Catholic Pillow Fight
A liturgically orthodox Catholic who enjoys many of the reforms of Vatican II tries to come to grips with the polarization which he finds in the blogosphere between "conservatives" and "progressives". ("In necessasariis, unitas; In dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas" - St Augustine)
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Blog Entries

This Is Seriously Frightening.

Posted by: tony on 08/26/2006 08:36 PM (Read: )
I had to look at this twice to determine if it weren't some sort of bizarre joke. Kevin McCullough of Worldnet Daily reports about 4 bills wending their way through the California assembly. These bills will make it a crime to teach that homosexuality is sinful.

Nunez's solution to the people he disagrees with is to outlaw their ability to disagree with him.

And Nunez's viewpoint is one that pervades liberals in his party and in the nation. That is why Nunez and his fellow Democrats in the California State Assembly voted in unison to pass four bills that are all designed to punish people who disagree with them. To incarcerate someone for daring to criticize a different point of view – over a purely behavioral issue.

The bills in question have passed both houses and await Gov. Schwarzenegger's signature or veto. The bills were unanimously embraced by the Democrats and universally denounced by the Republicans.

What do they say?

These four bills would require that in every classroom from kindergarten through high school perverse sexual activity be praised and highlighted in a positive light. They would require textbooks, many of which would then also be produced for other states beyond the borders of California, make positive references to the ideas of men putting on women's under things. They would restrict school districts from being able to bar females from displaying dildos on the outerwear of their prom dress. And in functional sexuality courses from K-12, they would require positive explanation of the merits and instruction of anal intercourse.

These four bills are also dangerous in what they outlaw. No single teacher – not even in science classes – would be allowed to talk about the negative health impact of homosexual behavior. No school counselor would be allowed to confirm to a molested student that they felt wrong about continuing in a homosexual relationship that they were primarily drawn into because of earlier molestation to begin with. No mention of moral aspects of sexual behavior would be permitted unless immoral activity were praised and in fact referred to as moral.

In other words, the pushing of the sexual envelope would be unleashed with a nitro-fueled explosion the likes of which has never been seen in America's history.

One of the bills goes a step further. Its actual purpose is to cripple any state resources such as fire or police protection for any religious institution – i.e., a Bible-based church – that would in any way demonstrate negative "doctrine" or "propaganda." So if an arsonist (who also just happened to be a radical activist) decided to burn down a church that was in their view teaching the faithful interpretation of Scripture as it relates to sexual practice, then the local fire company could be barred from assisting in the recovery and protection of said facility.

And I always thought the term "thought police" was hyperbole. These people are the thought police if I ever heard of it. Imaigne, criminalizing a dissenting viewpoint.

Look closely at California, people. Understand that if Democrats take control of the US House and Senate, this will become your life. Your children will be educated in buggery and God help you if you complain about it.

What has happened to California is what is in store for the nation if we elect these people.
Filed in :: Politics | Permalink | Discuss (0) | Trackback (0)

Pro Lifers Should Celebrate Life

Posted by: tony on 08/24/2006 10:55 AM (Read: )
Todd at Catholic Sensibility wonders why pro-lifers are dour and angry looking all the time. He thinks it might be a bit conterproductive to their cause. He writes:
Many pro-lifers cannot comprehend why they seem to get so little support from their parish priests. My pastor nailed it in his bulletin column. Here's what I posted on Monday:
I am not unaware - as some of you have noted to me and other priests - that those who serve on pro-life committees and who work for life causes in other arenas are among the saddest people in our parishes, looking dour, even angry, rarely smiling or reflecting the joy of life that they promote.

I wonder if these people see the harm they do. They leave the conversion of the hard-hearted entirely in the hands of some miracle of God. They underestimate the calm witness of a serene and peaceful person. A few people posted their positive personal experiences of Helen Prejean on that open book thread. Absolutely no comment on them.

Todd is right on target with this. We, as Catholics are called to evangelize. We generally don't do it like the Jehovah's Witnesses, door to door, but we have our own, and very effective way of evangelizing.

Live our life in a way that makes people want what we have.

This means being full of joy and peace. This means being secure in your service to the will of God. Being at loggerheads with God's will is not a path of a peaceful person. Taking time to sit down quietly with God in the Blessed Sacrament and listen to what He has to say.

People catch on to that. They wonder why you are so joyful when their lives are filled with strife. They wonder why you are peaceful and not so worry-filled as they. Then they come to you and ask. When that happens the door cracks open and you have your opportunity. Invite them to Mass.

What does not attract people is the bitterness and anger projected by many pro-lifers. I guess that rather than peacefully turning people away from abortion one heart at a time, they try and take it on as some sort of battle. Many times they depersonalize the object of their ire calling them murderers, and the clinics "abortuaries". Though accurate, it isn't helpful.

We pro-lifers need to attack the abortion problem the same way we are supposed to attack anything else, with faith, love, and charity.
Filed in :: Evangelism | Permalink | Discuss (5) | Trackback (0)

Told You So

Posted by: tony on 08/23/2006 03:19 PM (Read: )
I said it here, here and here

And now the venerable Wall Street Journal backs me up:
On the political left, raising the youth vote is one of the most common goals. This implicitly plays to the tired old axiom that a person under 30 who is not a liberal has no heart (whereas one who is still a liberal after 30 has no head). The trouble is, while most "get out the vote" campaigns targeting young people are proxies for the Democratic Party, these efforts haven't apparently done much to win elections for the Democrats. The explanation we often hear from the left is that the new young Democrats are more than counterbalanced by voters scared up by the Republicans on "cultural issues" like abortion, gun rights and gay marriage.

In order to get out the "youth vote", you have to have some "youths". But three generations of contraception and abortion has guaranteed that liberals will marginalize themselves. Democracy (or representative republicism) is a numbers game.
But the data on young Americans tell a different story. Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them, they haven't for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20%--explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.

It's not even so much Republicans and Democrats, it's Humanae Vitae folks and non-Humanae Vitae folks. Republicans who contracept and abort are going to be in just as much trouble as liberals or Democrats.

So I guess the fecund will inherit the earth.

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Filed in :: Abortion | Permalink | Discuss (0) | Trackback (0)

Reader Bleg...

