Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bring on the dancing Bulls...

The Big East baseball tournament semi-final game between the Connecticut Huskies and South Florida Bulls was interrupted by a 5 hour rain delay. Unable to determine the winner on the field, the two teams chose the next logical mode of competition: a dance-off.

Can't wait to see the Yankees and Red Sox try this....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Some Questions for Father Jenkins

Last Wednesday, Father Jenkins, the President of the University of Notre Dame, sent an email to students and alumni. Therein, he expressed his congratulations to the graduating class for their accomplishments and emphasized that this commencement is their day. I could not agree more, and it is a shame that Father Jenkins’ decision to offer an honorary degree to the most pro-abortion U.S. President in history will likely overshadow their graduation day.

Father Jenkins reiterated his statement that Notre Dame is honoring Barack Obama for his accomplishments and positions on issues unrelated to abortion. This list of accomplishments somehow escaped the notice of the faculty of Arizona State University who refused to offer Obama an honorary degree precisely because the President has yet to accomplish much this early in his Administration. It seems Notre Dame has lower standards than ASU for awarding honorary degrees. It leads me to question if Notre Dame has any standards at all.

In that vein, I have a few questions for Father Jenkins. Is there any position a Notre Dame Commencement speaker could hold which, despite his or her other laudable accomplishments, would disqualify him or her from receiving an honorary degree? For example, would a proponent of eugenics, a denier of the holocaust, a white supremacist, an advocate of destructive medical experimentation on human beings or a suborder of genocide be denied an honorary degree from Notre Dame?  

If there exists some position so diametrically opposed to fundamental Catholic moral teaching so as to disqualify an otherwise worthy candidate from receiving honorary degree, then why is that position worse than ushering in an unprecedented expansion of legal protection and federal funding for the legalized murder of millions of innocent children?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Well, you know: Bull. Horns.

A good portion of the 2 or 3 readers of this blog may wonder "Why doesn’t Jerry write more often, to better share his insight, brilliance, and humor – not to mention his Christ-like humility – with the world?"

Admit it.  You’ve wondered it.

The answer is that I do a decent amount of writing away from the comfy confines of Tom and Jerry: in emails, but also often in comment threads of other folks’ blogs.  I usually post under the nom de plume GeronimoRumplestiltskin, but occasionally post under my real name.  Such an occurrence happened over the last couple of days, so I thought I would reproduce it here, so that you, dear readers, can see that I don’t spend all of my non-"Writing-For-Tom and Jerry" time at home merely annoying my wife.

In one of the many online articles in regards to the Obama-Notre Dame episode over the last two months, First Things editor Joseph Bottum reflects on what President Obama’s commencement appearance at Notre Dame means in regards to Catholic culture in America.  Georgetown’s Patrick Deneen, the Associate Professor of Government & Founding Director of the Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy, thoughtfully offers his assessment on his blog in the way of reply.  In the comments thread of Deneen’s post was this missive:

Bill Bruehl said...

Your analysis is compelling.  Catholics have melted away into the general secular culture which is not only American but European as well.  The question is "why?"

I will offer two reasons based on my own experience.  When I left 12 years of Catholic school in Chester PA in 1949, I left the church.  I wasn't capable at first of understanding why I left.  It took me years to figure that out.  Now at age 77 I understand why the church ceased to command my respect and loyalty.

The first reason is to be found in the hierarchy, its demand for obedience.  Secondly, the church clings to absurd literalism in its dogma and imagery.  It is patently absurd for educated human beings - or beings being educated as I was - to believe LITERALLY in dogmas like the Assumption or the Resurrection or Transubstantiation.  These are silly supernatural superstitions that contain a numinous power of enormous importance ONLY when understood as metaphors, but no, the hierarchy cannot believe we simple minded foolish humans can deal with anything but silly superstition.

Unchurched spirituality, on the other hand, the search for a meaningful numinous experience is on the rise.  It takes many forms, some as silly as literalism, but others like the thinking of Bishop Spong or Matthew Fox profoundly challenge the ever more conservative orthodoxy now ruling the Roman Church.  A new reformation is needed that will accept the revelations of science in the 21st century.

Such "I'm too educated/intelligent to believe in [insert Catholic dogma here]" musings really get under my skin for some reason; perhaps it is due to the fact that those making them rather unanimously proceed to champion laughably specious alternatives to such belief.  I picked up my rhetorical shillelagh and waded into battle:

Jerry Beckett said...

Gee, I don't know, Mr. Bruehl, I find it patently absurd for educated human beings - or beings who are as impressed with their own level of education to the extent that you are - to find either the sloppy thinking and disingenuous exegesis of Bishop Spong, or the loopy 'Creation Spirituality' of Matthew Fox, to be a "profound challenge" to the Roman Catholic Church.  Also, I find it patently absurd that such a person could actually believe that 'science' will somehow disprove the historicity of supernatural events: perhaps it is not the Church that needs a better understanding of what modern science has to say.

I considered mentioning that, for a fellow who claims that he has no respect or loyalty for the Church, he can’t seem to keep it out of his mind for very long: on his listing on his webpage of the 8 full length plays he has written, 4 of them feature the ignorant, repressive clergyman as a main character.  Though it brought to mind Chesterton’s observation that "The enemies of religion cannot leave it alone.  They laboriously attempt to smash religion.  They cannot smash religion, but they do smash everything else.", I left it out.

Mr. Bruehl shot back:

Bill Bruehl said...

