Monday, December 31, 2018

The Passing Scene: 2018

1: California legalizes recreational weed.
2: Liberal heads explode as President Trump tweets that his nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong Un's, and that it actually works.
4: Attorney General Sessions rescinds the Obama-era policy of non-interference with states that legalize recreational weed.
5: At the U.N. Security Council, the United States declares its "unapologetic" support for the anti-government protests in Iran.  Also: Republican senators call for a criminal investigation of Christopher Steele, the author of the so-called "Trump Dossier."
9:  Mud slides in Santa Barbara County, California, claim at least 21 lives and result in $177 million in property damage.
13: An alert of an incoming ballistic missile is sent out over the state of Hawaii, and is declared a false alarm after 38 minutes.
14: The 13 children of David and Louise Turpin of Perris, California are rescued after being held captive, tortured and malnourished over the course of nearly 30 years.
21: A message in a bottle dropped from the German barque Paula on June 12, 1886 is discovered off the coast of Western Australia, breaking all records for the longest time such a message has remained adrift.
30: President Trump's first State of the Union address.
31: A total lunar eclipse, supermoon and blue moon all coincide.

Deaths: Ray Thomas (the Moody Blues); Thomas Bopp (co-discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp); Jerry Van Dyke; John Young (astronaut, ninth man to walk on the moon); Peter Wyngarde; Olivia Cole; Dorothy Malone; Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey cartoonist).


5: The discovery of exoplanets beyond the Milky Way Galaxy is announced.
6: Space X successfully tests its partly-reusable Falcon Heavy rocket.
7: The Canadian national anthem becomes "gender neutral."
8: Bermuda repeals same-sex "marriage."
14: Murder spree, Parkland, Florida: a 19-year-old former student guns down 32 students and teachers at Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17, before being apprehended.
27: President Trump formally announces his candidacy for re-election in 2020.

Deaths: Kenneth Haigh; John Mahoney; Michael White (Thompson Twins); John Gavin; Craig MacGregor (Foghat); Marty Allen; Billy Graham; Nanette Fabray.


4: The 90th Academy Awards.  Who cares.
6: Stormy Daniels sues President Trump.
13: President Trump fires Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.
14: Toys "R" Us announces it will go out of business in the United States.
15: An unfinished pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami collapses, killing 6.
23: 200,000 French citizens take to the streets to protest Emmanuel Macron's economic "reforms."  Also: President Trump issues an order banning transgendered persons from serving in the military. 

Deaths: David Ogden Stiers; Stephen Hawking; Linda Carol Brown (appellant in Brown v. Board of Education).


11: House Speaker Paul Ryan announces he will not seek re-election.
13: President Trump pardons Scooter Libby.
16: The first woman in 33 years wins the Boston Marathon.
22: Murder spree, Nashville, Tennessee: a gunman kills four and wounds four at a Waffle House restaurant.  He is later apprehended.
23: Birth of Prince Louis of Cambridge, fifth in the line of succession to the British throne.  Also: the world's first successful transplant of male sex organs (not including testicles) is performed on a U.S. soldier injured in Afghanistan.
27: In an historic meeting at Panmunjom, North and South Korea declare an end to the Korean War.

Deaths: Steven Bochco; Susan Anspach; Soon-Tek Oh; Tim O'Connor; Art Bell; R. Lee Ermey; HarryAnderson; Barbara Bush; John Stride; Paul Junger Witt.


3: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences votes to suspend Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski for violating their standards of conduct, even though Polanski's conduct failed to bother the Academy for 40 years.
4: A magnitude 6.9 earthquake strikes Hawaii, and Kilauea Volcano begins erupting, prompting evacuations from the Leilani Estates subdivision.  Also: the U.S. Navy re-establishes the Second Fleet, which had been disbanded in 2011.  Also: a bill banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected becomes law in the state of Iowa.
9: Death of Dale Moore, my father, 11 days shy of his 71st birthday.
12: North Korea announces the forthcoming dismantling of its Punggye-Ri nuclear test site.
14: Seventieth anniversary of the foundation of the modern state of Israel, and dedication of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
18: All 34 Roman Catholic bishops of Chile offer to abdicate after the Pope accuses them of destroying evidence of sex crimes.
19: Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Essex.
29: ABC cancels the recently-rebooted sitcom Roseanne after Roseanne Barr issues what they considered to be an offensive tweet.
30: Harvey Weinstein is indicted for rape in New York.

