Saturday, May 31, 2014


I've noticed on Facebook's page where there is great opposition to the Catholic Church that most of the people (not all) who are commenting and in the most negative way possible toward Mt. de Sales and the Catholic Church's teaching on sexuality and marriage are not even Catholic. There are some Catholics, but I would have to ask how many of them actually attend Mass every Sunday and go to confession monthly, every other month twice a year or even yearly.

On that particular facebook page, "save dollar" I wonder how a Mt. de Sales student who is an orthodox Catholic , goes to Mass every Sunday, and confession regularly would be treated if he or she added a comment that allows them to stand up for the Catholic Church and Mt. de Sales decision which by the way Bishop Hartmayer and this priest support?

Would practicing Catholics who go to confession be bullied on that page? Just asking?


Anonymous said...

I believe the answer is YES...which is why the supporters are much more quiet and the dissenters are so "in your face"...sadly, we are letting ourselves be bullied into silence!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

One of the things that I have lamented over and over and over again about both St. Joseph School and Mt. de Sales is the number of Catholic parents who send their children to our schools and do not attend Mass every Sunday or go to Confession regularly. I'm been complaining about this for 10 years now, the entire time I've been here.

How in the name of God and all that is holy are Catholics going to swim against the tide of godless secularism and the ideologies of the left, especially as it concerns sexuality, be it heterosexual or homosexual and the right to life of the innocent unborn and that the contraceptive mentality shoved down our throats and now by the current presidential administration is all of one particular political and ideological package?

On top of that, why in the name of God and all that is holy do we have some very well meaning and practicing Catholics demanding that an openly practicing homosexual who has declared as publicly as possible to enter a public same sex union that cannot be called marriage in the state of Georgia or in the Catholic Church, but insists it is a marriage think that this person can continue to work in the teaching ministry of the Church or that anyone in an official capacity in hiring and firing would think that is okay?
There are many who get fired from Catholic institutions for reasons much less grave than this one.

Benjamin Land said...

I also believe it is likely that a dissenting opinion on a Facebook group would be met with a lot of negative feedback, but mostly because the group is actively populated with highschool students, and highschool students are known far and wide for their bullying.

The important thing to remember here is that the people in support of Mr. Dollar, for the most part, are not arguing against the beliefs Catholic Church on homosexuality but rather the application of those beliefs in choosing to fire this man. I would say these people are comfortable in their beliefs (which may or may not align with the Church's teaching on the matter because they may or may not be Catholics at all) and do not feel threatened by the clearly different beliefs held by Mr. Dollar. As such, he was valued for his skill and dedication to being a quality band director at Mount de Sales, and his supporters see his termination as against the school's best interest.

Of course, as Father McDonald points out, there are many individuals who get fired from Catholic institutions for reasons "much less grave" than being a homosexual seeking to marry. The main issue is these people were not fired from Mount de Sales, which severely weakens the Church's stance that this was not a discriminatory termination.

Though I am sure this will be interpreted as justification for more unnecessary termination of qualified teachers, I am certain that if Mount de Sales had been consistent in its employment policies there would have been a much smaller public reaction. In effect, many people did not view Mount de Sales as an institution that strictly upheld Catholic teachings, but rather as an institution for preparing students to go to college.

Anonymous said...

Agreed...the shocking thing about all of this is...THE SHOCK! The fact that some of the most vocal dissenters are Catholic is nothing short of embarrassing. This has been a wake up call for me personally to examine myself and whether I am doing a good job of walking my faith every single day and being a good example to my family.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Benjamin, Mount de Sales is a Catholic institution which is meant to hand on the Catholic Faith and morals of the Church in an educational envirnonment. Sometimes institutions of the Church veer off course and fail in their mission and thus mislead people into thinking the Catholic identity part is not important. That could well have happened to Mt. de Sales and if Mt. de Sales had not acted to preserve its Catholic identity they could have become what they were becoming a non-sectarian school to provide a good education as a prep school for the college bound and for those who use Mt de Sales as anyting but a Catholic school, to do so at a lower cost that avoids Stratford Academy and God forbid the public schools.

This is really a middle class and upper middle class issue of people wanting to buy their education and throwing their money around to do it. It sickens me when Catholics are doing it and have succumbed to the ideologies of those who hate the Church's teaching on sexual morality, the right to life, the true nature of heterosexual sex oriented to life (and thus artificial contraception is sinful) and the true meaning of marriage.

If you are a nice sinner and do your job you should be able to get away with murder (and I mean of course, figuratively) when it comes to the Catholic Church!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I would also add that I applaud David Held for recognizing the need to keep Mount de Sales a Catholic School and Bishop Hartmayer reminding us all that a Catholic school is not independent from the local bishop who can remove their Catholic identity if they don't safeguard that identity especially with those they have on their staff.

David Held and the Board of Trustees opted for keeping the Catholic identity of the School. Let's applaud that and not criticize it! We need a Catholic school in Macon that is faithful to the Pope, our local bishop, our priests and deacons and the Deposit of Faith. We don't need another Stratford Academy in town. One is enough!

Anonymous said...

"A man in this world must solve a problem: to be with Christ, or to be against Him. And every man decides this, whether he wants to or not. He will either be a lover of Christ or a fighter of Christ. There is no third option."

Anonymous said...

Do you believe it is necessarily a bad thing for parents to value education over church doctrine? I think many parents are upset that a good teacher, one who was able to connect with the students, was let go.

Anonymous said...

"Do you believe it is necessarily a bad thing for parents to value education over church doctrine?"

It is said that there is no such thing as a dumb question. This question disproves that aphorism.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

It is horrible that Catholic parents value an education over Church teaching. It is anathema! I would recommend to them public school, or any of the the other non-sectarian schools in town, Stratford being the primary.

Let's wake up Catholics. The reason we have schools and put so many resources in them, rather than working to improve public schools is to hand on the Catholic faith and not allow the broader culture, be it the media, the gay lobbies or other political interests opposed to the Church to hijack our children away from the true faith. This is a case study in what happens when the Catholic identity is allowed to be minimalized.

Benjamin Land said...

"The reason we have schools and put so many resources in them, rather than working to improve public schools is to hand on the Catholic faith and not allow the broader culture, be it the media, the gay lobbies or other political interests opposed to the Church to hijack our children away from the true faith."

That must be why Mount de Sales only teaches Catholic religion class and excludes all of those unnecessary secular concepts such as math, science, language, and history. (Excuse my sarcasm.) I believe what you are referring to, Father, is Sunday school, RCIA, or whatever it is called these days. Based purely on the opinions expressed here, I am starting to doubt the Church's ability to provide a quality highschool education that is necessary to survive in this modern world, and I can foresee many good Catholic parents feeling the same way. It would be a shame to see this happen to the highschool I graduated from.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Home schoolers in the Catholic tradition do well in college and in real life. Now if money and getting ahead in the world is your primary concern, more power to you. Pope Benedict desires a poorer Church. I hope when you hear Church you aren't thinking just of the clergy or our institutions, but all of us who are baptized, we are the Church. A poorer Church is a more faithful Church because worldliness isn't the main preoccupation and occupation! Go sell, Ben all you have and your education and come follow Jesus!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I meant Pope Francis of course.

Anonymous said...

In response to anonymous proclaiming my question was "dumb" I was merely just hoping Fr. would share his insights. I take it you value church doctrine over education? I hope your children enjoy being suppressed in that case. Fr., I went to Mount De Sales. I took a variety of classes. The only classes that have a catholic viewpoint in mind would be the New/Old Testament Class. Math, science, and science were taught with no viewpoint. If I decide to send my kids to MDS, it is because of the classes and opportunities they offer. Not the catholic doctrine. You never had a presence at the school when I attend and I hope you stay your distance. Mount De Sales churns out many highly educated students every year. Catholicism is not the reason they succeeded. You'd be surprised father, many parents send their children their because of it's affordability, college preparation, and teachers. I would love to see a poll where the parents were asked the top reason why they send their kids there...Anyways, in your eyes guess we are all going to hell for trying to help our children succeed.

Benjamin Land said...

