Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Pope and a patriarch, folk medicine, coyotes, and more

  • The Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow are to meet. Good coverage from the New York Times. For once I wish the more sensational bad coverage were right, that Patriarch Kyrill was about to reconcile Russia to the Catholic Church. Which won't happen here. Actually we want to bring all those churches back at the same time (they have a rite that's better than the Novus Ordo, and ideas and ways that can be "outside the box" of our typical thinking), so it's just as well. Why Communist Cuba? "Neutral"?! All that will happen is the Pope and the patriarch will have a polite meeting and issue some innocuous joint statement that persecuting Christians isn't nice, like something the Archbishop of Canterbury would say. Ecumenism's only accomplishment is the Christian sides aren't trying to kill each other anymore.
  • Granny women: healing and magic in Appalachia. Herbal folk medicine: there is something to this (most of ancient and medieval medicine, including that of American Indians), and I believe those who say the American Medical Association, bought off by Big Pharma, is trying to wipe this out as competition; the "healthcare" business doesn't care about you and would really rather keep you sick so you and the insurance companies eventually pay them big bucks to sell you new drugs, etc. (Herbs are drugs too.) On the other hand, modern Western medicine is real and beneficial; we just need to get rid of the abuses. I imagine too often "naturopathic doctors" just run glorified vitamin shops. Related: the theory behind chiropractic is hooey; coincidentally, manipulating your back does help your back.
  • Quote on Trump: This guy is just pandering to people's anger and frustration. At least somebody's grabbed the media's attention to air that anger and frustration; why I support him. Reminds me of the late Fr. Nicholas Gruner in the Catholic Church: maybe he was a grandstanding self-promoter, even a con artist, very untraditional that way, like a televangelist, but he said things about the church that needed to be said which nobody in the official church, even conservatives, dared, and he reached the kind of people who don't read theological books or journals.
  • While it may be true that Bill Cosby is in bad health at his age, seeing his self-pitying act in the news, showing up at court hobbling with a cane and two big bodyguards holding each arm ("You wouldn't throw an old man like me in jail, right?"), strikes me as an admission of guilt. Maybe he thought he could pull it off as an actor, but you'd think a man with a putative doctorate would come up with something less effing obvious.
  • Have fun but I couldn't care less about the Super Bowl.
  • Picture: Remembering Feb. 3, 1959.
  • Recent books read:
    • Philly Fiction. A collection of short stories featuring the city and lifelike types as characters, from the teenage white girl in the rowhouse who finds out she was an unwanted pregnancy like the one her pretty neighbor has, to the a**hole Greek-American lawyer in Society Hill Towers two-timing women, to the slacker grifter sexing a girl doctor just to get health care.
    • Eamon Duffy's The Voices of Morebath. Michael Davies introduced me to Morebath and Sir Christopher Trychay (in 1500s England, diocesan priests were "Sir Firstname," not "Father Lastname," like knights), people in conservative Devon who like much of England begrudgingly went along with the monarchs' turning against the church, Morebath welcoming Queen Mary's return to it. Duffy's fair, pointing out that villages in other parts of the country welcomed the change of religion (which Davies explained; Catholicism vs. Protestantism in a nutshell: the church and real sacraments giving grace vs. feeling you're saved and sacraments being merely symbols of that). Morebath's of historical interest because the priest was a conscientious record-keeper (beautiful handwriting too; looks like Arabic letters) of the parish's finances. That should tell you something: while this isn't as long as The Stripping of the Altars, that this comes from financial records tells you the book is slow going at first. But the real story is worth reading and of course wrenching for Catholics: basically, the government robbed the church and ruined communities financially by doing so. (Taxes and confiscations to pay for wars.) The recent historical bombshell that Duffy brings up is that we now know Morebath participated in the armed anti-Prayer Book rebellion in the West Country after King Edward VI's regents banned the old Mass and imposed the first Prayer Book; Fr. Hunwicke taught me about that. England was driven from the church by force, and the state church reflects that confusion, claiming continuity with Catholicism (creeds, bishops, and a liturgy) while adopting Reformed theology. Morebath was somehow spared even though it participated in the losing rebellion. Except for the rebellion, Sir Christopher and the people of what we would call St. George's, Morebath (the English say "Morebath church" more than "St. George's," the Catholic assumption being of course there's only one church, one parish, in the area), scared into submission by the government's terror campaign, usually quietly went along with the Protestantization when it was imposed (the campaign against images went back to Henry VIII's reign); what Duffy describes as one of the puzzling things about the English "Reformation," the acquiescence of so many of the people despite their religious conservatism, especially the clergy. (Duffy: Sir Christopher was not a suckup Vicar of Bray.) Duffy mentions that the authorities took advantage of existing strong community life to implement the change, and where that didn't work, they used violence. The circumstances of the change produced what Christopher Haigh calls parish anglicanism (his spelling) or what Duffy describes as the mellow church of George Herbert; by the time Sir Christopher passed away, in Elizabeth I's reign, he and Morebath adapted by treating the new religion with the easygoing reverence they did the old (treating the Prayer Book like the missal and breviary, for example), even though it certainly didn't look the same (the authorities made sure of that). The romantic Anglo-Catholic alumnus in me still sees an estranged Catholic people in the mother country, haunted by the church with its old parishes still named after medieval saints; for a long time it was true. The English Civil War, the "Enlightenment," and the Industrial Revolution seemed to finish off religion there; Wesley, the Anglo-Catholics, and Booth were trying to win the country back for Christ.
    • An advance copy of Coyote America by Dan Flores. A great read and educational. Basically, God put wolves and coyotes on earth for a reason, something scientists apparently only recently figured out (about a balance and niches in nature, for example; predators have a job to do), so the U.S. government's campaigns to kill them (agencies justifying their existence, and using incredible cruelty with poison, for example) at the insistence of ranchers were wrong. (The coyote's place in the hierarchy: the bigger dogs, wolves, keep them in line, while they control prey animals' populations.) There are unintended consequences of course as messing with nature causes: we ended up with more coyotes in cities! It's a conservative vs. liberal skirmish, the pro-killing right, saying "ki-yote" (you can hear the Southern twang), and the "coyote-loving hippies," environmentalists and enthusiasts of American Indian folklore about these intelligent, adaptable wild dogs (including a trickster demigod), saying "ki-yoh-tee" as I always have. I'm with the left on this one, because aren't conservatives supposed to conserve things such as God's creation? The way to deal with city coyotes is to keep them wild, afraid of us; hard because they're so smart. "Haze" them to scare them away; don't back down. Works with people too.


