The Beliefs of Catholics Regarding the Real Presence
IRAQI Reconstruction and IRAQI Fragmentation will justify US Occupation of IRAQ
Washington Needs to Adjust some National Policies to Strengthen Small Town America
Pope John Paul II Leaves Two Issues for Pope Benedict XVI
Sen. John Kerry Must Start a Letter to the Editor Campaign on Election Reform
Individual Supreme Court Decisions Need a “Check and Balance” Process
Prisoners Should be able to Opt for Human Isolation Rather than a Regular Prison
Do Israeli Actions Harm or Simply Manipulate America’s Agenda?
Pope Benedict XVI Should Study the Anthropology of Religion
The Vulgate - an Important Gift from a Troubled, Driven Man to Western Civilization
Sen. Max Baucus Wants more Scientists and Engineers
The Internet could Restore the US House of Representative to the Founder’s Ideal
Which of President Bush’s Transgressions Should Concern Us the Most
The Beliefs of Catholics Regarding the Real Presence -
This paper is divided into three parts: defining the problem, asking how the problem developed, and finally offering some small steps that might be taken to address the problem.
The Problem - Surveys have shown that in the United States, Catholic belief in the real presence is declining. The problem is most sever with younger Catholics where upwards of 50% do not believe. However, such disbelief is found among older Catholics and even among some clergy. In the last six months the pastor at St. Mary Magdalen parish in St. Louis County (Missouri) has delivered two homilies touching on this subject. There was real alarm in his voice. Most of these “dis-believing” Catholics are not very faithful in the practice of their faith. They are irregular attendees at Sunday Mass and do not serve on parish committees. However, this is not universally true. Some dis-believers are in fact very active in their parishes serving on school boards and parish councils. Since almost everyone that attends Sunday Mass goes to Communion, it is safe to say that a goodly number of Catholic who don’t believe in the real presence are receiving Communion on a regular basis.
How did this Problem Develope? - The likely cause is the specific way that individual Catholics interact with the Holy Eucharist. People can’t go from knelling to receive the Host on the tongue to standing up and receiving the Host in the hand without some psychic impact. The other thing that allows flexibility of thought is the use of the phrase “the Body of Christ”. Is the priest saying a shortened version of “This is the Body of Christ” or is he saying a shortened version of “This is a reminder of the Body of Christ”? Without clarity from the priest the communicant, in his subconscious is left to make his own choice. Some have argued that the broader changes in the Mass as it has moved from a very formal, very mysterious ritual said in a ancient language to a very informal, very open ritual said in the vernacular are responsible for this problem Though these changes have been great, most people still passively receive these rituals whether mysterious or open. People are more influenced by those parts of the Mass that involve their personal participation. The “peace be with you” exchange has had some influence perhaps causing the faithful to wonder why everyone is shaking hands if Christ their King has just come into their midst. However, the method of receiving the host is likely to be most responsible for the attitude change among the faithful regarding the Eucharist.
What Steps Can be taken to Solve this Problem? - The parishes might take the following steps: 1) Place laminated 8 x 10 inch cards in the pews which clearly state what conditions should exist before a person goes up to receive Holy Communion. These points might include the following: adherence to and belief in the precepts of the Roman Catholic Church, freedom from serious sin, belief in the real presence, etc. 2) Have the priest say THIS IS THE BODY OF CHRIST rather than the shortened version THE BODY OF CHRIST. This would eliminate any possibility of subconscious confusion. 3) Have the communicant knell to receive communion, have the host placed on the tongue not in the hand, and have a server hold a patten to catch any crumbs which might fall. This would give importance to host and add an aura of reverence to the process. Of course, nothing humans do is adequate from God’s perspective but it might help from the communicant’s perspective. 4) As a small addition, it might be a good idea to change the wording in the Eucharistic Prayers such that after the Consecration has occurred, these Prayers only refer to the Body and Blood of Christ present on the altar and not use the words bread or wine, even in a qualified way such as “this life giving bread” found in Eucharistic Prayer II after the Consecration. Though it is unlikely that any dis-believing Catholics have noticed this discrepancy.
Conclusion - It is easy to see why certain pastors are so upset. This is very worrisome development. If people don’t believe in the real presence they won’t see any need for Mass. In time, there won’t be any need for the Priest, and eventually the Catholic Church will be nothing but another Protestant Church. As one country lawyer use to say when considering an undesirable set of alternatives —“What a revolting development this is” . ... (prepared by Hugh Murray - 5/16/2005)
IRAQI Reconstruction and IRAQI Fragmentation will Justify US Occupation of IRAQ ! - As the Shi’ites take power in IRAQ and as IRAQ’s police forces begin to provide more and more security, the US is running out of reasons to remain there. However, there are two facts discussed by the Bush administration that argue for long term American occupation: (1) the need for the American contractors who have started the reconstruction effort to finish their work under the protection of American soldiers, and (2) the need into keep the country from splitting into three separate countries (Shi’ite, Sunni, and Kurd).
