Wednesday, August 23, 2017

But What About the Dead Raccoon in the Tub?

"Left" and "Right" or
"Principles" vs. "Evidence?"

"Left" and "Right" Still Useful
but Denying or Accepting Evidence is Baked In

Everybody knows what is meant by the political terms "Left" and "Right." They are sturdy terms that
have carried recognizable meanings for many decades. They may not be very descriptive, but since our country is polarized and the spectrum of opinion runs from black to white they do not need to be.

However, the Bear has noticed something baked into the old terms that gives a vivid new meaning to them today. It will sound pretty darned convenient when the Bear explains it, but maybe you will think about it. The distinction includes those who react on the basis of evidence, and those who react on the basis of principles.

Or, to put it another way, how we deal with facts, versus how we deal with what we think about the facts. It is almost like the Left views the world from one step back, and through a lens of buzzwords, pop science and big ideas.

Someone who cannot explain his local TV station's weather map, is passionate about global warming. Bear doesn't mean he just believes it, but he believes it with an almost religious fervor. It's part of his side's set of beliefs, but mostly it allows him to blame the usual suspects. (Not so long ago it was the new Ice Age. The particulars don't matter.)

Men and women can no longer be the reality of two simple, separate groups, because the big idea says there is a continuum of gender, and it all comes down to choice, anyway. At stake is separate restrooms, of all the crazy things!

Having gotten even mating wrong, humans have put nearly everything at risk, because marriage is still woven into our culture and laws, and constitutional protections meant for ex-slaves in the South are now extended to the richest demographic in the country - homosexual couples.

Reality is negotiable. The harsh light of the big idea generated by the human mind is supreme.

The Bear believes this same fundamental conflict is playing out in the de facto schism in the Church. If one side points to evidence, it is ignored by the other in favor of the principle.

Let's start with an everyday example of this way of thinking in general.

Terrorists acting in the name of their religion, Islam, killed an elderly priest in France.

Flying back to Rome from Poland, microphone in hand, as is his wont, Pope Francis found himself unable to unequivocally condemn the Islamic terrorism. Instead he said the sort of thing that those in power always say about Islamic terrorist attacks.

"I think that in nearly all religions there is a always a small fundamentalist group," he said, adding, "We have them," referring to Catholicism. "I don't like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy – someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptized Catholics," he said. "If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent," he said.

He went on to blame the terrorist attacks on lack of economic opportunity for the young, who turn to drugs, alcohol or ISIS.

So, "Eh, terrorists. You got 'em, we got 'em, what are you gonna do? It's a problem with all religions, don't you see?"

Islamic terrorism is seldom, if ever, unequivocally condemned by those in power. Pope Francis' statement on the plane back to Rome is incoherent because he cannot confront the evidence and maintain the position that there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism per se. Not every Muslim is a terrorist, you see, therefore, Islam has no greater problem with terrorism as any other religion, including Catholicism.

Even assuming he has his reasons for dissembling, the fact remains that truth is so easily sacrificed, even ridiculous statements cannot pass the straight face test. This style seems to have become a habit of addressing the world in general.

The Fan Dance Without the Fan: "What are you staring at? 
It is against the law for me to be naked, therefore, I'm not naked."

Sally Rand, who adopted and improved
the fan dance of Ayn Rand.
The thing the Bear would like to focus upon, however, is the disconnect with reality, or disregard for evidence. It is just not true that "Catholic terrorism" is a problem in the same way as "Islamic terrorism" is. The entire point of "terrorism" is ignored by saying "people in Italy kill each other, too."

It is a problem worthy of serious discussion by the grownups. Not what Pope Francis (or substitute any other world leader) has to say about it.

It is fascinating to watch Leftists talk about terrorism, or just about anything. It's like watching Sally Rand do a fan dance without a fan, and just as entertaining, in its own, strange way. Or, if you want a less salacious image (which you should) it is the old story of the Emperor's New Clothes.

The Bear is pretty sure we see the same technique applied in the Church today.

The Church says it Cannot Err
Therefore, Only the Wicked Claim to Find Error

There is no evidence sufficient to induce Catholics whose religion is divorced from evidence to admit to the growing pile of at least apparent conflicts between Pope Francis and the Faith. Any time a problem with the Pope is pointed out, it is (1) flat-out denied; and (2) we get a lecture on the principle that the Pope cannot be wrong.

Examples could be multiplied to book length. It would not matter. Those who look at the evidence and who have studied the way Francis operates know what the Bear means. Going to Lund, Sweden, and worshiping with female "bishop" Jakelen in celebration of the Reformation, is the act of a pope whose religion Pope Gregory XVI (who condemned "indifferentism" in the 1832 encyclical Mirari Vos) would not recognize as Catholicism.

