Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mary, the Mother of God

The Bear has left a collection of articles for you to explore, because he needs to take a break. He'll still be moderating comments.

Don't forget January 1st is a holy day of obligation. But the Bear bets you didn't need the reminder.

We don't give it much thought, but "Mary, Mother of God" was a matter of controversy. The followers of a Bishop of Constantinople named Nestorius called Mary the "Mother of Christ." To call a creature, however sublime, "The Mother of God," was just too mind-blowing for them.

But the Council of Ephesus understood the Christological significance of Mary as "Theotokos," or Mother of God. So, in a simple, lovely way, this Marian Solemnity points to the truth of Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man. As they say, Mary did not give birth to a nature, she gave birth to one divine person.

Top Ten List

The Bear isn't claiming they're the best, just the most-viewed, thanks to linking to by Pewsitter, or, in one case, Fr. Z. Warning, you might be depressed after reading. So here they are in reverse order:

10 - Yes, the Bear pretty much called Archbishop Cupich a psychopath.
The identifying feature of psychopaths, the intraspecies predators, the Ted Bundys of the world, is their inability to feel empathy. It's all the same to them. When the Bear reads a laundry list of social justice issues that are somehow supposed to be equivalent to the revelations about Planned Parenthood, he imagines cold eyes and a brain that is not processing information the same as his does.
9 - Then there was The Homodemolition of the Church. This is one the Bear still likes.
These gentlemen are in charge. Homosexuals first undermined the Church by their abusivness, and then were held out as the way for it to make its peace with a wicked generation. How sick is that?
8 - Did you know this? Pope Provides Protestant Explanation of John 6? If there is a crown jewel of Catholic apologetics, besides giving Peter the keys, the discourse in John 6 about the eucharist is it. Why casually throw it away by agreeing with Protestants about it?
Today Pope Francis managed to explain today's Gospel reading without a single reference to transubstantiation. In fact, he went one better. He said that what Jesus meant by that flesh and blood talk was the "sacrifice of his very life." That's right. It was not that bread and wine would actually become His Precious Body and Blood. Forget that. Our Lord was merely challenging people with the fact of his coming death, His "failure" as Messiah.
7 - If the Bear has a magnum opus, surely it is The Aqualung Code. The Bear is under no illusions that he enjoyed writing the long low-key parody more than anyone did reading it. But for whatever reason, it was popular. A good game of "spot the Bergogliosims."

6 - Then there was the Bear's reaction to Michael Voris' despicable attack on Pope Benedict, the Bear supposes since his man is no longer defensible. Michael Voris: Claws Out on "Benedict's Fingerprints."
In defending Pope Francis, which seems to be the one and only mission of Church Militant TV now, Voris implied that Benedict lied about his health to get out of the papacy, called his retirement "possibly immoral," called his retirement a "cataclysm" that may take centuries to fix, said Benedict as a father, abandoned his children, and blamed the whole Synod on him, not Francis. The classic SODDI defense: some other dude did it.
5 - Micheal Voris was the subject of another popular post. Michael Voris: To the Left of Me the Church of Nice, To the Right the Reactionaries.  Michael Voris has charted the exact path we must follow. On step off in one direction and you're in the "Church of Nice." (Most ordinary Catholics.) Step off the other way and you're an evil reactionary.
But to adopt a policy of ignoring Pope Francis short of him infallibly declaring the Moon to be made of green cheese is unsupportable in a Western institution. If God wanted robots blindly obeying the big cheese in every tiny detail, no matter how ridiculous or harmful, He would have not a pope in Rome, but an imam, and there would be a great big mosque where St. Peter's sits, around which we would all deliriously orbit.
4 - A Frank Talk About Papa stopped just short of saying Pope Francis has narcissistic personality disorder. "The Pope expects assent to his climate change encyclical. The faithful expect a Pope who is not incompetent. We seem to be at an impasse."

3 - A recent one: The Most Dangerous Man in the World. The Bear's most developed thinking about Pope Francis.
Using his name is not to show the Pope a lack of respect, or still less a rejection of his office, but to acknowledge that the human personality of an elderly gentleman from Argentina has swallowed up the institution of the papacy. We bounce from personal enthusiasm to pet peeve, seemingly at random, loosely linked by a collection of familiar tropes and phrases. Every once in awhile, the irresistible presence of a microphone will elicit an off-the-cuff inanity as connected to Catholic thought as a Marx Brothers movie.
2 - The Bear isn't sure why Michael Voris posts are so popular. But at Number 2, here's Voris to Bloggers: DROP DEAD.  Unless you have a theology degree and extensive secular journalism experience you have no business blogging. Wait, we're saved! I happen to have those same qualifications!
This is where it gets interesting. It reminds the Bear of the scene in Ghostbusters where Venkman tells the guy at the library, "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." Except now it's "Back off, man. I'm a Professional Journalist." 
1 - And the most popular post by a wide margin (thanks to Fr Z linking to it) is In Cauda Venenum. The venom is in the tail. A way of saying that people get to their point only at the end. Pope Francis started with a great defense of marriage. But he ended with this mess of mercy sans responsibility:
"The sabbath is made for man, not man made for the sabbath," Pope Francis said. (Jesus broke the sabbath rules by eating handfuls of grain as the walked; what rules-breaking does Pope Francis contemplate?) Now he's quoting Our Lord about "the sick" and "sinners." "The Church must be a good Samaritan to a wounded humanity," the Holy Father said. (And so the Church is, already!) He quotes St. Pope John Paul II that, “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved… we must love our time and help the man of our time” The Church must not close its doors; must be a bridge, not a roadblock.

Ravens Identify Murderers

Rad Trad has a piece on St. Sergius and his Bear. No, the Bear is not going to claim to be the Forrest Gump of Bears, taking credit for every Bear companion. He simply remains silent on the issue. It is enough to be St. Corbinian's Bear without complicating things.

The Bear is reminded of St. Meinrad, who became a hermit in Switzerland, and whose name is lent to the monastery where the Bear is a very bad oblate.

The hospitable Saint was murdered, but he had fed ravens every day. Read how the ravens brought the fiends to justice.

And, if you wish, explore the monastery's delightful website.

I Cried When I Wrote This Song, Sue Me If I Play Too Long

Bear Emoji
As of tomorrow, the Bear will no longer be a lawyer, at least not one licensed to practice. He had his run, and got to do a lot of things most people don't, especially in the JAG Corps. Now he's being scrapped.

This article reminds me of the Steely Dan song, Deacon Blues. "I cried when I wrote this song, sue me if I play too long." The Bear doesn't expect anyone to read it, but he's in a self-indugent, if not melancholy, mood.

The Navy Adventure

The Bear got to land on the tiny helo deck of a small ship -- at least it looked tiny from the Bear's seat -- and "take the con" of an Aegis cruiser, USS Mobile Bay, in the Caribbean. (Although the Bear is pretty sure that was a fun little courtesy afforded to visiting officers. The Bear didn't try to take evasive action or go to to flank speed. But he considered it.)

USS Mobile Bay -- "Lieutenant Bear has the con."

