Monday, August 21, 2017

Red Death at her Loom

Here's a video Bear made of his driver, bodyguard, factotum and lawfully wedded wife, Red Death, at her new loom. It all looks crazy hard to me.

So, we can officially go from animal to thread (by spinning) to cloth (by weaving) to clothing, by sewing.

Bear could not be more proud of his lovely red haired (and clever!) wife. Hope you enjoy.

Live Blogging Eclipse from the Best Seats in the House. WOW!

2 min 40 s totality in Bear's back yard.

Bear's live Tweets from the eclipse.

12:32 p.m. (all times CST) Intermittent clouds interfering with eclipse watching. Sizable bite out of disk when visible. Sky Bear eats the Sun! Send Bear salmon!

12:45 Now a grin with imaginary nose at 2 o'clock. Quality of light is different, sharper, animals oblivious.

12:47 Curious how moon is exact size and distance to obscure sun except corona, permitting scientific discovery.

12:59 Rooster crowing now. Bringing the hens in. Goats unconcerned.

1:05 20 min to totality. Amazing how light it is with only a sliver of sun. Even so, visibly darker. Chickens didn't lay today. In evening mode.

Our Eclipse Model, Red Death. Notice how green the grass is.

1:12 Now suddenly cooler and dimmer. Just a tiny sliver. Goats heading into barn for bed. 8 min to go.

She's starting to fade.

1:14 No long rays of red like sunset. Greens still green, just weirdly dim. Very eerie now. 4 min to totality.

You can barely see her. Getting dark and cool fast

1:22 Now. Spectacular corona goats run to barn cicadas... Amazing amazing amazing! (Note, the corona was so much more than Bear had expected. It was flashing out in glorious white angel wings, with a bright white ring around a very, very black disk. What a sight!)

You can barely see her now. It is  DARK as night!

Just. Wow. (Photo Arthur Capps)

1:23 And suddenly, LIGHT!!! WOW!


How will the Bear behave during
the Eclipse? Bear will report on
Eclipses have strange effects on animals, as is well known.

The Bear's email box has been flooded with thousands of emails demanding to know where the Bear went, why can't they see the Bear, what's wrong with the Bear, and so forth.

Well, perhaps not thousands, but there have been more than one, after which Bear math gets pretty fuzzy.

The Bear will be the Bear, however Bearish that may be. There has been a bit of confusion about that, but it has been resolved.

Gingrrr. Just because.
There are few people who are in the position of making someone's fondest dream come true. (Such as Ginger Rogers circa 1930.) The Bear admires his publisher and values his friendship with them.

The excitement of seeing one's first novel in print as a weighty tome between two slick covers is unlike any other.

Also, it has come to Bear's attention that some Woodland Creatures have not purchased their copy of Judging Angels. Perhaps you are on the periphery of the Woodlands, the unemployed youth, or former arms dealers who have gone straight and have not yet found a job that makes use of your talents, and cannot afford the $29.99 price tag, or even the $9.99 Kindle version. So, the Bear is going to give some away.

That's right. FREE! All you have to do is submit in the COMMENT BOX what you like best about St. Corbinian's Bear's Ephemeris. (Please, let's not be slackers and say things like "the Bear, of course!")

Three lucky winners, chosen by the Bear in an exercise of his benevolent and unfathomable ursine will, shall receive an autographed, trade paperback copy of Judging Angels FREE, and the Bear will even throw in shipping. Winners will need to provide a physical address and any special instructions for the autograph in an email to with the subject line: CONTEST WINNER.

Perhaps, after the Bear has reestablished his reputation as the most prolific one-Bear third-tier Catholic blogger in history, some of his Woodland friends will see fit to reinstate their vital shipments of salmon.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Is it Time for the Post-Rational Catholic Church?

The Rational Catholic Church

Is the intellectual rigor
of St. Thomas Aquinas
a relic that should be
quietly retired in our age?
Is the Catholic Faith rational? It has always been considered to be rational, with one or two exceptions by theologians who only prove the rule. It is one of the things that sets it apart from other religions. "Fideism" (or "faith alone" as the foundation for religion) has been a dirty word in the Catholic Church. She has gloried in the rigorous logic of St. Thomas Aquinas and other Doctors of the Church and leading thinkers.

The Church may (and does) contain "mysteries." These transcend the limits of rational thought, however, they do not defeat it. One may only go so far with the mystery of the Holy Trinity, but it is far enough to bring one's intellect into an appreciation of it, if not a comprehension of it.

The Church has always invited Faithful to enter into the riches of her teaching with their baptized intellects. The "check your brain at the door" sign was not often seen on Church churches.

Another long article. The Bear seems to see things with clarity now. Those who think only of Pope Francis have picked out one plank in the tornado. As the West changes, so change the institutions of the West, and the Church has not been immune. And, to paraphrase Steely Dan, "I cried when I wrote this piece - shoot me if I do not cease."

Are We in the Post-Rational Church?

The Bear hopes no one has beat him to that phrase, "Post-Rational Church." It could catch on, don't you think? It has a quasi-scholarly ring to it, doesn't it? Those are words one can easily imagine as the title of some influential book: "Being Catholic in the Post-Rational Church."

Let the Bear state up front that his use of the term is ambivalent. It is supposed to be accurate and descriptive, not polemical. And, as you shall see, the Bear is not certain it can be avoided without the Church remaining ossified in the past. At least, he can see how men of good will might reach that conclusion.

What would be the characteristics of the Post-Rational Church? First of all, it would thrive in a Western culture that no longer put put very much importance on thinking. It would appeal to people who reduced complex issues to agitprop fit for Facebook, and defined themselves with a handful of simple and well-known labels.

Shameful agitprop by Bear, who identifies himself as
"Bear." "Apex Predator." "Lepanto Catholic."

The Post-Rational Church would explain nothing, or at least nothing clearly. The direct and short encyclicals of the past would be replaced by ghost-written novel-length tomes no would would want to read.

Changes would be imposed without comment, on the basis of naked authority, possibly with a fig leaf from some modern writing. Perhaps Teilhard de Chardin or Valentin Tomberg (Meditations on the Tarot was big in Catholic circles at one time - Bear has read it more than once and it is a fascinating presentation of the French stream of Western Occultism. Oh, and heretical, if one is into rational categories like that.)

Who knows what strange flowers may bloom as the creepers of Post-Rationalism overgrow the Church?

The Curious Case of the Catholic Church's Love Affair with Occultist
Valentin Tomberg.

Back in the Rational Church: Mirari Vos in 1832

See. for example Mirari Vos, written by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832. It is easy to read the whole thing in a sitting, since it is quite brief and clear as a bell. (Feel free to skip the quotes, if you are already convinced popes taught the opposite of what the Church now teaches.) Note this from Paragraph 7 about changing doctrines:

Indeed you will accomplish this perfectly if, as the duty of your office demands, you attend to yourselves and to doctrine and meditate on these words: “the universal Church is affected by any and every novelty”[5] and the admonition of Pope Agatho: “nothing of the things appointed ought to be diminished; nothing changed; nothing added; but they must be preserved both as regards expression and meaning.”[6] Therefore may the unity which is built upon the See of Peter as on a sure foundation stand firm. May it be for all a wall and a security, a safe port, and a treasury of countless blessings.

