a polyhedron, it is to be hoped he is saying that the Church is not made up of perfectly uniform and indistinguishable elements, but individual faces with their own, unique identities. It would be wrong, of course, to suggest that the visible Church is one of these faces along with Protestant denominations, in some more extensive and all-inclusive structure that exists by virtue of the Holy Spirit's love of "diversity." However, as we watch the continuing revelation of Franciscan theology, we may come to better understand exactly how the Pope conceives of the Church he leads.

After you understand them, sit back, relax and watch the second one, which is quite hypnotic and soothing. Perhaps you will understand everything at last.


The VA clinic the Bear goes to has a sign with a virtue next to every door. "Capability." "Prudence." The Bear jokes that it is like a Puritan brothel. "Acceptance" is one of them.

Some virtues just don't grow in young soil. The Bear read an article about Patty Griffin's new album, Servant of Love. She's 51 years old and has never been as big a seller as the artists she has inspired and collaborated with. She's normally categorized in Americana, but the Bear would hate to have to categorize Servant of Love. Anyway, this is what she said in the interview:
"At this point in my life, a lot of seeds just ain’t ever going to come up. What I got planted, what I dreamed I should plant, has been planted now,” Griffin told The Associated Press at a deli near her Austin home. “There’s this feeling of fatigue that takes over. It’s grief for things that have passed you by because of your age and will not happen."
That's a kind of melancholy acceptance, but one with which the Bear can identify.

There is a more peaceful kind of acceptance, which seems to have been a theme of late. The Bear found this quote from a San Diego therapist named Leonard Noel.
Acceptance does not mean that we agree with what is happening or that we believe it must continue... Acceptance means that we are able to gaze into the face of the present and say, "You are in front of me, and I acknowledge you are here."
Just that. There are other things in front of us. We choose what to give our attention to. It makes sense to choose things that we can do something with. Too often we see, react, and we're off to the races!

The sound byte, the agitprop, the inflammatory essay. Basic methods of psychological manipulation are now in the hands of everyone. They have all combined to turn us into hand grenades, just waiting for somebody to pull our pins. That energy is inside of us, latent, waiting. What is it doing to us in the meantime? The Bear is not qualified to say.

A woman named Jackie in our parish passed away. She used to take communion to the elderly at the nursing home. She may have been concerned with greater things, more riveting matters of ecclesiastical politics, but if so, the Bear doesn't know. He doubts those things are of much importance to her now, or are more important than what she did.

Jackie had no family. She had no money to pay for a funeral. The Bear could contribute toward it, not much, but some, and say a few prayers. Burying the dead is one of the corporal works of mercy.

Jackie is among the matters that are before the Bear today, respect to her body and the welfare of her soul. Other matters are considered, and calmly set aside for now.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Do You Suffer From a Low Information-Action Ratio?

A Low Information-Action Ratio

The Bear was reading one of his favorite blogs, Et Cum Spiritu Tuo, and was led to a story about Cardinal Daneels admitting to a "mafia" against Pope Benedict XVI, which ultimately led to Jorge Bergoglio's election as Pope.

Oh dear, what does one do with such information? Is that old bear, Pope Benedict really the Pope? Do we wake up to find Bobby in the shower, and the entire Francis Pontificate a dream? But before we address that, we know that a cabal of German bishops are conspiring to hijack the Synod on the Family (possibly with Pope Francis' connivance) and approve divorce and gay unions! But getting back to Pope Francis, what's up with that visit, anyway, and concelebrating priests taking selfies?

Neil Postman (1931-2003) was one of the greatest social commentators ever, and wrote the greatest book about our age. It is called Amused to Death.

A High Information-Action Ratio

Imagine you are in a mid-nineteenth century small American town, somewhere between the Ohio river and the Rockies. Let's call it Tumbleweed. A storm comes along and knocks down the church steeple. Everyone knows, of course, and the men get to work putting it back up, while the women bring them lemonade and cookies. The repair is well within the scope of the town's abilities.

A week later, word spreads that the schoolmarm showed up at the schoolroom a little tipsy. The ladies of the town quietly take the matter in hand.

The Johnson family's crop was blighted. No one makes a big thing about it, but foodstuffs are quietly gathered and they are provided for.

In each of these examples, the town receives no more information about problems than they themselves can address. They enjoy a high information-action ratio. In other words, they can act on the all the information they receive. They do not receive information they cannot act upon. They feel a measure of control over their world that we can't even imagine.

The Telegraph

One day, men come with tall poles and big wooden spools of wire. A stranger sets up some sort of clackity-clack device in the railroad station. Somebody recognizes it. "It's the telegraph! The news comes over those wires they're settin' up. It's all done with clicks of that thing-a-ma-jig, but that there man knows what it's sayin'."

In short order, the train delivers a huge, heavy crate. Townspeople gather around in excitement as the wood is pried apart to reveal a printing press. "We're gonna have us a newspaper!" exclaims the same man who knew about the telegraph. (He must be a city slicker.)

"A newspaper," another man scoffs, winking at his fellows. "What happens in Tumbleweed worth puttin' in a newspaper?" His jibe is rewarded by laughter.

"Go ahead, laugh," says Mr. Know-It-All. "But this here newspaper is going to have stories from all over the country, the world, even. And it'll all come right down those telegraph wires. Think of it! We're not going to be stuck here in Tumbleweed knowing just the small dealings of our town. If a ship sinks, we'll know about it. If there's a new King of England, we'll know that too. Disasters! Wars! Controversies! However often that fellow decides to print his newspaper, that's how often we'll know about everything! Imagine, the whole world is coming to Tumbleweed!"

One of the first stories carried by the telegraph and printed in the newspaper was an outbreak of yellow fever in New Orleans that killed thousands.

Brave New World

The telegraph slithered into the garden of Tumbleweed and whispered to the people: you shall know like God. Now the townspeople's heads were filled with problems about which they could do nothing. Postman wrote in the age of television. How quaint, compared to our internet-fueled day where consumers of news are themselves producers, and editorial comment is provided by anyone with access to wifi.

