Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why does the mainstream media care about the pope?

It seems the mainstream media is covering the pope's resignation and the upcoming papal election pretty closely. Many people in the general public are talking about it. Yet, most of the people and groups involved in this discussion are not practicing Catholics and probably know very little about the Church. So why the interest?

Perhaps they are interested because it is an event with major significance. About one sixth of the world is Catholic and therefore the pope has more followers than almost any leader. The pope has influence on a lot of people, especially practicing Catholics. But why would the secular be interested?

Ultimately I think a lot of the interest stems from the secular world's false hope. With news of a retiring pope or one who just passed away, the secular world is filled with hope that the next pope will implement their social agenda in one or several areas. They see the Church as an obstacle to the worldwide implementation of their plans and hold on to hope that perhaps the next pope will change all of that.

People truly and honestly believe that the next pope may reconsider the Church's opposition to gay marriage or abortion. Some believe the Church will do away with rules about contraception or women priests. Unfortunately for these people, these things will never change. Would the media continue to cover this story as much as they do now if people were convinced the Church's stance on all the "hot button" moral issues of the day are pretty much already settled? I doubt it.

To a typical secular person, the next pope will be ideologically identical to Pope Benedict XVI. If there are any differences, the secular person could probably not perceive them, even if they were to be explained. There may be changes where the Church has the authority to make them, but they will not reverse 2000 years of tradition.

Pope's New Residence in a Monastery

A couple of months after retiring, Pope Benedict XVI will live in a monastery close to St. Peter's Basilica called Mater Ecclesiae. Housed here are nuns who pray for the pope. I haven't been able to confirm this, but this is an alleged picture of his future room (Source: Catholic Charismatic):

You can see this room is very simple and basic. He does not live in the lap of luxury. Probably the average person has a more luxurious bedroom than this. The reason I mention this is because so many people are critical of the Church's wealth and make it seem as though the pope, bishops, and priests, all use the riches of the Church for their own personal gain.

Here is a picture of the outside of the monastery (Source: National Geographic):

What will Pope Benedict wear when he retires?

So Pope Benedict has officially retired. We are now between popes in a period known as the interregnum. So what will Pope Benedict wear now that he has retired?

For one thing, he will not wear his signature red shoes. Instead he will wear brown shoes he received as a gift from his visit to Léon, Mexico.

Also, the pope's fisherman's ring will be destroyed which normally happens upon the death of a pontiff.

The former pope will continue to wear his white cassock, but he will not wear the shoulder covering known as a mozzetta.


Pope Benedict has officially retired at the exact moment this article is published and the Interregnum has begun.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Confusion about Pope Benedicts post-resignation name

I am somewhat confused as to what Pope Benedict will be called when he retires in a few days. First, there was a video from Rome Reports claiming he would be still called Benedict XVI, and also referred to as Bishop Emeritus of Rome. That was all fine until now another report from the same organization says the pope will be referred to as "Pope Emeritus". Does this mean he will be referred to as either Bishop Emeritus of Rome OR Pope Emeritus? Is either one acceptable?

Check out this latest video:

Compare this to the following video:

Happy Birthday Nan

Today would have been my maternal grandmother's 87th birthday. Unfortunately she died about 3.5 years ago. She was a really great person and I just wanted to mention her on my blog today. Rest in Peace Nan.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wow! Found a newspaper article about the pope from 1752!

I was just going through an archive of really old newspapers. First I was specifically looking for articles about the pope, but then I started to simply look for the oldest newspapers available on the system. That's when I stumbled upon an article written in the Halifax Gazette dated March 23, 1752.

Here is what the article says (some was hard to make out, but this is my attempt):

Foreign Advices

Rome, September 24.

A Few Days ago, as the Pope was going in his Coach to the Quirinal, an ordinary man kneeled in the Street upon his Knees as if he wanted to receive a Blessing from him, which as he was going to give, the Man threw a Stone at his Holiness's Head, which narrowly missed : He proved to be a Madman lately escaped from the Hospital for Lunaticks, to which Place he was remanded, with strict Orders to the Officers, to take more Care for the future of the unhappy People committed to their Charge.

That is very shocking! A man actually threw a rock at the pope's head! The pope did not seem to react too negatively though, only advising the hospital to take better care of its patients. It's so fascinating looking at an article from over 250 years ago! The pope in question would be Pope Benedict XIV. Since the paper came out in March 1752, the article much have been written the previous September, in 1751. At the time the pope would have been 76 years old.

To see the article as it appears on the Google News Archive, go here (second article from top).

Happy birthday bro

Just wanted to throw a quick "Happy Birthday" out to my brother Peter. Have a great year!

