That Anonymous Mother of the Year
Your October issue was overall a better-than-average issue. Your reply to the Anonymous Mother of the Year (AKA the Anonymous Mother of a drug addict, a lesbian daughter, and a gay seminarian) alone guarantees my renewal. Not that it was in any doubt.
As for Marilyn Prever’s article “It Only Hurts When I Stop Laughing: A View of Catholic-Jewish Relations From Both Sides at Once,” I’d guess that your average reader found it only mildly amusing. However, as one who was born and raised Jewish and entered the Catholic Church at age 22, I savored it. Great!
Free The Fathers
Hang in There, You Orthodox Catholics!
My compliments to Lois Manning (letter, Oct.) for having written her thought-provoking letter “Where Are the Protestants?” — and to the NOR for printing it.
As a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church, once the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, I can only endorse with sadness much of what Manning has said.
Mainstream Protestantism is not speaking with moral authority as it once did in many areas because it has simply forfeited its moral authority. The Holy Spirit, I believe, has quietly left most mainstream Protestant denominations, given the latter’s embrace of abortion, homosexuality, and the watering down or outright destruction of Apostolic teaching authority.
The failure of mainstream Protestantism stems not so much from the regrettable denominationalism that marks Protestantism. Not so long ago, Protestants were in agreement, regardless of denomination, about what is morally wrong and sinful, about what threatens both the social fabric and men’s souls.
Which is why any right-minded Protestant must pray constantly for the Holy Father, that he vigorously upholds the Magisterium. I do not know if the Catholic Church will survive her hideous and obscene embrace of perverted priests, or her toleration of immorality among her laity and in many of her grand old universities, but she is our only hope.
I cannot imagine myself becoming a Catholic for reasons outside the scope of this letter, but I will testify to this: The moral teachings of the Catholic Church and the spiritual authority and dedication of her leadership are the only things that will save Christianity ? and that includes a desperately lost and dying Protestantism.
Robert P. Hilldrup
University of Delaware
From King Henry VIII to The Universal Life Church
After following the confirmation process for the openly homosexual Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson in Minneapolis, I watched with fascination as Episcopal ministers hit the talk shows and twisted and stretched the Bible to justify the action. In Robinson we have a married man who divorced his wife, left his two children, took a homosexual “lover,” and then was ordained a Bishop in the Episcopal Church. Nothing I heard even came close to justifying this action.
This went on for about a week until the celebration of Bishop Robinson became old news. But I began to wonder where all this was headed, and then I found out in a news article about the Universal Life Church. What Martin Luther and King Henry VIII started is self-destructing into a warm, oozing, feel-good glob of anybody’s opinion — leaving Holy Mother Church as the remaining light of Truth.
The Universal Life Church (ULC) is where Christianity is headed. You can find it at ulc.org. Here is a Church that says one can believe in and do anything so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody. Can you imagine giving a sermon to a group of these people? They believe what they believe. What is there to preach? They can’t sin unless they themselves believe their action is sinful. This is too good to be true, you’re thinking. But it gets better.
Feel guilty about something? The individual gets absolution of sins in private communication with the Church website. The individual himself determines his own sincerity and his willingness to do right. Forgiveness is obtained (you won’t believe this) by using the computer mouse to press the ABSOLUTION button.
How do I know all this? Because, on a lark, I gave the ULC my name and email address and, bingo, 15 minutes later I’m Reverend Bob, duly ordained a minister by the Bishop of the Universal Life Church.
Is it any wonder that the only Church constantly attacked is the Catholic Church? The rest of Christianity is self-destructing on its own.
