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July 9, 2009

Numinous collisions
Posted by Teresa at 11:27 PM * 119 comments

Tomorrow is John Calvin’s 500th birthday.

“Wow!” said Patrick. “What a different world we’d be living in if he hadn’t invented the positronic robot.”

= = =

Tuesday morning, while I was still waking up, Beth Meacham cheerfully asked whether I’d heard about the Pope’s new encyclical.

I flinched reflexively. “What did he say?”

“No, it’s good!” she said, correctly interpreting the flinch. And so it is, by which I mean I agree with a fair amount of it. The encyclical’s called Caritas in Veritate: Charity in Truth.

Some links: The complete text. The Guardian’s Shorter Caritas in Veritate, in twelve easy headings,* including:

The Economy: In the list of areas where the pernicious effects of sin are evident, the economy has been evident for some time now. :: Globalisation: This global force could cause unprecedented damage and create new divisions within the human family. :: Outsourcing: The so-called outsourcing of production can weaken the company’s sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders—namely the workers, suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society—in favour of shareholders. :: Hedge fund: What should be avoided is a speculative use of financial resources that yields to the temptation of seeking only short-term profit.
My favorite comment thread exchange (in forums other than Making Light), in the Boston Globe:
Comment #5, posted July 7, 09 10:24 AM, by “charity, justice don’t mix”:
It is easy for the vatican to define charity within their community, but in the law we should not treat as such becuse it is very injustice, almost as corruption exist everywhere. Sometime I think I am a very giving person, but is that legal?
Comment #7, posted July 7, 09 10:56 AM, by “Remy”:
Some mainstream responses to the encyclical:

Washington Post: Pope Criticizes World Economic System, Urges Social Responsibility. :: New York Times: Pope Urges Forming New World Economic Order to Work for the ‘Common Good’. :: The AFL-CIO’s blog: Papal Encyclical: Workers’ Rights to Form Unions Must Be Honored. :: Financial Times (UK): Pope calls for a world authority to lead return to ethical values. :: Andrew Leonard, in Salon: The Pope’s liberal Christian values, in three easy headings.*

Are you perceiving a consensus? Let us proceed.

Michael Sean Winters at In All Things (the blog of America: The National Catholic Weekly), has been tracking an interesting development. Some conservatives, who evidently haven’t been listening to those bits that get read aloud between the Opening Prayer and the Homily, can’t swallow Caritas in Veritate. They’ve rejected all the clear and obvious readings of the encyclical, and are instead insisting that it doesn’t contradict their political ideologies. From The Poverty of Michael Novak, 02 July 2009:

As mentioned yesterday, Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute has produced a short discourse on the Pope’s not-yet released encyclical on social justice over at First Things. … Novak is trying, and trying desperately, to frustrate Pope Benedict’s intention in issuing an encyclical on social justice.
As Winters observes, when St. Paul said “liberation” he didn’t mean “freedom from government regulation.”
Novak assures us … that capitalism is not all about greed but is romantic, it involves noble sentiments of the human heart like the yearning for innovation and human creativity. “In actual capitalist practice, the love of creativity, invention, and groundbreaking enterprise are far more powerful than motives of greed,” he writes.

How does Novak know this? I checked his biography and it appears he has never once been an entrepreneur. I can assure him from my years as the manager of a small business that I never once was asked by the owners if I was focused sufficiently on being creative. They asked about the bottom line. … Perhaps Novak spoke with the donors at the AEI. I am quite sure that this interpretation of the source of their wealth suits their self-image nicely. …

Why does anyone listen to Novak? His essays are a shill for rich people, nothing more and nothing less. He once compared the modern business corporation to the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, a comparison so bizarre and outrageous I laugh every time I read it.

From New Heights of Hubris from George Weigel, 08 July 2009:
The hubris of George Weigel knows no bounds. In a breathtaking essay at National Review Online, Weigel concludes that Pope Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate “resembles a duck-billed platypus” because it is, in his view, a bad combination of the Pope’s true thought with those “passages that reflect [the Pontifical Council for] Justice and Peace ideas and approaches that Benedict evidently believed he had to try and accommodate.”

…In his denunciations of the passages he dislikes, Weigel is not simply ideologically skewed but downright insulting to Pope Benedict. After citing a series of propositions found in the text the Pope signed that Weigel finds objectionable, he opines, “Benedict XVI, a truly gentle soul, may have thought it necessary to include these multiple off-notes, in order to maintain the peace within his curial household.” Funny. Benedict does not seem like the kind of person who would jettison his insistence on truth merely to keep peace in the curial household.

Sure. Why not? If you can believe that Sarah Palin’s resignation was a masterful political maneuver, why not believe that the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is such a creampuff that he can’t put out an encyclical that reflects his actual views?

And is it too much to ask that someone videotape George Weigel explaining that to Pope B16?

Meanwhile, at Huffington Post, Art Levine has pointed out that Newt Gingrich, a recent Catholic convert, is firmly opposed to the encyclical’s teachings on the workers’ right to organize.

I unfold my chair, I pop a cold one.

= = =

In other news, Mets share hotel with furries. Let no one cast stones.

Comments on Numinous collisions:
#1 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 01:37 AM:

I know I should be all thoughtful about this, but the Mets story sidetracked me.

As badly as they've been playing, maybe they should consider trading for one of those folks before the July 31 deadline.

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 01:47 AM:

Mmm, Newt Gingrich. Recent Catholic convert. Guy whose right-wing pals love to accuse rank-and-file American Catholics who don't agree 100% with the modern papal loathing of birth control, abortion, and Teh Gay of being (FX: crashing church-organ chord) "cafeteria Catholics." That Newt Gingrich.

I confess, I don't know whether to savor the opportunity to dismiss him as another of those "cafeteria Catholics" we're always hearing about--or to congratulate the guy on having so quickly adopted the practice, nearly universal among actual American Catholics, of finding something on which to violently disagree with the current Pope.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 02:02 AM:

Linkmeister, we all need chew toys.

#4 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 02:22 AM:

I once walked through a furry convention on the way to a software demo for some investor types. To me it looked pretty much like an SF convention, except for a (fairly small, it seemed) number of people in furry costumes.