If I was looking to make money I wouldn't have chosen to become a physics PhD. ;) Strictly speaking, I am what you would probably call a bad Catholic as I was raised Catholic, am most familiar with the teachings of the Catholic church, was at one time a practicing Catholic, and still respond "technically Catholic" followed by a lengthy explanation when people question my religious affiliations. However, I have a mind for science and a desire to understand rather than believe so I tend to disagree on principle with many teachings of the Church because they are not self consistent. This is the way God made me, if you'd prefer to think of it that way. I don't see science, religion, or secularism as mutually exclusive and truly believe there is a common ground to be reached between all people. Poorly understood antiquated concepts that get treated as uncompromisable dogma and people who assert that their beliefs are the only true beliefs and should be treated as facts instead of beliefs jeopardize that eventuality.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Matthew 16:26: And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

That's what we're talking about and why Catholic Schools were founded.

A parent who wants their child to succeed in the world but places that above their salvation is really the problem here isn't it?

It's not either/or but both/and with the priority given to the will of God.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Ben, everyone goes through what you are going through but when push comes to shove and your mind fails, your children abandon you and you have aches and pains all over your body, will you offer your sufferings in union with Christ or collapse at all the meaninglessness of it all.

Gene said...

Ben, what are you doing son a conservative Catholic blog, then? Stirring crap? Do you need an antagonist? What's the deal?

Benjamin Land said...

I've found some meaning to life, I think, and I'm well aware that it is finite. I try to accept life for what it is and make the best of it, but with aches and pains all over my body I would probably collapse, yes, but there would definitely be a reason for it, and I could interpret to mean whatever suits me. I choose to believe being alive, even through the unfortunate parts, is intrinsically meaningful, I suppose.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Ben all kidding aside, where you are in California and in your school, if you were a faithful practicing Catholic going to Mass each Sunday, confession regularly, maybe even daily Mass, and prayed the Holy Rosary everyday and had a strong devotion to our Lady and maybe helped out at a local soup kitchen and prayed before an abortion clinic, how would your peers, meaning your classmates and professors treat you?

Anonymous said...

Fr. McDonald, all kidding aside, I know lots of practicing Catholics, who go to daily mass....practically daily confession...who say many rosaries. They LOVE to tell anybody within hearing range about who they saw at "Daily Mass", who they did not see at Mass on a holy day...and who are pompous, narrow minded, racist. Counting the numbers of Masses or "Holy Rosaries" or abortion clinics doesn't always tell the whole story.

Rood Screen said...


Given the profound contributions to science flowing from faithful Catholic over the centuries, the role of the Catholic Church in establishing universities, and the determination of the Church since her founding to define her beliefs using scientific language, your comments can only by judged irrational.

Benjamin Land said...

Father McDonald, I think most of those activities would be met with professional support, except perhaps praying in front of an abortion clinic. Not that there is anything wrong with being pro-life, but it could illicit some ill will from people with different opinions. I have not found the world at large to be as hostile as you seem to think it is, particularly not in the scientific community as long as the basic goals of science are upheld. However if I stood on a street corner and proclaimed homosexuality to be immoral I would definitely attract a lot of unwanted attention.

Gene, I ended up on this blog after Mr. Dollar was fired from Mount de Sales because the very shaky justification for the decision led me here. Initially I was trying to better understand the nature of the justification by testing the claims, and I have stuck around because I am intrigued. I believe my comments have met the "intelligent and civil" requirements for being approved as they have all been approved. I realize my views differ from yours and that the trend in these sorts of circles is generally to suppress dissenting opinions, but nothing helps us understand our own opinions better than someone who will disagree with them. In that sense, I hope the experience has been as enlightening for you as it has been for me.

George said...

JBS. right
From the development of the University system, to the scientific method, to art and architecture, to music, to our system of laws and jurisprudence, to medicine and language, to philosophy and astronomy, no institution has contributed as much to the development of civilization as the Catholic church.
The Church, being the beneficiary of Divine revelation, has always seen man as being more than an animal with an intellect. Science and mathematics are good and necessary but they, in and of themselves, will not save man from the selfish indulgence of his lower passions, a self-centered mode of existing which in it's most extreme form(although becoming more common) considers other human beings as objects to be used or disposed if they are seen as being in the way of ones own selfish self interest.
When man moves away from God who is the Source of the over-arching transcendent principles and laws which apply to all men, then what follows is an increasing dysfunction in the institutions on which a just society depends. The institutions whose very existence of we owe a lot to the Catholic church.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Today's generation of young people, those in the 20's and 30's have an abysmal grasp on politics, know very little about American or World history and no clue about basic civics, government. I was just listening to random interviews of people on the street being asked basic questions about the civil war, who won it, who was Abraham Lincoln, who was the second president, etc. It was depressing.

You can only imagine what people Ben's age know about Church history, the early heresies, what Scripture teaches, why the Catholic Church isn't Scripture in isolation to Tradition and natural law.

But they know their gadgets and if you need help with a computer they can assist you.

The narcissism of the age is stunning!

Gene said...

Ben, no, not really enlightening for me because it is just another ho hum. Another unbeliever attempting to "understand" the Church through disagreeing with her teachings and, usually, wanting to get the Church to change them.

Rood Screen said...

Father McDonald,

You're sounding a little curmudgeonly with that last comment!

Anon friend said...

Good answer, Gene, thanks!
JBS and George, absolutely!
The problem with blogs is the attraction to all types, and Ben is right about that. God has never promised "it" would be easy. But one perseveres for the greater good of all. Trite, perhaps, but true.

Anon friend said...

Father, I'm sure you are on edge right now, but it probably doesn't help the situation to blast a whole generation of people, lumping them together in culpability. Some of our best priests and seminarians are in that group. I do understand the dilemma, but remember you are blasting all of us--we ALL produced that generation, including you as a pastor and us as parents.
And we are ALL sorry when it doesn't turn out as well as we had hoped...

Anonymous said...

“if you were a faithful practicing Catholic going to Mass each Sunday, confession regularly . . . . how would your peers, meaning your classmates and professors treat you?”

While serving as a mathematics professor at a major public university and a mathematician of some professional standing (successful textbook author, fellow of the principal mathematical society, etc.) with a fairly high profile in faculty and campus affairs, I was surely visible to many as a “faithful practicing Catholic”, but don’t recall experiencing any adverse reaction on that account.

My experience is that the majority of academics, and particularly of scientists, are less antagonistic to organized religion than indifferent to it. Though of course public involvement—as opposed to private belief--in what are perceived as conservative political activities (rather than religious ones per se) can certainly engender disagreement.

Anonymous said...

Father, Matthew 16:26 says "What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?"

The physical health of a person is more important than the soul. Read your updated Catholic Bible. Get with the Vatican II program.

Benjamin Land said...

"Ben, no, not really enlightening for me because it is just another ho hum. Another unbeliever attempting to "understand" the Church through disagreeing with her teachings and, usually, wanting to get the Church to change them."

Common ground is found through dialog, not isolation. Perhaps I am alone in this sentiment, but I enjoy when my beliefs are challenged because the resulting discussion allows me to refine my beliefs. Otherwise, with only those that accept your every word as company, you end up with these indefensible positions that you never realized were indefensible because no one challenged them. At the very least, the next time you encounter an "unbeliever" you will know why it is they disagree with you and the points they are likely to make. In a "perfect" world you would analyze your own beliefs, as I have, and adjust them as appropriate, or at least have some greater insight to the issues that might exist.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Ben, I am glad you are commenting here, keep it up!

Gene said...

Ben, I've been there and done that many times in grad school and after. Belief is not something you continue to examine and subject to rational analysis to see if you can find an inconsistency. It ain't physics, you know. I honestly do not give a hoot why unbelievers or non-believers disagree with me. I have no desire to find common ground with them unless they come seeking the Faith. I feel about them as you might feel about someone who insisted that gravity was really just Liberace and Tennessee Williams under the earth sucking everything down to hold it in place.

I have non-believing friends with whom I have common ground, as in hobbies, etc. But, we don't talk theology.

Pater Ignotus said...

Ben - No, indeed, you are NOT alone in understanding that common ground is found through dialogue. I share that outlook.

