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August 6, 2018 | 14 Comments

Worst Pope Ever?

Garrison Keillor performed a neat trick. He gently teased and admonished his enlightened NPR (pardon the redundancy) audience, which to a man or a woman identifying as a man, thought itself above average. The tease would come when Keillor would tell tales of Lake Woebegone in which “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

It is obvious to even the meanest student of logic that this cannot be so. Considered inside Lake Woebegone itself, that is. It can, though, be true considered against the population as a whole.

And there’s the trick. Lake Woebegone residents, which is to say NPR listeners, are free to accept in good spirit the mild and humorous correction, while still believing themselves above average—when compared to non-NPR listeners.

(Incidentally, if you doubt this, you can verify it for yourself. Find yourself any habitual NPR listener and see if this person is forced to conclude he or she or it or whatever soars above the rest of us.)

Now Pope Francis. Progressives find he is above average. To them, His Holiness resides on the placid shores of Lake Woebegone. The Pope never judges—except when he is judging self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagianists. The Pope is full of love and bonhomie—except for the wrath he directs at those who deign to ask him questions.

These are nice, but the real reason for progressives love of the Pope is that this Pope “changes” constant teachings of the Church in a progressive direction.

But, of course, His Holiness does not live in Lake Woebegone: nobody does. So not all Popes can be above average. So there exists the possibility this Pope is not above average. He may even be below average. And if he is below average, he may, logically speaking, even be the worst. Is that so?

The fairest summary of the place of Pope Francis in history is provided by Henry Sire in The Dictator Pope. Francis, says Sire, is “a politician who relies on public relations”, a Peronist who is neither left- nor right-wing, but an “opportunist,” whose papacy has been one of “manipulation and deception.”

Sire says “Francis is an example of a very few Maverick popes that there have been in history who have been chosen without proper thought and who had gone completely off the rails.” A “product of a thoroughly corrupt Society of Jesus” (about Jesuits, more here). Francis’s reign will go down, claims Sire, “as one of the more disastrous pontificates in history.”

The question before us is: how far a step is it from more to most?

Perhaps none at all.

Sire thinks “There have been popes who have been complete mistakes. What distinguishes Pope Francis is that is he just not personally a mistake, but that he is trying to lead the Church in a direction which rejects tradition. None of the bad popes I was alluding to in the past tried to that.”

A Pope that tries to do the impossible, even to the extent of making the Church believe he has done the impossible, clearly moves from more to most.

A Pope cannot change the constant and infallible teachings of the Church. He can, of course, modify practice away from tradition. Meaning his successor could re-modify practice back toward tradition. But a Pope who acts on this allowable power too strenuously or too often makes his pontificate transient. He becomes like a president who rules by executive order knowing his successor can and will do the same.

The hope of progressives, though, is that Pope Francis is changing the Church’s infallible teachings (example). That he makes a move so drastic that his executive orders can’t be walked back. Francis, to the extent he has an intelligible plan, gives no indication he doesn’t believe in this forbidden and impossible power himself.

It’s 2018, so why shouldn’t the Church preach the goodness and pleasures of sodomy? The popular culture is convinced of the sinlessness of sodomy, so why not the Church? It should evolve as the enlightened have evolved.

Why shouldn’t the death penalty, seen as a just and even necessary penalty for thousands of years, be eliminated? About the specifics of the death penalty, and why it is worth keeping, we’ll redo again soon. But the possibility it can change from absolute right to absolute wrong is what interests us.

A new Catechism was issued (actually a revision) in which the death penalty was squashed (thanks to reader Mark Charters for the link). Here is what the new passage says:

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

One immediately suspects Anthony Kennedy, in his retirement from SCOTUS, was asked to draft this passage. Increasing awareness—-not all are yet brought to enlightenment—that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. Even after!

What in the unholy hell has the dignity of the criminal have to do with the death penalty? There is decreasing awareness that the answer is nothing at all. Traditionally, the Church’s concern was for the soul of the criminal, his eternal state, and not his “dignity.” Dignity forsooth! As for salvation, a hanging sharpens the mind, as the saying goes. Whereas a prison sentence, which might in enlightened times, be turned into freedom, does not.

