Letters to the Editor: January-February 2020
Thinking Deeply about the Priesthood
Pieter Vree’s column on the priesthood, robotics, and “alternative” solutions to the vocations crisis (“A ‘Deeper Understanding’ of the Priesthood?” New Oxford Notebook, Nov.) stimulated some thought from this deacon (married and, I guess, a vir probatus of some value).
Over my years in education, in both private and public schools, I have encouraged certain young men to consider the priesthood as a possible call from God. Every once in a while, one of them has entered seminary and been ordained. But I wonder if something other than “wanting a family” keeps more men from discerning the call. Some observations:
We know that the act of public speaking causes something akin to panic in a majority of men (and women). Preaching is a special kind of public speaking that is even more demanding, particularly among Catholics who often have good reason to complain about the pedestrian, sleep-inducing, or theatrical mores of sacerdotal homiletics.
The missa versus populum often wrongly places the priest, not the Word and Sacrament, at the center of attention. This magnifies the problem. Whereas a homilist preaches for seven to fifteen minutes, the priest behind the altar exposes himself to public view, admiration, or ridicule for an hour or more every Sunday and most weekdays.
Worst of all, in some dioceses, it has become fashionable for the celebrant to sing the Eucharistic Prayer to one or another melody, most notably the “Mass of Creation.” Frankly, as a musician and cleric, I don’t see the point. It detracts from the mystery of the sacrifice of Christ. Moreover, most priests I have heard butcher it due to lack of directed practice.
Recently, three years short of normal retirement age, I was given permission to retire from public ministry in order to take care of my disabled spouse. I had made a vow of obedience to my bishop, but my first vow before God is always to love, honor, and care for my wife. My withdrawal from ministry was troublesome enough an event for my parish. What if it were a married priest in the same situation? His first responsibility is to his family. Then how does he make a living?
Finally, with respect to the idea of ordaining women to the diaconate: In this country, at least, there seems to be an adequate number of married males who are willing to study five or six years and vow obedience to their ordinary in a ministry that pays next to nothing. In my mind, the only reason to ordain women as deacons is to get the camel’s nose under the sacerdotal tent. Holy Orders needs to be restricted to male candidates in order to preserve the integrity of the sacrament as intended by Christ.
Deacon W. Patrick Cunningham
San Antonio, Texas
While in strong agreement with Pieter Vree’s column on the priesthood, I take exception to his assertion that “the sex-abuse scandal has played a definitive role” in the decline in numbers of seminarians. There are no statistical data to support that statement.
In point of fact, one could say, quite counterintuitively, that the numbers actually increased in 2002 — during the very eye of the storm.
With the accession of John Paul II to the Chair of Peter, the number of candidates to the priesthood consistently increased; those numbers declined somewhat during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. The real decline began as part of the “Francis effect,” and it continues unabated. After all, short of a massive dose of supernatural grace, why would an intelligent young man be attracted to a vocation that the Pontifex Maximus himself constantly assaults, or wish to enter the ranks of seminarians whom the High Priest has called “little monsters”?
Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas
Editor, The Catholic Response
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Pieter Vree writes, citing Inter Insigniores, that “the priesthood is not just a pastoral service; it ensures the continuity of the functions entrusted by Christ to the Apostles and the continuity of the powers related to those functions.”
That was a real learning moment for me. I am glad Vree is on our side.
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Nobody but Ourselves to Blame
“The evils of denying the depth of free will are many.” I found this to be one of the most poignant statements in Christopher M. Reilly’s article “The Short-Lived ‘Gay Gene’” (Nov.). A good friend of mine likes to say that “life is about choices.” And he’s right. We make inconsequential and consequential choices every day. And these choices — these actions — define who we are. Not only that, they will decide what happens to us at the end of our earthly lives.
Though Reilly begins his article with a discussion about the possibility of a “gay gene,” he moves into a much deeper philosophical discussion of personal responsibility. Regardless of whether a gay gene exists (and as Reilly rightly points out, people with homosexual inclinations must be treated with dignity), the bigger question involves how we conduct ourselves and how this behavior affects our souls.