In his forward, Postman compares Orwell's vision of the future, 1984, to Huxley's Brave New World. It makes for fascinating reading, but slightly off-point for the Bear's purposes. Suffice it to say that Postman wrote this: "'In 1984,' Huxley added, 'people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.' In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us."

What do we love? The Church. Could our very love of what is holy contribute to our ruin? Wouldn't that be positively satanic!

A low-information action ratio refers to the helplessness of people faced with unlimited, decontextualized information. The relationship between information and action has become so attenuated, what's left is a feeling of helplessness. The problem isn't the steeple on the church, it's the Church.

We try to satisfy our disquiet with more information, or -- and this is new -- tailoring our information sources to only those we find agreeable. Neither way contributes to getting to the ultimate truth, nor still yet doing something about it ("action") which is the real issue.

Postman doesn't offer a solution, to the Bear's recollection, but it has been awhile since he read Amused to Death. He'll do that soon.

Low Information-Action Ratio in Ecclesiastical Politics

If it is not obvious by now, the Bear is saying we suffer from a low information-action ratio when it comes to ecclesiastical politics. What if we really knew why Pope Benedict XVI stepped down? Or what sketchy Cardinals were involved in a "mafia?" Or what exactly the German bishops were up to? Is there anything we could do with that information?

If the engine light comes on in your car, the action is clear and doable: take it in. But sifting through a glut of information to obtain timely, actionable intelligence about the Church that you and your neighbors can handle -- like Tumbleweed's church steeple being knocked down? No. It is an impossible fantasy. We read, and we create more information. No wonder we fret so!

And supply is just part of the problem with our limitless appetite for information. What about "action?" We never really get to the bottom of anything. And if we ever were to get near it, we would be distracted by the next scandal, some other juicy tidbit to engage, enrage or enthrall us. And if we were somehow finally able to master it all (impossible, of course), what could we do, practically speaking? Nothing. We would have only made our low information-action ratio worse.

That's not our fault. That is just the nature of the information machine we have created as it interacts with the human brain. Our brains were designed to use information that they sip, as it were. When we hook up our brains to a fire hose of data, far beyond their power to do anything about, the Bear shall let you guess the result. Confusion, fear, anger and ultimately paralysis is probably the best we can expect.

Whatever it is, it is probably not going to be the most peaceful place for prayer and reflection, but, rather, an occasion for pride and wrath.

The telegraph lines are singing right into our heads these days, and we sit, our jaws lax, as we know too much, but can do nothing about it. As always, that old serpent who seemed to promise us so much turned out to be a cheat.

The "take away" from this little essay is that Postman was onto something, the Bear thinks. Feeling helpless isn't pleasant, and we don't always make things better when we try to do something about that. Feeling helpless is inevitable in the internet age, just as it was, to a lesser extent in Postman's television age, or even when the telegraph insinuated itself into the innocent town of Tumbleweed. 

There is no apparent answer to the modern problem of the low information-action ratio. Just another trap to be aware of in the information age.

And now, reward you for your attention during a long essay, here's the title track from Roger Waters' best album, Amused to Death, obviously inspired by Neil Postman. (Is anyone even doing serious concept albums anymore?)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"What About You?"

(SCB News -- Philadelphia)

“What about you? What are you going to do?”

This was the challenge that Pope Leo XIII put to Katherine Drexel, who would go on to become a saint. They changed her life because these words reminded her that all Christians, by virtue of their baptism, have received a mission. The role of the laity was Pope Francis' theme at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia today. The visit to the City of Brotherly Love marks the final leg of the Pope's visit to America.

During his homily, the Pope said this:
It is significant that those words of the elderly Pope [Leo XIII] were also addressed to a lay woman.  We know that the future of the Church in a rapidly changing society will call, and even now calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity.  The Church in the United States has always devoted immense effort to the work of catechesis and education.  Our challenge today is to build on those solid foundations and to foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future of our parishes and institutions.  This does not mean relinquishing the spiritual authority with which we have been entrusted; rather, it means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts which the Spirit pours out upon the Church.  In a particular way, it means valuing the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities. 
(SCB News Editorial) It is not unusual for a Pope to speak of a greater role for the laity. However, it is more often observed in rhetoric, rather than practice. The experience of the laity has been a hailstorm from above of unwelcome changes since Vatican II that has not ceased to this day. The Pope was careful to retain the "spiritual authority" of the clergy.

What does this "greater role" mean? It means whatever we are able to make of it. It may mean being the one sound teacher in the RCIA program. It may mean getting on your parish council and speaking up. The Bear wagers others will be encouraged. It may mean respectfully making our views known on unsettled questions. (Or settled questions that have mysteriously become unsettled.)

Above all, the role of the laity includes -- for the sake of our souls and others' -- obedience and humility. A good model for the role of the laity is the Benedictine orare et labore: pray and work. (In fact, the Rule of St. Benedict is valuable for those of us in the world, too.)

Begin our work with prayer, work within the Church in peace, and pray some more.  Don't pray "that those wicked Germans will cease tormenting the bride of Christ," but perhaps more humble, more peaceful, less angry prayers for our family, our neighbors and the welfare of the Holy Father. And the Church, in the proper disposition. Not as one having all the answers, but trusting in God, even if his ways are mysterious. He knows what's going on, and every person will be held accountable without our help.

In other words, "Shine your little Catholic heart out!" (Thanks for reminding the Bear of his other catch phrase, Jane.)

On behalf of SCB News -- the Bear.

Wormwood's Advice on Using the Church's Crisis to Ruin Souls

Here's an excellent and entertaining piece from Edward Lawrence on One Peter Five that the Bear cannot endorse enough. It reminds the Bear that he needs to attract a staff of talented writers. Who will work for fish.

My Dear Wormwood,

I’ve been meaning to write to you for some time about the dangers and opportunities presented to us by the Internet. The recent events at the Synod have given me a marvellous and delightful chance to talk about the opportunities. The dangers I will discuss another time.

