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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Choosing Martyrdom for Someone Else

Everyone is interested in making Alfie Evans the poster boy for their personal cause. The causes range the gamut from decrying the entrenched evil of socialized medicine to decrying the entrenched evil of parents who refuse to accept that their child is dying.

What a lot of people don't realize is that EVERY doctor who has been consulted about Alfie agrees that Alfie cannot be treated. He can only be made comfortable as he dies. CNN reports:
"At that time, it was suggested that Alfie could be transported to Rome's Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital, a Vatican hospital and the main pediatric hospital serving southern Italy, for treatment.

However, a subsequent visit to Alfie and consultation with his doctors led the Roman doctors to conclude that the child's condition is irreversible and untreatable, according to a statement from Alder Hey....

Professor Dominic Wilkinson, a consultant neonatologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital and director of Medical Ethics at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, said, "In Alfie's case, none of the foreign experts have offered any new treatment or any new outlook for Alfie. The Italian specialists have apparently indicated that they believe that his care should be palliative."
A lot of people also fail to realize that Alfie's father agrees with this assessment:
"“Mr Thomas Evans does not seek treatment. He seeks palliative care in line with his Catholic faith principles,” says his barrister Paul Diamond,"

"Alfie’s receiving food, water, oxygen as well as all the standard drugs for his belly."
Also, many of Alfie's supporters in England do not disagree with this assessment:
Pamela Jacuniak who suggested members of Liverpool’s Polish community rally under Alder Hey Hospital, told little Alfie has a right to live.
She said: “As Poles, we believe the little boy has a right to live and it is up to the parents to decide where Alfie needs to be treated.
“If we believe there is a chance he can live on then it must be used to 100 percent.
“Each and every one of our hearts are breaking because the judges have ruled in a barely humane way to end Alfie’s life.
“There are patients similar to Alfie in Poland whoa re palliative patients and receive full healthcare until the moment of their death.”
Clearly, at this point, Alfie is receiving the palliative care his father and all the doctors agree is appropriate. Would that have happened without all the publicity? I don't know. Certainly no one expected Alfie to survive without a ventilator. Remember, his parents were originally fighting any attempt to remove it. Since it has been taken away, they have had to resort to mouth-to-mouth a couple of times in order to keep their boy breathing. No one... let me repeat that... NO ONE intimately familiar with his case thinks Alfie can be treated. He can only be made comfortable as he dies. As long as the hospital is supplying hydration, nutrition and oxygen, there is no reason to fly the boy to Italy. Again, it is possible the hospital wouldn't be doing this except for the publicity.  Or it is possible that they would have done. I honestly don't know. But it is not the case that Alfie's situation demonstrates the entrenched evils of socialized medicine, nor is it the case that Alfie's situation demonstrates the parents are evil for wanting palliative care.

Whatever led up to the current situation, it is clearly true that Alfie is currently being cared for as well as can be expected given his horrific medical condition. Food, water and oxygen are ordinary care, not medicine, not extraordinary. The Catholic Church is quite, quite clear on this.

But keep in mind that Catholic teaching denies the necessity to undertake extraordinary care. And, yes, there does come a point in every dying process where those extraordinary measures might actually have turned into torture. The courts have a very legitimate Catholic right to be concerned about that. As the brilliant Dominican theologian Fr. Robert Barry once told me, "You can choose martyrdom for yourself. But you cannot choose martyrdom for someone else." Alfie's parents do not have the right to choose martyrdom for him, and they appear to understand that they do not have that right. Unfortunately, it isn't clear that all of Alfie's supporters understand that.

Now, how do we know Alfie is getting palliative care? The news sources do not agree in all details. Yes, there are contradictory sources out there concerning the exact details of how Alfie is being treated. But I notice the "sources" that say Alfie is not getting palliative care have no direct quotes from the parents, while the sources who say he is getting palliative care are directly quoting the parents, who say that he is.