New Richmond, Wisconsin
Standing — if Done Properly
May I add to the discussion on kneeling during Mass? I left Holy Mother Church over 20 years ago for Protestantism, finally returning last year. So I was not involved in all the liturgical changes of the past 20 or so years. Protestants do not kneel (but let’s not go there), and neither do Byzantine Catholics (who are in communion with the Holy See). Standing during the Consecration is not irreverent per se. Recently, I attended a Byzantine Catholic service. Although the church has kneelers, no one uses them. Every act of honor, reverence, and adoration is done standing — this is the Eastern tradition. However, when a parishioner enters the church, he bows deeply from the waist before entering the pew. Prayers are recited while standing, with deep and sustained bows at appropriate moments. At every mention of the Trinity, the congregation makes the Sign of the Cross. Participation in the entire liturgy is done standing or sitting, with an abundance of bowing and Signs of the Cross. Never have I seen such reverence for and devotion to the Eucharist in all my life! I was deeply impressed. Standing, therefore, can be just as much a sign of adoration as kneeling — if done properly. I prefer kneeling though.
By the way, thank you for your publication. I have never been happier in my life — nor more dismayed at the situation in the Catholic Church. Along with The Wanderer and This Rock magazine, the NOR has helped me tremendously to stay balanced as a newly “reverted” Catholic! May God continue to bless your work.
West Hills, California
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
You are right that standing is the Eastern tradition. But kneeling is the Western tradition. Our liturgists are always talking about contextualization, so why do they war against the liturgical context of the Western tradition? They also talk incessantly about inculturation, so why do they want to “de-culturate” Westerners?
Some orthodox Western Catholics might accept standing if it were accompanied by “deep and sustained bows at appropriate moments” and if “at every mention of the Trinity, the congregation makes the Sign of the Cross.” But let’s be real. Our loosey-goosey liturgists do not have that planned for us.
Because only two Latin Masses per month are allowed in the Lexington (Ky.) Diocese, and deciding against making the usual 150-mile round trip to get to one, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross a friend and I opted to attend a Novus Ordo Mass at our Diocese’s cathedral. Past the stage of dissatisfaction with the new rite of the Mass and false liturgical reform, we took refuge for that particular liturgy in the cathedral’s side chapel where the Tabernacle is located.
This chapel sits next to a side entrance of the church, so when parishioners enter, to their right sits the quite visible Eucharistic Tabernacle (those exiting can’t help but see it straight ahead). Disturbed at seeing so few people genuflect before the Tabernacle upon entering the church, we decided to count, after Mass, those who genuflected or made some sign of reverence before the Tabernacle, and those who made no gesture of reverence at all. Of the 170 people who left the church out that side exit (or who entered to attend the next Mass), only 17 genuflected, while another nine people bowed or made the Sign of the Cross in the direction of the Tabernacle. That is, 90 percent of passersby did not genuflect before Christ present in the Tabernacle at the most important parish in the Diocese! Recall that in the Old Testament, God tells Elijah that a remnant of only 7,000 — an estimated 10 percent or less of the entire nation — had not bowed the knee to the false god Baal. Today’s remnant may be those who are bowing, but this time to the true God.
Ironically, in light of all this, the second Scripture reading for the Exaltation of the Cross included the classic lines from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: Christ Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…. He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God highly exalted him and bestowed upon him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vv. 7-11; italics added).
Lest you think this picture of irreverence distorted, I’ve been in the cathedral chapel other times between weekend Masses and saw practically no one entering or exiting genuflect. Years ago I watched dozens of students accompanied by their teachers from the cathedral’s school next door walk through church and out that side exit. Not one of the students or teachers made the slightest sign of reverence as they passed the Tabernacle. But don’t blame the teachers alone. In that time period we attempted to get weekly Eucharistic Adoration established there — the three parish priests were the least interested in this devotion and usually ten (or fewer) people out of a parish of over 5,000 showed up for those holy hours (conducted by laity, of course).
Moreover, is a Tabernacle situated in a side chapel next to a sometimes busy entranceway really “a most worthy place with the greatest honor” as Vatican II stipulates (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #128)? What does it express when the Real Presence gets demoted from center stage to the sidelines?
Matthew V. Haltom
A Tocsin for Toxics
The letter “Not ‘Gay,’ But SAD” by Dr. Edgar Suter and the New Oxford Note “Holy Orders & Unholy Disorders” (Oct.) hit me like a pair of wicked punches. In my naïveté I would have surmised, based on no solid statistics, that no more than five (or perhaps 10) percent of all active priests are homosexual. But 50 percent! Thanks for the Doom Tocsin wake-up call.