Regarding the infrastructure, the Washington neocon crowd keeps stating that they had “no idea” the infrastructure of IRAQ was in such bad shape. They compare our knowledge of the pre-war IRAQI infrastructure to our current knowledge of North Korea’s infrastructure. Col. James Carafano (US Army - Retired and currently of the Heritage Foundation) is one purveyor of such eye wash. Everyone realizes there were constant US Air Force picture taking reconnaissance flights and there were inspectors on the ground using the water, the electricity, the phones and yes driving across the bridges. Knowledge of IRAQ’s infrastructure problems was widespread pre-war. Regarding the oil industry, all western countries knew their were problems there as well; they were the ones who had restricted IRAQ’s import of modern oil drilling and processing equipment. The US government knew of these problems before the war and are lying about this foreknowledge today to provide an excuse to stay as long as possible.
Regarding the tendency of the country to split apart, Turkey in particular warned that the demise of Saddam would likely unleash these forces, and Turkey also warned that it would go to war if the Kurds got their own country. The number of Kurds across the northern IRAQ boarder in Turkey numbers in the tens of millions and an independent Kurdistan would create a unstoppable movement among Turkish Kurds for independence. America has promised Turkey that the Kurds will remain a part of IRAQ. However, the Sunni section of IRAQ, which sits between the Shi’ite section and the Kurdish section, is more and more acting like they want out of a unified IRAQ. If the Sunnis leave, the Kurds will ipso facto be separated and probably become independent. So America, in order to fulfill its pledge to Turkey, will have to keep the Sunni section in IRAQ by force. This is a second reason that will likely be used to justify a long term occupation.
Of course, there are other reasons, which the Bush administration does not discuss, for keeping US troops in IRAQ. These include a desire to leave Saudi Arabia while keeping an American force in the area to put pressure on IRAN and SYRIA while supporting ISRAEL. Last, but not least, is the natural desire to control IRAQ's oil. Saddam had been threatening to start selling his oil for Euros, not dollars. Some argue that that threat was the most important reason for America's invasion of IRAQ. .. (Prepared by HVM on 4/7/2005)
Washington Needs to Adjust some National Policies to Strengthen Small Town America - Small towns are desirable because they provide a stable, simple environment that is particularly desirable for family life. In small towns people know each other and each other’s children. An informal societal structure develops that promotes family life and the rearing of children while inhibiting the anonymous anti-social acts found in cities. However, there are a few things small towns need to thrive: (1) family farmers and ranchers in the surrounding area, (2) two or three stable manufacturing employers (that employee a total of 300 to 700 people each), (3) a strong Chamber of Commerce backed by a multi-faceted retail section, and (4) perhaps a state institutions (e.g. a mental health institution, a junior college, or prison, etc.).
Currently policies in Washington D.C. are working against small towns: (1) Family farmers and ranchers are subject to the higher borrowing cost and high estate taxes than corporate operators. When a family operator sells out to a corporate operator, the neighboring town losses a business leader and his family. (2) Because of Washington’s policy, small town manufacturers are thrown into competition with factories in Mexico and China where people work for $0.50 or $1.00 an hour. The loss of a manufacturing plant in a large city creates hundreds of unemployed, but these people have hundreds or thousands of other places at which to seek employment. The loss of a manufacturing plant in a small town creates not only hundreds of unemployed, but it also puts a ten year supply of empty homes on the real estate market, and it creates huge holes in every volunteer organization (church, scout, civic, etc.) as the hundreds of families leave town looking for survival in the nearest city. (3) Washington has no policy to regulate the huge box retailers and chain banks that move into small towns destroying the existing retail/banking sector. Organization like the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary stop functioning effectively when this happens. The owners that are forced out of business struggle to generate enough income to support their families. However, their employees sometimes are able to land a job at the new large store. (4) The ability of a community to land a state institution is strengthened when the rest of the community is functioning well, if the process of break down described in 1,2,and 3 above is well underway, the community is less likely to succeed in mounting the lobbying effort needed to land a state institution.