There is also this, about marriage, in Paragraph 12:

Now the honorable marriage of Christians, which Paul calls “a great sacrament in Christ and the Church,”[15] demands our shared concern lest anything contrary to its sanctity and indissolubility is proposed... However, troublesome efforts against this sacrament still continue to be made. The people therefore must be zealously taught that a marriage rightly entered upon cannot be dissolved; for those joined in matrimony God has ordained a perpetual companionship for life and a knot of necessity which cannot be loosed except by death. Recalling that matrimony is a sacrament and therefore subject to the Church, let them consider and observe the laws of the Church concerning it. Let them take care lest for any reason they permit that which is an obstruction to the teachings of the canons and the decrees of the councils.

Finally, in Paragraph 13 indifferentism is harshly condemed; it is the old word for today's much-beloved ecumenism. (It just doesn't seem proper to use the word "ecumenism" without decorating it with flowers. It brings out the schoolgirl in the old Bear. Not in Pope Gregory, though.)

Bear's mandatory bouquet
to Ecumenism.
Now We consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. Surely, in so clear a matter, you will drive this deadly error far from the people committed to your care. With the admonition of the apostle that “there is one God, one faith, one baptism”[16] may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that “those who are not with Christ are against Him,”[17] and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore “without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate.”[18] Let them hear Jerome who, while the Church was torn into three parts by schism, tells us that whenever someone tried to persuade him to join his group he always exclaimed: “He who is for the See of Peter is for me.”[19] A schismatic flatters himself falsely if he asserts that he, too, has been washed in the waters of regeneration. Indeed Augustine would reply to such a man: “The branch has the same form when it has been cut off from the vine; but of what profit for it is the form, if it does not live from the root?”

Note the continual appeal to previous authority, and the continuity Pope Gregory assumes. Note also
that his is a papal encyclical that specifically condemns novelty, any changes to the teaching of the Church on marriage, and "indifferentism." Now, was he a pope? Was he protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching error? Is what he says part of an identifiable continuous legacy of truth possessed by the Catholic Church?

Pope Francis and Bishop Jackelen in common worship
to celebrate Reformation in Lund, Sweden.

And, the most important question for us, does the Church today teach the very same? If it has changed, has it offered a rational explanation, good, bad, or indifferent?

People who ask questions like this are troublemakers. Only troublemakers would dredge up some 150-year-old encyclical to try to embarrass Pope Francis. Evidence and intellect have no place in the Post-Rational Church. The only answer fit for grumblers is silence.

The Methods of the Post-Rational Church

A Post-Rational Church could hardly abrogate the teachings of the past, for they are, after all, just as divinely-protected as the latest novelties. It could, however, allow disfavored relics to fall into disuetude. They would not be invoked or mentioned. If anyone brought them up, clerics would scratch their chins and look blank, then launch into the new view on that topic in the spirit of, "We have always been at war with Eastasia."

Eventually, such disfavored relics would become embarrassments. Their mention would produce smirks and eye-rolls. And yet, they would exist just as infallibly as any other dogma.

There is a wonderful quote by Chesterton about belonging to a Church 2000 years behind the times and gloriously unconcerned, versus belonging to a Church that is always puffing up ten minutes late, but the Bear could not easily find the quote with his slipshod research, so you'll just have to trust the Bear. There is something ridiculous about the image, and even filtered through a Bear's faulty memory, it retains its Chestertonian truth and power. (Probably from Everlasting Man, or Heretics.)

The Post-Rational Church would be easily captured by the zeitgeist and cultural fads, and would lend its credibility to the popular politically-left scientific theories of the day. It would be attracted to Leftism in a Post-Rational age because of the superficial resemblances between stated Leftist goals and the Gospel. That, and O'Sullivan's law: any institution that is not deliberately of the Right, will eventually become Leftist. For what it is worth, the Bear believes the institutional Church has turned to the Left, and will not change direction. He offers only one comment on that, because human politics are boring to Bears.

Questions of religion are growing more irrelevant among Westerners every year. The Church may try to maintain ties and relevance by increasing its interest in popularly worldly controversies.

But Bear does wonder why the Post-Rational Church should be more concerned about our temporary climate than the extremes of climate some souls are likely to experience when they die. "Saints preserve us!" the Post-Rational Church might cry, lest it be caught on the wrong side of any popular issue.

And if malcontents point to apparent conflicts, they would be met with the maddening certainty of phrases like, "One must never criticize the Pope; one must believe the Pope. The Church says so. If Vatican II documents are too hard for you to make sense of, you must trust the Church in her interpretation. There is no conflict. To question, is to put yourself outside of the charmed circle of the Church."

These are the sort of answers to sincere questions that surprise the Bear coming from the Church. The bland insistence on blind obedience just sounds odd coming from the mouth of the Church who declared St. Thomas Aquinas its Doctor. The Church would, once upon a time, have said, "I am so glad you are interested in this. Come, let us walk together, and I will happily answer your questions. You may not understand all of them right now, because reality can be frustrating at times, but you will profit from the time, I promise."

Since You Asked, Vatican II - One More Look

And yet, here we have long, gaseous compromise documents (see e.g. The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber and the documents themselves) that simply defy certain understanding. ("Subsistit in," anybody?) Yes, Lumen Gentium is one of them. So, do people go to Heaven through the Catholic Church, or does everybody get a free ride, and not even in a Christian way? And, if the rule has changed, now, since the old Tridentine days, why the "stinger" at the end, that some people might be deceived and go to Hell after all?

What the Hell does that mean? One may or may not be saved outside of belonging to the identifiable Church as constituted in society, but who's to say it's not bigger and more mysterious than it appears to be? So, sure, anybody can be saved, even atheists, but, then again, some might be deceived and go to Hell. ("Reasonable hope nobody will, though, just sayin'" pipes up Bishop Barron.)

That is the problem with compromise documents. They send inconsistent messages from which one may tendentiously draw this quote or that to support one's position. As a practical guide, however, after all the folderol, a soul remains in ignorance about his chances of salvation. The only people who seem Hellbound for certain are lapsed Catholics!

The gushing language of indifferentism, or the deadly Tridentine viper, after all. There was a reason the Council of Trent repeated brief anathema after anathema, and didn't send gooey love letters marked SWAK to the world. It may not be pretty, but at least an anathema is pretty clear. "Do X, and you are cursed, and going to Hell. Next!"

This is not to say anyone might not confidently make an explanation of Lumen Gentium. Or that another might just as confidently make a different explanation. The Bear does have some experience arguing fine points of complex legal reasoning, after all.

The Post-Rational Church in Action: The New Jew View

As the 50th anniversary of Vatican II document Nostrae Aetatae drew nigh, the Vatican panicked. They hadn't done anything new for Jews in five decades! So, they put together a photo-op with a very official-looking document and (pretending to speak as the Church) somebody said that Jews are good to go to Heaven by means of a special way that doesn't involve Jesus. Or, if it does, is in some mysterious way such as He might as well not be needed.

