Easter Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/12/2020: Missing The Easter Bunny

Happy Easter!

That’s my favorite Arthur Sullivan Easter hymn…

Our family always celebrated Easter twice, at least when Greek Easter fell on a different date, which is usually the case.On traditional Easter, until my sister and I were well into high school, my parents hid two dozen colored eggs that we had decorated the day before all over the house for us to hunt for Easter morning. If there had been a pandemic then, my mother would have still hidden the eggs, because she knew even she, with her incredible talent for making BS credible, would not have been able to convince us that the Easter Bunny was “social distancing.”

How my parents loved family celebrations of holidays! I miss them so much, and days like this just makes not having them in our lives harder.

1. Can’t do this. I had been recommending the usually reliable website Ars Technica to my friends for updates on the virus so that they wouldn’t be battered hither and yon like skiffs made of paper on the ocean of hype and disinformation. I also relied on it myself. The site promised daily updates at 3 pm every day, along with a useful set of information, also updated as needed. Then, on April 6, the updates just stopped; no explanation, and nothing since. Unethical. If you promise a service for those in need of it, you can’t just stop it without warning or explanation. It doesn’t matter what the reason is. You have created reliance and  dependency. If you can’t be sure that you will carry through on your commitment, then don’t make it.

I headed a small professional theater for 20 years at great personal sacrifice on that principle.

2. Welcome to my world...Since so many were forthcoming in their reactions to my quarrel with one ex-commenter, here’s another one. Unsolicited, I received a book about two weeks ago from an Ethics Alarms follower. It was by L.Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer and founder of Scientology, and the topic was ethics. I was and am grateful, for all ideas about ethics are interesting to me, and most come in handy eventually. A few days ago, I received a long, handwritten letter from the same source, who told me that he was no longer following the blog. He then excoriated my for insulting him by posting, so soon after receiving the book, this post, which in item #3 I  made some uncomplimentary comments about Ron’s “church” (it’s a cult and probably a criminal enterprise), its current leader, and his whacked-out message to the flock about the pandemic, which he called “planetary bullbait.”

My critic thought it was mean and rude of me to respond to his kind gift by deriding his faith and his friend, the Church’s  Chairman of the Board, David Miscavige.

I immediately wrote back in part, Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Headline Of The Month: ‘Vatican: The Body of Christ Is Not Gluten Free”‘

The original Ethics Alarms post, one of two this month implicitly critical of the Catholic Church, has spawned several remarkable and thoughtful discussions, as well as so many candidates for Comment of The Day that any choice among them is somewhat arbitrary. In the case of Ryan Harkins, I’m not even certain this is the best of his comments on the post, so many excellent ones did I have to choose from. Thus I urge readers to read the entire array, which, I regret to say, is impressive and educational even though it does not include my old friend Patrice, Catholic, theologian, and Church employee who has commented here frequently in the past.

I decided to pair two of Ryan’s comments, the first an overview providing context for my original post’s topic, the Church’s insistence that that the bread and wafers used in Communion include gluten. The second, a response to a series of queries from another commenter, delves into an eternal ethics debate topic, the nexus between God and ethics.

Here is Ryan Harkins’ Dual Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Headline Of The Month: “Vatican: The Body of Christ Is Not Gluten Free”

I.

Where to begin? The challenge of trying to explain some of the odder details of the Catholic faith is that many of those details don’t make sense without the context of the faith as a whole. So please forgive me if I seem to natter on about tangential matters.

So, let’s begin with a few definitions to make discussion a little easier. A Sacrament is a visible sign, established by Jesus himself, through which God conveys grace upon mankind. A Sacrament is composed of two parts, one spiritual and one material. The reason it possess both qualities is because Sacraments are designed for us, and a human person is a body/spirit composite. We are not purely material beings, nor are we ghosts in a shell. We are not a complete person without our bodies. Now, to have a sign that is purely spiritual would neglect the physical aspect of our existence. To have a sign that is purely physical would neglect the spiritual dimension of our existence.