You will see how much success we’ve had recently in sowing confusion, fear, doubt, and despair among the humans. This is, of course, nothing new in itself. But the Internet allows us to magnify these effects in two important ways. Firstly, each and every public utterance of the leaders of the Enemy’s Church is now disseminated around the world in a matter of seconds. This was not always so: in fact, quite the opposite. For much of human history since that Great and Wretched Disaster, only the most serious, the most considered, and the most thoughtful of the chief bishop’s sayings reached the ears of the ordinary Catholic. Many of them would go decades or even a lifetime without hearing a word from him. Even during the latter twentieth century, the age of radio and television, it was typically still through the written word that he communicated with the Enemy’s followers, and it was through this medium that they heard from him. This has now changed: every public utterance of his is now not only disseminated, but also analysed, commented on, digested, and commented on again.

The second way that the Internet helps us is that, through articles and comments, we can magnify our efforts at creating despair by making one human’s worry affect thousands.

You’ll see here that I’m talking of those humans – happily, now a small minority – who are  not only baptised, but also making a serious effort to follow the Enemy, obey His commands, and remain in what they call a ‘state of grace’. I am not concerned in this letter with the broad masses of men who by and large ignore the Enemy. And nor should you be, Wormwood. Your target is your man, and nobody else. We make war on the Enemy to get hold of . What with all the excitement recently over heretic bishops and papal silence, I’m worried you’re making their mistake, and forgetting that it’s individuals we war over. What goes on in the Vatican is the concern of spirits far below us in the Lowerarchy, and you should not concern yourself with it. Your man is your concern, and his eternal soul is your goal. Never forget this.

But Wormwood – my first piece of wisdom is coming up, get ready – make sure forgets this! You want him to be so concerned by ecclesial politics that it absorbs all his attention. This is good not only because of the effects it produces – anger, rancour, worry, neglect of duty, and so on – but also because all the time he’s brooding over these things, he is neglecting to think about his own soul. You want to exploit this. You want, above all, to wrench his gaze away from his own soul and his own salvation, over which he has complete control, and towards that which he has no control: the Church’s place in the world, or what the chief bishop really thinks about some question or other, or who’s in control of the Vatican. Or something similar. The point isn’t what you direct it towards: the point is to get it away from himself and his soul...

Go here for much, much more of this indispensable piece from One Peter Five. h/t Mex Weeper.

Pope Struggles Up Stairs to Plane, Top YouTube Video Mocks

SCB News -- Notorious progressive Catholic site "Angelqueen" ran the Bear's recent paean to Pope Francis in its entirety. The report on the Pope's address to a joint meeting of Congress contributed to a disturbance in the woodlands, when animals burned trees and turned over logs to show disappointment that the Bear had not sufficiently abused the Pope. Angelqueen's publication of the report would seem to confirm fears that the Bear has lost his mind.

UPDATE -- Angelqueen's motto is "For purity and tradition." It is not, as originally reported, a "notorious progressive Catholic site." In fact, it leans slightly toward the more conservative end of the Catholic spectrum. The original article was written by a "cub" reporter and SCB News apologizes.

SCB News -- the Pope struggled to walk up the stairs as he boarded a plane for Philadelphia, carrying his own bag. (He has since landed, thanks be to God.) Gusty winds brought the 78-year-old Pontiff, who suffers from sciatica as well as the infirmities of age, nearly down to his knees several times. There was no one to assist him. The first You Tube video search result shows Pope Francis struggling, set to a laugh track and farting noises. There is a bonus video of Pope Francis stumbling when getting off a throne. (This is not that video with the added audio.)

(SCB Editorial) -- We at SCB News condemn making fun of Pope Francis struggling to climb the stairs to his jet by showing it with a laugh track and farting noises. Surely we can show our displeasure at the Holy Father because of his many deficiencies and errors with something short of a crude video with farting noises! We must send the message that there are limits, and respect sill means something in the Catholic Church, and the U.S. of A!

On behalf of SCB News, the Bear.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Tell Me Is Something Eluding You Sunshine?

So ya
Thought ya
Might like to go to the show.
To feel the warm glow of confusion
That space cadet glow.
Tell me is something eluding you sunshine?
Is this not what you expected to see?
If you wanna find out what's behind these cold eyes
You'll just have to claw your way through this disguise.

-- Pink Floyd, The Wall

Even so, you won't find the Bear saying:

Are there any trads in the theater tonight?
Get them up against the wall!
There's one in the spotlight, he don't look right!
Get him up against the wall!
That one's a Sede!
And he's SSPX!
I feel like wringing all of their necks!
He's burning incense,
Says the Church is not!
If I had my way,
I'd have all of you shot!

No, all are welcome and appreciated. The Bear's history shows that.

The woodlands are a lot less populated now that many believe the Bear is no longer a reliable source for anti-Francis, quasi-traditionalist sentiment. About half of his audience disappeared overnight when the Bear announced he was going to do his best to keep people in the plain ol' Roman Catholic Church whose current Pope we don't care too much for.

So no more crypto-schismatic Bear: he's all in, baby.

Have you ever been at a party and some drunk is running down his absent wife? You might wonder if that guy's marriage was okay (the Allegory of the Wicked Bear). It wouldn't be loyal and you would think: "This guy is heading for a divorce." If he were a friend, you would worry about him.

The Bear's not going to be that guy.

Now, the funny thing is, the actual articles haven't changed that much. They try harder to be fair to the Pope, rather than just snark, but he is not above criticism. Michael Voris would not approve.

The change is one of tone, and the ever-present question: might this scandalize a new Catholic, or cause a precious woodland creature to jump out of the Ark of Salvation? And it doesn't matter where they get off to; if it is not the plain ol' Roman Catholic Church whose current Pope we don't care too much for, it isn't the Ark of Salvation.

Bloggin' be messin' with people's souls. That's serious.

The Bear used to be angry. He'd read a bunch of blogs of a certain type, and cleverly write more of the same. Then he would be discontented the rest of the day. Now he still keeps himself informed, and tries to write a good blog that's "aequum et libratum." And he's discovering -- how shall he put this? -- the vigorous response provoked by trying to be fair to Pope Francis and promote the plain ol' Roman Catholic Church.

It has been an eye opener.

So the Bear wishes to thank all of his readers who have loyally stayed with the him. It hurts to see familiar screen names gone. (That sounds so ironic, and, er, pathetic.) He honestly believes that if you liked him before, you're still going to like him. The Bear is confident and satisfied going forward. Things may seem off-kilter for a week or two, but the blog will regain its stride.