As you know from this blog and elsewhere, there are those who, for a variety of reasons, are not interested in dialogue of any kind - religious, scientific, scientific, etc. Fascists that they are, they are the first to say things like, "Why are you on this blog?" which is the equivalent of "Get out, we don't want your kind here."

Your have been among the rare thoughtful and thought-provoking posts - keep it up. And don't let the fascist ideologues get to you.

Anonymous said...

As a student of Mount de Sales, I'd like to make something clear. On of the only reasons many people attend this school is because it is cheaper than the other private schools, and has an acceptable education. In Macon, the public schools are not acceptable and would not benefit a student as much as going to a private institution. If Stratford were to be the same price as Mount de Sales, then things would be different. For those who argue that "if you don't support the school don't go there blah blah blah.", it isn't as easy as that sounds. How would you like to pay thousands of extra dollars to get an acceptable education?
Only a few parents (who are actually devout Catholics that attend church every Sunday) send their kids to MDS solely for the fact that it is a Catholic school. The rest come so that they can save some money. You also have no idea how many students loathe the fact that this is the situation. For example, having theology all four years at MDS is not only unneeded, but takes away opportunities to take useful classes; very few colleges care about theology courses. As is the case, many students (even those who are Catholic) have begun to dislike the school

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Maybe all the private school's including MDS should shut down and force those who are this way to go to the public schools or be homeschooled.

Anonymous said...

Shutting down all the private schools would be idiotic; it would cause more problems than fix them.
Plus, if this was done, then there would be no place for actual devout Christians to attend school. All this problem is, is the problem of the pricing of private schools in Macon.

Gene said...

Ignotus, You are completely dishonest or simply stupid. I have invited you to meaningful theological dialogue on any number of occasions, as have several others on the blog. You have either refused to respond or you have resorted to obfuscation and deception in order to avoid meaningful conversation.
You, who so decry name-calling, are now throwing around the term "Fascist," which is a completely hysterical reaction to those who doubt your orthodoxy and question your theological competence.
Now, you turn to an unbeliever for support and dialogue. You are, indeed, one of the very worst products of the Vat II, modernist mentality. Every time you come to St. Jo's, I think after you leave the place should be washed down with Holy Water and then Clorox. I have actually thought of splashing Holy Water on you to see if it sizzled...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Those who want a religious education can home school and all the others go to public school and their parents can work hard to improve the quality of public education! That is the way to go !

Anonymous said...

That could be very well a great solution to this problem. However, there are always going to be people who don't wish to be home-schooled. It would also take a long time to fix the public school system, but it would be worth the outcome.

Desiree said...

I'm sorry, but I see Ben the way Gene does. Not because I'm his groupie. I guess we are just wired similarly. Ben isn't really trying to come around to our Church's thinking. He is wordy with his challenges and doesn't seem to get the point that we won't change what God said. It's just that simple. What is the point of going back and forth saying the same thing five hundred different ways?
We have all given Ben the reasons. He doesn't agree or have the faith. I just keep reading on how he's a scientist. That's wonderful, let's move on. It's like we are beating a dead horse.

However harsh I may seem, I prayed for Ben today in Mass. I included him in my list of nonbelievers who I hope snap out of it, and listen to God. I am wondering if anyone here can give Ben a list of books that are about or by Catholic scientists. Maybe science will be what hooks him in to the Truth.

Desiree said...


Two things first. Thank you for putting the kneelers back. I have seen a good number of people using them. I personally know several who are happy too.
You were on a good roll at the noon Mass today! I was enjoying listening to you be blunt and tell people to wake up. It has not been easy to join the Church knowing the fight going on, but I did almost feel like I was enlisting to fight the good fight. I would rather be on the right side of this mess in the world. I hope people do wake up! Catholicism is exactly what my soul needed. No regrets!

Now about homeschooling. I am in the process do seeking out Seton to use in the fall for my kids...fifth and third graders. I have felt led to do it all school year, and my kids are on board. Do you happen to have an opinion on Seton? Now does SJS compare to homeschooling?

Anonymous 2 said...


Please listen to Father McDonald and Pater Ignotus. As they indicate, you are welcome on this Blog. So please do not be too discomfited by Gene’s attempts to dismiss you or drive you away. At one time or another all of us who present a position that is not shared by Gene or who challenge a position presented or shared by him have been given what I call “the treatment.” Some of us receive “the treatment” regularly, and Pater Ignotus probably gets it the most. Look on the sort of “cyberhazing” to which Gene has subjected you as a rite of passage.

Gene and I disagree frequently. But, and I mean this sincerely, I believe his heart is in the right place. He cares deeply about the Faith and what he perceives as threats to the Church. I have never met him, but not for want of trying. He refuses to meet with me, which apparently he would consider a waste of his time. Despite all this, I respect his devotion to and concern for the Church. My invitation to meet him remains open. I am trying to be gracious in this comment. Even if Gene is ungracious in his reply, it does not matter because one has to see past that to the good that is there. So, no, don’t let him get to you.

Like Pater Ignotus, I think it is healthy for Catholics to dialogue with non-Catholics, including those who have, or no longer have, religious faith, both to search for common ground and to promote mutual understanding (as well as increased self-understanding, as you insightfully point out). We may also try to persuade one another to our respective viewpoints. But even when there seems to be no movement, there has been movement. We may not have changed our substantive positions, but we are nevertheless changed as people through the fact of dialogue and, I believe, invariably end up in a better place than where we started.

On the merits of the issue under discussion, many of my comments on the various threads addressing the Mount de Sales situation have emphasized the importance of trying to understand the perspective of those who have difficulty with the Church’s position on same sex marriages and homosexual sexual activity more generally. However, it is just as important for them to try to understand the Church’s position and why the Church holds the view it does. The same is true for matters such as abortion and contraception. Therefore, it is important to know about the arguments rooted in scripture, tradition, and natural law that both underpin and (in its view) justify the Church’s position. You should know, too, that some powerful secular natural law arguments can be made in opposition to same sex marriages.


Anonymous 2 said...

All that said, you may end up disagreeing with the Church, as many people of goodwill seem to do. Moreover, one could also adapt Aristotle’s approach to politics. To be sure, Aristotle outlined his “ideal state.” But he also described the “best practicable state” that fell short of the ideal but was superior to the alternatives. And so it might be here. Chastity for homosexuals (which in their case means no sex at all) might be the ideal. And one can expect the Church to continue to advocate for this ideal and to oppose legal recognition of same sex marriages. But the best practicable outcome might be a monogamous committed lifetime relationship recognized under the civil law of the state. I strongly suspect that this is something to which the Church will eventually have to accommodate itself in many countries including the United States because legal recognition of same sex marriages (or at least civil unions) throughout the land (including in Georgia) probably cannot be prevented anyway. And it is much more desirable than promiscuity. The Church can continue to urge the ideal even in this situation and to encourage movement in the direction of celibacy within such same sex marriages or civil unions. I am saying nothing new here that has not already been said by Father McDonald on this Blog in earlier posts.

Of course, the appropriate status of a homosexual teacher in a Catholic school who wants to enter a same sex marriage raises distinct issues. And the appropriate treatment of such a teacher who had already signed a contract offering him a position for another year with full knowledge of those plans by the school (should this allegation be proven) raises further distinct legal issues, as is clear from David Oedel’s commentary in the Macon Telegraph today.

Anonymous 2 said...


“I honestly do not give a hoot why unbelievers or non-believers disagree with me. I have no desire to find common ground with them unless they come seeking the Faith. I feel about them as you might feel about someone who insisted that gravity was really just Liberace and Tennessee Williams under the earth sucking everything down to hold it in place.”

Haven’t you just shown with your example why you_should_care why unbelievers or non-believers disagree with you, namely because it may provide an opening to expose an error or weakness in their thinking and thus an opportunity for the beginnings of evangelization?

To use another example of yours, if someone gives as their reason for their unbelief or non-belief the incomprehensible vastness and apparent impersonal nature, if not meaninglessness, of the universe as revealed by science, you can point out that the universe is much stranger and more ineffable than might appear at first sight as well as Kant’s demonstration of the limits of reason.

Gene said...

Anon 2, I've already done that.

Gene said...