You can read about the New Jew View, just in time for the fiftieth anniversary. This was hailed as a significant accomplishment, as if, as non-magisterial, it resolved anything concerning Jews. The ADL praised it by saying, "Church admits it needs Jews, Jews do not need Church." And all concerned slapped each other on their backs, and felt warm, and were relieved that the fiftieth anniversary of Nostrae Aetatae was met with the historic admission that Jews do not need Jesus after all. Not editorials starting: "It has been 50 years since the Catholic Church promised to turn its back on a long and bloody history of antisemitism and recognize Judaism as a legitimate religion, but..."

It worked so well that it is a model for all sorts of "outreach" and ecumenical and interfaith works. Don't kill the buzz of the The Luther Festival. (Still time to catch the October wind-up!)

Bear gets confused by things like this. If the New Jew View is not the teaching of the Church, why make a big whoop-de-doo about something, then later say, "Um, no, while we wanted it to look as official as possible, it's really a load of bush-wah. Come on, Bear, you of all Bears pretend not to recognize public relations when you see it?"

One must also question the very concept of "magisterium" in a Post-Rational Church. Does it really play a role once the nitpicking intellect is banished? Who cares what you call it? It was a great day, and everybody can now think about Catholic-Jewish relations more positively, and twenty years from now, it will be quoted in an encyclical anyway.

Yes, Bear recognizes PR. He is just surprised when the Church uses it to mislead people. He supposes, though, he is over-thinking the whole matter in the Post-Rational Church. A warn "feeling" has been generated. "Ancient injuries" have been acknowledged. Not everything has to be "rational," Bear. Not everything has to be written down in ink in some Big Book of Truth. Just roll with it, Bear. It's the way we do things now.

A Post-Rational Pope?

Note that Bear has never said Pope is not Pope or Church is not Church. He has not denied Vatican II, which managed to do some very clear and helpful things when it did not let itself become embroiled in politics. The Bear thinks of the revision of the Liturgy of the Hours as a welcome change. And, whether you want to call it "the media council," as poor, confused, old Pope Benedict did (as a peritus, perhaps he felt he bore some responsibility) or "the spirit of Vatican II," it is a plain fact that the sledgehammers were put to the altar rails before the ink dried, and everything changed, practically overnight, as many still living can remember.

So many changes shrugged off now, as "excesses of the spirit of Vatican II," as if that somehow explained something. But it is all the explanation you're likely to get from the Post-Vatican-II-Post-Rational-Church.

Pope Francis is a wonderful example of the Post-Rational Church. 

While the science is controversial, and the politics decidedly Leftist, the Pope seems pretty firmly convinced on Global Warming, and wants Catholics to be, too. Is this an example of the Ordinary Magisterium at work in the Post-Rational Church? If not, why not? Does that question not even arise, and we are to pay attention in any case because Francis, the Pope, said it? The Bear thinks the difference between magisterial and non-magisterial was pretty important in the Rational Church, but can see why it doesn't matter in the Post-Rational Church.

Turn the foot-washing ceremony on Holy Thursday into a series of "messages" without explanation? Of course! 

Pope Francis speaks much, and uses every means the modern world makes available to him. We come away with an impression, and a buzzword or two. Periphery. Arms dealers. Polyhedron. You know them all. 

And yet, has he ever connected the dots on an issue so important to his ordinary magisterium as "arms dealing?" The answer is, "no." But in a Post-Rational Church, the intellect must starve so faith can feast and we must agree without the need for understanding. Yes, arms dealing is bad. It does hurt people. Bear is against it. Whatever it means. Small arms smuggled to fuel African civil wars? The latest U.S. aircraft carrier? Those bastards who build the British nuclear sub that sank the General Belgrano during the war over the Malvinas (Falkland Islands to the rest of the world)? Bear is not sure.

On more substantive matters of the faith, the dubia is forgotten somewhere, day 335 since its submission, a relic of the Rational Church that once welcomed and gladly provided answers. Bear must laugh. They don't understand why the dubia has no more relevance to the Post-Rational Church than this ephemeris. "You ask for a clarification of Amorous Laetitia? I'm not quite sure I understand, but how quaint."

Where are the Voices Who Respect the Truth and the Laity?

Where, then is the voice saying, "Shh, lambs, this may look confusing, but allow me to explain it and I'm sure your hearts will be at ease once you understand what Pope Francis said and how it is being accomplished in different parts of the world."

Or, where is the voice saying, "The Church used to teach a lot of things according to the circumstances of her day. Circumstances change. Problems change. Our understanding of human nature improves. Pope Francis is merely leading his sheep to new pastures because that is where they will best thrive as sheep of today."

Instead, the Pope is merely one voice, and the voices of Rome roar through the media like the sound of mighty waters. The only speakers who are checked are those who try to drag the Rational Church back onto the stage.

The Bear predicts if only clear and logical explanations would be provided for changes, troublemakers like the Bear would clap their hands, and Catholic blogdom would practically vanish. Blogs are no more than the last stand of reason in a Post-Rational Church. This ephemeris, and all those like it, are the past, stuck in the Rational Church of Pope Gregory. They will not survive their writers. A new West demands a New Church.

A Post-Rational Church for a Post-Rational Age?

Post-Rational Bear
Performance Art.
The Bear does have to admit that this does not seem to be an age of reason. Everybody can limit their reading to congenial sources. There is a lot of outrage and anger and hurt. Perhaps we have entered a Post-Rational Age in the West. The Bear would not be surprised. We have all seen how arguments get nowhere online. Everybody has already made up his or her mind. Bear suspects we have collectively ruined our organs of intellect. It makes a certain sense that an age such as ours demands the bold gesture, the simple repetition of a dozen buzzwords. The confidence that only the Post-Rational can know.

What the Bear is saying is, that, maybe rationalism has had its day. Trying to apply it to any Western institution, not just the Church, may be vanity and chasing after the wind. What does rationalism have to do with the photo-op? Nothing at all.

The Pope is the Pope, the Church is the Church. The Bear humbly suggests those institutions may have changed to remain relevant in our time. Are not most of us long past explanations? Aren't we challenged by a different approach to so many things? Shocked, even? Yet there is a reason the Bear did not take the vaudeville stage to lecture people on economics. He pedaled a bicycle and people would throw salmon to him. The Bear submits the 21st Century public is better suited to throw salmon at Bears on bicycles than worry their pretty little heads about what's in or out of some "magisterium."

Oh, and cats on Facebook.

Everybody can enjoy a Bear on a bicycle. And so, our Pope acts with bold gestures and almost magical incantations of evocative phrases - "arms dealers" - charged with evil or pathos: "Loneliness of the elderly." One does not explain these things, or need to. One explains nothing. One challenges.