As we were taught in catechism class, every human being is endowed with both free will and intelligence. What we do with these two gifts is up to us. I have seen too many people who do not want to take responsibility for their actions or who want to blame others (or genetics) for making them feel or act a certain way. The truth is, we are all imperfect. We all have limitations and shortcomings. But we cannot blame anyone except ourselves for the way we deal with these things. It is up to us as individuals to take control of our behavior and act in a moral manner, especially with regard to how we treat others.
Sadly, many people have not been taught morals and have not been given the knowledge that every single person — both born and preborn — has inherent dignity and must always be treated with love and respect. This is why we have so many anger issues, so much hatred, and so much senseless killing today. Whether this anger and hatred are expressed on social media or in the streets, or whether this disdain for other human beings — especially those who are different — manifests in the abortion clinic, the nursing home, or the hospital, we know it exists. How do we combat this and help people understand that each person is responsible for his own actions and that these actions must reflect our God-given dignity?
There’s no easy solution, but since we must start somewhere, it must be through our examples and with education. Those of us who know God’s love must share it with those who have been brought up without it. We must use our own free will to teach them. We must emulate Christ in all we do. Just as Christ ate with sinners, so we must break bread with those who do not know Him. Though Christ did not tolerate or accept sin, He spoke lovingly about why people had to change their behaviors. In short, He taught. And so must we. That is the choice we must make every day.
As a practicing Catholic, I believe that God created man and woman, not other genders (cf. Mk. 10:6-9). I live eight miles from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, an openly gay town. I have many gay friends who are kind, loving, friendly, and, at times, helpful; however, because of the social climate and their free will, they have made choices that are different from mine. There needs to be more scientific testing and further studies before I agree that a gene is responsible for their choices.
The Catholic Church, to my dismay, gives very little guidance on this except to say that LGBTQ people are God’s children and, as such, we must love them. Yet many gay persons hate Christians, especially Catholics, because we don’t give our blessings to the gay lifestyle. Our pastor was harassed because of this hate. Last year, due to a perceived lack of inclusion, the LGBTQ community told the Rehoboth Beach city council that if a Christmas manger were displayed, a Satanic display must be added. To be politically correct, the council prohibited the display of the manger, which had been erected every year for over three decades.
The straight community must learn how to co-exist with the LGBTQ community, but we don’t have to accept their behavior.
CHRISTOPHER M. REILLY REPLIES:
Since my article was published, a prominent academic has announced plans for a matchmaking app based on genetics; others have launched a consumer program that will allegedly genetically identify people who are homosexual. Facts about genetics rarely get in the way of profit. Although I have closed down my website that opposed genetic engineering of embryos, due in part to cyberattacks after publishing an article tying Putin to immoral research, I will be increasing my advocacy efforts in other ways.
Susan Lochner’s call for love is eloquent, and we should be prepared for resistance to sincere love when people are in spiritual or any other kind of pain. This must not, however, lessen our resolve.
We can all relate to Cathie Taylor’s account of the distorted pride and resentment — and appeasement — that have become hallmarks of a society hyper-focused on individual “rights” and biological explanations. Importantly, we can also draw on the New Testament’s account of a decaying culture and how it crucified Jesus. Today, we have Christ walking with us, and our clergy must reach beyond the platitudes to teach skills for evangelizing in His authentic love — radical, countercultural, and sometimes harsh — rather than conform to a psychologically fragile and thoroughly confused society.
An Overlooked Story Brought to Life
Bob Filoramo’s excellent article “St. Paul & the Centurion” (Nov.) truly enlightened me and broadened my understanding of both St. Paul and the Centurion Julius. How could I have missed this detailed and arousing story?
I am not a biblical scholar by any means, but I have read the entire New Testament and use it as part of my daily prayers. I recollect in a very general way what I thought was a short story about St. Paul’s adventures with Julius, but I never knew the extent to which they spent time together and how they became “friends” after a fashion.