James F. Egart
Changing the Rosary too?
So many things have been changed in our Church since Vatican II, each change causing sadness for many Catholics.
The Rosary was about the only thing that remained unchanged. Then Pope John Paul II added a new set of mysteries to it.
The 15 decades of the Rosary were given to St. Dominic by Our Lady herself. No one should ever add to or alter in any way a devotion given to us directly from Heaven.
Ballston Spa, New York
The Great Paradox
In the battle against the tragedy of abortion, it is often forgotten that we are fighting much more than just the killing of innocent life; we should recognize that abortion is merely a symptom of a deeper, spiritual problem. Our mightiest efforts for the culture of life are doomed to failure if the root causes are not identified and corrected. It is small wonder that, after thirty years, we have made such dismal progress in stemming the tide of abortion.
For nineteen hundred years the entire Christian Church, and the Jewish religion for thousands of years before that, had steadfastly taught that contraception is a grave moral evil. Recall that God struck down Onan for practicing it (Gen. 38:9-10). Yet, in 1930, at the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Communion saw fit to misinterpret the Word of God to allow birth control. All major Western “Christian” churches, save one, eventually followed suit and declared contraception to be morally neutral, subject to the whims of personal or private conscience.
To his eternal credit, Pope Paul VI, in his famous encyclical Humanae Vitae, definitively pronounced contraception to be morally evil and that this is, and has always been, the true teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Sadly, many Catholics, and even priests and bishops, dissented from this teaching. The world and Christianity are now paying a bitter price for this dissent.
By effectively removing responsibility and consequences from sexual gratification, contraception and sterilization provide the fuel for fornication and adultery, all of which have increased dramatically since the advent of the Pill. When coupled with mistaken notions of “fairness,” “freedom,” and “equality,” birth control has opened the floodgates to all sorts of sexual perversions, as can be deduced from recent Supreme Court decisions on pornography and sodomy. After all, if married couples can have sexual gratification without responsibility, why not those who are single or those inclined to homosexuality? Thus we have the foundation for every form of sexual perversion and abuse, including the 2002 clergy scandal.
For married men and women, contraception offers the chance of adultery without consequence (that is, until it is discovered). This, of course, has resulted in a record rate of divorce, to the terrible detriment of children who are caught in the middle. Another chastisement from God for violating His commandment against contraception is the largely hidden pandemic of sexually transmitted diseases, some of which invariably result in death.
Perhaps the worst consequence of birth control occurs when it “fails.” Any child conceived during contraceptive failure is, by definition, unwanted, and is a prime candidate for abortion, the “back-up” contraceptive. Thus we have the great paradox: Birth control inevitably causes more abortions. This includes not only chemical abortions directly caused by pill or injection, but those performed surgically as well. The truth of this paradox is recognized by relatively few people: those who recognize God’s commandment on contraception and the most ardent abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood. Is it any wonder that the latter continues to advocate contraceptive sex education, even under the false guise of “reducing” pregnancies and abortions? The ready availability of contraceptives makes sexual intercourse as common as drinking coffee, and thus leads to more “failures” and more abortions.
The final, indirect consequence of birth control is the general cheapening of human life. Since children are a gift from God, contraception and abortion are, in effect, a slap to the face of God. Users of birth control effectively invert Christ’s prayer before His passion and say “my will be done, not Thine.”
As life is cheapened and birth rates drop, there will be population imbalances. There will be too few workers to finance health care for the elderly, increasing the cries for “mercy killing.”
To stem a mythical population explosion, our country and the U.N. have been in the forefront of imposing contraception on developing nations. Strongly Islamic countries have recognized the evil consequences of this interference and have supported the Vatican in its effort to keep abortion from becoming a universal human “right.” Is it any wonder that many devout Muslims consider the U.S. to be the great satan? As Western nations decline due to negative population growth, the Muslims might well achieve the domination denied them in the Middle Ages.
