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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Catholic Church Right Again

I've spent the last couple of days reading through the papal speeches made last week. Pope Benedict consistently drove home the message:
a) the individual is in the image and likeness of God,
b) the family is the necessary context in which the individual is formed into this image and likeness, and
c) the Faith is the only thing which can effectively enable the family to do its task.

Oddly enough, social science confirms every one of those assertions. As both my book and
George Will's latest column point out, the family is the single best predictor for success in education. On average, if a child comes from a stable, husband-wife family, that child will learn better than children who don't.

This family effect is greater than all other influences combined. Class size, dollar expenditure, socio-economic class, education level of the teacher - all of it pales in comparison to family influence.

Home schooling works primarily because only stable families can do it.
Unstable families don't have the emotional resources, the willingness and ability to sacrifice and to make culturally unpopular decisions, that is necessary to handle the task.

Support for the family has to be paramount. The school, the parish, the diocese exists to serve and sanctify the family - that's how the Catholic Faith survives.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fallow Land

Thomas Sowell has just written an interesting column on the problem created by government subsidy of higher education. I greatly respect Sowell, but I think his column can be extended just a tad.

Why does the government waste national resources by subsidizing a kind of higher education that results in politically correct drones? If the question is framed in the right way, it answers itself.

Perhaps the government pays people to go to college for the same reason it pays farmers NOT to till their land. It is a subsidy to assure non-production.

If people are trained in non-production, they will more easily be rendered into indentured servants. And what is someone who owes tens of thousands to the banks if not an indentured servant of those same banks?

Indentured servants used to be tied to the land, because the land was the primary means by which to generate income. Now that income is no longer agriculturally based, but service based, getting people to sell themselves into servitude requires only control of what people know.

This is best managed by keeping them away from real knowledge and feeding them pablum instead: thus the modern liberal "curriculum." And - for bonus points - you get them to pay you for the privilege of being intellectually castrated.

It's a sweet system, if you own the means of production.

Seen in this light, the government subsidies to higher education make a ton of economic sense. Corporations get indentured servants who are made psychologically subservient, forced to pay off huge debts, and are thus unable to start businesses which might otherwise compete directly with the existing corporations.

It is no coincidence that a great number of the multi-millionaires in the nation today are college dropouts.

Walter Williams,
one of the leading economists in the nation, wrote a column this week (two months later) that paraphases my point above.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pope Benedict's address to Catholic Educators

I haven't found much on what the Pope had to say on this subject, apart from this story from Catholic News Service.

I found three aspects of the excerpts I was able to find rather significant.

1) The first involves the Pope's reference to the reputation of Catholic schools in the United States:
"I know from my own days as a professor, and I have heard from your bishops and officials of the Congregation for Catholic Education, that the reputation of Catholic institutes of learning in this country is largely due to yourselves and your predecessors," he said.
Notice what he doesn't say. He doesn't say if that reputation was good or bad. He just said that the current instructors and their predecessors are responsible for the reputation Catholic education has now. That's quite a bit less of a statement than one might hope for.

2) President Lazarus, president of the University of Dallas, is reported to have been happy that the Pope emphasized the importance of academic freedom.

Those of you who heard the Guadalupe Radio Network broadcast on the blasphemy permitted on UD campus might recall that President Lazarus hid behind academic freedom. You might think I have egg on my face. Read the excerpt below and decide for yourself how accurate President Lazarus' summary of that portion of the speech seems to be:
He made one specific reference to Catholic college presidents, near the end of his address, telling them he wished to "reaffirm the great value of academic freedom." He also noted that any appeals to academic freedom "to justify positions that contradict the faith and teaching of the church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission."
3) The Pope seems to have read my book (or I seem to have read Catholic documents fairly accurately - take your pick):

"Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students," he said. It also is not "dependent upon statistics" nor can it be "equated simply with orthodoxy of course content." Instead, he stressed that the Catholic identity of a school or religious education program "demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith."

I look forward to reading the whole speech when it is made available.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Living Like Animals

Alright, I don't get it.