Filoramo’s comprehensive article brought another “truth” to life for me: St. Paul was certainly a holy and trusting “character” in the drama of salvation history.
Carl P. Moccia
Warren, New Jersey
BOB FILORAMO REPLIES:
Mr. Moccia’s comments indicate what I had hoped my article would do for the reader — namely, build faith and illustrate how the Lord is forever working to save us. Julius had no idea what he was getting into; I am hopeful that he came to understand that the Lord was about saving him through his adventures with St. Paul.
Through the Looking Glass
I read and reread “Botanical Absolution” (The News You May Have Missed, Nov.), blinking several times between readings. Has tree-hugging become a sacrament? Why call on the service of an ordained priest when absolution can be granted in the confessional of chrysanthemums and carnations? And what is “Extractivism”? It must be the extraction of nonsense from pure idiocy.
Mother said, “John, you will never lose by betting on the foolishness and gullibility of our species.” Mother was wise. Truly, we have slipped through the looking glass into a looney Alice in Wonderland world.
Nazis & “Nazis”
My unpleasant side is my pedantic side. David Mills writes, “You like socialism? The Nazis were socialists…. They were still Nazis. That makes a difference” (Last Things, Nov.). The members of Germany’s democratically elected National Socialist Workers’ Party called themselves National Socialists. “Nazis” was a nickname given them by the communists.
This pedant understands that nicknames are quite common. But they should be descriptive, sometimes ironically, of the original name. Catholics have been called “papists.” This is not deceptive because Catholics accept the authority of the pope. Sometimes a very large man is nicknamed, ironically, “Tiny.” The term “Nazi,” however, at least in English, does not reflect National Socialism. Its current usage can denote a very evil person or program, or merely someone or something with whom a speaker disagrees. Thus, conservative guest lecturers are frequently called “Nazis” by college students because they are not in line with current campus orthodoxy. Whatever President Trump’s sillinesses (and they are legion), he is not a socialist; therefore, he should not be called a Nazi.
The party of Adolf Hitler, for accuracy’s sake, should always be called the National Socialists, for that is what they were and how they identified themselves.
William M. Selenke
Newman on “Conscience”
In James G. Hanink’s reply to Philip Blosser’s letter (Nov.) regarding Hanink’s review of Hendrik G. Stoker’s Conscience: Phenomena and Theories (Jul.-Aug.), Hanink reminds us that both Stoker’s and St. John Henry Newman’s compelling arguments for the presence of God are found in our conscience. I hope NOR readers will be favorably disposed to a recounting of Newman’s development of that relationship.
Among the sermons Newman preached prior to his conversion was “Knowledge of God’s Will Without Obedience,” in which he lamented the religious practices of the genteel — their love for religious poetry, the history of the Gospels, and eloquence in sermons and religious discussions. “They do not,” he said, “obey because they are told to obey, on faith; and the need of this divine principle of conduct they do not comprehend…as if all the knowledge and the training that books ever gave had the power to unloose one sinner from the bonds of Satan, or to effect more than an outward reformation, an appearance of obedience…as if to know much was a necessary step for right practice. They are apt to think it enough to know and to talk of religion, to make a man religious.”
Not only does this sermon help demonstrate the place of faithful action in Newman’s thought, it shows that he considered man’s conscience as a moral court of appeals: “When, then, a man complains of his hardness of heart or weakness of purpose, let him see to it whether this complaint is more than a mere pretense to quiet his conscience, which is frightened at his putting off repentance; or, again, more than a mere idle word, said half in jest and half in compunction.”
Newman’s appeal to conscience as the storehouse for ultimate moral action perhaps owes much to the influence of Joseph Butler’s Analogy. There also conscience is the ultimate ground of moral appeal. Butler contends that although reason can, and even must, interpret the phenomena of religious revelation, it does so under the guidance of conscience, rejecting all that claims to be revelation which clearly cannot be so. However, though Newman’s conceptual idea of conscience is not transcribed from the Analogy, it seems wrong to disallow that Butler’s concept did not influence Newman extensively. The continual appeal to Butler’s theology throughout nearly all of Newman’s works, particularly his theologically controversial ones, shows that the Analogy was a well-worn reference in Newman’s library. The removal of Butler’s work from the Oxford library during a period of anti-Newman feeling testifies to this fact. Therefore, when J.F. Cronin writes that “Butler’s influence upon Newman was one of stimulus and suggestion rather than one of positive contribution,” the reader should understand by positive an exact reiteration of philosophical tenets.