The Eucharist is one of the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. Catholics really, truly believe Jesus was serious when he said repeatedly, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have eternal life.” When at the Last Supper, he blesses bread and wine and says, “Take this and eat. This is my body, given for you” and “This is the cup of my blood, which will be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”, Catholics believe that yes, Jesus truly held himself in his hands and gave himself to his apostles to consume. So the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus, the fullness of his body, blood, soul, and divinity. When a priest says Mass and confects the Eucharist, Catholics believe that the bread and wine on the altar are transsubstantiated into Jesus. The accidents of bread and wine remain (so yes, consuming Jesus is problematic for anyone who has issues with the accidents of bread and wine), but the substance is entirely Jesus. The smallest drop from the chalice and the tiniest crumb of the loaf contains the fullness of Jesus.

Okay, so a Sacrament has a spiritual and a physical dimension, and the Eucharist obviously uses bread and wine for the physical dimension. Why bread and wine? In just reference to food and drink, we understand the Eucharist as a meal, and historically the greatest communal activity is the sharing together of a meal. In earliest Christianity, the Eucharistic celebration was in the context of the agape feasts, which eventually St. Paul instructed to tone down because people would become drunk and riotous at these feasts. The point, though, is that eating together is sign of communion (which is in part why the Eucharist is also called Communion). Jesus had prayed that “they may all be one, Father, as I am in you and you are in me,” and the Eucharist is the Sacrament Jesus instituted to make that possible. By consuming Jesus himself, we bring him into ourselves and are in turn incorporated into him. (You are what you eat, right?) Continue reading

The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016, Part 1

bad-2016

Welcome, if that’s the word, to the 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards.

Last year, in a burst of self-pity as I began this annual task, I wrote,

“It is depressing and discouraging: 2015 was much worse than 2014, which was considerably worse than 2013. What am I doing here? What is the point of spending all of this uncompensated time—it is more profitable bagging groceries!—trying to nurture a more ethical culture and a more ethically competent public when all evidence points to utter futility as the result? Well, that way madness lies, I guess. I’m just going to grit my teeth and do my duty. Last year I began by saying that 2014 was the year of the Ethics Train Wreck. There were far more of them in 2015, and they were more serious and damaging. That should give you sufficient warning of the horrors to come…”

Then came 20i6.

To paraphrase  Margo Channing, “Fasten your seatbelts: It’s going to a bumpy post…”

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

train-wreck-air

The Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck

I thought last year was the Year of the Train Wreck. Wrong. In 2016, we had the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, the Campus Sexual Assault Witch Hunt Ethics Train Wreck, the Freddie Gray Ethics Train Wreck, the old stand-by Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck, the still active Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, and the Ethics Train Wrecks of both Presidential candidates campaigns. Hillary’s e-mails and their related lies in the long trail of cars called the Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck, was a clear winner though.

Passengers included President Obama, Bernie Sanders, Anthony Weiner, the F.B.I., Loretta Lynch, Bill Clinton, James Comey and more. And, of course, it played a significant and perhaps decisive role in bringing us President Trump.

Runner-Up: 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck. It had less than a month to get up steam, but it caused lots of ethics carnage, and is still going strong.

Fraud of the Year

The Trump Foundation, which revealed itself to be a near total sham. RUNNER-UP: Fake lawyer Kimberly Kitchen, who worked as an estate planning lawyer at BMZ Law in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, and served as president of the county bar, though she never went to law school, and never took the bar exam, but forged documents to fool everyone that she had.

Most Unethical Act By A Major Church

The Catholic Church, which, incredibly, restored a convicted rapist to the priesthood. Father Joseph Jeyapaul,  a Catholic priest from India, while serving in the Crookston, Minnesota diocese from 2004 to 2005 raped at least two adolescent girls.  After being charged with the crimes, including rape and forcing at least one of his victims to perform fellatio on him, Father Joseph  escaped to India, where an Interpol warrant got him extradited back to Minnesota.  There he confessed, and as part of a plea bargain, received an outrageously light sentence of a year and a day for pleading guilty to one count of molestation. Jeyapaul was suspended from the priesthood and served his time in Minnesota. The U.S. deported him back to India, while the Minnesota diocese had to pay millions in a civil lawsuit, during which we learned that the rapist priest had told one of his victims  in the confessional that she was at fault, and had made Jeyapaul “impure” by letting him abuse her. In February, the Vatican lifted Jeyapaul‘s suspension and restored him to the priesthood. It then assigned him to a new parish in India, where he is now the diocesan head of its commission for education. 