Whenever you read about cases like this, or news about something the Pope is supposed to have said, or really any case that seems designed to get you angry, remember, there are people who make money off of you when you are angry. There are a lot of news sources interested in stirring up a feeding frenzy so they can gorge on the clicks generated by their click-bait. Don't feed the trolls (I'm looking at YOU, LifesiteNews).

The charge has been laid that this essay does not deal with the question of parental authority. Alright, let's deal with it. Certainly a parent has authority over his or her own child except when the parent is abusing or neglecting that child, at which point other authorities have a duty to step in. But that's precisely the problem. 
What constitutes "abuse" or "neglect"?

This is where it gets hard. Let's say there is a parent who believes his/her child is possessed, and further believes that severe beatings will relieve the child of the demonic possession. Should "parental authority" permit the parent to "treat" the demonic possession by severely beating the child?

What if the parent hired someone else to beat the child? Is that ok? What if we substitute "illness" for "demonic possession" and the people hired were doctors?  It is a prudential decision to figure out what constitutes appropriate exercise of parental authority. What if the doctors hired to beat the child, examined the child and said, "No, not only are we not going to beat this child, we are going to make sure you don't get anyone else to do it either." Are those doctors violating parental authority?

When Jehovah Witness' parents refuse blood transfusions for their children, should the state force the blood transfusion anyway? What about vaccinations? What about restricting movement during mass outbreaks of illness? Is it reasonable to move a child a thousand miles just so the child can receive exactly the same food, water and oxygen? We all assume that none of the medical professionals are thinking clearly, but what if it is the parents who are not thinking clearly?

This is a serious problem. Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy is a psychological disorder in which a caregiver, usually a parent, seeks attention by acting as if his or her healthy child has a long-term or otherwise debilitating illness. The caregiver's self-image is bound up in being a caregiver, and s/he can't afford for the child to be healthy, because that threatens the caregiver's self-image. But what if the caregiver also can't afford to let an ill child die, because that same psychological disorder also threatens the caregiver's self-image? If the child is dead, the caregiver loses the self-image of caregiver just as surely as if the child were to recover.

What if the parents are suffering from a form of Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy, and dying Alfie is the focus of their pathology? Isn't that a possibility as well? And what happens to parental authority if that is the case?

These are hard questions. A lot of prudence and care have to be taken to make sure the child is not being victimized by anyone - not the doctors, not the parents, not the media, nor any of the people speaking out about the case. I don't know any more details than what I read in the news. Neither do you. Doctors who have personally examined Alfie have all reached the same conclusion: he's dying.

Clearly, there was an argument about palliative care. It is quite possible the hospital has only provided food, water and an oxygen tube because of public pressure. But we are simply ignoring the facts if we think (a) anyone knows how to treat Alfie or (b) he is not being given food, water and oxygen.

The fact is, no one who has personally examined Alfie is offering anything but palliative care. His own father is quoted as saying he expects only palliative care. He is getting palliative care. So, it looks like parental authority is being honored. Perhaps it is only being honored after public outcry, but it is being honored.

Some argue that the UK should just hand the child over to Italy and be done with it. Since Alfie is a British citizen, the British courts have an interest in overseeing care. They can relinquish that interest to Italy, but apparently they don't want to. Similarly, Alfie's parents could just relinquish their interests to the state, but Alfie's parents don't want to. I don't blame Alfie's parents for not wanting to do that, so I can't very well blame the UK courts for displaying the same sentiment.

Update II
Find the court case testimony on Alfie here

And Alfie's parents admit the charges that the hospital staff were evil was mostly a hoax.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Why We Need Illegals

