Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dear FIRST THINGS: Please Cancel My Ascription

"We're boring. You're fired."

First Things, which calls itself "America's most influential journal of religion and public life" just fired its premier blogger.

The proximate cause was Maureen Mullarkey's most recent piece, which was highly critical of the Pope and the "roadshow" of quasi-fascistic adulation of him. The post lasted a few hours on the First Things website before being replaced by a note from Editor R. R. Reno entitled "No More Tirades" in which Reno trashed his longtime writer in (in my opinion) a dishonest and malicious way. Her post was then published by OnePeterFive, which has quickly become one of the most interesting and important Catholic sites on the web. (Full disclosure: a short post of mine was published by OnePeterFive a few months ago, and I was one of the more grumpy participants on the "No More Tirades" comment thread--at last check, 90% of the comments/votes were supportive of Ms. Mullarkey.)

I want to talk about Mullarkey and her post, but first let me say a bit about First Things, R. R. Reno and the recent goings on.

I was once a subscriber to the magazine and have occasionally still checked the website. Over the years they have published a wide variety of authors and articles, many of which stand out in my mind quite positively. It's not officially (or even unofficially) a Catholic journal, but the chief editors have all been Catholics (it was founded by a priest). And it is generally thought of as having a conservative or neo-conservative slant.

But it has had it's share of controversy. A few years ago, its Editor in Chief, Damon Linker "came out" as a sort of anti-conservative mole, who while editing the magazine was at the same time cashing advance checks for a book length expose of First Things and religious neo-conservatives in general. More recently, Joseph Bottum, the magazine's most well-known conservative Catholic writer (and a former Editor in Chief) wrote a 20,000 word (or something) essay for Commonweal giving a probably heterodox (for a Catholic) opinion on gay marriage. I say, "probably" because throughout the piece he meandered back and forth on the matter in the style of a tweedy Hamlet, and I've never yet met someone who made it all the way to the end of his essay to find out where he actually ended up (though the title does help).

At its best, First Things hosted some of the most useful and serious writing on religion out there. At its worst it was boring and pretentious to the point of being creepy.

Now it has become irrelevant.

R. R. Reno allowed Mullarkey to put up posts on her own without vetting. But Mullarkey's negative views on the Pope and the current state of the Catholic Church had been well-known for some time. Reno publicly took her to task on January 9 (ironically, one day after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and while Paris was still in lockdown), but continued to host her material. It's fair to say her last ill-fated piece, while strong, was an extension of her other writings. So why did Reno trash her?

Let me back up a step, why anyway would Reno be against publishing or hosting the occasional negative piece on the Pope? First Things puts forward diverse religious viewpoints and is explicitly not merely a pro-Catholic organ. So why does he care?

I suspect a few of his donors do care. And we know that it's supported by them. First Things is not exactly a checkout counter money maker.

Reno's hit job on his own writer begins with the now predictable back-handed compliment, "Maureen has a sharp pen and pungent style." Shortly after, he disingenuously writes, "I do not ascribe to the view that Catholics should not criticize the papacy."

We should first note that for an editor, Reno has a peculiarly imperfect grasp of the English language, beginning with his misuse of the word "ascribe". A friendly observer also pointed out his somewhat limited vocabulary, using one particular word in virtually every public utterance. Here's Reno's book cover blurb for another one of his writers:
George Weigel's range and intelligence is wonderful, full of urgency, romance, and wickedly pungent wit. Read and enjoy.
And here's another cover blurb:
Rich, accessible, immediate, pungent, challenging, and often wise, these theological reflections by Telford Work help us understand our Christian vocations in our world of doubt...
And about another famous figure:
He likes to make pungent, often hyperbolic statements about economic and other matters, but by my reading the consistent source of his rhetoric is biblical, not ideological.
That quote was referring to the Pope, by the way.

Everything is pungent. It's almost like compensatory wish-fulfillment for editing First Things.

But then the real trashing begins:
Maureen’s commentary on (Pope) Francis goes well beyond measured criticism. She consistently treats him as an ideological propagandist, accusing him of reducing the faith to secular political categories. This is her way of reducing him to the political terms she favors. And those terms are the ones used by radio talk-show hosts to entertain the public with mock-battles against various Empires of Evil. I don't want First Things to play that game.
And we should of course add a tweedy "Hrumph!"

But anyone familiar with Mullarkey's resume should find the implicit insult laughable. She started out (and for the most part, still is) an artist and art critic. And much of her writing, when not done for art journals, was for liberal publications such as The Nation and Commonweal. Now she's being equated with Rush Limbaugh.

Did I mention that her most well-known paintings have been Edward Hopperish portrayals of drag queens?

But to address the substantive criticism, the charitable and reasonable assumption is that Ms. Mullarkey, as a Catholic, honestly believes the Pope has demeaned and weakened the Church's mission by politicizing it, and as a journalist, that this is something worth writing about. While perhaps still a minority view, it's not exactly a new or unique one.  But Reno wants his readers to believe that her argument stems from the fact that she favors reducing everything to politics. This is of course almost a complete inversion of the truth, and Reno must know it. He ends his dishonest and sanctimonious piece by pleading:
But in all this we need to have the moral and spiritual generosity to enter into our adversaries’ ways of thinking, if but for a moment. We’re in this American project together. We need to accompany each other, even as we contest for the future.
Which of course doesn't apply to his own author of over two-hundred pieces for First Things. For Maureen Mullarkey (according to Reno), we won't attempt to "enter into" her "ways of thinking", we'll simply equate her ways of thinking to those of Howard Stern and fire her.