Tell me again why that fake news story that the Pope endorsed Trump was supposed to help The Donald.

Incompetent Elected Official of the Year

kkane

Kathleen G. Kane (D), Pennsylvania’s ex-Attorney General.  In October, a judge sentenced her to 10 to 23 months in prison for her conviction on charges of perjury and abuse of her office. You can’t be more incompetent, I’d say, than an elected attorney general who can’t stay out of jail herself. I regret not writing about the Kane saga last year, but her ethical void was fairly apparent back in 2013, the only time I did write about her, after she leaked grand jury testimony, which is illegal. I wrote at the time (I must have been in a bad mood)…

“Leaking grand jury testimony is both illegal and spectacularly unethical for a lawyer, yet Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, appears to have done it for the slimiest of reasons, and is offering the most cynical of defenses in the most offensive of ways. (Incidentally, I don’t understand how this could happen. After all, Kane is a woman, the first Democrat and the first woman to be elected to the post, and since having a vagina alone is supposed to imbue a candidate with trustworthiness, surpassing competence and virtue, this makes no sense at all.)”

Unethical Elected Official of the Year

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The Catholic Church, Its Rapist Priest, And Shattered Trust

The graphic artist didn't place that halo over the rapist priest's head. The Vatican did.

The graphic artist didn’t place that halo over the rapist priest’s head. The Vatican did.

In the year after “Spotlight” focused renewed public attention on the Catholic Church’s horrific betrayal of its mission, its members and humanity by the enabling of child sexual predators within its ranks, how could the Church not realize that reinstating a convicted rapist priest, as it did this week, undermines all of its efforts to regain the trust and faith it had forfeited?

After months in which Pope Francis presumed to tell the governments of the world what its moral obligations were, how could he allow this to occur?

In short, how can a credible religion have broken ethics alarms? How can the Catholic Church preach morality while rejecting ethics?

Father Joseph Jeyapaul,  a Catholic priest from India, served in the Crookston, Minnesota diocese from 2004 to 2005. While he was there, he raped at least two adolescent girls. I say “at least” because he admitted to raping them to cop a plea. Who knows who else he may have assaulted?

After being charged with the crimes, including rape and forcing at least one of his victims to perform fellatio on him, Father Joseph  escaped to India, where an Interpol warrant got him extradited back to Minnesota.  There he confessed, and as part of a plea bargain, received an outrageously light sentence of a year and a day for pleading guilty to one count of molestation.

Don’t ask me to explain why any prosecutor whose law license wasn’t obtained by passing a quiz about “Law and Order” episodes would make such a deal. I assume that some kind of political pressure from the Church was involved, or that the prosecutors were Catholic, or that they had brain lesions or something. Frankly, I’d rather not talk about it.

Jeyapaul was suspended from the priesthood and served his time in Minnesota. The U.S. deported him back to India with a DO NOT RETURN TO SENDER label after his release last July.  Meanwhile, the Minnesota diocese had to pay millions in a civil lawsuit, during which we learned that the rapist priest had told one of his victims  in the confessional that she was at fault, and had made Jeyapaul “impure” by letting him abuse her.

Does the term “evil” come to mind, or would you call that too judgmental?

Now comes the amazing part. In February, the Vatican lifted  Jeyapaul‘s suspension and restored him to the priesthood. It then assigned him to a new parish in India, where he is now the diocesan head of its commission for education. 

I’m sure it’s also a great place to meet chicks.

Continue reading

Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Comment of the Day #2: “Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…”

Jesus-Burdens-our-Religious-Freedom

The second Comment of the Day, also on the same post, comes from frequent COTD author Extradimensional Cephalopod. His topic is religious freedom. Here it is…

Human logic is so warped by truisms. Why are we discussing the competition between religious freedom and the principle of respecting others? Once we strip away the artificial distinction between religious beliefs and any other beliefs, everything becomes more obvious.