Now, honestly, does the Church of Pope Gregory have any relevance to today? And, even if it did, would anybody listen to Pope Gregory's absolutes on marriage, on salvation, on ecumenism? Haven't those barques sailed long since? Answer truthfully.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Simple Reason Many Catholics are Troubled Today

NOTE: As for those questioning the wisdom of this post, has it not proved that the only argument is between those who view the Pope in the Catholic sense as the one having the bona fides, and the one viewing the Pope in the novel sense of he that does not deviate from sound teaching.

The problem that Bear finds goes back to the previous articles, and has been alluded to by more than one commenter (most good, btw, thanks, but no video posting; we're are not going to do that here because people post hour-plus long ones that Bear must watch).

THE PROBLEM IS that if one follows the understanding that the Pope bust be followed because Catholics have a duty to do so and he is protected from error, then when we run into conflicts, we need a way to resolve them. The Church has always ASSUMED that we would never face this issue, because no pope would contradict any previous pope. Citing the teaching of the Church about what we must believe is unhelpful if the very concept of teaching is being challenged, don't you see?

In all the history of the Church, there has to be a clear answer. Catholics have to to know what to do. And yet, the argument goes on with intelligent people on both sides (some with some dodgy arguments, granted). Bear begins to thinks Church said, "Huh, this is Church, it is impossible so we don't need rule."

And yet Francis is a different kettle of salmon. He is, shall we say, "challenging" what we believe about the Pope and our Church.

Does Bear have to lay out encyclicals between popes side by side in a Power Point presentation?  Let's stop both "it's my opinion" and a simple "He's the Pope, we must believe"

There is a prima facie case that there are conflicts. If the only answer is, "But there can never be conflicts," then we have a big problem. If the answer is, "Of corse, there can be conflicts, but one must never think about them," that does sound a bit cultish to Bear.

Bear is pulling every trick out of his bag of tricks to justify Pope Francis and his teachings. But Bear is not equipped for that task. Evidently, those authorities who are equipped do not try, leaving a commenter to observe that "the reason they don't try is because there is no logical resolution."

The best solution would be to show either (a) there are no contradictions); or (b) there are contradictions, but they don't matter, because our understanding of human nature deepens over time, and even Our Lord spoke in terms of ideals and concessions to human weakness.

The Bear must observe in all fairness, that he reads some comments by good Catholics who are just hurt and bewildered, and have lost their trust, but will close their eyes and "white knuckle" through Francis because no one is helping them understand the big picture.

They deserve better. Why aren't they getting it? And a ridiculously long and turgid encyclical like Amorous Laetitia is not meant to be read and underststood by laymen, or, apparently, anyone. Look at the succinct and powerful statements of the Faith by 19th century popes.

The Visible Church

As Catholics, we know that the Church is visible. It is not hidden away somewhere with Pope Billy Bob in a truck stop on the outskirts of Del Rio Texas. It is a "city on a hill." It is a "lamp on a lamp stand." It occupies the historic cultural center of the world and has lots and lots of impressive real estate in Rome and everywhere.

Everybody knows who the Pope is, in the same way everyone knows who the President of the United States is. There may be a few who deny the legal, practical and cultural realities, but they are denying something that is universally agreed upon, as well as all of the bona fides. Everybody knows where the Vatican is. Everybody can look at the unbroken line of popes (granted, with the odd complication here or there) but unquestionably continuous.

So, good, bad, or indifferent, there can be no failure to recognize the Church. God has cleverly made it the most obvious and enduring institution in human history, so no one could possibly miss it. Just as one recognizes a person by who she is, not by what opinions she expresses, the Church is the Church is the Church, without passing a checklist of dogmatic bona fides. Her identity is self-evident.

(It is true that apologetics have given us succinct proofs of the identity of the Church, but that identity does not rely upon apologetics. The apologetics are meant to demonstrate that identity in a logical and persuasive way.)

Is it confusing when your Never Trump friend is suddenly a Deplorable when you see her next?

Ah, yes. Yes it is. But you don't think your friend really is a different person, just because her opinions have changed.

The Break Between Catholics

There is a real break today between Catholics who identify the Church by who she is, and those who identify the Church by what she teaches. This is an accurate and simple way of looking at it. Please do not try to complicate it by just restating a position, like so: "But who the Church is does depend on what she teaches!" That is just restating that the Church is identified by what she teaches, only using different words.

Again, the split as originally stated is clear and accurate: the Church as who she is vs. the Church as what she teaches.

The latter might say, "But the real Church would never say it was okay to get remarried after a divorce!" And the former might say, "The Church is right there, There, see? Plain as the sun in the noonday sky! The most obvious institution in human history, with divine protections. Questions of teaching can never go to her identity."

Any arguments flowing from that are exactly what the Bear is talking about.

There are those who have concluded that at some point in the 20th century, or more recently, the Church has gone into conflict with herself. They don't think the Church with all the fancy real estate in Rome and elsewhere is the real Church. The real Church is one - somewhere - that has preserved the old teachings and ways of doing thing.

The Bear is not very familiar with the different theories these people hold. He is pretty sure, however, that their position flows from a determination that what the Church teaches goes to her identity.

There are more Catholics who recognize that there does seem to be an interruption, a conflict, that things seem to be "changing with the times" now, but they just don't know what to make of it. They muddle on the best they can, maybe nail their foot to the floor in front of their favorite pew, and try not to think about that sort of thing very much because it robs them of their peace.

But they do not doubt that the "city on a hill," the "lamp on the lamp stand," the most impressive cultural institution in human history, is the Church. In Rome. With all the fancy real estate.

And the Pope.

And, of course, there are souls - probably the vast majority - who are untroubled by anything, and just sort of roll with it. It would never occur to them to wonder if the Church was the Church, or the Pope was the Pope, and if now homosexuals are practically legitimate, couples can divorce and get remarried and it's okay, and Hell was pretty much a medieval fantasy ordinary people like them don't have to worry about anymore, then so much the better!

The Indefectible Church

As Catholics, we know that the visible Church is indefectible. It cannot teach error: not through its councils nor through its Pope. The Pope is not only "infallible," but possesses his "ordinary magisterium."

Those teachings a pope continually reinforces in his public comments and writings, constitute his ordinary magisterium, to which Catholics are required to give their intellectual assent.

This is what Catholics are required to believe. If Bear has got that wrong, please advise.

Anyway, this is the answer the Church gives to Catholics who say, "We no longer recognize the Church with the fancy real estate in Rome and elsewhere as the Church, because whatever it is, it is not teaching properly. It is, in fact, flat wrong about very many things."

The Catholic answer is, "No, the Church is indefectible. One of its most important jobs is teaching the truth, and God has promised He won't let it stray from the truth. So it can't and it doesn't." How this answer reconciles apparent changes in teaching is never spelled out. But this is the rule, and this is what Catholics must believe, and that is sufficient answer for most.

That Uncertain Feeling - Cognitive Dissonance

"Cognitive dissonance" arises when what is going on before the eyes, the ears, and the noses of Catholics today do indeed seem to conflict with the teachings of yesterday.

Examples would be the apparent change on the "signature" Catholic teaching that remarriage after divorce is adultery (or if it is adultery, it's the understandable sort of adultery that is not going to be condemned).