Today’s huge numbers of abortions are a predictable consequence of abandoning nearly two thousand years of Christian teaching against contraception. Until we recognize and correct the problem with God’s help, abortion will be with us as surely as night follows day. To eliminate abortion, society, as a whole, must return to Christ’s teaching as it was clearly understood as recently as a mere 73 years ago.
The battle against contraception will be hard. Just imagine yourself explaining how birth control leads to abortion when it is thought to be “obvious” that the opposite is true. Those who look at you with disdain as you challenge abortion will then look at you with pity, fully convinced that you are mentally deranged. Nevertheless, our pastors, priests, and bishops must courageously preach the truth regarding the evil of contraception and call the people to repent. The U.S., like Nineveh, can repent and be spared.
Until society returns to the true teaching of Jesus Christ in both law and practice, abortion will remain and prolife activists will only be able to save a baby here and there while a million others die in our country each year. Perhaps the natural consequences of population decline, disease, and divorce will become such a disaster that people will be forced to change their habits. Meanwhile, prepare for persecution.
The Mass That Will Not Die
The following is an excerpt from Keep the Faith/The Latin Mass magazine’s audio tape series, The Mass That Will Not Die by Michael Davies. I hope you will print it because it beautifully expresses the hopes and concerns of the faithful who are devoted to the Mass of St. Francis, St. Thérèse, St. Anthony, and the holy martyrs. Here is the selection:
“What is it about the Tridentine [Latin] Mass which has made faithful Catholics throughout the world so determined to ensure that it remains the Mass That Will Not Die? I’d like to quote to you some words of a Canadian journalist, Larry Henderson: ‘I attended a Tridentine Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Hamilton, Canada, on the first Sunday of this month and I found it a very significant experience. The whole subject of the Tridentine Mass is surrounded by so much obfuscation that I may be able to throw some new light on it. You see, I have never attended a Tridentine Mass before, thus, I have no commitment to childhood memories; no gut feelings for Latin; no predisposition for the old rather than the new…. As many, very many young people did in Hamilton…I found…something quite extraordinary by contemporary standards. A Mass of extreme intensity, focused on the Eucharist and filled with an awareness of the action of salvation through the sacraments. Now I do not for a moment suggest that other Masses do not contain these elements. Every Mass has its salvific effect, but the Tridentine Mass brought me a dimension which is distinctly missing today. A sense of awe and wonder at the Glory of God; the littleness of man and the need for divine mercy. This experience is something entirely distinct from antiquarianism. The idea that the Tridentine only appeals to Latinists and scholars vanished before the sight of these rows and rows of intent faces, many careworn and bedewed with tears. Workmen’s hands through which the rosary was slipping. Young fathers everywhere holding up their smallest children to see the Host.'”
Our Persecuted Brethren
How many of your readers know that in the People’s Republic of China it is illegal to be a Catholic loyal to the papacy?
Hundreds of Roman Catholic priests are in jail, prison, or forced labor camps for the “crime” of being a Catholic priest. The Chinese Security Police even has a special branch solely to go after Catholic priests. Young priests are arrested in the middle of Mass! Elderly bishops are snatched away in the middle of the night!
Right now the Roman Catholic Church is being brutally persecuted — and all on the direct orders of the Chinese central government.
When Nelson Mandela was in prison in South Africa, and the South African government treated black citizens like animals, the U.S. used its moral authority and economic power to force apartheid to end.
We must tell China that religious persecution is unacceptable — or they will be isolated, their special trade status ended, and they will be considered an “outlaw” in the world community.
Free The Fathers has worked for 20 years to help save the lives of persecuted priests, nuns, and Catholic laity. For more information, visit its website at: www.ftf.org.
John M. Davies, President
Dermott J. Mullan Replies To His Critics
There were two letters responding to my article (Apribpon the age of the Earth in the September issue, one by Gerard J. Keane and another by Hugh Owen and Robert Bennett of the Kolbe Center. I wish to respond to both.