It makes no sense at all to say that people are free to believe whatever they want but that they should not impose those beliefs on others in public. Society is built on a foundation of mutual beliefs, beliefs about the best obligations we can all impose on ourselves on behalf of each other. Fundamental disagreements or paradigm mismatches about ethics and rights cannot be ignored, because they disrupt the fabric of society itself. (No, gay marriage in itself doesn’t disrupt the fabric of society; the fact that only a small percentage of the population can discuss it respectfully and intelligently indicates the fabric has been looking for an excuse to unravel.)

“Religious freedom” is an excuse to avoid difficult conversations and careful thought, and just sweep the differences under the rug. The only reason that’s possible is because (most) people decided they would prefer to ignore each other rather than kill each other, but that doesn’t make the underlying misunderstandings go away. They show up in politics because the law of the land is the only place where people have no alternative but to deal with each other’s beliefs about right and wrong (or leave the country). If we face our disagreements head on, but with the goal of learning, there is no reason “tolerance” needs to last forever.

I would never tell a person who believes that gay marriage is an offense against a magical energy being that they should keep that belief to themselves, any more than I would ask it of someone who believes that evolution is a more accurate and useful concept than creationism. People who keep beliefs to themselves rarely get the opportunity to learn they’re wrong. Of course, people who never shut up about their beliefs and listen to alternatives never learn either. Ideas should be sent out into the world to stand on their own. Most of them will be torn to shreds, and that’s good. The ideas that don’t survive weren’t useful, at least not by themselves.

There is no way to defend religion as a concept, let alone its exercise, because religion is an arbitrary collection of descriptive and normative beliefs with a lot of people who consider them somehow existentially important. Religion in general cannot be defended ethically or legally, because its beliefs could say literally anything. Any such defense would merely be an excuse to completely ignore skepticism and critical thinking in the name of… somehow being morally superior in a way that critical thinking and skepticism… somehow prevents. However, most (but not all) religions allow critical thinking in ways that don’t threaten their tenets, because the ones that don’t are even more horribly crippled due to their intellectual bankruptcy. Few complain because few know how to think critically, or value the practice.

Continue reading

Is It Wrong To Laugh At This Story?

"Now, you're sure about this, right?"

“Now, you’re sure about this, right?”

Jonathan Turley found this strange tale, and the professor managed to find a jurisprudence issue in it. Not me: I want to know if finding it hilarious demonstrates unseemly cruelty.

In Zimbabwe, prophet Shamiso Kanyama instructed his followers to bury him alive as part of a ritual to cleanse their house of evil spirits. They did as he asked, and when they dug him up later he was dead.

The family that buried him is charged with murder. “Now the courts have a case where the victim demanded on religious grounds to be buried alive,” writes Turley. “The followers clearly believed that he could survive out of their own religious zeal. What should be the punishment in such a case?”

Oh, I don’t know: a conviction for murder, but a lighter than usual sentence. I don’t really care: this is Darwinism as work. My question is whether it is proof of a lack of empathy that the story reminds me of Monty Python, and makes me laugh.

Ethics Jump Ball: What Is An Ethical Reaction To This Story?

Pippa-Bacca

From the BBC (2008):

An Italian woman artist who was hitch-hiking to the Middle East dressed as a bride to promote world peace has been found murdered in Turkey.

The naked body of Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo, 33, known as Pippa Bacca, was found in bushes near the northern city of Gebze on Friday.

She had said she wanted to show that she could put her trust in the kindness of local people.

Turkish police say they have detained a man in connection with the killing.

Reports say the man led the police to the body.

I think I’ll add my reactions to the comments.

Fragments can be found in the tags.

You go first.

__________________

Pointer: Red Flag

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Week: Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.)

bob_brady_pope

From the Washington Times:

“As Congress members rushed to touch Pope Francis after Thursday’s historic address on the House floor, Rep. Bob Brady reportedly made a beeline for the podium to swipe the Holy Father’s discarded water glass.