Ben is not here to dialogue about the Faith. He is not here seeking the Faith or trying to be Catholic. I have not read one word of his that indicates an attitude of "faith seeking understanding." He seems to be here to oppose scientific "values" and secular philosophies against the teachings of the Church. Why the Hell should I listen to him? Perhaps he needs an antagonist or receives some secondary gain from our responses to him…in which case he needs to get back to the lab for some research in a field he understands.

Desiree said...

I didn't catch my typos earlier.

"Process of seeking"
"How does SJS"

Anonymous said...

In the search for dialogue I believe we ought to follow Our Lord's example: with the Greeks he spoke in terms of metaphysics "Unless a seed falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a seed....", with Romans he spoke in terms of authority and truth (as with the Centurion or Pilate). With Sadducees who only accepted the Torah, he only quoted from the Torah. With Pharisees who accepted the prophets, he quoted from the prophets. So too, when discussing this sort of issue, we need to first map out what the commonly held authority is.

Is it the scientific method? If so, then much of the debate on SSA is based not on science as much as on the presumption that the APA represents the data without bias. As it currently stands, the science is showing that SSA is not genetic (as per twin studies), but IS highly varied, from multiple causes. The data from CDC and international groups are falsifying the "homophobia hypothesis" (whereby all negative personal consequences - biological, emotional, psychological, social - are exclusively caused by 3rd party hostility). Yet much of the public debate continues to presume "the science is settled" based on the 1973 claims, not on subsequent studies and data.

Is our common ground a lay man's sense of justice or morality (choosing the good, avoiding the evil)? If so, then the criteria we both use ought to be applicable in other areas beyond sexuality. If not, then we're not being consistent.

For example, do we wish the maximum human flourishing of our fellow human beings? Most people would say 'yes' and only differ as to what constitutes human flourishing. A friend removing car keys from an alcoholic friend so he cannot drive could be doing a heroic act of friendship even though subjectively it looks and feels atrocious. Letting someone go so as to remove them from a position of scandal and harm of minors by their bad example is not unjust or cruel - but it can certainly feel that way. Discipline and punishment can feel identical even though their purpose is distinct. Jesus refers to this in the parable of the pruning and the cutting.

Bottom line, if we are invoking a common ground (science, common sense, lay man's sense of things)vs. "blind" faith in authorities (be they the Church or the APA), we ought to take the care to make sure we're using science or public arguments.

SSA has never been "proven" "scientifically" to be a harmless and natural variation of human nature. Choosing to behave in a certain way that invariably leads to harm of self and others is not morally neutral even if subjectively a person's culpability is lessened.

Rare is the debate on these issues that leaves the argument from authorities side lines and wades into the public ground of actual data and actual human experience of this phenomenon.

Anon friend said...

A2 makes some very cogent, well-reasoned points here. If I ever need a lawyer (May God grant that I do not), I will be giving him a call.
Father, as I said at the beginning of this fracas, our Church is at war with the secular culture (it always has been as Jesus well knew!), and you had better be prepared to do battle. Desiree noted that your homily yesterday issued the call-to-arms. Hence the pressing question: how do we arm ourselves for this war? So many choices... Do we choose nasty, bitter diatribes (many of which can be found here on both ends of the spectrum discussing any issue). Do we trust knee-jerk emotional thrusts (believe me, I am sometimes guilty of such). Do we rely on the impressive power of reason and intellect? Do we choose the disarming armour of faith, hope and love ("charity" in old-Church language)? And, finally, are all these choices, or any others I have not covered, mutually exclusive?

In the contemporary jargon: WWJD--
To my mind, albeit admittedly addled at times, that is the real and urgent question that begs an answer. Fr. McD graciously provides a forum here to do this.
I am very hopeful (although I admit occasional temptation to despair) that the discussions on this blog will forge a strong sense of our communality in choosing the right means to conduct ourselves in this war. After all is said, in the heat of battle differences tend to evaporate, and the bond of brotherhood gets the well-armed through to victory. Satan's best tool is divisiveness in the ranks--we cannot give him the upper hand.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I also said at the 12:10 Mass that we cannot circle the wagons and defend ourselves from the arrows flung at us. We must be nourished by the Sacraments, personal prayer, God's grace and sound catechesis to go into the lions' den and evangelize. Our weapons in this spiritual battle are God's word (Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law) and God's grace--that's all we have. We need to enter into a dialogue no matter how much we might be maligned and while things might get passionate we should engage and take it!

Anon friend said...

Yes, Father, agreed! All true and timely.
But HOW (i.e. what manner and tone) do we evangelize, I guess was my question. Can we agree as serious Catholics on the proper way to spread the Word?

Anonymous said...

I would submit to you all that arming oneself for a culture war has to proceed by way of at least two areas: virtues and values.

Good habits and a discerning care of our 'daily bread' diet of information, formation and entertainment.

The secularist culture advances by promoting vices (bad habits) of mind and body (porn, drugs, frivolity, superficiality, emotionalism...) and creates a bubble of media content (songs, blogs, news sources, tv shows, movies, advertising, etc.) that reinforces their world view, values, ideological presuppositions.

When every movie villain is private enterprise, every hero is some plucky government agent.... or the villain is cast as a Puritan (who's a hypocrite) against the anti-hero who is so nice (and sensibly secular-hedonist) we see this in action.

It's in the sit-coms, it's in the tired tendency of some pop-starlet to go overtly anti-Catholic for "shock" value and get praised for it.

To defend against this sort of thing requires abstaining from the diet of propaganda or at least balancing it with pro-Catholic or pro-classic humanist sources of inspiration, formation, and information.

Finally, one must take to heart the premise of the 'other side' which is that they hold the intellectual and moral high ground (which is why they don't even try to substantiate their claims, it's just taken for granted). What we must do 'on offense' is challenge these claims on their merits.

In other words, if they claim SSA is "scientifically proven OK" then we need to call them out on this. Prove it. Show us the data. Show us the study that supposedly "proves" it.

If they claim they're nice people and not at all mean-spirited Puritan kill joys.... prove it. How can one claim to not be racist...when race is always the go-to argument? How can a secularist claim to not be dogmatic when in fact they are?

Pop the easy bubble of their presumed superiority...protect impressionable young from their propaganda...and promote healthy habits.

Do this and you win any culture war.

Benjamin Land said...

Gene, I think there may be some confusion between the concepts of understanding and accepting. One cannot understand even Church teaching by blindly accepting it with no thought (see numerous theologians throughout history who have wrestled with ambiguous scripture passages), and the same goes for scientific knowledge. Simply accepting your beliefs, while perhaps sufficient for salvation, does not necessarily mean that you understand your beliefs. I'm of the mind that one should understand their beliefs, and that requires justifying them and contrasting them with what you otherwise see in the world.

But I would ask the same of you, Gene: why are you here if all you aim to do is tell others that they are not welcome? While my comments might not necessarily sing the praises of the Catholic church, I would like to think they are more constructive than those you have directed at me.

Anonymous 2 said...


I realize that you have already done that in another thread (but I cannot now locate where this was). Indeed, that is what I was referring to. Have you made those points to Ben?

Anonymous 2 said...

Anonymous Friend:

Thank you for your generous comments.

Anonymous 2 said...


You make some excellent points about the potential for open-minded and good faith dialogue among those who accept a common standard so that the arguments made on each side are readily understood and can be evaluated by each. I am very much in favor of such dialogue. As you explain, people of faith can easily meet people of no faith on the common ground of scientific inquiry, for example, or on the common ground of some criterion such as justice or human flourishing. Of course, there cannot be such an open-minded and good faith dialogue if it is marred by the blind pursuit of an ideological agenda on either side.

I would summarize what you are calling for as a call for critical thinking and a virtuous disposition (many different types of virtues being necessary), leading to the exercise practical wisdom.

For what it is worth, even where there is no such common ground in the sense of a shared acceptance of a common standard or criterion of evaluation, progress through dialogue should be possible. Thus, for example, it is not impossible for a person of no faith or a different faith to understand the Catholic position through the exercise of cognitive and moral imagination. The converse is also true. In this way the prospects for the exercise of practical wisdom are enhanced even further.

Gene said...