It's ironic that after going from a mainly liberal milieux to part-time slumming in a neo-conservative one, Mullarkey was shut down for being too "radio-talk show" conservative. Interestingly, when the Pope "Malted" Cardinal Burke, Commonweal published a sincere piece on the constructive importance of his right to speak.

Maybe First Things should take some lessons on tolerance and diversity from Commonweal.


On to Mullarkey's piece itself, "Notes on a Roadshow." It's unique and brilliant. Yes, as a known anti-Francis partisan I basically "agree" with it. But that's not the point. It's original and insightful, whether you agree with it or not. Her comparison--illustrated by the appropriate photographs--of Italian Fascist rallies with camera pointing FrancisPriest gatherings--is acute and funny. And her counterpoint treatment of ISIS savage hordes sweeping across the desert crucifying Christians with the Western narcissistic selfie-culture--now iconically represented by priests taking selfies while celebrating Mass with Pope Francis (!)--makes one angry, then makes one cry. As an editor of any publication, I would pay for that.

I think she came out the winner. OnePeterFive is now running her (I assume we will see more) and The Remnant--the premier Traditional Catholic publication--has just invited her in, in the quickest Michael Matt hiring decision ever.

Not bad for an illustrator of gay pride parades.

The Times They Are A Becoming-More-Interesting.

Eat your heart out, R. R. Reno, you tweedy, lying bore.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Video Tuesday: Mark Steyn in Copenhagen: "Live as free people!"

Here is the keynote speech by Mark Steyn at the Danish Free Press event commemorating the tenth anniversary of the publication of the Muhammad cartoons by Jyllands-Posten*. The speech was sad, inspiring, funny and true.  Steyn, the organizers and every attendee at this event risked their lives to protect what we take for granted and what we are now voluntarily relinquishing to savages.

Pray for those who were murdered. Or honor them by refusing to be a coward.

As a friend once said, reality is when it happens to you.

*Via Gates of Vienna.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

"I'm a Christian but I'm Like, You Know, Not Like Those Other Christians"

Donald R. McClarey at The American Catholic just posted two great video finds. The first is a "liberal" Christian video that has, I guess, been making the rounds. The second is a parody of it by the brilliant The Lutheran Satire, one of whose other videos we cited a few weeks ago.

You will choke on both of them. In a bad way on the first. In a good way on the second.

Let me declare my biases. People have called me a "hater". Okay, I'll bite. I hate "liberal" Christians. I despise them. Indeed, I strongly do not like them.


It's not because they interpret Christianity in a "liberal" manner. I may disagree with that--depending on how you define the term "liberal"--but it doesn't annoy me in any kind of existential way. You want to say (merely) that you're "gay and Christian". Okay, we can talk about it. I may think you're wrong about the Bible or Christian theology or, well, just how logic works, but I'm not going to say you're prima facie a bad man or woman or even that you necessarily have less dedication or faith than anyone else. Tell me about your faith. I will learn something.

That's not to say that your belief and practice (and mine) do not matter. They do, and they will have eternal consequences. But at base we're both fallible human beings. Like Adam. Like Peter. And a few others.

But most "liberal" Christians take it one step further. They denounce other Christians. They sneer at them and they judge them. And they do so primarily from the perspective that they alone are not judgmental. They alone are different. They alone are better.

It's the irony and hypocrisy that confounds.

Do you know any contemporary Catholics like that? Does it remind you of anyone?

Liberal Christians say that they are Christians. Fine. In that case . . .

Liberal Christians (most of them) are the most hubristic, hypocritical, pharisaical, nasty, vicious, dishonest Christians to have ever walked the face of the earth.

Which says a lot.

They would denounce their own brother as an Islamophobe if they thought it would earn them a point.

They have the  tolerance of Nazi brownshirts.

Yeah, I have a chip on my shoulder. And I know you get the idea.

So, here are the videos:

Please pray for me.

And the people I hate.

Asra Nomani: "I Survived a Hajj Stampede"

Rush hour in hell
How would you like to go on a Hajj pilgrimage with your infant in a Baby Bjorn carrier?

Asra Nomani appears to be a "liberal" or "moderate" Muslim who believes that Islam can be reformed. I do not think she is right. And I think she is is even a bit mixed up about what "reforming" Islam (while still calling it Islam) would even mean. Do not misunderstand. In a sense I want her to be right. But I think the evidence shows that she is not.

In any case, this is a fascinating piece. And in addition to the first-person story, there is a bit about the unholy Saudi mix of fanatically religious ideology with ferocious state capitalism. This fact has been underreported in the West--that in the guise of being the protectors of the most important Muslim shrine, they have in reality destroyed most of it.

I've taken some of the more general, "pro-liberal religion" stuff out for reasons of space and relevance, and to avoid complete plagiarism. But I urge those who are interested to read the original full article.