Posted by: tony on 08/17/2006 01:35 PM (Read: )
Would prayers to St. Francis be in order? I'd hope it would be appropriate. With the number of people dying daily in the Middle East, and untold thousands a day dying from abortion, my request seems almost trivial.

Tuesday night at 2:30am, my wife awoke to our 14 year old dog, Missy, thrashing on the ground in the throes of a convulsion. This lasted for over 10 minutes, which makes it dangerous and necessitates a visit to the vet.

After the fit was over, she had a hard time gaining her feet, and was wandering around confused. We tried to get her to settle down, but she'd have none of that. After about a half hour she seemed more herself. She was drinking some of her water, and my wife gave her her biscuits.

I took off on a business trip, and a half hour down the road, my wife called me to tell me that the dog was convulsing again, and she was taking her to the vet.

She's been in the "hospital" for two days. The vet has run blood tests, and can't find anyting wrong. The nurse told me that "well, she's an old dog..." as if to blame old age for their inability to find anything wrong.

The dog is coming home tonight with anti convulsant medicine. My wife mentioned that we should talk about "what we want to do about Missy". I'm not ready to think about that kind of stuff yet. I know that her fate, as the fate of all of beings both mortal and immortal are in the hands of a loving God. I don't want to "give up on her" before her time, and euthanize her unnecessarily, nor do I want her to suffer.

I have read that the dog is "out" for the seizure, and when they "come back" they really have no knowledge of what happened to them. If this is the case, the seizures are more frightening for us than for Missy.

Please say a quick prayer for her, and for us. And if you've had experiencing with a dog who is prone to seizures, please let me know.

Update: Missy is resting comfortably, and the few seizures she's had are very minor (a little trembling and foot "paddling") and of short duration (less than 5 minutes). She is on 60mg of phenobarbitol per day (30 mg twice a day). She trying to get up, and not having a lot of success.

We're going to give it three weeks to see if the medicine stabilizes her, and gets her quality of life to a reasonable level (at least so that her tail will wag occasionally, and she seems to enjoy her food).

I'll keep you all posted.

Update 2: Missy's alert, and she is going outside (with a towel under her belly slung around her somewhat holding her up). She's walking for a bit, and when she tips, I pull up on the towel and straighten her up. Her tail is wagging more, and her back feet aren't curling under when she tries to walk. So the prayers seem to be working. Thanks to all pray-ers. :)

Update 3: Missy is up and walking around. She appears to want to walk around more than sleep. Her tail is wagging all the time now, and there are less "accidents". She likes to go for small walks outside. I've posted a picture of her from today.
Filed in :: Family Issues | Permalink | Discuss (5) | Trackback (0)

Child Abuse. Not Just For Catholics Anymore.

Posted by: tony on 08/17/2006 11:47 AM (Read: )
It seems that a suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case has been found. Seems that is was an ex-teacher. There seems to be a rash of teacher child abuse.

So which of our legislators is going to step up to the plate, and increase the statute of limitations on the amount of time victims of teachers can be accused? How about when the multi-million dollar awards hit the states, and the residents are encouraged to give up a latte a day to pay the abuse claims?

How about suing the teacher's unions, or the NEA? Heck, they have deep pockets, and the more money they pay for abuse victims, the less money they'll have for abortion advocacy and condoms-on-the-cucumbers classes.

Abuse, it's not just for Catholics anymore.

(H/T to The Curt Jester.)
Filed in :: Politics | Permalink | Discuss (2) | Trackback (0)

Let's Talk About Liturgists

Posted by: tony on 08/12/2006 11:21 PM (Read: )
I almost felt this one coming on. It seems my previous post regarding Todd's critique of the new USCCB rules has poked a sore spot. It was a comment which I made about liturgists, of which Todd is one:
Though I like you, Todd, I don't have a whole lot of use for "liturgists". Priests ought to be able to plan their own liturgies.

Todd responds to my statement:
Ask some priests of large parishes what they think of that. Many do. But others recognize they are not as well-educated nor as inclined to oversee liturgy.

Maybe it's time I get educated. How about somebody, Todd, some parish priests, anybody tell me the difference between celebrating mass in a large parish as opposed to a small parish. Maybe I'm ignorant, but the mass has a basic script that all priests are supposed to follow. The priest needs to carefully prepare his homily, but a sacristan can make sure that all the acoutraments are available to him. They can make sure there are enough cups, wine, hosts, etc.
If you have a choir or two, somebody has to run it, and usually it's not the priest.

It's usually the Choir Director (either paid or volunteer depending on the size of the parish music ministry and the resources of the parish).
I oversee about 550 volunteers in my parish.

Holy cow. Most circuses don't even have that many people, I'd imagine.
The parish priests are a part of that, certainly. But most priests couldn't care less about the details I get done. I'm sure they could do a creditable job, and in a few cases, do it better than me. But I'm employed for the same reason a principal, a janitor, a youth minister, or a school teacher would be. We are extensions of the pastoral ministry of Christ to a particular parish community. We serve people and are answerable to our pastor.

And we have a number of coordinators in our parish answerable to the pastor. As the Webservant, I'm one of them. I coordinate a team of web designers. I am a volunteer. We have a paid choir director (part time), Coordinator of lectors, coordinator of EME's, sacristans, etc. These people operate pretty much independently without any oversight.
Doubtless, there are some parishioners who feel I'm a useless appendage in my parish. They're welcome to their opinion, even if they make it to an influential parish committee. But I doubt they're going to get rid of me short of my retirement, death, relocation, or a grave professional blunder. But it doesn't matter. I still serve them and pray for them daily.

My concern isn't with the pot luck suppers, the funeral lunches, religious ed, etc. My concern is who is responsible for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I believe that is the priest and the priest alone. If you are lucky enough to have multiple priests, the pastor is the final say on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. But except for high holy days (Christmas, Triduum, which need more lead time preperation because they have different requirements), I can't see a requirement for a Mass with a cast of thousands.

Like I said, maybe I'm ignorant. Maybe a big parish needs "big liturgies". But if our priests are not educated in the rubrics of the Mass, we are in serious trouble.

What are the diocesan requirements for certification of liturgists? I know what education a priest is required to go through for ordination, but what about liturgists?

Can anyone hang out a shingle and call themselves a liturgist?