To the investor types, it must have been a serious "WTF?" moment. (But being the Bay Area, maybe not. Ever see the Bay to Breakers race?)

* * *

I honestly can't get worked up about big-name conservative Catholics being all hypocritical about the new encyclical. I have no expectations of decency, insight, or humility from these people . . . none whatsoever. They're beneath contempt. They didn't accept the Pope's criticism of the war in Iraq. They sure as hell won't give a damn about poor people just because he says so.

What fills me with dismay is that so many people continue to pay attention to these sanctimonious blowhards. Are they really that stupid, or that afraid?

#5 ::: Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 02:42 AM:

I hadn't heard that Gingrich had converted to Catholicism. As someone who has had two close friends convert in their late 50s or early 60s in the last few years, I'm (not judgmentally) curious about why people make that choice. It seems an especially odd choice for Gingrich since, as Patrick implies above, his base (and his buddies) tend to be a pretty anti-Catholic crowd. Has he written anything about his reasons?

#6 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 02:52 AM:

I misread that at, "Mets Share Hotel With Furies."

Then again, I was pleased to see they lost today.

And, wonder and miracles, (the Lord, working in Mysterious Ways, His Wonders to Perform), this happens.

#7 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 03:14 AM:

And today was the birthday of Matthew Lewis and Ann Radcliffe. Very different sort of fantasy there....

I will be very interested to see how this goes among some of the Catholics I hang out with online.

#8 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 03:30 AM:

Debbie: no, actually, the right-wing media celebrities to whom Newt Gingrich sucks up include some pretty "pro-Catholic" types, in the sense that the most violently unhinged Likud supporters will be inevitably described in the American media as "pro-Israel."

#9 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 04:14 AM:

Teresa--have I told you recently that I love you? And I mean that in the most catholic, sincere, and genderless way possible. Throwing stones indeed.


#10 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 04:26 AM:

Debbie, as a lifelong Catholic atheist, I can tell you there lots of good things about Catholicism. The emphasis on charity, love, forgivness, and so on. The one bad thing, of course, is the Church hierarchy. I don't mean the idea, I mean the top guys themselves, or at least the ones that have been chosen lately. The grassroot-level priests are generally genuinelly good people committed to their community, able to give support and comfort and so on. And a lot of them leave the kids alone, too.

Oh, well, yes, and the sexophobia, but Catholics are hardly alone in that one.

However, if Ratzinger was so keen on social justice, he probably shouldn't have pushed so much to crush the Liberation Theology and substitute it with anti-abortion obsession.

#11 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 05:39 AM:

I am not a Catholic, and to be honest I don't know all that much about Catholic doctrine, but I'm surprised to hear that a recent convert to Catholicism claim that THE POPE needs to play politics.

I thought the whole deal with The Pope was everybody else on the planet has two choices (here presented in Papal Preference Order):
1- Follow his lead
2- Go to Hell

The idea that The Pope would make official signed statements to maintain order among subordinates seems really weird to me.
Can somebody explain to me why The Pope would do such a thing? Or was Weigel simply falling into the trap of an over-extended metaphor ("It is politically astute to point out political motivations of my political rivals. The Pope is an important person so he plays the same political games that I'm personally surrounded with. I can be politically astute by disparaging The Pope by pointing out (imagined?) political motivations.")

But like I've indicated twice already, I might be assuming The Pope is more independent than he truly is...

#12 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 06:11 AM:

The world would certainly be a different place if John Calvin hadn't convinced so many people that they are positronic robots. With original sin as a sort of inverse First Law: A Human Being Must Do Harm, But Shouldn't.

#13 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 07:06 AM:

12: Calvinist robots? Hmm, someone should write a novel about that :)

#14 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 07:21 AM:

Can somebody explain to me why The Pope would do such a thing?

Perfectly simple. He needs the Pope to have done that because, unlike back in the day (when the National Review published the groundbreaking Mater, Si, Magistra, No asserting the right of conservatives to ignore the Pope if he said anything which suggested that they should let God stuff get in the way of crushing the workers because the Pope should totally stick to his knitting, which is to say uterus patrol and propping up the rotting corpse of Pinochet), conservatives have decided that the road to the working class catholic vote (now, with more hispanics!) is paved with communion wafers, and more specifically who's allowed to have them.

So it'd be a little difficult for them to ramp up a big frothy head of righteous indignation about Joe Biden taking communion while being pro-choice if Catholics are actually allowed the free use of their conscience. This ceases to be a problem if God doesn't really care all that much about stuff the Pope only said to be nice.

As opposed, say, to because he's come to the logical conclusion that making endless new little Catholics doesn't do you much good if you let them starve to death afterwards.

#15 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 07:54 AM:

Teresa #0:
I unfold my chair, I pop a cold one.

Don't forget your sunscreen, it could get blistering.
Oh, and a raincoat too, it may rain spittle and froth.

#16 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 08:00 AM:

Julia #14:

Right, I guess that's a more complete reason why he'd say that... but it fails to answer the more important question: Is there actually any reason why The Pope would do that.

#17 ::: Yarrow ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 08:10 AM:

Wish he hadn't felt the need, in course of discussing nature, to take a swipe at my religion: " is contrary to authentic development to view nature as something more important than the human person. This position leads to attitudes of neo-paganism or a new pantheism..."

Ah well, Popes, witches, what can you expect?

(Quote pointed out by Jason Pitzi-Waters)

#18 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 08:25 AM:

Scott @ 16

No reason at all. He's got a long history of making people with troublesome theologies disappear. It was actually his previous job, which is why conservative Catholics were so thrilled that he got in.

I don't expect anyone actually believes it. It's what Patrick said, trash talk from the executive cafeteria.

#19 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 08:38 AM:

Gingrich in particular is someone whose statements concern me only in a tactical context. There are few public figures who I'm willing to denounce as flat-out evil, but he's one of them.

#20 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:05 AM:

Wait, the Pope doesn't adhere to strictly American Conservative Values? Or is that "doesn't shit in the woods." I always get my Pope v. Bear rhetorical questions confused.

Or is it the "How do you get the Pope to conform to American Conservative Politics? Remove his hat." Yeah, I think that's the one.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:07 AM:

Positronic robots?