The new Catechism language is pure Kennedyism, representing a fundamental and awful change in Church tradition. It is not a concern, I must emphasize, that the death penalty is to be held in abeyance (by Catholics) during this pontificate, because it has been in abeyance for decades. Since the pontificate is seen as a shiftable presidency, traditionalists can look for a time when the death penalty is again allowed.

No. The problem is the shift of concentration from Heaven to Hell. The Church has moved from the old longing that even the criminal is not cast into the eternal fire, to the pleading that his earthly existence does not offend his dignity.

Any Pope that attempts a change like that is clearly the worst.

August 5, 2018 | 1 Comment

Summary Against Modern Thought: A Misunderstanding of Separate Substances

Previous post.

This chapter, and the next, exist to squash a couple of subtle, technical errors. They require close reading to grasp. It’s best to at least skim: don’t skip. Reminder: An intellectual substance is an angel.

THAT WE CANNOT IN THIS LIFE UNDERSTAND SEPARATE SUBSTANCES IN THE WAY THAT ALEXANDER CLAIMED

1 Because Alexander [of Aphrodisias] claimed that the possible intellect is capable of being generated and corrupted, in the sense that it is “a perfection of human nature resulting from a mixture of the elements,” as we saw in Book Two, and since it is not possible for such a power to transcend material conditions, he maintained that our possible intellect can never reach an understanding of separate substances. Yet he asserted that, in our present state of life, we are able to understand separate substances.

2 In fact, he tried to show this in the following way. Whenever anything has reached maturity in its process of generation and has come to the full perfection of its substance, the operation proper to it will be at its peak, whether as action or as passion. For, as operation is consequent upon substance, so also is the perfection of operation a result of the perfection of substance. Hence, an animal, when it has become wholly perfect, is able to walk by itself.

Now, the habitual understanding which is simply “intelligible species made to exist in the possible intellect by the agent intellect” has a twofold operation: one, to make potentially understood things to be actually understood, and it owes this to the role of the agent intellect; and the second is actually to understand the objects of understanding.

These two things, then, man can do through an intellectual habit. So, whenever the generating of the habitual understanding has reached completion, both of these stated operations will be at their peak in it. Now, it always approaches the peak perfection of its generation when it acquires new kinds of objects of understanding. And thus, its process of generation must be completed at some time, unless there be an impediment, because no process of generation tends to an indefinite termination. So, it will reach completion whenever both operations are habitually present in the intellect, by virtue of the fact that it makes all the potential objects of understanding actual, which is the completion of the first operation, and because of the fact that it understands all intelligible objects, both separate and not separate.

3 Now, since according to his opinion the possible intellect cannot understand separate substances, as has already been said, he thought that we will understand separate substances through the habitual understanding, in so far as the agent intellect, which he supposes to be a separate substance, becomes the form of the habitual understanding, and a form for us ourselves. Thus, we will understand through it, as we now understand through the possible intellect; and since it is the function of the power of the agent intellect to make all things which are potentially intelligible to be actually understood, and to understand the separate substances, we will understand separate substances in this life, and also all non-separate intelligible things.

4 So, according to this theory, we reach the knowledge of separate substances through this knowledge which comes from the phantasms, not in the sense that these phantasms and the things understood through them are means for the knowing of separate substances (as is the case with the speculative sciences, according to the position advanced in the preceding chapter), but, rather, in so far as the intelligible species are certain dispositions within us to the kind of form that the agent intellect is. And this is the first point on which these two opinions differ.

5 Hence, when the habitual understanding will be perfected through the production in us by the agent intellect of these intelligible species, the agent intellect will itself become a form for us, as we have said. And he calls this the “acquired understanding,” which, according to their statement, Aristotle says comes from outside. And so, though the ultimate human perfection is not in the speculative sciences, as the preceding opinion claimed, man is disposed through these sciences to the attainment of the ultimate perfection. And this is the second point on which the first and second opinions differ.