Let's discuss.
Filed in :: Liturgy | Permalink | Discuss (11) | Trackback (0)

The Cross Continues to Stand on Mount Soledad

Posted by: tony on 08/11/2006 10:01 PM (Read: )
WASHINGTON – With a speed and decisiveness that surprised some, the Senate on Tuesday approved a plan to transfer the land beneath the Mount Soledad war memorial to federal control in an effort to avoid a court-ordered removal of the cross that stands there.

The Senate's unanimous vote sent the cross-transfer plan to President Bush for his expected signature. It creates what some consider an entirely new dynamic in the 17-year effort to save the cross, but which others say is a hopeless attempt to preserve a symbol on city land that courts have said unconstitutionally favors one religion over others. [Source]

And to Philip Paulson, the atheist who has a problem with the cross, I have a message for you. [ed.- Profanity warning on the link]
Filed in :: Athesim | Permalink | Discuss (0) | Trackback (0)

More Fun From The USCCB

Posted by: tony on 08/11/2006 03:02 PM (Read: )
Todd at Catholic Sensibility is always a fun read for me. Todd is kind of like Joe Cecil, only with a lot less nastiness and quite a bit more liturgical smarts. I kind of ignore the astronomy stuff and the long drawn out discussions of Vatican II documents, but sometimes he writes something that catches my eye.
Some of us insiders have known about it for months. Rock mentions more work ahead for bishops and liturgy geeks, including a revision of the USCCB documents Music in Catholic Worship (1972) and Liturgical Music Today (1982).

My conservative/traditionalist colleagues routinely dismiss these documents for various reasons: their assessment we don't take Vatican documents on liturgical music seriously, the bishops didn't write MCW or LMT or vote on them, they are not "legal" documents in a canonical or ecclesiastical sense, they conflict with other church or conservatory wisdom, etc..

The authority issues people raise don't hold much weight with me. Liturgists, clergy, and bishops of the early 70's knew they were in a difficult spot: virtual mission territory, in fact. Pastors and church musicians were not well-placed to implement unified reform in a majority of parishes, even assuming they could agree on a coherent plan. Clergy still dictated what happened along the lines of personal ideology. And full-time music directors were almost as rare as plainsong.

Todd has probably felt my disdain for "Liturgy Directors" (since he is one). It's nothing personal, it's just that I have been badly affected by "Liturgy Directors" (almost to a one, liberal "spirit of Vatican II" types who figured the rubrics of the mass were simply "guidelines" to a more fullfilling and community enhancing experience")

Vatican II was supposed to reduce "clericalism", but what it seems to have done is replace it with "bureaucratism" where we've traded priests for badly catechized "church ladies" who proceeded to feminize the mass and remove any hint of sacred art still to be found in the church proper.
The backdrop of LMT was a little brighter, but still not ideal. In my home diocese of Rochester, singing the responsorial psalm wasn't vigorously pursued as a priority till the 80's. When I left town in 1988, only two parishes had full-time liturgy/music directors. The blogosphere thinks of Rochester as flaming liberal because the bishop there isn't a curia lackey. I think liturgically backward because reform was slow in coming.

No, the blogosphere thinks of Rochester as flaming liberal because of antics like this. If you think this is an aberration, the priest in the picture is the poster boy for vocations in Rochester.
Simply put, the conventional wisdom was that only a minority of parishes were prepared to inclined to implement a juridical document. Why issue an authoritative document when there was no vehicle to command compliance? And then of course there wre Catholics in those ealy post-conciliar days who just wanted to be done with authoritarianism.

So they traded the authoritarianism of the priest for the authoritarianism of the "Liturgy Director". Bad trade in my opinion. They could have been done with authority, they simply would have had to join any one of the 33,000 Protestant denominations.

Post conciliar catechesis was abysmal if not non-existant. I am a victim of that bad catechesis. This is the main reason why I'm not anxious to "drop the hammer" with respect to reform of the reform. I would like it to be done slowly, incrementally, pastorally with a huge emphesis on teaching.

But by the same token, those "Liturgy Directors" who aren't on board with this should just get our of the way.
Despite a clandestine network of Vatican tattletales, more legislation from Rome, and the advent of the internet, I'm still not convinced we have anything approaching a uniformity the backtrackers would seem to wish for.

Wahhhh!!! they told the Pope about our Clown Mass!!! Now we have to stop!!!! Oh horror. There goes all that community based spirituality (not to mention you can fit more EMEs in the sanctuary. Remember how many clowns they used to be able to fit in a Volkswagen?)

Interesting thing is, I now realize that I don't have to suffer under a heterodox priest, or a tyrannical "Liturgy Director". I have options. I have the right as a Catholic Christian to have an authentic Mass celebrated by my parish priest, and if it's not, I have the right to complain. And now we're being listened to (or the "reforms" have gotten so egregious that they cannot be ignored; maybe the calliope music eminating from the "big top" tipped them off).
All that said, I've seen sections of some of the proposed revisions. There's still a lot of work ahead, but at the end of the story, these are my predictions on what we'll see:

- A music document that will be vote-approved by the USCCB and implemented more or less seriously by your local bishop and/or your diocesan liturgy office.
- The document will heavily reference Vatican instruction on liturgy and music, especially the period of 1963-date, but it will also contain significant aspects somewhat particular to various American needs.
- The document will emphasize a pastoral tone and continue to give parishes great leeway on how music ministry is approached. Progressive Catholics are deeply imbedded in the consulting process, not because the Bugnini Cabal is alive and well in the USA, but mainly because many conservative Catholic musicians have taken themselves out of the picture over the past three to four decades.
- As Built of Living Stones did with architecture and art, the new document will not be totally satisfactory to Catholic conservatives. It will not condemn enough. It will maintain many of the guiding principles that progressive liturgists have supported: singing the Mass, not singing at Mass, active participation in the pews, musical quality regardless of genre, and the like.
- It will not be a panacea. Authentic implementation will remain in the hands of your parish leaders: the pastors who care, the paid and volunteer musicians, and the people in the pews themselves. Apathy will continue unbounded in parishes large and small. We're only human.