According to all the experts,:
  • single moms make great parents,
  • homosexuals make great parents (remember Heather Has Two Mommies?),
  • it takes a village to raise a child,
  • rape of underage girls is ok as long as it is an alcohol-fueled lesbian rape (ala Vagina Monologues),
  • and we have to be accepting of alternate family arrangements.
But when a village actually tries to raise the children (as in the FLDS Church in Texas), suddenly everyone gets upset. Some of the kids identified multiple women as their mother. And, until 2005, the age of consent in the Lone Star State for a girl to get married with her parents' permission was: 14.

We saw a similar situation play out with the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. The priests implicated in the scandal were simply living a vibrant and active homosexual lifestyle, but the press got upset about it. Now, the lifestyle they were living was, in this case, in direct opposition to the theology they claimed to espouse, but the media outrage was identical.

Why are the same news media who are so insistent on everyone accepting the bulleted principles above now so outraged when they find people living according to the very principles they espouse (pardon the pun)?

Because secular humanists are allowed to live this way, but people who profess belief in this Christ guy are NOT allowed to live this way, even if their distorted version of Christian theology teaches that they SHOULD live this way.

So, the next question is obvious.

Assume we had exactly the same situation, with one difference.

Assume everyone on the Texas compound prayed five times a day, gave alms, and made the hajj to Mecca. That is, imagine an identical situation, the only difference being that the deity references were all to Allah, the women all dressed in burquas, and the men all sported a fistful of beard.

Would a convoy of armed Texas deputies have come after them, separated husbands from their (underage) wives, and shipped 400 children away?

And if they had, who would be yelling the loudest about discrimination, racism, etc.?

Polygamy and pedophilia are crimes against humanity. But no one points out that the FLDS are hardly unique practitioners of these abuses. Over a billion people around the world engage in identical activity. Why doesn't anyone in the media point this out?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Has America Lost Her Salt?

In his most recent column for Catholic Exchange, Mark Shea makes much of the fact that the press has, for the last three years, been intolerably cruel to Pope Benedict XVI. He uses as evidence word searches on Google.
“Benedict XVI” rigid – 52,800
“Benedict XVI” hardliner – 27,100
“Benedict XVI” inflexible – 10,300
“Benedict XVI” dominating – 290,000
“Benedict XVI” ruthless – 126,000
“Benedict XVI” enforcer – 28,800
“Benedict XVI” archaic – 22,400
“Benedict XVI” medieval – 169,000
“Benedict XVI” intolerant – 148,000
“Benedict XVI” backward – 122,000
“Benedict XVI” “Hitler Youth” – 30,700
“pope cracks down” – 1,080,000
The conclusion we're supposed to draw is that all of those terms are being attributed to the Pope. Well, let's test that assumption. We'll compare the Pope's hit count with someone that the press might not be so adversarial towards: Hillary Clinton. The Pope's numbers are in parentheses for ease of comparison.
“Hillary Clinton” rigid – 102,000 (52,800)
“Hillary Clinton” hardliner – 26,100 (27,100)
“Hillary Clinton” inflexible – 31,400 (10,300)
“Hillary Clinton” dominating – 215,000 (290,000)
“Hillary Clinton” ruthless – 125,000 (126,000 )
“Hillary Clinton” enforcer – 47,600 (22,800)
“Hillary Clinton” archaic – 53,300 (22,400)
“Hillary Clinton” medieval – 126,000 (169,000)
“Hillary Clinton” intolerant – 614,000 (148,000)
“Hillary Clinton” backward – 267,000 (122,000)
“Hillary Clinton” “Hitler Youth” – 11,700 (30,700)
“Hillary Clinton cracks down” – 426,000 (1,080,000)
Hmmm... Judging by the numbers, the press is roughly twice as hard on Hillary as it is on the Pope in every area except the Hitler Youth connection and "cracking down".

