Reblog: One Child

“One child is enough for you, the rest you will discard.
It’s in our nation’s interest; this choice is not so hard.”
A parent’s pure delight is turned into a source of woe,
As they decide which child to keep and which they should let go.

Millions are torn to pieces while still in the womb,
Their tiny bodies adding to another smoky plume.
Many more are left to freeze upon a winter’s day,
Abandoned in the street as if they all can make their way.

Shafts of light come filtered through the roadside’s fragrant trees,
The smells of woks and pans at work, all carried by the breeze,
Piano music interrupted by a teacher’s scold,
None of this brings comfort to a little girl that’s cold.

Go read the rest.


Spoiler: It ends good.

Conspiracies and Catholicism: Nunsense

Didn’t you hear about that big archaeology dig they did a decade or two back, that one that found a bunch of dead babies secretly buried near a nunnery?
You mean the one with the babies in the septic tank?
You mean the one in South America?
You mean the one in Spain?
No, the one with a monastery and a secret tunnel connecting them… Somewhere in Europe, anyway. Rome? Italy?

I’ve taken a bit of artistic license* with an online conversation I had recently with peone who are not prone to Conspiracy Theories or even thinking poorly of others, and we spent quite a while trying to ferret out the exact version of this story– “a recent excavation found that nuns secretly buried a lot of their illegitimate children near the nunnery”– and never did actually find one that matched the details he remembered, although we did establish that he knew that Chick Tracks are best viewed as bad humor.

Now, the short and simple version of the answer for where this story came from is that nunneries often did nursing or other medical care, people would abandon children there, and– sadly– about half of the kids born up until recently would not survive to adulthood, even if their mothers were the healthiest around. This is one of the reasons that nunneries and monasteries often had graveyards, besides caring for their own members. (Burying the dead is an act of mercy.)

Here’s the more in detail version of answers for the various ‘you means’ above.

Babies In A Septic Tank

This is a fairly recent bit of mangled reporting. In England, a kindly lady knew that the locals cared for a little, unmarked cemetery at what use to be a government home for unwed mothers which was run by nuns; they knew there were seven (something) hundred. The lady was researching the nuns’ records and the government files to compile a list of names so the dead could have a little monument. A historian heard about it from researcher and also interviewed a man that had found bones in a stone-covered hole in the ground; at some point the historian became involved with a well-known anti-Catholic sensationalist and decided the two stories were connected, and the secular media got a hold of the story…and you end up with a report that almost eight hundred babies were found in a septic tank. The Catholic Anti-Defamation League did a very good job of collecting and correcting information on this story, although they missed Dr. McCormic’s letter to the editor, published in the Irish Times, pointing out that there is was a commonly used type of grave that (to an eight year old boy) would look a lot like a septic tank.

In the 19th century, deep brick-lined shafts were constructed and covered with a large slab which often doubled as a flatly laid headstone. These were common in 19th-century urban cemeteries.

South American

For this one, the country changes while the story doesn’t; a generic “secret tomb full of infants found while rebuilding an old church.” The only example that had anything close to specific was from the Snope’s message board, where someone’s brother in law claimed it happened in 2001 in either Chile or Argentina, and a Catholic Answers message board post from someone whose father had a street kid in Guatemala offer to show him where the nuns have their babies.
The utter lack of any details or– if it were horribly common– a single example of so much as a poorly characterized orphanage, similar to the Irish story, suggests that South America was just a handy place where one might think it’s possible for things to happen without being reported on in the daily news. (Well, before the Pope was chosen from the area. You know that if there was even a slightly plausible story, it would be all over the place, just from sensational appeal.)


Babies found in walls during renovation. I haven’t actually been able to find any sources beyond “things said to tourists” for this, but there’s a very probable source for it: Spain has some really impressive (and possibly freaky– click with care) ossuaries, and it’s reasonable to expect that even churches that don’t reach the level of building with piles of skeletons are going to be used by tour guides. Notably, this version I found as many mentions of just “bones” as I did “babies,” even when specifically looking for claims of dead infants.

Secret Death Tunnels

This is a surprisingly common theme– one that even anti-Catholic sites have people mentioning that they heard when they lived in places like Italy, and recognized as urban legends. Thankfully, I finally found a specific source for this one!

Pervy Anti-Catholic horror stories.**

No, really, let me quote the linked Catholic Answers Magazine story on the history:

In this tidal wave of anti-Catholic literature, books detailing convent horror stories became enormously popular in the United States in the 1830s, and most of these were imported from England. Works such as Female Convents and Secrets of the Nunneries Exposed established the common elements of anti-Catholic convent horror stories: lecherous priests, secret tunnels between seminaries and convents, and the babies who resulted from these unholy unions slaughtered and buried in the basements.