USS Saratoga -- a floating good-sized town. Scrapped.

Bear's Ships Obsolete, Overage, Scrapped

The Bear was a visitor to more ships than he can remember, from a humble LST in Valencia to USS Saratoga in Trieste, an aircraft carrier that deserved its own zip code. Like USS Samuel Gompers the Bear recently wrote about -- blown up in an exercise -- the "Super Sara" is being scrapped. So is the USS Forestal, a carrier the Bear spotted near the Strait of Bonifacio between Corsica and Sardinia. We called her "USS Forest Fire" due to a 1967 fire that killed 134 sailors. (Military humor can be pretty dark.)

The Bear can't help but notice that the ships he visited are mostly being scrapped. It makes the Bear sad. And feel ready for the scrapyard himself.

Substantial pieces of his past, mighty warships, used up, declared obsolete and ignominiously scrapped. Once they were glorious, because of all the branches of service, the Navy retains the most traditions. The Bear can remember sitting in the officer's wardroom making polite conversation with the captain and other officers, with enlisted men in white jackets standing behind us, ready to serve. He can remember changes of command, a rare occasion to wear choker whites and white gloves.

Tears in the rain.
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like

Actually, that's from Bladerunner. But you can't end a career without feeling a bit like replicant Roy Batty at the end of that movie. You're sitting on the rain slick ledge of the 32nd floor holding a pigeon and it's your expiration date. Driving off into an uncertain future with Sean Young sitting next to you just isn't going to happen for you.

What to do When a Bear Shows Up on Your Ship?

They never seemed to know what to do with a Lieutenant lawyer on a MOJAG to their ship. Usually, the Bear was treated very well, sometimes even like a VIP. Once they gave him the Commodore's suite. Above the Bear's rack was a display that showed pertinent data about the ship's course and speed. Now that was cool.

Mostly, though, the best they could do was squeeze him into a tiny space occupied by two junior officers, and the Bear would have to clamber up into the top rack, three up. The Bear recalls four up once, but that's just crazy. (Brown bears are not climbers.) Sometimes the Bear would be drunk, if we were in port.

The Bear had a hard time finding his way around on ships in any condition. At least he never showed up at the wrong ship. Maybe the wrong end of the right ship a few times.

Getting Kicked Off USS Wasp

The only ship that became the Bear's enemy is USS Wasp. Most of the Bear's time actually underway was on Wasp, which gave him a great deal of time to be annoying. (This was the same case in which the Bear annoyed Israel.)

A chance encounter with the Commodore ashore in Marseilles, when all parties had enjoyed their fill of French wine, gave the Bear an unexpected opportunity to explain what was illegal about Wasp's liberty policy. The contretemps caused the Bear to be sent home on a helicopter the very next day, without any of his gear.

USS Wasp, who kicked the Bear off
The Prosecutor Gets Cute and it Backfires

The Bear had the last laugh. The prosecutor decided to hold the Article 32 in Spain for a case originating in Israel. (An Article 32 is a preliminary hearing, like a grand jury.) Of course, all the Bear's witness requests were denied because there is a mileage limit. That was a strategic error on his part.

Eventually, after several months and seven countries, we arrived in Naples for trial. (Bear had to be the chaser for his own client! Guess how hard he would have chased him, even with a top speed of 30 MPH in those days?)

The Bear pointed out that the prosecution chose to have an Article 32 where he knew all the Bear's witness requests would be denied. The military judge found the Bear's argument persuasive and told the prosecutor that we could come to a deal or go back to Israel for another Article 32, i.e. start from scratch. That would have been unspeakably humiliating. And there was another problem: the Bear was banned from Israel for annoying an entire country. With that kind of leverage we were able to obtain a ridiculously good deal for a Marine who had committed a pretty heinous crime while drunk in Haifa.

Wow. The Bear is making a connection for the first time between all the stupid things everybody in the Navy does on liberty, and alcohol. Think he'll fire off an email to the CNO and warn him.

Fast Draw, and the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Sometimes the Bear would either prosecute or defend "fast draw" cases. They're exactly what they sound like. Bored Marines on guard duty would see who could outdraw the other. It's all fun and games until somebody gets shot. Marines made the best clients. Very respectful and compliant to counsel's advice.

The Bear lost a case at trial where a girl clearly invited his client to touch her dragon tattoo on or near her chestal area while in a bar. The Bear immediately went to the convening authority. (All military courts are specially convened; there are no standing courts like we're used to). The Bear explained the situation, to the officer, who concluded that, heck, anybody would have touched the dragon under those circumstances. (He may have been a pilot. That would explain it.) He agreed not to sign off on the verdict. Thus, the trial meant nothing and we turned a loss into a win! Try that in the civilian world!

If the Bear had to be tried for a crime, he would choose a military court over a civilian court. Military courts give defendants more rights, and there are more "pressure points" for clever defense counsel to exploit.

Civilian Practice

The Bear has saved the innocent, prosecuted the guilty, and mainly held defendants' hands as the 6th Amendment lubricant to a Constitutionally safe slide into prison. However, defense lawyers hardly ever lose. We employ a sliding scale based on the worst outcome versus what actually happens. So a 20 year sentence for murder is a huge accomplishment, compared to 40, or 60 or even LWOP. (The Bear's limit was 30 on non-death-qualified cases, and everyone knew it.)

The Bear never shared his methods of scorekeeping with his clients. They might have seen things differently if the Bear explained to them how we had actually won, although they were going to prison for 30 years.

Prosecuting a Death Penalty Case

The Bear prosecuted one death penalty case, and secured the death penalty. His Chicago trial partner cut the Bear's tie, and it was displayed with the order in a frame. That's the way they do things in Chicago, apparently. The Bear does not know where the trophy is now, but he did proudly display it on his wall when he was a prosecutor. Niels Nielsen's Murderpedia entry.

Bear's thinking he needs a swastika.
Niels Nielsen was about the worst and most incompetent human being the Bear has ever seen. Neilsen shot his ex-wife and her 13-year-old daughter to death, put their bodies in the trunk of his car, and tried to sink the whole thing in a pond. Unfortunately, the dimwit left the back of his car sticking up out of the pond. It was too shallow. Then he attempted to burn their bodies, put them large gym bag, and dumped them in the pond. Without going into details, that didn't work, either, and the remains were recovered. We had one tooth to identify the mother, but it was sufficient.

Nielsen was disruptive after the death sentence was returned by the jury. The legendary transcript of his obscenity-laced colloquy with the judge circulates among lawyers in the Bear's neck of the woods to this day. Finally (after he spit into the Bear's furry, round ear) the judge had him removed. Nielsen was to meet his end by lethal injection, but his sentence was commuted to LWOP during the Illinois death penalty moratorium. (Secretly, the Bear would not have been sorry to see him go.)

On the Defense

The Bear never lost a death penalty case, i.e. none of his clients were sentenced to death. His prosecution of Nielsen made him the local death penalty expert, and it kind of became his thing. If "kind of" means by heavy self-promotion.