My prediction will be that it will probably be satisfactory for me. I'm not looking for radical reform. It didn't work after Vatican II, and left a lot of Catholics (like me) out in the spiritual cold. I certainly don't want to do that to my post conciliar brothers and sisters, many of whom don't know anything else. I would like to take them by the hand and introduce them to that Fellow in the tabernacle, currently in that dark side closet, and with His grace soon to be moved back into the light. I'd like to introduce them to the beauty of plainsong (not exclusively, Haugen, Haas and the St. Louis Jesuits did produce some good stuff. But it's time for winnowing. In with the wheat, out with the chaff. I'd like to let them know that "funny smell" is incense, and introduce them to Latin. Even if it's only "Agnus Dei qui tolis peccata mundi. Miserere nobis".

Good changes, traditional changes... Catholic changes.
Once I get material I'm not honor-bound to keep private, I'll present it here for your edification and commentary. Meanwhile, keep singing that new song.

Vatican II did not mandate liberal lockstep. The "freedom" offered is also the freedom to be more traditional. Catholics would do well to remember that.
Filed in :: Liturgy | Permalink | Discuss (3) | Trackback (0)

Sola Scriptura

Posted by: tony on 08/10/2006 01:05 PM (Read: )
There have been many and heated discussions on another blog as was hinted to by Mark Windsor. I am not going to link to the blog in question, but I wanted to present a very cogent view of the differences in Protestants1 and Catholics with regard to Sola Scriptura (the doctrine of 'Scripture alone').

SteveG2 who was a prolific commenter on The Reluctant Atheist, and now on the "converted" blog, Et Tub Jen, writes in a comment box:

Oh, I am here, and of course I have lots to say (when don't I) ;-)

I'll start by agreeing with what Colleen has said, and flatly state that I see no 'deal killer' in what you've said. But, that is from a strictly Catholic understanding. I imagine that some denominations would indeed disagree with us. Now onto something meatier.

First, I want to again mention a most fundamental issue that I've brought up a couple times here that gets to the heart of the fundamental diffrence between how Catholicism and Protestantism might answer this. As an example, i'll refer you to a brief discussion I had with a commenter here on your Big hurdles: The Adam and Eve story post as an illustration.

As a Catholic, I am obviously going to biased towards one view, and think I can make strong arguments for that paradigm, but that is not my main point. The point I want to draw out here is that I think you may need to face this fundamental difference sooner rather than later as it will ultimately guide you in how you are able to answer such questions. Indeed it is THE fundamental difference that exists in Christendom. That difference is in regards to scripture and how we read it, and who has the authority to teach it's meaning. I am going to oversimplify terribly here, but it's unavoidable lest I write a book length answer. Here are the two basic paradigms offerred by Catholicism and Protestantism.....

Protestantism -
  • God gave us the scriptures as our source for discovering His word and truth.
  • Scripture alone is to be the guide and source of doctrine regarding what a Christian is to believe.
  • The believer, guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can read the bible and determine what is right belief.
  • Scripture ALONE is AUTHORITATIVE in the life of the believer.
  • This is a belief known as Sola Scriptura.

Catholicism -
  • Jesus intended to establish a Church.
  • Jesus selected 12 close disciples (the apostles) and explicitly gave them authority in the Church he was establishing (see Matt 16 & Matt 18)
  • The apostle Peter was singled out and given a key role as the 'head' of the apostles. (see Matt. 16:18)
  • Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would protect them from error and lead them into all truth.
  • After Jesus Resurrection and ascension, the apostles began building the church and spreading the gospel.
  • The apostolic 'office' is attested to in the NT, and as the apostles died, they appointed successors to their 'office'. These successors were known from the beginning as Bishops.
  • Each Generation of bishops was succeeded by another generation of bishops, and this continues until today.
  • These successor bishops, with the successor of Peter at their head, are guided by the HS (as promised by Jesus)and responsible for ensuring, and protecting the truth of the faith from generation to generation. This includes guiding the faithful in the meaning, mode, and understanding of the words of scripture.
  • The Church as lead by the Bishops,with the the successor of Peter at the head is AUTHORITATIVE in the life of the believer
  • It is in the light of BOTH scripture AND tradition that we are to undestand the faith.

...I need to admit first off each point is something that Protestants and Catholics have spilled endless amounts of ink debating and fighting about (unfortunately). So, I am not trying gloss over them, or say that a Protestant has no challenges to the Catholic premises, but just laying out the basics of the paradigms so I can make some observations about them.

Observation 1: America is fundamentally a Protestant nation. The idea of just picking up the bible and being able to discover God and Christ is deeply ingrained in this culture to the point that the average American with no foreknowledge of Christian history (yourself for example), would think this is the norm. They would thus likely do exactly what you are doing. They would get a bible, start reading, and start trying to discover those truths (and in fact a good bit CAN be done via this method).

But as far as the wider history and culture of Christianity goes, this is an approach that was....

  1. Unthinkable prior to the Reformation
  2. Impossible prior to widespread literacy and the advent of the printing press
  3. Even today the minority view in worldwide Christendom since rougly 75% to 85% of Christendom is Catholic or Eastern Orthodox and rejects Sola Scriptura (though this last point might seem hard to fathom since most of America is Protestant and such a high percentage of that minority is concentrated here and dominates much of the discussion).

Observation 2: There are some inherent problems with Sola Scriptura which make it somewhat self-refuting. The fundamental issues are that the bible nowhere claims for itself that it is authoritative. And even if it did, the issue of the canon (what to include in the bible) destroys it as being workable. In the early church history, there were many books claiming to be inspired (Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of the Hebrews, etc., etc.). Unless the bible itself provides an infallible index as to what's suppossed to be in it, there is no way we can know from the pages of scripture itself which books should be included/excluded.

In fact, the canon of the bible was determined over hundred's of years and was guided and approved by the Church (in the body of the bishops at the ecumenical councils) which deemed some books as being in keeping with what had been passed on to them from the apostles. The bible didn't drop out of the sky after all, and even Protestants in a sense rely on the Catholic Church as having protected the canon (in particular the New Testament) as having been correct as to which books to keep and which not too.

Observation 3: The bible, by definition is not meant to be picked up, and read as if it were a novel. Without adequate knowledge of the source languages, without knowledge of the history and culture of the writers, without knowledge of traditional teachings of Christianity, without expertise in ancient manuscripts, without an understanding of the literary modes of ancient cultures (and in particular the modes of any given book of the bible), and a multitude of other factors that come in to play, reading and UNDERSTANDING the whole of bible becomes nearly an impossible task.