Personally, the Bear doesn't much care about what we think of Lutherans. If indifferentism isn't a problem anymore, then great. What the Bear does care about is what that implies about a religion that can supposedly not teach error - ever - nor change one "truth" for a "better truth" down the line.

Oddly enough, Bear seems to be the only creature in the Woodlands who understands the danger of this.

Most critics of Pope Francis are against the statements and actions in which they find error. They can make a catalog of them, and some have. But, the Bear is more concerned about the implications of the very existence of that catalog, rather than the individual charges and specifications. If Mirari Vos was right to worry that indifferentism detracted from the truth that the Catholic Church is the institution set up by God to help souls get saved, then the indifferentism of today, run amok under the label of "ecumenism," demands an explanation, doesn't it?

Does the Church still adhere to the encyclical of Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos, in the particulars of indifferentism (now positively spun as the good of "ecumenism" and even "interfaith") and its hard line on marriage? Was it part of the ordinary magisterium of Pope Gregory that "proselytizing" was just about he most horrible thing ever, as it is, without question, part of the ordinary magisterium of Pope Franics? The answer is clearly "no," so how about explaining why that doesn't matter now? If Pope Gregory had his "ordinary magisterium," does Pope Francis have his "super-ordinary magisterium?" Is there an expiration date on encyclicals?

These are not "disrespectful" or unreasonable questions. They go to the heart of what we are to believe as Catholics. If we cannot even ask of the Church clarification on that, what teaching mission does she retain, anyway?

And, of course it is not just that one encyclical. To browse through 19th and early 20th century encyclicals is to find a Church as submerged from current view as Atlantis.

"Yes, we understand your hotel is five-star,
but what about the dead raccoon in the tub?"

Rejecting evidence in favor of principles may seem like the right thing for a Catholic to do. After all, they're right. The Church is full of teachings about it how it is indefectible, how the ordinary magisterium of a pope demands Catholic assent, etc. If it weren't we could all just blow off current problems.

The problem is, the Church has set very high standards for itself. So high, in fact, that some seem to view them as pretty gnostic balloons unconnected with gross matter and unanswerable to mere evidence.

So, those who argue from principles are right, but the rest of us digest what they say then hazard a "Yes, but...?"

It is as if you checked into a swanky hotel and found a dead raccoon in the tub. Every time you pointed it out, the manager answered by saying, "This is a five-star hotel. Five-star hotels do not have dead raccoons in their tubs."

Those who are not in the (dangerous) habit of ignoring evidence (facts) in the other areas of their life will at best merely become more distressed and confused by this disconnect. At worst, they may conclude that the scheme is so riddled with self-contradictions and impossibilities they will be tempted to chuck the whole thing.

The Bear believes the Church has nothing to fear from the truth. Those who defend Pope Francis and condemn his critics should not be afraid to face facts, either.

The Bear worries that setting any criticism of the Pope beyond the limits of what is permissible and failing to respectfully address the reasonable belief that the Church is - somehow, despite all the teaching on teachings - showing conflicts, will have the opposite effect from what those who argue principles rather than evidence intend.

Where is the compassion toward those who are frightened and confused?

The Bear has gotten to where he hates Catholic arguments, because the side which argues principles and ignores evidence is simply arguing past the real, agonizing difficulties held by many sincere ordinary Catholics. Those with evidence-based difficulties are learning only not to trust those good Catholics who argue from principles.

Those with difficulties have not, after all, spent years gleefully inventing lies to put Francis in a bad light just so they can have something to complain about. They would love to get back to a Church that did not detonate some bomb beneath them every week or two.

The ones arguing from principles believe they are being the very best Catholics they can be. They are defending the Church against all evidence in the language of the Church itself. (Sometimes the Bear wonders if the Church will survive all the Catholics out there being the very best Catholics they can be. Bears are pretty slack, normally.)

And, yet, although not deliberate, Bear is sure, there is such lack of compassion! Such a failure to respect those frightened by the evidence they see! Please, save the lectures on the Pope's magisterium. We're not stupid. Instead, explain to us why the evidence that troubles us so is not what it seems. Demonstrate how what appear to be conflicts in Church teaching on matters like divorce and remarriage and indifferentism and the existence and/or population of Hell, are not real. How they are just mistaken impressions on our part.

Maybe we've got him all wrong. Maybe some things appear worse than they are. Maybe we are in the echo chamber of Catholic blogdom and just repeat what we hear. (Not Bear, who seldom looks at human writings.)