Ben, my aim here is not to tell others they are not welcome. I merely question why some of them are here. I have been a student of theology most of my life. I understand my beliefs and theology quite well.

BTW, PhD's in physics can, indeed, make a lot of money. You need to apply for a job with NASA, the National Lab, or an industry that does a lot of research. You wouldn't make as much money but, if you like to blow stuff up, you could go to work for a munitions industry or a defense contractor. If you know anything about driving radioactive particles into nuclei, I'm sure Iraq is hiring.

Desiree said...

Everyone should read this. It is older and about the French, but still very much applies to us.

Anonymous 2 said...


Thank you for the link. I was not familiar with this interesting document but have now read it. There is a lot there. What, in particular, do you think is especially applicable to our current situation in the United States?

Desiree said...

I found it today and was not able to read it 100% yet. I skimmed through it during a break from cleaning house with my two kids.
From what I did read, the problems we are having with our democratic govt and our Church mirror what St. Pope Pius X was writing about. Living with nonCatholics was in there and is applicable.

This quote is what led me to find the whole letter:

"Catholic doctrine tells us that the primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas, however sincere they may be, nor in the theoretical or practical indifference towards the errors and vices in which we see our brethren plunged . . . Further, whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but He instructed them in order to convert them and save them." - Pope St. Pius X, Our Apostolic Mandate, August 25, 1910.

What did you think of it?

Desiree said...

There IS a lot in that letter, but I saw many resemblances to our govt, Protestants, and lukewarm Catholics. With some tweaking, St Pope Pius X could have been writing to us. Trying to separate Church from state, and people twisting scripture are a couple things that come to mind. I really like the quote I posted earlier too.

I plan on studying the letter more tonight.

George said...


" I strongly suspect that this is something to which the Church will eventually have to accommodate itself in many countries including the United States because legal recognition of same sex marriages (or at least civil unions) throughout the land (including in Georgia) probably cannot be prevented anyway."

Things are definitely moving in that direction. The Catholic church,however, which contains the fullness of the truth, cannot accomodate to any error whether it is same-sex marriage or Lutheranism. Some seemingly well-intentioned adherents of other faiths have no problem with inter-faith communion . The Catholic church says"either you believe in transubstantiationand the Creed or you don't. If you don't, then there can be no common Communion". This applies to those who are in a same-sex marriage as well. Many things in the Roman Empire were in opposition to Christian belief. Christianity eventually one out but it didn't do it by compromising the Faith. It perservered and"fought the good fight" even to the point of martyrdom..

"One cannot understand even Church teaching by blindly accepting it with no thought (see numerous theologians throughout history who have wrestled with ambiguous scripture passages), and the same goes for scientific knowledge. .

Faith and reason are not incompatible as the Church teaches.One of the things that leads one into accepting the validity and truth of a system of belief such as Catholicism is that there is a conformance and rational coherence to what it teaches (and an absence unanswerable contradiction) between each of the precepts, doctrines and dogmas of that belief system. Even if you cannot accept the teachings, there is a conformance and unanimity from which you can infer a truthfulness. His will only take you so far though. It takes faith to get you ther rest of the way

" Simply accepting your beliefs, while perhaps sufficient for salvation, does not necessarily mean that you understand your beliefs. I'm of the mind that one should understand their beliefs, and that requires justifying them and contrasting them ..."

To understand what one believes, such things as religious doctrine and dogma takes a certain insight which comes from God. It is a gift given to some individuals but for most believers this is what the Church provides in what we call the Deposit of Faith or the Magisterium. In earning a Physics degree, one doesn't spend years figuring it all from scratch. There is a Knowledge Base which has been built up over hundred of years which one takes in and learns and attempts to master as well as one can. Similarly, the Church has a vast storehouse of spiritual knowledge (which includes scripture) built up over it's 2000 year history which we trust and believe to be the Truth and by faith to be without error. It comprises (as we believe)Divine Truth which has been revealed to humanity.
Having a deep understanding of religious truth involves an "Understanding beyond understanding" which is attained in degrees by faith and which is a gift from God.

George said...

I meant to type:

Many things in the Roman Empire were in opposition to Christian belief. Christianity eventually one (WON) out but it didn't do it by compromising the Faith

Even if you cannot accept the teachings, there is a conformance and unanimity from which you can infer a truthfulness. (THIS) will only take you so far though. It takes faith to get you the rest of the way.

Sorry-long day at work.

Anonymous 2 said...


I found the document very thought provoking. One thought it provoked is what Pope Pius thought about the United States and its theory of government as enshrined in the Constitution as understood by the Framers. In particular I wonder what he thought about its theory of popular sovereignty (power flows up from the people) and about disestablished churches, which (if I recall correctly) became a reality in all the states too within a few decades, not just at the federal level.

The warnings against the seductions of human egalitarian philosophies are clear, and I also saw the things you saw. But I also saw some other things too that might not seem quite so obvious. Here are two. First, this passage caught my attention:

“Finally, at the root of all their fallacies on social questions, lie the false hopes of Sillonists on human dignity. According to them, Man will be a man truly worthy of the name only when he has acquired a strong, enlightened, and independent consciousness, able to do without a master, obeying only himself, and able to assume the most demanding responsibilities without faltering. Such are the big words by which human pride is exalted, like a dream carrying Man away without light, without guidance, and without help into the realm of illusion in which he will be destroyed by his errors and passions whilst awaiting the glorious day of his full consciousness. And that great day, when will it come? Unless human nature can be changed, which is not within the power of the Sillonists, will that day ever come? Did the Saints who brought human dignity to its highest point, possess that kind of dignity? And what of the lowly of this earth who are unable to raise so high but are content to plow their furrow modestly at the level where Providence placed them? They who are diligently discharging their duties with Christian humility, obedience, and patience, are they not also worthy of being called men? Will not Our Lord take them one day out of their obscurity and place them in heaven amongst the princes of His people?”

I read this admonition against human hubris as an advance refutation of the errors of the likes of Ayn Rand and her disciples, who exalt a selfish individualism above all else (and of course also hate religion) as much as the likes of the Sillonists who tend in the direction of a universal socialism.


Anonymous 2 said...

The second passage that also caught my attention is the following:

“As for you, Venerable Brethren, carry on diligently with the work of the Saviour of men by emulating His gentleness and His strength. Minister to every misery; let no sorrow escape your pastoral solicitude; let no lament find you indifferent. But, on the other hand, preach fearlessly their duties to the powerful and to the lowly; it is your function to form the conscience of the people and of the public authorities. The social question will be much nearer a solution when all those concerned, less demanding as regards their respective rights, shall fulfill their duties more exactingly.

Moreover, since in the clash of interests, and especially in the struggle against dishonest forces, the virtue of man, and even his holiness are not always sufficient to guarantee him his daily bread, and since social structures, through their natural interplay, ought to be devised to thwart the efforts of the unscrupulous and enable all men of good will to attain their legitimate share of temporal happiness, We earnestly desire that you should take an active part in the organization of society with this objective in mind. And, to this end, whilst your priests will zealously devote efforts to the sanctification of souls, to the defense of the Church, and also to works of charity in the strict sense, you shall select a few of them, level-headed and of active disposition, holders of Doctors’ degrees in philosophy and theology, thoroughly acquainted with the history of ancient and modern civilizations, and you shall set them to the not-so-lofty but more practical study of the social science so that you may place them at the opportune time at the helm of your works of Catholic action. However, let not these priests be misled, in the maze of current opinions, by the miracles of a false Democracy. Let them not borrow from the Rhetoric of the worst enemies of the Church and of the people, the high-flown phrases, full of promises; which are as high-sounding as unattainable. Let them be convinced that the social question and social science did not arise only yesterday; that the Church and the State, at all times and in happy concert, have raised up fruitful organizations to this end; that the Church, which has never betrayed the happiness of the people by consenting to dubious alliances, does not have to free herself from the past; that all that is needed is to take up again, with the help of the true workers for a social restoration, the organisms which the Revolution shattered, and to adapt them, in the same Christian spirit that inspired them, to the new environment arising from the material development of today’s society. Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists.”

While mainly penned with the Sillonists in mind, here again I detect a prefiguring of critiques of selfish individualism as well and recognition that the Church should support whatever mechanisms are appropriate to reign in abuses of economic and political power by whomever perpetrated.