A book such as the bible, written over such a vast period of time, in different languages, in different cultures, etc. demands an interpreter. It demands expertise to handle (actually expertS) it. It demands a guide (actually guideS) to walk us through it. You've already tacitly aknowledged this by purchasing a book to help guide you because you were unable to accomplish this on your own. That's nothing to be ashamed of. Neither could I acomplish this, and neither could any other single person. Likewise anybody who picks up a bible study guide admits the same (and ALL Christians would need to in order to make sense of much of scripture).

With that reality established, the question then becomes WHO it is we turn to in order to help us make sense of it all. This is such a fundamentally crucial question. If you believe as I do that it's the Church, moored and linked by the history of it's established chain of succession from Christ to the apostles to the Bishops, and so on, and so on, then you will look to that body to help guide you in this.

If you step outside of that historical continuity, you are basically on your own. You have to find experts, pastors, friends etc. who can *hopefully* guide you, and you may or may not be getting good advice. One thus puts themself in a position that what they ultimately come to believe and understand is subject to the sources they happen to be exposed to. Those sources may or may not be informed on the issues I've highlighted above, or may be informed on some of them to varying degrees.

I hate to make this sound like a Catholic apologetic, but I want to strongly suggest that you may want to address this fundamental question of how you are going to handle and inform your reading of scripture before getting too much further along. I say that because if you continue down the path of 'me and the bible', the danger is that you will come to conclusions of your understanding that at bottom will be subjective interpretaions that may, or may not conform to what Christianity has always held. Once one starts down that path, the tendency is to start looking for a church that agrees with oneself. At that point, we are in a sense making God in our own image as oppossed to trying to find him and then conforming ourselves to his image.

Who Wrote the Bible. As I delve further into the Bible I struggle to put it into historical and cultural perspective -- all those years of sleeping in while my friends were in Sunday school have left me constantly thinking, "What on earth is this guy talking about? And who is this guy anyway?" as I try to get through its text. So I've found Who Wrote the Bible to be invaluable in bringing these cryptic texts to light for me. Suddenly all the different versions of stories and little contradictions in facts make sense. But the book is not necessarily pro-Christian. It's not anti-Christian, but the goal is to present accurate historical information moreso than to uphold Christian traditions. (I should note that this author seems to be one of the few people who is actually balanced on this subject rather than having a hidden anti-Christian agenda.)

So far I've only gotten through the first couple of chapters where he's talking about the Pentateuch. As I was reading his riveting case for who the books' likely authors are, I realized that I am just never going to believe that Moses wrote these books. I am also never going to believe that all of these Old Testament stories are literally true.

But why do you trust this particular book? Why this particular author/scholar? I am not arguing that this isn't in fact a fine book, and finding a seemingly objective source on this topic must feel like a breath of fresh air, and I am thrilled for you that it's been helpful. But are you REALLY sure that he's unbiased? Again, I am not saying he isnt', I am just trying to point out the problems with the approach of trying to make sense of it all in isolation using just the bible and one scholars opinion on it.

I'd like to offer here that his is but one interpretation on an issue that in truth none of us can be sure on. JEDP is but one scholarly view that's got some very good analysis and arguments behind it, but it ultimately is just an unprovable theory. I've read very compelling cases that seem to sink JEDP and support the traditional thinking on authorship, and they are equally riveting.

Beyond that, I really don't know if it matters. Does it change the content or harm the faith if it wasn't Moses? I don' t think so, and the Catholic Church certainly wouldn't say so. Certainly this is not a deal killer by any stretch. And it's taken as fact (and nearly always has been) by Catholics that indeed the whole of scripture is not 'literal' history.

Personally, I can probably find a way to reconcile this historical data with Christian beliefs, but I'm not sure if that's contradictory to being a Christian. So my question to those of you who are familiar with the Bible is this: is this a deal-killer? Is there anywhere in the Bible that specifically says something like, "All the stories in this book are 100% true and you are not a Christian if you don't believe them." I know there are a lot of people who hold that opinion, but what does the Bible say?

And again, you show an unbelievable insight here. It doesn't say any such thing, and as I've pointed out, it doesn't say which books should be included, and doesn't say it's the sole rule of faith. I recently was in a discussion with a 'fundamentatlist' on this very issue, and I flat out asked them to show me where the bible says it must be taken literally. They had no answer whatsoever to this other than to basically say 'because I say so.'

Finally, I'll point you to a series of wonderful post by Jimmy Akin (an incredible apologist) which talks about some of this in a more detail in response to a reader of his blog who asked some similar questoins....

Adam, Noah, And Science
Blunt Commands In The Old Testament

This is probably one of the best "in a nutshell" description of the difference between Protestants and Catholics with regard to Scripture.

[1] When I use the term "Protestants", I obviously cannot speak to what every Protestant believes, since there are currently 33,000 Protestant denominations in the United States.
[2] Unfortunately, there was no link to a blog by SteveG, an e-mail for him or any other information. I'll be happy to give him a plug if he contacts me and gives me a link.

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Posted by: tony on 08/09/2006 11:08 AM (Read: )
Laura H, at ...and if not... has an interesting post regarding dating. She writes:
Children need to know that it is not necessary (and certainly not expected) that they date from a young age! Think back to when you were 16... were you emotionally, spiritually, and physically ready for a potential marriage? Perhaps you were physically ready (this of course comes before the others) but I would dare say no one was emotionally or spiritually ready. So why do we push them out there into that 'scene'? Why do we make it seem as though they need to start finding someone, especially if we do not expect them to find someone permanent? Are we seeking thrills for them? Are we trying to provide for them the fun times we had? Were those times really all that fun? Are those times necessary? Certainly not!

Our kids generally don't use the term "dating". They use the term "going out with". This starts fairly early, 14 or so, and seems to be driven in many cases by peer pressure. "So and so is going out with whoever. Who are you going out with?". The implication here seems to be you should be going out with somebody, even if it's somebody you really don't like all that much. And also, there's not much "out" happening in "going out", at least in our house.

