This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy Feast Day to Me! | National Catholic Reporter

Happy Feast Day to Me! | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: You mean Happy Feast Day to Us!  You are not the only Michael in the Catholic Church or even on your own blog.  Still, I was looking for a venue to post our Feast Day and this post provides it.  I celebrated with angel cake and peach ice cream (with a few Giradeli dark chocolate squares). I was going to celebrate with my daughter, but her mother begged off of her evening activity, so it was me and the gang from the Big Bang Theory.

Need a Laugh? Check out 'Gloria TV' | National Catholic Reporter

Need a Laugh? Check out 'Gloria TV' | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: Not funny, sad, and a bit icky.  More Catholicism as a practice in partisanship from Opus Dei. The leadership of ISIL cannot compete. Where are the sociologists on their sacred quest when you need them?

The Next Big Fight in Education | National Catholic Reporter

The Next Big Fight in Education | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: For a New Republic piece, it is not so pernicious, although it is still very POV sensitive.  I love that the College Board has found away around the power of the Texas State School Board, who has moved several curricula to the right and almost away from the truth.  They can do nothing about the AP test, which is not really about advanced placement - its about advanced college credits (I wish they had AP history when I was in school, I could have at least come close to passing the test cold). With college costs as high as they are, a course at a public high school (or even a Catholic one) that yields three credits is magical - the students have every reason to be upset and should have a member on that board to speak to this.

Review: The Sacred Project of American Sociology,' Part III | National Catholic Reporter

Review: The Sacred Project of American Sociology,' Part III | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: MSW reports that modern sociology begins where absolutism ends, taking the mantle of ethics from philosophy departments and taking it into itself.  Of course, the existence of a sociology department did not stop people from taking philosophy classes in my day, some 35 years ago.  I suspect it depends on what is offered and required where one is in school.  I had to take either philosophy or religion courses, and as a pre-law student (or so I thought), I had to take ethics (and accounting - which I have used more).  Of course, before sociology existed, there was anthropology, whose main aim was justifying the mastery of the white race.  Sadly, the review did not mention that fact, and I suspect neither did the book.

The contention that ethics has gone to sociology is partly true - although everyone has some kind of ethical dimension, from religion and philosophy to political science to history to economics. Indeed, if you want to find out about Hume, you can go to most of those departments, since Classical social scientists were considered philosophers first, with the rest following - hence the title doctor of philosophy.  Sociology has the same stable of classical thinkers - and unlike political science - when you publish, statistical regression (or worse) is not required (I hope).  Sociology has sought to study ethical systems - sometimes from the perspective of what is right but more often on who is right and how such systems are developed.  Feminist studies particularly look at the effect of the Patriarchy - especially when looking at religion - particularly Catholicism.  Needless to say, the hierarchy of the Church does not like their gaze - especially on pelvic issues from ordination to the fortnight for freedom on contraceptive mandates.

As I stated in a previous section, one of the most effective tools in sociology and in all the social sciences is the Cultural Theory (Grid/Group) of Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky.  You can use their typology to map out both cultures and points of view in terms of what is proscribed (sacred) and its degree of group cohesion/power.  Indeed, Smith and this book can even be pegged into the theory.  Even religious authors use its tools, especially Elaine Paigels in her Abominations of Leviticus and her recent exploration into the Book of Revelation (turns out that the Pauline Church was the beast - and the beast won).

The state of sociology, and for that matter political science and theology, is due to the need to publish to get tenure - with publication dependent on peer review.  In essence, it is determined by the professors themselves.  While academic freedom exists once one is established, newbies do need to be orthodox for their discipline. Doctoral school is where people are weeded out, not deliberately, but by self-selection in terms of both the methods and ideas of the discipline.  We can wonder whether a paradigm shift is possible.  I believe they most certainly are, but such shifts are not usually led by assistant professors and graduate students.  Undergraduates have a roll to.  If the coursework interests them, they take it.  If not, classes get canceled and  professors must teach during the summer to cover workload requirements.  It seems that the social sciences and academia don't lead the culture so much as reflect it (and their students mostly are marking time as undergraduates with a major they enjoy to give them the highest GPA possible so that they can get that MSW, MBA,. MD or JD).  I left out the math and science students.  They get their jobs, with or without graduate school - and take the social sciences for either an easy A or just to get division requirements met.