The Pennsylvania congressman immediately took a sip out of the glass and brought it back to his office, ABC News reported

“The congressman is a Catholic and has immense respect for the Holy Father,” Rep. Brady’s Chief of Staff Stan White told ABC.

His office confirmed that Mr. Brady drank from the water and shared it with members of his staff and his wife, Debra Brady…The congressman kept the remainder of the water and plans to sprinkle it on his grandchildren, Mr. White said.”

Actually, I don’t know what to call this conduct.  Creepy? Superstitious? Embarrassing? Unsanitary? Silly? Bizarre? Funny? Deranged?

Incompetent will just have to suffice.

Does every glass the Pope drinks from become like the Holy Grail? I’d be careful, if I were were the Congressman…

Brady’s antics make the entire government look foolish. There’s religious belief, and there is irrational conduct. One doesn’t have to lead to the other, but such a display should cause serious voters to pause and wonder whether a man who acts like this belongs in a high office, or even a not so high office.

What an idiot.

UPDATE: After I posted this about an hour ago and had to run an errand, I began wondering whether Brady’s reverence for the Pope, which seems to extend to a belief that his lips are magic, also extends to accepting Catholic doctrine and what the Pope advocates, at least when these don’t conform to the Democratic Party’s platform. Here are Brady’s votes on abortion. A summary: Brady has voted for the most extreme pro-abortion positions. Reconcile that, if you will, with his water glass stunt.

I cannot comprehend Catholics who embrace this kind of hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance, nor can I respect any voter who would observe Brady and say, “Now there’s a man of integrity, wisdom and judgment!”

Comments Of The Day: “Remembering Christmas Music”

Xmas music

This is a rare collaborative Comment of the Day, as texaggo4 and Penn combined for a fascinating discourse on the trend in Christmas holiday music and its significance in response to my December 23 post, prompted by listening to one too many renditions of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” and “Santa Baby.” It’s a wonderful job by both participants here, reinforcing my conviction that the the debates following the posts are as valuable, or more so, than the posts themselves.

First up is tex, followed by Penn’s response. Here is their combined Comment of the Day on “Remembering Christmas Music”:

Christmas only exists because of Christ. That being said, pull the religion out of the holiday and ultimately the holiday disappears and all of its associated trappings.

Christmas music has several “genres”, not classified nor exclusive:

1) Theological or religious: directly communication the story or the theology of the Incarnation.

2) Modern references to the festivals associated with the Christ-Mass.

3) Modern references to the neo-pagan Christmas folklore…Santa Claus, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, etc.

4) Modern references to the American folklore… Frosty the Snowman, etc

5) Modern references to the post-materialist Capitalist associations with Christmas— Christmas party songs.

6) Modern references to the post-narcissist associations with Christmas…songs about sex….

great.

We all saw this coming…it is predictable. take the religion out of a religious holiday and you can only assume that artistic messages (songs included) pertaining to the Holiday will have less and less to do with the ethical message of the holiday until eventually, watered down, it isn’t even worth playing the secular versions of that Holiday’s music.

What are the secularists complaining about? They asked for this.

Here is Penn’s reply: Continue reading

Psychic Discrimination In Uptown Yucaipa

Psychic signThe faithful in Yucaipa, California don’t want psychics in their town. After all, what’s next? Soon you’ll have meetings of people being told wild stories about miracles and virgin births and resurrections, and…oh.

This is one of those situations where the intolerance of religious Americans undermines their own cause, though I  know they don’t see it that way.

John Johnson is asking Yucaipa for a home occupation permit so he can continue to provide psychic readings, which he has done without incident for decades. However,  it looks like opposition from surrounding neighbors at the public hearing might foil  Johnson’s efforts to let his home business pass muster as  a nonconforming use in a commercial zone. This makes no sense to him. (It makes no sense to me either.)

“I’ve never hurt any children or gone astray,” he said at the hearing. “I don’t take drugs nor have any tattoos. You people judge me without even knowing me…. I’m a devoted Catholic.”

No, the godly of Yucaipa think you’re evil, John. Here are some of the comments at the meeting: Continue reading