Looking back at some old articles on the pope

There is a great tool on Google called Archived News search where you can search through news articles found in newspapers around the world dating back many decades, even centuries. I searched for articles around 1958/59 on the keyword "pope" and found a very amusing one about Pope John XXIII.

Part of it says:

In a joking and paternal manner, the pope asked: "Am I right in thinking you all like a little wine?"

There was only silence until one man got courage enough to say "yes." With that, the pope sent an aide off to the papal cellar for some bottles of sparkling wine which he offered the workers.

See the whole article here, written in the Milwaukee Journal, dated November 8, 1958, titled "New Pope Making Calls Unannounced and He Delights People of Vatican City"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pope's name after resignation

Last Saturday, I predicted the pope would be referred to as "Emeritus Bishop of Rome" upon his retirement. I was close, I just got the words in the wrong order. It was announced today that upon resignation the pope will be called "Bishop Emeritus of Rome". The video from which I received this information did not mention what proper name he would go by, whether it would be Benedict or Joseph Ratzinger. That's still a tough question for me, and I'm on the fence about it.

Upon their deaths, popes are obviously still referred to by their regnal name. Therefore if Benedict goes back to being called Joseph Ratzinger, I would assume his name would be once again changed back to Benedict upon his death. This would seem rather odd. The problem with keeping the name Benedict is that it implies he is still pope since he has a papal regnal name and is still alive. That's why I'm on the fence. Both names have logical reasons to be used. It does not appear as though this particular issue was addressed by the Vatican.

Actually, scrap that! I re-watched the video and they did indeed address that question. They said he would still be addressed as His Holiness Benedict XVI. This decision makes sense to me when I think about it. Legitimate opes have never reverted back to their original name. Also, I can speak about "Pope John Paul II" without implying that he is still in charge. We do not now call him Karol Wojtyła. It's sort of like when an American president retires and he is still called Mr. President.

I'm glad this has now been cleared up.

Here's a video about the announcement:

Comparing Pope Benedict to Other Popes

Here are several pieces of data comparing Pope Benedict to all other popes:

1. Pope Benedict was the fifth oldest pope ever at the time of his election at the age of 78 years, 3 days. (the oldest pope at his election was Clement X at age 79 years, 290 days)

2. Pope Benedict is currently the 4th oldest pope ever, at the age of 85 years, 311 days. (Leo XIII died at the oldest age of 93 years, 140 days)

3. The length of Pope Benedict's reign of 7.8 years is fairly standard in papal history, where the average is about 7.5 years.

4. Pope Benedict is the eighth German pope

5. Pope Benedict named two doctors of the Church: Hildegaard of Bingen and John of Avila.

6. Pope Benedict took 7 trips outside Italy during his pontificate.

7. Pope Benedict wrote 2 encyclicals, compared to Pope John Paul II's 14. Pope Pius XII wrote 41 encyclicals, which is higher than all his current successors combined (at 32).

That's all for now!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Photos of Benedicts XVI and John Paul II together

As Pope Benedict's papacy comes to an end, I would like to present several photos of Pope Benedict XVI (Cardinal Ratzinger at the time) together with Pope John Paul II.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Is the media that ignorant?

It still strikes me as funny how ignorant the media seems. In some ways, I think it just reflects how everyday people are thinking. When discussing the papal resignation and upcoming election, many mainstream media outlets act as if laws against same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception are actually on the table for the Church.

I just read an article about Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian papabile and the online paper acted shocked that he opposed same-sex marriage and abortion. Is this the first time this paper has heard the Catholic Church's position on these issues? This are nowhere on the radar for the Church. I doubt even a single cardinal has an opinion on same sex marriage or abortion which is at odds with Catholic teaching.

Most non- and lapsed-Catholics have the mistaken impression that the Church is no different than a secular country. That it might just change centuries-old beliefs in favor of new morals which came about less than a generation ago. I guess people are just used to our modern day elections where everything is on the table and we just pick and choose our latest moral code.

Pope actually have very little power to "change" anything about the Church. Many things, such as the nature of marriage, the sanctity of life, and the male-only priesthood are essential characteristics of the Church which will never change. Ironically these are the issues the media talk about the most.

I think this ultimately comes from ignorance. To the secular public, it will make no difference which pope will be elected. On all the "hot button" issues, the cardinals are probably all on the same page, with possible differences which would be imperceptible to our secular sound-bite culture.