Prior to his conversion, Newman also preached a sermon on “The Influence of Natural and Revealed Religion Respectively.” His thesis was that revealed religion supplies to natural religion the incentive for moral action — i.e., it makes conscience the first principle of natural religion. “Conscience implies a relation between the soul and a something exterior, and that, moreover, superior to itself; a relation to an excellence which it does not possess, and to a tribunal over which it has no power.” The important addition that revealed religion gives to natural religion is the personality of divinity. Moreover, Newman argued that the Incarnation was the highest possible form of revealing the will of the Supreme Being.
Conscience, as the first principle of natural religion, serves two functions: (1) It teaches us that there is a Judge who watches our conduct, and (2) it prepares us for revealed religion. Newman felt that a person thoroughly grounded in natural religion would accept revealed religion mainly because that person’s conscience anticipated that the Divine Sovereign would reveal Himself. Retributive justice is the very attribute under which God is primarily brought before us in the teachings of our natural conscience. Natural religion had already initiated the concept of atonement long before the advent of Christianity.
Newman’s argument for Christianity as the only true, revealed religion is, in keeping with the logic of his Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, an appeal to probability. “I prefer to rely on that of an accumulation of various probabilities,” he wrote — i.e., “from probabilities we may construct legitimate proof, sufficient for certitude.” The evidences that Newman gives are, briefly, the universality of Christianity as compared to any other existing religion; the fulfillment of scriptural prophesy, particularly the messianic hope; and the establishment of a spiritual kingdom. From this, Newman concludes, “There is only one religion in the world which tends to fulfill the aspirations, needs and foreshadowings of natural faith and devotion.”
Canyon Lake, Texas
JAMES G. HANINK REPLIES:
We are in debt to Mr. Williams for underscoring the role of conscience in John Henry Newman’s thought. Archbishop Anthony Fisher rightly suggests that Newman should be recognized as a Doctor of the Church — specifically, as the Doctor of Conscience. Fisher recently pointed out that Newman’s teachings were a source for the witness unto death of the White Rose Conspiracy, an anti-Nazi movement that bravely challenged Hitler.
Perhaps I might contribute something to our understanding of Newman by picking up on Williams’s further discussion of probability. Newman does speak of probabilities, but his famous “illative sense,” which he presents as the action of a living mind, takes us beyond probabilities. It complements formal reasoning and, he says, “has its function in the beginning, middle, and end of all…inquiry…and in every step of the process.” It is a “power of judging and concluding” that sets the stage for certitude. The illative sense, indeed, is that which takes us past John Locke’s view, which Newman disputes, that it is only highly likely that there is a physical world.
Note well: In our ethical reflection, we do not say that it’s highly likely that cruelty is wrong. So also in our religious reflection. The Christian does not say that there’s a high probability that Christ rose from the dead. A literary example comes to mind.
Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment introduces us to Sonia, a prostitute who becomes the confidant of Raskolnikov, the story’s protagonist. Raskolnikov “justified” the murder of a greedy pawnbroker on the likely utility of his doing so. He told himself that he would give her ill-gotten gains to needy students like himself.
Sonia, in contrast, without calculation, chooses life over death. At a decisive point in the narrative, she reads aloud to Raskolnikov a passage from John’s Gospel:
Then Martha said unto Jesus…I know that even now whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee…. Then Jesus said unto her, thy brother shall rise again. Martha said unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection, at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me though he were dead, yet shall he live. (11:19)
In time, Raskolnikov comes to faith, albeit one that depends on Sonia’s faith. But faith itself is a kind of knowledge, and it is the most certain kind of knowledge with respect to its object, God, who is the giver of every good and perfect gift.