One in 4 children living in the U.S. in 2016 had at least one parent who was born outside the U.S., according to a study released Wednesday (4/18/2018).
If 25% of the children born in the US are born to immigrants, then are we correct to assume immigrants make up 25% of the US population? Well, no, we aren't:
More than 43.7 million immigrants resided in the United States in 2016, accounting for 13.5 percent of the total U.S. population of 323.1 million, according to American Community Survey (ACS) data.
Immigrants have 25% of the babies, but make up only 13.5% of the population. But what percentage of the immigrant population is illegal?
Lawful immigrants account for three-quarters of the foreign-born population in the U.S. – 33.8 million people out of 44.7 million in 2015, the most recent year for which numbers were available.
So, illegal immigrants are 25% of the immigrant population. But wait! How many children are there in the US?
[T]he number of children (under age 18) in the United States is at an all-time high of 74.2 million. But, the share of the national population who are children is at an all time low of 24%. Based on data from the 2010 census, we find that while there is a small increase in the number of children, the rate at which that population is growing has slowed dramatically over the past 20 years.
Wow. The population of children is not growing much. But, if the US has 74 million children, and one in four belong to immigrants, then 18.5 million children belong to immigrants. What percentage of those 18.5 million belong to illegal immigrants?
4.5 million children born in the U.S. lived with at least one undocumented parent.
If illegals have 4.5 million children, and immigrants have 18.5 million children, then illegals have 25% of immigrant children.

Immigrants make up 13.5% of the nation.
Immigrants beget 25% of the nation's children.

Illegals make up 25% of the immigrant population.
Illegals beget 25% of all immigrant children.

Immigrants, both legal and illegal, are punching way above their weight when it comes to producing the next generation of Americans. In fact, immigrants produce twice as many children as we would expect (Notice that the all-time high percentage of immigrants to this country is 14.8% in 1890. We aren't at peak immigrant.)

Why are immigrants producing so many children? Because the median age of America is 37 and rising. As a nation, we are slowly approaching menopause. The median age of white Americans is 43, with a modal age of 55. That group is well past menopause.

On the other hand, legal immigrants are, on average, much younger than Americans. Illegal immigrants are, on average, much younger than legal immigrants.
Lawful immigrants are more likely to be of working age (18 to 64) than people born in the U.S. ... Three-quarters (76% in 2014) are in this age group, compared with 60% of the U.S. born and 92% of unauthorized immigrants.
But, even though immigrants are much younger than the rest of Americans, and even though immigrants have twice as many kids as the rest of America,  America's fertility rate is still below replacement level. It is just 1.8 children per fertile woman. It needs to be 2.1. We are turning into Japan, a nation that currently sells more adult diapers than baby diapers.

Mars needs women. So does America. Fertile women. Legal, illegal, doesn't matter. If we don't have children, we disappear as a nation. Ask Toys R' Us or America's colleges and universities how America's contraception/abortion mentality that kills off children (i.e., future customer/citizens) works out.

We need illegals as much as they need us.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

A Modest Proposal

According to the World Bank:
Cities are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Half of the  world’s population lives in cities, a share that is likely to reach 70 percent in 2050 (Figure 5). Cities consume as much as 80 percent of energy production worldwide and account for a roughly equal share of global greenhouse gas emissions.
 According to Pew Research:
In 2008 Barack Obama won 88 of the 100 most populous counties; in his re-election bid four years later he won 86. ... A 2014 Pew Research Center report on political polarization found that liberals are about twice as likely as conservatives to live in urban areas, while conservatives are more concentrated in rural areas.
So, Democrats cause global warming. Which means America can easily solve its global warming problem: just kill all the Democrats. Problem solved. And our overpopulation problem goes away at the same time. Government efficiency at its finest.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Why Is Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday?

Jews count days as beginning at sundown because that's what Genesis says, "Evening came and morning followed, the first day" (Genesis 1). Catholicism is the completion and perfection of Judaism, so for purposes of liturgy, Catholics calculate days the same way.

That's why you can go to Mass on Saturday evening, but it counts for Sunday - the Saturday evening Mass is technically supposed to be after sundown, so that Sunday has already begun, liturgically and Scripturally speaking. Now, this poses a problem for modern man. After all, sundown varies from season to season, but people have a hard time scheduling an event whose start time might vary literally day to day. What to do? The Church allows the local bishop  to unilaterally decree a set time for "liturgical sundown" that holds throughout the year for when Sunday liturgy may begin. So, Saturday evening Mass can only start after 4:30 PM or 5:00 PM, or whatever time the bishop has set. Anything prior to that only counts for Saturday, not Sunday. Anything prior to that uses Saturday's Mass readings, not Sunday's.