Deaths: George Deukmejian (former governor of California); Margot Kidder; Tom Wolfe; Clint Walker; Alan Bean (fourth man to walk on the Moon).


11: Net neutrality ends in the United States.
12: Beginning of the historic summit meeting between the United States and North Korea in Singapore.
18: President Trump directs the Department of Defense to start laying the groundwork for a Space Force, as a sixth branch of the armed forces.
19: The United States withdraws from the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is a joke anyway.
26: The U.S. Supreme Court upholds President Trump's September 2017 travel ban.

Deaths: Matt "Guitar" Murphy; Koko the sign language gorilla; Joe Jackson (Jackson 5 patriarch).


1: Vermont legalizes recreational pot.
9: President Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
10: An international team completes operations to rescue a junior soccer team and its coach that has been trapped in a cave in Thailand.
17: Jupiter is discovered to have ten additional moons, bringing the total to 79.

Deaths: Tab Hunter; Roger Perry; Bernard Hepton (Pallas in I, Claudius); "Red" Ron Dellums.


2: Pope Francis purports to change the Catholic Church's immemorial teaching on capital punishment.
14: Pennsylvania's attorney general releases a grand jury report implicating hundreds of Catholic priests in the sexual abuse of children in six Pennsylvania dioceses.
18: A specimen of ancient Egyptian cheese, thought to be 3,200 years old, is discovered in a tomb in Saqqara.
21: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is convicted of eight counts relating to bank fraud and tax fraud.
22:  The Vigano Testimony.
30: The deadly Carr wild fire in California is finally 100% contained.

Deaths: Charlotte Rae; Aretha Franklin; Kofi Annan; Barbara Harris; Robin Leach; John McCain; Neil Simon.


4:  Police recover a pair of Judy Garland's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz that had been stolen from a museum in Minnesota in 2005.
22: The Vatican signs a breathtaking agreement with the government of communist China that gives the latter power over the appointment of Catholic bishops.
25: Bill Cosby receives a ten-year unified prison sentence after being convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004.
29:  The second Vigano Testimony.

Deaths: Warren Jones (Idaho Supreme Court justice); Thad Mumford; Burt Reynolds; Sheila White (Messalina in I, Claudius); Peter Donat; Marty Balin.


1: North and South Korea begin removing landmines from the DMZ.
4:  Heavy floods begin that cost 69 lives and hundreds of millions of Euros in property damage across Europe.
6: After a lengthy and disgraceful circus of a confirmation hearing to rival that to which Justice Clarence Thomas was subjected to, Brett Kavanaugh is finally confirmed as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
10: The deadly and destructive Hurricane Michael makes landfall in Florida.
17: Canada fully legalizes Mary Jane.
19:  The third Vigano Testimony.
22: The Trump administration announces plans to define "gender" as a permanent genetic and anatomical condition fixed at birth.
23:  The discovery in the Black Sea of the oldest known intact shipwreck (c. 400 B.C.) is announced.
27:  Murder spree, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: a shooter kills 11 and injures 7 more at a synagogue before being wounded in a shootout with police.
29:  The Boston Red Sox beat the Dodgers in the World Series.
30:  President Trump publicly challenges the concept of birthright citizenship in the United States.

Deaths: Peggy McKay; Wah Wah Watson (the Funk Brothers); Tony Joe White ("Polk Salad Annie").


1: Great Britain legalizes medical marijuana.
2: The Trump administration re-imposes all the sanctions against Iran that had been lifted in 2015.
6: The Democrats win control of the House of Representatives.
7:  Murder spree, Thousand Oaks, California: a shooter kills 12, including one police officer, at a restaurant, before turning the gun on himself.  Also: President Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
25: The Camp Fire in California, which left 86 dead, is finally contained.

Deaths: Sondra Locke; Katherine MacGregor (Harriet Oleson on Little House on the Prairie); Michele Carey ("Joey" McDonald in El Dorado); Bishop Robert C. Morlino of the Diocese of Madison; Bernardo Bertolucci; George H.W. Bush.


4: In response to the grass-roots Yellow Vest movement in France, the government announces the suspension, for at least six months, of a proposed hike in fuel taxes.
17: For the first time in 800 years, the bridges across the river Severn in Great Britain are toll-free.
20: Secretary of Defense James Mattis announces his resignation, effective February, 2019.  Also: Prestige without merit: part of California's Ventura Freeway is renamed the President Barack H. Obama Highway.  Also: a priest of the Diocese of Boise, found in possession of an immense stash of child pornography, is sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole.

Deaths: Simcha Rotem (last survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943); Richard Arvin Overton (oldest American man and oldest surviving veteran of World War II); Sister Wendy Beckett; Herb Ellis; Donald Moffat; Norman Gimbel; Penny Marshall; Ken Berry

2018 has been a tough year, at least for me.  Let us pray to a merciful God for blessings of peace and freedom, none of which we merit on our own.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Mary, Conceived Without Sin, You DID Know

Raise your hand if you have ever heard the song "Mary, Did You Know?" within the precincts of a Catholic church.  I can't see you, but I know you're out there.  My hand is also up.  Somehow, because this song mentions the Mother of God, it has become a Christmas tradition in some parishes.  But although the gentleman who wrote "Mary, Did You Know?" clearly means well, this song is both musically inappropriate for Mass and subversive of the Catholic faith.

From a musical standpoint, "Mary, Did You Know?" is basically a pop song, and although the Mass has been saturated with such for a couple of generations now, the fact remains that it is not sacred music suited for use at Mass.  But even more objectionable, from the Catholic point of view, is the lyrical content.  

"Mary, Did You Know?" is based on some abysmally erroneous assumptions.  To begin with, it is supposed that Mary does not know that her holy Infant is the Son of God.  Some saints -- for instance, St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and Doctor of the Church -- are of the opinion that even before the Annunciation, Mary had a profound understanding of prophecies and Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah.  But even without such an understanding, it would have taken a high degree of inattention on Mary's part to the message of Gabriel and the inspired greeting of her cousin Elizabeth for her to labor under ignorance of her Son's divinity.  It is further supposed that Mary does not know that her Son will suffer for the redemption of mankind.  This would have required her to utterly gloss over the prophecies of holy Simeon concerning her Son as God's salvation, a sign of contradiction, and concerning the sword of sorrow that would pierce her own soul.  The idea of the Mother of God not being in possession of the most critical facts about her divine Son, particularly in view of explicit revelations received by her, is absurd on its face.

But there is an even more blatant error in the lyrics of "Mary, Did You Know?" that ought to induce in every Catholic a sharp intake of breath.  It is a defined dogma of the Catholic faith that the Mother of God was conceived without original sin.  On December 8, 1854, in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. 
Contrast this with the following lyrics from "Mary, Did You Know?":
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.
Whereas Catholics accept as revealed truth that Mary was free from sin from the instant of her conception by virtue of the anticipated merits of Jesus' suffering and death on the Cross, the foregoing is based on the assumption that Mary was under the sway of sin at the time she gave birth to the Christ Child, and that she would remain so until His Sacrifice of redemption.  In short, it is a flat denial of the Immaculate Conception.  As such -- and for this reason alone -- it should never be sung in a Catholic church, or find any place in any Catholic liturgy, and Catholics should not embrace it.

Perhaps a fitting way to honor today's feast of the Immaculate Conception -- in addition to fulfilling our obligation to attend Mass -- would be to defend the dogma which this feast celebrates by doing what we can to see that "Mary, Did You Know?" remains unheard in our parishes during this and every Christmas season.

Potuit, Decuit, Ergo Fecit: Why the Immaculate Conception Must Be True.

I will shew thee all good, and I will proclaim in the name of the Lord before thee: and I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please me.  
Exodus 33:19

Years ago, a commenter in this space delivered himself of what must have been, in his own estimation at least, the following effusion of brilliance: 
Mary had to have sinned. She called Jesus "my Savior" and what is Jesus the Savior for? Sinners. She had sinned. And there is no biblical evidence for her having no sin.

Those of you with a kick against the Immaculate Conception always want to set limitations on God.  You generally have no problem acknowledging in theory that God is infinitely good, infinitely holy, infinitely perfect, infinitely merciful and infinitely powerful; but in practice, what you really want is a sort of bite-sized God, One that we can wrap our woefully inadequate brains around and Who does not confound our puny capabilities.  So when God actually goes and does something that only an infinitely good, holy, perfect, merciful and powerful Being could do, you protest.  The fact, however, is that God can do whatever He wants; and whatever is fitting, we may be sure that He will do.

God can do the impossible more rapidly and easily than we can blink our eyes or draw a breath.  It was perfectly within His power to preserve Mary free from the taint of sin from the instant of her conception.  This singular privilege of His grace was purchased for her by the limitless merits of Christ's suffering and death on the Cross.  God, not bound by the constraints of time or space, was perfectly capable of applying these merits beforehand and granting this privilege in advance of the Crucifixion.  Thus God really was Mary's Savior, and did not need her to sin in order to be her Savior: His intervention to prevent her from receiving the taint of sin that she would otherwise have contracted as a descendant of Adam was also a salvific act.  Have you never been prevented from committing sins -- by being deprived of means or opportunity, or because you have never experienced the temptation to commit particular sins?  These are also interventions of God's grace.  So you should know from experience that God saves us, not only by forgiving sins we have actually committed, but also by preventing us from committing sins we would otherwise have committed, perhaps to our eternal ruin.   Why, then, should it be so hard to accept that God, out of the abyss of His goodness and mercy, could exercise His infinite power to prevent the Mother of His Son from being tainted by the least stain of iniquity from the very instant she began to exist?

It is altogether fitting that God should preserve Mary inviolate and immaculate from the first instant of her life.  God always gives us the grace we need to do the work He gives us: the greater the work, the greater the grace given to carry it out.  Was ever a more important mission given to a mere human being than that entrusted to Mary?  It was her task to supply the matter out of which the all-holy Son of God would take flesh, to bear Him in her womb, to nurse Him and to rear Him to manhood, and to share in her soul in the agonies of His Passion.  This touches on a point raised by my correspondent in a follow-up comment:

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for dying for our sins because He was without blemish. If Mary had no blemish either, that would pretty much validate her for crucifixion too. Which would make Jesus less important.
Here my correspondent, though off the rails in the implications for the importance of Jesus, hits on an important truth.  Mary did in fact suffer with her divine Son, more than any other human being could have.  The saints (e.g., St. Alphonsus Liguori) are of the opinion that her sufferings were greater than that of all other men who have ever lived or will ever live put together, and that only a miracle kept her from dying of grief.  This is why Catholics honor her under the titles of Mother of Sorrows and Queen of Martyrs: only her Son's sufferings exceeded hers.  When she presented her Son in the Temple, holy Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her soul, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed (Luke 2:35).  It makes sense that she should bear so great a share in her Son's Passion: not only was she his loving mother; she was also fully aware that He was God, and therefore of the horrible outrage that He should be murdered by His own creatures.  Moreover, would it have been possible for her to suffer entirely for his sake and not at all for her own if she herself had had a share in the sins that caused Him to be nailed to the Cross?  Still, this share of hers in Christ's suffering does not in any way diminish Him.  Jesus was the perfect Sacrifice not only because He was without blemish, but because He was God.  Mankind had outraged the infinite God, and therefore it would take infinite merits to repair the outrage; these could only be offered by the Son of God. 

If you do not accept the Immaculate Conception, then I am bound to ask you why you would want the Mother of God to have been a sinner.  Is this not tantamount to wanting an unworthy vessel for the Incarnate God?   Does it make sense for the woman entrusted with bearing and caring for and suffering alongside the Son of God to have spent even a single instant under the dominion of hell?  No: especially when you consider that the Woman of Genesis 3:15, between whom and the serpent God put enmity is none other than the Mother of God, and her Seed is none other than Jesus Christ:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
Here is scriptural proof of the Immaculate Conception.  If God creates perfect and implacable enmity between the Woman and the serpent -- and surely it is unthinkable that if God creates enmity between the Mother of God and evil, this enmity will be imperfect and half-hearted -- then it follows that she could never be under the serpent's sway, or in allegiance with him, as she must be if she had sinned.  Thus it was fitting for God to preserve her without sin from the very beginning.

Since it was perfectly possible for God to preserve Mary free from sin from the moment of her conception, and it was fitting that He should do so, it follows that He in fact did do so.  It would be a gross omission on God's part, and incompatible with His infinite perfection, if He should leave undone that which was fitting.  Therefore, we may safely take it that He did not leave it undone.  

Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit! He could; it was fitting; therefore, He did it!

H/T Canterbury Tales