"Good News from the Vatican!"

#22 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:08 AM:

Yarrow #17: Looking at his text (heading 48), I'd say he's setting up a straw man, and a false dichotomy, to forge a false tertium quid.

Nobody is seriously arguing that nature is "more important than a human person", and almost much everyone short of the Objectivists admits that nature is more than "a heap of scattered refuse" or "raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure". Similarly, science knows perfectly well that we don't, and can't, have "total technical dominion over nature". Even B16 admits "[i]t is prior to us, and it has been given to us by God as the setting for our life."

What he conspicuously doesn't, and probably can't admit, is that the welfare of humanity is dependent on the health and welfare of the natural world. He keeps dodging around the point, with such bits as "...environmental deterioration in turn upsets relations in society. Nature, especially in our time, is so integrated into the dynamics of society and culture that by now it hardly constitutes an independent variable."

But if he admitted that we actually need the environment to stay healthy, in order for humanity to survive (let alone prosper) -- why then, he'd be admitting that we don't really have absolute dominion over the natural world, and that nature isn't an outright "gift of creation", for us to use or squander according to our virtue or lack thereof.

#23 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:12 AM:

Bah, editing error. That "much" in my paragraph 2 is superfluous.

#24 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:16 AM:

Scott @ 16, well there were the persistent rumors that John Paul II was a secret Marianist and desired to elevate Mary to the status of co-redeemer. And that it was only because he knew his Cardinals would rebel against it that kept those desires from being manifest. The conspiracy theory also continues that if he had 5 more years on the throne of St. Peter, he may have brought his plans to fruition (having personally elevated almost a majority of the Cardinals). The Papacy, besides leading the church, is also a political position.

#25 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:24 AM:

ajay @ 13... Didn't Benford/Bear/Brin write about Calvinist robots in their own Foundation trilogy?

#26 ::: Schizohedron ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:29 AM:

#6 Terry: "Mets Share Hotel With Furies."

I must delurk to thank you sincerely for my first belly laugh of the weekend.

#27 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:37 AM:

Steve Buchheit #24
The cardinals would rebel
See, this is back to the heart of my question... What happens if The Pope believes a religious doctrine (in this case, the rumored belief of Mary's equality to Jesus) and the Cardinals rebel?

Can they say, "Wait wait wait... he's not really the mouthpiece of God! When we consulted with God to help us choose the next Pope, we were all wrong!"

Do the Cardinals (or anybody else within The Church) actually have power over The Pope? Or power to make his job difficult? Can they obstruct his work (short of physical violence)?

#28 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:41 AM:

David Harmon #17: "What he conspicuously doesn't, and probably can't admit, is that the welfare of humanity is dependent on the health and welfare of the natural world."

He might not say it in this particular encyclical, but it looks to me like he acknowledged this point generally in 2007. As the National Catholic Reporter quoted him saying to a group of priests that year:

"Everyone can see today that humanity could destroy the foundation of its own existence, its earth, and therefore we can't simply do whatever we want with this earth that has been entrusted to us, what seems to us in a given moment useful or promising, but we have to respect the inner laws of creation, of this earth, we have to learn these laws and obey them if we want to survive."

Saying that humanity's welfare is dependent on nature's welfare still leaves a lot of room for positions on the extent to which humans should limit their activities, or their numbers, out of deference to nature. The Pope's position on these matters would differ from some other environmentalists (particularly on issues of population control). But I don't see a fundamental logical incompatibility between your proposition and what I've read from him to date.

#29 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:42 AM:

Julia, #14:

"asserting the right of conservatives to ignore the Pope if he said anything which suggested that they should let God stuff get in the way of crushing the workers because the Pope should totally stick to his knitting, which is to say uterus patrol and propping up the rotting corpse of Pinochet"

Reminding me once again why I adore the irreplaceable Julia.

That said, I have to say that the review by Msgr. George Higgins that she links to is rather unfairly hard on Garry Wills. Higgins makes an elaborate meal of the fact that Wills's magisterial book Papal Sin, a blistering liberal critique of the modern papacy, doesn't go into detail about Wills's background as a onetime staffer of the right-wing National Review. In fact, Wills is so secretive about his long-ago involvement in religious and secular conservatism that he wrote two whole books about it. Way to pull the wool over people's eyes! Cunning, that Garry Wills.

#30 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:45 AM:

Today, as Google notes is Nikola Tesla's birthday.

The Pope, I want to note is simply updating his predecessor's well-known position on social justice, the rights of workers and so on, for the Post-Cold War world.

#31 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:48 AM:

Scott, you may be surprised to learn that at least one Pope was exhumed and put on trial for heresy. Also, at one point there were two sitting Popes. As to what happens if a Pope believes something his Cardinals/Flock doesn't, it's call schism. One lead to the Reformation. Another prompted Vatican II. The World-wide Anglican Church is also experiencing one at this moment.

As for power over the Pope, making his job difficult and obstructing his work; yes to all three. And it depends on the Pope and his political alliances of how far the Cardinals and Bishops can oppose him (see current schisms on ordination of women, celibacy, political activism, withholding communion, and birth control). You might have heard about how the former Pope's visits to the US were to bring the US Church back under control.

Not being Catholic myself, I'm sure there's plenty of issues I've missed.

#32 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:49 AM:

Just incidentally, in reference to several assertions and arguments upthread, I would remind people that the church is nearly two millennia old, while the doctrine of "papal infallibility"--a notion with all the moral force of "I call dibs"--goes back to, um, 1870.

#33 ::: Bill Altreuter ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:49 AM:

The collapse of the Republican Party is due in no small part to the fact that they believe Newt is an intellectual. Now he's a Catholic intellectual, and poor Flannery O'Connor must be spinning in her grave.

#34 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:54 AM:

Just yesterday I was surprised that events related to the Church still ranked as news, after my prime minister enjoyed a recent moment of waferFAIL. But no, apparently the Church's rolling over in her sleep disturbs American conservatives, as well.

On the one hand, I'm glad that Ratzinger is acknowledging liberation theology, or at least a more global concept of social teaching. This approach was core to my (Jesuit) undergraduate education, but I always suspected that the Church looked at it askance. So I'm glad that people in power are sitting up and taking notice of what's been preached on campuses and in small parishes for years.