Anonymous 2 said...


I mean accommodate to the reality of same sex marriages in the sense of having to adapt itself to that reality. I don’t think I can say it any better than I already have or than Father McDonald has in previous threads over the years. If you like I can give you the citations to those threads or quote the relevant passages.

On the subject of Lutheranism, if I have my history right, the Church made a massive adaptation in the form of the Counter Reformation. The Protestant Reformation after all, did not arise in a vacuum. There was a lot that was wrong with the Catholic Church, and it was put right in response to the Reformation:

I mention this simply to illustrate that the Church knows how to live with and adapt to realities, not necessarily to suggest that it should change its teaching on homosexuality. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see some further elaboration of that doctrine and its application to concrete circumstances.

Benjamin Land said...

Gene, we're getting way off topic, but in reading your comment about physics PhD's, I get the feeling that you like to speak your unfiltered mind and are rarely challenged on the absurd things you say, but I will gladly oblige.

> BTW, PhD's in physics can, indeed, make a lot of money.

I can tell already that you are an expert on physics employment options. But, make a lot of money doing physics? Not really, no. Funding is tight everywhere, and there are not piles of cash left over to pay the researchers. A physicist is qualified to take a lot of upper tier engineering jobs which pay better, however generally these jobs are not as interesting to a physicist and typically they do not have enough experience initially to be competitive in the market.

> You need to apply for a job with NASA, the National Lab, or an industry that does a lot of research.

NASA's funding situation is absolutely horrible and has been for years. This has been all over the news lately even, what with breaking ties with Russia over the Ukraine. NASA is not even able to get our own astronauts to space on its own. Further, I already have a job at *a* national lab, specifically LBNL, and I'm well aware that the senior scientists are not rolling in money, but they are certainly doing good science.

> You wouldn't make as much money but, if you like to blow stuff up, you could go to work for a munitions industry or a defense contractor.

This option would, without doubt, pay better than research. At least, the defense contractor part. Surprisingly, perhaps, "munitions industries" would prefer engineers over physicists because we already know how to build conventional munitions.

> If you know anything about driving radioactive particles into nuclei, I'm sure Iraq is hiring.

Inferring that you are politically conservative, I can't really tell if this is sarcasm or a serious statement. At any rate, they'd prefer a nuclear engineer because we already know how to refine nuclear material.

Since you don't seem to know about the surefire way to make big bucks as a physicist: get a job on Wall Street doing quantitative analysis for some consulting firm. Six figures for the rest of your life. But again, it's not really physics, and isn't a particularly interesting option to me.

Frankly, Gene, I apologize if I have touched some nerve in presenting the flaws I see in the various arguments you have presented, but I would additionally like to point out the irony here of you attempting to stifle a dissenting opinion on a blog post about the likelihood of non-believers harassing a believer on a non-believer's corner of the internet. And now, I believe we have come full circle, as this is the same sort of hypocritical and privileged thinking that brought me here in the first place.

Benjamin Land said...

More on topic:
George, I agree that faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. I try to form my faith/belief system around what is rational which is a tricky business but has worked out well so far. There are cases in church teaching where the rational is entirely unclear or in direct contradiction to what reason would seem to dictate, and it is on these points that I disagree. In regards to, "In earning a Physics degree, one doesn't spend years figuring it all from scratch," it is true that each student does not have to recreate all of science that present understanding is based on, however each student does have to learn this material and be proficient with it from the ground up. It is my experience that from both sides some of the most outspoken can be entirely misleading or blatantly wrong (c.f conspiracy theorists). In the scientific community the rigorous education and the rigor of the scientific process weeds these distractions out, but a core issue I have with the assertion that beliefs are Divine Truths is that in [this] faith there seems to be no such process other than the two thousand year long interpretative proliferation of ideas, some of which could have been in error, that is the Catholic church. I realize there were official councils on many tenants of faith to decide what it was that Catholics should believe, but perhaps I lack this gift you reference because I cannot see what distinguishing factors would have been taken into account besides the majority of unfounded opinions at the time.

Gene said...

Benjamin, It was all sarcasm…a joke, get it? It is called humor...

Gene said...

This thread is starting to sound like a sophomore philosophy course. Ben, most of us with any background in philosophy, science, or theology and who are believing Christians have fought these battles long ago. Must we re-tread such Phil 101 ground?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Be that as it may Gene, not everyone has gone through what us dinosaurs have and we need to help facilitate that in a kind way as others did it for us when we were developing and maturing.

Anon friend said...

Yeah, Gene, Father is right on with his 8:41 comment. Us "dinosaurs" can be so jaded as to think that others can read our minds with our comments , not to mention sarcasm. The trouble is that sarcasm, even if funny, breeds negative sarcasm--hence most of Pater's responses to you over the years (and to me and others by default if we agree with your take on an issue). It is a form of one-upsmanship, that can become virulent. Believe me, I hate comments like Pater's "fascist ideologues" just as much as you, but perhaps for a different reason: it reminds me of the troubled times during the riots at Columbia University in Spring of 1969. I was a senior in a NY university and couldn't even finish classes to graduate for all the disruption of young left-leaning ideologues screaming "fascist" to anyone who would not participate in the sit-ins. All-in-all, a pretty self-serving, adolescent approach to a very serious problem of ending the carnage in Vietnam. All the loud "fascist" epithets did not persuade many students OR adults to join them even if they were in agreement about the war.

It is up to us to ensure that our Church does not splinter in similar fashion as our country did in those turbulent times. We ALL must use care.

Benjamin Land said...

Gene, If this is all a rehashing of discussions you've had before it should be fairly easy to counter point unless the discussion went similarly poorly the previous times. At least when I took Catechism classes and Catholic oriented religion classes, a part of the course was teaching us how to respond to non believers, as ultimately that is a part of defending and supporting your faith. In 6th grade we even got a nice handbook of common points of contention between Catholics and non-Catholic Christians. The issues I am left with can apparently only be resolved with blind faith, which perhaps makes discussion of them in a logical context senseless.

Marc said...

Putting blind faith in science is just as senseless. This modern tendency toward the hubris of scientism is troubling. Perhaps more scientists should consider the philosophy of science in a deeper way.

Even a cursory look indicates that science is far from presenting an holistic explanation of natural, observable phenomena. In the past, when science has done so, it has often been inaccurate or subject to later revision. There is simply no reason to suspect that our current science is better than the science of the past just because it is more recent and more technological. The very idea that science itself is evolving demonstrates its current untrustworthiness, which is not to say it isn't a worthwhile endeavor. It is not, though, the explanation that it is often trumpeted to be (usually by the media or by celebrity scientists).

Science is useful in context. But we should maintain a skepticism as to what it can "prove" because that is the basis of the modern scientific method and because it hasn't even begun to address, much less supplant, the observable tenets of the Faith. I note that science is much better at antagonizing Faith where the Faith itself has been subjected to hyper-rationalism independent, in large part, from actual experience. There is an a priori versus a posteriori problem here, among other things.

Pater Ignotus, BA Biology said...

There is PLENTY of reason to believe that current science is better than science of the past.

Here are a few examples:

Modern science gave us vaccinations (Jenner 1796).

Modern science gave us penicillin (1928). Before that one died of an abscessed tooth.

Modern science gave us semi-conductors in the mid-20th century.

Fritz Hauber in 1918 determined how to fix nitrogen for fertilization.

Industrial steel making came in the 1850's.

The telegraph in 1837.

Louis Pasteur (germ theory) gave us pasteurization in 1863.

Steam turbines (1884) generate 80% of the world's power.

Anesthesia came in 1846 - maybe you'd like to have a tooth pulled or a tumor removed from your colon with "the science of the past"?

Molecular bonds between chemical elements are electrical in nature (Davy early 1800's).

A molecule is a group of attached atoms. (Remember Avagadro's number?)

Elements radiate light at specific frequencies when heated.
(Kirchoff and Bunsen - Yes, THAT Bunsen)

Chromosome division (1882)

Not to mention X-rays, blood types, subatomic particles, viruses, the DNA double helix, carbon dating, superconductivity, techtonic drift, insulin, neuronal synaptic communication, the expanding universe, antimatter, the Krebs cycle, blood plasma separation, jumping genes.