Keane’s letter illustrates quite graphically an admission that appears in his book Creation Rediscovered: He is not a scientist. He claims in his letter that “Progressive Creationists do not inform us on their belief about what happened on Earth during the supposed 4,999,990,000 years before mankind came into existence (let alone an earlier 10 to 15 billion years while the Universe was supposedly forming).” This is a ludicrous claim: There is plenty of information about what was happening on Earth prior to man’s appearance. There are fossil records of the earliest single-cell organisms, then more complicated eukaryotes, then multi-cell organisms, and then human beings. And as for the previous 10 to 15 billion years, astrophysics has a lot to say about what was happening in the expanding universe: Galaxies, stars, and planets were all forming on time scales which are well defined in terms of local conditions.
Keane is simply wrong when he states that “modern scientists/scholars…regard the idea of eons of time as a given” (my emphasis). The idea that the universe has an age measured in billions of years is far from a given: It did not even exist in the minds of scientists until the 20th century. And even then it emerged piece by piece only as a result of painstaking scientific inquiry by hundreds of the best minds in several distinct fields of astrophysics. And the most amazing thing is that researchers in five independent areas of research came up with an age for the universe consistent with what the others have discovered. The concordance between these five estimates of the age of the universe is, in my opinion, a remarkable tribute to the power of human reason. There is nothing “given” about the age: It just comes out as 13.7 billion years when impartial people evaluate the evidence in the light of physical laws.
Turning now to biblical matters: Keane claims that the “onus of proof” is on me when I contend that a non-literal sense of Scripture is “superior to the literal, obvious sense.” To satisfy this requirement, Keane says that I must respond to five bulleted items. I am happy to respond here.
1. Keane says that the onus of proof is on me to overturn “the long-held belief that the Creation days were 24 hours each.” He claims there are “powerful arguments in exegesis.” My response is that I do not put much stock in exegesis until such time as the Magisterium raises a particular item of exegesis to the level of doctrine. In my mind, the key question that needs to be addressed is: Did the Magisterium ever formally teach that each Creation day consisted of 24 literal hours — i.e., 1,440 literal minutes or 86,400 literal seconds? I can find no evidence that the Magisterium ever did so.
In view of this, why should I have to overturn a teaching that the Church never promulgated? The onus is on Keane to prove that the Magisterium (as opposed to certain Fathers of the Church) ever required as a matter of faith that Catholics believe in six Creation days of 1,440 literal minutes each.
2. Keane wants me to “Show where is the clue given by the sacred Writer that the Genesis Creation account was intended to be understood completely differently from its literal and obvious meaning.” Here is how I show this. I refer to Genesis 2:4-7, where the sacred Writer says, “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens…then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground…and man became a living being” (my emphasis). Notice the use of the word “day” is singular in this sentence. This implies that if the word “day” is taken literally, then three separate entities (the Earth, the heavens, and man) were all created on the same “day.”
But this is very different from what is in Genesis 1. There is simply no way in which the literal meaning of the words in Genesis 2 can be consistent with the literal meaning of Genesis 1. In the latter, the heavens, Earth, and man were formed on three separate days: the heavens on day two, the Earth on day three, and man on day six.
Now, God is the writer of both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, and God cannot lie. Therefore, there must be some way in which the two chapters do not contradict each other. Since the literal meanings do contradict each other, I take this to be the clue given by God that we should seek a non-literal interpretation for one or the other chapter (or both). In this regard, I stand with St. Augustine, who entered the Church on the condition that he would not be forced to accept only the literal meaning of Scripture. St. Ambrose assured Augustine that he would not have to do so. Augustine chose an allegorical interpretation for the Genesis accounts of creation.
3. Keane is misleading when he claims that “Leo XIII insisted that we must believe what the Fathers unanimously believed….” Certainly Leo respected the teachings of the Fathers on scriptural matters. But he added an important caveat which Keane chooses not to cite. Here is what the Pope actually wrote in Providentissimus Deus (Denz. 1948): “The unshrinking defense of Holy Scripture however does not require that we should equally uphold all of the opinions which each of the Fathers or the more recent interpreters have put forth in explaining it. For it may be that, in commenting on passages where physical matters occur, they have sometimes expressed the ideas of their own times, and thus made statements which in these days have been abandoned as incorrect” (my emphasis). Following Pope Leo, I do not have to believe everything the Fathers wrote about things in the physical world.