Admittedly, a lot of what is usually included in his indictment are more properly "oddities." Let's face it, the man is quirky. We should be willing to limit the evidence of our criticism to things that really matter. There is a lot thrown at him that does not really touch on whether he is in conflict with earlier authority or not. There are many reasons to be fair to the man - including protecting our own credibility.

If the Church truly is indefectible, it should be easy to defend him on the facts. If the Pope cannot err in his ordinary magisterium, then the job is already almost done!

The Bear would nominate the person who set aside principles and satisfactorily addressed the apparent factual contradictions as a Doctor of the Church! Is there no one who will leave off condemning the critics of Pope Francis to actually defend that poor man?

Unfortunately, attacking his critics is infinitely easier than defending his actions and statements.

A Scorpion for a Fish

Hmm, I don't want to talk about evidence. But here,
have this nourishing scorpion!
And so, those who desperately need the fish of explaining the evidence are instead handed the scorpion of reproof. The Bear is certain these scorpion-handlers think they are doing the right thing. But he must challenge them to explain the evidence.

Many who are frightened and confused and have heard "gates of Hell" for the one-thousandth time will, the Bear fears, conclude that no one takes this task upon themselves because they know they cannot honestly and adequately explain the conflicts.

Bear means, if they could, they would, right? It is the most natural thing in the world when falsely accused to address the evidence, not to airily cite principles, such as, "It is impossible for a Bear to outrun a pony, as Pliny clearly states, therefore Bear did not eat pony."

So are all the criticisms of Francis false? What would be the motives of his critics? They are not all "trads." The Bear's own record in this ephemeris begins quite favorably toward Francis, even defending him over his choice of footwear and other early complaints. Why would the Bear eventually decide to go against Francis when it requires him to admit he was wrong about him all along and look like a gullible boob?

To Hell with Dialogue - at Least This Dialogue

And so we will continue to have two broad groups of Catholics talking past one another, never reaching the "dialogue" that is so valued when it comes to non-Catholics. If the principled Catholics spent one 100th of their time sensitively addressing the concerns of their own brothers and sisters as they do in "interfaith outreach" or ecumenical photo-ops. they might help heal the de facto schism in the Church.

And criticizing people who are convinced by evidence (even if they are wrong) is guaranteed to fail. How in the world is this supposed to help the Church?

The Bear sees no solution to this impasse, unless someone is willing to start addressing those with evidence-based concerns with respect.


  1. I have principles. If you don't like them, I have others - Groucho Marx.

    Let's look at some evidence favoring a Francis defense.

    The Bear has said that the teachings of Pope Gregory XVI are not valid today in a Pope Francis world. Unfortunately, this is a straw man argument.

    Following the Great East West Schism of 1054, Archbishop Nicetas of Nicomedia wrote the following:

    "My dearest brother, we do not deny to the Roman Church the primacy among the five sister patriarchates and we recognize her right to the most honorable seat at the Ecumenical Council. But she has separated herself from us by her own deeds when through pride she assumed a monarchy which does not belong to her office… How shall we accept decrees from her that have been issued without consulting us and even without our knowledge? If the Roman pontiff seated on the lofty throne of his glory wished to thunder at us and, so to speak, hurl his mandates at us from on high and if he wishes to judge us and even to rule us and our churches, not by taking counsel with us but at his own arbitrary pleasure what kind of brotherhood, or even what kind of parenthood can this be? We should be the slaves not the sons, of such a church and the Roman see would not be the pious mother of sons but a hard and imperious mistress of slaves."

    1000 years ago, the papacy was not defined as a universal, infallible, and absolute monarchy. Today it is. Consequently, in our time, both Gregory and Francis are deemed infallible. That is the legacy left to Roman Catholics as a natural outcome of the Great Schism.

    We have been taught to believe that ultimate truth issues forth from these supreme, infallible men, revered as Christ on earth, and protected from error as a gift from God. We are required to believe what we are told without deviation.

    That kind of thinking is ultimately the source of the problem concerned Catholics are grappling with today. It has nothing to do with Francis, and everything to do with a lot of very old chickens coming home to roost.

    As an attorney, The Bear is keenly aware of the fact that if you catch a key witness prevaricating about one important thing, everything else they utter is completely worthless and suspect.

    So which is it?

    A.) Roman Catholic teaching doesn't change. Never has. Never will.
    B.) Roman Catholic teaching does change. Always has. Always will.

    Pope Francis is clear proof that the answer is B. As a matter of fact, a Pope named Francis never even gets close to exist in a Scenario A Church. So why is everyone so content on killing the messenger Pope Francis? As far as I'm concerned, we actually owe him a great deal of gratitude.

