Sunday, March 10, 2019

A Solution To The Catholic Church's Priest Problem

The Roman Catholic Church has a two-fold problem with regards to its priest situation.

First, there is the revelation that there has been a widespread and systemic problem of Catholic priests molesting children.  The extent of the abuse and its cover up by Church authorities have caused tremendous damage to the Church's moral credibility.  It has gotten to the point where the term "pedophile" has come to be associated with "priest" in the mind of the public not unlike how "Muslim" is associated with "terrorist."

Second, the Catholic Church, at least in the United States and Europe, is facing a severe shortage of priests as fewer and fewer young men are enrolling in seminaries.  In the United States, for example, four decades ago roughly 7,000 or more were enrolled, whereas for the last 30 years, that number has been consistently below 4,000.  There are a number of reasons why this is happening.  For starters, the lifetime celibacy requirement is probably not very enticing.  Thanks in part to the sexual abuse scandals, being a Catholic priest does not carry the prestige it once had.  It is not a financially rewarding profession.

There are some steps the Catholic Church could take that might mitigate the problem, such as allowing married men to be priests and abolishing the celibacy requirement.  An even more radical step would be to open the priesthood to women.  The latter in particular would be quite difficult to bring about, owing to more than a millennia of Church doctrine restricting the priesthood to men.  The Church would have to be in very dire straits to consider such a tectonic shift.

But what if there was another way for the Church to address its priest shortage that did not entail ending the celibacy requirement or letting women become priests?  Maybe it is time for the Roman Catholic Church to consider a 21st century solution to its priest shortage.

Perhaps it is time for the Catholic Church to explore the possibility of having robot priests!

Yeah, it sounds ridiculous on its face, but it is not impossible to do.  In Japan (where else, or course!) where an aging population has led to a shortage of Buddhist priests, a robot has already been programmed to chant at funerals.

What would be so bad about having robots function as Catholic priests?  After all, they would be celibate and incapable of sexually abusing children.  The Church would never run out of them as more could always be manufactured as needed.

Surely, a robot could be programmed to conduct a mass, dispense communion, and even have algorithms in its programming to hear confession and dispense the requisite penance based on the sins revealed by the confessor.

What say you, Pope Francis?  We're already developing sex robots!  If we're going to have robots for sin, shouldn't we have robots for salvation as well?

Friday, November 09, 2018

Random Thoughts: From MAGA to KAGA

As we all know, Donald Trump's campaign slogan in the 2016 presidential election was "Make America Great Again", which was not only catchy in itself, but also could be reduced to the nifty acronym MAGA.

The narrative of Trump's message that resonated with his supporters was that there was a time when the United States of America was a great country that somewhere along the line lost its way and was no longer great.

For the anticipated reelection campaign in 2020, I have been seeing the slogan "Keep America Great Again", which assumes that Donald Trump has already been successful in making the country great again.

If that is the case, in what way is America great again that it wasn't before Trump assumed office in January of 2017?  Sure, our economy is continuing to experience decent job growth, but jobs were being added for years before Trump took office.   The unemployment rate was 9.3% when Obama took office and had fallen to 4.8% when he left.  The current unemployment rate is 3.7%.  Likewise, the major stock indices were much higher when Obama left office then they were at the start of his administration in 2009.  Granted, stock gains during Trump's first year in office in 2017 were spectacular.  But 2018 has seen the major indices shrink from their peaks and not long ago the S&P and DJIA were briefly negative for the year.

Earlier this year Trump was constantly bragging that the US economy was the greatest ever in its history.  While one could probably make a case that the tax cuts that took effect in the beginning of the year along with the rollback of Obama-era regulations contributed to the continuing growth in jobs, it remains to be seen if Trump's tariff wars will have a negative impact in the coming months.

While I certainly hope it will not be the case, there is a possibility that the economy could enter into a recession before the 2020 election and that stocks will experience a bear market.  If this should happen, what does it have to say for the "Keep America Great Again" slogan?

If Trump supporters can't rely on jobs and stock market performance in the 2020 election as measurable indicators for American greatness, what else can they rely on?  The scrapping of the Iran deal?  Deporting illegal immigrants (even though illegal immigration declined during the Obama presidency), banning Roe v. Wade?  What?   Maybe Kim Jong-Un will bend over for Donald and completely denuclearize and demilitarize North Korea.  No matter what, we are in for another interesting two years.

Monday, November 05, 2018

A Cardinal Is Just A Cardinal

I have written in the past that Facebook is a goldmine of topics to blog about.  And sometimes a blog can be a good venue to vent about things you see on Facebook that you are reluctant to rant about on Facebook itself out of consideration for the feelings of friends or family members.

One thing I have been seeing a lot of lately on my Facebook feed is friends who have lost loved ones in recent years writing posts about seeing cardinals in their yards, which they interpret as the spirit of their loved ones coming to visit them.  I just finished reading one friend's post just a moment ago, as well as the comments that followed, many from people making the same claim.

So I did a quick Google search and found a vast body of Internet literature about cardinals being used as vessels for the spirits of the dead to visit their loved ones still living.  Here is a link to one such article.

I live on Long Island, as well as most of the people I see on Facebook making their cardinal claims, and I can attest that cardinals are rather common birds here.  There is absolutely nothing remarkable about seeing them.  I even did a blog post about them nearly eleven years ago. 

The idea that cardinals, or any other animal for that matter, are vessels (at least temporarily) for spirits of the deceased is just another form of what I call human egocentrism.  It denies that cardinals live their lives for their own purposes and presumes that whenever one of them seems to act in a way that is different from what we think they should (especially if one does not study bird behavior) that the default position should be that it must be one's deceased parent, spouse, sibling, etc. coming to visit them and to check up on them. 

Of course, I could post this on Facebook, but I can just imagine the anticipated reaction that I am being insensitive to the feelings of people who lament the loss of a loved one and find comfort in the thought that the dearly departed visit them from time to time in the form of a little red bird.  I guess I am just too nice for that.  :-)