Marc Ouellet said papacy would be nightmare

On June 30, 2011, La Presse published an article about Cardinal Marc Ouellet. When told many people see him as a potential pope, Ouellet reacted by laughing and saying, in French (my translation below):

«On ne peut pas empêcher le monde de rêver. Ça serait un cauchemar. Moi, je vois le travail que le pape a à faire. C'est peut-être pas très enviable. C'est une responsabilité écrasante. Enfin, à la grâce de Dieu! Il y a l'aide du Saint-Esprit, évidemment, mais c'est une très grosse responsabilité. Personne ne fait campagne pour ça.»

Basically, this translates as:
"We cannot prevent the world from dreaming. It [the papacy] would be a nightmare. I see the work the pope has to do. It is perhaps not very enviable. It is a crushing responsibility. Only by the grace of God! There is help from the Holy Spirit, obviously, but it's a very large responsibility. Nobody campaigns for this."

See full article here.

Human Sin Immune System

I thought today that a good concept for dealing with sin is to deal with sin in a way similar to our immune system. For many people, including me, I only deal with sin when I'm face to face with it in the middle of temptation. This would be like living without any regard to health whatsoever and then once you fall ill, doing a few things to feel better.

As an analogy, it would be like only eating junk food and not worrying if it's moldy or otherwise gone bad, not bathing, not exercising, not getting enough sleep, going outside in the cold without proper clothing, never cleaning your bathroom or kitchen, having garbage and insects all around, not practicing any hygiene, not brushing your teeth, etc. But then as you become ill, you attempt in vain to not get sick. By then it's too late and you fall ill.

Very few people would ever live like this. In order to stay healthy, people employ a multi-layered approach. First, they try to maintain their health through exercise and correct eating choices. Next, they are careful about food safety. Thirdly, they maintain correct hygiene by bathing, brushing their teeth, and taking care of themselves in general. They maintain a clean dwelling. If they do fall ill, people will generally spend time taking care of themselves. They may then reevaluate their lifestyle to see if their illness could have been prevented.

This approach makes sense, and it's probably one we should use in our spiritual life. I remember reading a book by Father Gabriel Amorth, the chief exorcist of Rome. He said people will come to him only after all other spiritual avenues, such as psychics, have been exhausted. An exorcism may be then be performed. Usually he said people will get into spiritual trouble after indulging in immoral activities. It doesn't just come out of the blue.

So how can we create a spiritual immune system? There are probably countless ways to do this, so I will just try to list some possibilities:

1) Get up early and go to bed early
I find a lot of sin and temptation can occur late at night. I think there's a reason good vs. evil is often depicted as light vs. darkness. The Bible often mentions nefarious activities that occur in the cover of night. Things in the night are hidden and secret and we feel like we can get away with more.

2) Work hard
They say boredom and not having anything to do can lead to sin. I believe this is true. If we are doing lots of work, we don't have as much time to sin.

3) Associate with good people
Associate with people who do not participate in evil activities. If you feel you are at risk of committing certain sins, avoid people who indulge in these. Make friends with people who have good habits. We are often influenced by those we associate with.

4) Read spiritual literature
Read the Bible, the Catechism, Life of Saints, etc. Not for any particular purpose, but just for knowledge and spiritual edification.

5) Routinize prayer
Prayer can often seem inconvenient. A way around this is to make it a routine part of your life. Pray at the same time every day. Maybe right after supper or before a particular show. Make it an automatic thing so you don't have to fight your laziness every time to do it. This also goes for Mass. You should try to go to Mass the same time every week. If you go to Mass every week, it will eventually get easier and easier.

6) Avoid sin as soon as possible
Ending temptation is always easiest at the beginning. For instance, it's easier not to eat a piece of chocolate cake before you have a piece. Don't say "Oh, I'll just have one bite and that's it." Giving in to temptation a little only makes it easier to go to the whole way. The easiest time to stop temptation is now. In the long run, if you avoid temptation, it will eventually get easier, not worse like popular culture tells us. The more we indulge in a sin, the more we will want to indulge in it.

Those are just a few ways to avoid sin and live a good life. The point is you should not wait until you are struggling in the middle of temptation to do something about the sin you are facing.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Questions and Answers about Pope's Resignation

1. What will Pope Benedict XVI be called once he resigns?
This seems as yet uncertain. Some have suggested "Pope Emeritus". However, in 2010, it was revealed that Pope John Paul II said "there is no place in the Church for a Pope Emeritus." This is something he said to the doctor before an operation. Others have suggested "Emeritus Bishop of Rome". I think for the most part this would be non-controversial, since there are currently many retired bishops in the world who use this style.