Also, one does not have to go back very far in time to find popes condemning "indifferentism" in the strongest terms. Within living memory, Catholics were strongly discouraged from worshiping with Protestants, let alone non-Christians. Of course, today, the theological winds are blowing from the opposite direction, and Martin Luther is celebrated by the Church, and the Church publishes joint prayer services for Catholics and Lutherans.

One of the oddest things is that no one ever attempts to answer objections to such apparent changes, or explain how novelties and contradictions are really in harmony with the great march of the Faith through the centuries. This gives rise to not only cognitive dissonance, but suspicion. This is the greatest mystery to the Bear, and of all the things that he finds troubling, this is the most, because it makes a very unwelcome comment upon the changes and the people who might press them.

What do you do when
it's fifteen minutes pat
midnight and the UFOs
haven't come?
As long-time readers may remember, the term "cognitive dissonance" comes from a sociological study of a UFO cult. The UFOs were supposed to arrive at a given date and time. Cultists took elaborate measures to prepare, such as removing metal from their bras. It was documented in the fascinating book "When Prophecy Fails," and you can read more about it in the Bear's article here.

"Cognitive dissonance" is the psychologically uncomfortable feeling people get when two things they believe are in conflict, e.g. "I believe what the UFO beings told us," vs. "The UFOs never came."

The UFO cultists, paradoxically, threw themselves into their cult activity with even greater enthusiasm after the the disappointment. They even began proselytizing, which they had not done before. The theory goes, the more people they could get to believe in the UFOs, they more their confidence would be boosted.

Fideism After All?

The Catholic cognitive dissonance arises when what is going on before the eyes, the ears, and the noses of Catholics today, do indeed seem to conflict with the (presumably equally error-free and divinely protected) teachings of yesterday. 

Your argument is invalid
because Francis.
It is really that simple. That one sentence sums up the reservations about Pope Francis and the Church in general, although some would add one thing or another. If the Bear would add anything, it would be, "and nobody is even trying to explain how this is legitimate."

Yes, we know all about visibility, and indefectibility, and magisteriums. Another lecture about that will only heighten the feelings of cognitive dissonance among many until someone explains how we are mistaken in our belief that the Church is in conflict with itself.

"Who are you going to believe, baby, me or your lyin' eyes," has been tried by many a man, with no recorded success.

"Fideism" has not been the Church's way in the past. Wouldn't be ironic if now, in the 21st century, Catholics were told to check their brains at the door and just roll with it because?

The Franciscan Divide

Pope Francis has publicly spoken 100 times more words than all other popes put together (a guess). Not a day goes by that we are not blessed with a new interview, video, writing, homily, photo op, or even prog rock album. By sheer weight of verbiage and ubiquity, Pope Francis has dwarfed the entire 2000-year history of the Church, Or so it seems. No pope of living memory has placed his stamp upon the ancient institution like Francis has. Not even St. Pope John Paul II.

Indeed, it seems possible that future Church historians may mark a significant change in the Church with this pontificate. The true Church will be found in the rubble of the blessed Franciscan terramoto, when the Church finally became a modern institution among modern institutions, dealing with all people as they are in an imperfect world, finding them through new media, and, at long last, not selling pie in the sky when you die to terrified pewsitters. 

Franciscan Confusion

Pope Francis is not always clear and seems to frequently speak off the cuff, leading Catholics to wonder how he views his own statements. He ignores requests for clarification. Simply:  he talks a whole lot and is confusing, as people who talk a lot often are. I think everyone can agree on that without delving back into the Francis quote mine. 

Nonetheless, we are by now familiar with the themes and teachings to which he continually returns - the periphery, refugees, arms merchants, climate change, the poor, the lonely elderly, the unemployed youth, the brotherhood of man, and what might have been called "indifferentism" by previous popes. In other words, are not these issues the sum and substance of his "ordinary magisterium?"

The uncorrected voices of the Church routinely cast doubt upon the inerrancy of Holy Scripture, the likelihood of anyone going to Hell, or even its very existence. Even "signature" Catholic teachings such as divorce after remarriage, seem to be in doubt. Whether or not one is willing to say Pope Francis creates all this confusion himself, he sure doesn't seem to mind it. Indeed, the Franciscan spirit seems to thrive in shadow and ambiguity. Doctrines are not denied outright, but their practical effect seem to depend upon ever more flexible "pastoral considerations."

Was it always so? Maybe it was. Is there a legitimate exercise of "pastoral considerations" that is different from what looks more like Catholic three-card monte, with dogma as the Red Queen suckers are led to think they can follow in a rigged game?

The Bear is sure there is.

But today, Francis is not the only voice sowing confusion, one assumes unwittingly. The Church, making full, if not always wise use of the organs of modern communication, leaves modern Catholics feeling overwhelmed, and - there's the word again - confused. 

There is Only One Catholic Answer

The Catholic answer is that "he is the Pope, and you mustn't reject or criticize those things he teaches as Pope of the Catholic Church."

The Bear's objection to Pope Francis has only ever been that the Bear, as one of the Faithful, does not feel taught or fed by this Pope, but only confused. The Bear must assume for charity's sake that the confusion is not deliberate, because then it really would be a con: that three-card monte game where the sheep wins just enough to keep her interested while she gets fleeced. 

Were Catholics ever confident and certain? It is difficult to recall already. What does the Church really teach about divorce and remarriage, and whether one should be Catholic or Lutheran? The photo-op teaches more surely than the encyclical. Did we have a mistaken view of the Church all along? Has it always been a kindly combo of ideals in theory and compromises in practice? Do we have a naive and rosy view of the past only because we hardly ever heard a peep from popes because they were faraway potentates whose encyclicals were not read by average Catholics? Were her teachings always provisional, to address certain problems of the times, subject to change with the spirit of the age and the expectations of humans?

The Bear is sure of one thing. Trying to see history in current events is a dangerous business after all. We will never have the perspective that is required. 

The God of Surprises

We are now told that God is full of "surprises." 

He didn't used to be, not when it came to Church teachings. God was pretty much in the "no-surprise zone," and people weren't often surprised by their Church. When it comes to the norms by which one lives ones life and the faith by which one has hope of Heaven, surprises are the last thing we need.

What if the head of the FDA said, "We want our drugs to be drugs of surprises?"

What if the company that made the tires for your car shrugged and said, "Our tires are full of surprises?"

What if you caught your wife going out with another man, and she smiled and told you, "Welcome to a marriage full of surprises?"

What if your airline's motto was, "Every landing is a surprise?"

Nobody likes surprises. You don't, Bear doesn't, the two-year-old who cranks the handle until a terrifying clown bursts out at him doesn't. Surprises are not good.

The least good of all surprises are those cosmic pranks played by a Being of infinite power who holds you in his Hands and upon Whom you rely for your salvation.

That a pope would justify anything by alluding to a "God of surprises" is perhaps the most unfortunate turn of phrase of them all. The Bear must presume he meant to say, "We have a God who enjoys challenging us it new ways to make our relationship with Him and others richer."