Small towns should not be completely insulated from market forces, but they should be allowed extra time and some help to adjust to these forces. (1) Perhaps Federal agriculture support policies should be directed exclusively to families who own and live on their land. Locally owned banks might be given limited government help to make loans to local family farmers. (Corporate operators should not be eligible for these programs.). (2) Manufacturing plants, that are willing to operate in small communities, that keep management compensation to no more than 15 times the lowest worker's pay, and that are willing to conduct “on the job” training and education programs for all workers, should be eligible for subsidies that are tied directly to the volume of sales achieved by the plant. A good level of subsidy might be 10% of sales. Over time the percentage might be raised or lowered gradually to cope with changing competitive situations. If foreign competitors refrain from predatory pricing, the subsidy might be reduced over time, otherwise it might have to go up. The idea is to keep the plant operating so the greater good (ie the small town's survival) might be served. (3) The many small retailers in the small town are the back bone of the local Chamber of Commerce and service clubs (ie Rotary, Lions, Elks, etc.); large box retailers (ie Home Depot, WalMart, Lowes, etc.) have shown the ability to destroy small retailers through price competition. To adjust for this, the large box retailers should be compeled to sell up to $15,000 of merchandise per month to each established local retailer at a price 10% below the price that the large retailer is charging. This is similar to the model used by the Federal Communication Commission to help the small phone companies to survive against the large regional bell companies. (4) State institutions will probably be located in the state's smaller communities if these communities are financially healthy with stable populations and a strong middle class.
It is true that items 1) and 2) run counter to the provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This country must claim an exemption from these provisions because: (1) the US is a target of Islamic terrorism and needs to decentralize its population so large concentrations of Americans can not be attacked so easily; (2) terrorists operate most easily in environments where people do not know each other, and they have trouble in areas where the people know each other and can spot strangers quickly; in small towns strangers stand out and are inquired about; (3) the US has a weak family structure and needs to take steps to strengthen its families; small town life promotes family life so America must promote small towns; (4) America has a large underclass of people with impaired intelligence; this group has trouble coping in complex societal environments, such as a city; if small towns were strengthened, members of this underclass might be induced to move to smaller communities where life is simpler, and where they might avoid the pathologies that crop up when such people crowd together in large cities.
There are a few additional considerations: (1) As gas prices rise, the short commute distances typical to a small town will be appealing. (2) As new vitality returns to small town America, high paid people in service industries that use the internet (eg hedge fund managers and computer programers) will want to relocate from cities to smaller communities to raise their families. (3) As traffic is taken off of big city roads, life in cities will benefit from the relocation of people to small towns. ... (prepared by HVM on 4/7/2005)
Pope John Paul II Leaves Two Issues for Pope Benedict XVI
- Pope John Paul II was a good man and a great pope. The Church benefitted from (1) his clear vision, (2) his efforts to restore uniform liturgical practice after the experimentation triggered by Vatican II, (3) his globe-trotting designed to involve young people in the Church, (4) his steady resistence to authoritarian and totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany, Russia, and China, (5) his effort to restore Christian unity while remembering the major differences that needed to be bridged, and (6) his effort to open better lines of communications with the non-Christian religions of the world.
However, this Pope missed two important opportunities: (1) he didn’t deal with the Society of Saint Pius X, the Society of Saint Peter, and other Catholic priestly orders that promote the traditional Latin Mass, and (2) he didn’t follow up his condemnation of the Iraq War with sanctions against Catholics who participate in unjust, preemptive wars. Benedict XVI will have to deal with both issues.
The Latin Mass issue is inflamed by the following disconnect. Today young men who are drawn to the seminary are overwhelmingly attracted to those seminaries that teach old fashioned, Catholic doctrine and support the traditional Latin Mass. Many of these seminarians actually take a special vow requiring them to say only the traditional Latin Mass. Bishops around the world and many lay people are committed to the New Mass which is said in the vernacular (ie the language of the local people). Here is the dilemma for Benedict XVI, the church has an imbalance between the bishops and many lay people who say “no” to the Traditional Mass and an increasing flow of young priests who are committed to that Mass. Pope Benedict XVI may, in his heart, wish to eliminate the Traditional Latin Mass , but he should suppress these urges and accept that the Holy Spirit inspired Pius V in the sixteenth century to issue a papal bull saying that this Mass will “forever and always” be available to the faithful. Catholics believe that Popes have a duty to accept truths defined by their predecessors. Benedict should say to the universal Church that the priest saying the Mass gets to determine which of the acceptable liturgies will be celebrated. He should also say that a priest who has taken a vow to say only one liturgy will be exempt from forced participation in a con-celebrated Mass using a different liturgy. Today bishops decide which scheduled Masses in their churchs will be New and which will be Traditional, this proposed rule change would give each priest this decision. This is appropriate, since celebrating the Mass is the focal point of each priest's life. If these new priests are not allowed to make this decision, they will migrate to religious orders and places where their traditional spirituality is honored and allowed to flower. Ultimately these priests will draw the laity, and erosion of Catholic loyalty to the local bishop and the Vatican will occur. This suggestion will set up a friendly competition between the two acceptable liturgies. The Holy Spirit will then guide the faithful, the clergy, and the Church.
