Monday, February 27, 2006

Photos of Immaculate Conception Church, in Madonnaville, Illinois

Madonnaville, Illinois, is a small hamlet in Monroe County, about eight miles southwest of the county seat of Waterloo, and 31 highway miles south of downtown Saint Louis, Missouri.

Here is the view towards Madonnaville.

The church, built by hand out of native stone. The parish dates from 1838, with the first church being built in 1844; the current church dates from 1855.

This parish was originally founded in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. The Diocese of Chicago was erected in 1843; from it the Diocese of Quincy in 1853; renamed the Diocese of Alton in 1857, and from it came the Diocese of Belleville in 1887.

The church was locked at the time of my visit; I haven't been inside in years, so I can't comment on the interior.

Saint Mary, over the door.

The former rectory, dating from 1861, is used for functions such as wakes after funerals.

The former school, also dating from 1861, is now a private residence.

There are or were no fewer than nine churches in what is now the Diocese of Belleville named Immaculate Conception. The very earliest missionaries to this area, when it was a part of the French Empire, dedicated themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception. Father Jacques Marquette, exploring the area in the 17th century, even gave the nearby Mississippi River that name.

"Immaculate Conception, Madonnaville, Sun. Mass 10:30 am".

The back of the church.

The relative flatness and sparsity of trees in much of Illinois makes finding traditionally-designed churches fairly easy: just scan the horizon for steeples. This area is on the edge of the prairie, and approaches instead the more rugged region near the River. Caves, springs, and sinkholes are nearby.

A correspondent sent me the following links with historical information:

My correspondent adds:
"(The 1883 article is fairly accurate though there is one clarification that I would like to make: it states that "Madonnaville ... is the modern name for the ancient settlement of James Mills ..." Actually, it is Monroe City, located a mile or two down the bluff from Madonnaville, that was James' Mill, named for the James family. Thomas James donated 40 acres of the land up on the hill for the church. Source: "Arrowheads to Aerojets," Monroe County Historical Society, Klein, Helen Ragland, editor; published by Myron Roever Associates, Valmeyer, 1967, page 374."
UPDATE. A correspondent writes:
The photos on the website are beautiful. But the identification of the two buildings near the church should be swapped. The school is the building with the cross on the roof above the door. The Rectory (Priests' residence) is the building just East of the church and is currently occupied by a family.

Click here for map.


This is a quick comparison of how orthodoxy is compared to both fundamentalism and liberalism. It is rather interesting that the latter often share similarities. More often, they are on opposite sides of the 'golden mean' of virtue. The term 'orthodoxy' in this sense comes from Plato, being Greek for 'right reason'.

A brief comparison of fundamentalism, orthodoxy, and liberalism.

Grace and NatureGrace exalted over nature; dualistic view of grace and nature. Tends towards supernaturalism.Grace marries nature; unified view of grace and nature.Grace imitates nature; dualistic view of grace and nature; tends to naturalism.
ScriptureInspired by God; read in a literalistic, subjective manner; may even be seen as a source of hidden or encoded meaning (such as the 'Bible Code'). A view that the Bible 'fell from Heaven'. Much argument over the precise meaning of scripture.A work of man inspired by God; read in a literal, objective manner, taking into account the historical context of the readings. The Bible has cohesive, parallel meanings and is always Christological.A work of man; read in a metaphorical, subjective manner; alternative 'readings' may be generated to create new meanings; may be abandoned or supplemented with scripture of other religions. A view that the Bible was the work of men with political agendas.
EmphasisDocetism; emphasis of spirit over matter.Unity of matter and Divinity in Christ.Arianism, pantheism; emphasis of matter over spirit.
View of GodTranscendent; God is in Heaven; the Earth is wicked.Transcendent and Immanent; Trinitarian view of GodImmanent; God is in us, not in a remote place; we are God.
MoralityAbsolutist; rules must be followed.Objective; concrete rules of morality influenced by circumstance and mental state.Relativistic; circumstances and mental states determine morality.
ChurchesNew, separate congregations are started when conflicts occur.All congregations are visibly united; great effort is exerted to heal schism.Existing congregations have to be subverted. Schism and union done as politically expedient.
Religious ArtArt strongly deemphasized; music used primarily for spiritual uplift.Art is to elevate both the heart and intellect to Heaven.Abstract art emphasized. Art is for the individual expression of feelings.
ArchitectureIconoclastic; idols prohibited in the CommandmentsArchitecture must be beautiful and iconographic.Iconoclastic; an artist should not impose his views of religion on others.
The willDeemphasized; believers are already saved.The will is needed to conform oneself to GodDeemphasized; a person just needs to have self-esteem.
ReasonFaith is greater than reason; science is deceiving.Faith and Reason cannot conflict; all Truth comes from God.Science is greater than faith; religious practice must follow the latest findings of Science.
TraditionAmbivalent feeling towards tradition, if not outright rejected. Often used unconsciouslyTradition explicitly part of the Faith. Often used and debated.Ambivalent feeling towards tradition, if not outright rejected. Often consciously modified.
PhilosophyNot synthesized into the Faith. Difficulty in abstracting beyond what is explicitly in scripture.Philosophy integrated into the Faith to provide a universal view of reality, both Heaven and Earth.Faith subsumed into a philosophical framework, so as to make the faith a handmaid of a philosophy.
PoliticsNo clear political philosophy consistent with Faith. Tendency towards theocracy.Secular, but informed by Faith. Social Justice and governmental morality is seen as inseparable from personal morality.Secular. Explicit adherence to political philosophies incompatible with the Faith. Faith often seen as unneeded after political revolution makes a just society.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