  1. Perhaps homeopathy doesn't work but they believed in cleanliness, while the rest of the doctors were operating with filthy hands and aprons encrusted with pus and blood. James Garfield's incompetent doctor took two months to kill the President after sticking filthy probes in his wounds about 20 times.

    What's the difference between God and a doctor? God doesn't think he's a doctor.

    1. My guess is since homeopathy's entry requirements are lower than for medical school, it attracts a good number of quacks (MD/DO wannabes; vitamin shops making outrageous claims, like some chiropractors) but abusus non tollit usum. Ancient healers around the world learned which local plants work for which diseases, knowledge that's ours for the asking. Once upon a time, surgeons were regarded as lesser practitioners, much as you describe; to this day in Britain they're "Mr.," not "Dr." Before anaesthesia and before scientists figured out germs so handwashing was called for before operating, it was doubly dangerous. The best practitioners try the most conservative cures first; "do no harm." Herbal medicine makes a good first treatment for some ailments.

  2. Re: Franciscus and Kyrill. The BBC, this a.m., opined that the former views the latter as, I paraphrase, an equal. That he, Francisus, denies the Petrine superiority. And look where they are to meet, Cuba that bastion of the free world.I have great sympathy towards the Orthodox and Byzantine, but am cautious as to the degree to which Putin and his ilk control the Russian Church.

    1. I imagine the state broadcaster of lapsed Protestant Britain, like America becoming more religiously illiterate despite the country's longer religious history, isn't an authoritative source of information on the Pope. Suppose, though, it's true. Good thing it doesn't affect the church in any way, because the Pope's job isn't to push his opinions; it's to defend the church's teachings, which he can't change. I don't dislike Putin and his ilk other than their general spiritual problem of being in schism, a mighty country like Russia being vulnerable to the kind of pride that makes it think it IS the universal church. That and, as you suggest, strongmen such as he have no time for a church, namely us, they can't own.


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