So, what about Christian thinking?  As I said, the Church is a human institution which teaches about human conduct (over and above any message of salvation).  Should sociology, including sociology in its sacred project on equality and freedom, study the Church?  Absolutely!  To the extent that the Church is fairly lousy about studying itself, outside prophesy is essential - and probably inspired!  Indeed, that is the question we can ask about sociology that it can't ask for itself - is God working through it?  As a believer, I have to say yes - because God works through everyone, with or without their consent.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Affordable Care Act's anti-abortion rules need to be enforced | National Catholic Reporter

Affordable Care Act's anti-abortion rules need to be enforced | National Catholic Reporter by Fr. Thomas Reese.  MGB: I do hope somebody holds the Department's feet to the fire, although, frankly, the extent to which people will be in exchanges when they were in employer provided insurance is the extent to which this is not an issue (since all, or almost all, employer provided insurance covers abortion - and most don't use the coverage, preferring to keep having this procedure off any insurance record.  It is not hugely expensive unless hospital care is required - and then anyone should cover it because it is probably  a life or death matter.  Still, the bishops were obnoxious in their behavior regarding supporting the GOP in holding up this Law - and downright vengeful against those Sisters that helped it get passed.  So, I will say now what I said then - those of us in the left wing of the Church are going to take a pass on getting excited about this issue.  I know a few members of Congress and the Senate and where their web pages are.  I campaign and have for years, so when I leave a message, someone sees it.  Not on this issue.  Anyone who agrees with me - repost this.  Maybe the bishops will figure out that their hyperpartisanship in our names without our consent matters.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The tattooed feminist Catholic who chooses conscience over catechism | National Catholic Reporter

The tattooed feminist Catholic who chooses conscience over catechism | National Catholic Reporter  Read this now.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Gerson on Resentment & Christianity | National Catholic Reporter

Gerson on Resentment & Christianity | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Michael Gerson favors civility over rear guard action, and Michael Sean Winters think conservative Catholics should try that as well.  Michael Gerard Bindner would even extend that to the Church hierarchy in dealing with gay marriage and different understandings of when Communion can be received.  I also suspect that civility is being encouraged because it forces the left to be civil when we would really like to dance of the graves of the worn out ideas being defeated by those of us who are, as Justice Kennedy names us, moral libertarians.  (did MSW miss that piece without commenting on it).  Its not that we are libertarian as much as egalitarian - that we don't let hierarchs dictate to us (especially when the appear wrong) and actually go out and help those being damaged, like non-evangelicals at the Air Force Academy or women who need contraception though their employers don't want to buy insurance that funds it (even at the same price).  I don't think either side will be listening to Michael Gerson.  (especially when race is in the background, like in voting rights).

Review: 'The Sacred Project of American Sociology' Part II | National Catholic Reporter

Review: 'The Sacred Project of American Sociology' Part II | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: This book is a memoir of a conservative in a liberal field.  His awakening began when he went to the annual convention and noted the language of victimhood with an egalitarian solution (which Douglas and Wildavsky would call fatalism and Coyle and myself would call despotism with a egalitarian solution).  Even the culture studies seemed to him to follow this meme.  Gender studies were also a part.

Reviewed books in their professional journal reinforced this (although I suspect those would be the books on display, ya think?).  In the text, Smith reviews several books according to his personal biases, which seem different from the others in his field, and even those without provocative titles seem to follow the common mold.  ASA annual meetings, of course, follow the same mold ( I would be shocked if they did not).  The text's go there too, including the most common Soc 101 text which starts discussing gender equality (although I suspect it won't in a few years, because gender equality will not be an issue in law - and maybe not even in religion).

Smith also cites Lenore Weisman's seminal study on inequality in divorce (although I would demur, because my income is down and the Mrs.' is doing better - the correct item of the study would be dependent and supporting spouses, but that would not be news).  Smith, however, could not find confirming data.  Of course, if she had used meta-data, it would not have been available in raw form. He still thinks it is fabricated, and seems to mind that with these data, Lenore has been quite successful in changing divorce law to favor women more (of course, this begs the question of why divorce law needed to be changed.)