This could be a big mistake....

Catholic diocese considers regional approach to schools. Regional consolidation ruined the public schools.

'Pizza pope' builds a Catholic heaven

See the article: 'Pizza pope' builds a Catholic heaven, about the new town of Ave Maria in Florida. The town is to have a secular pro-life policy, as well as uphold one of the traditional police powers of government, defense of morality (the others being health and safety).

Judging from the criticism, it seems that 'toleration' only goes in one direction, just like the "separation of Church and State".

Accusations of Misused Money Roil Orthodox Church

See the article: Accusations of Misused Money Roil Orthodox Church.

In churches and in life in general, large monetary donations are always welcome. But the love of money corrupts.

Two things can be used to avoid problems like this: poverty and subsidiarity.

An organization short on money will often seek to do more with less. It's easy to throw money at problems, as do the government schools of the City of Saint Louis, but how much more can be done when individuals, with charity, act on these problems?

Also, there is the tendency to fund-raise and pay for charities at the highest level possible: it's efficient, some claim. But huge amounts of money act as temptation for corruption and leads also to institutional bloat and inertia. Giving money, in small amounts, at a local level, meets needs directly and discourages these problems.

Courage Conference to be Held in Saint Louis in July

See the article Gay rights groups protest outside of 'Love Won Out' conference. This conference was held at the First Evangelical Free Church in Manchester, Missouri, sponsored by Focus on the Family, and had about 1700 attendees. The presence of the protesters show that this is a highly politicized subject; also, the media 'spin' on the conference was provided from the point of view of the protesters.

[Note: STLtoday changed the title of the article for some reason: Ex-gays promote the straight life]

The Catholic group Courage will be holding its annual conference July 27th-30th at Saint Louis University.

Courage is a pro-chastity group for those with same-sex attraction, and has a sister organization Encourage, for friends and families.

The group was started by the late Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York. Fr. John Harvey began the Apostolate in 1980, with the help of the Rev. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. and others. The group is endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Family and by the late Pope John Paul II. There are also Eastern Orthodox priests who are involved with Courage.

According to the group: "By developing an interior life of chastity, which is the universal call to all Christians, one can move beyond the confines of the homosexual identity to a more complete one in Christ."

The five goals of Courage (quoted from their website) are:
  • Live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality.

  • Dedicate ones life to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.

  • Foster a spirit of fellowship in which all may share thoughts and experiences, and so ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone.

  • Be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in a chaste Christian life and in doing so provide encouragement to one another in forming and sustaining them.

  • Live lives that may serve as good examples to others.

According the group, these are the practical questions they deal with:

  • How does one grow spiritually and emotionally amidst the struggle with same-sex desires?

  • What are the objective truths that one must pay attention to?

  • How does one bear up amidst the opposition from our largely secular media and society?

The apostolate does not use the secular terms "gay" and "lesbian", since these terms imply an unchaste lifestyle and a narrow reductionist identification of a person with this lifestyle. Courage is not an "orientation change" organization and does not provide psychological counseling. "...[T]he goal and focus of Courage remains a life of interior chastity, humility, and holiness, which can be achieved by all, with God's grace."

One apostolate is the Courage Reparational Group:
Courage Reparational Groups desire that...

....those who struggle with same-sex desires would strive to surrender their desires to the Lord and join themselves to His crucifixion and death; they would nurture an espousal relationship with the Lord through a spirit of contemplation and self denial; they would seek to make reparation for sins against human sexuality in today's society and seek to experience His consolation in their particular suffering.