The preemptive, unjust war of aggression is not a new problem. Such wars have been seen before. Whenever, strong countries have wished to impose their wills on their weaker neighbors, the church has had to speak truth to power. Today the problem is most acute because the United States possess more military power than the rest of the world combined. Pope Benedict XVI should instruct American Catholics that participation in a war which has been declared unjust by the Vatican is a serious sin and a matter for confession. Such an announcement might curtail the White House’s plans to invade Iran and Syria.
Pope Benedict is a man of strong character and impressive intellect, his handling of these issues will mark his reign. .... prepared by Hugh Murray on 4/22/2005
Sen. John Kerry Must Start a "Letter to the Editor" Campaign on Election Reform - Tampering with electronic voting machines and electronic vote tabulating machines in several battleground states was widespread. The experts have proven this beyond any doubt, but the newspapers and other media outlets will not make an issue of it because Sen. Kerry, the loser in the 2004 election, is not making a fuss.
To be fair Sen. Kerry is in a bit of a box. If he says nothing, he is seen as a good loser and this helps his personal image. If he makes a fuss, he will be seen as a sore loser and that will hurt his image. However, the situation is so serious that Sen. Kerry, as a good American, should put aside his concerns about image and start writing fact filled letters to newspapers in all the battleground states pointing out "problems" and electoral changes that are needed. He shouldn't do it as a sore loser but do it as a citizen deeply interested in improving the process.
No newspaper can ignore a letter from a US Senator. The letter will trigger news articles, editorials, other letters to the editor, and local investigative pieces. One hundred fact-filled, well-targeted, well-timed letters over the next year from Sen. Kerry to certain newspapers will create the public opinion ground swell that will return control of US election results to US voters. ..... (prepared by Hugh Murray 5/22/2005)
Individual Supreme Court Decisions Need a “Check and Balance” Process - The founders were generally pretty farsighted. They established checks and balances on the three branches of government at both the “detail act” level and at the “overall performance” level. .
For example on the “overall performance” level, if a President or Supreme Court justice are messing up in a repeated or significant way the House of Representatives has the right to impeach the offending party and, if convicted by the Senate (which tries the impeachment), the offending President or Supreme Court justice is out of office. At the “detail act” level, the President and Congress are checked by the Supreme Court that can declare any act of the Congress or President illegal and/or unconstitutional. Another example of “detail act” check is the power of the President to veto any act of Congress forcing the Congress to either override the veto with a super majority or revise the legislation, pass the revised bill, and hope for Presidential approval. .
America has a very neat set of “overall performance” and “detail act” checks and balances except in one area. The detail acts of the Supreme Court are not subject to any effective check and balance. This means that Supreme Court decisions are uncontrolled, “wild card” acts of immense consequence (eg legalize abortion, school desegregation, elimination anti-sodomy laws, etc.). Today a seat on the Supreme Court gives great, unchecked power.
The founders had thought this would not be a problem because they gave Congress the power to limit the subjects which the Supreme Court could consider and the founders knew that most power rested with the states because of the tenth and eleventh amendments. These facts would limit the array of subjects that the Supreme Court would be considering so a “detail act” check on the court seemed unneeded .
The founders had not planned on Marberry v. Madison which in 1803 caused the Supreme Court to become the ultimate arbiter of what the Constitution said and therefore what powers the Congress, the President, and the Court have under the Constitution. This Marberry v. Madison power was self assumed and immense. The only remaining check on the Supreme Court was the Tenth and Eleventh Amendments which gave considerable latitude to the states. This restraint on the Court was effectively eliminated by the Civil War which left the states as vassals of Washington. The founders did not intend to create a “monster” branch of government, but the founders never anticipated the Marbury v. Madison power grab by the court or the complete emasculation of the states by Lincoln.
In any event, today the Supreme Court needs a check on its "detail acts". Since the Court acts through its decisions, it is the decisions of the Court which need to be reviewed and “checked” if needed. Fortunately one of the great Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, realized there was a need for such a check so he proposed that Supreme Court decisions could only be published as finished decisions after they had received the approval of the Congress. There are many ways to implement such a proposal. One of the easiest would be to have each decision issued by the Court go into a 60 days suspense period during which the public could read and react to the decision. On the first Wednesday session of Congress following the suspense period each house would give a non-debatable up or down vote. If the decision got majority approval from both houses, it would be issued unchanged. If it failed to get a majority vote from either or both houses it would go back to the Supreme Court to be rewritten, reissued, and reconsidered by the Congress. This process has some of the same characteristics of the Presidential veto over Congressional enactments. (Some have argued that a majority vote from both houses of Congress is too high a standard. Perhaps a 40% plurality vote from both houses might be adequate to check the truly outrageous acts of the Supreme Court, while giving the court some latitude to check the wishes of the majority in its decision making.)