And this is precisely how we calculate that Jesus' body spent three days in the tomb:
  • 1st day: Jesus died on Friday before sundown, so He is dead on Friday. Nicodemus has to get His corpse into the tomb before sundown in order to honor the Sabbath rest. We assume that he, being a good Jew, managed this. Mosaic law decreed that anyone hung on a tree should not hang overnight, but should be buried before sundown (Deut 21:23).
  • 2nd day: Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.
  • 3rd day: Once the sun is down on Saturday evening, the third day has already begun. Jesus rises some time after Saturday sundown, possibly around midnight or 3 AM, so He rises on the 3rd day.
This is why none of the Jewish contemporaries to the apostles contested the fact that Jesus was in the tomb for three days. By everyone's count, He had been.

This also explains Easter Vigil Mass. Easter Vigil Mass is any Mass that begins after Holy Saturday sundown. As long as it begins after Saturday sundown, it begins on the third day. In fact, the rubrics indicate that the Easter Vigil Mass is not to begin until the first star can be seen in the sky.

Incidentally, there are actually three different Easter Masses: the Easter Vigil Mass, the Mass at sunrise and the Mass for the day. Each Mass has different readings and a different significance in the life of the Church. But it is the Easter Vigil Mass that all Catholics are encouraged to attend.

Only the Easter Vigil Mass has not one, but two different plenary indulgences attached: the renewal of baptismal vows at Vigil Mass is a plenary AND the fact that you attended a Mass wherein someone received First Communion is also a plenary. Now, you can only win one plenary indulgence a day, but the fact that there are two in operation here is kind of neat. The Easter Vigil is considered the Mother of All Feasts - it is the Mass from which all other Masses draw power and grace. It is the conduit of grace into the full liturgical year.

It's also a lot of fun to watch the candidates get baptized, if only because baptismal water is supposed to be running (thus "living" water) and cold ("we are baptized into His death"). The ancient instructions preferred a river to a lake (living water over still water) and cold water to hot. I have been to baptisms where the candidate accused us of having put ice into the water. To which, I don't see the problem, because we took the ice out before the Mass started, so...

Scalfari and Pope Francis

There has recently been much brouhaha about the Italian journalist Scalfari's mis-reporting of Pope Francis' words. Scalfari is 93, an atheist, and has a history of mis-reporting facts when it comes to the Pope.

The Pope continues to allow him personal access, continues to speak with him. Now Scalfari reports that the Pope says there is no hell. Many Catholics, disgruntled with the Pope, have insisted that Scalfari must be reporting correctly, that this is merely one more instance of the Pope's heretical leanings.

Normal, sane Catholics smile and shake their heads. We recall all the times the Pope has taught on hell, and the need to avoid it, and we laugh at the poor memory, the foot-stamping anger, of some of the Church's smaller children.

So, why does  the Pope keep speaking to an atheist who is so near death? To sane Catholics, the answer is obvious. In Les Miserables, when the bishop hands the silver to the thief, the old maidservant can't understand why the bishop is doing this. But we in the audience applaud the bishop for doing the Catholic thing. With every meeting, the Pope hands the silver to a dying atheist journalist, a thief who steals the truth with his words instead of his fists.

So, we can be the sane Catholics who applaud the Pope.
Or we can be the old maidservant, who can't understand what the bishop is doing.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Confession on Good Friday and Holy Saturday

The Congregation for Divine Worship issued the document Paschales Solemnitatis in 1988 which states:
"59. On this day [Good Friday], in accordance with ancient tradition, the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist: Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful during the Celebration of the Lord's Passion alone, though it may be brought at any time of the day to the sick who cannot take part in the celebration." 
"61. All celebration of the sacraments on this day is strictly prohibited, except for the sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick. Funerals are to be celebrated without singing, music, or the tolling of bells." 
"74. On this day [Holy Saturday] the Church abstains strictly from the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass. Holy Communion may only be given the form of Viaticum. The celebration of marriages is forbidden, as also the celebration of other sacraments, except those of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick."
If your priest thinks he is forbidden to hear confessions during Triduum, he is sadly misinformed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Skillful Liar

My son sent me an interesting piece from Chronicle of Higher Education about what a modern scholar thinks the university should be. 
The author of that Chronicle piece is a liar.