6 However, they differ on a third point, because, according to the first opinion, our actual understanding of the agent intellect is the cause of its being united with us. Whereas, according to the second opinion, the converse is the case, for, since it is united with us as a form, we understand it and the other separate substances.

7 Now, these statements are unreasonable. Indeed, the habitual understanding, as also the possible understanding, is supposed by Alexander to be generable and corruptible. Now, the eternal cannot become the form of the generable and corruptible, according to him. For this reason, he claims that the possible intellect, which is united to us as a form, is generable and corruptible, while the agent intellect which is incorruptible is a separate substance. Hence, since the agent intellect, according to Alexander, is supposed to be an eternal separate substance, it will be impossible for the agent intellect to become the form of the habitual intellect.

8 Moreover, the form of the intellect, as intellect, is the intelligible object, just as the form of the sense is the sensible object; indeed, the intellect receives nothing, strictly speaking, except in an intellectual way, just as the sense power only receives sensitively. So, if the agent intellect cannot be an intelligible object through the habitual intellect, then it will be impossible for it to be its form.

9 Besides, we are said to understand something in three ways. First, as we understand by means of the intellect which is the power from which such an operation proceeds; hence, both the intellect itself is said to understand, and also the intellect’s act of understanding becomes our act of understanding. Second, we understand by means of an intelligible species; of course, we are not said to understand by it, in the sense that it understands, but because the intellective power is actually perfected by it, as the visual power is by the species of color. Third, we understand as by an intermediary through the knowing of which we come to the knowledge of something else.

10 So, if at some point man understands separate substances through the agent intellect, this must be explained by one of these ways that have been mentioned. Now, it is not explained by the third way, for Alexander did not admit that either the possible or the habitual intellect understands the agent intellect. Nor, indeed, is it in the second way, for to understand through an intelligible species is the attribute of the intellective power for which this intelligible species is the form.

Now, Alexander did not grant that the possible intellect or the habitual intellect understands separate substances; hence, it is not possible for us to understand separate substances through the agent intellect in the same way that we understand other things through an intelligible species. But, if it is as through an intellective power, then the agent intellect’s act of understanding must be man’s act of understanding. Now, this cannot be so unless one actual being is made from the substance of the agent intellect and the substance of man; indeed, it is impossible if they are two substances with different acts of being, for the operation of the one to be the operation of the other.

Therefore, the agent intellect will be one existing being with man, not one accidentally, for then the agent intellect would be not a substance but an accident, as is the case when a thing that is one being accidentally is made from color and a body. The conclusion remains, then, that the agent intellect is united with man in substantial being. It will be, then, either the human soul or a part of it, and not some separate substance as Alexander claimed. Therefore, it cannot be maintained, on the basis of Alexander’s opinion, that man understands separate substances.

11 Furthermore, if the agent intellect at any time becomes the form of one man, so that he is enabled to understand through it, by the same token it could become the form of another man similarly understanding through it. It will know, then, that two men will understand at the same time through the agent intellect as through their own form. This is so because the agent intellect’s own act of understanding is the act of understanding of the man who understands through it, as was said already. Therefore, there will be the same act of understanding for two intelligent beings; and this is impossible.

12 As a matter of fact, his theory is entirely frivolous. First of all because, whenever the process of generation is perfected in any member of a genus its operation must be perfected, but, of course, according to the manner of its own genus and not according to the mode of a higher genus. For instance, when the generation of air is perfected it has a development and complete movement upward, but not such that it is moved to the place proper to fire. Similarly, when the development of the habitual intellect is completed its operation of understanding will be completed according to its own mode, but not according to the mode whereby separate substances understand, so that it may understand separate substances. Hence, from the generation of the habitual intellect one cannot conclude that man will understand separate substance at some time.

13 Secondly, it is frivolous because the perfection of an operation belongs to the same power to which the operation itself belongs. So, if to understand separate substances be a perfection of the operation of the habitual intellect, it follows that the habitual intellect understands separate substances at some point in time. Now, Alexander does not claim this, for it would follow that to understand separate substances would depend on the speculative sciences which are included under the notion of habitual understanding.