I got into a discussion with my daughter regarding dating. I asked her: "What do you mean by 'dating'?". She responded very honestly: "I'm not really sure, I'm confused about that".

That's ok. If I get into a discussion with my children with regard to what "dating" is, I need to get my terms straight, and understand what they believe dating is.

Is it:
  • A special friend of the opposite sex.
  • Someone you hold hands with.
  • Someone you aren't particularly attracted to, but are willing to have fun with.

I explained to my daughter what I believed "dating" was. Back in olden times, it was called "courtship", and was expected to be on the road to marriage.

Dating someone is a test. It's a test to see if you like them enough to move toward marriage. It is a series of exams. Does your date like children? Do they go to church? Is someone who goes to church important to you? Are they honorable and trustworthy? Do they tell the truth all the time? Do they keep their promises?

If someone fails one of these tests, it's time to "dump" them and try another. If they pass the tests, it might be time to take it to the "next level" which might mean only dating them exclusively ("going steady").

Now both partners know that they are on the path to marriage, and the tests get more intense. Do they like children? How soon, how many? How do they feel about the wife having a career? What are the couple's ideas about money? Etc. If they fail these tests, it's time to break up with them and try someone else. Even if you have a lot of time invested in them.

Here is where getting sexual is a problem. You bond to the person, and endorphins flood your system giving you feelings of well-being and "being in love". You are likely to make critical errors in judgement, overlooking the person's (sometimes critical) faults because of the way they "make you feel".

At this stage, you need to listen to the people who love you. They are outside observers, and they have your best interest in mind.

The next stage is becoming engaged. Getting a ring and making a date. With no ring and a date, you are not engaged. Now is the time when you need your head most firmly on your shoulders. You are coming down to the wire, and you have only the time between now, and when you get married to make the choice to bail, and bailing may be the best choice.

This is not the time to get sexual, or worse yet, "live together". You don't need to "try out" out your future spouse. Believe me, the parts will fit together. Now is the time to look most critically at your fiance(e), in the harsh light of truth. Identify his or her faults and decide if you can deal with them. Decide if you can deal with your in-laws (including brothers and sisters).

The final step is getting married.

That, to me, is the definition and purpose of dating.
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Do You Have Proper Custody of Your Eyes?

Posted by: tony on 08/08/2006 08:03 PM (Read: )
This is one of my favorites (Rated PG-13)

(Tip o' the chapeau to the Ironic one.)
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Quote of the Day

Posted by: tony on 08/04/2006 02:03 PM (Read: )
"On the other hand, no one even slightly familiar with the blogosphere can help being aware that it's the kingdom of the gossips, the ideologues, the cranks and the no-holds-barred venters of spleen — a place in cyberspace where opinion, rumor, ad hominem nastiness and unfettered ego-tripping are par for the course." -- Russell Shaw


(H/T to L'homme avec le chapeau noir)
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Mea Culpa

Posted by: tony on 08/04/2006 01:35 PM (Read: )
One has to be always on the lookout for sin. It rears it's ugly head when you have the best of intentions (and we know what the road to hell is paved with).

My brother in Christ, Mark Windsor (that intrepid rafter) took me to task on a situation I had fallen into. I'd like to thank him for the clarity he gave me regarding this and for setting me on the right path.

It's time for putting aside the sin of pride and taking lessons from a master apologist.
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But That's Not Biblical!

Posted by: tony on 08/03/2006 11:18 AM (Read: )
Since I started this blog, I have basically stayed away from apologetics aimed at Protestants. One of the reasons is that there are enough badly catechized Catholics out there to take up my time probably for the rest of my life. I have seen my focus as more of a helping to deepen the faith of my Catholic bretheren than trying to convert my seperated bretheren.

But it looks like one of our Catholic sheep is being cut out of the fold by the wolf, and something needs to be said.

Elena at My Domestic Church pointed me to a non-Catholic, Christian blog where one of our Catholic sisters is being "worked on". The blog is called Of Christian Women, and the post is called Sola Scriptura Prelude.

I'm going to start by saying that the lady who runs the blog, named Carrie, seems to me to be a nice lady. She is sincere, and like me, caring about the salvation of others. She is backed up by Ellen, also a nice lady, who seems to have a handle on every biblical question except this one:
What men chose your Canon, and why do you believe they were inspired by the Holy Spirit?

I am constantly assailed by Protestants who claim that we Catholics follow men instead of the Bible. They claim that we Catholics don't follow God's word, that instead, we follow the precepts of men. They speak as if their Bibles were handed to them directly by Almighty God complete with table of contents and footnotes.

The fact is, a man or some men decided their Canon. I think Ellen had a pretty good idea where I was going when she wrote this...
Carrie, it's a game. Tony wants us to accept the authority of Rome (the head of the Roman Catholic church). Once we accept that Roman Catholics "gave" us our Bible, he feels that he's one step closer to getting us under the authority of Rome. And make no mistake, that is the goal.

Before you get into the discussion of using the Word of God to guide your faith, you have to figure out what, exactly, the Word of God is. If you are Catholic, you know where your Bible came from. It was handed down from the pens of the Apostles through their assigned successors and clarified by successive councils.

If you are Protestant, I don't know who decided your Canon. I know that some inconvenient books were removed from the Bible that up until about 500 years ago, was lovingly preserved and reproduced by Catholic monks who many times dedicated their entire lives to produce one of these beautiful books.

So I think asking the question: "Who, exactly, decided your Canon?" is not only required before anyone can discuss what's Biblical, (in other words, if your Canon was decided by Dr. Seuss, and your "Bible" is titled "The Cat in the Hat", we don't have a lot of common ground for Biblical discussion) it is critical for your own faith. The simple reason is this:

You need to be absolutely convinced of the infallibility of whoever it was who decided your Canon!

If you are not, then what makes you sure what you are reading is the Word of God? How do you know if something had been added, or something was left out, or someone changed God's words to their own and are passing it off as Scripture. A belief in Scripture as God's Word, begins with the belief in the infaillibility of those who chose the Canon. In other words, they were guided by the Holy Spirit.

Here's where it gets sticky...

I would imagine that in most Protestant denominations, that they are using the same basic Canon that was handed down by the Roman Catholic Church. If the Roman Catholic Church is not infallible, they could have made a mistake in the Canon of the Bible that the Protestants are using, meaning that it is not the inerrant Word of Almighty God.