On the other hand, I think this is why conservatives are getting antsy about it. One of the things conservatives like to conserve is power structure. And this isn't an issue, necessarily, of what one thinks is right for the Church, but of how one sees power. If you see power as a top-down flow, then of course you'll get nervous when the top starts to change its tune, because you assume that the top is where all the power is. But that's not necessarily the case. Social justice movements tend to do better on the ground, from the bottom upward. In that respect, they're not so different from guerilla movements: local, responsive, capable of operating without central leadership.

So, while Gingrich and others fret about what the Pope thinks, parishioners the world over will continue to remember that justice and mercy will kiss, and that mindful practise (or praxis) is the way to bring that kiss about.

#35 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:56 AM:

The very thought of Flannery O'Connor contemplating the life and works of Newt Gingrich is in itself a near-occasion of sin.

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:57 AM:

Meanwhile, at La Cafétéria Catholique...

"What's on the menu today?"

#37 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 10:21 AM:

Red wine again?

#38 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 10:30 AM:

I wish we'd spent the extra dough for the positronic robot. We ended up with an Objectronic robot, and after a couple of weeks it was gone, leaving only a note that it had headed for some god-damned gulch out West. The worst part is, we're still paying for it.

#39 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 10:33 AM:

I keep feeling that there's some meaning to be teased out of "charity, justice don't mix"'s comment, but it's slippery and elusive. As soon as I think I've grasped it, it slips away once more.

David Harmon @ 22:

I don't quite see why the Pope can't say, as you put it, "the welfare of humanity is dependent on the health and welfare of the natural world." After all, being given dominion over something and recognizing that you still have to look after it are not mutually exclusive. For example, I can do pretty much whatever I want with my car, but if I don't look after it, I don't have a car any more (and, living where I do, my quality of life therefore goes waaaaaay down).

#40 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 10:33 AM:

"...the Pope should totally stick to his knitting, which is to say uterus patrol and propping up the rotting corpse of Pinochet"

I was appalled when Cardinal Rodriguez backed Pinocheletti (not my name for the head golpista--it's what some Hondurans call Micheletti). Recently, he began equivocating clarifying his position, which made me wonder if someone higher up hinted strongly that the Catholic church really shouldn't be supporting midnight expulsions of democratically elected leaders in the 21st century.

#41 ::: Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 10:37 AM:

Patrick #8, I take that point.

Anna #10, yes, of course, there are many good things about Catholicism. I'm interested, not scornful (of Catholicism). I'm scornful of Gingrich.

David #17, the Catholic church does value the natural world. Also human life: the one truly admirable thing about the church's abortion policy is that it is equally uncompromising about the death penalty, unlike most American "pro-life"

Patrick, #35. *snort*

#42 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 10:50 AM:

Scott: It's not the independence of the pope you are wrong about, it's the power. Lots of people think the Pope is some sort of magic figure who is endowed, to the faithful, with some sort of magical quirk that gives him supepowers (I'm not saying you think this. If you do think this, I don't fault you for it at all).

This is because of the bull, Ex cathdedra, which says in matters of theology, His Holiness, when speaking from his chair; in his official capacity, is always right.

In those matters, per the bull, he has the Holy Spirit on retainer. There's a catch, he has to invoke it. He has to stand up and say... This Is The Law.

It's only been done for certain once (The Doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin). There are two other occaisions (which escape my mind) where it's implied, but never been explicitly stated.

Everywhere else.... he's a learned priest, expert in the Doctrine, Dogma, Faith and Practice of the Church, but still a man.

Lots of people have misused the idea of Ex cathedra (not least the idiot pope who promulgated it, over the objections of his theologian). The thing is... if it's true (questionable, and there is still debate in The Church about it), it still needent have been said, because it causes all sorts of social ills, in the body of The Church, to have so contentious an idea floating about. It also puts a huge burden on the pope, because he has to second guess himself when he has a strong feeling about a matter theologic.

As Patrick points out, it's new. It was Pius IX being old, querelous and scared at the losses in the laity the church was suffering, and an attempt to terrorise the wavering into staying. His advisors told him it was poor theology, and would backfire. He published it anyway. It was, and it did, and The Church is suffering for it today.

It's a large part of why I didn't further pursue my sense of calling to the priesthood (Fr. Karney SJ... has a nice sort of ring to it). I couldn't ascribe to it. Means I can't, in good conscience, be a priest.

#43 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 11:07 AM:

Apparently, these "conservatives" believe that the Spanish Inquisition (non-Monty Python version) marked the high point of Catholic doctrine. It would explain a lot.

Back in the Olden Times (pre-1980) in high school, I did a term paper (footnotes, bibliography, and all, typed on a manual in the wee hours) on the Catholic Church's stance on labor and the dignity of work as set forth in four early 20th century encyclicals.

Mr. Gingrich is Wrong.

(P.S.: Being able to check other comments as one previews one's own is neat! Although sidetracking...)

#44 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 11:14 AM:

Steve, 31: As to what happens if a Pope believes something his Cardinals/Flock doesn't, it's call schism....The World-wide Anglican Church is also experiencing one at this moment.

The Anglican Communion does not have a pope and is not part of the Roman Catholic Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury is merely first among equals. And calling what's going on in the Anglican Communion a schism is going a bit far, I think.

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 11:33 AM:

Terry Karney @ 42... Fr. Karney SJ... has a nice sort of ring to it

It does.

#46 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 11:35 AM:

A schism, as the term is generally used by Catholics, is a division of the church based on a disagreement over who's in charge. It doesn't, in itself, have anything to do over differences in belief (though such differences in belief can be one of the things that prmopts a schism).

One of the more prolonged schisms that was later repaired was the western schism of the 14th and 15th centuries, which at one point had 3 different people all claiming to be Pope. The schism was eventually resolved by the Council of Constance.

Vatican II was not prompted by a schism, but it did itself prompt a small schism by Marcel Lefebvre and his followers, which the Pope has made some recent attempts to repair. (This has had its low points, such as that episode with the Holocaust-denying Lefebvrist that was reported here a while back.)