As for his regnal name "Benedict XVI", some assume, including Fr. Z that he will keep it. I am less certain. This is his papal name and no longer being pope, it would be less fitting. Plus, how would he be introduced? "Emeritus Bishop of Rome Benedict XVI"? Perhaps. But it seems a little contradictory. Pope and Benedict XVI seem to go together, and pope is implied when one says "Benedict XVI". So it would be almost like saying "Emeritus Bishop of Rome Pope Benedict XVI". This seems really confusing. As I don't think a certain decision has yet been made, my guess is that he will go by Joseph Ratzinger, Emeritus Bishop of Rome. No matter how you slice it, it ends up seeming a little odd.

2. Where will Pope Benedict XVI live after his resignation?
Once Benedict resigns, he will first go to his Summer residence in Castel Gondolfo. After some time, he will move to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery within the Vatican, where he will live permanently.

3. What will Pope Benedict XVI do after his resignation?
The former pope will probably stay out of the limelight. There will not be two competing papacies or something. He will probably quietly spend his time in prayer, meditation, reading and other activities. He will possibly write. But I would say he will try to keep a low profile.

4. What will happen to Pope Benedict XVI fisherman's ring after his resignation?
The pope's fisherman's ring will be destroyed shortly after his resignation. Since the ring is a symbol of his papal authority, it is appropriate that it be destroyed once he abdicates the thrown.

5. What color will Pope Benedict XVI wear in retirement after his resignation?
As far as I can tell, this too is still in the air. I believe it seems unlikely he will wear his white robes. It is more likely that he would dress as a cardinal or perhaps bishop.

6. Will Pope Benedict XVI be a priest in a particular diocese after his resignation?
The pope will maintain his priestly faculties and will probably celebrate Mass, perhaps daily. Of course, his Masses will most likely be low-key. He will continue to live in the Archdiocese of Rome and will be under the spiritual leadership of the pope.

7. Why did Pope Benedict XVI decide to retire?
Pope Benedict said his reason for retiring is that due to his advanced age and health concerns, he does not feel up for the task of pope.

8. When exactly will Pope Benedict XVI retire?
Pope Benedict's resignation takes place at 8pm, February 28, 2013.

9. More questions
If you have further questions about Pope Benedict's retirement, please ask them in the comment section. Thanks.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Trevor Moore produces vile music video about the pope

Trevor Moore and his group called the Whitest Kids You Know have produced a disgusting music video mocking and criticizing the pope. They bring up all the typical anti-catholic slander, including the accusations that they have too much money and also the sex abuse scandal. The video is crude and vulgar. Here are a few of my reactions to this video:

1) Vatican has too much money.
This is the main theme and chorus of this music video - that the Vatican simply has more money than it knows what to do with. He depicts the Holy Father as throwing money around like it's going out of style because he simply has so much. Yes, there are some very magnificent pieces of artwork all around the Vatican. There are jewels and gold and all sorts of other wealth. But these are mostly for the people. The pope doesn't live in St. Peter's Basilica. He in fact has a very simple room basically just containing his books. My suspicion is that Trevor Moore himself probably has a more luxurious life than the pope. I never hear anyone accuse museums of having too much wealth. People don't demand that museums sell centuries-old artifacts to raise money. I could understand this argument if Vatican City was closed off to the public and the Church spend most of its money on luxury items, but it doesn't, not even close. I have been to the Vatican and it is truly amazing. It is awesome and wondrous. Anyone is welcome, rich or poor.

A woman once tried to use a jar of expensive perfume on Jesus. One man objected, saying that the perfume should be sold and money raised to give to the poor. This man's name is Judas and Jesus rebuked him for his comments. Jesus said it was proper to spend money and valuables worshiping him, and that is exactly what happens in the Basilicas and Cathedral in Rome.

2) Sex Abuse Scandal
This is of course the whipping boy that everyone goes to when criticizing the Church. Much of the criticism is valid. However, rarely is it contextualize. This is especially true in this case. In fact, the singer disgustingly tries to implicate Pope Benedict himself in child sex abuse, implying that he himself abused or continues to abuse children. This is nothing more than slander. Would he like a video accusing him of abusing children? Pope Benedict really did everything he could to end the abuse. This kind of criticism is never made in other spheres. No one blames the head of the School board for all the abuse cases that happen there. No one blames the president of the Boy Scouts for personally causes sex abuse in his organization. But when it comes to the Church, the gloves are off and there are no rules.

I've addressed this before, but more condoms has not been a solution to the HIV / AIDS problem in Africa. On the other hand, Uganda, which has taken a more Catholic approach, has seen success. Here is the article I wrote on this topic.

4) Conclusion
I do not really feel the need to go over every detail of this discusting video. It is full of foul language and unfounded attacks on the Church. As Professor Phillip Jenkins has pointed out anti-catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice in our world. And in my opinion, there are no limits as to what is considered acceptable. Oh well, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, we aren't Christians because it's easy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Papal Conclave 2013 Numbers & Statistics

Pope Benedict shocked the world when he announced he will be stepping down as Supreme Pontiff at the end of the month. Except for the usual papal death, the conclave will proceed as usual. I wanted to explore some of the numbers and statistics important to this conclave.