You never really win a death penalty case by a plea bargain. The Bear's death penalty defendants will all still come out of prison in a box someday. It took a lot of persuasion to get a defendant to plead to LWOP rather than face a death-qualified jury. Most of them have the Patrick Henry syndrome: "Give me liberty or give me death." It was nearly always easier to get the prosecutor to come off of death than to sell the defendant on life without possibility of parole.

Playing the mama card never failed though. (At least your poor old mama will know you're alive. You don't want to leave her with a cold stone marker instead of a son to visit, do you?)

It's a cynical business.

The Bear Wins a Big Case

The Bear did win one death penalty case outright in front of a jury. The defendant was innocent, or at least the Bear thought so. More importantly, so did the jury. The Bear made such a lengthy closing argument, he was permitted to remove his suit coat and proceed in suspenders like something from Inherit the Wind. It was also the only closing argument the Bear knows of that had a lunch break. That success ruined the Bear. Forever after his closings were too long. (Kind of like his blog entries.)

A Mind-Numbing Parade of Federal Meth Cases

Once out of the Navy, jury trials were all too rare. Nearly all cases ended in a plea bargain. The stick the state has, not to mention the feds, is just too big to risk. And there's the awkward fact that your clients are all guilty (with a few exceptions).

Occasionally, an addled meth defendant would insist on a federal jury trial, otherwise known as a "slow motion guilty plea." The federal prosecutor would parade as many well-coached mopes as required to place the necessary amount of dope on the defendant. It was a doomed and frustrating exercise, especially since the defendant forfeited all of the sentencing benefits he would have otherwise have had.

The Bear has done many federal meth cases, but the funny thing is, he has never seen so much as a quarter ounce of the stuff. It's called "rolling up." Start with one suspect, and roll up the rest. I like to think of these "conspiracies" as "meth cooperatives." That hasn't caught on yet, but is accurate, and sounds so much nicer.

Everybody talks. It's impossible to win a meth case.

The Bear did a six-week Medicaid fraud trial for a dentist. At the end, the jury returned alternating guilty and not guilty verdicts on 26 counts. Obviously a compromise verdict, but my client still went to prison. The Bear has seldom felt so robbed.

The Bear will not miss federal court. But he'll miss dressing up, and standing on his hind legs to interpose a futile objection.

The Last Word... Is a Picture

The Bear had a ridiculous state job supposedly providing death penalty trial assistance for a couple of years until the state abolished the death penalty. Imagine the Bear in a cage for two and a half years. He was allowed to do almost nothing, for one bureaucratic reason or another, but then had to meticulously report his activities, accounting for a full eight hours, every day. Sadly, you will imagine the mendacity this encouraged.

Still, the salmon was reasonably plentiful.

In private practice, the Bear somehow developed a reputation for the most disreputable types of offenses. He won't miss those, either. A criminal lawyer has to see everything. The Bear would not begin to describe the images that have lit up his retinas.

If the Bear had to summarize it all, it's a game played with human beings. No one played harder than the Bear.

The biggest burden lifted, however, is not having to walk into an office every day with files containing pictures of people like nobody should ever see them.

Not the way the Bear
remembers her.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Francis, Trump Tied for Most Admired

"We're Still Having Fun, and You're Still the One."

Rolling Stone reports that a new Gallup poll reveals that, contrary to all rational explanation, President Barack Hussein Obama is the "Most Admired Man In the World." This reminds the Bear of when the young Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize while still in high school for "perfect attendance."

This must be kept in mind when we examine the two men who tied for a distant second: Pope Francis and Donald Trump.

Part of it may be simple exposure. President Obama pops into people's heads when they get the phone call from Gallup. Donald Trump and Pope Francis are also celebrities with a lot of exposure right now.

Yet another part is that humans are habitual liars, ever since Cain denied knowing Abel's whereabouts. University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert Feldman says that we lie to create a version of ourselves we approve of.
'We're trying not so much to impress other people but to maintain a view of ourselves that is consistent with the way they would like us to be,' Feldman said. We want to be agreeable, to make the social situation smoother or easier, and to avoid insulting others through disagreement or discord.
Obama is a historic figure as the first black president of the United States. Perhaps many identifying him as their most admired man feel it makes them look enlightened, and avoids violating any of the primitive taboos that constitute modern morality. Even so, there are doubtless many people who genuinely admire him for reasons beyond the Bear's ken. 

Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman, so go figure. (Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey got 4% of the vote for women.)

Pope Francis and Donald Trump only got 5% of the vote each. (But the Dalai Lama only got 1% -- yeah! In your face, Dalai Lama!) Socialist democratic presidential candidate (declared socialist, that is) Bernie Sanders got 3%. The real point is, we're talking about the also-rans here. Lame duck Obama mopped the floor with them, getting more than three times the votes of either Pope Francis or Trump, at 17%.

Another, more worrisome, way of looking at it is that progressives are vastly more admired than any other group. And why not? They're always talking about the great things they want to do and mercy.

Polling is a dark art. If the Bear were in charge, he would not allow news organizations to create their own news. Until that happy day, the Bear advises his readers not to put too much stock in them.

At least Caitlyn Jenner didn't show up in the list. Maybe people couldn't figure out if Jenner was in the man or woman category.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Circling the Void

Ms. Mullarkey
As readers know, the Bear hardly ever links to someone else's work, preferring to inflict his own view and style upon his friends. But he is making an exception for this very interesting and timely piece by Maureen Mullarkey.

Whether anyone wants to admit it, the very nature of the papacy has changed through the boomer generation. It is said that St. Pope John Paul II was seen by more people than any other person in history. We saw the throngs of adoring Catholics surrounding the man in white on our televisions. Everyone did.

The change accelerated with the election of the elderly gentleman from Argentina. He has used the media to change perceptions of what the Church believes. Pope Benedict called the Vatican II council's evil shadow "The Media Council." The elderly gentleman from Argentina is creating a "Media Pontificate." He commands the cameras. He speaks into the microphones. It is a living demonstration of Marshall Mcluhan's maxim, "The medium is the message."

And that message is, fundamentally, "The Pope." He is the Church. He has transcended his proper role and become an Oracle, uttering dark imprecations or bright inspirations; answering questions with Delphic ambiguity, such as "who am I to judge?"

But remember, this is a symbiotic relationship between the cameras and microphones on one hand and the elderly gentleman from Argentina on the other. Now get ready for this: the Pope is binding and loosing doctrine and discipline with the help of the international news media.

It is practically inevitable unless our popes realize the danger and exercise discipline and reserve. It seems impossible that the elderly gentleman from Argentina will learn this lesson.

If the Church were an organism, one might be tempted to say that the papacy has metastasized.

But why go on when there is a more elegant explanation that you may read and enjoy.

Parable of the Unmerciful Servant as You've Never Seen It Before

The Bear found this entertaining, and hopes you might enjoy a change of pace from the recent investigative journalism. Okay, recent Bear snooping around and turning over the garbage cans.