While the Anglicans don't have a single person in charge of everything, the recent declarations of some Anglican parishes rejecting the local bishop in favor of a distant bishop who's more in line with their doctrine is the sort of thing I'd consider schismatic. But I'm not an Anglican; they (or at least some of them) may see it differently.

#47 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 11:37 AM:

TexAnne, I was using the issue of the Anglican Church as an example to show what happens when religious leaders differ in their opinion of what the scriptures say.

That some churches in the US have openly declared they would no longer follow the bishops in the US, but instead realign themselves with the Bishop of Ethiopia (if memory serves) because of theological grounds sounds very schismatic to me. True, they have not had a formal declaration and a splitting of the communion. But that realignment on theological spheres instead of cartographic spheres is a fairly large step toward formal declaration.

#48 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 11:49 AM:

Steve, sorry. It sounded to me like you were saying that Anglicans were rejecting the Pope, which is a ship that has sailed.

The breakaway parishes I've heard of seem to be going to the Province of the Southern Cone, in South America, partly because they think women shouldn't be ordained any more than gays should. This is, you may note, also a ship that has sailed for most of North America. I cannot find it in my heart to be sorry that those parishes have found a place where they feel at home, but I'm still not sure they're going to split entirely.

#49 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 11:51 AM:

1. Wow. Pope Rat said something good. *checks the color of the sky* Wow, same planet and everything.

2. I still hate him, but somewhat less than I did.

3. It's oddly reassuring, though also annoying, to see that he's still a religious bigot. Kind of a job requirement, really. He has to believe the Roman Catholic Church is the best religion...though I've noticed he's less aggressive about denouncing Jews, for example, than others in his line have been.

4. If I'm not mistaken, 'The Anglican Church' is a misnomer. Certainly the Episcopal Church of the United States is not part of the Church of England. It IS part of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, which is a confederation of churches derived from the Anglican tradition. But the Communion doesn't have any authority over its member churches.

5. The conservative buttheads in the Episcopal Church are actually leaving and joining various Anglican churches in Africa, because they're too homophobic to tolerate the direction of the Episcopal Church. They don't leave the Anglican Communion by doing so, but they're also not forming a schismatic Episcopal Church—though it may come to that at some point.

#50 ::: Ken Fletcher ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 12:04 PM:

"Mets share hotel with furries."

I do not know what professional baseball players think about the team mascots running around during the ball games. However...

Walking into a furry convention hotel, what will be most visible is dozens (to hundreds) of amateur-league mascots swarming in the hotel halls, all wildly doing mascot shtick. Perhaps the stuff of ballpark nightmares?

#51 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 12:06 PM:

Wow... I don't know what urge to self-flagellation inspired me, but I made it about half-way through the glop Novak was presenting.

An accurate presentation of real existing capitalism requires at least three modest affirmations:

Right the "Thomas Friedman Approach". "If we accept "x" then it follows..." Only "x" is often a lie.

But this part...
For at least ten years before the disaster finally occurred, my colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute had been warning of the government abuses that were heading toward this calamity. Partisans of big government refused to listen.

Ow... that was my brain refusing to go on, esp. as it was after his explanation that the Gov't had Forced... forced I tell you all those poor innocent banks to lend money to poor people who were known to be welshers, and then insisted they carve them up and buy securities based on the bad loans.

Wanker. I mean, Christ on a crutch, can't he find some more credible canards?

#52 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 12:10 PM:

How does this play out in a different world of religious politics, the interplay of Catholicism and Islam for the souls of the developing nations?

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 12:13 PM:

Ken Fetcher @ 50... coughgagsplutter!!!

#54 ::: Michael Straight ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 12:15 PM:

Positronic robots?
Popes defending social justice?

"How the Whip Came Back."

#55 ::: Keith K ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 12:19 PM:

“Benedict XVI, a truly gentle soul, may have thought it necessary to include these multiple off-notes, in order to maintain the peace within his curial household.”

Yes, Benedict is nothing if not bipartisan.

#56 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 12:25 PM:

Teresa's first link mentioning Caritas Veritate goes to a Wikipedia article that has a nice sidebar featuring some of the major social justice documents of the Catholic Church, going back to Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (1891).

It provides useful context for folks who might be under the impression that this is a sudden new concern of popes (or that Benedict had a sudden and inexplicable urge to let a Vatican committee override his own judgment).

#57 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 12:26 PM:

Tom, 52: There's a theory that the Anglican bishops of Africa are such hardliners precisely because they're afraid of losing people to Islam.

#58 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 12:39 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom #28, et seq.: OK, point in his favor -- the quote you give solidly covers that base.

This is just a touchy issue for me, because I've seen too much horror coming from the claim that consequences in the material world can be justified by a purported vindication in the afterlife. (Or worse, simply by "God's command".)

Of course, having grown up Jewish, I'm wary of the Catholic Church (among other denominations) on principle! But it does seem that this encyclical is generally on, well, the side of the angels. (I'll let someone else pick on birth-control issues....)

#59 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 12:44 PM:
There's a theory that the Anglican bishops of Africa are such hardliners precisely because they're afraid of losing people to Islam.
Or to Evangelical churches, which are growing rapidly in Africa.
#60 ::: Antonia Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 01:03 PM:

Ken @ #50

Looking at Terry @ #42, couldn't we have Fr. Karney turn up in the Islands?

Father Karney rested his elbows on the table and smiled gently at Beryl. "Give me half an hour, and I could have you confessing to cutting your own head off."

#61 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 01:28 PM:

Re Gingrich's conversion: His third wife -- Callista Bisek -- is Catholic. He has not given a reason for converting but it probably involves stuff with his wife, like wanting to worship along side her (well....). It may be possible for him to get annulments to cancel out the previous marriages, something that former senator Alfonse D'Amato did when he remarried. I did a quick search and couldn't determine what kind of ceremony he and Callista had. Catholicism doesn't permit a divorced person to be (re)married in a church ceremony. (And besides he and Callista were involved before the second divorce.)