From The Daily Beast, 24 September, 2015, by Asra Nomani:
I Survived a Hajj Stampede 
Thursday’s killing of more than 700 is a tragic reminder of Saudi Arabia’s dangerous exploitation of the Muslim pilgrimage. I should know—my baby and I were once nearly crushed, too. 
It was 12 years ago, and I was clinging to my son, Shibli, then 3 months old, outside the city of Mecca. I was caught in the kind of frightening crush that claimed the lives of at least 700 on the Muslim pilgrimage of the hajj Thursday, injuring at least 800 others, in a bloody, tangled mess of humanity slain. 
A pilgrim with my parents and preteen niece and nephew, I carried Shibli against my chest in a Baby Bjorn carrier as we fought for our lives in a stream of pilgrims seeking refuge in the tent city of Mina, outside Mecca—the same area where Thursday’s tragedy occurred. We struggled through dirty water, trash, and sleeping pilgrims beneath a bridge named for King Khaled Ibn Abdul Aziz, the wealthy heir who exported Saudi Arabia’s extremist Wahhabi and Salafi doctrine to the world, indoctrinating Muslims to radical Islam in the modern day. 
Swept in a press of desperate pilgrims, I wondered whether we would get out alive . . . 
. . . To me, Thursday’s horrific deaths—which Khaled al-Faisal, a Saudi “prince” and head of the Central Hajj Committee, callously blamed on “some pilgrims from African nationalities,” and other reports linked to a Saudi decision to block a road for VIPs—testify to some of the worst that happens to humanity when faith meets avarice. 
I wrote a book with the title Standing Alone in Mecca not because I was delusional. It is a metaphor for my lone spiritual pilgrimage, in conflict with the chandeliers, marble, and air-conditioned tents that make up the multibillion-dollar business the Saudi ruling family has built with the Saudi Binladin Group, with callous disregard to human life. The Saudi government has put in place a grandiose construction scheme for Mecca and Medina, the two holy cites of Islam, bulldozing historic relics and erecting new edifices to “faith,” complete with a luxury 44-story hotel in Mecca. The director of the U.K.-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, Irfan Al-Alawi, now calls the city “Mecca-hattan.” . . . 
. . . On our pilgrimage, there were many occasions when I thought we risked death in the crush of a stampede, but the worst was in Mina, where the pilgrims died Thursday. 
We were warned: “No matter what, don’t stop to pick up lost shoes. Let them go.” Otherwise we risked being trampled. Stopping for shoes was an invitation to death. 
Back in 2003, the Saudi government even warned about the dangers in a health brochure: “Dear Pilgrims, Laying under bridges and setting on the footpaths is an uncivilized behaviours, and doing so causes you many risks. so do not exposure yourself for risks.” Another one of the Saudi government’s tips seemed to defy reality: “Crowding is an important factor for transmission of meningitis, try to avoid crowded areas.” Trying to avoid crowded areas on the hajj was like trying to stay dry in the ocean. 
In that one swift moment of the stampede in which my family and I found ourselves, the dangers became apparent. The crowd started to crush us, pressing my son and me toward a wall of squat buildings on my right. Just over 5 feet tall, I had Shibli dangling at the level of the other pilgrims’ backs. I worked hard to make sure he got air, but I was afraid he’d suffocate if the crowds closed in even tighter. Trust me, my mother, nearby, was thinking: I told you so. I considered escaping into the entryway of a smelly men’s restroom but figured I would just be flattened against its closed doors. There were slippers everywhere. People had lost them and been unable to retrieve them in the crowd. 
Our guide, Muhammad Alshareef, founder of the ultraconservative AlMaghrib Institute of Islam in Canada and the U.S., warned us: “No matter what, don’t stop to pick up lost shoes. Let them go.” Otherwise we risked being trampled in the press of the crowd. Stopping for shoes was an invitation to death. 
Shibli squirmed on my chest. It was increasingly hot, and I jabbed my hand into the crowd like a linebacker, trying to protect him. 
Women and men yelled at me in Arabic. “They’re saying, ‘Put your baby up!’” Alshareef’s wife translated. 
“How?” I exclaimed. 
Suddenly, a young Egyptian-American man broke stride beside us. 
“He is my friend,” Alshareef’s wife said. “He can carry the baby!” 
I hesitated. I didn’t know this man. I could lose my baby in this crowd. I didn’t even have Shibli wearing his ID, “Card Number 34” in our tour group, because it was a choking hazard. I had a badly photocopied map of Mina into my pocket with phone numbers beside Arabic script I couldn’t read. The only instructions in English: “In case of lost,” we had to look for Mina Square 49 under the King Khaled Bridge or call a “Mr. Arafat” on his mobile phone. 
It was one of those perilous moments that mothers have faced since the beginning of time. I chose to take the calculated risk. 
I handed Shibli to the young man and tried to stay close beside him. We navigated gingerly but forcefully through the crowds. Shibli rested on the man’s shoulder. Finally, we took a turn out of the crush. We proceeded quickly to our tent, where the young man gave me back my baby. 
We tumbled into the women’s tent, where a fellow pilgrim from Mechanicsburg, Pa., wept from the frightening experience. . . 
. . . The lethal combination of big money with sacred ritual makes Thursday’s stampede and the crane disaster [when 118 pilgrims were killed a few weeks ago] a symbolic reminder of how unfettered and dangerous Saudi excess—both theologically and physically—has become. 
The Saudis have a legacy of deaths on the hajj, marked by deadly fires and stampedes. In 1975, there was a fire in a tent colony outside Mecca that killed thousands. In 1987 the Saudi government gunned down about 400 unarmed Iranian pilgrims protesting its rule. In 1990, an estimated 1,426 pilgrims were crushed to death in a stampede in a pedestrian tunnel leading from Mecca to Arafat. In 1994, 271 pilgrims were trampled in a stampede. In 1997, 343 pilgrims burned to death and another 1,500 were injured in a blaze that roared through 70,000 tents outside Mecca. The air was left thick with the smell of smoke, and burned-out buses, charred water bottles, and other blackened debris littered the ground. In 2005, another 250 pilgrims were killed in a stampede in Mina, and in 2006, an estimated 360 pilgrims were killed, again in Mina. 
In all of these incidents, spokesmen for the government blamed “divine” predetermination. 
Unfortunately, the Saudis put forward a theological directive that to die in Mecca during the hajj is a “blessing,” and people will sometimes abandon personal safety for faith, creating dangerous situations for those like myself who aren’t particularly interested in dying. As a new mother on the pilgrimage, I knew that I didn’t want to lose my son to human caprice after I had overcome so much to bring him into the world. But I had chosen to take the risk, over the more sensible protests of my mother and friends. 
From beginning to end, the Muslim pilgrimage is dangerous madness. It was madness near the Ka’bah in Mecca, as pilgrims threw themselves against its walls to try to kiss the stone. The situation at the Ka’bah reminded me of the time I wiggled my way into the mosh pit at a No Doubt concert. The hajj is a like a spiritual mosh pit. 
The frenzy was not so different from the rush that had filled the air when I watched Buddhist pilgrims stampede the stairs of the Ki monastery in the Himalayan mountains of India just to set their eyes on a holy mandala that was part of a holy pilgrimage led by the Dalai Lama. An elderly Nepali Sherpa there died in my arms when he was caught in the crush. 
When I closed my eyes on the hajj, I could see the dust storm kicked up by 200 naked Hindu yogis, called Naga babas, as they bolted for their holy ritual bathing in the Ganges River during the Maha Kumbh Mela in India. It was the same devotion that sent Jews and Christians to their pilgrimage sites. But there is something particularly dangerous about the lethal combination in Saudi Arabia of contained spaces and millions of pilgrims. 
Thursday’s tragedy occurred as Muslim pilgrims in Mina completed another antiquated and dangerous tradition of “stoning the devil,” in a ritual called ramy. The devil is symbolized in three stone pillars: Al-Jamara al-Kubra is the tallest pillar, al-Jamara al-Wusta is the middle pillar, and al-Jamara al-Sughra is the smallest pillar. 
The prophet Muhammad said that when the prophet Abraham wanted to do his rites of hajj, Satan blocked his way. Abraham threw seven pebbles at him, and Satan sank into the ground. Abraham proceeded to the second pillar and threw another seven pebbles at Satan, and again Satan disappeared into the ground. Blocked yet again at the third pillar, Abraham again threw seven pebbles. 
But the devil wasn’t the only thing to fear here. In 1998, a stampede in the plain of Mina killed 118 pilgrims as large crowds assembled near a bridge on their way to the devil-stoning ritual. When I was on the hajj, I went against the devil. This time, I listened to my mother and left Shibli at the tent with the women there. 
For this ritual, my family climbed a ramp onto a wide, two-level, roofless pedestrian walkway, inside which sat the three tall stone pillars. I saw giant phallic symbols rising into the sky. Trying to dodge getting hit by an errant stone flung from the other side, I threw each stone not just as a representation of my jihad, or personal struggle, against “evil” but against something much deeper. 
The birth of Islam in the seventh century was supposed to mark the end of the period of Jahiliya, or ignorance. I threw each stone as a blow against the house of greed, indulgence, caprice, intolerance, danger, and jahiliya, exported to the world from the country on whose ground I stood.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