Keane is being disingenuous when he groups Augustine among those who did not believe that “the days of Creation were longer than 24 hours each.” The implication is that Augustine believed that God required six intervals of time (each about 24 hours long) to create the world. Actually, Augustine believed no such thing. Instead, he believed in instantaneous creation (Summa Theol., Blackfriars edition, vol. 10, p. 209). In Augustine’s view, “God created everything…without any interval of time between the creations of different things. The various days of creation do not indicate a temporal priority but merely a relationship in a pattern of meaning or of logical development” (ibid., p. 210).
But what about the mention of evening and morning in the days of Genesis? Augustine has an explanation that Thomas Aquinas “often repeats…. The days signify series of illuminations by which God successively acquainted the angels with works He had accomplished in one instant: the evening signifies the direct knowledge of things by angels, and the morning, the more perfect knowledge acquired when the angels contemplate them in the Word” (ibid., p. 209; my emphasis).
4. Those who believe that God required 24 literal hours to create various items of Creation need to explain why such finite intervals are necessary at all. God’s power is such that He does not require 24 hours (as we reckon time) or even 24 nanoseconds to create. He has the power to create instantaneously (if He chooses to do so) or He has the power to perform continuous creation at all instants of time, from the very beginning of time up to the present moment. Is there any proof that God indeed does perform continuous creation? Yes: There is magisterial teaching to that effect. Each human soul is created by a direct act of God’s creative power (Humani Generis). I offer this as proof (as Keane requests me to show) that the Fathers “were wrong in holding that the work of Creation formally ceased at the end of the Creation events….” Every human soul demands that God’s work of Creation be ongoing.
5. Contrary to Keane’s statement, the Church did not get the “overall package of Origins beliefs wrong for 1,850 years.” The Magisterium certainly taught that the world had a beginning in time (at Lateran IV); but the Magisterium never taught when that instant in time was according to the reckoning of our calendars. Moreover, the Magisterium has never taught in any statement that is to be believed de fide that God used six intervals of precisely 1,440 minutes each to perform the task of Creation. Contrary to Keane’s claim, I do not need to disprove anything here.
More than half of the letter by Owen and Bennett (hereafter O&B) has to do with difficulties they express concerning the wording of my quotes from two encyclicals: Providentissimus Deus (PD) and Humani Generis (HG). Because O&B cannot locate certain specific words of mine in the English translations to which they refer, they accuse me of a number of things: misquoting Popes’ words, cavalier treatment of a papal encyclical, using a Protestant clergyman as a source, and using a “source unknown.” These accusations can be refuted simply by citing the reference work I use for my translation of the encyclicals.
I use The Church Teaches: Documents of the Church in English Translation by John F. Clarkson, et al. (of St. Mary’s College, St. Mary’s, KS), first published in 1955 by Herder Book Company. The original book appeared with the Imprimi Potest and Nihil Obstat issued by religious superiors, as well as the Imprimatur of Edmund J. Hunkeler, Archbishop of Kansas City. The book was reissued by TAN Books in 1973, and it is the TAN version that I use for my citations.
The words “irrefutable evidence” do not come from a “source unknown,” contrary to the claim of O&B. Instead they appear on page 50 (para. 106) of the TAN version of the English translation of PD.
Similarly, O&B claim that the quotation I cite from HG, “However, it is not right to judge them by modern standards of historical composition,” is not in HG. However, O&B regard it as significant that “the phrase does appear in a fundamentalist commentary on HG by…a contemporary English vicar.” O&B claim that I deceive readers by “masquerading” it as a “direct quotation from the encyclical,” with the implication that I rely on a Protestant clergyman for my source. But as any reader may verify, my quotation comes word-for-word from page 65 (para. 141) of The Church Teaches.