There is the additional problem of Federal Circuit Court of Appeals' decisions that on appeal to the Supreme Court are denied "cert" (ie denied a hearing by the high court). These opinions become the law of the land by default because the Supreme Court has let the lower court's opinion stand. A check needs to be installed on these decisions as well. If the Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal of a lower court opinion, the lower court opinion should be subjected to the same up or down vote by the two houses of Congress if two state governors request such a vote within 30 days of the Supreme Court's decision to deny "cert". If the case gets a "no" vote from either house of Congress the case would be sent to the Supreme Court for an opinion. In this way, the Supreme Court would be forced to consider the case and to write an opinion acceptable to Congress.
Obviously this essay has been prepared as a consequence of the current debate (debacle) in the Senate over the approval of Federal judges, the filibuster, and Senate rules in general. The only reason the Senate is twisting itself into knots is everyone’s realization that judicial appointments are all important in our current federal system. Rather than destroy the Senate as an important deliberative body, why not put a simple decision by decision check on the Court’s individual acts. Individual judicial appointments would be far less important if individual Supreme Court decisions could be reviewed by the Congress.
.......... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 5/20/2005) .
Prisoners Should be able to Opt for Humane Isolation Rather than a Regular Prison - America’s prisons are rough places where men are subjected to physical attack, homosexual rape, lack of privacy, extortion, and various other humiliations.
All of these problems could be eliminated if prisoners were given the option of entering a private cell that had the following: phone, sink, small micro wave, hot plate, small refrigerator, table chair, bed, toilet, and television. Each cell could have a small enclosed yard area for exercise and outdoor hobbies. The prisoners wold have to sign an agreement that they would care for the items provided and devote seven hours a day to tasks dictated by the prison authorities.
The prison authorities would insist on GED (High School Graduate Equivalency Diploma) classes or other learning, as appropriate. The authorities could also insist on the prisoner learning any occupational tasks that can be learned in a home setting. The authorities would use educational television programs to teach with occasional visits by instructors trained in the subject areas. These visits would provide the prisoners with the human contact every person requires. The phone would be activated for a few hours per day and this would provide the prisoners with additional human contact. For instance, the phone could be used to chat with librarians, to learn what books and magazines were available, and to actually order reading material. Alternatively, the phone might be available to talk to friends in other cells or on the outside.
The prisoners would be provided with a daily delivery of food items, some prepared, some in need of preparation. This delivery would also provide a bit of human contact with the delivery man. The television would be totally controlled by the authorities for seven hours per day when it was used for education, but the prisoner would be able to order content during the remaining hours from a menu organized by the authorities. The authorities might put Bishop Sheen reruns on the menu while leaving the Playboy channel off the menu.
The guarding of the cell areas would fall mostly to trained dogs who would patrol the perimeter but also the areas between the cells. This would keep the prisoners from “visiting each other while at the same time protecting against escape. If a prisoner was unable or unwilling to follow the rules he would be transferred to a traditional prison.
The space requirement for such a prison housing 1500 prisoners would be about one square mile (640 acres) with half the space being used for actual cells and half the space being used for administrative, commissary, guard houses, infirmary, kennels, walkways separating the cells, etc. Stated in another way, each acre would house two to three prisoners together with their support facilities. Such a prison would have higher land costs but its other costs might be lower. ............. (prepared by Hugh Murray on June 3, 2005).
Do Israeli Actions Harm or Simply Manipulate America’s Agenda? - This is a subject that isn’t discussed in the media mostly because there is little public discussion by politicians in either country. However, a little analysis of Israeli actions yields some interesting speculations.
Consider the fact that Israeli spies are active trying to acquire US defense secrets. Recently a fellow named Franklin was caught and a few years ago Jonathan Pollard was caught and sent to jail. No one knows how many Israeli spies have yet to be arrested. Israel gets any weapons system it wants from the US so why should Israel spy on this country? Why risk the negative publicity if a spy is caught? Why risk the loss of the generous aid package that Israel gets every year from the US? There are several observations that one could make about this situation. First, Israel is evidently not happy with just the operating weapons system by itself; Israel wants the plans, computer codes, and design secrets that have gone into the weapons system. Why this driving need for all the minutia? Second, Israel is evidently confident that no amount of negative publicity will cause the American political establishment to turn against Israel. So far this calculation has proven to be correct. (Even the intentional attempt by Israel to sink a US Navy communication ship, the USS Liberty parked in international waters off the coast of Egypt in the early 1970's, did not cause any diminution in annual America aid.)
Consider the fact that Israel is suspected of being the source of American secrets turning up in China. Why would Israel want to put defense secrets into the hands of America’s potential superpower adversary? Does Israel want to build up good will with a rising superpower? Does Israel want to help China achieve superpower status more quickly ? Is Israel concerned that America might cut back on military expenditures unless challenged by another superpower? Obviously Israel has to have the secrets in order to give China the secrets so that might explain why Israel is spying on the US. Perhaps the fact that both Israel and China have a significant Muslim minorities, might influence Israeli policy? .