First, he fails the very first test of a true humanities scholar: he refuses to define his terms. When faced with the problem of defining what constitutes humanities, his response is, "We know it when we see it." That is a lie.

Take Shakespeare, for instance. He is the cornerstone of English literature, yet it is possible to get advanced degrees in many places without ever taking a course on Shakespeare.
Conservatives want the humanities, but they define the humanities as including the Great Books, among which Shakespeare is extremely prominent. Liberals (who control the actual delivery of humanities course content at universities), refuse to build their "humanities" program around the literature of dead white European males. They instead think the cornerstone of the humanities is identity politics, and they build their courses accordingly.

So, the author wants to pretend there is some kind of paradox between conservatives espousing the humanities and those same conservatives refusing to fund it. However, once you realize the problem that the author refuses to engage, to wit, there is a huge disagreement about what the humanities really are, then you realize there is no paradox at all. Conservatives don't view university liberal humanities courses as actually having anything to do with the humanities, therefore they refuse to fund the farce.

The author's matching paradox, the idea that liberals defend the humanities, but have gutted it of Western European values, is also not a paradox once you realize how the left defines "humanities." From their point of view, they are cleansing the humanities of bias and taint, not gutting them
And liberals have successfully redefined the humanities into their own image simply because they do control the course content. Of course, by redefining the humanities, they've destroyed any reason there might have been for taking any courses. After all, if humanities is merely identity politics, I don't need to pay $40,000 a year to have a university professor tell me who I am. I can simply look in the mirror. My own life experience is worth much more than any dead white European male's introspections. I don't need to go to university to know what my own life experience is. So, the liberal definition is self-destructive. If the liberals are correct, if the humanities really are nothing but identity politics, then the humanities courses have no reason to exist.

But the author can ignore this entire problem and construct fake paradoxes if he doesn't engage the definition. And he KNOWS this, so he deliberately doesn't engage the definition.

Second, this allows him to make absolutely absurd remarks like this, "A school — be it a Gymnasium, a Realschule, a lycée, a grammar school, or a public school — exists to teach. The university is a different kind of thing. It was founded as a corporation or union of masters, both to allay the pernicious effects of competition for students and to exercise some sort of quality control on the doctrine propounded. "

This is simply incorrect. In the original university setting, the students hired the professor directly. Students pooled their money to bring someone in to teach them. If the professor turned out to be a bust, the students fired him and hired someone else. The "union of masters" came into existence to prevent this. Everyone in the union agreed to work only for a contract that the students couldn't break. This mean professors didn't have to worry about being fired because they stunk.That's where the tradition of "tenure" arose. The "pernicious effects" and "quality control" nonsense ("We're here to help YOU!") was all introduced as an excuse to the rubes, that reasoning was used to hide the fact  the professors had gotten together to protect their rice bowls, their income.

He kind of even admits that this was the situation when he says, " Indeed, some universities, like Cambridge, supported a vast ecosystem of teachers who played a vital role in the actual education of students (for pay), but who had no formal connection to the university itself." Yeah, no kidding.
Third. But this yahoo doesn't stop there. He then simply makes up nonsense out of whole cloth about the university curriculum. Part of "travers[ing] the arts curriculum" was always education in Catholic theology. Is the author advocating that? If not, why not? He wants the arts, he should have ALL the arts, right?
Again, he half-way admits this when he says, "Alongside the arts were the three highers — theology, law, and medicine." But he couldn't bear to admit this without deliberately lying again. After all, since theology, law and medicine are HIGHER arts, then the other seven (the trivium and quadrivium) sat BELOW the three major arts and drew their authority from them. 
And, actually, medicine was an also-ran. The original reason for the universities were theology (making God's ways known to man) and law (making man's ways in accordance with God's ways). Medicine was added later. Theology and law were NOT "alongside." Theology and law were central.  The trivium and quadrivium were not alongside, they were BELOW and DERIVATIVE.