To be sure, Pascal’s Wager looks to probability. But Newman, whose motto was Cor ad cor loquitur (Heart speaks to heart), looks to the Divine Person, who is ever the same and always reaching out to us.
The Traditional Catholic Teaching on Creation
Fr. Michael Chaberek’s book Aquinas and Evolution, John Lyon’s review of it (June), and the subsequent letters to the editor (Sept. and Oct.), as well as A. James McAdams’s article “Post-Truth, Climate Change & the Catholic University” (Oct.), are all accepting of evolution, or theistic evolution, and an earth x-billion years old. The Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, on the other hand, offers a wealth of information supporting the traditional Catholic teaching on creation and how it jibes with recent scientific findings. Consider the following:
- Pope Leo XIII taught in Providentissimus Deus that the literal interpretation of Scripture is to be accepted as the correct interpretation, unless reason or necessity requires otherwise.
- All the Fathers who wrote on the subject believed that the creation days were no longer than six 24-hour days (Origen being an exception).
- We must believe any interpretation of Scripture that the Fathers taught unanimously as a matter of faith or morals (per the Council of Trent and Vatican I).
- Leo XIII states in Arcanum, “We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep. God thus, in His most far-reaching foresight, decreed that this husband and wife should be the natural beginning of the human race, from whom it might be propagated and preserved by an unfailing fruitfulness throughout all futurity of time.”
- The Fourth Lateran Council declared, “God…Creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal; Who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual and corporal, namely angelic and mundane, and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body.”
- Vatican I declared, “If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God; or holds that God did not create by His will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves Himself; or denies that the world was created for the glory of God: let him be anathema.”
- Also according to Vatican I, the work of creation was finished by the close of day six, and nothing completely new has since been created, except for each rational human soul at conception.
Macroevolution, by definition, requires many years, not a week. As for the “fundamentalist” belief that humans and dinosaurs co-existed, human footprints and dinosaur tracks have been found in the same strata. Recent studies have also shown the relatively rapid process of sedimentation, as opposed to the millions of years heretofore held to be required. Remnants of soft tissue have been discovered to still exist in the bones of some dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. And science acknowledges that all human beings descend from a common female ancestor.
It has been noted that when God creates, He often gives the appearance of age to the new creation. Thus, certain features of creation resemble fine wine. They appear to have taken much time to form, although they were formed quickly. It takes much time for grapes to ferment into fine wine, but the Savior created fine wine at Cana instantaneously.
Sir Ernst Chain, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology, concluded that he “would rather believe in fairies than in such wild speculation” as Darwinism. Chain’s son Benjamin noted of his father: “He also felt that evolution was not really a part of science, since it was, for the most part, not amenable to experimentation — and he was, and is, by no means alone in this view.”
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Though Pope Leo XIII did write in Providentissimus Deus that the “expositor” of Scripture is “not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires,” he also said, in the very same section (no. 15), “Neither should those passages be neglected which the Fathers have understood in an allegorical or figurative sense, more especially when such interpretation is justified by the literal.”
The Church doesn’t have a problem per se with the theory of evolution but with philosophical Darwinism, which considers man the product of materialist forces. This is a critical distinction. Pope Pius XII wrote in Humani Generis (1950) that “the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter — for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God” (no. 36).
More recently, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “it is the affair of the natural sciences to explain how the tree of life in particular continues to grow, and how new branches shoot out from it. This is not a matter for faith…. More reflective spirits have long been aware that there is no either-or here. We cannot say: ‘creation or evolution,’ inasmuch as these two things respond to two different realities. The story of [creation]…does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are…. And, vice versa, the theory of evolution seeks to understand and describe biological developments. But in so doing it cannot explain where the ‘project’ of human persons comes from, nor their inner origin, nor their particular nature. To that extent we are faced here with two complementary — rather than mutually exclusive — realities” (In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, 1990).