O&B claim that I mislead readers by citing from HG some words that appeared originally in a letter from the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies (PCBS) to the Archbishop of Paris. O&B suggest that I am quoting the words from that letter as if they were the Pope’s own words. This is not a serious charge: Since the Pope refers directly to the PCBS letter in HG, whether O&B like it or not, the Pope is in essence making the words of PCBS his own.
O&B also criticize me for changing the indefinite article “a” to the definite article “the”: This is entirely frivolous. The official teachings of the Church are contained in Latin in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. Now, there are no articles in the Latin language; therefore, definite and indefinite articles are both acceptable English translations.
O&B charge me with altering the meaning of HG by abbreviating certain phrases. But I abbreviated passages while preserving the meaning of HG faithfully. O&B have not demonstrated that my abbreviated versions are in any meaningful sense a departure from the true meaning of the HG text.
Now let me turn to O&B’s discussion of scientific subjects. Here their discussion reveals a significant lack of scientific understanding.
The first step O&B take is to fall back on a criticism of the uniformitarian principle, which, according to O&B, is “indemonstrable.” But this is not true. In every star or galaxy that has ever had its spectrum taken, the spectral lines appear in certain patterns, occupying a series of wavelengths which are always in the same ratio to one another. There are identifiable lines of magnesium, carbon, calcium, hydrogen, silicon, and many other elements: Although they may all be shifted to red or blue due to various physical effects, the mutual ratios of the wavelengths of all these lines are nevertheless preserved. This means that atomic structure in many different elements follows the same laws out to the remotest region of the entire universe that is accessible by our largest telescopes. This is surely an indication of the operation of the uniformitarian principle on the grandest possible scale.
O&B refer to the decay of the Earth’s magnetic field, claiming that it is “impossible to explain within a gigayear framework….” This is a well-known canard that fundamentalists like to cite, but it merely reveals their ignorance of the temporal behavior of the Earth’s magnetic field. The field strength is in fact known to increase and decrease over centuries. The canard arises because creationists concentrate on the measurements of the field over the past 100 or so years, and then they extrapolate these measurements to thousand and millions of years in the past. This is silly, as an analogy with the tides in the ocean can demonstrate. If one were to examine the incoming tide on a beach for, say, an hour or two, and then extrapolate over months, one could arrive at the conclusion that the ocean would rise to cover the Rocky Mountains.
O&B say that the Earth may be the center of the universe, because “no physics experiment has ever detected whether the earth is stationary (at the center) or in motion….” O&B do not say how they interpret the observations of regular patterns of stellar motion due to annual parallax and the aberration of light. Astronomers have been measuring these now for two to three centuries, and both are signs of the Earth’s orbital motion. Nor do O&B mention how they interpret what the 12 astronauts saw when they stood on the Moon and looked back at Earth: The Earth was not stationary, but rotated about its axis before their very eyes once every 24 hours.
O&B claim that the “earth is the focus of physical creation” because Robert Bellarmine said so 400 years ago. This argument makes no sense. The fact of being a cardinal (or even a saint) does not confer on one infallibility concerning the physical world. Pope Leo XIII recognized in his encyclical PD that human understanding about the physical world changes with time. In choosing to espouse beliefs such as the fixity of the Earth at the center of the universe, the Kolbe Center runs the risk of making itself a laughing stock in the eyes of reasonable people. In a society where people have watched spacecraft travel to the outer planets (based on the laws of Newton), how many people does the Kolbe Center think it can convince that the Sun is not the principal body which controls the motion of bodies in the solar system?
As regards the 15 points based on cosmic data in the talk at Kolbe’s First International Catholic Family Conference on Creation (June 2001), I stand by my claim that a correct interpretation of each point according to the laws of physics does not at all point toward a young Earth. If the Kolbe Center wishes to have a debate on the merits of the case, let’s find people who have demonstrated expertise in the 15 fields of science mentioned in the cosmic data talk and then see how best to interpret the data in accord with the laws of physics.
Dermott J. Mullan
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How can we convert this culture of death? Through education, public action, pastoral leadership — and faith.