Timely Vortex

The Bear thought you might find this interesting. The relationship between people's political leanings and their religious perceptions is something the Bear has noticed for some time. Someone who has liberal political views is going to be progressive in Church matters. Someone who is a political conservative is also conservative when it comes to the Church.

If you hate Obama, you're going to hate Francis.

The Bear thinks this is something to be aware of. If we dismiss Dorothy Day, are we doing so because she was a leftist, or because she was a bad Catholic? Could we go along with a Marxist saint, for instance, if he were otherwise holy and helpful to people? Have we honestly considered the issue of immigration in light of what the Catholic Church is telling us, or are we getting our values from our secular political beliefs? Are we sure we can rely our political leanings and ignore the Church when she now teaches firmly that the death penalty is wrong?

The Bear is not taking a position on any of these issues. He's not even sure on some of them. But if the Church taught you something that went against your political leanings, left or right, would you allow your values to be formed by the Church, or by your secular political beliefs? Why? For example, if you thought that immigration "reform" would not benefit your country, but were convinced by the Church that it was right, what would your position be?

The Bear is mostly conservative, and hasn't given it much thought until now.

Just (no doubt) unpalatable food for thought. Be sure to watch the video, though.

Pope Benedict XVI's 2008 Visit

Curious about how Pope Benedict's speech compares to Pope Francis' speech? Pope Benedict XVI did not get to address Congress, but he did make a lengthy speech at the White House.

During Pope Benedict's 2008 visit, he expressed concerns to President Bush over the Iraq War and immigration. He later went to the John Paul II Cultural Center to meet with 200 representatives of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism to promote interfaith dialogue. During a Mass at Yankee Stadium, he said the Catholic Church respects the dignity of all human lives, "including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother's womb." (A more explicit but less imperative statement than Pope Francis' "our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of development.")

Pope Benedict's speech celebrates religious pluralism, and America's tradition of religious liberty, just like Pope Francis' speech. "In the next few days, I look forward to meeting not only with America’s Catholic community, but with other Christian communities and representatives of the many religious traditions present in this country." Pope Benedict called for care for the less fortunate. He alluded to "truth" and "morality," but did not condemn specific sins, such as homosexuality, abortion or divorce. He only mentioned "family" once, and that was in reference to "the human family." The speech never mentioned "Jesus" or "Christ," nor did Pope Benedict so much as hint that the Catholic Church possessed the truth in a way that other religions do not. It does cite the United Nations' "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," and urges "global solidarity."

When the Pope makes an official speech in connection with a government visit, it is not a revival meeting or a blistering condemnation of his hosts. Pope Benedict's speech is not really that much different than Pope Francis' speech, except for the wackiness about global warming. The Bear thinks it's a better speech but it does not meet the demands of the Bear's cherished commenters.

The Bear respectfully invites his readers to keep expectations reasonable by historical standards and accepted protocol.

We all know Pope Francis' limitations, his "provincialism," as commenter Pete put it well. We could all probably add more descriptors. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Pope Francis is 78 years old. If he is, in fact, an "emergency," that emergency is self-terminating. The Church will go on, we'll all stay in the jolly old boat, and, we won't allow any prelate to rob us of our peace.

Pope Benedict's speech is below, in case you want to read it for yourself. It makes for rather bland reading.

Pope Benedict's 2008 Speech at the White House

Thank you for your gracious words of welcome on behalf of the people of the United States of America. I deeply appreciate your invitation to visit this great country. My visit coincides with an important moment in the life of the Catholic community in America: the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the elevation of the country’s first Diocese – Baltimore – to a metropolitan Archdiocese, and the establishment of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville. Yet I am happy to be here as a guest of all Americans. I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society. America’s Catholics have made, and continue to make, an excellent contribution to the life of their country. As I begin my visit, I trust that my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States, and strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly to the life of this nation, of which they are proud to be citizens.

From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the "self-evident truth" that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans contin In the next few days, I look forward to meeting not only with America’s Catholic community, but with other Christian communities and representatives of the many religious traditions present in this country.

Historically, not only Catholics, but all believers have found here the freedom to worship God in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, while at the same time being accepted as part of a commonwealth in which each individual and group can make its voice heard. As the nation faces the increasingly complex political and ethical issues of our time, I am confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more humane and free society.

Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good (cf. Spe Salvi, 24).

Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that "in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation", and a democracy without values can lose its very soul (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent "indispensable supports" of political prosperity. The Church, for her part, wishes to contribute to building a world ever more worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27). She is convinced that faith sheds new light on all things, and that the Gospel reveals the noble vocation and sublime destiny of every man and woman (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). Faith also gives us the strength to respond to our high calling, and the hope that inspires us to work for an ever more just and fraternal society. Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation.

For well over a century, the United States of America has played an important role in the international community. On Friday, God willing, I will have the honor of addressing the United Nations Organization, where I hope to encourage the efforts under way to make that institution an ever more effective voice for the legitimate aspirations of all the world’s peoples.

On this, the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity – as brothers and sisters dwelling in the same house and around that table which God’s bounty has set for all his children. America has traditionally shown herself generous in meeting immediate human needs, fostering development and offering relief to the victims of natural catastrophes. I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to find expression in support for the patient efforts of international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress. In this way, coming generations will be able to live in a world where truth, freedom and justice can flourish – a world where the God-given dignity and rights of every man, woman and child are cherished, protected and effectively advanced.

Mr. President, dear friends: as I begin my visit to the United States, I express once more my gratitude for your invitation.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dorothy Day: "Don't Call Me a Saint"

Servant of God Dorothy Day was a journalist, editor, and writer who devoted her life to leftist causes both before and after her conversion to the Catholic faith in 1927. Her cause for sainthood is being pushed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Before her conversion, she had an abortion, but afterwards was a firm opponent of both abortion and contraception.