FrancisMass: The Horror

At a Mass in Philadelphia this morning, presided over by Francis, at least seven priests took cameras and cell phones to the altar and snapped photographs as they concelebrated Mass.

And one good priest looked to Heaven and silently screamed.

Or maybe it was just a trick of the light.

Picture from Catholic News Service via Rorate Caeli.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

BREAKING: At least 450 Crushed to Death in Mecca Hajj Stampede

Survivors gather around some of the victims

This is at least the sixth Mecca stampede or stampede related incident in the last twenty-five years to kill hundreds of pilgrims. The highest death toll was in 1990 when 1,426 pilgrims were trampled to death in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel.

Higher casualty estimates are now coming in with Reuters and Sky News reporting 700 dead.

From today's Daily Mail:
At least 450 people are crushed to death and hundreds injured in stampede during Muslim Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia
  • Rescue under way after stampede in Mina where two million pilgrims were taking part in the last major rite of Hajj
  • Massive crowds gather in Mecca every year with Islam requiring all Muslims to perform Hajj once in their lifetime
  • Saudi officials use 100,000 police and large numbers of stewards to ensure safety and help those who lose their way
  • Comes weeks after crane toppled into the Grand Mosque killing more than 100 people and injuring hundreds more
At least 453 people have been crushed to death and hundreds of others hurt in a stampede of pilgrims in one of the worst incidents in years to hit the Muslim Hajj in Saudi Arabia. 
Saudi Arabia's civil defence service said rescue operations were under way after the stampede in Mina, where almost two million pilgrims were taking part in the last major rite of the Hajj. 
Amateur video shared on social media showed a horrific scene, with scores of bodies – the men dressed in the simple terry cloth garments worn during Hajj – lying amid crushed wheelchairs and water bottles along a sunbaked street. 
Survivors assessed the scene from the top of roadside stalls near white tents as rescue workers in orange and yellow vests combed the area, placing victims on stretchers and desperately trying to resuscitate others. 
It was not immediately clear what had caused the stampede.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Art Garfunkel: Islamophobe