  • There will be 117 cardinal electors (cardinals eligible to vote in the conclave) next month.
  • There are a total of 209 living cardinals, but 92 will have reached the age of 80 before the day the See of Peter will become vacant and can no longer be part of the election process.
  • 67 of the current cardinal electors were chosen by Pope Benedict XVI, and 50 were picked by Pope John Paul II (This is more balanced than the electors at the 2005 Papal Election, wherein all but three (Joseph Ratzinger, Jaime Sin, and William Wakefield Baum) were chosen by Pope John Paul II)
  • The youngest cardinal elector is Baselios Cleemis (Isaac) Cardinal Thottunkal from India, who is 53 years old. The oldest cardinal elector will be Walter Cardinal Kasper of Germany, who will turn 80 before the conclave begins, on March 5. The oldest living cardinal is 98 year old Ersilio Cardinal Tonini of Ravenna-Cervia, Italy.
  • Paddy Power, a major betting organization, currently ranks Marc Cardinal Ouellette, former Archbishop of Quebec City and current Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, as the best odds for being chosen as the next pope. I would be happy with this result!
  • Pope Benedict will officially end his papacy at 8:00pm (1900 GMT), February 28, 2013. At this moment, there will begin a period called an interregnum, meaning between reigns, in which there is no pope.
  • Article 37 of Universi Dominici Gregis requires that a papal conclave begin between 15 and 20 days after the end of a papacy, usually due to the death of the pope. The requirement does not note any exceptions to this time period. However, one part reads "the Cardinal electors who are present must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent". Notice is says "for those who are absent". If, however, all cardinals are present before the 15 days are up, can the conclave commence? On this point, I am uncertain. My guess is no. Given airlines and other technology, it seems as though the elections of 2005, two from 1978, and even 1963, and 1958, could have in theory occurred before a 15 day waiting period. Yet none did. Therefore it seems likely the election would commence on the 16th of March. That is, Pope Benedict ends his duties on February 28, there is no activity for 15 full days, then the following day, the 16th, the elections would commence.
  • Pope Benedict is one of only a few popes to ever step down voluntarily. The most recent was Pope Gregory XII in 1415 who did so in order to settle the conflict arising from the Avignon Papacy. He saw this as the only solution and therefore it is arguable as to whether this was truly voluntary. The most notable case of a voluntary resignation is that of Celestine V in 1294. This pope explicitly gave permission to popes to resign and then did so himself soon afterward. Two other popes resigned. Benedict IX did so in 1045, but soon regretted his actions and reclaimed his papacy. Finally there is Pope John XVIII. Little is known of this pope's resignation beside the fact that it happened. Therefore, if you do not count papal abdications which were done to resolve an immediate conflict or in which the abdicating pope reconsidered his decision, we can conclude that Pope Benedict XVI will be only the third pope to voluntarily and permanently quit his post as pope while still alive.
This is a good start I think. I may have more facts and figures later.

Poor Lubomyr Cardinal Husar

File:Lubomyr Husar.jpgI'm not sure how he feels about this, but Lubomyr Cardinal Husar missed being able to attend a papal conclave by 2 days. If Husar had been born on February 28th, 1933, instead of two days earlier on February 26th, 1933, he could have participated in the upcoming papal election, which will probably occur on March 16, 2013.

Cardinal Husar retired in February 2011 and received the title "emeritus". Despite this, he would still qualify to participate in a conclave. Husar belongs to the Ukrainian Catholic Church, an Eastern sui juris church in communion with Rome.

It's not all bad news though. Cardinal Husar did get to participate in a papal conclave in 2005, when Pope Benedict was elected. Interestingly, Husar was considered papabile despite the fact that he was one of only two Eastern Catholic cardinal electors.

I wonder if Lubomyr Cardinal Husar is upset that he was born two days too early to participate in another conclave.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Ash Wednesday: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Palm Sunday: Sunday, March 24, 2013
Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday): Thursday, March 28, 2013
Good Friday: Friday, March 29, 2013
Holy Saturday: Saturday, March 30, 2013
Easter Sunday: Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lent 2013 began on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 and will end on Thursday, March 28, 2013. Once the Vigil Mass begins on Thursday, March 28, 2013, this officially marks the beginning of a season called Triduum, and the end of Lent.

Triduum begins on Thursday, March 28, 2013 at the beginning of the Mass of the Lord's Supper and ends at the end of Easter Sunday, on March 31, 2013.

In total, the Lenten season contains 44 days. From Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday is 40 days.

If you remove the Sundays, does Lent have 40 days? The answer is no. Every Lent contains 6 Sundays. Therefore, if they are removed from the equation, Lent would contain 38 days. However, if you include Good Friday and Holy Saturday as part of Lent, then removing those 6 Sundays would give a total of 40 days.

Much of the information provided here came from a Jimmy Akin article:

Goodbye Pope Benedict!

As you've probably already heard, Pope Benedict has made a rare decision to resign as pope, something which hasn't happened for some 600 years. He will officially quit on February 28, 2013 and then the conclave and election process will begin. I suspect we will see a new pontiff before Easter Sunday which is on March 31st, 2013.

I think this new reality is just sinking in for me. On the one hand, the pope is still alive so there isn't the mourning which came with the death of the last successor of Peter. In my mind I think okay he's still alive. But then it hits me there will be a conclave soon to elect a new pope. This is a huge event, one which has only occurred one other time in my lifetime in 2005. I will be following very closely.

People have already started guessing at who will be the next pope. Of particular interest to me is the possibility that Cardinal Marc Ouellet, former archbishop of the City of Quebec and current Prefect for the Congregation for Bishops, will be chosen as the 265th successor of Peter. Of course, he is but one of the papabile.

This is a very extraordinary event. As I mentioned previously, Pope Benedict will be the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign from the papacy while still living. The last time this happened was when Pope Gregory XII resigned his post in order to settle the conflict of the Avignon Papacy and disputes over the position. The last truly voluntary resignation of a pope happened with Celestine V in 1294 when he specifically allowed a pope to resign and then did so himself. Unfortunately, Celestine was captured from his tranquil life as a monk and imprisoned by his successor in a cell where he would die 10 months later.

It seems as though only 2 other popes in history have stepped down voluntarily: John XVIII in 1009 and Benedict IX in 1045 (he regretted his actions and later returned to the papacy). Basically this means only 1.1% of popes have voluntarily resigned (1.5% if you count Pope Gregory XII).

Many people are using this as an opportunity to voice their personal opinions when it comes to the Catholic Church. Often, these comments come from people outside the Church who have very little knowledge about it. Perhaps because people are very used to democracy, they believe in personally deciding what the Church should teach. I've heard many people proclaim that they Church must modernize and "get with the times". Funny thing is, it's doubtful they would join the Church even if this happened. I'm not sure why non-Catholics who do whatever they want are even concerned about what the Church teaches. If they disagree, why not just leave or ignore it?

Many people simply do not understand the Church. Many people think the pope, on a whim, could change constant moral teachings of the Church, such as laws concerning homosexual acts, abortion, female ordination, etc. As John Paul II and Benedict XVI have made clear, these issues form an important part of the Church's teaching and cannot be changed. Specifically, Pope John Paul II issued a controversial statement indicating the Church not only will not, but in fact cannot, change its stance on female ordination, because Jesus Christ himself did not do this, nor did the universal Church in her entire history.

Many people do not like the Catholic Church because of what it teaches. Instead of coming right out and saying this though, they attack Pope Benedict. They complain about how "conservative" he is. They try to blame him for the sex abuse scandal which he had nothing to do with and tried to stop and later rectify. Some even stoop so low as to criticize Benedict for his physical appearance. People who do this simply do not want to say they disagree with the Church and over a billion Catholics. Instead they vilify good people like our current pope.

The point is, people can choose to either obey or disobey the Church, and if they choose to disobey, the Church has no say in their life. So why do some people feel the need to react so strongly against the Church? I will leave that question to anyone who might want to answer in the comment section below.

Pope Benedict is an intellectual giant and a worthy shepherd. His successor will have big Prada shoes to fill. One interesting thing I heard today (from Karl Keating quoting Jeffrey Tucker) is that by resigning, the pope may possibly have some say or influence on who the next pope will be. Whoever it is, I pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as our current pontiff leaves the limelight and a new one takes over.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Response to Bulls**t episode on the Vatican

Penn and Teller have a show called "Bulls**t". I added the asterisks. The show is designed to refute commonly held beliefs. They've done episodes on dozens of topics, including violent video games, PETA, and the income tax. They also did one on the Vatican. I will offer a rebuttal to their video.

No Opposing Positions Presented
First of all, they admit at the beginning that unlike every other episode, this one will feature no counter arguments whatsoever. In every other episode, they present a premise, and they always have several guests who disagree with the comedic duo. However, on this episode, they say they will do no such thing. It will be completely one sided. Now, they claim they requested input from some "authorities" within the Vatican. They don't specify who they actually asked. Maybe they sent a letter to the pope himself expecting a reply. They specifically said they asked authorities within the Church. Notice they did not ask someone from Catholic Answers or from a Catholic publishing company or just a pro-Vatican person. They don't seem to care that the episode will completely one-sided. They just brush it off by saying the Vatican has been making its point for 2000 years and they say now the other side needs a chance. As if there has never been someone who disagreed with the Church. Anyway, the episode was designed to be biased.

Italian Comedian Sabina Guzzanti
The first specific story present by narrator Penn Jillette is that of Sabina Guzzanti who said something offensive about Pope Benedicts XVI. You could pretty much add "allegedly" to everything Penn says about her story. She said something offensive about the pope. The pope "allegedly" was upset about this and "allegedly" contacted the prime minister who "allegedly" threatened to charge this comedian with slander for what she said. He then goes off on speculation about how upset the pope was, how he reacted to what she said, etc. All conjecture. Oh yeah, and according to Penn, the pope also wanted this woman to be imprisoned. Again, pure conjecture and not from an unbiased source. Recently a man was charged for exposing private documents of the pope and was sentenced to time in prison. The pope intervened so that the man would not go to jail. Doesn't exactly sound like a man who likes imprisoning people. By the way, we are left in suspense as to what this comedian says as Penn says he will "return" to this later. I guess he will come back after he has defamed the Church enough so that, like a good lawyer, he can say anything about the Church and everyone will believe him.

Vatican and homosexuality
After the first segment, Penn introduces the head of an atheist / agnostic organization in the UK where the representative says he thought John Paul II was bad, but Benedict is much worse. He offers no reason for thinking so himself. The narrator comes on to cite an example of how "bad" Benedict is by mentioning a 2008 resolution introduced in the UN by France. The legislation would seek to remove discrimination against gay people. The show even admits the reason the Vatican opposed this because it could lead to pressuring countries to accept gay marriage, something the Vatican is opposed to. Penn interviews a guy who says this would not happen so automatically more nefarious motives are assumed once again. Penn goes so far as to say the Vatican is okay with gay people being killed. Wow, goodbye any actual evidence. Hello hyperbole! The Vatican has specifically said unjust discrimination against gay people is wrong. But don't confuse Penn with the facts!

It's surprising how the atheist representative can be taken seriously. He goes from the amazingly inaccurate estimate that "20%-50%" of Catholic priests are gay to the conclusion that Benedict XVI must be a really bad person to speak about against homosexual acts. I'm surprised he can't see his own logical fallacy here.

Penn Jillette then makes the surprisingly accurate statement that the Church does not consider homosexuality itself to be a sin, but just acting upon it. He even does a good job of explaining it, by saying the Church is against sex outside of marriage and gay people cannot marry and therefore homosexual sex is sinful. He goes off the rails when he implies homosexual sex condemns someone to hell automatically. He makes it seem like it is that sin in particular which will do this.

Penn then criticizes the Church's position that gays cannot marry or participate in homosexual acts by asking the rhetorical question of whether it makes sense to tell a bird it cannot fly. But this comes from a faulty understanding of sexuality as being uncontrollable and inevitable. This makes no more sense than saying "How can we tell an adulterer he should not cheat? Isn't that cruel?" One can choose to refrain from inappropriate sexual relations.

Back to Comedian Sabina Guzzanti
Sabina is now reintroduced to the show where she talks about how terrible it is to hear in the news the pope's opinion on various matters. Oh the humanity. We are teased once again about some blasphemous things this comedian said. But that will have to wait till later! In this segment, Sabina and the narrator goes on about how people are not free to express themselves in Italy. Well, let's wait and see what happened and how she was ultimately punished. I'm expecting it to be really brutal!

Sex Abuse Scandal
Of course, everyone knew this would be part of the show. This is a major tragedy and deserves to be addressed. There is too much to re-mention here, but I've written other articles addressing this in the past. Once again, the only people being interviewed are victims groups and lawyers of victims. One document that they mention is called Crimen sollicitationis. Penn claims the purpose of the document is to silence the victim on pain of excommunication which he claims means condemnation to hell - an amateur mistake. In fact, the purpose of this document is to maintain the dignity of the accused and the accuser until the process has been carried out. It does not preclude presenting the case to public authorities prior to the Church trial. John Allen Jr. wrote about this document and said it must be understood in the proper context.

In a similar vein, the show mentions a Vatican document which notes the statute of limitation on secrecy for sex abuse is 10 years after a minor has reached the age of 18. This was designed to protect the victims of abuse. I haven't had time to research it thoroughly yet, but again it refers to a statute of limitations, which by definition are beneficial to the victims.