If the Roman Catholic Church is infallible, then why are you Protestant?

If you are Protestant, and someone else gave you your Canon, please tell me who that was and why you believe they were (or are) infallible.

All of the Roman Catholic Church's talk of "unity" is worth so much toilet paper unless you get that unity means "under the rule of Rome".

Non Serviam! This is only a problem if you don't believe that "Rome" is guided by the hand (or is that the wing) of the Holy Spirit of God. I, as a Catholic, am happy to serve under the "rule of Rome" because the "rule of Rome" is the rule of God.

And to Ellen and Carrie, this is no game to me. It is very serious to me when our lambs are being led away from the fold. But that having been said, I love you both as sisters in Christ (though I'm sure you don't consider me your brother in Christ), and I pray for your conversion, in addition to the reversion of the Catholic lady you've been in contact with.

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Catholic Mom On Parenting

Posted by: tony on 08/02/2006 11:06 AM (Read: )
Catholic Mom gives us her insight on what it means to be a parent:
I am not taking cookies out of the oven. I am talking with my kids, learning about their friends, saying "no" when it is hard to say "no", and on my knees in prayer. It is only by the grace of God that I have not lost a child as you did. I have several more years of having high school age children in front of me. There are no guarantees. I am not an over-involved helicopter parent. I am a loving parent doing the best I can to shape the character of my children so they can make the right choices. Sometimes it is inconvenient, unpleasant, and very "uncool". God entrusted me with these lives. I will let him judge how I did.

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Caption Contest

Posted by: tony on 08/01/2006 11:52 PM (Read: )
My contribution:

"Jane Smith takes the lead in the shipboard belly race finals."
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Why Men Don't Go To Church

Posted by: tony on 07/31/2006 10:16 AM (Read: )
Zero percent of your recommended daily allowance of JesusBill Cork at Built on a Rock posted a link to a book about why men hate going to church. The inimitable Fr. Philip, OP posted this comment:
When I was in seminary I went to a campus ministry Mass with another friar. Right off the bat I noticed that 90% of the congregation was female. Why? 1) the walls of the round chapel were painted shocking pink and 2) decorated with drawings made by 2nd and 3rd graders; 3) the music was happy-clappy Oprahesque goo, including 4) versions of the Gloria, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei that required vigorous clapping and bouncing. At the beginning of Mass 5) the swishy presider introduced the officers of the Catholic Student group: 6) all rather butchy women in sensible shoes (ahem), one of whom commenced 7) to berate the gathered souls for their poor attendance at some sort of lefty solidarity with some oppressed group or another thing. One of 9) the womyn served the Mass as an EM, running around the chapel with a plate full of 10) consecrated bread (fully leavened and sweetened, btw) 11)asking people: "More Jesus?"

There was one poor frat boy who looked like he wanted nothing more than to die and be absorbed into the floor. His girlfriend was constantly ribbing him to sing or whispering urgently in his ear to participate. I told the other friar afterward: "He'll never step inside a Catholic Church again."

"More Jesus"? Can't get too much Jesus. Unfortunately the "bread" they were distributing was empty "spiritual calories". No nutrition to be found.

As a man, I like to be challenged in church. I want a call to greater holiness. I want to admit my faults and strive to do better. A message that Jesus loves me no matter what I do and accepts me exactly the sinful way I am, does not resonate with me as a man. I'd imagine other men might think the same way.

Let's discuss it.
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The "Decline" of the Neocaths?

Posted by: tony on 07/30/2006 09:35 AM (Read: 254)
Father Joe O'Leary is at it again. St. Paul writes about gongs bonging and cymbals clashing. I don't think there is a better bonger or clasher than the good father.

I first learned about father Joe from reading the comment boxes of Phil Blosser's blog, Musings of a Pertinacious Papist.

Father Joe is, how shall we say this, a fixture there. He posts under the nom de plume of "Spirit of Vatican II". This should give you an idea about his basic bent, and bent he is. In a recent missive, father Joe states:
Last year I posted a piece here called “The Rise of the Neocaths”. It was widely reproduced, with outraged commentary, on various neocath websites.

Within weeks of the original hit piece, the link to it gave the classic "404 Error" (page not found). Seems the good father pulled the piece from general distribution after experiencing the outrage it engendered. In quoting this piece he wrote, I am faithfully reproducing it, in it's entirety for posterity. You'll be able to read the whole thing by clicking the read more link.

You can still read the original piece here. The words in the quoted areas are father Joe's, unedited and saved for posterity.
The aggrieved, narcissistic tone of these responses showed me that I had overestimated the strength of the neocaths; in reality they were a vulnerable, noisy minority, already showing signs of decline.

Many of the NeoCath sites can be identified by the badge that appears in my right hand sidebar. If you click on it you can see how you can get one on your site.

In his article, he links nine posts opposed to what he wrote, and one post in favor of it. Nine to one doesn't sound like much of a "minority" to me. For a more representative sample, you can check Google.

The good father is going to probably retreat to his fall back position of "the people who agree with me in vastly superior numbers don't have blogs and don't write in comment boxes".
First of all is their change of attitude toward Benedict XVI. They did not greet his Encyclical with any real enthusiasm and they have been complaining that he is not “nasty” enough (Michael Liccione), that his pontificate is shaping up as just a lull before the next storm, that he is not following through on the needed abolition of the “Novus Ordo” – the current liturgy of the Church, which many neocaths tend to see as heresy-ridden.

There has been no change in my attitude toward Papa Benedict. I loved him as Cardinal Ratzinger, and I love him as Pope Benedict. His first encyclical was brilliant, expanding on the work of his predecessor with regards to the proper use of our God-given sexuality. But father O'Leary has quite a big problem with that. He believes that when it comes to sex, any sex will do.

I understand that as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger had an entirely diffent role than he does now as Pope Benedict. Cardinal Ratzinger was somewhat of an "enforcer". Pope Benecict is the "pastor of the world".

Our pope is a shy and gentle man, supremely learned and intelligent, and understanding in the care one must take in making any kind of required changes (oh, would that Pope Paul VI have used that kind of care).