14 Thirdly, it is frivolous because the generation of things that begin to be generated is nearly always brought to completion, since all processes of generating things are due to determinate causes which achieve their effects, either always, or in the majority of cases. If, then, the perfection of action also follows upon the completion of generation, it must also be the case that perfect operation accompanies the generated things, either always, or in the majority of cases. Now, the actual understanding of separate substances is not achieved by those who apply themselves to the development of habitual understanding, either in most cases or always; on the contrary, no man has openly declared that be had achieved this perfection. Therefore, the perfection of the operation of habitual understanding does not consist in the actual understanding of separate substances.

August 4, 2018 | 5 Comments

Insanity & Doom Update XLVI

A special all-reader-contribution edition of Doom!

Item WeWork will stop serving meat at company events in effort to reduce environmental impact (Thanks to Sheri for the link.)

The co-working startup WeWork says it will stop serving meat at company events in an effort to reduce its environmental impact.

The firm, which has shared workspace locations in 22 countries, informed employees in an email last week that in addition to not serving meat, it also will not reimburse workers for meals with meat.

We should encourage the company’s leaders to reduce their “impact” to zero—the true minimum. Barring that, we should encourage them to eat nothing but soy. Which eventually will have the same effect.

Item Why We Lie: The Science Behind Our Deceptive Ways (Thanks to Jim Fedako for the link.)

While parents often find their children’s lies troubling—for they signal the beginning of a loss of innocence—Kang Lee, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, sees the emergence of the behavior in toddlers as a reassuring sign that their cognitive growth is on track. What drives the increase in lying sophistication is the development of a child’s ability to put himself or herself in someone else’s shoes.

Known as theory of mind, this is the facility we acquire for understanding the beliefs, intentions, and knowledge of others. Also fundamental to lying is the brain’s executive function: the abilities required for planning, attention, and self-control. The two-year-olds who lied in Lee’s experiments performed better on tests of theory of mind and executive function than those who didn’t. Even at 16, kids who were proficient liars outperformed poor liars.

If this is so, then the best among us must be politicians, journalists, used car salesmen, and lawyers.

Item Children at ‘Commie Camp’ design dozens of Antifa flags, learn about ‘social justice’ (Thanks to Dave Legates for the link.)

Children attending a social justice-themed camp in Massachusetts — which has been dubbed the “Commie Camp” — designed their own Antifa flags this week, pictures posted to social media show.

Kids at Camp Kinderland in Tolland, Massachusetts, which bills itself as the “summer camp with a conscience,” designed nearly 50 Antifa flags, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported.

Flags are a good start. But parents should be advised the Advanced Gulag Training, Denouncing of Colleagues, and How To Form an Efficient Execution Squad hideaway at the end of the summer might lead to injury or to permanently missing children.

Item U. of Oklahoma Official Hired in Wake of Racist Fraternity Chant Says He Was Forced Out (Thanks to Kent Clizbe for the link.)

A vice president at the University of Oklahoma who says he was forced to resign after being accused of improperly using a state vehicle for personal reasons denied the charge on Thursday. The real reason Jabar Shumate contends he was forced out involved his opposition to a fraternity whose racist chant three years ago plunged the university into turmoil and led to the creation of his position…

On Wednesday, Shumate held a news conference with his lawyer, Lindsey Mulinix-Ewert, to say that the university was going to make false accusations against him to justify what he called his “high-tech lynching.” He had been given an ultimatum, he said: resign or be fired…

A report on the audit, released by the university in response to media inquiries on Thursday, found that Shumate had violated a state law that prohibits employees from making personal use of state vehicles, including parking overnight at their homes. The Tahoe was parked outside his home, in Norman, Okla., 124 times between July 2017 and March 2018, the audit found. He also used it for personal trips to Tulsa, where he formerly lived, and made false travel-expense claims, the report said.

But, hey, he might as well try screaming “Racism!” It nearly always works at universities. Since our goal here at WMBriggs.com is to see the universities purged so that they can be rebuilt, I hope Jabar Shumate gets away with it. And not only gets away with it, but forces the university to give him a free truck, lifetime gas included, so that he can patrol the State for “racists”.