It is preposterous to suggest that current science is no better than the science of the past.

Marc said...

Reading comprehension might have been more helpful than a BA in biology. (Seriously, a BA in a science?)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

O my, that is funny, I just got it, Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Science. That's good, very good. Made my day!

Anonymous 2 said...


Nice to have you back on the Blog!

As you seem to recognize, the problem is not science; it is scientism. When science, or indeed anything else, becomes a reductionist ideology, watch out for the problems caused by the narrow-minded hubris involved. But, while we should maintain a healthy skepticism about some of the wilder claims that some make on behalf of science and technology, surely it is reasonable for Pater to challenge the contention that “there is simply no reason to suspect that our current science is better than the science of the past just because it is more recent and more technological.”

That said, one really needs to ask what is meant by “better.” Science and technology have also given us the instruments of mass destruction and, if the overwhelming majority of scientists are to be believed, global warming. Or perhaps one should rather say that it is not science and technology that have given us these things but our own fallen nature and sinfulness, just as our inclination to the good have given us so many of the benefits of modern science.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I coined the phrase "scientific fundamentalist" to refer to those scientist who put God and Christians in a box and think all the answers of life are to be found in science.
The fundamentalist religious person thinks the opposite, no answers to life are to be found in science and scientific inquiry is a threat to them, whereas for the fundamentalist scientist, religious inquiry is the threat. We're speaking of extremes here.

Marc said...

A2, thank you. I agree with you. I'm giving Pater a hard time because he misunderstood my point by failing to read it in context.

I am simply saying that at all periods of scientific development, scientists have thought that they had "figured it out" to one degree or another. And every time, they have been wrong. My point is that our current science is no better than the science of the past in terms of ensuring its own accuracy, trustworthiness, or ability to withstand subsequent study and experimentation.

Even though Pater can point to many advances, he failed to list the times that that period's best and most highly refined science resulted in very strange theories or medical practices. My point, then, is that we will always progress. In doing so, we might look back on our current age as a dark age. Our prescription drugs might be viewed then in the same way that we currently view leech-aided blood letting, for example.

Anonymous 2 said...

Indeed, and as the Philosopher teaches us, it is generally no virtue to be at the extremes.

Gene said...

Ben, having fought those battles pretty satisfactorily in my sophomore years, I find discourse with unbelievers to be a waste of time. If they are non-believers seeking the Faith and who have real questions, fine, we can talk. But, to play games with some scientific idealogue who only wants an antagonist is a complete waste of time.

Reason and Faith can only walk hand-in-hand part of the way. Luther said that reason is a whore who can bne made to lie in any bed. Reason is also one of evil's favorite tools…unless you do not believe in evil…which my guess is that you, as a hard core scientist, do not.

Pater Ignotus, BA Biology said...

Marc - As to your suggestion that "The very idea that science itself is evolving demonstrates its current untrustworthiness..." is an error in how you understand science.

There is a mistaken belief that scientific progress is always advancing in a straight line, with certain facts being added permanently to what we know as they are discovered. In her book, "Am I Making Myself Clear? A Scientist's Guide to Talking to the Public," New York Times science reporter Cordelia Dean writes, "They do not understand that, instead, research is an ungainly mechanism that moves in fits and starts and that its ever-expanding path of knowledge is complicated by blind alleys and fruitless detours."

Marc said...

Pater, I am not erring in how I understand science. You are erring in how you understand what I wrote.

Anon friend said...

Your last point, of course, is true; scientific research is all about testing hypotheses, some of which are proven statistically true, some of which are not. This household comprises two "scientists", one with an M.S., and one with a Ph.D., earning livings in medicine and university-level research respectively.
But that is not the point of this now very long thread. Father and Ben et al were discussing "scientism" or as Father coined, scientific fundamentalism. It has evolved into a very interesting discussion of reason vs faith. Ben asks a very solid question, if I may paraphrase: can his faith issues only be resolved by "blind faith". I would love to see your reasoned and faith-filled response. Very serious question in today's world requiring a serious answer. Thanks

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think part of the problem with the good PI is that he has spent the majority of his time in parishes where he was the most educated person in the parish. However, now he is dealing with parishes and blogs where his education and academic credentials may be at a lower level from those who make comments here, but in a very interesting way he tries to deflect that and return us to the clericalism of another period of time, not found on this blog or in my parish, where indeed the parish priest was the most educated man in the parish.
Times, they have a changed and I'm sure we can get PI up to date in this regard, but it will have to take some humility on his part to acknowledge this.

Pater Ignotus, BA Biology said...

Good Father - St. Mary on the Hill, where I served a total of five years, had many many people more educated than I.

St. James, where I served 5 years, had many, many people more educated than I.

Holy Trinity in Augusta, 16 months, had many many people more educated than I.

And when it comes to you, I have vastly more education in and understanding of science.

Marc - Sure, scientists have been wrong from time to time. Most of that was Old Science. Spontaneous generation, Maternal Impression, Phrenology, Alchemy, are all examples of wrong conclusions reached by scientists.

But they have also been right most of the time. And in modern science, the ratio of right to wrong is far, far higher than in old science.

First, methodology is better. Second, peer review is better. Third, pious legends have been swept out of the equation, leaving the path clear for scientists to work without being told "That's not what the Bible says!"

Anon Friend - I was responding to Marc' preposterous assertion that modern science is no better than science of the past. It is.

Anon friend said...

"Holiness is a disposition of the heart that makes us humble and little in the arms of God, aware of our weakness, and confident -- in the most audacious way -- in His Fatherly goodness."
--St. Therese of the Infant Jesus

Marc said...

Pater, the point is simple: in the future, we will likely view today's science in the same way that we today view the science of yesterday.

This is not a new idea, as Anon Friend has pointed out. I'm sorry you can't understand that this is a philosophical discussion, not a scientific one.

Anon friend said...

Still hoping for your reasoned and faith-filled answer to the question posed in my 5:16 post. I was truly hoping for an answer, as it is a question not only inferred from Ben's posts here, but from my own science-trained son, age 32. We need a response, please, if you will. Thank you.

George said...


Saint Pius X's Apostolic Letter Notre Charge Apostolique ["Our Apostolic Mandate"] to the French Bishops, August 15, 1910, (which you commented on earlier in this thread) was to condemn the French Socialist workers movement Le Sillon.

"But stranger still, alarming and saddening at the same time, are the audacity and frivolity of men who call themselves Catholics and dream of re-shaping society...Yes, we can truly say that the Sillon, its eyes fixed on a chimera, brings Socialism in its train.”


"I mean accommodate to the reality of same sex marriages in the sense of having to adapt itself to that reality".

It's going to present an interesting dilemma (in the mind of some) when a same-sex married couple present themselves to a parish priest with a desire to become Catholic. Unlike, say a common-law marriage couple(in a state where that is legally recognized) the SSM can never be sacramentalized/convalidated by the Church.

As far as Lutheranism, I was just using them as an example in what I was trying to convey. I could just as well put Episcopalianism or Methodism.

Gene said...

I do not like the term "blind faith." It implies that theology and belief are irrational and emotional. That is false. Anselm spoke of "faith seeking understanding"…theology has a logic of its own and is internally consistent and reasonable. True, Revelation is posited by God, and faith is "posited" in us by the Holy Spirit. But, belief is an act of will responding to God's action upon us. Once you accept that, the theo-logic makes perfect sense.

George said...

Anan friend:

I don't know if a answer satisfactory to Ben can be given to that.
There have been scientists who have been converted when presented with something they can observe or validate but which transcends the bounds of our physical reality and knowledge such as the image on the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe which has not up to now been adequately explained as to how it was created. How has the cactus tilma the image is on survived intact for hundreds of years?

There are the scientifically documented miracles at Lourdes, France. A good site to read on the rigorousness of the science on this is

There is the example of someone such as Padre (Saint)Pio. One of the most dramatic cures he brought about (through Divine intervention of course) was the cure of the eyes of girl who was blind. Some might be thinking "Interesting, but so what?". Well, she was born without pupils. After she was cured, she could see perfectly WITHOUT PUPILS.