It's the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant as you've never seen -- or heard -- it before. Very clever. But the Bear is not sure where the "Frozen" number comes from.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Maureen Mullarkey Withdraws Apology over ESAG Piece

Ms. Mullarkey
Based on research and analysis conducted by the Bear and the Hound, writer Maureen Mullarkey has withdrawn her apology over submitting "The Theology of the Clitoris," to The Federalist. This was her contribution to the body of work sparked by the Daily Mail's revelation that the European Society of Aesthetic Gynecology was holding its 1st World Congress at the Patristic Institute, next to the Vatican. Inevitably it was spread as "the Vatican G-Spot Conference." (Which really irritates the sponsor, so we should probably not use that anymore. But most people don't have any idea what "ESAG" is.)

Mullarkey, one of the most talented writers around, was informed by The Federalist that they had pulled her piece after a complaint by the Patristic Institute, who denied the whole thing, and maybe even used the word "hoax."

Oakes Spalding of Mahound's Paradise made a comment on the Bear's blog that maybe there wasn't a hoax after all. The Bear began snooping around the story like it was a six-pack of garbage cans and contacted Dr. Bader, who is behind the ESAG conference. The Bear can tell you, he is one mad aesthetic gynecological surgeon who feels shafted by the Vatican. Read previous articles to understand why the Bear finds his story credible. (And, the Patristic Institute's and Fr. Lombardi's not.)

Although the Bear has his preliminary opinion, the case remains open. There are certain pieces of evidence the Bear is waiting for, and Dr. Bader has promised a press release that will contain proof.

But you won't want to miss why Ms. Mullarkey has withdrawn her apology, here: "Scrap the Mea Culpa!"

Gynogate: More From Dr. Bader and Most Likely Scenario

Fr. Federico Lombardi

You will recall that The European Society of Aesthetic Gynecology (ESAG) advertised its "1st World Congress" to be held in the impressive and well-advertised conference facilities at the Patristic Institute, just outside the precincts of the Vatican. It quickly became known as the "Vatican G-Spot Conference," even though only one program dealt with that sensationalistic matter. The Patristic Institute is supervised by the curial Congregation for Catholic Education.

As far as the Bear can tell, the story was broken by the Daily Mail, which set the sensationalistic tone. As you can imagine, the story proved irresistible to bloggers, particularly of the lazy sort who played it for laughs, such as the Bear. (Rest assured, however, that the Bear is on this story for real, now.) Maureen Mullarkey wrote a story for the Federalist, which they pulled (more anon).

Why It Matters

The reason this is important is that it appears the Patristic Institute and Fr. Federico Lombardi are not being truthful, and are damaging the reputations of respected writer Maureen Mullarkey, and, for that matter, Dr. Bader, the surgeon behind the ESAG Congress. Think what you want about his field, but he is evidently a respected surgeon in it. Add every other blogger who discussed this and has been accused of reporting a hoax, many of them issuing apologies, and you've got quite a number of aggrieved parties. 

Of course, that is small potatoes compared to the Vatican deliberately lying to save itself some embarrassment. Perhaps the relevant parties should review the lessons of Watergate.

A Look at the Evidence: More From Dr. Bader

Dr. Alex Bader
In order to believe the Vatican, you would have to conclude that Dr. Bader is (a) delusional; or (b) perpetrating a senseless hoax on himself and his own organization. On the other hand, you may conclude that Dr. Bader (with whom the Bear is in communication, and who sounds like a reasonable surgeon who is bent out of shape by his treatment) at least believed he had an agreement with the Institute.

Based on all the evidence, it seems likely that ESAG did have an agreement, but the Institute (or the Vatican) grew skittish after people started laughing at it, and broke off the agreement at whatever stage it had reached.

The Bear has set up legal conferences for hundreds of lawyers and many presenters from all over the country. No one would just assume they have some venue as they're scheduling incoming speakers, assuring that they have the equipment they need, planning catering, and providing for some down time. Not to mention advertising for attendees! The Bear would grow extremely angry if he thought he had a venue and it disappeared.

Against Fr. Lombardi and the Institute we have Dr, Bader's unequivocal statement. [Sic.] (English is obviously not Dr. Bader's native language, but he does well enough.)
We had a clear agreement with the Vatican to rent their premises in order to organize the Congress. Recently and in unfair way they regret and escalate the issue just to slip away from their responsibilities. We have evidence and documents to prove this and soon we will come out with an official press release as well as we still keep our rights for all legal actions against all involved parties who defame our Society and me personally.The Congress still will take place on the same dates in a different venue which will be announced soon.
The Bear now makes available additional information from Dr. Bader. [Sic.]
I understand completely the Vatican position but they where the one who promised the rental of the Patristic institute. We never had the target to embarrass the holy chruch. We are a scientific organisation who are organising a meeting which will come with conclusions and guidelines and that's why we invited 30 different speakers from all over the contents [continents] and with all varieties of religions just to expose their opinion as this will give a big asset  to the whole thing. Even the G-Spot topic which was the one which all your colleagues used to defame the congress,  the society and me personally it is under the title G-Spot truth and myth? which obviously shows our goal to investigate and to come one step beyond what we know now. The word hoax is unfair and totally illegal and this will be considered from us on all our next action.
Sounds to the Bear like Dr. Bader has a point. He is obviously not very happy. In defense of my "colleagues," the Bear does not believe any disrespect was intended toward Dr. Bader and ESAG. The thrust of the story was the incongruity of a sex surgery congress being hosted by the Vatican. For that matter, inject "G-Spot" into a conversation and you're likely to elicit some juvenile humor. At least if you're a Bear. It's sort of a defense mechanism we use when we're uncomfortable with frank discussions about sex.

Which brings us back to the claims by the Vatican and the Institute that there was never an agreement, and the implication (if not outright claim) that it was a hoax. One of the reasons it is vital to obtain a copy of the Institute email is to see how they characterized the matter, and whether they used the word "hoax."

The Email from the Institute

Once the Congress was publicized, The Federalist published an article by respected writer Maureen Mullarkey (You may remember that she was let go by First Things due to her criticism of the Pope. She is definitely one of the good guys, and the Bear encourages you to read her wonderful writings via the link to the right.)

The Bear is hoping to obtain the original of the "forwarded email" from the Institute or The Federalist, with whom he has established a line of communication. He has also contacted the Institute with a number of questions, including seeing their communication to the Federalist. They cannot complain that no one has inquired, now. Whether they are interested in someone probing their narrative is a different matter.

Based on the communications quoted above, Ms. Mullarkey issued her apology.

We're waiting for Dr. Bader's press release, which, for all the Bear knows, has documentation that will prove ESAG's version.

Vatican vs. Dr. Bader: Credibility Contest

It is difficult to imagine a scenario that brings the Vatican's statements and Dr. Bader's statements into agreement. The best the Bear can do is that the parties did enter into some sort of preliminary agreement that caused Dr. Bader to think he had a solid contract, but the Vatican canceled at some point.

To avoid further embarrassment, the Vatican then took the additional, unwise, step of denying that there had ever been any agreement or discussions, and possibly called the whole thing a hoax. The Patristic Institute communicated a denial strong enough to cause The Federalist to pull Ms. Mullarkey's story without further investigation.

The Bear really wants to know if the Institute used the word "hoax."