Smith also talks about a study of children of same sex parents, although MSW leaves us to read the book.  A better contrast would have been comparing same sex and opposite sex parents for both adjustment and sexual copying.  Of course, we have had gays and lesbianns coming out for a long time, the vast majority of whom had straight parents (and rather intolerant ones at that, at least initially).  Indeed, it used to be that Sociology and psychology were in the vanguard of trying to explain gay children - with all sorts of crackpot theories about gay men loving their mothers more than their fathers.  The shoe is simply on the other foot.

More on the Sacred on Monday, although my working hypothesis is that the paradigm that controlled Sociology has changed from one that affirms the thoughts of the majority (slavery was good, white people are superior, homosexuality is a disease) to something more feminist, egalitarian and sympathetic to the victims of society, with Smith suffering culture shock as an academic who believes in individual study, not group paradigms.  I am sure he is alienating his colleagues, although they may take pity on him as a victim - which he would probably hate more than derision or being called a conservative pawn (depending on who published his text).

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Canonists and Madmen | National Catholic Reporter

Canonists and Madmen | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: I would agree with MSW's priest friend and am not surprised as to why he wants to remain anonymous.  Hopefully the Synod can get beyond the madness.  I wonder if the Group of 8 have any ideas they wish to throw out - possibly even admitting that one party in the marriage may be wrong and should be forgiven and allowed to marry again, while the other only forgiven if the wronged spouse consented AND the underlying deformity was dealt with (like alcoholism or a sex addiction).  I doubt it, it makes to much sense - then again people call me mad! (sometimes continued belief in progress is madness of the highest order).

Flores on Loving the Cross | National Catholic Reporter

Flores on Loving the Cross | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Interesting.  I would say that the Cross is not externally imposed, meaning it is not some evil force out to get us.  It is us, each individually is his own Cross and that the Cross of Christ was not about placating a Father who needed to be satisfied, but instead the vision quest by our divine brother who shows us we can conquer ourselves by following Him, as he followed us onto the cross - which now takes on following his example to be that salvation to others, which even this day in ISIL may mean actually being hung from a tree.

Review: 'The Sacred Project of American Sociology' | National Catholic Reporter

Review: 'The Sacred Project of American Sociology' | National Catholic Reporter This is going to be a fun few days commenting on the review.  My plan is to consolidate this reaction into one commentary in my Examiner column, but it now appears that I have enough for a new piece each day.

Let us begin by saying that sociology is dynamic and began as a justification for African slavery.  We have come a long way baby!  I doubt that many sociologists would listen to the current description of what they are about and react like the committed practitioner to BDSM, who would say, "Yes, so when are you getting to the good parts?" after you list your view of his or her sins. If the goal of either this commentary or the book was to burst someone's consciousness of innocence, I would advise not expecting much.

That the discipline has both individualist and egalitarian streaks shocks no one.  That anyone would expect that this would shock the moral consciousness of those committed to the epistemology of the Catholic hierarchy and its defenders is not really news.  That universe is not all Catholics - many of whom believe Christ to be much more humanistic than his bishops are willing to admit (and I suspect that even some of his priests agree with the sociological mindset).

Do all sociologists have an agenda aside from understanding?  Of course, although Aaron Wildavsky, who shared in the popularization of the Cultural Theory - also known as Grid/Group Theory delivered a series of lectures during his time at The American University called The Rise of Radical Egalitarianism, which later became a book.  I was there for these lectures.  He and I had a running debate on whether his Fatalist way of life might better be called Martyrs (he said Egalitarians would think so, but then I mentioned the Maccabees and he got it).  That cell in the theory is called by others as Despotism, which also fits the typology which also includes Hierarchy, Egalitarianism and Libertarianism/Individualism on two dimensions, group identification and grid or prescription (both too technical).  A better term would be one Smith uses, Sacredness.  Egalitarians and LIbertarians have low sacredness while Despotism and Hierarchy have high Sacredness, where sacredness is not virtue, but the degree to which taboos exist in the culture.

Interestingly, in our doctoral class (in political science and sociology), the feminist members were the least friendly to the theory - and oddly so were the committed Republicans.  It seems that these people believed that individualism and hierarchy should be on the same row or column rather than on an axis going from origin to infinity in both directions - these were the male ways of life, while Despotism and Egalitarian were more feminine. I suspect many of their colleagues would agree, although Mary and Aaron would not be among them - using gender robs the theory of estimating degree, because with exceptions for the transgendered or intersexed, male and female are  mostly dichotomous.