One could probably make a living doing translations like that.

Stop Making Sense

The Bear does not doubt that Francis is Pope, or that the Church is headquartered in Rome, with impressive real estate there and all over the world. The Bear commits as best he can to some sort of notion that nothing has changed, that it is a matter of emphasis. Or if it has changed, all teachings were provisional all along, and must change with the times.

Or something. Bear does not know.

Bears are above all practical.

The Bear understands why it is difficult, though, for many Catholics, when confusion is cultivated instead of clarity. When the rule is "You must believe the Pope," not only whatever he says, but whatever it is he may be trying to say. We're just not always sure, are we? His method of communication is allusive and oblique. Others run with what they seem to assume are hints dropped for them to run with. Who really knows?

On the other hand, the God of surprises may have just given us a pope who combines poor communication skills with an enjoyment of talking.

So, in the end, the Bear does not understand any of it. He is not happy with any of it. He will suffer a "rational disconnect"  with his Faith for as long as he lives, it appears. Even his tiny 450 gm ursine brain is not welcome in the Church of today. Who needs a brain when everything is a surprise, anyway? When there are no explanations to understand? It is the Talking Heads Church in more ways than one. Including the "Stop Making Sense" way.

Bear will stand and applaud on cue for salmon.

The Bear will not believe his lying eyes, nor even his lying nose. He doesn't follow the Church much these days, because, irony of ironies, it has become for him a near occasion of sin. He must accept that is the fault of the wicked Bear. All of it. The Church is the Church. The Pope is the Pope. There is no error, no conflict. The Bear just doesn't understand. Times change.

Bear is just stupid Bear.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Epic Birthday Poem by Bear's Daughter

The Bear's daughter, Ragan, presented him on his birthday this epic poem that captures something of what it is like to be the adored little girl of a real Bear.

The Bear
by Ragan ("Ragsy") Black

Huddled round fires tucked close to each other
The children, with wide eyes then clung to their mother
“A BEAST,” cried their father, with a story teller’s flare
“A beast like no other was hiding in there,”
He had told of a cave he had found as a child
When he wandered too far from his camp in the wild.

“He stood 12 feet tall, with knife like claws,
with wild eyes and with teeth like saws!”
The children all gasped and began to exclaim
“Did you kill it?” “Da, how did you not get maimed?!”
With a confident chuckle, he scooped up his youngest
“Well your Da is no push over, tho this beast was humongous”

He told of a tale of this beast made of fright
And how he over came it and fled through the night
He, alone, had brought the beast down
And proudly had worn its skin through the town.
The boys were all ears, and looked quite captivated,
But his daughter smirked and looked, well, less persuaded.

“Da, if you really had taken its hide
then why’ve we never seen this pelt with our eyes?”
The man gave a frown, and he scratched in his hair.
He shrugged and said only “It’s ‘round here somewhere.”
The daughter then smiled and climbed on his knee.
“Well I know what I would’ve done were it me.”

The boys then snickered and jeered in her direction
But her father looked down with adoring affection.
“Would you hunt it down? Strong, like your old man?”
She shook her head ‘no’ and explained her plan.
“Well bears are quite greedy and seem to like to meat.
I’d try to trap it with something to eat!”

Her brothers all frowned and scratched their heads.
“You wouldn’t last one minute!” “You’d surely be dead!”
They eagerly then spoke of slaying the fiend
Their mother then scolded, their father just beamed.
Then set aside, the girl sat with a pout
“I’d survive some how. I’d figure it out.”

Night came to camp and mum put all to bed
With visions of bears running wild through each head.
“I really could, mama,” she tried to protest.
“Hush now, my dear. Let’s put it to rest.”
With a frown, she closed her still un-restful eyes
And waited for moon to be high in the sky.

All were asleep, but for a lone Misses Owl-
And one little girl! “I’ll show them some how.”
She slipped into her boots and a thick wool cap
And took biscuits in a tin, and her father’s wood ax
Everything she’d need, she was sure for the night
Everything she’d need, to win the fight.

Traipsing, sashaying, she started to stride
Sure she would have the beast’s head and its hide.
She searched through the thicket and all effort gave
Until finally, she found it! A shadowy cave.
She peered in with her eyes and she sniffed at the air
“Ah ha!” she was certain. Within dwelt a bear.

Candle in one hand and ax in the other,
She’d show her Da, and all her older brothers.
Her boots were silent, the cave carpeted with moss
It was warm inside, her cap she took off.
The cave went on forever, with turns left and right
And her candle it hardly gave off any light.

She pressed on, determined, filled with fiery spirit-
Then suddenly, a sound! Though she barely could hear it.
A clicking of sorts, or perhaps some sort of rapping
Repetitive, short bursts of some kind of tapping.
What a queer sound to hear inside this dark place
Confused, she pressed on, with a questioning face.

Just as her candle was near burnt down to nothing
Just as exhausted her face started flushing
It was just as the ax was now to much to carry
And just when this cave started looking too scary
In that moment where she huffed with a tired exhale
When her trembling knees started feeling too frail

The clicking then stopped and then- what would you know?
Ahead in the cave she saw a faint glow.
She clutched at her shirt with fright and confusion
A vision- a ghost? Or just an illusion?
And then a sound-  Though not a sound like a bear
A voice up ahead: “. . . Is there someone there?”

The voice was a rough one, though calm and collected
Timid perhaps, not what she expected.
She peeked ‘round the edge of the next cave wall
And will never forget what next she saw.
Her eyes grew wide with alarm and surprise
She couldn’t believe what she saw with her own eyes.

A bear. Yes a bear. A bear’s what it was
Though it hardly looked frightening, and hardly had claws.
Brown and quite large, though of the eyes she was skeptical
For the bear on its nose, it was wearing some spectacles .
It had fit its great girth in a large leather chair
Every inch of its massive form covered with hair.

In front of the bear was a desk, it looked wooden
And on it- she couldn’t believe it- she couldn’t
A typewriter-dwarfed by the size of this beast
And a fresh stack of paper- easily within reach.
The moss carpet continued as sort of a floor
It seemed unbelievable but wait there’s more!

Near by on some stones was a kitchen of sorts
A kettle, and also an ironing board.
The bear had a bed and a collection of books
Not like any other bear by the looks.
He peered at the girl with confusion at best
She gaped with wonder arms crossed over her chest

“Aren’t you a bear?” she asked with indignation
“Why yes, I suppose, by my own calculation.”
The voice was the same that had spoken before
She recognized it there was no question any more.
This beast that could talk- this beast that could write?
Surely not the same beast she sought earlier that night.

“Are you a fan?” the bear asked with a smile.
The girl shrugged with confusion, shook her head with denial.
“Of bears?” she asked- stunned by this dialogue.
“Well that of course too- but no, I meant of my blog.”
The girl was filled now with disconcertion.
“I don’t typically see most of my fans here in person.”
The bear questioned again; “Are you here for commission?”
“Or perhaps for a autographed collector’s edition?”