Israel has a large nuclear arsenal. This arsenal, of perhaps 200 bombs, is a source of tremendous instability in the region. Iran’s movement toward “the bomb” has been justified as an offset to Israel’s arsenal. If Israel gave up its nuclear bombs, America would no doubt agree to keep an America aircraft carrier loaded with nuclear bombs steaming in the eastern Mediterranean. This would provide Israel with a nuclear umbrella while depriving Israel’s enemies of the “nuclear offset” argument. Does Israel simply want to increase the level of animosity between the US and Iran? How is America supposes to deal with the “double standard” argument coming from all the Muslim pundits around the world?
This little essay has a lot of sentences that end with question marks. Is it fair to ask so many questions and provide so little substance by way of answers? Probably not. Please forgive. .............. (prepared by Hugh Murray on 6/4/2005) .
Pope Benedict XVI Should Study the Anthropology of Religion - Through history many religions have come and most have gone. These religions have all had certain common traits. Each possessed a dogma which explained the great questions of God, of life, of death, of good, of evil, etc.. Religious dogmas are in some cases written down and in some cases they are transmitted only orally, but in all cases dogmas are strengthened in the people by ritual practices which reinforce the important points of the dogma. To enforce rigor in the practice of the ritual and accuracy in the explanation of dogma, religions have priests, shamans, or medicine men. Religions have used prohibitions and taboos to discourage certain “bad” behavior or beliefs; while religions also have requirements to compel certain “good” behavior or beliefs. In each case the behavior (prohibited or required) shapes belief or practice particularly in the young, and it helps the faithful of all ages maintain their beliefs throughout their lives.
The preceding paragraph provides a very abbreviated introduction to the work of the anthropologists who help us understand what is common to all religions whether they have few adherents and survive for only a few decades or whether they have billions of adherents and survive for many centuries or millennium. Anthropologists do not attempt to divine the truth or falsehood of any particular religion. They are interested in determining what key factors in a religion cause it to be accepted over long periods by large numbers of adherents or alternatively what missing factors (or contradictory factors) might cause a religion to lose adherents and fall into disuse. Anthropologists know that all men seek comfort with regard to the ultimate questions of life. Anthropologists know that all men are consciously and subconsciously seeking a combination of dogma, ritual, and priesthood that make sense and fit well together.
Regarding dogma, the Catholic Church is truly blessed with a full, well integrated set of teachings. In the Catholic Church, great emphasis is placed upon moral and theological truths that are both revealed via the scriptures and via the study of the natural law. The natural law is revealed through the study of man and the society of man. It continues with a study of man’s conscience which differentiates right from wrong and it investigates what works for man and society and, of course, what doesn’t work for man and society, etc. This search for truth achieved probably its best known exposition in St Augustine’s The City of God and St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica. The more recently published Catechism of the Catholic Church is also a wonderful compilation of truths from both the natural law and revelation. With regard to dogma the Catholic Church is in good shape.
However, Pope Benedict XVI now presides over a Church where the rituals of the Church seem unable to adequately infuse important beliefs, such as a belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, into Catholics particularly younger Catholics. The Real Presence is not an optional belief in the Catholic Church; it is the reason for saying the Mass; it is the principle reason the Catholic Church has for an ordained priesthood. Nevertheless, fifty percent of Catholics below the age of fifty do not believe in the Real Presence. Anthropologists would advise Pope Benedict that unless the ritual is shored up with prohibitions and required behaviors that instill a sense of the Real Presences, the Catholic Church (despite its full, complete, well integrated dogma) could suffer a precipitous decline in adherents.
Pope Benedict would be well advised to look to the Church’s past for rituals that have succeeded in conveying a sense of the Real Presence. Orthodox liturgies (rituals) might be studied. The deliberations of the Council of Trent which standardize the liturgy four hundred years ago might be studied. If the Pope has an aversion to taking ritual practices from earlier Christian eras, then a study should be made of non Christian religions to see if there are practices which might be adapted to instill in the Catholic faithful a sense of being in the presence of their King and God, of being engaged in the process of uniting themselves with their King and God through Communion. The alternative is painful to contemplate: a decline in attendance at Mass, a decline in vocations, a decline in knowledge of and adherence to Catholic teaching, etc. Concerned Catholics are unable to make changes that might stem this tide; the bishops and the Pope are the only Catholics who can address this problem. Let’s pray they don’t delay too long. ... (prepared by Hugh Murray on June 14, 2005)
The Vulgate - an Important Gift from a Troubled, Driven Man to Western Civilization - St. Jerome is a Doctor of the Church. He was born in 342 in the Balkans and died in 420 in Bethlehem . He was originally buried in the Church of the Nativity and later his remains were moved to Rome. He now lies somewhere in the Sistine Chapel of the basilica of Santa Marie Maggiore. During his life Jerome who was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius came from an upper middle class family that provided him with a good education first at home and later in Rome. He was good with languages, enjoyed translating inscriptions, but was also inclined toward the libertine life. Jerome had an irascible personality that tended to either attract people or repel them. When he was eighteen he began to move toward the faith of his parents, and he was baptized by the Pope in that year.