Then Penn pulls out another old canard by claiming the Vatican is somehow responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the deaths of millions of people due to AIDS because of its stance on contraception. Penn also mentions overpopulation as an issue here. Many people see this as a black and white issue (i.e. more condoms = less AIDS). Scientifically this is not the case. For a variety of factors, in the real world, more condoms does not equal less AIDS in the real world. This can be seen in Africa. A couple of countries, including Uganda, implemented a policy of sexual gratification control and monogamy, which had much better results than the places which emphasized the use of contraception. Same thing with the Philippines, where contraception was or is prohibited. In many parts of Africa, condoms are more easily available than clean drinking water. If the theory that more contraception = less AIDS, then AIDS should have been eliminated from Africa by now. The fact of the matter is that promiscuity is what leads to infections. If people did what the Vatican said and waited until marriage to have sex and remain monogamous, this would in fact eliminate AIDS. Of course, people with AIDS would refrain from having sex out of love for their potential partner. But for some reason, people do not think that people can control their sex drive, especially in Africa. This is a very dim view of humanity, in my opinion.

The discussion of condoms as AIDS prevention switches to condoms are being morally permissible within marriage. Of course, they interview many dissident Catholics such as the president of Catholics For Choice. They make it seem like the Church being against contraception is just some silly rule that was just arbitrarily decided and that it can be easily reversed. One of the reasons for the opposition to contraception is that it purposely prevents an act from fulfilling its natural and healthy purpose. The purpose of sex is ultimately procreation. To purposely thwart the actual intention of the act is morally wrong. Plus, we can see all the negative consequences of contraception which were correctly predicted by Pope Paul VI when he published Humanae Vitae, such as promiscuity and the objectification of people.

Penn also claims the pope himself said contraception entering the water from women's urine is having negative effects on the environment. He makes another amateur mistake here, since this is a statement from the L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Newspaper, not by the pope, and it is not an official Church document.

Plus, Penn claims the Church was opposed to the small pox vaccine, a claim I can find no backing for anywhere.

Back to Comedian Sabina Guzzanti ONCE Again
Let's hope this time Penn spits out what this comedian said and the consequences. Already, so he finally gets to it, although I was quite disappointed. This "comedian" essentially says in a very vulgar way that she believes the pope will end up in hell. She adds other things concerning homosexuality which I do not want to repeat here. It was disgusting. Why did she say all of this? Because the pope dared offer his opinion that school children in Italy should not be forced to hear about homosexual acts. For this, Sabina believes Italy is no longer a democracy. By the way, poor oppressed Sabina was applauded by a large part of the crowd to whom she told her joke.

In the end, Sabina was not sentenced to any time in jail and did not receive any penalty. The Vatican issued a statement saying they forgive her for her comments. Amazingly, Penn and Teller are able to spin this into making it seem like the Vatican did something bad. Wow, they must really be desperate!

The conclusion of the video is a collage of the guests basically insulting the Church, calling it greedy, power-hungry, homophobic, etc. Fill in the blanks. You get the idea. Penn ends with a short monologue rehashing some of the grievances and canards presented in the video.

This video was a particularly lop-sided presentation of the Vatican. It has no value for honest truth-seekers. But to a large part of the public which only thinks the Catholic Church is bad, you will probably be cheering for this error-laded documentary.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Hard Lessons from Local Priest

So sometimes I hear complaints that priests are too soft on various tough subjects. They either ignore controversy or water it down so much the message becomes unclear. Today however, I witnessed the opposite. I was attending Mass at St. Teresa's and Fr. Roy began his homily with a joke. But later in his  sermon, he started talking about abortion. He said children were being slaughtered, and he was very critical of the Roe v. Wade decision of the United States Supreme Court. He said we must do everything we can to end this.

These were very direct words that you do not hear often from the pulpit. Several weeks back, Fr. Brown from the Latin Mass addressed a similar topic with similar force. This goes to show that priests are not somehow "forbidden" from bringing up tough subjects.

Fr. Roy also addressed pornography and if I recall correctly, drug use. I believe he also mentioned something about inappropriate sexual relations outside of marriage.

Having said all that, there is another issue I have and that is people who want the priest to talk about sins committed by "others". They want sermons on sins they would never commit. Popular topics include homosexuality and abortion. Most of the people who demand such sermons would probably not find themselves involved with these things to begin with. I don't often hear people demanding the priest talk about sins which affect them personally.

I think hard-hitting messages are important. I would like to see priests be very direct and give solid advice which can be used. The primary purpose of this, though, is personal development. It is not an opportunity to condemn others. We should focus on our own spiritual journey and not on looking for specks in other people's eyes.