He wasn't always a hater

Here's a funny little story from yesterday's Daily Mail. But you do have to wonder how the topic came up: "So, will you be playing Sound of Silence tonight? . . . What was it like working with Jack Nicholson on a film? . . . And by the way, have you read any good books on the Islamic threat recently?" 
Muslims are transforming Europe, says Art Garfunkel in warning over dangers of mass migration (by Sebastian Shakespeare) 
While luvvies such as Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch queue up to condemn David Cameron for not allowing more migrants into Britain, one major entertainment figure has bravely voiced an alternative view. 
Art Garfunkel, who was one of the distinctive voices of the Sixties as part of the pop duo Simon & Garfunkel, has highlighted how an influx of Muslims from war-torn countries including Syria could change the nature of Europe for ever. 
‘We are at a very interesting stage right now, where people are escaping from horrendous situations all over the world,’ the 73-year-old singer tells me. 
'There was a book I read recently, called Reflections Of The Revolution In Europe, where the author wants you to say: “Look at the shopkeepers, look at the dry cleaners, and it’s all turning Islamic. 
‘He is saying: “Look, I’m not going to make any judgments about this, but I want you Europeans to see that the changing face of Britain, of Germany and all over Europe is happening. It’s becoming much more Muslim. These are the facts.” ’ 
The 2009 book, by Christopher Caldwell, argues that mass immigration by Muslims is altering the culture of Europe because of their reluctance to join the culture of their new homelands. He claims Muslims do not so much enhance European culture as supplant it, and are ‘patiently conquering Europe’s cities, street by street’. 
Caldwell says it’s ‘chilling’ that Europeans can’t have an open debate about the issue because any criticism of Islam is branded Islamophobic. He predicts that Britain is most susceptible to violence and political extremism. 
The Bridge Over Troubled Water singer recently completed an epic walk around Europe, so feels he understands the migrants who make dangerous journeys in search of a better life. 
‘The amount of movement and change is extraordinary,’ says Art, who performs at the Albert Hall tonight. ‘Taking those long walks around Europe, I get down into it — I’m engaged.’
Aficionados of the strange might be interested to know that the man who inducted "his friend" Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 was, you guessed it, Art Garfunkel. Islam made headlines in 1989 by claiming that Salman Rushdie "must be killed" for committing blasphemy against Allah and the prophet Muhammad. While regretting making that particular public statement (for the negative impact it had on his career), Islam has since reaffirmed the standard Islamic position on death for blasphemers numerous times, including directly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

People are interesting and diverse.

Will you please please please please please please please stop talking?

"I live in a van down by the river."

Havana, 20 September, 2015:
You are standing up and I am sitting. How unmannerly. But you know why I sit down? It’s because I took some notes of some things that our companion here said, and what I want to say is based on these. 
One word that struck a chord is "dream." A Latin American writer has said that people have two eyes: one of flesh and another of glass. With the eye of flesh, we see what is before us and with the eye of glass, we see what we dream of. It’s nice, no? In the objectivity of life, the capacity of dreaming has to enter in. A young person who is not capable of dreaming is cloistered in himself, he’s closed in on himself. Sure, a person sometimes dreams of things that are never going to happen. But dream them. Desire them. Seek the horizon. Open yourselves to great things. 
I’m not sure if in Cuba they use this word, but in Argentina, we say, Don’t be wimpy. Open yourselves and dream. Dream that the world with you can be different. Dream that if you give the best of yourself, you are going to help this world be different. Don’t forget. Dream. If you get carried away and dream too much and life cuts you off, don't worry. Dream and share your dreams. Speak about the great things that you want, because inasmuch as your capacity to dream is greater, when life leaves you only half way, you will have gone farther. So, first dream. 
You said a phrase that I underlined and took note of: "that we might know how to welcome and accept the one who thinks differently than us." Truly, sometimes we are closed in. We shut ourselves in our little world: "This is either the way that I want it or we’re not doing it." And you went even further, "that we don’t close ourselves into the 'little convents' of ideologies or in the 'little convents' of religions. That we might grow in the face of individualism." 
When a religion becomes a "little convent" it loses the best that it has, it loses its reality of adoring God, of believing in God. It’s a little convent of words, of prayers, of "I’m good and you’re bad,’ of moral regulations. I have my ideology, my way of thinking and you have yours; I close myself in this "little convent" of ideology. 
Open hearts. Open minds. If you are different than me, why don’t we talk? Why do we always throw rocks at that which separates us? At that in which we are differing? Why don’t we hold hands in that which we have in common? Motivate ourselves to speak about what we have in common, and then we can talk about the differences we have. But I said, talk, I didn’t say fight. I didn’t say close ourselves in. I don’t say "shut ourselves into our little convent," to use the word you used. But this is possible only when I have the capacity to speak of that which I have in common with the other, of that by which we are able to work together. 
In Buenos Aires, in a new parish, in a very, very poor region, a group of university students was building some rooms for the parish. And the parish priest told me, "Why don’t you come some Sunday and I’ll introduce them to you." They worked on Saturdays and Sundays on this construction. They were young men and women of the university. So I arrived, I saw them and they were introduced to me. "This is the architect. He’s Jewish. This one is Communist. This one is a practicing Catholic." All of them were different, but they were all working together for the common good. 
This is called social friendship: to seek the common good. Social enmity destroys. A family is destroyed by enmity. A country is destroyed by enmity. The world is destroyed by enmity. And the biggest enmity is war. And today we see that the world is destroying itself with war because people are incapable of sitting down and talking. OK, let’s negotiate. What can we do in common? In what things are we not going to give in? But let’s not kill more people. When there is division, there is death, death in the soul because we are killing the capacity to unite. We are killing social friendship. And that’s what I ask of you today: be capable of creating social friendship. 
There was another word that you said, the word hope. Youth are the hope of a people; we hear this everywhere. But what is hope? Is it to be optimistic? No. Optimism is a mood. Tomorrow, you wake up with an upset stomach and you’re not optimistic, you see everything in a negative light. Hope is something more. Hope is something that endures through suffering. Hope knows how to suffer to bring forward a project. It knows how to make sacrifices. Are you capable of making sacrifices for a future or do you only want to live today and leave what comes to those who come after? Hope is fruitful. Hope gives life. Are you capable of giving life? Or are you going to be a spiritually sterile young man or young woman, without the capacity to create life in others, without the capacity to create social friendship, without the capacity to create a homeland, without the capacity to create greatness? 
Hope is fruitful. Hope is given in work, and here I want to mention a very grave problem that is being experienced in Europe: the number of youth who don’t have work. There are countries in Europe where as many as 40% of youth 25 years old and younger live unemployed. I am thinking of one country. In another country, it’s 47% and in another 50%. 
Evidently, when a people is not concerned with giving work to youth — and when I say "people," I don’t mean government, I mean the entire people — it doesn’t have a future. 
The youth become part of the throwaway culture and all of us know that today, in this empire of the god money, things are thrown away and people are thrown away, children are thrown away, because they are unwanted, because they kill them before they are born, the elderly are thrown away — I’m speaking of the world in general — because they don’t produce anymore. In some countries, there is legal euthanasia, but in so many others there is a hidden, covered up euthanasia. Youth are thrown away because they are not given work. So then? What is left for a young person who doesn't have work? A country that doesn’t invent, a people that doesn’t invent employment opportunities for its youth, what’s left for this youth are addictions, or suicide, or to go around looking for armies of destruction to create wars. 
This throwaway culture is doing damage to all of us; it takes away hope, and this is what you asked for the youth: "We want hope." Hope endures suffering, it’s hardworking, it’s fruitful, it gives us work and it saves us from the throwaway culture. Hope that brings together, brings everyone together, because a people that knows how to bring itself together to look toward the future and build social friendship, as I said, despite thinking differently, this people has hope. 
And if I find a young person without hope, I've said this before, "a young retired person." There are young people who seem to have retired at 22 years old. They are young people with existential sadness, they are young people who have committed their lives to a basic defeatism. They are young people who lament. They are young people who flee from life. The journey of hope is not easy. And it can’t be made alone. There is an African proverb that says, "If you want to go quickly, walk alone, but if you want to go far, walk together." 
And I, Cuban young people, though you think differently from each other, though you have your own points of view, I want you to go along accompanying each other, together, seeking hope, seeking the future and the nobility of your homeland. We began with the word hope and I want to conclude with another word that you said and that I tend to use a lot: the culture of encounter. Please, let us not have "un-encounter" among us. Let us go accompanying each other, in encounter, even though we think differently, even though we feel differently, but there is something bigger than us, which is the greatness of our people, which is the greatness of our homeland, which is this beauty, this sweet hope for the homeland to which we have to arrive. 
I take leave wishing you the best, wishing you all of this that I have said, this I wish for you. I am going to pray for you. And I ask you to pray for me. And if one of you is a non-believer and cannot pray because he doesn’t believe, may he at least wish the best for me. May God bless you and bring you to walk along this path of hope, toward the culture of encounter, avoiding these "little convents" that our companion spoke about. May God bless all of you.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Other Refugee Crisis: An Estimated 80,000+ Cubans Have Perished in the Florida Straits Since 1959