I’ll let you draw your own comparisons to more modern horror movies and their notorious tendencies involving attractive young women.  Please go read the rest of the article– it’s got several sad stories of mentally disturbed people being exploited, but you might need to have an idea of where to start countering some of the more basic stories.

In short, the stories of dead babies born to nuns and murdered by the same are a mixture of misunderstanding the evidence, trying to impress tourists, and sensational, attention-getting stories going back centuries.

*I have tried to find the original conversation that inspired this post, and I believe it was at According to Hoyt, but booger all if I can manage it; if someone else does, I’ll gladly link to the entire chain.  It would have been sometime between October and December and I think it has some wonderful examples of people looking for the truth.

**I can sincerely say that I never would have pictured myself even thinking this phrase.

Cultures and Lightbulbs

But those changes came from within. Can cultural change be forced by outsiders? Yes, but usually it requires armed force or overwhelming numbers, more rarely through persuasion at least until the rise of cultural-equivalency and the idea that non-Western cultural practices must be better simply by virtue of being non-Western. Although the visiting professor from India I had drew the line at condemning the British for trying to abolish suttee. She was a widow of the Brahmin caste and apparently her in-laws still wanted her dead. So even for her, a little “cultural Imperialism” wasn’t entirely bad.

Go read the rest.


The Scratching Post: Woodrow Wilson Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

Woodrow was a racist, to be sure, but then again, most Democrats pre-1970 were, too. Old FDR refused to allow Jesse Owens to visit the White House after his heroic performance in the 1936 Olympics. FDR also put a member of the Klan on the Supreme Court and it was that dude what wrote the “separation of church and state” ruling.

Once you get started down this road, there probably aren’t many old time Democrats who are safe, it being the party of segregation and all. We’ve reached a new battlespace for the Social Justice crowd. Now not only are the progressives devouring each other, they’re devouring their past. It’s hilarious on so many levels and seemingly unstoppable.

Source: The Scratching Post: Woodrow Wilson Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

Conspiracies and Catholicism: Miracles

Back on Conspiracies & Catholicism: Saints, I said I’d do an article on Miracles at a later time because certified miracles are required to show that a Saint was in position to nag Himself in person, so to speak. So here we go.

What is a miracle?

Literally, it’s from the the Latin for “wonderful”. As we are using it, it’s close– wonder-workers, things done by supernatural power, specifically those things done by the power of God. There are several Greek terms at the link for specific meanings, but that’s a little too deep in the weeds even for me right now! Although if someone knows of a language geek and is willing to link to a labor of love they did in the comments, I’d be delighted.

Anyways. . .

A miracle is an event done by the power of God.  An event in the natural world that is not of the natural world, so to speak.

A slight misunderstanding can enter because our culture is so very different from that of…well, pretty much any other time. It’s very easy for us to mistake someone doing something using someone else’s power for someone doing a thing under their own power– most of the examples we can think of outside of a religious context are government matters, be it an on-duty police officer acting as an agent of the law or a soldier acting as an agent of the country. Things like, say, the little boy at my daughter’s Sunday school who use to have leukemia, until the morning he came down to his mother crying and caught his mother crying because they’d run out of options and he informed her that an angel had come in a dream and told him that he didn’t have it anymore. (We don’t really have a strong analog for that kind of acting-as-the-authoritative-representative type of behavior.) It was God’s doing, but it’s tempting– from what I’ve observed in our modern worldview, trying to contrast it to things I read about the past– to attribute the power to whoever you interact with; think of it like being grateful to the mailman when your grandmother sends you a lovely birthday gift.

On the flip side, there’s the temptation to go the over-attributing route– “every breath I take is a miracle.”  It works as a way to get at a deeper meaning, in some cases, but it’s not what we’re talking about.

Some things I think were miracles are kind of silly– for example, my car’s brakes failed, quite suddenly.  That sounds more like bad luck than anything good, much less a miracle, until I add that the brake light came on two blocks from the only mechanic I could possibly use, and that the next day I was starting a 300+  mile trip that was mostly mountain passes with stone wall on one side, and deadly drops on the other, and that the mechanic assured me it was impossible that I’d only felt anything odd with the brakes immediately before the light came on and I brought it in, because it was a slow leak.   However, he turned a lovely shade of white when I told him where I was going to be driving the next day, and informed me that if I really hadn’t had the light come on until just then, I still would’ve known all about it on that trip. While that may be a miracle, it’s rather hard to investigate and prove, which is a requirement for a miracle to be used for a cause of sainthood.