Jerry, it may seem to some that the only way to defend their faith in the church is to launch ad hominem attacks.  I don't think so.  I think the Church can and will change.  The Magisteria is not unchanging (vide Galileo).  So the more Catholics think for themselves and demand that the hierarchy listen, the stronger will be both their faith and their church.  The time is past to have the hierarchy think for you.  You are not a lamb, a sheep.  Can you see that?

Besides invoking Galileo in a manner that signaled he has embraced the Enlightenment myth about the Galileo affair, not to mention his gaffe in equating the judgments of the Inquisition with the teaching office of the Magisterium, Mr. Bruehl commits the common error of assuming that those who hold an orthodox belief do so out of ignorance, laziness, and a lack of intellectual rigor.  I took him to task for this thusly:

Jerry Beckett said...

Mr. Bruehl:

Thank you for your humorous reply.  I appreciate the irony you displayed when you

1) wrote of my ilk that "the only way to defend their faith in the church is to launch ad hominem attacks"

2) then, a mere 6 sentences later, insinuate that I, in my belief, am a "sheep".

I also see you chose to continue with your "more intellectual than thou" theme in the thrust of your reply: that I let the hierarchy do my thinking for me, while you think for yourself.  What evidence do you have for this charge?  Oh, right, because I fail to reject the historicity of the Resurrection and Assumption (among other dogma) and be dazzled by the comically specious ramblings of the likes of Spong and Fox, as you have.  Refraining to inquire whether my belief could possibly be due to, say, my own 20+ years of reading, questioning, and reflection, you settle right into your comfortable and rather self-flattering conclusion: since I don't think like you, I therefore do not think for myself.

This is what you consider an intellectually sound line of argument?

Good grief.

When I close a comment addressed to someone by quoting the great theologian Charlie Brown, I’ve pretty much decided not to waste any more energy on him.  Anyway, I’m sure Mr. Bruehl has more plays starring tiredly stereotypical repressive clergy to write.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Two Weeks In

As Tom mentioned a couple of posts ago, Lynda gave birth to our daughter, Maria Rosa Guadalupe, at 1:38pm on Thursday, April 30th.  Having Maria born in April makes her birthstone a diamond, which I’m sure she’ll be happy about when she gets older.

Thanks to the wonderfulness that is an epidural, Lynda didn’t experience much pain during the delivery.  I, however, am scarred for life.  Though I knew I was to be in the room for the delivery, I had not intended to actually watch the baby come out of the, um, point of exit.  However, given the setup of the delivery room, it would have been difficult not to, and my first glance at the action going on at the "point of exit" was, unfortunately, followed by many more.  It was like in 2003 when the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out: I didn’t really want to see it, but there I was the day it came out watching the blood-and-bodily-fluids flow.  Through the entire delivery, two thoughts competed for dominance in my mind:

1.  This is pretty amazing.
2.  I am never having sex again.

Maria didn’t cry when she finally came all the way out, nor when I cut the cord, nor when they put her on this little table by Lynda’s bed to clean her off.  However, while the nurse was cleaning her off, Maria opened her eyes for the first time and saw my face smiling down at her.  She then let out a loud cry.  Having spent a lifetime of seeing females cry when they first see my face, my feelings weren’t hurt.

The next day, we brought her home, and the "caring for and raising the child" phase began.  In the months leading up to giving birth, Lynda had amassed a veritable stockpile of books that proclaimed themselves essential for guiding us in giving our child the necessary advantages that will be needed to succeed in this increasingly competitive society.  You’ve probably seen a few of these titles:

The Brightest Kid On The Block

Baby Prodigy: A Guide To Raising A Smarter, Happier Baby

Raising Your Kid To Be Such A !#@$!-ing Genius That People Will Never Believe She’s Yours

It’s all very heady stuff, with the ‘latest’ techniques based on the ‘latest’ research.  You can’t help coming away from reading any or all of these without thinking "Apparently, for 10,000 some odd years, parents must have been colossal morons."  Without these books, how did parents ever raise kids who could think at a level beyond that of a house plant?

During the first week, however, all this knowledge was about as useful as a solar-powered flashlight.  For the first 7 days she was home, I would have been OK with Maria eventually dropping out of community college to spend more time smoking the reefer if she could go one day without wailing like she needs a young priest and an old priest through each and every minute that she doesn’t have a bottle in her mouth.

Luckily, on the 8th day the pediatrician recommended Mylicon, which apparently has reduced the gas that was the major cause of Maria’s discomfort.  The reduction in the decibel level at home has served to soothe the anxiety of both Lynda and I to such a degree that we have decided to name our next child Mylicon.

So into our routine we go.  I’ll post some pictures in the next couple of days.  Unfortunately, early indications are that she will look more like me than Lynda: she has pale skin rather than Lynda’s darker shade, and possibly blue eyes (it’s kind of hard to tell what color her eyes are, actually).  She does have black hair, though, so there’s still hope that she’ll look like her mom.  A lifetime spent looking like me would be too cruel a fate for such a precious daughter.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

ND Response

The students of Notre Dame have organized a response to Father Jenkins' ill-conceived decision to grant Barack Obama an honorary degree.  These students love Notre Dame and plan respectful protestest with a goal of steering the University back to a Catholic course.  I fully support their efforts.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Congratulations Jerry and Linda

on the birth of a healthy baby girl!

Notre Dame, My Mother

Amid the scadal surrounding Notre Dame, First Things posted this moving essay about choosing life.  My favorite quote:

Of all women, Our Lady could surely feel pity for an unplanned pregnancy.