"Just because I'm anti-communist doesn't mean I'm not a human being."

At least 80,000 people have died in open water, attempting to flee Castro's Cuba. Or at least that number is probable. Presumably most drowned, though undoubtedly many died of thirst or exposure, were eaten by sharks or were directly murdered by the Cuban border police or coast guard. Estimated figures for the number of lost were discussed in a 2004 paper by Maria Werlau, the Executive Director of the Cuba Archive:
Armando Lago, Ph.D., has derived an estimate of 77,814 such victims from data obtained in studies by the Oceanographic Institute of the University of Miami and the University of Havana. (Telephone interview of October 2003 with Armando Lago, Ph.D., Project Director of the Truth Recovery Archive on Cuba, This data is from his upcoming book The Human Cost of So- cial Revolution: The Black Book of Cuban Communism.) Another study, using available estimates of survival rates, estimated in 1995 that over 100,000 may have perished from 1959 to 1994. (Holly Ackerman and Juan Clark, “The Cuban Balseros: Voyage of Uncertainty,” Miami: Cuban American National Council, 1995.) Francisco Chaviano, who attempted to collect this information inside Cuba, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1995. There are many media and anecdotal reports of deaths, but the identity of victims is rarely es- tablished and a systematic recording of bodies found at sea does not exist. (See, for example, P. Abusleme Hoffman, “Mueren dos mujeres en travesía de Cuba a la Florida,” El Nuevo Herald, 24 de febrero de 2001.) The exact number of victims, or even an accurate estimate, is simply impossible to know under the current circumstances and, in fact, may never be known precisely.
Unlike the current situation in the Mediterranean, where despite some well-reported cases, the vast majority of migrants successfully completed the crossing, the success rate for Cuban "rafters" is far worse. Almost certainly, over 50% of Cuban rafters failed in their attempt--though failure would not necessarily mean death but rather the more "benign" fate of being thwarted by Cuban police or the U.S. Coast Guard (which, tragically, since 1994 has followed a policy of forcibly repatriating intercepted refugees).

But at most times the death rate has probably been 25% or higher of those making the attempt. The total figure for deaths is close to 1% of the Island's population.

Here are a few other interesting facts:

  • In 1994 Fidel Castro made a bizarre threat. He told the United States he would stop shooting people (or boarding or ramming their boats, etc.) who were trying to leave. Instead of thanking God and running up the welcome flags for escapees from communism, the Clinton Administration got Castro to go back on the threat by agreeing to empower the U.S. Coast Guard to send virtually all intercepted escapees back to Cuba.
  • Because leaving Cuba is illegal, the homemade boats and rafts come in all shapes, colors and sizes. See the end of this post for one that features the body of a truck.
  • If you see an empty raft in the Straits, chances are that represents human beings who didn't make it. After picking up rafters, the U.S. Coast Guard usually destroys rafts it intercepts as a hazard to shipping.
  • The crossing usually takes three to five days. Sometimes rafters make it to the Dog Rocks, a set of uninhabited islands off the Bahamas (see below).
  • Latin American leftists (and their friends in the United States) call the refugees "worms".