As C. S. Lewis said, a virgin birth is only identifiably miraculous if you know that virgins do not generally give birth.

How are miracles proven?

When the Church has sufficiently proven a miracle, it’s called being certified.  I know that there’s probably someone simmering right now, because they believe that miracles can’t be proven.  That may or may not be true, depending on what one means by “proving” and what assumptions are built in. For example, a few weeks back I rolled my eyes as I scrolled past something or other on Facebook that was supposed to be dedicated to figuring out who Jesus’ human father was.  If someone starts with the assumption that miracles can’t happen, that they’re impossible, then correct– you can’t prove a miracle.  That’s not an argument, it’s a premise, a starting assumption.  The complementary mistake is to assume that everything happens is through God’s intervention unless there’s an acceptable alternative.  The Church uses, understandably enough, the standard of there being no natural explanation.  An individual could also use a standard of there being no evidence of a natural explanation.

I’ll use the example of the kid who had leukemia, which handily enough is in the same class as most of the miracles used for saints’ causes anyway, and tag them with how they’d view “proving” a miracle.

A Proving Impossible stance would be that the years of medical history the boy had were either incorrect; perhaps he didn’t have leukemia, or they missed all the signs of a more standard remission pattern, or there’s a currently unknown but totally natural cause of over-night leukemia remission in some cases that are so obscure we simply don’t have a large enough sample to identify the cause.  This would be the stance of those who take a method of inquiry into reality as a total description of reality– usually self-identified as “scientific” or “rational” or, sometimes “skeptical.”  As is probably clear even with my writing ability, I do not think highly of this, viewing it as an assertion that a road cannot exist, because it’s not on the map.

A Proving Presumed stance would be that all remissions are miracles unless it was in predictable, direct response to a treatment.

A Proving Possible would hold that those remissions where a treatment just suddenly starts working, or works better than expected, might be a miracle.

A Proving Proof is what the Church uses. It involves bugging the heck out of all the experts, especially very skeptical ones, to try to find any other explanation.  It’s a matter of testing to try to find something that is definitely a miracle, not find stuff that could be a miracle, so that anyone who does an honest inquiry– asks the question and is willing to take yes for an answer– can believe.

Must I believe?

Alright, so it’s definitely a miracle.  Does that mean that I, as an observant, practicing Catholic, must believe in a specific miracle?

Big hint: apparitions are found “worthy of belief.”

Some miracles, we must believe in– like the Eucharistic Miracle.  Transubstantiation– if you don’t believe that this is His body, then you’ve got a rather big problem.

We also must believe that miracles are possible, and identifiable as miracles, per the first Vatican Council– no wiggle room with being able to go “oh, miracles happen, but there’s no way we could really know for sure.”  Look, if you check out that case of the girl who was born without pupils, who was– obviously– blind, but is objectively notblind after interaction with St. Padre Pio, and she still has no pupils, then you are really, really reaching, and should do some soul searching.  (Gemma Di Giorgi, although obviously she’s a lady, now, not a girl.  Yes, still alive.)

That said, these miracles are to aid for us to believe.  Unless a miracle has been explicitly taught by the justly applied power of the Church as requiring belief, you don’t have to believe it.  I can find nothing that says a Decree of a Miracle– the thing needed for a miracle to “count” for sainthood– is binding, and it’s important to note that the saint being in heaven is what is stated infallibly in the case of sainthood, and they are required so someone canbe canonized, it’s not automatic.  Keeping with the whole “two sides” theme, if you find yourself hitting someone over the head to get them to accept even an approved miracle, it’s time for some soul searching on yourself.

Just like with the saints, the purpose is to bring us to God– not to become some little god in themselves.

Comparing Syrian Refugees to Mary and Joseph is Ludicrous

Originally posted on it's only words:

Yesterday, liberals on social media thought they’d come up with the perfect talking point on the Syrian refugee issue. It was a gift from God. Literally. Straight from the Bible.

It was so perfect that it would shut conservatives (especially those hypocritical Christian conservatives) up for good.  They would bow down and pay homage to their intellectual superiors on the left. Finally.

It started with @owillis.

owillis talking point

This, in many variations, was repeated all day on Twitter.

Now what story could he possible be referencing?  Clearly, the story of Mary and Joseph being turned away at the inn in Bethlehem. It’s seasonal. They were turned away from the inn. Perfect, right?

Not really. It actually breaks down pretty quickly on every level for anyone with even a passing familiarity with the story. Mary and Joseph weren’t “seeking refuge,” just a place to stay for the night. They had traveled to Bethlehem…

View original 487 more words

A former sailor's ramblings on anything from family, country and Church through general geek-ness.


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