Jerome at 21 began to travel and to collect copies of various manuscripts. He visited Gaul and studied for a time back in his home town in the Balkans. At this time in his life he was exposed to the Arian heresy and decided to oppose it. However, eventually he set out for the Middle Eastern desert in search for solitude and proximity to the source of his faith. Jerome attended some religious lectures in Antioch where he met Bishop Apollinaris before going to the desert to study and practice austerity. In the desert Jerome was afflicted with distracting and sinful recollections of his libertine youth in Rome. He felt that his reading of Rome’s early authors was the cause of these distracting thoughts so in this period he swore off any reading of pagan authors. With the help of a Jew who had converted to Christianity , he throw himself into the study of Hebrew mostly as a distraction from his wayward, sinful thoughts. At age 31 Jerome was ordained a priest in Antioch with the understanding that the Bishop would not give him any assignments.
At age 38 Jerome went to Constantinople to study the scriptures under the Greek Bishop of that city. Two years later he accompanied the Bishop of Antioch to Rome for a Council to study the religious controversies that were raging in Syria at the time. Pope Damasus (now St. Damasus) was so impressed with Jerome he kept him in Rome as his assistant until he died. Jerome was then 42. Damasus’s successor was put off by Jerome’s personality, so Jerome headed back to the Middle East. This time Jerome settled in Bethlehem and began to focus more intently on the Scriptures. He sought out local scholars to teach him Chaldaic, a ancient language that had been used for the Books of Tobias and Daniel, and to improve his knowledge of Hebrew.
Jerome was now ready for the great work of his life - translating the entire Bible from its original languages into Latin. Before he died at the age of 78 he had translated or refined earlier translations of all books of the bible except Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and Maccabees. His translation into Latin ( known as the Vulgate) served as the source of nearly all knowledge of the Bible in Western Europe for over one thousand years.
However, Jerome did not give up all other work. He helped St Paula establish a house for religious ladies in Jerusalem, he engaged in a wide ranging correspondence which provides scholars with a good sources for understanding life in the 4th century. He was not a deep or creative thinker, but he did have a clear understanding of correct doctrine as well as a mastery of language. This combination of traits made him a particularly effective counterweight to the dissenters and heretics of his era - Arian, Appolinaris, Oriegn, and, even on one occasion, the great St. Augustine himself.
St. Jerome’s life is a great example of the mystery that is the unfolding of God’s plan. Recall that it is St. Jerome’s responses to sinful thoughts that causes him to immerse himself in the study of Hebrew. Later it was this study which allowed St. Jerome to do his great work creating the Vulgate. In similar fashion it was Jerome’s irascible personality that didn’t sit well with Damasus’ successor. This rejection caused Jerome to return to the Holy Land and to take on the major work of his life which brought the Bible to Western Europe. Out of evil comes good; out of suffering comes victory. ... .....(prepared by: Hugh Murray on 6/28/05)
Sen. Max Baucus Wants more Scientists and Engineers - The US Senate recently held a hearing on the costs and benefits of free trade. The hearing ended with Max Baucus engaging in a exchange with the witnesses about the need for more Americans to study science and engineering. They all agreed, America had great programs particularly in its graduate schools, However, they pointed out that most of these students were from other countries and in recent years these foreign students have been returning to their home countries (rather than seeking employment in the US as they did ten or twenty years ago).
Sen. Baucus could address his concerns easily by thinking for a minute about the kind of leaders that are held up for young Americans to admire. Are scientists and engineers seen in the US Senate? Are scientists and engineers held up as ideal leaders in our movies and tv shows?