Desiree said...

Buck has said that for some things you just have to have faith. To fully understand The infallible is impossible. Gene, is right. When you believe, everything falls into place.

St. Bernadette said it best, "My job is to inform, not to convince."

95 + comments of a guy coming on here telling us Catholics we have no authority to call something immoral, and Catholics picking at each other.
Keep the ranks tight, Church Militants. I've seen things like this handled better at RCIA...where Ben should go.

Pater Ignotus BA Biology said...

Marc - Surely science in the future will be more advanced than science today. No one disputes that.

But it is far, far less likely that future science will overturn or show to be wrong the findings of current science as current science overturned the findings of old science.

But your 12:51 post, to which I responded, makes no mention of future science. You said, "There is simply no reason to suspect that our current science is better than the science of the past just because it is more recent and more technological."

And I gave multiple examples of how current science is better than the science of the past.

And I gave three reasons why current science is better than the science of the past. "First, methodology is better. Second, peer review is better. Third, pious legends have been swept out of the equation, leaving the path clear for scientists to work without being told "That's not what the Bible says!"

I would add to that 4) better means of data analysis (computers), 5) better, more accurate lab instruments (spectrophotometers, calorimeters, electron microscopes, etc) and 6) greater world-wide sharing of experimental data (related to peer review).

Yes, current science is better than old science.

Marc said...

Pater, you have, unwittingly, proven my point about the impact of scientism on scientific lay people, and you have thoroughly demonstrated the sort of recentism bias that leads to that scientific hubris about which I wrote yesterday.

Pater Ignotus BA Biology said...

Marc - Noting that current science has given us health and well-being, while old science did not, does not prove your point, that, "There is simply no reason to suspect that our current science is better than the science of the past current..."

It demolishes it.

Marc said...

Pater, you're assuming, without proving, that "current science has given us health and well-being." This erroneous, unproven assertion on your part proves my point, which you are still unable to grasp.

Maybe you should focus on other people's comments since you are so incapable of grappling with mine...

Gene said...

Science is a two-edged sword and, therefore, difficult to make categorial statements about regarding its benefited. Science has given us antibiotics, but it has also given us the ability to split the atom, radiate the environment, and destroy ourselves.
It has given us chemical pollution of the soil and water that make Dickens' London look like a minor problem. Much of this new pollution invades our bodies, which gives all our wonderful modern medicine a chance to ply its trade, creating new health issues by the very act of trying to fix others.
It has given us television…a dubious gift.
Technology and computers continue to de-humanize us and turn us inward into little Leibniz-like monads.
Science and technology are, in many ways, disintegrative of family, community, and meaningful relationships.
So, are we really better off than we were in the 17 and 1800's?

Anonymous 2 said...

Gene and Pater Ignotus:

Thank you for your illuminating litanies. As I observed yesterday, whether today’s science is “better” than yesterday’s (or, as Gene would have it, whether we are “better off” today than yesterday) all depends on what we mean by “better” or “better off.” Your litanies are useful, but don't they have to be situated within an evaluative framework that gives us criteria for “good?” Clearly such criteria are implied (or assumed) by these litanies but they need to be made explicit.

Once they are made explicit, we may of course disagree about them, but at least we will be able to reason more clearly about the matter.

So, what are the relevant evaluative criteria? And do we need to articulate criteria for the impact of science and technology for different dimensions of our humanity – material, intellectual, psychological, emotional, spiritual, etc.? Put another way, can we articulate the criteria for “well-being” (and “well doing”) in these different departments of life (I separate them because that is what we moderns; the truth of the matter is more holistic)? And how is all this related, if it is, to an overarching concept of human flourishing?

But why stop at science? What about religion, or politics, or economics, and so on? Are they also a mixed bag or two-edged sword? And should we not also adopt a similar multidimensional approach in evaluating them too?

And again, where does the two edged nature come from, and what can we do about it?

I suppose these are some of the fundamental questions that philosophers and theologians have long debated and will continue to do so.

Pater Ignotus BA Biology said...

Marc - The following products of modern science give us health: vaccinations, pasteurization, X-rays, nitrogen-fixed fertilizers, penicillin, anesthesia, insulin, immuno-suppressive pharmaceuticals, anti-viral drugs, etc.

The following products of modern science give us well-being: steam turbines, transistors, microchips, radio, cell phones, semiconductors, airplanes, televisions, air conditioning, etc.

I understood your point - that current science is not better than science of the past - and it is wrong.

Gene said...

Anon 2, I don't think there is really a way to say decisively if we are better off now or in the 1800's. But, I believe that raising the question is important, if for no other reason than it may illuminate some things that have been lost. To simply insist that we are better off now because of science and technology is a typical progressivist presumption which really amounts to saying, with Spinoza, Leibniz, and company that "whatever is, is right" and that this is the best of all possible worlds. I believe Voltaire successfully gave the lie to that assumption in Candide.
You probably remember Dr. Ted Nordenhaug, the philosophy professor from Mercer, who said one day in philosophical exasperation, "Hell, let's keep flush toilets and penicillin and go back to 1800!"
Anyway, my comments were merely impressionistic and intended to stir thought. However, personally, I cannot make a very cogent argument that we are really better off now than we were, say, in 1800. Theologically, it does not matter, anyway. This whole human enterprise is headed for the salvation history garbage heap...

PI, BAB said...

Anon friend - Like Pin/Gene, I am not keen on the phrase "blind faith." We usually understand "blind" as a pre-moral evil: the absence of sight.

In our human nature - nothing supernatural or metaphysical yet - we are inclined to seek God. "You have made us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless ever till they rest in You" said St. Augustine. We are drawn to the goodness of the Trinity, even if we are not aware of this pull.

For a variety of reasons, all having to do with our fallen human nature (that we seek our own good rather than the good of others), we are unwilling to allow ourselves to be drawn to God. We fear what it will require of us; we are uncomfortable, in this technological age, with mystery; we become so inured by our sin and the sin to which we are exposed that we simply "forget" about our origins, which are in God's love.

Faith issues can be resolved, then, by coming to a deeper (or correct) understanding of who we are. We are creatures, created in love and destined for goodness both here and in the world to come.

Grace, the "free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to His call to become children of God, adoptive sons [and daughters], partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life" is like the horizon - it is always there, always within our grasp, always available.

We are, by nature, prepared to receive God's grace which will enable us to collaborate with God.

"Blind faith" is better thought of, I think, as "reasonable trust." Again, as Pin/Gene point out, there is a "logic" or a reasonableness in fidelity, in honesty, in compassion, in generosity, and especially in forgiveness.

Does this begin to answer your query?

Anon friend said...

Thank you. Good answer, and I appreciate the response. I also appreciate that you quoted Gene's input! It was Ben who used the term "blind faith" in posing his dilemma with faith issues vs scientism, but I know my adult son struggles similarly (he, like Ben is a scientist in California, where pretty much anything goes). At some point, God-willing, I hope to pass this on to him. Perhaps Ben is still here and will also can only hope.

Anonymous 2 said...

Yes, PI BAB, that is very helpful. Thank you.

I understand your response as also answering my questions. Presumably, in St. Augustine’s terms (and again, presumably seasoned with St. Thomas’s more positive approach to the sphere of human affairs), the supreme evaluative criterion is whether our loves are properly ordered as opposed to disordered, that is, whether we love God and our neighbor as opposed to ourselves. Presumably, too, matters will go much better (even if not perfectly) in science and technology, as well as in economics, politics, and even religion if they are properly ordered, through our cooperation with God’s freely given grace. Is that a fair assessment?

The notions that we are uncomfortable with mystery and that we need to remember our forgotten origins in God’s love definitely resonate.

Anonymous 2 said...


I met Ted Nordenhaug just once a year or so before his death. In my more curmudgeonly moments (which seem to be occurring with increasing frequency for some reason), I can definitely relate to the sentiment he expressed.

Thank you for mentioning him. After writing the above, I did an internet search and found the following gem written by him about the value of a liberal education and how it might help to guard against some of the idiocies (if you will) of our times. I think you will like it, although I suspect you have heard much of it before from the man himself: