Saturday, February 28, 2015

Are we alone? Do we want to know?

It was near Green Bank, W.Va., in 1960 that a young radio astronomer named Frank Drake conducted the first extensive search for alien civilizations in deep space. He aimed the 85-foot dish of a radio telescope at two nearby, sun-like stars, tuning to a frequency he thought an alien civilization might use for interstellar communication.

But the stars had nothing to say.

So began SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a form of astronomical inquiry that has captured the imaginations of people around the planet but has so far failed to detect a single “hello.” Pick your explanation: They’re not there; they’re too far away; they’re insular and aloof; they’re zoned out on computer games; they’re watching us in mild bemusement and wondering when we’ll grow up.

Now some SETI researchers are pushing a more aggressive agenda: Instead of just listening, we would transmit messages, targeting newly discovered planets orbiting distant stars. Through “active SETI,” we’d boldly announce our presence and try to get the conversation started.

Naturally this is controversial, because of . . . well, the Klingons. The bad aliens.

Read the rest here.

Actually it's not the Klingons I'm worried about. You can reason with Klingons. Klingons aren't usually genocidal in their conquests. I'm more concerned with... the Borg.

On a serious note, this is actually a legitimate concern. Let's assume for the sake of argument that we are not the only intelligent species in the universe. This seems pretty likely when you think about it. And let's further assume ad argumentum that one or more species have unlocked the secret to interstellar space travel. This proposition is much more problematic since it would require that most everything we think we know about the laws of physics is wrong. But again for the sake of discussion...

Anyone who is capable of hopping from one solar system to another is going to be so far beyond us in technological development, that we might as well still be living in caves. Add to this the extremely unlikely proposition that we are the only intelligent and predatorially aggressive species around and well... you get the picture.

At the very least I think this deserves some discussion at higher levels and some consensus before we start posting interstellar coming out announcements. What these people are doing is rather akin to sending out an invitation to everyone on the block to a party at your place, except you're not the only one who lives there, AND you don't know any of the neighbors. These "scientists" seem to be assuming that we are living in a high quality neighborhood, maybe the Upper East Side of the Milkyway. When in fact we might be living in the galactic projects of Spanish Harlem.

In short, I'd like to know a little more about the neighbors before we invite them over for dinner. If for no other reason than to be sure that we aren't likely to end up as the main course.

Russian Orthodox Church on the Discipline for Receiving Holy Communion

On February 3 2015 (NS) the Holy Synod approved the below linked document which lays out the current discipline for the reception of the Holy Mysteries of the Altar by the lay faithful. The executive summary is that it cautiously encourages the faithful to commune more frequently than the old custom of once or twice a year, while reiterating the necessity of approaching the chalice with great reverence. This means observing the pre-communion fasts, recent confession and prayerful participation in the services of the church. Details of which may be found in the document

To many the discipline described in the document may seem somewhat strict and it may not fully reflect the practice in their own parish, diocese or jurisdiction. Your mileage will vary. The final authority on participation in the Holy Sacraments is your spiritual father (confessor) under the authority of your bishop.

The document may be read here.
HT: An anonymous blog reader

Friday, February 27, 2015

Behold Islam

For those who may have missed it, ISIS was kind enough to record their destruction of the museum in Mosul and its priceless collection of antiquities.

Reports: ISIS has begun killing Christian prisoners

I am unsure of the reliability of the reports, but given their track record there is no reason to believe that anything other than martyrdom awaits these tragic victims. Through the prayers of the Great and Holy New Martyrs, may God give them the strength to endure their Calvary.

HT: Blog reader John L.

RIP: Leonard Nimoy

Very sad news. May his memory be eternal.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The terrifying rate at which smokers die from smoking

Two-thirds of smokers will die early from cigarette-triggered illness -- unless they choose to kick the habit, according to new research from Australia.

The study of more than 200,000 people, published this week in BMC medicine, found about 67 percent of smokers perished from smoking-related illness. That rate is higher than doctors previously estimated.

Tobacco smoke can boost the risk for least 13 types of cancer. The earlier you quit, the better.  “The relative risks of adverse health effects increase with increasing intensity of smoking,” the study states, “measured by the amount of tobacco smoked per day, and with increasing duration of smoking.”

Read the rest here.

It's been roughly twenty years since I smoked with any degree of regularity. It's probably been three or four years since I've smoked at all. But I still miss it. There's just nothing like sitting on the front porch after a nice dinner with a good quality cigar. Why is it that everything fun in life is likely to kill you?

Is Washington Ready for the Death of Obamacare?

The possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon eliminate federal subsidies for people buying health insurance through the Affordable Care Act is the biggest story in politics and economics that no one wants to talk about. But the stakes in King v. Burwell, which the court will hear on March 4, could scarcely be higher: If the plaintiffs prevail, millions of people in 34 states who bought insurance on federal exchanges would suddenly lose the subsidies that make it affordable. Consequently, most would lose their coverage. A Rand study pegged the number at 9.6 million people, with premiums soaring 47 percent for those still able to afford them. “Everyone agrees this would be a cataclysmic hit to the insurance market,” Michael Kolber, a health-care attorney at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, said at a Feb. 13 Bloomberg Intelligence panel on King v. Burwell.

The immediate effect of a ruling against the ACA would be to hurl the political system, and no small part of the economy, into chaos. Yet there’s little sign that Washington is preparing for that scenario. Democrats won’t talk about what they would do because they don’t want the court to believe they could contain the fallout. Republicans don’t want to talk because they’re loath to admit that, even after voting 67 times to repeal or defund the ACA, they have no plan to help the millions who would be affected. (But they’d sure love the court to kill the law anyway.) Hospitals and insurers understand that bewailing their financial plight might not help their cause. Instead, they’ve channeled their warnings into amicus briefs.

Read the rest here.

Illinois: Can the most corrupt and dysfunctional state be fixed?

The most portentous election of 2014, which gave the worst-governed state its first Republican governor in 12 years, has initiated this century’s most intriguing political experiment. Illinois has favored Democratic presidential candidates by an average of 16 points in the past six elections. But by electing businessman Bruce Rauner it initiated a process that might dismantle a form of governance that afflicts many states and municipalities.

Rauner, 58, won his first elective office by promising to change Illinois’s political culture of one-party rule by entrenched politicians subservient to public-sector unions. This culture’s consequences include:

After more than a dozen credit-rating downgrades in five years, Illinois has the lowest rating among the states. Unfunded public employees’ pension liabilities are estimated, perhaps conservatively, at $111 billion, the nation’s largest such deficit as a percentage of state revenue. Currently, public pensions consume nearly 25 percent of general state revenues. The state owes vendors $6.4 billion in unpaid bills, and more than 1 million people have left Illinois for less dysfunctional states in the last 15 years. Debt per resident is about $24,989, compared with $7,094 in neighboring Indiana.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Let my prayer arise...

Scenes from the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts at Optina Monastery on the First Wednesday of Great Lent.

Poll: Over a quarter of British Muslims have sympathy for the Charlie Hebdo terrorists.

This morning the BBC published details of a major poll of the attitudes of Britain’s Muslims. The headline on the front of the BBC website linking to the research states: “Muslims ‘oppose cartoon reprisals’”. This of course relates to attitudes within the Muslim community towards the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks.

It’s a reassuring headline. It’s also wrong. Many Muslims - a majority - do indeed utterly oppose the murderous killings in Paris. But a very, very large number of Muslims don’t. Presented with the statement “I have some sympathy for the motives behind the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris”, 27 seven percent agreed with the statement. A further 2 per cent refused to answer the question. And an additional eight percent said they were unsure whether they had some sympathy or not. 

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ISIS Burns 8000 Rare Books and Manuscripts

While the world was watching the Academy Awards ceremony, the people of Mosul were watching a different show. They were horrified to see ISIS members burn the Mosul public library. Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned.

Read the rest here.

When compared to their other barbarous crimes the book burning looks pretty trivial. But I have to admit that there is something deep inside me that reacts with visceral horror to the deliberate destruction of books, artifacts and cultural heirlooms.

Chicago Police Running "Black Site" Detention Facility

Chicago's police department is detaining US citizens for days on end in a secret compound where suspects have no contact with the outside world, the Guardian reports today.

Lawyers have compared the off-the-books interrogation warehouse in Chicago's Homan Square neighborhood to the CIA's so-called black sites offshore that are used to interrogate terrorists.

Police at the site in Chicago reportedly carry heavy military gear, and huge armored tanks are parked outside.

"There are usually questions about whether these arrests are justifiable or constitutional," Anthony Hill, a criminal defense attorney, told Business Insider. "Suspected criminals are just picked up and thrown into the back of unmarked cars by police officers wielding assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests. Describing the process as highly militarized would be fair."

"It's a black hole," Hill added.

Read the rest here.
HT:  Pugchief

I really wanted to keep the first few days of Lent somewhat edifying on the blog. But this just needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

On the Eve of the Great Fast

Please forgive me for any offense or injury I may have caused, especially on this blog.

Limited posting for the next few days.

Venezuelans' long waits yield soap, and intelligence agents

Caracas (AFP) - With long, everyday waits in line to buy milk or toilet paper, Venezuela's economic crisis is proving ever more painful, as President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government struggles with the inflation-wracked, collapsing economy.

"This country never was like this. Before, we had the freedom to buy, invest, to grow," said a man who only gave his first name Hernando, perched on a lawn chair to soften the hours-long wait expected outside a Caracas market.

Read the rest here.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Former film star Brigitte Bardot, France’s iconic blonde bombshell and “sex kitten” who reigned supreme from 1952 – 1973, has been on trial five times for insulting Muslims and “inciting racial hatred.”

The prosecutor in her fifth trial, Anne de Fontette, wants a heftier fine and a tougher sentence: the equivalent of $24,000 and a two month (hopefully) suspended jail term.

What crimes has Bardot committed in the land without a First Amendment, in the land of Hate Speech laws that are being slickly exploited by non-persecuted Muslims?

Bardot has written: “I am fed up with being under the thumb of this population which is destroying us, destroying our country.”

Read the rest here.

Not usually a big fan of Breitbart, but in this case they pretty much have it nailed. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Coptic Orthodox Pope Canonizes the 21 New Martyrs of Egypt & Libya

The Coptic Orthodox Church has announced that the murder of the 21 Egyptian Christians killed by the so-called Islamic State in Libya will be commemorated in its Church calendar.

Pope Tawadros II announced that the names of the martyrs will be inserted into the Coptic Synaxarium, the Oriental Church’s equivalent to the Roman Martyrology. This procedure is also equivalent to canonization in the Latin Church.
According to, the martyrdom of the 21 Christians will be commemorated on the 8th Amshir of the Coptic calendar, or February 15th of the Gregorian calendar. The commemoration falls on the feast day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

Read the rest here.

Well that was quick. But honestly, sometimes there is just no need for prolonged hearings and investigations. Great New Martyrs of Egypt and Libya pray for us!

Episcopal Church is sharply rebuked by court

Apparently there are limits to the amount of bad faith legal maneuvering the courts will put up with.

HT: The Archer of the Forest

Not liberal enough (Anglicans)

Window celebrating former Archbishop and champion of womyn's ordination to be removed after students brand him ‘homophobic’

Once again, liberals demonstrating that they are among the most illiberal people around.

Friday, February 20, 2015

And now for a word from the other side (Russia and the US)

Via the Young Fogey and Dr. Tighe...

...Russia, which is portrayed as radically nationalist and religiously extremist, particularly in the American Conservative article, has not executed a single person in 20 years, while the United States… well, you know. Saudi Arabia still beheads people in front of Western spectators and jails bloggers for not being religiously devout or "respectful" enough, whereas the West focused on the "persecution" of a group of punk rock feminists who rushed into a church to insult Putin and and the faith of 85% of the country. 

Unlike in Western countries, Russian anti-hate laws are primarily designed to protect the Russian majority. Pussy Riot violated the hate-speech laws in Russia, which are extremely comparable to the laws in the United Kingdom, where the slur "Faggot" posted on Facebook by one of High Right’s founders got him imprisoned for 17 hours while his wife and children sat outside freezing on a bench waiting for him to be released. 

Countless stories show that people all through Western Europe are arrested on hate-speech violations every year, when they hardly do something as extreme as running into a place of religious worship to insult the faith itself. Usually, hate-speech laws are used to suppress European-descended ethnic majorities and Christians..
... We constantly hear about how Westerners should condemn Mr Putin for his "anti-gay laws," which really only ban public displays of ‘non-traditional’ sexual relations. We are told to think this is the worst evil on planet earth, to not allow these cheerfulsexuals to display their deviancy for the public. In any normal culture, this display would be considered at best abnormal behavior, and at worst considered what it is, degenerate. We are told, this is "repression," even though the majority of Americans are Christians, even if only superficially, and we do not appreciate such public displays for the most part. Instead, to be truly progressive, one should make sure that their nation allows Christians to be sued for not making birthday cakes for people who violate what they consider to be an intrinsic religious belief. Essentially, repression is only OK if it is Christians and Europeans who are being repressed...
...Americans believe that they can create a utopia, that they can overcome any sense of "bigotry," that cultures do not have to matter, that endless swarms of immigrants can be just like us. Americans do not see their country’s failings as the result of a deeply flawed worldview, they see it as the result of bad management. Thus, they eagerly hope for a change in their managers, and look towards the next cycle of elections. The American mindset in addition is also often obsessed with the superficial, the easy to placate, the carnal, the expression of excess. Combine this with extreme optimism and unrestrained idealism and it isn’t hard to see why liberalism imposed with force took hold: most of us accepted it because we wanted it to be true. 
Read the rest here.

This strikes me as a somewhat rose colored look at Russia, with a lot of very fair criticism of the United States thrown in. Russia is no paradise and Putin really is a thug (albeit very politically skilled). But it's not Nazi Germany, North Korea or Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, much, though not all, of the criticism of the United States seems especially stinging. Perhaps because it has the ring of truth to it.

Too Big to Fail - Too Big to Jail

“We have never hesitated to investigate and prosecute any individual, institution or organization that attempted to exploit our markets and take advantage of the American people,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. proclaimed this month when the Justice Department announced that Standard & Poor’s, the ratings agency, had agreed to pay $1.375 billion to settle civil charges that it inflated ratings on mortgage-backed securities at the heart of the financial crisis.

And this week, he pledged a renewed effort to bring cases against individuals responsible for financial fraud, calling on federal prosecutors to “try to develop cases against individuals and to report back in 90 days.”

Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.

Read the rest here.

I have been beating this horse for at least six years. Nice to see some people agreeing with me.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pope Francis has married clergy "in my agenda"

Details at Rorate.

This is an internal disciplinary issue for the Latin Church and  can mostly be filed under the heading "none of our business." I just hope they don't invoke Orthodox discipline in promotion of a decidedly non-Orthodox innovation as some have with the idea of giving Communion to the divorced and civilly remarried. If I hear one more idiot say that this is what the Orthodox Church does I am likely to respond in a very un-Lenten manner. For clarification, I refer to the fact that we do NOT allow for already ordained priests to marry, and our bishops must be celibate (almost always monastics).

German Army Said to be Dangerously ill-Equipped

The German army has faced a shortage of equipment for years, but the situation has recently become so precarious that some soldiers took matters into their own hands.

On Tuesday, German broadcaster ARD revealed that German soldiers tried to hide the lack of arms by replacing heavy machine guns with broomsticks during a NATO exercise last year. After painting the wooden sticks black, the German soldiers swiftly attached them to the top of armored vehicles, according to a confidential army report which was leaked to ARD.

A defense ministry spokesperson said the use of broomsticks was not a common practice, and that the decision of the involved soldiers was "hard to comprehend." According to the ministry, the armored vehicles were furthermore not supposed to be armed. It remains unclear how many broomsticks were substituted for machine guns.

The awkward revelation on Tuesday came at the worst possible moment for Germany's defense ministry. The same day, Ukraine's army was about to suffer a defeat in the town of Debaltseve, putting a renewed focus on the question whether Europe's NATO allies would be able to manage the crisis militarily – without an American intervention, if necessary.

Read the rest here.

NATO had been effectively a two country military alliance (the US and Britain) since the end of the Cold War with the rest of its member states tripping over each other in a mad rush to disarm themselves. Over the last five years that trend has been extended even to Great Britain which has gutted its armed forces as part of national austerity.

Currently the US covers more than 75% of the NATO budget. It's time to tell our "allies" to step up and start pulling their weight or  alternatively to reconsider our mutual security arrangements altogether.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

Wishing a blessed fast to those beginning Lent today.

DC Paralyzed By Winter Storm (3") - Boston Sneers

Another piddling snowfall. Another huge shutdown. Another round of merciless mocking.

This is Washington’s winter weather cycle, as predictable as partisanship and twice as bruising.

The Monday night storm, a powderball that delivered two to six inches of snow to the area, shuttered schools, stuttered Metro, halted bus service and brought the federal government to its knees.

Then the eye-rolling began. Nowhere more so than among those with Boston ties.

Read the rest here.

Most of the beltway got around 3" of snow. When I was growing up in the Northeast normally that would not even rate a mention on the local news. The weather report would read "flurries or light snow." My first year of Grad School in Albany we got 111" of snow with no intervening melt off. I couldn't tell where I was a lot of times when driving because the snow banks were so high you could not see the houses on the other side and the street signs were all buried. I would have to pull over and climb a snow bank to get my bearings.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Islamic State 'planning to use Libya as gateway to Europe'

Islamic State militants are planning a takeover of Libya as a "gateway" to wage war across the whole of southern Europe, letters written by the group's supporters have revealed.

The jihadists hope to flood the north African state with militiamen from Syria and Iraq, who will then sail across the Mediterranean posing as migrants on people trafficking vessels, according to plans seen by Quilliam, the British anti-extremist group.

The fighters would then run amok in southern European cities and also try to attack maritime shipping. 

Read the rest here.

Good morning Europe, this is your wake up call. May I suggest you skip the De-Caf and take you coffee straight this morning. I think you are going to need it.

Federal Judge Blocks Obama Immigration Order

A federal judge in Texas has ordered a halt, at least temporarily, to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, siding with Texas and 25 other states that filed a lawsuit opposing the initiatives.

In an order filed on Monday, the judge, Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, prohibited the Obama administration from carrying out programs the president announced in November that would offer protection from deportation and work permits to as many as five million undocumented immigrants. The first of those programs was scheduled to start receiving applications on Wednesday.

Read the rest here.

Best news I've had in weeks.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The New Martyrs: Time for a little ecumenism?

Long time readers will know that I am bit less warm and fuzzy than some when the subject is ecumenism. But Fr. Hunwicke has  pointed out an area where I think we Orthodox could take a visible stand with the separated churches of Rome and the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox. Without adding any names to our respective lists of saints and martyrs, would it not be a great gesture if the Patriarchs of Old and New Rome stood with the Coptic Pope when the 21 New Martyrs of the Islamic Persecution are canonized, as surely they will be?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

RIP: Louis Jourdan

"Spend the money quickly Mr. Bond."

Sunday of the Last Judgement (Meatfare)

Yep, it's that time of year again. I have a nice meat lovers lasagna cooling on the counter as I type.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Maureen Dowd Doesn't Like the Clintons

WASHINGTON — I’LL pay for this column.

The Rottweilers will be unleashed.

Once the Clintons had a War Room. Now they have a Slime Room.

Once they had the sly James Carville, fondly known as “serpenthead.” Now they have the slippery David Brock, accurately known as a snake.

Brock fits into the Clinton tradition of opportunistic knife-fighters like Dick Morris and Mark Penn.

Read the rest here.

Normally I have about as much use for anything emanating from Maureen Dowd as I would for a nice relaxing case of shingles. But this article is actually rather enlightening on a number of levels. If nothing else, it shows that there actually are some on the left who can't stand the Clintons and who are unlikely to willingly serve as cheer leaders for the much anticipated Restoration.

That's a start.

ISIS Kills 21 Christian Copts

Twenty-one Egyptian Christians kidnapped by Isis [sic] in Libya around New Year's are feared dead, after Twitter accounts linked to the Libyan branch of the so-called "Islamic State" announced they had been slaughtered. There is no official confirmation yet but Egyptian media believe the news to be reliable and two pictures released by the same Twitter sources show what they describe as "the Islamic State carrying out the execution of Coptic prisoners in the province of Tripoli". In the first picture five men wearing the notorious orange jumpsuit are kneeling while hooded hangmen armed with knives stand behind them.

Read the rest here.

Holy New Martyrs of the Islamic Persecution pray for us.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Open letter from ELCA Bishop to LGBT Community

Dear friends,
You are welcome in congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

We are a church that believes it is wrong to discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation. All are welcome. We celebrate diversity.

While Lutherans in the U.S. are not of one mind about sexual orientation, the ELCA, the largest Lutheran denomination in North America, has taken a stand as an open, affirming church where all are welcome.

Read the rest here if you must.

It seems like all of the mainline Protestant churches have jumped off of a tall building, and are racing each other to the sidewalk below. See also this related piece.

Google's Vint Cerf warns of 'digital Dark Age'

He fears that future generations will have little or no record of the 21st Century as we enter what he describes as a "digital Dark Age".

Our life, our memories, our most cherished family photographs increasingly exist as bits of information - on our hard drives or in "the cloud". But as technology moves on, they risk being lost in the wake of an accelerating digital revolution.

"I worry a great deal about that," Mr Cerf told me. "You and I are experiencing things like this. Old formats of documents that we've created or presentations may not be readable by the latest version of the software because backwards compatibility is not always guaranteed. 

"And so what can happen over time is that even if we accumulate vast archives of digital content, we may not actually know what it is."

Read the rest here.

Just a quick reminder...

Summer will return.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

OK; who didn't see this one coming?

Minister of education of Greece: “We are launching the process of separation of Church and state”

Memo to the Greek people... Elections have consequences.

The Annexation of Crimea to Russia. Opinion Poll

A few days ago an interesting study, “The Socio-Political Sentiments in Crimea,” was released by the Ukrainian branch of GfK, the well-known German social research organization, as part of the Free Crimea initiative. Intriguingly, the primary objectives of this project, launched with the support of the governmental Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, were to “debunk aggressive Russian propaganda” and to “reintegrate Crimea into Ukraine.” Thus the researchers can hardly be suspected of being Russian sympathizers. So let’s take a look at the results.

The attitudes of Crimeans were studied in January 2015. This representative sample included 800 respondents living on the peninsula, from all age and social categories. The poll had an error margin of 3.5%.

In answer to the most important question: “Do you endorse Russia’s annexation of Crimea?” 82% of the respondents answered “yes, definitely,” and another 11% – “yes, for the most part.” Only 2% gave an unambiguously negative response, and another 2% offered a relatively negative assessment. Three percent did not specify their position.

Read the rest here.

I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for this to get any coverage in the mainstream press/media.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Some Sanity From a Highly Unexpected Source

Speaking of the Anti-Gnostic, he has some astonishing quotes from Mr. Lefty himself, Howard Kuntzler. Do have a look.

IRS to pay refunds to illegal immigrants who didn’t pay taxes

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told Congress on Wednesday that even illegal immigrants who didn’t pay taxes will be able to claim back-refunds once they get Social Security numbers under President Obama’s temporary deportation amnesty.

Read the rest here.

Contrary to possible appearances, given the last several days' postings,  I am not trying to give the Anti-Gnostic a stroke. It is purely coincidental that the idiocy has been gaining momentum of late and is being duly passed along here.

Greece threatens tilt to Russia and China unless Europe yields

Greece's radical new government has threatened to seek money from Russia and China to avert a financial crisis rather than yield to austerity demands from Europe, risking a dangerous political rift with the leading EU powers and a full-blown NATO crisis. 

Read the rest here.

People with too much free time

Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Committee may ask Vatican to revoke Papal Bulls of Discovery

Seriously, we need a universal statute of limitations. If somebody did something bad and it was more than 100 years ago, then let's confine the discussion to history or some other branch of academia.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Judge sides with government in lawsuit over surveillance

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- A federal judge on Tuesday sided with the government in a lawsuit alleging the National Security Agency is illegally engaging in the bulk collection of Internet and telephone records in the hunt for potential terrorists.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland said the plaintiffs in the case - AT&T customers - had not shown that all AT&T customers' Internet communications were currently the subject of a "dragnet seizure and search program, controlled by or at the direction of the Government," and they therefore did not have standing to file a lawsuit under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against warrantless searches and seizures.

Read the rest here.

EU Catholic bishops call for greater political will to solve refugee crisis

(Vatican Radio) European Bishops have deplored the “unacceptable loss of life” of at least 29 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and and are calling for “greater clarity and greater political will among all of the EU member states on an acceptable resolution of the refugee crisis”.

Just over two months have gone by since Pope Francis appealed to European policy-makers not to allow the Mediterranean to become a vast graveyard. But migrants continue to die during the dangerous crossing as they seek to flee poverty and conflict. 

Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Anti Gnostic arriving in com box in 5-4-3-2-1... ;-)

Cardinal Marx on Francis, the Synod, Women in the Church and Gay Relationships

Two issues at the present synod are divorced and remarried Catholics and gay Catholics, especially those in relationships. Do you have opportunities to listen directly to these Catholics in your present ministry?

I have been a priest for 35 years. This problem is not new. I have the impression that we have a lot of work to do in the theological field, not only related to the question of divorce, but also the theology of marriage. I am astonished that some can say, “Everything is clear” on this topic. Things are not clear. It is not about church doctrine being determined by modern times. It is a question of aggiornamento, to say it in a way that the people can understand, and to always adapt our doctrine to the Gospel, to theology, in order to find in a new way the sense of what Jesus said, the meaning of the tradition of the church and of theology and so on. There is a lot to do.

I speak with many experts—canon lawyers and theologians—who recognize many questions related to the sacramentality and validity of marriages. One question is: What can we do when a person marries, divorces and later finds a new partner? There are different positions. Some bishops at the synod said, “They are living in sin.” But others said, “You cannot say that somebody is in sin every day. That is not possible.” You see, there are questions we must speak about. We opened a discussion on this topic in the German bishops’ conference. Now the text is published. I think it is a very good text and a good contribution for the discussion of the synod.

It is very important that the synod does not have the spirit of “all or nothing.” It is not a good way. The synod cannot have winners and losers. That is not the spirit of the synod. The spirit of the synod is to find a way together, not to say, “How can I find a way to bring my position through?” Rather: “How can I understand the other position, and how can we together find a new position?” That is the spirit of the synod.

Therefore it is very important that we are working on these questions. I hope that the pope will inspire this synod. The synod cannot decide; only a council or pope can decide. These questions must also be understood in a broader context. The task is to help the people to live. It is not, according to “Evangelii Gaudium,” about how we can defend the truth. It is about helping people to find the truth. That is important.

The Eucharist and reconciliation are necessary for people. We say to some people, “You will never be reconciled until your death.” That is impossible to believe when you see the situations. I could give examples. In the spirit of “Evangelii Gaudium,” we have to see how the Eucharist is medicine for the people, to help the people. We must look for ways for people to receive the Eucharist. It is not about finding ways to keep them out! We must find ways to welcome them. We have to use our imagination in asking, “Can we do something?” Perhaps it is not possible in some situations. That is not the question. The focus must be on how to welcome people.

Read the rest here.

There is a crisis building in the Catholic Church and I suspect that after decades of building pressure things may be approaching the boiling point.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Met. Hilarion: Is There A Future For Ecumenism? (This is a must read)

...The dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Anglican communion began to experience serious difficulties from the second half of the twentieth century with the decision by the Episcopalian Church of the USA in 1976 to allow the ordination of women to the priesthood. At the session of the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue in 1978 in Athens the Orthodox side declared that meaningful dialogue with the goal of achieving Christian unity was under threat if women’s ordinations were to continue. Nevertheless, at the end of the 1980s the Episcopalian Church of the USA began the practice of ordaining women as bishops, once more underlining the divergences in views of our Churches on the issue of apostolic succession.

In 1993 the decision of the priestly ordination of women was taken by the General Synod of the Church of England. After the introduction of women priests there then followed discussions on the introduction of a female episcopate. At present, these discussions, which have divided the Anglican communion, may be considered to be over. Only a few days ago the first female bishop was consecrated in the Church of England. Many perceived this to be a significant achievement, while others regarded the event as cause for great disenchantment. It has had a negative effect not only on the ecumenical contacts of the Church of England but also on the situation within the Anglican communion, many members of which remain firm adherents to Christian tradition in the sphere of morality and the teaching on the Church.

I remember well the heated discussions on the issue of the elevation of women to the dignity of bishop at the last Lambeth Conference. I was present at the conference as an Orthodox observer and had the opportunity to talk to many Anglican bishops and to participate in heated discussions on the topic. At one such discussion I was asked: ‘Is there, from the point of view of the Orthodox Church, a principle difference between the female priesthood and the female episcopate? After all, you did not abandon dialogue with the Anglican Church after the decision on female priesthood, why then are you worried about the possibility of a female episcopate?’ Until then I had never thought about the question of the difference between the two things, but as I was asked the question directly I had to come up with some answer on the spot.

It is true, I replied, that we did not cease dialogue with the Anglican Church after the introduction of women priests, but not because we were in agreement with this. The issue is that even then we did not recognize the legitimacy of the Anglican hierarchy. However, for more than a hundred years discussions had been held between Anglicans and Orthodox regarding the possible recognition by the latter of the Anglican hierarchy. Now that possibility, even theoretically, has been removed. Why? Because hitherto we viewed the ordination of women to the priesthood as erroneous actions of individual bishops. Now women have been given the right to become bishops. For us this signifies a very simple fact – discussion on the recognition of the Anglican hierarchy is closed (emphasis mine A/O)...

...From my point of view the most promising dialogue today is between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church. Like the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church has never thought of herself as separate from Tradition, she aims to teach and live in accordance with the tradition that has been handed down to us through the ages. The significant improvement in relations between our Churches seen in recent years is tied to a greater realization that we are united by a common heritage, thanks to which both Orthodox and Catholics can and must bear witness together to the world to the never changing values of the Gospel of Christ.

Read the rest here.

This is a wide ranging commentary that among other things, is sharply critical of Anglicanism and liberal Protestantism.

Alabama sees widespread defiance of gay marriage ruling

Amid legal showdowns and high-level defiance, Alabama was buffeted by feuds over same-sex marriage Monday after courts cleared the way but some judges resisted issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

The discord appeared to throw Alabama — for the moment at least — into a patchwork of rules, with at least eight of the state’s 67 counties blocking licenses.

The opposition included either outright rejection or simply closing up shop for the day — leaving some hopeful couples waiting in vain.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Cardinal Burke Draws a Line

Cardinal Burke: I cannot accept that Communion can be given to a person in an irregular union because it is adultery. On the question of people of the same sex, this has nothing to do with marriage. This is an affliction suffered by some people whereby they are attracted against nature sexually to people of the same sex.

Question: If perchance the pope will persist in this direction, what will you do?

Cardinal Burke: I shall resist, I can do nothing else. There is no doubt that it is a difficult time; this is clear, this is clear.

Read the rest here.

Note: The source is a French television interview via a website affiliated with the SSPX. Still, unless the Cardinal was seriously misquoted, I can see no way to interpret this other than as a direct warning to the Pope.

See also Fr.Z's take.

Friday, February 06, 2015

What You Learned About the Middle Ages Was Wrong

Medieval Christianity is in the news. That’s exciting for me as I have a PhD in medieval theology and I teach Ancient and Medieval Church History at Covenant Seminary. Thus I have a little “skin in the game,” as the saying goes.

Earlier this week our President made some comments at the national prayer breakfast. In the spirit of hospitality and inclusion he wished to address the recent horrifically evil actions by ISIS by saying that we Christians also have also perpetrated evil in the name of our religion. He gave three examples, two of which I want to make comments on here.

Read the rest here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

Email Problems

I have received several reports from correspondents that they have gotten SPAM emails from my address within the last 24hrs. I am working on the issue but in the meantime if you get anything from that doesn't sound right, or contains suspicious links, please check with me, or just delete it.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Pope Francis decries "inhuman" conditions for illegal immigrants on US-Mexico border

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis has decried the "inhuman" conditions facing migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and has encouraged communities there not to judge people by stereotypes but welcome migrants and work to end discrimination.

Francis made the appeal in a letter to a Jesuit priest who helps organize Catholic teens in Nogales, Arizona, to support the Kino Border Initiative, which advocates a more humane solution to migration. The letter was dated Dec. 19 but was made public on Kino's website recently.

"These young people - who have come to learn how to strive against the propagation of stereotypes, from people who only see in immigration a source of illegality, social conflict and violence - can contribute much to show the world a church without borders," Francis wrote.

Read the rest here.

China is main suspect in massive hack

Investigators suspect Chinese hackers may be responsible for a breach of health insurer Anthem, one of the largest medical-related cyberattacks in history and a harbinger of a growing threat facing the health care industry, said an individual briefed on some aspects of the probe. 

Anthem, the country’s second largest health insurer, said hackers gained access to the sensitive data of 80 million former and current members and employees, including Social Security numbers, income data, birthdays, street and e-mail addresses. 

There are some indications that other health care companies may have been targeted, said the individual said, who declined to be named because the investigation is ongoing.

Read the rest here.

Ex-NATO Chief Warns of Possible Russian Aggression in Baltic States

Vladimir Putin has dangerous ambitions beyond Ukraine and aims to test Western resolve in the Baltic states, the former head of Nato has warned.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former secretary-general of the Atlantic alliance, said the Kremlin’s true goal is to shatter Nato solidarity and reassert Russian dominance over Eastern Europe.

“This is not about Ukraine. Putin wants to restore Russia to its former position as a great power,” he told The Telegraph.

“There is a high probability that he will intervene in the Baltics to test Nato’s Article 5,” he said, referring to the solidarity clause that underpins collective security.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Good News From South Carolina

The Episcopal Organization took a big hit in court as a judge came down solidly on the side of the local diocese that cut ties with the national "church" over its heresy and outright apostasy.

Pope Francis to Celebrate 50th Anniversary of First Papal Mass in the Vernacular

Color me unimpressed. But in the end, Latin vs Vernacular is less important than the liturgy itself. We Orthodox are all over the map when it comes to liturgical languages. But I think it is pretty hard to argue that the Pauline Missal, concocted by a liturgical committee composed of some pretty dubious individuals, is anything other than grossly inferior to that which it was supposed to replace. As Msgr Pope noted in his excellent piece, linked in an earlier post; when you concede to one man the authority to arbitrarily tinker with, or radically alter the liturgy, you are treading on dangerously thin ice.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

No fasting this week.

Jordan threatens to execute all Islamic State prisoners if pilot killed

Jordan has threatened to execute all of its Islamic State prisoners if militants kill Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh.

Government officials warned that Sajida al-Rishawi, a would-be suicide bomber, and other jailed Islamic State commanders would be “quickly judged and sentenced” in retaliation for the pilot’s death, The Daily Mail reported Friday.

The warning comes after a deadline for a possible prisoner swap allegedly set by Islamic State militants passed Thursday with no word on the fate of Mr. al-Kaseasbeh or Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.

Read the rest here.

I have no idea if this will influence ISIS or not. But I suspect it is more likely to get their attention than a threat to lodge a formal complaint with the International Court in the Hague. Before the Great War the laws of war were respected, or not, with the fairly clear understanding that gross breaches by one side were  likely to lead to retaliation by the other. In other words, it was understood that the laws of war were not a one way street and that very real consequences would almost certainly attend any deliberate abuse.

For some odd reason this seems to have been a more effective system than what we have in place today. Namely a court that could not adjudicate a parking ticket in less than decade and one that exercises very little real jurisdiction because most war criminals aren't in custody and don't ever expect that to change.

Obama to Propose Adding $6 Trillion in Debt

WASHINGTON — President Obama will propose a 10-year budget on Monday that stabilizes the federal deficit but does not seek balance, instead focusing on policies to address income inequality as he adds nearly $6 trillion to the debt. 

The budget — $4 trillion in fiscal 2016 — would hit corporations that park profits overseas, raise taxes on the richest of the rich and increase the incomes of the middle class through new spending and tax credits. Mr. Obama will challenge the Republican Congress to answer his emphasis on wage stagnation, according to congressional aides briefed on the details.

Read the rest here.