Fr. Lombardi has doubled down on the complete denial story.

The Bear has decades of experience sorting facts, assessing evidence and judging people's credibility. If Dr. Bader is not being truthful, the Bear's a monkey's uncle.

Friday, December 25, 2015

ESAG: Vatican Hoax Claim Lie, Legal Actions Reserved

Sorry, the Bear's always wanted to do that.

ESAG Strikes Back

The Bear has received a reply to an inquiry to the European Society of Aesthetic Gynecology. They strongly dispute the Vatican's "hoax" claim about the so-called "G-Spot Conference." It looks like the suspicions of Oakes Spalding from Mahound's Paradise (see comments) later followed up on by the Bear, were correct.

ESAG's strong reply from Dr. Alexandros Bader, follows [sic]:
Dear Mr. [Bear], we had a clear agreement with the Vatican to rent their premises in order to organize the Congress. Recently and in unfair way they regret and escalate the issue just to slip away from their responsibilities. We have evidence and documents to prove this and soon we will come out with an official press release as well as we still keep our rights for all legal actions against all involved parties who defame our Society and me personally.The Congress still will take place on the same dates in a different venue which will be announced soon.  
The Bear has engaged in subsequent communications with Dr. Bader, and expects to report more news soon.

Meanwhile Vatican Press Director, Federico Lombardi has denied any connection between the Vatican and ESAG or the use of the Patristic Institute conference facilities by ESAG.

Brief History of the Reportage

To remind readers, Maureen Mullarkey had written about the original "ESAG 1st World Conference"  -- inevitably sensationalized to the "Vatican G-Spot Conference" -- which was also reported in the Daily Mail and elsewhere, including Mahound's Paradise. Ms. Mullarkey later received a letter from the Patristic Institute denying the venue and -- apparently -- suggesting the whole thing was a hoax. This led to a public apology from Ms. Mullarkey.

Perhaps our friend was too trusting.

In the Bear's immediately preceding article, the Bear outlined how the evidence did not add up to a hoax, but, rather, the Vatican deciding to back out after being laughed at. It would follow that the Patristic Institute personnel (which is under curial supervision) were less than truthful in their communication with Ms. Mullarkey. Worse, it was content to damage the reputations of bloggers who reported this -- including the highly respected Ms. Mullarkey -- by letting on that they had been gulled, and had reported untrustworthy information.

The Bear supposes that if the Vatican pulled the plug on ESAG, it could, sort of, deny any connection with ESAG. But that would involve a material omission wouldn't it, if there had been an agreement that the Institute reneged on? It could hardly be said to be completely truthful. Certainly not the level of honesty we expect from the Vatican.

Americans learned long ago that the coverup  is always worse than the original problem.

An Invitation for the Vatican to Clarify the Matter

As for ESAG, the Bear doubts it was the butt of any jokes, but, rather, it was the Patristic Institute, and, by extension, the Vatican, for hosting a major "aesthetic gynecology" conference that was viewed as incongruous with the Patristic Institute venue. The Bear is obviously not qualified to comment on medical practices, or the value of Dr. Bader's work. As for the G-Spot discussion that became emblematic of the flap, there was only one presentation scheduled, "G-Spot: Fact or Fiction?"

The whole thing was a tempest in a tea cup until now. Now, however, the Vatican seems to have departed from the truth at the expense of Dr. Bader and ESAG. Bloggers who covered this story were casually thrown under the bus by being falsely accused of reporting a hoax. The Bear respectfully requests that the Vatican clarify the record on discussions between ESAG and the Patristic Institute for use of their conference facilities, why the Institute reneged on their deal with ESAG, and then why they subsequently denied having had any agreement with ESAG, inducing Maureen Mullarkey to issue an unnecessary apology.

This suggests serious dishonesty and a deliberate attack on the credibility of Catholic bloggers by someone at the Patristic Institute, if not higher.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Vatican G-Spot Conference a Hoax (Or Was It?)

Is it just the Bear, or does this look familiar?
UPDATE 1: The Vatican is now claiming that the 1st World Congress of the European Society of Aesthetic Gynecology (ESAG) being hosted at the Patristic Institute's conference facilities was all a hoax. All references to the venue have been scrubbed from the ESAG website. However, the Bear thinks the graphic on their PDF looks familiar. Merely an iconic image from Rome, or a fingerprint from a plan that got scratched by the Vatican in the face of ridicule? There is quite a bit here to ponder.

UPDATE 2: BREAKING -- ESAG calls Vatican hoax claim untrue, threatens legal action.


Maureen Mullarkey has written that the Vatican G-Spot Conference is a hoax. You can read the details at her "Studio Matters" blog, in the Bear's opinion always an essential daily blog stop anyway. (Permanently linked in the right-hand column.)

The Bear thinks she may be a little hard on herself. After all, why wouldn't there be a Vatican G-Spot Conference? They rented out space to Porsche, after all. In any case, it was too fat a pony for the Bear to resist going after, too. Overall, the bloggers still understand this pontificate better than the legacy media.

We've earned our "fake but accurate" moment, if anyone recalls the the Bush National Guard hoax.

So, the good news is that the Vatican has not descended to shilling for G-Spot enhancement.

The bad news is that now the Bear will never discover the untapped potential of his G-Spot. Assuming  Bears have one.


UPDATE 3: Oakes Spaulding of Mahound's Paradise raises a good point in the comments section. Was it really a hoax? (He has done the best work on this, whereas the Bear originally played it for laughs.)

At one time the European Society of Aesthetic Surgery (ESAG) definitely advertised the venue for its "1st World Congress" as the Patristic Institute. The Patristic Institute, under the curial Congregation of Catholic Education, does generally advertise its conference facilities, so there is nothing inherently improbable about the Institute hosting the conference.

However, all references to the Institute as a venue have been scrubbed from the (quite slick) ESAG website. (The site features discussions of a wide variety of feminine enhancement procedures, so viewer discretion advised.) The venue for the ESAG conference is now listed only as "Rome, Italy."

As preserved at Mahound's Paradise, the original promotional material said:
The social event will take place in the Vatican City, participants will have the chance to visit the entire city of the Vatican and reach places not everybody can. Delegates will have the chance to attend the general audience of Pope Francisco, the Mass and to visit the Vatican gardens.
All that's gone now, except for the image of St. Peter's basilica prominently featured on their promotional PDF.

The Bear has inquired of ESAG, but doubts they will feel obligated to reply. [But see.]


Based on the above, the Bear would not call this a hoax, but a rare triumph of common sense at the Vatican, marred by a coverup. If this is the case, this is a far bigger deal than the original conference story because the Patristic Institute, which is supervised by a curial congregation, would be caught in an outright lie. Worse, it would show a willingness to damage the credibility of a respected blogger by saying that she had been gulled, and had reported untrustworthy information.

As Oakes asks, was ESAG's website hacked? Who were the hoaxers? (An odd target, thinks the Bear.) Why would ESAG scrub all references to the Institute without comment? On the other hand, the Bear can imagine all sorts of reasons for ESAG to keep quiet if the Vatican backed out.

The whole thing looks like ESAG secured a respectable venue for their unusual conference which the Vatican later realized was generating the kind of PR it didn't need. ESAG was disinvited. ESAG is now searching for an alternative venue in Rome.

On the other hand, the experienced journalist Maureen Mullarkey is the one who received the letter from the Patristic Institute. For whatever reasons, she accepted the claim of hoax and apologized.

So, what do you think? Do you buy the improbable hoax claim? Or do you think that's a cover story for a lapse in judgment? The Bear admits that much of this is speculation. However, the hoax claim smells fishy. And there's still that image of St. Peter's on their PDF, which perhaps they neglected to alter.

If the Bear's instincts are right, it isn't Maureen Mullarkey that owes an apology. Somebody needs to apologize to her.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pope Honored for European Unification

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis was recognized for his efforts in promoting European union. In giving the pontiff "The Charlemagne Award," the European Parliament cited his promotion of "dialogue of cultures and religions" and "the sacredness of the human person."

The Charlemagne Award, described as the "oldest and best-known prize" for the promotion of European Unity was previously given to St. Pope John Paul II and Brother Roger Schultz, the founder of the ecumenical community of Taize.

Well, it's not a Nobel Prize, but it's a start.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

There's a Wild Child Coming

The Bear's sole remaining military son is driving up from Ft. Hood tonight. After a spate of blogging in the past couple of weeks, the Bear will probably be taking it easy and enjoying his family.

The Bear wishes to take a moment to thank his benefactors of the past year. Your efforts really made a difference in more ways than one. It's easy to hit the donor button and provide some salmon for the Bear if you appreciate his work.

Two pieces broke into the all-time top-ten list within a few days of one another. The Aqualung Code is pure parody with no particular point other than a fun could-have-been by a Jethro Tull fan. And some of the things Pope Francis says do sound like lyrics from Aqualung.  The Most Dangerous Man in the World evidently resonated.

These are dark times. But don't be fooled. They can't change the truth. And what they do is on them. We cannot go wrong by putting our heads down stubbornly and living like Catholics despite all the madness going on around us.

And with all due respect to those who may prefer a different style of Catholicism, the Bear believes we can thrive as ordinary Catholics in our banal parish churches, punished by the usual nauseating sing-a-longs. Suck it up, dear friend. This is the Church we get in our day, and it is our job to make the most of it. Take your finger off that eject button, and nail your foot to the floor in front of your favorite pew and die there.

The elderly gentleman from Argentina will have his day, and who is to say any of it will stick?

Christ is coming!

There's a track from Ian Anderson's very latest album, Homo Erraticus that the Bear likes. It's called Puer Ferox Adventus. There's a Wild Child Coming. There is something wild about the Child who will be with us shortly. The Bear somehow finds hope and excitement in that description. We could use some wildness.

But then a Bear would say that.

The Pope Francis Christmas Special

In his magnum opus, The Aqualung Code, the Bear wrote about the elderly gentleman from Argentina's prog rock album, "Wake Up." For one and all, especially those who doubted the factuality of that article, here is the title track of "Wake Up." Enjoy.

Where's My Comment?

Can you spot the design flaw?

Google, in its infinite wisdom, placed the "Publish" and "Delete" buttons horribly close to one another. On a computer it's not too bad, but jabbing your finger at the touchscreen of an iPad can be dicey.

The Bear apologizes, but a whole batch of excellent comments was inadvertently deleted. There is no way to recover them. You are encouraged to resubmit if you are able to recapture the inspiration, and the Bear will try to be more careful (and not use his iPad). He is very sorry.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Vatican G-Spot Conference

Okay, the Bear knows the Vatican is just leasing out some unused space in the center of all that is holy. It's not like Pope Francis is going to get in front of a microphone and elaborate on the glories of the G-Spot. Probably.

If you haven't heard, the Vatican is hosting a medical conference revolving around the uses and medical enhancements of the G-Spot, and the even more mysterious O-Spot. Apparently, the festivities will include a meeting with Pope Francis.

Could it be "Growl Spot?"
In full disclosure, the Bear has no idea what a G-Spot is, much less an O-Spot, and, as usual, can't be bothered to research his slipshod articles. Does the Bear have one? He wants to know, especially if it can be useful in tearing people's jawbones off. Right now, he simply has no idea if "watch out, or I'll attack you with my G-Spot" is a credible threat. The Bear suspects that if you're having to use your G-Spot, it's a situation where you'd better know what you're doing.

Whatever this mysterious G-Spot is, the Bear is glad that Pope Francis is on top of it. Now we just need to get him into an airplane so he can it explain it to us.

The Most Dangerous Man in the World

The Elderly Gentleman from Argentina With Some Unusual Ideas.

The Elderly Gentleman From Argentina

The Bear used to understand what the Catholic Church taught, and what he was required to believe, do and avoid as a Catholic. Now he is told this is "fundamentalism."

The Bear will speak about Jorge Bergoglio. 

Using his name is not to show the Pope a lack of respect, or still less a rejection of his office, but to acknowledge that the human personality of an elderly gentleman from Argentina has swallowed up the institution of the papacy. We bounce from personal enthusiasm to pet peeve, seemingly at random, loosely linked by a collection of familiar tropes and phrases. Every once in awhile, the irresistible presence of a microphone will elicit an off-the-cuff inanity as connected to Catholic thought as a Marx Brothers movie.

This is what Jorge Bergoglio does. Unfortunately, the world takes his utterances as a Pope's pronouncement of truth.

Redefining Sin

Anyone who thinks they can shrug off the damage Jorge Bergoglio is doing to the Church does not understand the situation. The Bear has written about the "Social Justice Warrior" examination of conscience distributed at the Bear's church. It was full of stuff like being environmentally responsible, but contained no real sins. What would be the state of the soul of someone who based his confession on such tripe? This would not have happened before Jorge Bergoglio. Since pewsitters are never instructed about sin in homilies, they will gradually be conditioned to forget sin -- real sin -- entirely.

And why not? Doesn't mercy cover everything, anyway? The Bear does not hear about confession from Pope Francis. He tweets constantly about mercy, as if confession were not the ordinary channel of mercy; as if confession no longer mattered in his reign of mercy. (Maureen Mullarkey wrote an excellent piece on the Year of Mercy.)

Medieval Hocus Pocus Out, "Whatever" In

Communion used to be simple. You were a Catholic with no mortal sin. Now Lutherans are encouraged to receive communion, if their Protestant-formed conscience prompts them to. Same with homosexual couples, according to some, uncorrected, prelates. Same with divorced and remarried couples. "A little bread and wine do no harm," as Jorge Bergoglio is famously reported to have told an Argentine divorcee. And now we are watching this being institutionalized.

What are we to make of transubstantiation now; and how do we understand the Mass? What about the issues of sacrilege and unworthy reception; the meaning of "communion;" or our relationship to the divine Person of Christ? Doctrines don't get changed, they just gets swallowed up by changes in practice. Medieval hocus pocus that doesn't meet the people's needs is quietly abandoned for the new, relevant and inclusive Church.

Jesus Now Optional

Salvation used to require acceptance of the free gift of Jesus Christ's salvific work through the Church. Now the Church of Jorge Bergoglio has announced that Jews need not accept or even believe in Christ, much less come into the Church to be saved. They are still saved "through" Christ, who is reduced to a mysterious, non-personal salvation process of some sort. So much for the miraculous conversion of the Jew, Alphonse Ratisbonne, with the Miraculous Medal. The appearance to him of the Virgin Mary, approved by the holy see, must have all been a mistake, since she did not tell him, "Alphonse my son, you are a Jew and have no need of my Son."

An Unbelieving Church for an Unbelieving World

Jorge Bergoglio's thoughts are not about correcting doctrines he believes to be in error. His thoughts are a solvent that dissolves doctrine entirely, or at least weakens it so that it may be bent and twisted to his will, like one of those horribly misshapen ferula our recent popes have adopted. Sow enough lies and confusion, and there is no need to change doctrine.

Jorge Bergoglio is not a preserver. He is not in continuity. Like the typical leftist he is, he loves only the Church of his imagination, one reformed according to his vision. He is possessed of ambitions that would make Martin Luther, nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church, feel like a piker.

Everything is changing, always at the expense of the supernatural. The Church is being re-purposed before our eyes. Without doctrine, without mission, without faith, its eyes are lowered to terrestrial concerns, real and imagined. We are seeing a Church trying to make itself relevant to a world that no longer believes by becoming unbelieving itself. Those who still believe are named the enemy: "fundamentalists."

Fortunately, when the Bear becomes confused, he recalls that Jorge Bergoglio has not really changed the truth, nor can he. A "fundamentalist" is just a good Catholic, and being one is as essential, simple and challenging as it ever was. The distortions of Bergoglioism must be opposed.

This is why the Bear has taken the frightening course of -- let's be honest -- attacking the gentleman from Argentina with everything from sober commentary to outrageous parody. While he respects the papacy, the Bear will use every rhetorical weapon he has to do his tiny, perhaps illusory, part in defending the Church from Jorge Bergoglio, and to encourage the maligned and beleaguered believer.

Because make no mistake. The elderly gentleman from Argentina is the most dangerous man in the world.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

St. Corbinian's Bear Original Art Rip-Off on Amazon

Victim of Theft and Exploitation

Who would steal original artwork from a poor Bear's blog and slap it on an iPhone case to peddle on Amazon? Lame. They even called it the "St. Corbinian's Bear iPhone Case."

The Bear invites the woodland creatures to drop by Amazon (direct link to offending page) long enough to leave an appropriate rating and brief review, if they have an extra couple of moments (and an Amazon account).

UPDATE: (Oddly enough, it has a 100% 1 star rating.) Best comments so far:

"This store sells terrible pirated merchandise... the Turkish Superman movie had more effort put into  it."

"I'm just curious. Did you feel like a member of Ocean's 11 when you callously pilfered the artwork for your merchandise?"

UPDATE 2: You guys are cracking me up.

A Christmas Miracle (Agitprop)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Aqualung Code

A Special Investigative Report by SCB News -- "Aequum et Libratum"
All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted as long as a link to the article is provided.

A 44 Year Old Secret

There is a 44-year-old secret that explains nearly everything we have seen in Pope Francis' pontificate. It has never been disclosed -- until now.

Jorge Bergoglio was ordained a priest in 1969. From 1970 to 1971, he completed the third probation at Alcala de Henares, Spain. He taught theology at the St. Joseph seminary of San Miguel from 1971 to 1973, when he was elected Provincial for Argentina.

In 1971 an event in England would prove electrifying to the rising Jorge Bergoglio. The English progressive rock band Jethro Tull released what many consider one of the greatest -- and certainly one of the most cerebral -- rock albums of all time: Aqualung.


Ian Anderson today.
Some speculation is required at this point. It seems likely that an English-speaking student drew Jorge Bergoglio's attention to the religiously significant lyrics of Aqualung. Clearly it was a profound experience for the 35-year-old priest. As we will show, the religious beliefs of the man now known as Pope Francis, the leader of over a billion Catholics around the world, are developments from themes explored in a 1971 rock album.

One source, who asked not to be identified (not surprisingly, no one would speak on the record), recalled the future pontiff's fascination with the album. "Father Bergoglio somehow obtained a translation of the lyrics into Spanish. He was rarely without them.  I saw them myself. They were hand written, each song on its own piece of paper. Often I saw Father Bergoglio reading them, almost as if he were meditating."

Father Bergoglio seldom shared his fascination with Aqualung, but it was no secret. "He didn't have a record player at first, of course," recalled our source. "But one day he surprised everyone by buying one. It was only some time later that he was able to obtain the actual album. It was not something easy to obtain! But he did it. It showed his faith, to buy the record player before the record."

This record player, which Fr. Bergoglio would later take to Argentina as one of his most treasured possessions, was described by an eyewitness as a "very humble portable device, German, I believe, without even a record changer." (A record changer allowed a stack of records to be played automatically, one after the other. It was common on phonographs at this time.) There are rumors that this very same record player is now in the Holy Father's quarters at Santa Marta. SCB News was unable to confirm this, however.

For the first time for Father Bergoglio, Ian Anderson's lyrics were married to his flute stylings and the pounding guitar of Martin Barre. He would listen to the album over and over. Yet even as "Locomotive Breath" boomed out of his room, he never spoke about the album at first. It was as if it were his private inspiration, even, as one interviewee put it, "obsession."

The Titular Character, Aqualung

The ragged, flawed and pitiable character of "Aqualung," as depicted on the album cover was based on photographs that band leader Ian Anderson's then-wife Jennie had taken of homeless people. Father Bergoglio viewed this homeless old man as a symbol of what he came to call "the periphery."

"Aqualung" seems an unlikely figure to inspire a new priest. He is introduced as "sitting on a park bench, eying little girls with bad intent." But when he had eventually absorbed the meaning of the lyrics, Father Bergoglio began to talk about them. Aqualung, he insisted, "is above all poor. He may be imperfect, but the poor are children of Heaven.

"And you must remember mercy," he would continue. "Mercy overcomes judgment. Because the narrator says, 'Aqualung my friend, don't you start away uneasy. You poor old sod, you see it's only me.' Think about who this narrator is. He is the friend of all, even though we do not recognize him. So we see that Aqualung does have a friend, and is worthy of love. This friend shows us the way. We must give Aqualung our unconditional love and acceptance."

Father Bergoglio was particularly touched by "an old man wandering lonely." "Ah," he would sigh, according to our sources, "the loneliness of the elderly is surely the greatest evil in the world!" He would recite the lyrics from memory on occasion, as if to underscore his statements.

As captivating as the title track was, songs on side two were equally influential.

The Origin of "Self-Absorbed Promethean Neo-Pelagianism"

The song "My God" featured prominently in Father Bergoglio's discussions, according to our sources. 

People what have you done?
Locked Him in his golden cage.
Made Him bend to your religion,
Him resurrected from the grave.

"We imprison the divine with doctrine!" Father Bergoglio would often say vehemently. "Yes, making Him bend to our religious rules instead of letting Him be free among the people! Where is the joy in this?"

Another part of the same song inspired a term he came up with one night while listening to "My God." Self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagians.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," our source recalled. "Father Bergoglio came to my room in an excited state and asked me to accompany him. We went to his room and he played some verses from a rock and roll song on a phonograph. As soon as they were finished, he would turn the record back and play them again. 'Listen!,' he said. His eyes were burning. 'This is telling me something. It's talking about... I don't know. About self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagianism!"

Our source continued. "At first I did not understand. Father Bergoglio turned off the record player and looked at me in silence for a moment. Then he repeated it slowly, almost as if he had had a revelation. Perhaps he had."

Here are the lyrics that so gripped the imagination of Father Bergoglio in 1971.

Confessing to the endless sins,
The endless whining sounds.
You'll be praying till next Thursday,
To all the gods that you can count.

To Father Bergoglio, these lyrics meant that people rely on their own religious efforts and correctness to save themselves. The lyrics also reminded him of excessive, repetitive, traditional prayers, which he began to call "rosary counting" after listening to the song repeatedly.

"Father Wind Up"

The final track, "Wind Up" was another explicitly religious song that deeply affected Father Bergoglio. The relevant lyrics go like this:

I don't believe you,
You had the whole damn thing all wrong.
He's not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday.

"Latin this, and kneel that. Press your hands together in church like you're on a holy card!," Father Bergoglio said more than once. "Don't they see? He's not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday!" Indeed, so frequently did he cite this song, he was called "Father Wind Up" behind his back.

Locomotive Breath

Although he seemed to enjoy the other tracks, they were unimportant to Father Bergoglio, or just puzzling.

The exception was "Locomotive Breath."

He wrestled with the lyrics of "Locomotive Breath," a dark song which features an out-of-control steam train. On at least one occasion, he floated a theory about the repeated lyrics, "Charlie stole the handle, and the train it won't stop going, no way to slow down."

"Charlie" was none other than Charles Darwin, who had forever changed man's view of his origin with his theory of evolution. This was the challenge of the modern world, and the Church could not ignore it.

Indeed, Father Bergoglio would point out a variation of that verse, "Oh he picks up Gideon's Bible, open at page one, but God, he stole the handle, and the train it won't stop going, no way to slow down." Of course, "page one" of the Bible starts with "In the beginning," and continues with the scriptural account of creation, thus confirming -- in Bergoglio's mind -- the link to Darwin's competing theory.

Darwin, he said, "made a mess." Yet we should welcome the mess, because, after all, God "stole the handle" too. Above all, Father Bergoglio found the image of the runaway locomotive exhilarating, not frightening.

As for the line, "he sees his children jumping off at stations one by one," these children were what Father Bergoglio termed "fundamentalists," who refused to adapt to new circumstances. "They want doctrinal security. They do not want the ride," he said. "What is the destination of the train? It is not important! Who may ride the train? First the poor, then everybody, without exception. All we know is it must go forward, into the future."

The Aqualung Code

By the time Father Bergoglio returned to Argentina, he carried with him a theology based largely on the rock album Aqualung. Did he take it with him when he became the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church? 

There was a credible lead that Pope Francis had placed a call to Ian Anderson at his home in Wiltshire, England. (Anderson is still performing, although the band Jethro Tull -- which was always essentially Anderson -- has recently been retired). Anderson's publicist would neither confirm nor deny any contact with the pontiff. Anderson has described himself as "somewhere between a deist and a pantheist," but it is well known that Pope Francis welcomes conversation even with atheists. 

After returning to Argentina, evidence of Jorge Bergoglio's interest in Jethro Tull dries up. However, that does not mean it did not continue. 

Jethro Tull frontman Anderson's
1995 religious instrumental album.
Indeed, later Jethro Tull albums contain themes that are often found in Pope Francis' public utterances. Anderson has said that climate change is the theme of "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day," written in 1972, but not released until 1974 on the album Warchild. (At that time science was warning of a coming ice age.) The same album deals with war, such as "For Queen and Country," as well as the title track. The environment is also featured, for example, in "North Sea Oil" from the 1979 album Stormwatch. And, of course, religious elements are scattered throughout the Tull oeuvre.

This article could be extended, if space permitted, by connecting Pope Francis' thoughts with many songs released by Jethro Tull over the decades.

There were seventeen Jethro Tull studio albums after Aqualung, not to mention solo releases by Anderson. It is hard to imagine that the future Pope would abandon his so-called "obsession" with Aqualung, and not continue to collect Jethro Tull releases. How, for instance, could he possibly resist the 1973 album A Passion Play, Tull's explicitly religious concept album?

But there is one final clue that proves that Pope Francis retains his love for religiously intriguing rock and roll albums.

He released one himself.

Wake Up. Go Forward.

On November 27, 2015, Pope Francis released "Wake Up!" on the Believe Digital label. Rolling Stone had previously released the heavy metal title track in September. Like Aqualung, it is a progressive rock album with overtly religious themes.

Its mixture of lush orchestral music, heavy metal guitar, chant, and spoken word are all taken directly from Jethro Tull's bag of tricks. Its prog rock roots are confirmed by Pope Francis' inclusion of Tony Pagliuca, of the Italian band Le Orme. (Don't let the heavy metal elements fool you: Jethro Tull beat out Metallica in the 1989 Grammys  for Best Heavy Metal Album with "Crest of a Knave.")

Rolling Stone gives it 3/5 stars, saying "progressive pontiff preaches peace on surprisingly proggy album."

The evidence is clear. The Aqualung Code is the key to deciphering the pontificate of Pope Francis. Rocker Ian Anderson, "somewhere between a deist and a pantheist," unwittingly charted the course for the Catholic Church of forty years later when he released a dour album with a cast of characters that included a dirty old man and a schoolgirl prostitute.

What can we learn from this? In the end, perhaps the runaway train in "Locomotive Breath" is most emblematic. Is it terrifying or exhilarating? That depends on your perspective. As Pope Francis urges in the title track of his own album: "Wake up! Go forward!" As long as the train is going forward, it doesn't matter if there's a handle or not. Your only choices are to hang on or jump off. 

This is St. Corbinian's Bear, for SCB News Special Report, "The Aqualung Code," saying, hang on.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Aqualung Code (Teaser)

What if all of Pope Francis' religious ideas originated in the 1971 Jethro Tull album "Aqualung." The Bear believes he has discovered the key to a 44 year old secret: Could the 35-year-old Father Bergoglio have been introduced to Aqualung while he was in Spain in 1971, and been given a Spanish translation of the lyrics?

Aqualung contains powerful presentations of themes that have grown familiar. The periphery. The homeless and poor. Mercy over justice. Doctrinal rigidity. Rosary Counting. Unequal distribution of wealth. Oppression of native peoples. Promethean neo-pelagianism. Is it possible that this is mere coincidence?

After conducting dozens of interviews of persons associated with then-Father Jorge Bergoglio, SCB News has the shocking answer. Coming soon: The Aqualung Code.

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