She got J. Edgar Hoover's attention as she associated with people like Leon Trotsky, and flirted with socialism and even anarchism. She founded the Catholic Worker newspaper in 1933. Her leftist credentials are impeccable:

  • cited by Pope Francis in speech before Congress (just kidding)
  • had love affairs and other relationships with prominent Communists (before conversion)
  • asked the Church where were the works of mercy that comrades used to reach workers
  • founded the Catholic Worker (CW) newspaper and movement
  • admired Karl Marx and anarchist Peter Kropotkin
  • Buddhist-curious Trappist Thomas Merton and radical priest Daniel Berrigan wrote for CW
  • advocated absolute, uncompromising pacifism, opposing entry into WWII
  • stood in picket line when workers at Catholic cemetery went on strike against Cardinal Spellman, involved in many strikes, e.g. with Cesar Chavez
  • praised Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao-Tse-Tung in 1951
  • picketed the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
  • praised Fidel Castro in 1960
  • praised Ho Chi Minh in 1970
  • moved by visit to Kremlin where old colleague Jack Reed was honored with an inscription
  • wrote that Che Guevara "laid down his life for his brothers" in 1970
  • remained fascinated with Communism and anarchism
This is just a sample. Note that most of her fascination with the hard left was after her conversion.

Dorothy Day was a Benedictine Oblate. There is no suggestion that her Catholic faith was anything but genuine. She even wrote a book to answer the question "How can you be a Catholic?" that she would frequently hear. She did not, however, bother trying to separate her religion from her politics. (The Bear would observe few do.) 

Most of what she did was as a writer and activist. She did begin a loose confederation of houses where volunteers gave food and shelter to poor people. It is impossible to say how much of this she was responsible for, although she did live out her days in voluntary poverty in one of the houses. It must be said, however, that she was primarily a woman of ideas and gestures: of writing and supporting causes.

As possibly the only Anarcho-Communist American candidate for sainthood, it was inevitable that Pope Francis would hold Dorothy Day up as an example. This is the type of Catholic Pope Francis likes, and the type of Catholicism he promotes. In charity, the Bear will assume that Dorothy Day was motivated by a genuine concern for the poor, that perhaps got mixed up with some unsound ideas of her time. However, her undying fascination with Communism and adoption of a Quaker notion of pacifism shows a questionable formation.

Dorothy Day herself said, "Don't call me a saint." Some of her followers today agree, saying that it would obscure the real nature of her work.

Source: various, but mostly Wikipedia article on Dorothy Day.

The Pope's Problem

Did you ever wonder why Jesus didn't book passage to Rome and tell Caesar wonderful Gospel principles for running the Roman Empire?

The Holy Father, on the other hand, comes to the American Congress and talks to them about global warming.

Catholic leftists, no matter what their rank or position, don't get it.

They never will.

Francis First Pope to Address Joint Meeting of Congress: Special Report

The Holy Father's Address to the Joint Meeting of Congress.
An SCB News Special Report. SCB News: "Aequum et Libratum."

It is not all that unusual for a foreign head of state to address a joint meeting of Congress. To pick just a few examples, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, did on March 3, 2015. Prime Minister Winston Churchill did in 1941 and 1943. Nelson Mandela did in 1994, when he was deputy president of the African National Congress.

What is unusual -- in fact, unprecedented -- is for a religious leader to do so. While the Dalai Lama got to be guest chaplain for Congress, he has not addressed a joint meeting. Pope Francis is the first pope ever to do so, so today presents an historic event.

The Bear invites you to think about that for a moment. No matter what you think of Pope Francis, that's our guy, recognized by the United States of America, given the unprecedented privilege of addressing Congress as a religious leader.

Call the Bear a papist if you want, but he thinks that's cool.

The address itself, delivered in poignantly painful English, was not too bad, in the Bear's opinion, We know the Pope's a lefty, so we must factor than in. But he made a subtle reference to abortion and included encouraging language on the family.

Let's take a look at what the Bear found interesting. According to his new policy of "Aequum et Libratum," the Bear hasn't read any other commentary before writing this. He doesn't want to be influenced by others. This is a longish piece, but the Bear covers everything he found worth talking about.

Overall Impression

We know the things Pope Francis cares about. He's the Social Justice Warrior Pope. So economic opportunity, immigration, the death penalty, and climate change were all featured. He quoted liberally from Laudato Si. Liberals are going to find many supportive sound bytes. Conservatives are going to have sift for a few nuggets. Like his previous speeches on this trip, there are no surprises that should make anyone think differently about this Pope.

"Abraham, Martin and John"

Cue Dion for Pope Francis' tribute to four Americans. Actually, the only Catholic President John F. Kennedy didn't make the cut. But, in addition to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Pope included two names guaranteed to make heads spin. Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

Day was a lefty social justice worker who will one day be the patron saint of socialists. Maybe anarchists. Day began her messy young adult life as an avid supporter of radical causes. She started the Catholic Worker newspaper in 1933. After her conversion, Day continued to be associated with radical causes, but in a Catholic sort of way. She was a Benedictine Oblate.

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk whose interest in incorporating eastern spirituality into Christianity led to his electrocution by a fan in Bangkok, Thailand while attending an interfaith congress. No doubt the Bear does not do justice to Merton's work, but he feels safe in saying it was unconventional toward the end.

Now, imagine you're the Pope. You're in America, so you want to pick some American heroes to pay tribute to. Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. are obvious. But what Catholics contributed to American history? The Bear might have gone with Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Fr. John Hardon. Okay, maybe not Fr. Hardon, but surely our first American saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton would have been a non-controversial and wonderful choice.

Unfortunately, the Pope could not have picked more polarizing examples than Day and Merton.

This is Pope Francis. He is not going to pass up the opportunity to promote a radical social justice worker, even though he has to know it is going to alienate many people. And Merton's oddball mix of Christianity and Buddhism is so encountery, and dialoguey, it makes him the model for interfaith love.

But what's wrong with mainstream Catholicism? "Plain ol' Roman Catholicism" is the Bear's new ideal, and here the Pope goes spoiling it with "Social Justice Catholicism."

There is more to cover, so the Bear must leave this sad exercise. Like he said before, unfortunately we can't be surprised. In the great scheme of things, however, it's just a speech.


The Bear thought this was interesting.
Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms.
Here we get a clue about what the Pope means when he frequently talks about "fundamentalism." He notes the increase of violence "committed in the name of God and of religion." Of course then he goes on to say that "no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism."