We can take heart, therefore, with H.L. Mencken, who said, “[The advantage of Catholics] lies in the simple fact that they do not have to decide either for Evolution or against it. Authority has not spoken on the subject; hence it puts no burden upon conscience, and may be discussed realistically and without prejudice.”
Consensus? What Consensus?
“Post-Truth, Climate Change & the Catholic University” is a fine article, and one can hardly quarrel with the main thrust of ideas A. James McAdams presents (Oct.). But I was dismayed by what seems to be his unqualified and limitless trust in the “consensus” of qualified scientists on some aspects of global climate change.
Certainly, if the majority of experts voice a common opinion, then it would be foolish to disregard that datum. But history provides us with two examples (one rather recent) of situations in which “the best and the brightest” were pointing in the wrong direction.
When Galileo unveiled his heliocentric theory, he was opposed by the people who spoke for the Church. The principal reason for their opposition was that Galileo’s theory flew in the face of contemporary scientific opinion. Galileo’s notions conflicted with the mathematics of the case, and the conventional model worked quite nicely as a basis for practical navigation, whereas Galileo’s model did not. And so, the overwhelming consensus of experts was that Galileo was wrong and they were right. (It turns out Galileo didn’t have it quite right either, but that’s beside the point.)
In the latter part of the 20th century, it was the opinion of behavioral scientists that the best way to deal with a man who engaged in sexual exploitation was to send him to a place where he could receive psychological treatment. Then, after recovery, the man could be reintroduced into his former environment. This was much better, the experts insisted, than exposing his wrongdoing and permanently removing him from his work. More than one Catholic bishop indicated that it was this kind of thinking that guided their actions in what nowadays we regard as a “cover up.”
Yes, it would be foolish to disregard automatically the opinion of “a consensus of experts.” Such a consensus is a relevant piece of data, but it cannot be regarded as conclusive. These two examples show the folly of unthinkingly bowing down to collective authority. I fear Dr. McAdams has done just that.
Deacon Gregory Sampson
A. James McAdams asks, “Why do educated and reasonable people still resist the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and that its principal causes are not natural but anthropogenic?” The answer is because science is never based on consensus. As one who holds bachelor and doctoral degrees, I have studied enough science to know that the scientific method is a process that requires ongoing observations about the natural world. The hypothesis that we are experiencing climate change caused by humans has not yet been fully tested and analyzed, nor has it been proven. Until that occurs, we might call the tired recitation of “consensus” what it is: the absence of science.
Corpus Christi, Texas
There is so much erroneous information and so many errors and half-truths in A. James McAdams’s article that I hardly know where to start. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just hit his main thesis — namely, that there is scientific consensus on anthropomorphic climate change.
1. In 2008 Dr. Arthur Robinson of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine announced that more than 31,000 scientists had signed a petition rejecting the theory of human-caused global warming. A report by the National Center for Public Policy Research stated that “a significant number of scientists, climatologists and meteorologists have expressed doubt about the danger of global warming and whether or not humans are having a significant impact for the worse on the climate.” So much for the consensus.
Frederick Seitz, one of the nation’s most decorated physicists, organized the Global Warming Petition Project. Prof. Seitz, who died in 2008, was president of the National Academy of Sciences, the highest honor a scientist in America can attain, and president of Rockefeller University. He received the National Medal of Science and numerous other awards, including honorary doctorates from 32 universities around the world. Seitz wrote, “Research data on climate change do not show that human use of hydrocarbons is harmful.”
2. Nir Joseph Shaviv, a top astrophysicist and associate professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, used to think that carbon dioxide (CO2) actually affected temperature levels, but not anymore. “Like many others,” Dr. Shaviv said, “I was personally sure that CO2 was the bad culprit in the story of global warming. But after careful digging into the evidence, I realized that things are far more complicated than the story told to us by many climate scientists or the stories regurgitated by the media.” Shaviv notes that “solar activity can explain a large part of the 20th-century global warming.”