Pope Francis has called the refusal to aid Mediterranean refugees in distress an "act of war". I do not believe he has ever spoken of the Cuban refugee situation. Nor am I aware of any previous Vatican comments on the matter (though that doesn't mean there haven't been any). Perhaps the Pope will bring it up in the next few days.

But let's face it, except for some on "the right" no one in the world has ever given one damn about the Cuban refugees. There are many reasons for this, some obvious, some not.

Funny, isn't it? They didn't storm the beaches of Florida shouting "Allah Akbar!" All they wanted was to live in freedom. I guess they must be "worms".


Here are some of the "vehicle" rafts (gee, why are they all from the 50's?). The truckers are called Camionautas (Truck-o-nauts).

These guys made it to the Dog Rocks. At least there are no governments there.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Mark Zuckerberg Arrested for Bringing Hoax Bomb Into Facebook Offices

Zuckerberg in happier times

Menlo Park, CA, September 19 (AP) – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was arrested yesterday for bringing a "hoax bomb" into a company board meeting. Sources report that the thirty-one-year-old billionaire arrived ten-minutes late and placed the device on the conference table before looking around with a defiant and surly expression.

It was a Starbucks takeout box, crudely wrapped with a USB cord, with wires of various colors sticking out.

According to a police spokesman, Zuckerberg took a "passive-aggressive attitude" when questioned by law enforcement. Later, however, after making his bail of $200, the social media mogul told a hastily assembled crowd of Clinton for President donors that the "hoax-bomb" was merely a new laptop prototype developed in his spare time. "I hope to study at MIT," he said, to laughter and applause.

However, tech bloggers soon went public with the bombshell accusation that the "prototype" was simply a disassembled Apple II computer stuffed inside a Starbucks box.

"What a weasel," declared Steve Wozniak, after learning of the incident. "I made that. Zuckerberg didn't. And neither did Steve Jobs. But that's another matter."

Muslims Give Praise

Muslim heads of state, scholars and professional activists around the world criticized the arrest. "This is what happens when you convert to Islam. See?" declared Muhammad Fatwah, head of the Islamic interests section of Amnesty International. "You're made a target. Either they launch a drone after you or they send some stupid underpaid cop. If they can do it to a billionaire tycoon, who can't they do it to?"

When informed that the claim that Zuckerberg had converted to Islam was a false internet rumor spread by the hoax news site National Report, Fatwah responded, "Oh, okay then, my bad. Well what do you expect from a Jew?"

Zuckerberg Defiant

"It's my company, I can do what I want," said a clearly energized Zuckerberg, jumping up and down on the trampoline in the Facebook cafeteria headquarters. "If I want to stuff an old 1970's computer into a coffee take-out box and look surly about it, then that's my prerogative. F__ the major stockholders if they can't take a joke. And no, just because I play 5Pillars via Skype with my buddy Recep Erdoğan doesn't make me a terrorist. I went to Harvard."

Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year old high-school student involved in a similar incident a few days ago said that he was proud of Zuckerberg and would officially petition to have him adopted as his father. "I didn't really invent anything either, so I sympathize," said the youngster, during a break from playing 5Pillars via Skype. "And my own dad is kind of a freak. What is it with that running-for-president-over-and-over-again-in-Sudan thing? Can't I, for Allah's sake, just move to Palo Alto and become a normal American kid? Or is that only open to white teenagers?"

Tanya Cohen and Dinah Silverstein reporting.

NOT A FEMEN DEMONSTRATION (Unfortunately): The Sad Saga of the Naked Spanish Clowns

Pallasos en Rebeldia (the figure on the left is Gimli the dwarf)

If you were thinking of taking off your clothes to protest Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, think again. There are plenty of other causes you can strip for.

The naiveté of some on the left regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation has once again been exposed.

Here are the raw facts as we know them. From yesterday's The Local
Spanish naked clown protest flops after sparking outrage in Palestine 
A Spanish clowning group has caused controversy after stripping off in front off the wall separating Israel and Palestine in protest at Israeli policy. 
A photograph of the group, Pallasos en Rebeldía (Clowns in Rebellion) who are stark naked except for a clown nose and covering their modesty with their hands, has caused an uproar in Palestine. 
The group posted the photographs online on Wednesday in front of the West Bank separation barrier in Jerusalem. 
What was intended as a message of support to the Palestinian community has been met with a backlash from Palestinians, who have slammed the Spanish group’s "disgusting solidarity" 
But members of Palestine’s conservative community were not pleased with the protest, carried out by six men and one woman, and took to the group's Facebook page to vent their anger. 
Abed Salam commented on the Facebook post: 
"It is something really ugly and stupid and has nothing to do with our fight against Israel, you should delete the photographs." 
Israeli digital newspaper Ynet, said that some Palestinian commenters said the group had "behaved like animals". 
But for the clowning group, the protest had more meaning than just an ill-thought out strip: 
"When you stand before this shameful fence all humanity is naked," said the group’s spokesman, Iván Prado, in a statement on the group’s website. 
However the group did apologise to anyone who might have been offended by their protest: 
"We want to publicly apologize to all Palestinians who might be offended by our actions against the wall of shame that pierces the West Bank and every human heart," he said. 
"This is not an attack on Islam, it is our way of protesting the existance of the wall," he added. 
The protest is not the first time the group have got naked for their beliefs. They stripped off in the West Bank in 2011, at the wall separating Morocco and Western Sahara in 2013 and in front of the fence erected by Spain between its North African enclave of Melilla and Morocco in April 2015.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why Not Declare ALL Marriages Null and Then Let People (Re)Marry If They Want, Telling Them That THIS TIME It Really Counts?