But maybe everyone hates Hillary. Let's pick someone who has only been in the news for about three or four years, someone not quite so divisive... Hmmm... who could we pick?
“Barack Obama" rigid – 103,000 (Clinton: 102,000, Pope: 52,800)
“Barack Obama” hardliner – 24,500 (Clinton 26,100, Pope: 27,100)
“Barack Obama” inflexible – 37,800 (Clinton: 31,400, Pope: 10,300)
“Barack Obama” dominating – 247,000 (Clinton: 215,000, Pope: 290,000)
“Barack Obama” ruthless – 354,000 (Clinton: 125,000, Pope: 126,000 )
“Barack Obama” enforcer – 93,800 (Clinton: 47,600, Pope: 22,800)
“Barack Obama” archaic – 105,000 (Clinton: 53,300, Pope: 22,400)
“Barack Obama” medieval – 131,000 (Clinton: 126,000, Pope: 169,000)
“Barack Obama” intolerant – 616,000 (Clinton: 614,000, Pope: 148,000)
“Barack Obama” backward – 272,000 (Clinton: 267,000, Pope: (122,000)
“Barack Obama” “Hitler Youth” – 8,500 (Clinton: 11,700, Pope: 30,700)
“Barack Obama cracks down” – 364,000 (Clinton: 426,000, Pope: 1,080,000)
Wow! And that's even without the "Hussein." When it comes to press coverage, it looks like Barack has a lot more to complain about than the Pope does on most scores.

Why the nasty numbers? Because Google counts a "hit" for every page that has those words, regardless of how the content is arranged. A news page may be talking about two dozen entirely different things (think the Washington Post or Drudgereport web pages), but that doesn't matter to the search engine. It doesn't distinguish between the appearance of Benedict's name in a religion lead and the appearance of the word "rigid" in a story about a new kind of plastic. As long as both words appeared on the same page, Google counts a hit.

The numbers are nonsense. But Mark Shea and Catholic Exchange apparently don't realize that, so they draw conclusions based on essentially no evidence at all.

Now, it may well be the case that the press is opposed to all things orthodox - in fact, I personally I don't doubt that it is. But we should be careful not to take scandal without good reason.

Quite frankly, the press doesn't know much about Pope Benedict, and probably never will. The man bemuses them, as did John Paul II, as does every Pope. In order to hate someone, you have to know them at least moderately well. There has to be a substance to hatred just as there is a substance to love. The press lacks substance, so it really isn't capable of hate or even strong dislike. It can manage only a puzzled shrug.

In times past, the Catholic Faith was, indeed, hated, but no more. Today, orthodox Catholicism is neither known nor considered enough of a threat to merit strong emotions. The elites literally don't know enough about real Catholics to care.

Perhaps we would like them to hate us, if only because that would make us more relevant in their world. We should recognize our desire to be hated as a perverse form of pride. After all, if they hated us, we must matter enough to them, we must hinder them enough, to make us a hated minority.

But what if we don't matter enough to them?
What if we aren't hindering them in any significant way?
That would mean we weren't living the Gospel very well.

Jesus made people angry enough to merit his execution.
Peter managed to proclaim the Gospel so effectively he got himself crucified upside down.
Paul started a fight in every town he entered, got scourged, beaten with rods, stoned and finally beheaded, martyred just like every one of the original apostles. Even John, the apostle of love who died a natural death, managed to make it to old age only by dint of miraculously surviving an attempt to boil him alive.

But when was the last time the holy example and sacred preaching of Catholics in America made our fellow Americans angry enough to burn down a convent, smash up a school or demolish church? When has our witness to the truth been so strong that those who follow demons ground their teeth at us, writhed in frustration, and ultimately martyred one or more of us?

The culture clearly doesn't love Catholics, for the conversion rate is not high enough to indicate that they treasure who we are or how we live. They aren't hot about us.

But at this point, it's not clear they really hate us. They aren't in a cold rage about us either.

Shouldn't we find that a little disconcerting?

Update: The latest Pew Forum survey (released two days after this blog entry) shows fully 32% of Americans know so little about the Pope that they are unable to form an opinion about him.