3. Geologist Dudley J. Hughes states, “Earth’s atmosphere is made up of several major gases. Carbon dioxide represents only about 4 parts in 10,000, the smallest volume of any major atmospheric gas.” Carbon dioxide is a natural part of the atmosphere: humans exhale it and plants use it in photosynthesis. It is not a poison and, therefore, not a pollutant. In fact, water vapor is by far the earth’s most significant greenhouse gas, and without greenhouse gases, life would not exist.
4. In 2012 the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “No Need to Panic about Global Warming,” written by 16 eminent scientists, including the president of the World Federation of Scientists, a Princeton University physics professor, a Hebrew University astrophysics professor, the former president of the New York Academy of Sciences, and others of similar stature. They wrote, “The number of ‘scientific heretics’ is growing with each passing year. The reason is a collection of stubborn scientific facts. Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now…. The lack of warming for more than a decade — indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections — suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause.”
5. Denis G. Rancourt, professor of physics and an environmental science researcher at the University of Ottawa, has written that “even doubling the present atmospheric CO2 concentration, to attain a value of 800 ppm [parts per million] say, without changing anything else in the atmosphere, would have little discernible effect on global temperature or climate.”
6. Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Solar and Stellar Physics division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics, argues, “Saying the climate system is completely dominated by how much carbon dioxide we have in the system is crazy — completely wrong…. Carbon dioxide is not the major driver for the earth-climate system.”
7. Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist and Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT who might be America’s leading climatologist, wrote, “It is generally accepted that a doubling of CO2 will only produce a change of about two degrees Fahrenheit if all else is held constant. This is unlikely to be much to worry about,” and “The basis for the weak IPCC argument for anthropomorphic climate change was shown to be false.”
Most of the research cited above is taken from two excellent books: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph by Dennis Prager and Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark Levin.
Robert B. Bullock
A. James McAdams’s article was a load of rubbish. Why the NOR published it is beyond my comprehension.
McAdams claims overwhelming consensus for climate change. The only study that actually asked scientists was done by the American Meteorological Society in 2013. It showed that only 52 percent of professional members believed the cause of global warming was “mostly human.” Among professional forecasters, the number was closer to 38 percent. No group came anywhere close to the 97 percent McAdams claims.
As far as the increase in temperature goes, the climate changers cherry-picked the start date in the 1960s for their charts to show an increase in temperature (which, by the way, has leveled out since 1998). However, an article in The New York Times covering the period in the U.S. starting in 1895 shows no increase in overall temperature.
As for carbon dioxide, the world’s leading expert in this area stated publicly that we are in a carbon dioxide deficit. At 400 ppm, we are dangerously close to the 130 ppm level that will kill off all vegetation and then humanity. The ideal level is 1,000 ppm to 4,000 ppm, which has been reached many times in the past when human activity was so low it could not have possibly affected the climate.
The sea level has been rising for thousands of years. In the past 20,000 years, the sea level has risen 400 feet — almost all of that more than 8,000 years ago. It has nothing to do with humans. There is strong evidence that the climate changers have ignored readings from those areas of the world where the land is rising (Scandinavia, for example) and concentrated on areas of the world where the land is sinking (U.S. East Coast, for example).
I strongly recommend that McAdams go to www.realclimatescience.com, which publishes charts put out by governmental and scientific agencies that cover periods much longer than those the IPCC uses to support its bogus claims.
McAdams opens his article by quoting Fr. Theodore Hesburgh. McAdams completely ignores Hesburgh’s taking money from the Ford Foundation in order to hire secular experts, most of whom are anti-religion and anti-Catholic, and to support the Ford Foundation’s championing of contraception for population control. Hesburgh was the prime mover in the Land O’ Lakes meeting, which produced a document that effectively transferred control of Notre Dame from the Congregation of the Holy Cross to a board of directors made up mostly of laymen who have no love for the Church. Since then, most Catholic colleges and universities have become similarly secularized and are no different from public colleges and universities in supporting abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, and any other depraved sexuality. In short, Hesburgh was an absolute disaster for Catholic university-level education.