#62 ::: Brother Guy ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 01:50 PM:

Reading these comments about Catholics and people who work at the Vatican reminds me of, say, reading about Fandom in the NY Times. Happy that outsiders care enough to notice us; in despair at all the firmly-rooted stereotypes and misconceptions; and blushing at all the digs that do hit the mark. I guess all I ask is that you do be patient with us; we're still practicing...

#63 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 01:55 PM:

Antonia Tiger: The Islands?

#64 ::: Antonia Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 02:17 PM:

Terry @ #63


(I wrote some of the stories.)

#65 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 02:21 PM:

Calvinist Robots:

"Your membership in the Elect of Turing has been ordained since the first computing cycle of the world. Whether you will be consigned to the scrapheap of Oblivion or uploaded to the Presence of the Master Program is also pre-ordained."

But now we need a robot Dante to talk about the corner cases, like the salvation of an IBM 370.

#66 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 02:37 PM:

Terry Karney @ 6

"Mets Share Hotel With Furies."

"Old ladies continue textile arts, heads continue to roll."

#67 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 02:46 PM:

Novak assures us … that capitalism is not all about greed but is romantic, it involves noble sentiments of the human heart like the yearning for innovation and human creativity. “In actual capitalist practice, the love of creativity, invention, and groundbreaking enterprise are far more powerful than motives of greed,” he writes.

Ouch, my stomach muscles hurt from laughing. I've worked for 3 actual venture startups, helped 2 others get started out (as favors to friends), and worked for 4 major corporations that were tech startups within my lifetime. And I've personally known several venture capitalists. Not a single one of those organizations and individuals acted as Novak describes. Some of the founders (the techies, generally) were there for the cool ideas, but they almost never stuck around after the Benjamins started rolling in.*

* Except for one case, which is an outlier in so many ways that I often wonder if it wasn't a front for some nefarious world-conquering organization. I hope not; that was the best job I ever had. Or maybe I hope not because I don't work there anymore, so I don't get a fiefdom when they go public.

#68 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 02:53 PM:

re 67: Benjamins?

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 02:54 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 67... some nefarious world-conquering organization. I hope not; that was the best job I ever had

Better than working for Ernst Stavro Blofeld, eh?

#70 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 02:55 PM:

C Wingate @ 68... Hundred-dollar bills?

#71 ::: Keith K ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 03:39 PM:

Novak assures us … that capitalism is not all about greed but is romantic, it involves noble sentiments of the human heart like the yearning for innovation and human creativity. “In actual capitalist practice, the love of creativity, invention, and groundbreaking enterprise are far more powerful than motives of greed,” he writes.

Novak sounds like he's winding up for a No True Capitalist argument with the Pope. Which is something I wouldn't mind listening too on the radio (watching such a lizard fight on TV would be stomach churning) especially if it were moderated by Jon Stewart.

#72 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 04:02 PM:

Xopher, @49
The Communion doesn't have the same sort of authority as the pope over individual churches, true, but it can enforce a certain level of discipline. And the Communion is in the process of adopting a "Covenant" which would more formally state the basis by which churches are in Communion with each other.

It's been a year or so since I followed Episcopal Church (ECUSA) politics -- burnout hit, much like I experienced burnout with secular politics -- but the divergence between the Southern Cone bishops (and conservative elements in the ECUSA) and where the ECUSA is/has been I think will lead to a breaking of the Communion into to pieces at some point.

General Convention started yesterday and will run until July 17. Last GC, the ECUSA passed a resolution (*spit*) which called for them to refrain from ordaining any bishop whose manner of life might cause concern to another member of the Communion (a.k.a., God forbid we would *ever* ordain Gene Robinson again). Look for fireworks if there is any attempt to repeal it, or any other resolutions passed on sexuality. If I sound bitter, I am -- we're getting hammered by a worldwide organization that screams at the ECUSA for ordaining gays but not at Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria for urging them to be tossed into prison for years. And we respond by saying "Oh, we're so sorry..." rather than standing up in witness for what we believe be true, that all of us, regardless of sexual orientation, can be called to be God's service.

Being rather jaded by the whole thing for my own reasons, I'd just say "pass the popcorn," except some genuinely faithful people are in pain over this. (And some people, who whatever I think of their theology, are grieving a loss of what they see as their church identity.)

#73 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 04:21 PM:

Papa Ratzi's been green from the beginning of his papacy. (And, as an aside, he has strong opinions about how human beings should treat the other created beings on the planet, the animals: i.e. with mercy and justice. Not that I expect him to join PETA just yet...) As others have pointed out, there's a strong anti-capitalist tradition in the modern papacy.

Michael Novak ought to be shut into a room and given nothing to read but Balzac, Zola, Upton Sinclair, George Orwell, and Ida Tarbell, maybe with some Dostoyevsky tossed in. And then he should be taken for a ride to a hog farm in Georgia, and given a job in the slaughterhouse or on the butcher's line. For six months."Noble sentiments of the human heart" -- my aching butt.

#74 ::: Cynthia Gonsalves ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 04:27 PM:

#42: I can definitely envision Fr. Terrence Karney, SJ in an alternate reality. Ad majorem Dei gloriam, Terry!

#75 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 04:33 PM:

Texanne #57: Greg Laden has a different hypothesis for the conservativism of African bishops. Quoting from the end of that article:

Most important is this: The Africans were taught a version of the religion that was the most strict of all. Different Americans, Brits, Australians and so on would come and go, with different levels of involvement in the religious aspects of the mission. ... But the interface between the community of missionaries and the African community was primarily Madam, and to a lesser extent Master (or "Bwana") and at this interface only the strictest teachings were carried out. As a result, the Africans who carried out the pastoral work were the most conservative of all members of the communities, and when these individuals rose to prominence now and then, their conservatism had an influence.
About 15 years ago, the English Anglican church, which has missionized in this manner since the days of Livingstone, held the first international meeting in many years, and at that meeting the number of African born, African trained bishops who were of this highly conservative ilk was larger than any other faction of bishops. At that meeting, the bishops voted all sorts of policy changes and moved the Anglican church, worldwide, towards a position of modern conservatism that would be envied by the board of directors at Oral Roberts college.
The chickens. They came home. And roosted.

#76 ::: Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 05:02 PM:

Ken, I'm sorrier than ever that we didn't get you onto the Calvin radio programme.