Going back to the Catholic Hierarchy, my guess is that , while they claim hierarchy, some of the orders would claim egalitarianism (especially the Jesuits, including its foremost member), while some bishops could be pegged as Despots rather easily and would have no more compunction about it than our committed perverts would to a listing of their traits or sins.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Wesolowki Arrest | National Catholic Reporter

The Wesolowki Arrest | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: I disagree with it being a mistake.  Senators and Presidents who leave office still bear the title, as does Pope Benedict.  Call him bishop - for his actions were an abuse of his office.  Does this embarrass the Church?  Sure - and it should.  While Pope Francis did the right thing - and quickly (more quickly than some of the old St. John Paul II Curia would have), that action does not remove the stain upon the Church.  They were not his actions, they were ours - at least the omission of looking and reporting.  While I would not give one of the Bernini columns in atonement - there are plenty of large pictures in the Vatican hallways depicting the Holy Family as white northern Italians - which they were not.  Sell them to pay the victims.

The Weird Turns Pro | National Catholic Reporter

The Weird Turns Pro | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Fr. Z is an idiot, as is anyone who does not know who or why Disney photoshopped its Marvel characters with Hello Kitty.  It is breast cancer awareness week (as in save the Ta-tas). Marvel/Disney - and apparently Thor too, are doing their part.  When you watch football this weekend, you will also notice pink shoes on the players.  Fr. Z (or some others) being tone deaf about women's health is, sadly, not news.  If you did not know, your mission this week is to wear pink to Mass.  If you can find a save the Ta-Tas button, wear it.  Now that would be a good liberal Catholic protest, especially given the stupidity around the relationship between Planned Parenthood and Susan B. Colman a few years ago.

The Wrong Meme in Chicago | National Catholic Reporter

The Wrong Meme in Chicago | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: I have never really read much of Cardinal George and it pains me that he is withering away with cancer.  Hopefully they can do a gene therapy for his strain so we can keep him around for awhile.  My experience of im has been in homilies he has preached - both at Masses he concelebrated for Catholic Charities USA.  His attachment to this movement - including its relationship with the government - shows me he is no libertarian absolutist.  Indeed, I suspect that certain anti-government bishops on the right hate to think of him as a right winger - and the Ayn Rand Libertarians would blanch at anything he says or does.

He and Bishop Cupich both recently had marriage equality measures in their states, Washington had a ballot initiative and Illinois was in the legislature.  Both fought these and both lost.  As far as I know, both have been gracious in defeat (something some of the bishops could learn from regarding the Affordable Care Act).  Both diocese have conservative and very liberal voices and predecessors, so Bishop Blaise should feel right at home.  Each has ad to to decide whether the office of bishop means pastor or medieval lord.  From what I have seen, both have chosen well - while others choose badly.

Choosing well is what is going to define how a bishop acts in a post-marriage equality world.  If anyone thought the fight for or against marriage ended with legalization, they are not thinking ahead.  The key question any prelate must ask himself is whether God is an ogre who will punish him personally if he reacts pastorally and changes with the times.  The proof that liberal Catholicism is alive and ticking can be found among those who adapt to the change rather than continuing to fight it.

G'town Gives Honorary Degree to Wuerl | National Catholic Reporter

G'town Gives Honorary Degree to Wuerl | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB:  Congratulations to the the Cardinal - although I am wondering why this degree was not presented at commencement in May?  As for the conservative critics - these people hate all things Jesuit, including the Pope.  Someone needs to confess, and its not the Jesuits.

'Let us not complicate life by overexplaining the Gospel' | National Catholic Reporter

'Let us not complicate life by overexplaining the Gospel' | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: While there is something to be said for taking the words at face value and seeing how they speak to you in the now, a little biblical scholarship helps a lot.  For example, on the question of paying taxes to Rome, the money quote was not just what Jesus said, but where he got the coin.  Roman currency (like our own - how deep is that) had the graven image of the emperor (who had divinized himself).  Jews were not supposed to carry such things - they made you unclean and a collaborator. That collaborators were questioning him on this issue is rich - especially as they will deliver him to Pilate in just a few days.

Tracey Rowland to ITC | National Catholic Reporter

Tracey Rowland to ITC | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: I wonder what Benedict is saying about this - if anything.  I gather this is a bit of a victory for lay theologians, and particularly non-consecrated female theologians.  I hope this is making the bigots nervous.