 She looked at the typewriter and then at the writing
And suddenly everything seemed less frightening.
“You write for a living- an author or sorts.”
“Yes- I run a blog, and write novels and shorts.”
Head tilted and now with her hands folded neatly;
“You’re not going to attack or try to eat me?”

With a sigh and a frown, the bear then looked so alone.
“Oh,” he then said. “I see you’re one of those.”
“You think because I’m a bear I must be quite vicious,
But you see, humans aren’t so nutritious.
I’d rather sardines and a nice cup of tea.
I’m civilized- an artist- just wait, you’ll see.”

He handed her a book- it was small, it seemed short.
“A collection of letters- some ramblings of sort.”
She opened the book, eyes wide and curious.
The bear gave a smile and seemed to feel victorious.
“In time when you’ve read it you’ll then understand-
A bear can be just as well spoken as man.”

Then sheepishly, he reached on his desk for a hat.
He held it out for her and then he gave it a pat.
Payment! She searched her pockets and found within
Only the biscuits she’d packed in the tin.
With the tin in the hat, he said “That’ll do fine.”
“Tho typically that one is 10.99”

“Are all bears like you? So kind and so smart?”
“Any bear could be, born with poet’s heart.
A good author could come from- well, anywhere?
Why just from men, why not from a bear?
And where else could an author be found in this world?
Why- the next one may just be from one little girl.”

With a furry paw on her shoulders and a knowing smile
The bear asked if she could stay for a while.
The girl explained her family would wake soon for dawn.
“Well,” he said with a smile. “It’s best you get gone.”
She curtsied politely and started to ask;
“Would you believe me if I said I came with an axe?”

He chuckled and said “All is forgiven.
We have to forgive in this world that we live in.
But read the book, please and read all you can find
Always with open heart and with open mind.”
And then he said one last thing with a yawn.
“And I wouldn’t mind a 5* review on Amazon.”

He gave her a lantern and thanked her for her visit,
And complimented her mother’s recipe for biscuits.
With a mind full of questions and smile on her face
She made her way slowly back out of that place.
The way out was clear- she found it just fine.
And the sun would be rising in almost no time.

“Bears,” she said softly “Are not all that they seem.”
She snuck back to camp and fell into dream.
Her mother awoke her like any other day
Her father made breakfast in his usual way.
Her brothers were grouchy, begging for more sleep
And she asked herself if this was a secret to keep?

She didn’t want her da to go after the bear
And decided it best that he remain unaware.
With a smug little smile, she ate with the others
Taking her book out from under her covers.
The book- she still had it! She really had seen it!
The bear- with his writings, she hadn’t just dreamed it

And what had he said of an author to be,
It could be one little girl- “He meant it could be me!”
With a smile, she clutched the book close to her chest
“I’ll do it! A writer- I’ll be one of the best!”
With tears in her eyes a wide, sunny smile,
First she decided she’d read for a while.

The car ride home was silent, it seemed.
Her parents spoke calmly, her brothers all dreamed.
She in the back, was more than content
To read for hours- and hours she spent.
The book she had finished by the time they were home,
That book was done. Time to start her own.

But before she began to write her own story-
She first had to to tell others her ‘allegory’
Under the guise of a sweet work of rhyme
She shared with others, the tale of a time,
When a bear who was kind, took her under his wing
And taught her of books and of writings and things.

Once that was all finished, she knew what to do,
She copied it into a Five Star Review.
She used buzz words and lingo with high SEO
All things young hipster girls like her would know.
In just a few years, she soon filled a shelf!
Everything the bear had written she bought for herself.

A book’s like an old friend, she’d heard people say
Each page took her back to remembering that day
The night she held to herself so dear,
The night that inspired her writing career.
For inspiring her in the way that writers do,

To the bear she could never enough say ‘thank you.’  

The Aqualung Code

A Special Investigative Report by SCB News -- "Aequum et Libratum"
All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted as long as a link to the article is provided.

A 44 Year Old Secret

There is a 44-year-old secret that explains nearly everything we have seen in Pope Francis' pontificate. It has never been disclosed -- until now.

Jorge Bergoglio was ordained a priest in 1969. From 1970 to 1971, he completed the third probation at Alcala de Henares, Spain. He taught theology at the St. Joseph seminary of San Miguel from 1971 to 1973, when he was elected Provincial for Argentina.

In 1971 an event in England would prove electrifying to the rising Jorge Bergoglio. The English progressive rock band Jethro Tull released what many consider one of the greatest -- and certainly one of the most cerebral -- rock albums of all time: Aqualung.


Ian Anderson today.
Some speculation is required at this point. It seems likely that an English-speaking student drew Jorge Bergoglio's attention to the religiously significant lyrics of Aqualung. Clearly it was a profound experience for the 35-year-old priest. As we will show, the religious beliefs of the man now known as Pope Francis, the leader of over a billion Catholics around the world, are developments from themes explored in a 1971 rock album.

One source, who asked not to be identified (not surprisingly, no one would speak on the record), recalled the future pontiff's fascination with the album. "Father Bergoglio somehow obtained a translation of the lyrics into Spanish. He was rarely without them.  I saw them myself. They were hand written, each song on its own piece of paper. Often I saw Father Bergoglio reading them, almost as if he were meditating."

Father Bergoglio seldom shared his fascination with Aqualung, but it was no secret. "He didn't have a record player at first, of course," recalled our source. "But one day he surprised everyone by buying one. It was only some time later that he was able to obtain the actual album. It was not something easy to obtain! But he did it. It showed his faith, to buy the record player before the record."

This record player, which Fr. Bergoglio would later take to Argentina as one of his most treasured possessions, was described by an eyewitness as a "very humble portable device, German, I believe, without even a record changer." (A record changer allowed a stack of records to be played automatically, one after the other. It was common on phonographs at this time.) There are rumors that this very same record player is now in the Holy Father's quarters at Santa Marta. SCB News was unable to confirm this, however.

For the first time for Father Bergoglio, Ian Anderson's lyrics were married to his flute stylings and the pounding guitar of Martin Barre. He would listen to the album over and over. Yet even as "Locomotive Breath" boomed out of his room, he never spoke about the album at first. It was as if it were his private inspiration, even, as one interviewee put it, "obsession."

The Titular Character, Aqualung

The ragged, flawed and pitiable character of "Aqualung," as depicted on the album cover was based on photographs that band leader Ian Anderson's then-wife Jennie had taken of homeless people. Father Bergoglio viewed this homeless old man as a symbol of what he came to call "the periphery."

"Aqualung" seems an unlikely figure to inspire a new priest. He is introduced as "sitting on a park bench, eying little girls with bad intent." But when he had eventually absorbed the meaning of the lyrics, Father Bergoglio began to talk about them. Aqualung, he insisted, "is above all poor. He may be imperfect, but the poor are children of Heaven.

"And you must remember mercy," he would continue. "Mercy overcomes judgment. Because the narrator says, 'Aqualung my friend, don't you start away uneasy. You poor old sod, you see it's only me.' Think about who this narrator is. He is the friend of all, even though we do not recognize him. So we see that Aqualung does have a friend, and is worthy of love. This friend shows us the way. We must give Aqualung our unconditional love and acceptance."

Father Bergoglio was particularly touched by "an old man wandering lonely." "Ah," he would sigh, according to our sources, "the loneliness of the elderly is surely the greatest evil in the world!" He would recite the lyrics from memory on occasion, as if to underscore his statements.

As captivating as the title track was, songs on side two were equally influential.

The Origin of "Self-Absorbed Promethean Neo-Pelagianism"

The song "My God" featured prominently in Father Bergoglio's discussions, according to our sources. 

People what have you done?
Locked Him in his golden cage.
Made Him bend to your religion,
Him resurrected from the grave.

"We imprison the divine with doctrine!" Father Bergoglio would often say vehemently. "Yes, making Him bend to our religious rules instead of letting Him be free among the people! Where is the joy in this?"

Another part of the same song inspired a term he came up with one night while listening to "My God." Self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagians.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," our source recalled. "Father Bergoglio came to my room in an excited state and asked me to accompany him. We went to his room and he played some verses from a rock and roll song on a phonograph. As soon as they were finished, he would turn the record back and play them again. 'Listen!,' he said. His eyes were burning. 'This is telling me something. It's talking about... I don't know. About self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagianism!"

Our source continued. "At first I did not understand. Father Bergoglio turned off the record player and looked at me in silence for a moment. Then he repeated it slowly, almost as if he had had a revelation. Perhaps he had."

Here are the lyrics that so gripped the imagination of Father Bergoglio in 1971.

Confessing to the endless sins,
The endless whining sounds.
You'll be praying till next Thursday,
To all the gods that you can count.

To Father Bergoglio, these lyrics meant that people rely on their own religious efforts and correctness to save themselves. The lyrics also reminded him of excessive, repetitive, traditional prayers, which he began to call "rosary counting" after listening to the song repeatedly.

"Father Wind Up"

The final track, "Wind Up" was another explicitly religious song that deeply affected Father Bergoglio. The relevant lyrics go like this:

I don't believe you,
You had the whole damn thing all wrong.
He's not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday.

"Latin this, and kneel that. Press your hands together in church like you're on a holy card!," Father Bergoglio said more than once. "Don't they see? He's not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday!" Indeed, so frequently did he cite this song, he was called "Father Wind Up" behind his back.

Locomotive Breath

Although he seemed to enjoy the other tracks, they were unimportant to Father Bergoglio, or just puzzling.

The exception was "Locomotive Breath."

He wrestled with the lyrics of "Locomotive Breath," a dark song which features an out-of-control steam train. On at least one occasion, he floated a theory about the repeated lyrics, "Charlie stole the handle, and the train it won't stop going, no way to slow down."

"Charlie" was none other than Charles Darwin, who had forever changed man's view of his origin with his theory of evolution. This was the challenge of the modern world, and the Church could not ignore it.

Indeed, Father Bergoglio would point out a variation of that verse, "Oh he picks up Gideon's Bible, open at page one, but God, he stole the handle, and the train it won't stop going, no way to slow down." Of course, "page one" of the Bible starts with "In the beginning," and continues with the scriptural account of creation, thus confirming -- in Bergoglio's mind -- the link to Darwin's competing theory.

Darwin, he said, "made a mess." Yet we should welcome the mess, because, after all, God "stole the handle" too. Above all, Father Bergoglio found the image of the runaway locomotive exhilarating, not frightening.

As for the line, "he sees his children jumping off at stations one by one," these children were what Father Bergoglio termed "fundamentalists," who refused to adapt to new circumstances. "They want doctrinal security. They do not want the ride," he said. "What is the destination of the train? It is not important! Who may ride the train? First the poor, then everybody, without exception. All we know is it must go forward, into the future."

The Aqualung Code

By the time Father Bergoglio returned to Argentina, he carried with him a theology based largely on the rock album Aqualung. Did he take it with him when he became the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church? 

There was a credible lead that Pope Francis had placed a call to Ian Anderson at his home in Wiltshire, England. (Anderson is still performing, although the band Jethro Tull -- which was always essentially Anderson -- has recently been retired). Anderson's publicist would neither confirm nor deny any contact with the pontiff. Anderson has described himself as "somewhere between a deist and a pantheist," but it is well known that Pope Francis welcomes conversation even with atheists. 

After returning to Argentina, evidence of Jorge Bergoglio's interest in Jethro Tull dries up. However, that does not mean it did not continue. 

Jethro Tull frontman Anderson's
1995 religious instrumental album.
Indeed, later Jethro Tull albums contain themes that are often found in Pope Francis' public utterances. Anderson has said that climate change is the theme of "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day," written in 1972, but not released until 1974 on the album Warchild. (At that time science was warning of a coming ice age.) The same album deals with war, such as "For Queen and Country," as well as the title track. The environment is also featured, for example, in "North Sea Oil" from the 1979 album Stormwatch. And, of course, religious elements are scattered throughout the Tull oeuvre.

This article could be extended, if space permitted, by connecting Pope Francis' thoughts with many songs released by Jethro Tull over the decades.

There were seventeen Jethro Tull studio albums after Aqualung, not to mention solo releases by Anderson. It is hard to imagine that the future Pope would abandon his so-called "obsession" with Aqualung, and not continue to collect Jethro Tull releases. How, for instance, could he possibly resist the 1973 album A Passion Play, Tull's explicitly religious concept album?

But there is one final clue that proves that Pope Francis retains his love for religiously intriguing rock and roll albums.

He released one himself.

Wake Up. Go Forward.

On November 27, 2015, Pope Francis released "Wake Up!" on the Believe Digital label. Rolling Stone had previously released the heavy metal title track in September. Like Aqualung, it is a progressive rock album with overtly religious themes.

Its mixture of lush orchestral music, heavy metal guitar, chant, and spoken word are all taken directly from Jethro Tull's bag of tricks. Its prog rock roots are confirmed by Pope Francis' inclusion of Tony Pagliuca, of the Italian band Le Orme. (Don't let the heavy metal elements fool you: Jethro Tull beat out Metallica in the 1989 Grammys  for Best Heavy Metal Album with "Crest of a Knave.")

Rolling Stone gives it 3/5 stars, saying "progressive pontiff preaches peace on surprisingly proggy album."

The evidence is clear. The Aqualung Code is the key to deciphering the pontificate of Pope Francis. Rocker Ian Anderson, "somewhere between a deist and a pantheist," unwittingly charted the course for the Catholic Church of forty years later when he released a dour album with a cast of characters that included a dirty old man and a schoolgirl prostitute.

What can we learn from this? In the end, perhaps the runaway train in "Locomotive Breath" is most emblematic. Is it terrifying or exhilarating? That depends on your perspective. As Pope Francis urges in the title track of his own album: "Wake up! Go forward!" As long as the train is going forward, it doesn't matter if there's a handle or not. Your only choices are to hang on or jump off. 

This is St. Corbinian's Bear, for SCB News Special Report, "The Aqualung Code," saying, hang on.

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