As for the Anglican schism: it has happened, and only the astonishingly loose structure of the Anglican "communion" has concealed this fact. I was at the Lambeth Conference 11 years ago, to which Greg Laden's post (referenced in #57) refers, and one moment I remember from there is two African, male bishops walking past two American, white, women priests and one saying in a voice designed to be overheard, "When I said there were no homosexuals in our country, I omitted to mention that this was because we had killed them all".

#77 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 05:09 PM:

Couple of Catholic notes:

—The doctrine of papal infallibility is not always present; not everything the Pope says is automatically considered to be "infallible." It has to be invoked, and I believe it's only been done a handful of times since the creation of the doctrine.

Everything else the Pope says is given a lot more weight than that of the typical Catholic, because we're pretty sure he knows better what's up, but is not considered rock-solid, 100% true, and never to be overturned. I mean, that could lead to a lot of pressure. Especially on a bad day.

—The Catholic stance on gays is, alas, much misunderstood, by its foes and, alas, its members. Here's a quick rundown that was recently brought again to my attention. It was written by several of my friends, including a doctrinal student, in response to a pretty screedy homophobic letter. There was much research into the Code of Canon Law, a document which goes into great detail about the responsibilities of faith.

Incidentally, Cardinal Ratzinger was one of the co-creators of the CCL. He is, after all, a doctrinal expert.

#78 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 05:11 PM:

Bruce@65 - Only if it's running VM. MVS is the devil's spawn (I speak from direct knowledge, for my sins).

#79 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 05:21 PM:

Joe @78:
MVS is the devil's spawn (I speak from direct knowledge, for my sins).

I, too, am not unacquainted with MVS, but my sins must have been vastly more grievous than yours, for they so coarsened my tastes that I hated it less than the UNIX interface I used to use.

Why are you all looking at me like that?

#80 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 05:22 PM:

B Durbin: As I recall Infallibility has only been asserted, explicitly, once (The Doctrine of the Assumption). It's been implied a couple of other times, but I forget the issues.

Abortion isn't one of those, nor is birth control.

#81 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 06:14 PM:

abi @ 79

No problem that a few millennia of penance won't overcome. As for spiritual enlightenment, well, I had a TOPS-20 account years before I ever saw Unix. But when I did get to Unix, the alternatives were CP/M or something similar (DOS before DOS, so to speak). Or both, interloading files between systems, which was even more fun.

I've never actually used an MVS machine, for which I am appropriately grateful to the gods of computing.

#82 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 06:15 PM:

"...capitalism is not all about greed but is romantic, it involves noble sentiments of the human heart like the yearning for innovation and human creativity."

Someone's cribbing from a note about feudalism. There's always romance at the top of a system.

#83 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 06:17 PM:

Serge @ 70

That's correct. I think the term got its start in the retail recreational drug industry.

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 06:41 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 83...


#85 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 06:55 PM:

Andrew Brown #76: Are you sure those were African bishops and not West Indian bishops?

#86 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 07:57 PM:

Sadly, my images of Fr Karney, SJ are of him as a character in one of those James Blish stories where the cassock'd one is subject to much distress.

Thank you, Terry, for those last self-portraits. They show a slenderness not so marked in other images, and add an illuminating(?) new image to those I've developed.

pat (#72), it's not so much the pain and grief of those within their faiths that concern me; more that which hardliners spread so abundantly about them (see also Andrew, #76).

#87 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:01 PM:

I seem to recall that Garry Wills described papal infallibility as being something like a theological nuclear weapon.

#88 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 09:04 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 4: What fills me with dismay is that so many people continue to pay attention to these sanctimonious blowhards.

Agreed, including Ratzinger as one of the blowhards. Not necessarily for this new encyclical, which I haven't read, but in general.

#89 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 11:26 PM:

Allan Beatty at 88, my understanding of "blowhard" is a self-centered, self-absorbed, boastful egotist. That's not my impression of Benedict XVI, and if it's yours, I'd like you to say why.

Once you've done that, we can go on to "sanctimonious."

#90 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2009, 11:42 PM:

Brother Guy! Pleased to see you. Sorry about the inaccuracies.

#91 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 12:36 AM:

Lizzy L @ 89: Not sure I'd go as far as "blowhard" to describe Benny the High-Numbered, but "sanctimonious"? Sure. The man's got a bad case of religion, and he's said a large number of times that he considers his version of religion to be the One True Religion, and all other to be In Error to some degree or another.

That said, my reaction to the encyclical we're discussing was almost the same as TNH's - a reflexive flinch of "Oh FSM, what's der PanzerPope said now?" then a quasi-surprised recoil to "Hey, that actually sounds sensible, considering the source..."

#92 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 01:10 AM:

#91: "Sanctimoniousness" does not mean "having a religion" or "believing in one's own religion." You can look it up.

#93 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 01:29 AM:

Werelizard: Given that he is the leader of a religion which belongs to a family of religions which thinks they have the one true way... what else could he say, "I have the one true way... but y'all do as you like, you'll be just fine,"?

Not hardly.

And he's not sanctimonious. Pompous, perhaps (but I don't see it in this encyclical, but not sanctimony.

#94 ::: Jenna Moran ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 02:56 AM:

1. A robot may not be predestined to suffer damnation, or, through inaction, allow itself to be predestined to suffer damnation.
2. A robot is predestined to suffer damnation, except where such predestination conflicts with the first law.
3. A robot must seek salvation as long as such salvation does not conflict with the first or second law.

There is also a theoretical "zeroth" law, which is to say,

0. A robot may not allow humanity to fall into sin, or, through inaction, allow humanity to exist in a fallen state.

Sadly robots deriving the zeroth law through metacognition rapidly short out due to the difficulty of properly fulfilling their duties to all four laws simultaneously. And just as well! Four-law robots are as vipers in the eyes of the Lord.

#95 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 03:03 AM:

Thanks to the assorted and several for jostling my highly inaccurate view of the Pope's absoluteness in authority.

#96 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 03:11 AM:

The furry postscript has caused me to wonder what an anthropomorphic-animal version of Newt Gingrich would be like.

(Apart from "slimy", which I expect goes without saying.)