Only a certain small percentage of the population has the mathematical aptitude to study science and engineering seriously; if the government really wants a high percentage of these bright people to pursue science and engineering, they have to arrange society so such a course of study looks like an avenue to the top. Here are some suggestions: (1) pass a law that classifies all lawyers as part of the judicial branch of government and therefore ineligible for service in Congress or in Cabinet posts. This would free up lots of leadership spots in government for people with other backgrounds; scientists and engineers would end up taking a percentage of those spots. (A side benefit would be the improved quality of governance, because scientist and engineers are very comfortable with numbers, statistics, and numerical relationships, they would be most comfortable in today’s government which is very numbers oriented.), (2) pay 100% of the tuition for any student who gets a C or better in a course on an approved list of science and engineering courses, with a tuition reimbursement on all other courses if the student graduates with a science or engineering degree, (3) ask the President to jawbone the movie and television industries to increase the number of movies that feature scientists or engineers as the stars, and (4) study what other counties do to get their mathematically capable students to take up science and engineering .....(prepared by Hugh Murray 6/30/2005)
The Internet Could Restore the US House of Representative to the Founder’s Ideal - The founders had wanted the US House to be “close to the people” that is why they envisioned one House member for every 30,000 voters, with reelection every two years, and with many months each year spent doing other work back in their districts. Today the only part of that formula that has been retained is “the reelection every two years” standard.
By using the Internet for members to communicate with each other and for members to vote, representatives could be kept back in their districts most of the year. Perhaps participation in some committee hearings would be a little difficult, but the questions might be submitted by e-mail and actually read by the chairman or ranking member.
The government salary could be cut and the members would again be expected to engage in other part-time work to augment their incomes. This would put them in close touch with some normal people, their co-workers, and it would add a dose of “common sense” to their world view..... With such a system the number of Representatives could go back to the 1 to 30,000 ratio. This would make running for US Representative a less money intensive activity. A group of 30,000 voters can be contacted in person by going door to door and that is a completely different kind of campaign than the $1,000,000 efforts that occur now when there is an open seat.
As the need for money decreased and as House members spent less time in Washington, the influence of lobbyists would decline while these legislators became more responsive to their constituents.
(A final slightly related point, the electoral college provides one vote for every member of Congress, House member or Senator. Today Wyoming gets three electoral votes and California gets 54 electoral votes. A differential of 18 to 1. But the two states have a difference in registered voters of 66 to one. Under the system described by the founding fathers, California would have about 691 members of the House and Wyoming would have about 11. That would give California about 693 electoral votes and Wyoming 13 electoral votes a ratio of 53 to 1. This would restore the founder’s intended balance between the “electoral representation of the people” and an “electoral representation of each state”, and it would tend to make the electoral college results more closely reflect the popular vote (though it would still be possible for the two to diverge as they did in 2000.) If all states adopted Maine’s system for allocating electoral votes (i.e. allocate electoral vote the same way each presidential candidates did in each of the state’s US House districts), this new system would almost certainly yield a final electoral college percentage very close to the popular vote percentage).. .........(prepared by Hugh Murray 6/30/3005)
Which of President Bush’s Transgressions Should Concern Us the Most - The list of President Bush’s failings grows daily.
(1) His tax cuts for the rich have put a terrible strain on the economy and added a huge debt burden onto the next generation.
(2) The Downing Street Memo indicates Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq before 9/11 and that he was prepared to “cook” the facts to get support for the Iraq war.
(3) Dr. David Ray Griffin has pointed out numerous factual anomalies surrounding 9/11. Griffin’s analysis indicates that Bush (or people close to him) evidently knew about 9/11 in advance and let it happen in order to have an excuse to start a war in the Middle East.
(4) His inability or unwillingness to say “I’m sorry, I made a mistake with this war” illuminates an inner arrogance that is particular offense to those that were injured, to the families of those killed, and to those, such as Powell and Shinseki, who tried to speak truth to power before it started.
(5) Dr. Steven Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania makes it clear that there was massive election fraud in Ohio. The votes were evidently switched from Kerry to Bush (or simply added to Bush’s totals) in heavy Republican areas (Note: the magnitude of this fraud was between 5 and 6 percent of the total Ohio vote). This switching was evidently accomplished in the electronic networking devices that received and totaled the votes at certain county election headquarters. Rep. Conyers (D-MI) has pointed out patterns that indicate that Blackwell and Rove (Bush stalwarts) orchestrated the fraud in Republican areas while they were simultaneously suppressing voter turnout in Democratic areas by depriving these polling places of an adequate number of voting machines.
(6) The Gitmo revelations combined with the arrogance of forcing through the cabinet nomination of Gonzalez, the author of the Gitmo policy, shows a lack of respect for basic America values.
(7) Bush’s unyielding support for Bolton for the UN shows a disregard for common civility. No sane person can countenance the corruption rampant at the UN, but does that mean America should send a uncouth bully to be its representative.
After reviewing the list, probably Bush’s inability to say “I’m sorry” is his greatest failing. All people sin, and the first step to internal reformation is to admit having done wrong. The process begins with one fault and spreads to others. Obviously Bush is not going to admit he and/or his stalwarts stole an election or allowed the country to be attacked. Either of those would lead to impeachment and probably imprisonment. However, to admit that a mistake was made on the tax cuts and/or the Iraq war would begin the purgative process. ....... (prepared by Hugh Murray 6/31/2005)
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