And there is no need to put the Novus Ordo Missae in "sneer quotes". I love the Novus Ordo (as promulgated). I love the Tridentine rite. However the Novus Ordo has been open to abuses made possible by the diabolic "spirit" of Vatican II. Our well loved papa is taking steps to exorcise that particuar "spirit" by firmly defining and locking down the wording of Church documents.
These extraordinary exercises, predicated on the alleged infallibility of “Humanae Vitae”, stand refuted by the clear facts of history...

I'd like to know what color the sky is on father O'Leary's home world. The prognostication that Paul VI made in Humanae Vitae have proven prophetic (ed.- unfriendly format warning).
In contrast, the neocaths cling desperately to fetid relics of a half-imaginary past. Hence their decline in energy and lucidity as they stumble toward phase three of their unhappy existence --- the Fall of the Neocaths.

Actually, children are rebelling against the "anything goes" form of Catholicism bequeathed to them by the kumbaya radicals of the 60's. "Free love" isn't free. There is a price to be paid and this generation's young adults are realizing that.

There is an awakening to the sacred. A flocking to devotions. An increase in vocations to the priesthood in diocese where the bishop is orthodox.

And the fall of the "RetroCaths", is going to be a whimper, as they contracept themselves out of existance. The vocations will come from large, Catholic, "Humamae Vitae" families, who will become pastors of parishes where they teach large, Catholic, Humanae Vitae values.

Michael Liccione puts it really well when he writes:
Judging from the trends in liturgy, catechesis, and higher education, the progs seemed to be taking over the Church. Priests and religious had been bolting in droves. Seminaries were not attracting many candidates—perhaps because, as I soon discovered firsthand, being heterosexual was in many quarters a disadvantage for applicants. I also found it curious that hardly anybody seemed interested, like me, in having the Mass celebrated as it was celebrated in Rome.

We have rosary every Sunday night at our church, and one of the intentions is for the peaceful reconciliation of our church.

How about praying this one with me:
Saint Michael, Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And you, Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and the other evil spirits who prowl the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

(Click Read More to read father O'Leary's unedited commentary, just in case he gets the urge to pull this one too.)
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Reasonable Discourse

Posted by: tony on 07/28/2006 12:52 PM (Read: )
I invariably enjoy reading Todd at Catholic Sensibility. He's an intelligent and articulate guy who I've tried to engage on a number of occasions, sometimes resorting to outright taunting. He's also quite (GASP!) liberal in most of his viewpoints I've read.

He recently issued a challenge on his blog.
So I repeat my challenge to anybody out there who thinks they have something to say on a sustained and focused level. You pick the topic you think I'm blowing hot air about: architecture, liturgical music, liturgical language, whatever. We focus it down to a manageable level: Where to put a tabernacle? or How to employ a liturgical guitar? or Is the Sign of Peace Optional? Then we go point for point in brief exchanges. They can be posted here, on your own web site, or at some neutral location, or any combination of the above.

Maybe I'm just tired of parroting the good news/bad news out there. Let's try something more interesting.

Ok, I'll bite. How about we talk about what you wrote earlier this month regarding what Charlotte Allen wrote.
Allen thinks conservative churches do well because they make gospel demands on their members. I beg to differ. I think Fundamentalist Christians--who would be heretics in Allen's eyes, remember--do well with membership numbers because they implement a coherent and clever plan:

- They welcome seekers and make accommodations for them.
- They make few demands--not a lot--on casual Christians who come to check things out.
- They align their worship experiences along cultural lines in musical style and presentation as well as in oratory.
- They cultivate a sense of community as well as ownership. More serious believers have something with which to get involved.

So how do you make few demands on "casual Christians" who come to check things out? Do you not preach uncomfortable truth from the pulpit? Or are you talking about demands made by other members of the community?

We'll start here. (And I resisted the impulse to build a straw man. Grab a pillow and have at it! :))
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Gays Engaged in a Battle for Hearts, Minds

Posted by: tony on 07/27/2006 02:32 PM (Read: )
Stick em up!!!There is an article in the L.A. Times entitled: Gays Engaged in a Battle for Hearts, Minds. In it, the L.A. Times writes about the reaction of gay activists to the series of losses in the courts with regard to gay "marriage".
After the recent setbacks, they see an urgent need first to convince the court of public opinion — and then, they hope, more and more courts of law — that their families are just like any other family, their children like any other children, their love just as deserving of official recognition.

I have known a number of gay couples, many of whom were living together like man and wife. Some had children. Almost to a person, they were wonderful people, doing the same sorts of things my wife and I do. They cannot, however, do one thing that my wife and I do together, and that is because there is not one penis and one vagina between them.
Stressing similarities is especially important, Giuliano said, because the legal argument for banning same-sex marriage rests almost entirely on the biological differences between gay and straight couples.

No, it rests entirely on the definition of marriage.

What would you do if you were walking past a dark alley, and you suddenly heard a voice behind you say: "Stick 'em up!". You wheel around and you see a small man in a mask, and you look down at what he is pointing at you, and it's a banana.

I would crack up laughing.

That is the same reaction I had when I first heard about "same sex marriage". It was like someone was pointing a banana at me and saying "stick 'em up". What made it funnier, was that the robber was convinced he was holding a gun.

So you start laughing, and the guy says: "Why are you laughing?!?!?" And you sputter through your tears of laughter "because you are trying to rob me with a banana!!!". And he jumps up and down yelling: "It's not a banana!!! It's a gun!!! IT'S A GUN!!!".

So you walk away wiping your eyes, and trying to catch your breath, thinking to yourself that this guy is delusional.

It was funny until lunatic judges started effectively declaring that a banana really isn't a fruit, it's a firearm. This is starting to cause all kinds of problems, one of which is the possiblity of getting arrested for carrying an unlicensed banana, but more importantly, real guns will not be taken seriously.

Facts are facts. A banana is a fruit. A gun is a firearm. A marriage is a man and a woman. This used to be common sense. It has absolutely no bearing on the actual gay persons. You may like them a lot. You may think they are wonderful neighbors. You may think their kids are the nicest and most well behaved in the neighborhood.

But that doesn't magically turn a banana into a firearm.

It's unfortunate that it might take a federal Constitutional amendment to say "a banana is a fruit".

(Hat tip to Roman Catholic Blog)
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