    This concludes my defense of Pope Francis. You will excuse me now, I need to go and throw up.

    1. Um, even if the East West schism had never happened, Gregory XVI would still be right and Francis would still be wrong, so I'm not sure the relevance of your argument.

    2. Bear gets what Two Sun is saying and tend to agree, even though he does not identify himself as a Woodland Creature, and is therefore subject to a certain degree of suspicion.

      A Bad Catholic might think that Pope Francis is merely the illustration of how the Church's PR would inevitably catch up with it. This view would require one to reject black letter law of the Church, though. The Old Catholics broke off over Papal Infallibility, which proved only a historical curiosity. When everything is considered de facto infallible because the man in white holding the microphone is dropping the hints and making the statements, then no formal doctrine is necessary.

      Does anyone know when the doctrine of assent to ordinary magisterium of the pope was formally adopted by the Church? Was in in Vatican II? Bear doesn't know, but as a doctrine in an institution, it scares poor Bear. It is one thing to trust God. It is another to create doctrines that require a continual miracle to prevent fallible humans with egos and agendas from getting into conflict with previous authority, who are, after all, dead, and unable to fight back.

  2. Well Bear can the Church prior to 1965 become the Church it is today that contradicts everything that went before it?..Not possible one thinks. Now Pius X did a very nice and complete job of exploring the modernists....essential reading. He pointed out how the modernists can sound kind of Catholic but not be so. What motivates the Modernist he asked and replied....Pride and curiosity. Now Pride and curiosity are opposed to the humble Faith of the we have a "new"Faith proposed by the Modernists that shows an extreme distemper for humility....but it is NOT the Old Faith and shows no continuity of hermeneutic as we are constantly being told. Choose the Old or the New....this choice is becoming clearer with each new day. Can't pour Old Wine into New Wineskins....someone is telling the truth and someone is lying.

    1. Yes. Bear has read the encyclicals on modernists many times. They were on the mark. Yet even Pius XII wanted Catholic Biblical scholarship to be on a par with European (i.e. German) scholarship, and set the table for the practical destruction of the doctrine of innerancy of scripture. Popes had to be so careful, because ANYTHING delegated down the line would be greedily received by modernists and twisted to their agenda.

      As for the Church contradicting "everything," with all due respect that is a bit of hyperbole. Bear thinks we would to better by picking one thing at a time. He tried EENS and was gently mocked with "Feenyism." Unless three instances of exercise of the extraoridinary magisterium and too-numerous-to count exercises of the ordinary magisterium of popes can be shown to be illegitimate, EENS can hardly be dismissed with a comment about Fr. Feeney. Come on. EENS was assumed from almost the beginning, asserted in the 15th Century Council of Florence (the last exercise of extraordinary magisterium) and even Pope Gregory XVI's Mirari Vos in the middle of the 91th century condemns indifferentism because it is only by the Church that people are saved. This is history, folks. It is doctrine. It had few exceptions.

      Is it sensible today? Bear doesn't know. Bear is a bad Catholic and tends to believe more than Catholics go to Heaven. Maybe even some of Convert Bear's relatives, he hopes.

      Getting back to Vatican II, Bear is one of those who takes it at its word that it is a Pastoral Council, and is not to be thought of in the same way as Trent. Lumen Gentium is a masterpiece of compromise and obfuscation. What does it say in the end? Despite being outside the Church (which may be bigger than it looks, though) everybody has a chance at Heaven, except lapsed Catholics, and all those people who, outside the Church, are prey to the deceits of the Devil and are dragged to Hell. (No one ever quotes that one.)

    2. in the middle of the 19th century... Bear must have been thinking of the favorite psalm, the 91st, which he read to his mother as she died.

  3. Correction: should be new wine into old wineskins but actually both ways work.

  4. The Eastern Orthodox long have allowed divorce (two, in fact). In recent decades they also have allowed contraception. That's what happens when you separate from Rome. As to Francis, he's a punishment for the follies of modern Catholics at ease in their materialism -- their contraceptions, abortions and dead families; their refusal to take up the Cross.

    1. With all due respect, Bear does not believe God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, would lie to the faithful in order to punish them. I think Francis is perfectly explainable by naturalistic means. "Where anything can be explained by natural means, it is forbidden to invoke supernatural ones." - Bear's Law of Economy. (Occam stole his "razor" from Bear.)

    2. I reject the erroneous "are you still beating your wife" assertion....God certainly does not lie to the faithful at any time (allah most certainly does as he is "the greatest of deceivers", in the koran's (ie, allah's own) words); this had nothing to do with the True God lying. However, He most certainly does allow liars to attain the highest seats in some cases (remember, in His providential will He allows evil that a greater good may come out of it). And in this particular case, in this particular time, He has allowed the worst-of-the-worst (by the votes of wicked and/or cowardly/confused/addled/corrupt men to attain the highest seat in His very temple. And Jack is right that this may in fact be a punishment and the removal of grace. 1 Sam 8 comes very readily to mind, along with the words of the great Saint of the Eucharist, John Eudes (whose cause for being named Doctor of the Church is rapidly progressing):

      "Bad priests are a sign of God’s anger. The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clerics who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds."

      More pertinent info here:

  5. Bear, you're hardly the only woodland creature who understands the danger. Commenter Twosunrun gets it, the writer/editor John Zmirak gets it, I get it, and many others are getting it too.
    As always I greatly appreciate your blog.

    1. Perhaps. Bear does not always spin out his logics to their natural ends, for fear of discouraging the Woodland Creatures, who must already bear so much. But is it really conceivable that Pope Francis is like a hacker's "exploit," who can find the vulnerabilities of the Church and bring the built-in logical inconsistencies into a sudden collision? I do think the Church as we know it is only one bad Pope away from disaster. I don't think the Church was ever meant to vest so much power in one man, although the concept naturally snowballed for obvious reasons. I think the reason everyone is so excited now is that Pope Francis has an agenda of change, and for the first time, is deliberating using all the power of modern media to implement that agenda. And THAT is the real difference, and THAT is the answer to those who say, "Oh, we've had bad popes before." We NEVER had bad popes before who were determined to be change agents AND had the whole media circus of the 21st century at his fingertips. The threat a bad pope would pose today is different not in degree, but in quality, from the same in any previous time.

    2. Which once again, (ever according to your own razor), MUST lead a reasoned thinker, who has faith in the Faith, to say, "this man cannot be pope".

    3. I understand why you don't spin out the logic of this to its end. While your point about change agents/mass media is true, the crux of the problem is something else. You know that, I believe.
      That's all I want to say at the moment.

  6. "Gates of Hell"--so sick of that phrase. And it's always used in a way that suggests that said gates are running around attacking the Church.

    1. Bear agrees, Father. Gates were the defensive masterpieces of a city - look at descriptions of the gates of Jerusalem in the OT. They needed to be defended, though, because they were the natural point of attack - the weak point in the defenses. Bear has wondered if "gates" were ever used in ancient writing as a term for the offensive capabilities of an enemy, like, "The gates of Rome prevailed against Jerusalem." Bear has never heard of it. The ancients took their military terminology pretty literally. There are accurate descriptions of sieges in the OT, and plenty in other ancient writings. "The gates of Hell shall not prevail," would seem to mean, logically, that the Church would be a conquering (perhaps even "proselytizing?") institution, against whose assault even Hell could not prevail. It even seems to have, to the Bear's ear, the sense of all the inventions and assaults that originate in Hell, but that still puts the Church on the offensive. I think the least likely interpretation is that Hell would attack, and the Church would be divinely protected. But I imagine the Fathers started the usual interpretation. Bear doesn't know, but Bear is with you, Father.

  7. I think Gates of Hell is a mistranslation...
    I think may more correctly translate to the Gates of Bill

    1. You have a couple of hours to identify yourself. Otherwise, into the Void you go. We do not allow anonymous comments, although the Bear has been lax in enforcing the Woodland Laws lately. As someone privately commented to Bear, "It must not be easy to be a Bear."

      Honeys, if you only knew.

    2. "Honeys, if you only knew."

      Oh!....I just had a vivid impression of Nathan Lane belting out that line with flourish. Please tell me that Bear hasn't taken to wearing pink boas and stillettos.

  8. One of the best things you've ever written. Thank you.

  9. 1 Thessalonians 5:21
    Test all things, hold onto what is good.

    Faithful marriages are good. There are few things less merciful than divorce. The evidence shows divorce is bad for children, and for society. I don't see any reason to rationalize, let alone justify divorce. Those who freely choose to violate their marital covenant, need the truth. They don't need to be justified for their faithlessness.

    Bear you are right about the pain caused by our Church leaders refusing to explain why their novel ideas are good for the souls of the sheep. Divorce isn't good. Faithlessness isn't good.

  10. Pope Francis made novel, sweeping claims about the validity of most marriages. AL reinforces his public statements.

    How is marriage protected by claiming that most people don't understand that marriage is a bond that last until death in this life, and that most married couples aren't legitimately married because of it. How is marriage protected by encouraging priest to find rationalizations and excuses for married/divorced people who enter into another relationship without an annulment? How is the good of Marriage shown by denigrating the validity of it in our current age?


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