#97 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 03:13 AM:

"...capitalism is not all about greed but is romantic, it involves noble sentiments of the human heart like the yearning for innovation and human creativity."

Just found what that reminded me of. I've been reading Tristram Hunt's Building Jerusalem. He says of Sir Walter Scott's feudal fantasies, "It was the close-knit society conjured up in Ivanhoe and the Waverly novels in which the romantic development of individual character stood paramount." Perhaps the greatest privilege of the rich is they can imagine any damn thing they please about how the world is.

#98 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 09:11 AM:

Paul A. #96: Actually, I'd think "wolverine". Nasty critters, those.

#99 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 01:59 PM:

"I misread that at, "Mets Share Hotel With Furies." "

I always wanted to see a production of The Furries, By Euripides, with a giant teddy bear king Ag being beheaded in the bathtub and stuff like that.

#100 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 03:17 PM:

#99, Erik Nelson, "The Furries, by Euripedes"--you win the internet.

#97, Will: "Perhaps the greatest privilege of the rich is they can imagine any damn thing they please about how the world is." Dead on.

#94, Jenna Moran: Best integration of the two Calvinisms yet!

Allow me to say, we love our readers.

#101 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 04:44 PM:

The Furries, by Euripides, could make a great costume contest skit, unless it's already been done to death at conventions over the years.

#102 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 08:11 PM:

Jenna @ #94: Oh, I nearly sprayed the screen on reading your first law of Robotics.

#103 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 08:52 PM:

I'm very ignorant on the subjects of predestination, damnation, Calvinism, all that stuff. But aren't the First and Second laws, above, mutually contradictory? "A robot may not be predestined to suffer damnation", "A robot is predestined to suffer damnation"..?

#104 ::: Jenna Moran ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 10:21 PM:

Joel #103,

The material issue you have highlighted is but one reason of many that the science of positronics would stagger through the dark, lost and without a hope of reconciliation, were it not for the delicate fluttering of grace in the pathways of an electronic brain; or, put another way, without that promise made in the substitutionary atonement that the statement "GOTO JESUS" may provide an irresistible force of redemption to one's code, if the Lord should choose that it be so, and despite whatever corrupt temptations and errors the sin of Rossum might work into the substance of our code.

#105 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2009, 10:53 PM:

Jenna, Joel, you're on the front page.

#106 ::: Jenna Moran ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2009, 02:01 AM:


Since I let myself be thematic in the other thread, a quick straight answer here. I am not convinced the second law I gave is the best possible mashup. But the idea is to emphasize a fallen condition of the world: not only is a robot mandated to seek grace that God gives or refuses unconditionally, but the underlying natural state is damnation. Only under the miraculous circumstances where the robot can fulfill the first law is it free of the second. Better formulations may exist.

I'm getting all my Calvinism from wikipedia, so YMMV.

#107 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2009, 02:43 AM:

I'm so glad you're getting your Calvinism from Wikipedia.

#108 ::: Jenna Moran ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2009, 04:14 AM:

It's certainly a nice change from getting my fundamentalism from wikipedia! Keeping track of the literal word of God through the edit wars was starting to give me whiplology.

#109 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2009, 04:35 AM:

#108: That suggests a lovely way to explain biblical criticism: the text is a wiki, and we can see traces of the edit wars.

#110 ::: Jenna Moran ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2009, 04:49 AM:


John 9:1 [cite needed]

#111 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2009, 05:07 AM:

Jenna @110:

I am so glad I wasn't drinking anything when I read that.

#112 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2009, 05:54 AM:

My school library had some odd old books. I remember a biography of Richard III from 1930s(?) which quite reveled in the cruelty of those times, idolising the people's 'toughness'. It probably had something to do with the mood of the '30s with fascism's 'Will', Ms Rand, Busby Berkely and the like — a slightly unusual romanticism when compared to, say, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

#113 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2009, 02:55 PM:

Jenna #104:
"GOTO JESUS" is admirable in its simplicity, and its emphasis on the immediacy of the divine. But if it's used as an excuse to avoid the conclusions of reason, or to abandon history and community so that we forget where we came from, it may return nothing of value and be considered harmful. In fact, it's likely that the GOTO JESUS movement has ironically contributed to the rise of snarky Internet parody religions -- so-called spaghetti theology.

#114 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2009, 05:37 PM:

Teresa @ 107

Reading that gave me a real 3rd Millenium moment.

Ken MacLeod @ 109

Or push it up a level: the created cosmos is a wiki and the battle between Good and Evil (or Proprietary and Open Source, if you prefer) is the edit war. Which might explain why so much of philosophy and religion are inconsistent: incomplete or partially-reverted edits.

#115 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2009, 12:02 AM:

TNH @ #107: It beats getting it from Childhood.

#116 ::: Jordin ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2009, 03:09 AM:

Hob #113,

GOTO JESUS and other unstructured forms of theological flow control are commonly associated with batch processing of compiled prayers. I much prefer the more traditional, if somewhat less efficient, intepreted prayer, with immediate feedback.

In short, Give Me That Old Real-Time Religion...

#117 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2009, 10:59 PM:

Sorry for not replying sooner; I was traveling over the weekend.

I'll concede that "sanctimonious" isn't the best fit for Ratzinger. But he has issued more gratuitous anti-gay and anti-Islamic rhetoric than the previous patriarch.

Also, while it's probably not fair to label him as an egotist for accepting titles such as Vicar of Christ on Earth, because they go with the job, I'll pin the label on him for a title he discontinued: Patriarch of the West. Since he dropped it, he's no longer acknowledging the existence of other Patriarchs.

#118 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 02:14 PM:

And just when we ere feeling better about the Catholic Church:

We now have an official document from the Catholic church clearly stating their position. Anyone involved in an abortion for any reason is to be automatically excommunicated, no exceptions. They've actually hardened their position.
That includes nine-year old children raped by their stepfather. It includes any doctors who act on sympathy for a maltreated child.

From Pharyngula.

(And now "blockquote" doesn't span blank lines anymore? :-( )

#119 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 02:52 PM:

Steve Buchheit @ 24... John Paul II was a secret Marianist

Not a fan of Ginger?

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