This allows him to tell the biggest lie, "The reality is that the humanities have always been about courtoisie, a constellation of interests, tastes, and prejudices that marks one as a member of a particular class." Which is a careful half-truth. The humanities have always been about being CATHOLIC, being universal, having a universal palate, able to absorb all the things of men, weigh all the things of men, because all of mankind is called to Christ.

Compare the universal call to holiness to the modern "humanities" of identity politics. The modern humanities is not about binding everything back together again to make one harmonious whole, it is not about universality or university, it is instead about identity politics and fragmentation.
Again, the author pretty much admits this when he explicitly SAYS that the humanities are about fragmentation, not universality, "Deep down, what most humanists value about the humanities is that they offer participation in a community in which they can share similar tastes in reading, art, food, travel, music, media, and yes, politics" The emphasis here is on the "similar tastes." All the blacks sit at this table, all the Mexicans at that one, the whites can go sit by the kitchen, and keep the Asians near the door, because they should really just leave. The modern humanities don't want similar tastes, but similar distastes - hate the white guy, hate the Asian, hate the "privileged", hate the hetero.
The author is a liar, but a skillful one.

I can only wonder if he is a true believer in his own lies.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The 10-Second Fast

The Ten-Second Fast

A lot of people want to test themselves during Lent by learning how to fast. That is a laudable endeavor. But not everyone can fast.

Diabetics, children, the aged, pregnant women... there is a long list of people who, for various medical reasons, simply cannot fast. Or, you might not have a medical reason, but you might still be unable to fast. For instance, you might find yourself in a social situation where it would insult the host if you did not consume food. Catholic Faith is not meant to insult people. As long as you break no Church law, then breaking your fast with your host is the charitable thing to do. The person you interact with is an image of Christ, the Bridegroom. You don't want to let your personal fast turn you into the man at the wedding feast who refuses to eat.

So, does this mean that if you have a medical condition or are in an awkward social situation, you cannot fast?

No, not at all.

Remember, apart from the prescribed fasting times, such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday or the Eucharistic Fast, there is no "minimum length" to a fast. There are people who have tried to fast for 40 days (the Church recommends against this, by the way). Bully for them. But that is really not necessary. The Eucharistic fast used to be a lot longer than the single hour we now observe. But the fact that it is shorter is not really the problem people make it out to be.

As St. Thérèse of Lisieux observed:
I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new. We live in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts instead. Well, I mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection. [...] Thine Arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven. To get there I need not grow; on the contrary, I must remain little, I must become still less.
In honor or her brilliant, insightful way of presenting the ancient teaching, we recognize the truth: it isn't the length or difficulty of the task that makes it holy, it is the love which with the task is done. The rich man may give away his wealth, but if the beggar woman throws her penny into the collection with great love, than her contribution is greater than that of the rich man who loves less.

And so we find the meat of the matter. If the length of the fast isn't really relevant (and, apart from the Church's prescribed fasts, it isn't), then a Catholic's voluntary fast can be of any length. Even ten seconds is enough. And anyone can do a 10-second fast.

Have you just become aware that you are thirsty?
Then, while you contemplate God with love, simply refrain from drinking anything for a count of ten.

You have fasted.
Now take your drink of water, satisfy your health needs, make your host smile, and no one is the wiser but you.

Done with great love, this ten-second fast is a greater accomplishment than a 40-day fast. You can fast for the whole of Lent, in ten-second, five-second, one-second increments, here and there, scattered throughout your day. Diabetic, pregnant, child - it matters not. You still consume all you need for health of the body, while fasting as you need for the health of the soul.

And so the day becomes holy, and God is woven into your life, and Lent fulfills its purpose.