Everyone deserves this

Just Kidding.

Actually, I don't think my proposal is any more crazy than the bizarre canon law edit that the Pope just announced. Three-hundred years wiped out by a some hastily gathered Bergoglio Mafia clique. Probably the Pope's ghostwriter was involved. You know, the weirdo priest who wrote that kissing manual (and the two most recent encyclicals).

So, the Pope thinks that 50% of all marriages are invalid, and "lack of faith" at the time of marriage is now grounds for annulment. Presumably that implies that if millions now take advantage of the Pope's new Marriage Amnesty, the ones that do take advantage will have a 90%+ success rate (the ones that don't are presumably the ones in the other 50%).

But are the new rules really fair? Are they truly merciful?


  1. We screwed around during pre-cana class, checking Facebook and texting our friends about how stupid it was. We got married in a church because his mother wanted it and it yielded cool photos. We signed the thingie saying we would raise our kids as Catholics so we could get the photo-op. We didn't raise Chad as a Catholic. After all, we wanted him to make his own choices. Now we choose to move on. I like marathons and he likes triathlons. We've found more suitable partners, and Chad likes them. Verdict: ANNULMENT.
  2. We married each other as knowledgable believing Catholics and were serious about it. But then I found out that my husband was a psychotic. He was physically abusive and subsequently left me for a bimbo. Thank God, I met Hieronymous, a Catholic gentleman. We have been chaste but would now like some sort of official approval of our relationship. My son Chadwick wants to be an altar boy. Verdict: NO ANNULMENT.

But where's the justice in that? So, one is rewarded for being wayward and morally flimsy and penalized for being responsible? That's Catholic divorce?

Perhaps the above is fair. Perhaps it isn't. But the momentum and logic of the thing is to eventually grant annulments for both cases. Shouldn't it? Chadwick will soon get a Catholic father. Why not? The new "rules" are intended to invalidate "bad marriages", pure and simple--with "bad" defined by the parties concerned.

But we're told it's NOT Catholic divorce. That would be a change in doctrine. Rather, it's about whether or not the parties were really serious at the time or whatever. But in terms of determining this, why not just give the benefit of the doubt to everyone?

All marriages are hereby off. You think you're in a good one or want to have a good one? Fine. Take the month-long pre-cana and then AFTER YOU'RE COMPLETELY SURE, get married or married again knowing that THIS TIME it's forever. THIS TIME it's really serious. From NOW ON it counts. Starting, you, know, now.

Oh, hell with it. Why not just dispense with all the legal bunk and let people live with whoever they want, whenever they want? Chad (or Chadwick) will understand.

Doesn't God want us to be happy?

Head of Annulment Commission: Francis is Channeling Christ - Don't Cross Him!

Deus volt! he explained

Rorate Caeli just translated an article that appeared in L'Ossevatore Romano on September 8. It was written by Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, the head of the Commission for the reform of the canonical process--in other words the point man for the recently announced annulment reforms.

What he writes is stunning. And chilling.

The three main points are these:

  • The annulment reforms are not merely procedural reforms to introduce more fairness and efficiency in the process, but a full-scale revolution in thought and practice towards the marriage validity question, designed to radically increase the number of annulments.
  • It is Christ, acting through Francis, who wills this. Disobedience is disobedience to the Holy Spirit.
  • Initial absence of "faith" (in the marriage bond?) is declared a valid reason for a judgment of nullity.

Here are the most important passages, as translated by Rorate (my emphases in red):
... But there exists an essential novelty that is defining Pope Francis’ actual mission. It is no longer time simply for analyses, it is time for action in order to begin that work of justice and mercy so long awaited - by re-ordering the pastoral practice and canon law, to a large extent in effect for almost three centuries. Francis had already announced this at that the beginning of his pontificate on July 28th 2013, at the conclusion of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. 
So, with this fundamental law, Francis makes a real beginning to his reform: by putting the poor at the center, that is, the divorced and remarried, considered set apart and distant, and asking bishops for a true and proper metànoia. That is to say, a “conversion”, a change of mentality which convinces and sustains them in following the invitation of Christ, present in their brother, the Bishop of Rome, to pass from the restricted number of a few thousand annulments to that immeasurable [number] of unfortunates who might have a declaration of nullity -- because of evident absence of faith as a bridge to knowledge and thus to the free will [necessary] to give sacramental consent -- but are left on the outside by the current system.  
But how will the bishops or eparchs, most of all in large dioceses, be able to guarantee, at least in part and as a sign, their role as shepherds and judges? What is important is that the spirit of collegiality and communion among bishops under obedience to the Pontiff, begins to permeate the hearts and minds of the shepherds. The faithful are waiting with eagerness and love for such a metànoia and will nonetheless be patient in the Lord when faced with the good faith of their shepherds. The Jubilee Year of Mercy expects this sign of humble obedience (on the part of the Churches’ shepherds) to the Spirit who speaks to them through Francis. 
The reform holds in consideration the main reason for the request of the (declaration of) matrimonial nullity: this is requested for reasons of conscience, for example: to receive the Sacraments of the Church or to improve a new stable, happy bond (relationship), different from that of the first.
So, there it is.

Francis has reportedly said that as many as 50% of all marriages are invalid. Could that be that "immeasurable" number of which Pinto speaks? And while this may not be a change of doctrine, it is a revolutionary change willed by Christ and the Holy Spirit. And Francis speaks for Them. Or so it is asserted.

Has any Papal proposal on canon law ever been announced by claiming that the Pope is directly channeling Christ? (I should say I wouldn't doubt it, but I would be interested in seeing examples.)

I suppose we might also ask, where has Christ been for the last 300 years?

Or was He just waiting for Francis?