Thursday, October 25, 2007

Separating the men from the boys

A rare example of a grown-up voice in today's media:

Cardinal Pell replied scathingly that church leaders should be allergic to nonsense. "My task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people's minds and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes," he said.

And what precipitated this outburst of common sense?
Canberra Bishop George Browning, the Anglican Church's global environmental chief said Cardinal Pell was out of step with his own church and made no sense on global warming.

Heaven forbid - "out of step"! The cardinal* vice of the post-modern Christian!

Archbishop Pell recently applied a tincture of scientific scepticism to Browning's pet cause - global warming - and has even questioned the motives of the statist quasi-moralists who have crowded into it.
"Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don't need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness," he [Cardinal Pell] said.

Like all paganism, the pagan cult of environmentalism is ultimately motivated by fear and the spirit of slaves, as its consistent tone of panic and irrationalism ("act now, think later") shows. Its purpose is to create an environment where clear thought and open discussion is impossible, and to achieve a political majority that can trump rational argument.

Browning's strategy of harnessing Christian faith to this unequal partner is bound to end in tears. The spirit of slaves and a spirit of sons can have nothing to do with each other, and sooner or later we must choose.

If there is a global warming problem (and that still is an 'if', because surveys of climate scientists show a diversity of views on the subject) we will face the challenge far more effectively if we employ Cardinal Pell's cool scepticism than if we succumb to Bishop Browning's agitprop.

Who do we have more confidence in: the man or the boy?

* Yes, pun intended. Sorry.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Heroic virtue

Virtue is purchased cheap these days:

"ONE day each year Rupert Murdoch stands before an auditorium filled with shareholders of his global media company, News Corporation.

In the past he has received a frosty reception with complaints about an underperforming share price, anti-takeover poison pills, nepotism and questionable investments.

It was not so chilly today......

Even a Franciscan monk had nice things to say about the mogul. The monk, Father Michael Crosby, who in the past has taken American entertainment corporations to task for depicting smoking in movies they produce, congratulated News Corp's movie studio, Twentieth Century Fox, for its impressive anti-smoking policy in its films. "

I suppose that discouraging smoking isn't a bad thing. But don't we have the right to expect a little more from someone receiving the praise of a follower of St Francis? Perhaps Rupert might strip stark naked and hand his clothes back to his shareholders...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Welcoming the Stranger

The announcement that the Government will cut the Sudanese refugee intake this year has precipitated a storm of protest and counter-protest. This has got me thinking about the Government's rights (and responsibilities) in this vexed area.

On one hand, we have those who draw on the scriptural admonition to welcome the stranger in our midst. On the other, we have those who argue that "we should determine who comes here".

The contest is not a simple one between a scriptural and a worldly principle. Those who argue that we should control our immigration also have scriptural support, especially St Paul's acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the use of the "sword" by the state. This includes border control. The authority of the state is ordained by God, and what exists legitimately can be exercised legitimately.

Of course, it can also be exercised illegitimately. I would place the Pacific Solution in this category. Other means to control people smuggling should have been used. But there is nothing inherently wrong with the Government varying the refugee intake according to Australia's capacity to integrate new arrivals. The strain that is placed on existing communities is a legitimate state concern, and this cannot always be addressed with extra financial resources. This is not prima facie evidence of racism.

I am not offering an analysis here, but I do think that the whole scriptural and traditional resource of the Church should be brought to bear on the issue, not just single proof-texts. It is too simple to insist only that we have a duty of hospitality - those with secular authority have other issues to consider as well, and have the responsibility to do so.

So is Kevin Andrews a racist? I don't have a clue. But I have one question for him. Why was this particular change to the refugee intake announced so publicly, when others have not been? And why now? Even if a policy is legitimate, the announcement may have had other purposes. I hope it did not.

We've made a few... changes

After a brief fifteen minutes of fame, the fuss over Catholica's petition to reconsider the issue of married and female priests has died down. Despite a manful effort by the usual suspects, it now seems unlikely that the Australian Church is the tinderbox of radical reform some would hope, and no wave of reforming zeal will sweep over it. Thank God.

I don't spend much time responding to such interventions. Life is too short to waste. But I cannot help but notice what a tame affair these reforms always are, and how predictable. All will be well, we are told, as long as priests are ladies, and priests get laid. Two nostrums that have worked so wonderfully in the mainline Protestant churches, which will have withered by the end of this century.

There are around 50 applications for the newly-instituted diaconate in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Fifty! We have an abundance of pastoral resources, if we would only use them.

On the other hand, if we're going to sell out to the prevailing culture, let's do it properly. It's about time these amateurs stood aside for the professionals...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"It cries, because it doesn't know what is it all for..."

Helium gas is great fun at parties. Anyone can do the Donald Duck voice.

But at a temperature of -271C, helium undergoes a strange transformation, turning into helium II, a "superfluid".

If ordinary helium were a light beam, then helium II would be a laser. The helium atoms "line up" in a single quantum state, eliminating all viscosity. It can therefore flow through the smallest holes.

Even odder, it will not stay inside its vessel. It climbs the side of the jar, and "tears" of helium II flow down the outside.

This video of helium II experiments is in Polish, with rather off-beat English subtitles. It concludes:

"It cries, because it doesn't know what is it all for...".

For some reason, I find this strangely moving . I don't know why.