That is polite nonsense, and the Pope knows it. We all know what religion he is really talking about, and he knows we know. He's saying it without saying it. But fundamentalism is not only religious. It can be an ideology or economic system.

"Fundamentalism" seems to be the Pope's word for a violent mind-set in the name of some cause. An us vs. them attitude. The Bear suspects the violence need not be open, but it is enough if it is latent, and expressed in hatred of others. Communism has certainly exhibited the Pope's kind of fundamentalism. It thrives on class warfare and hate.

The Pope also condemned "black and white" thinking: "But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners."

Sometimes people state the obvious while pretending they're being profound. Is there any normal person in this country who really sees the world as black and white? Maybe Dorothy Day did. (Probably "red and not-red.") The Bear does, in some matters. You're either in the Ark of salvation, or you're not. But mostly he's capable of detecting nuances where they exist. 

Is it troubling to hear the Pope say it is wrong to see the world around you in terms of "good and evil?" The Bear will have to think about this. On the one hand he sort of gets it, but on the other, we live in a time when the very message we need is to recognize good from evil and choose the former.

In any event, the Bear has learned that the people who most want to dialogue are least interested in what he has to say, and in the same spirit, the people who insist the world isn't black and white are the ones who divide the world into the enlightened and the fundamentalists.

Religious Diversity
In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society.
Religious diversity is America's thing. The Pope is not going to stand before Congress and demand that everyone convert to the One True Faith. The Bear reads in this something positive: the government should recognize the value of religion and respect it. A timely reminder.

The Golden Rule

The Pope says we have to let anyone who wants a better life into our country. Thank you, Holy Father. We'll take that under advisement. We can see how that's working out in Europe.

But here is one of the nuggets the Bear said you have to sift for: "The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development." 

Get that? The Pope just told a joint meeting of Congress to get rid of abortion. Imagine that! So, he didn't use the word, and seemed to conflate it with illegal immigration, but for "it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time" Pope Francis, it's welcome, and surprising.

The Family

The Pope expressed a welcome concern for the family. If he is telegraphing anything, the Bear would find this encouraging:
Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.
The Bear can only read this as a condemnation of same-sex unions. Do they call into question "fundamental relationships?" Yes. Do they threaten the "very basis of marriage and family?" Yes. What has this country recently done? The U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges imposed same-sex marriage in June. The language may be veiled, but what else could he be talking about? The Pope did not come to lecture the U.S. Congress, but the Bear found this language interesting. 

Then there was this:
At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.
This is actually profound. Economic pressure discourages young couples, while the seemingly infinite possibilities provided by our materialistic culture provide a different kind of counter-incentive. The Bear wonders how many of his readers find themselves waiting for grandchildren that never seem to arrive?


These are the points the Bear found interesting. Perhaps the biggest, and most revelatory, disappointment was the selection of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. But, then again, who else would Pope Francis pick?

The Bear was encouraged by Pope Francis' words on the family, and also by his veiled, but clear reference to abortion.

You can read the text of the Pope's address here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bear Swag Store Notice

There's no swag like Bear swag.
The very good news is that a whole new line of gear bearing the blog's new banner is online. The Bear is here to tell you that it looks great! He thinks it is his favorite line. There's a lot more than the large coffee mug. There is apparel for men and women, beasts and babies, and tons of stuff just for fun. The Bear is certain you're going to love it.

Look for the "Bear Banner" section on the storefront below the welcome message.

The bad news is that little of the previous two lines, the "Nail your foot etc." and the "Bear Patch," are currently available. (Don't ask.) The Bear's working on it, but each item is going to have to be redone individually.

Pope Francis on Wednesday

Pope Francis isn't offering any surprises during his visit to the United States so far. In speeches at the White House, Junipero Serra's canonization Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and an address to U.S. bishops, Pope Francis dwelt on familiar themes.

At the White House, the Holy Father called to "support the institutions of marriage and family, at this, a critical moment in our civilization."

He also reiterated the current Catholic line on religious liberty as an ideal. "That freedom remains one of America's most precious possessions," the Holy Father said. The Bear says that religious liberty is probably the best we can expect in 21st century societies, But the ideal is a Bearocracy where the Catholic faith is official and error has no right, except, perhaps to quietly and privately practice whatever mumbo-jumbo one pleases as long as one doesn't draw the attention of His Dread Majesty the Bear.

Religious liberty is like one of those soccer games for precious darlings where they don't keep score. Except the kids don't go to Hell at the end of the game.

The Pope and President Obama agreed on climate change, to the surprise of no one. Poor Pope Francis is a leftist at heart, and carries the gullibility gene when it comes to climate change. He can't help it. The fact that the Pope repeats scientific bunk doesn't mean it isn't bunk, anymore than if he declared the Earth to be flat.

The Pope did not apologize for missionary activity during the canonization Mass of Junipero Serra, as some had worried he might. In fact, he said, "Jesus intended his Good News for all."

When speaking to the U.S. bishops, the Pope gave a simple message about that kind of pastors he wanted them to be. The Bear was struck by this phrase:

"It is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake.  The 'style' of our mission should make our hearers feel that the message we preach is meant 'for us.'"

Pope Francis is a "feeler," not a "thinker," a man of the heart, not of the head. "Complicated doctrines" are not part of the message he wants the bishops to preach. They should "joyfully proclaim Christ died and rose for our sake."

That's not bad advice; the Bear might observe our bishops do neither. They neither teach nor inspire. They dabble in politics, PR and trendy causes. At any rate, it is hardly surprising to hear the Holy Father speak this way. Note the response he desires from this joyful message they are to proclaim: the "hearers feel that the message we preach is meant 'for us.'"

The Bear does not know to what extent "complicated doctrines" are important to this pope. The Bear is fairly sure they are not as important as how people feel, whether they have joy, whether they are a witness to the living Christ. At least that seems to be his emphasis. It is unfortunate that doctrines should be contrasted with faith. Doctrines secure faith. It's not an either-or. The reality is that people shall feel how and what they feel, and feelings usually don't last. But doctrines will survive long after Pope Francis yields to the next pope, and that pope to his successor, and so on.

The rest of the Pope's address to the bishops was what we might expect, except there was nothing particularly scandalous. The Pope included abortion, drowned migrants, bombed children, the elderly who are considered a burden and the environment in a kind of stew of evils that comprised "the essential aspects of the Church's mission belong[ing] to the core of what we have received from the Lord."

We've heard this sort of sloppy thinking before. It is classic Pope Francis. (Unless Francis is less sloppy than the Bear thinks, and these items are not a random list, but examples of different kinds of evils that demand a Christian response. What do you think?)

One thing we might do, however, as Catholics, is at least think about whether we are, in St. James' words, doers or hearers only of our faith, without getting hung up on specific causes. For example, the Holy Father is absolutely right about lonely elderly. Is it as horrific as abortion? The Bear is unqualified to make a list of evils in descending order, nor is it necessary in order to help. It makes no more sense to weigh evils in a fine and abstract scale as to pit complicated doctrines against faith. Do I please God more by visiting one lonely old person, or posting something about abortion? The point is, wherever you find evil, are you doing something about it, however small?

That's what the Bear feels the message meant for him.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

President Obama Meets Some Guy on Tarmac

Washington -- Analysts are trying to determine why President Obama and a large entourage met an elderly man dressed in white at Andrews air base outside of Washington. President Obama shook the unidentified man's hand warmly when he alighted from a chartered passenger jet.

In addition to President Obama and his family, Vice President Biden and his family were among the dignitaries who met the mystery man.

Internet chatter split into two camps. Some sources identified the man as "a pope," who allegedly  heads a religious organization known as the "Roman Catholic Church." Other bloggers maintained this was impossible because there was "no such thing as a pope," and the Roman Catholic Church had vanished fifty years ago under mysterious circumstances.

While no one seems to be sure of the man's identity, he will be meeting President Obama at the White House Wednesday, and address a joint session of Congress Thursday. This speech is said to be the first ever to be made to both houses by a non-entity dressed in a white gown, and will be televised for reasons that are not immediately clear.

[The Bear would have been happy to clear that one up, but nobody asked.]

A Bear's Confession

The Bear realized he has been troubling the doubtful and tormenting the afflicted.

He has been constantly negative about the one, visible, indefectible, Roman Catholic Church (which is in Rome), in which we must without the shadow of a doubt all remain or lose our salvation. This truth is taught to us by the same Church that taught us the nature of the Trinity, the sacrament of matrimony, and the Real Presence, so the Bear takes it seriously.

It is, ladies and gentleman, visitors, friends and woodland creatures, the bedrock truth which shall henceforth animate this blog.

The Bear has been saying "Nail your foot to the floor in front of your favorite pew, and die there," but his attitude has been crypto-schismatic. He has taken an unholy delight in clever criticism of the Pope of Rome that would make Martin Luther roar with laughter. In his pride, the Bear has tracked his page views as avidly as a pennant race. He has chuckled when he "just knows" Pewsitter is going to pick up a piece. (Not that Pewsitter isn't a great resource, in it's place.)

As a former lawyer-Bear, he suspects he got caught up in the game, the need for a "success" in his life to make up for the loss of his exciting career. Too often the Bear feels like he's living that comic-poignant moment in Tender Mercies, when the woman asks Robert Duvall's character, "Didn't you used to be Mac Sledge?" The long, insidious rot that can accompany the years after children, after career, and after most everything is something with which some of you may sympathize.

There was a lot of interest in the special essay, "SCHISM!" (An old circus Bear still knows how to get attention.) A comment from "J" struck the Bear to the quick. "J" said that he/she was considering leaving the Church, but that the Bear's essay had changed his/her mind (at least temporarily).

At first, the Bear was happy. But then he started wondering, what would "J" had done had "J" tuned into one of the Bear's entertaining rants, instead? The Bear might have been the very one to push "J" out of the Church.

The Bear thought of Christ's words in Matthew 12:34.
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
Also, James 1:26: "If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man's religion is vain." The Bear could weary you with similar warnings. Please indulge him one more, from the Rule of St. Benedict. (The Bear is supposed to be a Benedictine Oblate, after all.)
Let us act in conformity with that saying of the Prophet: "I said I will guard my ways lest I sin with my tongue; I have put a bridle on my mouth; I was dumb and was humbled and kept silence from good things." Here the prophet shows that if we ought at times for the sake of silence to refrain even from good words, much more ought we to abstain from evil words on account of the punishment due to sin. Therefore, on account of the importance of silence, let permission to speak be rarely given even to the perfect disciples, even though their words be good and holy and conducive to edification, because it is written: "In the multitude of words there shall not want sin." And elsewhere: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." For to speak and to teach are the province of the master; whereas that of the disciple is to be silent and to listen. Therefore, if anything is to be asked of the superior, let it be done with all humility and subjection of reverence, lest one seem to speak more than is expedient.
The Blogger's Dilemma indeed! Bloggers live by a two-edged sword. The Bear is going to try to be much more careful, although, hopefully, not less entertaining.

Some would interpose the all-purpose "Emergency Exception" to justify writing just about anything. This is not the place to elaborate, but it is no longer for the Bear. (And, no, the Bear isn't thinking of anyone in particular.) But it should be clear he's just a plain ol' Roman Catholic Bear with no special sauce. He hopes his friends and woodland creatures stay with him to see where the blog goes. He would certainly miss them if they left.

"I'm holding up a fish: this is the
important part."
There will still be fun, and he's not going to shut his eyes. But what he hopes he can do, with God's help -- and here the Bear is holding a fish up, because this is the important part -- what he hopes to do is not just encourage faithfulness to the Roman Catholic Church (the real one, in Rome, with a Pope and all), but put things in context and suggest a different way of looking at them, if possible.

No more crypto-schismatic mentality.

From now on, the Bear's mission will be to counsel the doubtful, and comfort the afflicted.

And fish.

New Look for the Blog

There are going to be some changes around the woodlands. To start with, the old blog is getting a facelift, with the Bear right up front, where he belongs. The Bear has made two versions, one that contains sort of a mission statement while signaling the playfulness of the Bear. The other is simpler.

In a sense, this is your blog, a gift from the Bear, to the extent you want it. So the Bear likes to solicit feedback on changes. Do you like the first one or the second one?

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Wicked Bear -- An Allegory

The Church and the Bear's Marriage

The Bear is happily married. He and his missus will celebrate their 40th anniversary October 1st.

Mrs. Bear is his wife. Before God and man, we are Bear and wife, and our earthly marriage mystically represents Christ's relationship with his Church. It is "one" and easily identifiable by its bona fides, regardless of how we are treating one another. Like every marriage it has had its better times and its challenging times. As a marriage, however, we have never been "more married" or "less married" depending on our mood.

The Bear's marriage has a real, objective existence both on earth and in the spiritual realm. It doesn't include anyone else, not even something "irregular" on the side while the Bear technically remains in his marriage.  The Bear looks to his wife and his wife alone for all things proper to their marriage. He would not separate himself from her, not even in heart or mind, by preferring another, even if his marriage wasn't doing so well. As Our Lord observed, one can commit adultery in his heart. A "separation mind-set" would be evil, and possibly lead to actual separation.

Deliberately dwelling on his wife's blessedly few faults, or visiting websites or clubs that made other women seem more attractive would be unhealthy and might lead to discontent. Again, why cultivate a "separation mind-set?" Don't you agree that would be unwise and disloyal in a marriage?

Surely, those who uphold the sacrament of matrimony would agree with the Bear on these points. There are realities that exist in both the earthly and spiritual realms. Man and wife, Christ and His Bride. And, of course, the Church is not some imaginary or invisible thing. The Catholic Church also exists on earth as a visible hierarchical body tracing its bona fides back to Peter, and made strikingly obvious worldwide by Him who spoke of the city on the hill, and the lamp on the stand.


Old Wife Turns Into Wacky Old New Wife -- Marriage Disappears!

Now let's say the Bear's wife goes through a bad phase. For 15 months, she doesn't do anything the Bear has become accustomed to during 40 years of marriage. She doesn't make sense, and is sometimes abusive. She puts on ridiculous fishnet hose and a leather miniskirt and flirts with other woodland creatures. She has even been seen kissing one of them!

Mrs. Bear has also turned into a "save the Earth" fanatic. She has installed solar panels all over the Bear's favorite place to sun, forbade him from "hurting the little fishies" in his favorite stream, and accidentally composted their dog. She's nuts!

(Keep in mind this is a story only, and not true.)

The Wicked Bear Finds True Love -- New Marriage Appears!

Fortunately for the Bear, there's an attractive and complaisant 18 year old woman with baby fever in another neck of the woods.

The Bear tells this new woman, "I've been married 40 years, but the last 15 months have been absolute Hell. I don't enjoy my marriage and I don't want my wife anymore. But I am in love with you. You're everything a wife should be! You're beautiful, and when you sing it's like the voice of an angel. You're sensible and traditional for all your youth. Your desire to have at least a dozen babies is charming. You and I could have a real marriage, and I could be away from my wife's constant nagging. I'm going to leave her and come and live with you, if you'll have a scruffy old Bear."

Without question, the Bear's marriage (in this story!) really does have problems. Many, many more than have been mentioned here. The Bear could fill pages of annoyances both great and small. For the last 15 months, all he and his wife have done is argue. The Bear persuades himself that he is justified in walking out and moving in with the other woman.

A Friend Intervenes

You, gentle reader, might object, even be scandalized, especially those of you who uphold the sanctity of matrimony, which was taught to you by your Church.

"First of all, Mr. Bear," you might begin, "do you really want to throw away 40 years of marriage over a relatively tiny slice of 15 months? Why, that would be as silly as throwing away a 2000 year-old Church over 50 years of occasional misrule! Who is to say that things won't eventually get better?

"But more importantly, Mr. Bear, your marriage is holy. It's a sacrament. It is a symbol of Christ's union with His Church. If you just up and leave, it would be like Christ abandoning his Bride. That is unthinkable!"

"Bride of Christ?" the Bear asks, his voice rising. "Who knows where she got off to. Mystical mumbo-jumbo with no connection to this world. I don't care about that. I got real problems here." The Bear goes on for several minutes about all the problems with his marriage.

Finally, you interrupt. "Yes, I understand all that. There's no doubt you have a troubled marriage, but that really isn't my--"

The Bear interrupts once again to rehearse additional deficiencies and outrages presented by his wife.

Once again, you are forced to interrupt. "Mr. Bear, please. I'm not denying anything you say. The point is, despite that, you can't leave. Period. You were married in the Church. Moving in with that other woman would be a mortal sin. If nothing else, what about simple loyalty? Maybe things aren't so good now, but didn't you get married for better and for worse? Maybe your wife needs you now, more than ever."

The Wicked Bear is Unconvinced

"You don't understand," counters the Bear. "This is an emergency, unlike any in the history of the world! And emergencies mean all bets are off! (I read that on the internet.) Besides, this other woman is all the things my wife isn't. She's sensible, and doesn't prance around foolishly saying ridiculous things all the time. She gives me real food. (I can tell the difference, you know!) I feel safe and comfortable in her arms. In our hearts, we'll be married. I'll call her my 'wife,' so there'll be no sin. You don't understand just how bad my marriage is. I say there is no marriage there at all! Yes. That's it. I have decided that. After all, who knows better than I about these things?"

A silence settles over your conversation, but you can tell the Bear is mulling something over.

"Besides," he finally blurts out. "Who are you to tell me I can't leave my awful wife and move in with the woman I love? It's all well and good to hand out simplistic advice, but you haven't solved a single one of my problems, let alone all of them! I demand you solve all the problems in my marriage before I listen to another word our of your mouth!"

"No," you admit. "I was more concerned right now to keep you in your marriage and out of that other woman's bed. If you decide to leave, who knows if you can ever go back to your marriage? But that doesn't mean we can't deal with your problems in some fashion. That's not the first order of business, though. You're about to do something awful and you don't even seem to know it."

The Bear snorts. "Just as I thought. You don't understand or care about my problems, because you didn't solve a one. And you claim everything is perfect in my marriage, or you wouldn't ask me to stay!" The wicked old Bear ambles off, muttering angrily about all the problems in his marriage, and how if you only knew, you would agree with him.

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