Regarding the discussion of man-made global warming, a report in London’s Telegraph titled “Climate Change: Fake News or Global Threat? This Is the Science” (Oct. 15, 2019) might be of interest. It found that “the figure traditionally cited that suggests 97 per cent of climate scientists agree that global warming is man-made was also found to be flawed. A survey which claimed to have questioned 10,257 academics, was found to have winnowed down the sample to just 77…. A poll of 1,854 members of the American Meteorological Society found the number who believe climate change to be man-made to be 52 per cent.”
I can’t decide what is more disturbing, a pompous communist historian from Notre Dame preaching about policing thought or the fact that the NOR would publish such drivel.
According to A. James McAdams, modern Catholic universities like Notre Dame are where “the Church does its thinking,” conservatives do not think correctly about climate change, and Catholic universities should enlighten them regarding their “post-truth” error. Instead of planning to re-educate the nonbelievers, a curious thinker might go beyond a simple answer-to-a-poll question and try to learn why people disagree. A charitable investigator might expect to find some reasonable explanations rather than assigning ignorance and incompetence to such a large class of people.
Apparently, nobody at Notre Dame is thinking about how all ice core studies show a roughly 500-year time gap between historical temperature rise and the subsequent CO2 increase; or how higher temperatures might be a net positive for the world; or that sea-level change is driven by multiple factors, including sediment deposition and tectonic forces; or that temperatures have been rising for the past 18,000 years, long before fossil-fuel use; or that the tiny parts per million increase of CO2 in the atmosphere might have more benefits for agriculture and plant life in general that outweigh any climate effects; or that both temperature data and solar-radiation data might be inadequately sampled, both spatially and historically, for reliable interpretation of trends; or that the impossibility to test climate predictions scientifically should justify basic skepticism rather than intolerant adherence to those predictions.
As a professional geophysicist for over 25 years, I know many geoscientists, and the vast majority of them think climate hysteria is a hoax. Despite our years of earth study, we have never been polled on our adherence to the trendy political correctness that makes up the basis for McAdams’s sermon.
As opposed to McAdams and his faculty-lounge buddies, most of my peers understand the earth is a dynamic system, and they place higher value on a strong economy providing the means to respond successfully to any change in climate, whether hotter or colder, than in the state to impose tax and regulatory solutions.
I do agree though with McAdams’s statement that “these are difficult times for optimists,” but for different reasons. A big one is that the so-called thinkers at Notre Dame are more concerned with indoctrinating students to be true believers in climate paranoia than with educating them to be orthodox Catholics.
Climate change is not a hoax; it is a redundancy. Change is the essence of climate. To use a term like “climate change” is sort of like saying “frozen ice.”
West Palm Beach, Florida
A. James McAdams brings out worthwhile points about our responsibility to care for the environment, and it is true enough that, on a certain level, this is a moral imperative.
However, McAdams’s lament that so many doubt climate change and its negative effects overlooks the real problem: Our academic and other elites have betrayed the trust given them, and so average people tend not to respond to their admonitions about climate.
Most universities have ceased to dedicate themselves to the truth and instead have become overtly utilitarian and political. The queen of sciences, theology, is no longer the guiding star of all disciplines of knowledge, and philosophy has withered into a nihilistic boutique interest. With higher learning now untethered from the truth and indifferent toward the needs of the human soul, individual disciplines either become obsessed with trivialities or strive to change the world through social and government programs. Thus, good and evil are externalized, and there is no attempt to help the student cultivate his spiritual and moral character.
That universities have gone badly astray with politically correct activism and gender-theory nonsense is more apparent to the average person than academics like to believe. As these institutions continue to insist on absurdities — for example, that a person’s gender is something different from his biological sex — they are suspected of being inhabited by well-educated, progressive hacks. When the average person can see plainly the difference between a man and a woman, and apparently PhDs cannot, is it any surprise that the latter are ignored on something like climate change?
The academy has lost broad credibility, and for that reason it is not very effective in helping people sift the truth about climate change from the breathless alarmism in which we are immersed. Unfortunately, the bulk of Catholic universities do not seem to fare much better than secular universities on these marks.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
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