Out of 110 apostolates worldwide, there are 90 chapters in the United States, including one in Saint Louis.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Bohemian Hill

From a genealogy website (
...The first Bohemians arriving in St. Louis settled in what was then called Frenchtown. This section of St. Louis was later referred to as Bohemian Hill and today is called Soulard. The boundaries of this area on the near south side of the city are Lafayette Ave., 7th Street, Russell Blvd., and 18th Street. At the time, this part of St. Louis was known as "Bohemian Hill" and was a very active settlement with a highly regarded library.

In 1855, the early Bohemian immigrants were able to build their own church in St. Louis, St. John Nepomuk. The Lucash family often traveled from Freeburg to St. John's to attend services and sing in the church choir. This was the first Bohemian church in America.

It was not until the revolution of 1848, when the anticlerical and freethinkers revolted in Bohemia, that any significant number of Bohemians emigrated. They arrived in St. Louis traveling up the Mississippi River from the port of New Orleans. The Bohemian immigration occurred in two waves: 1848-1870 and 1870-1920. The first wave tended to settle in St. Louis and the surrounding area. The second wave used St. Louis as a jumping off place to Chicago and other parts of the Midwest.

There existed two sets of parallel Bohemian institutions in St. Louis as well as the rest of the United States: Roman Catholic and Protestant (Hussite). The two groups did not associate or intermingle.

See my article Photos of Saint John Nepomuk. It is now a chapel, available for weddings and funerals. I'm told that Fr. Rodis, who was a longtime priest of the Indult Latin Mass in Saint Louis, occassionally holds services here. I don't have a schedule, though.

Click here for a map of the area.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Days appear numbered for Allenton, Missouri - updated with photos

See this article in STLtoday: Days appear numbered for Allenton, Mo.

This small Ozarks town just off of Interstate 44 in Saint Louis County, Missouri, is to be wiped out soon. It will be replaced by a 1000-acre housing development and big-box retail. Allenton, due to an accident of geography, is a remarkably rural area located very close to intensive development.

Not only may private Eminent Domain be used here to force people out of their homes, but it is also being financed through Tax Increment Financing, or a TIF. This TIF, which provides tax dollars for private use, can be used because the town has been declared blighted by the County. This development uses both the police and taxing power of government for private purposes against property rights. If you do not generate enough tax dollars, your property may be targeted next.

This narrow, steep bridge is one of only two good ways to drive into Allenton and is the most convenient from Interstate 44, being right at an exit. The other route comes in from Eureka to the east and is miles out of the way. That Allenton has constricted access has allowed it to keep its rural character. You can get into Allenton from the west by fording Fox Creek and traveling down a farmer's dirt road: four wheel drive vehicles with high clearance are required to do this. From the south, Allenton is only accessible by boat via Hunter's Ford Access on the Meramec River.

Allenton is on the other side of the tracks from the rest of the county. These railroads, dating from before the Civil War, were laid out by James P. Kirkwood, namesake of the nearby town. He famously said something like "Give me enough whiskey and a bunch of Swedes, and I'll build a railroad to Hell". This was one of the first transcontinental railroads, helping to bring about America's Manifest Destiny of controlling the continent from sea to sea. Allenton exists because of the railroad, as a home to railroad workers and as a station to load crops from the nearly farms.

Directly across Interstate 44 from Allenton is the Six Flags amusement park. Turn around, and you see a very small town surrounded by farms and wilderness.

Main Street.

This real estate office has just one final sale.

Antique store. To its left is a pawn shop, still open, and to its right is a former post office, which closed in 2005.

This old stone building is a part of Word of Life church, one of the few structures in town that will be kept—for the time being.

This home could be found almost anywhere in the Ozarks. The odd roof angle shows that this house is probably very old, and may even have been once a log cabin.

Boarded up. Cutting-edge New Urbanists put porches like these on their home designs.

A home also like those found everywhere in the Ozarks. Notice the metal roof, one of the most durable and effective roofing materials around, and common in rural areas around Saint Louis.

Old, small, but neat and well-sided.

Almost gone.

Some homes in Allenton are quite upscale; this is right next door to the last two. Allenton had the advantage of rural living that was close to transportation and shopping. Now this home will either be destroyed or will have many neighbors.

The old Allenton School, of classical design. Small, local schools like this were responsive to the needs of the parents, and children could walk here.

A spring house. It was once probably used as a refrigerator, since spring water here has a constant temperature of about 56 degrees Fahrenheit

Land clearance is underway. These logs are valuable property. Timber cutting is a big industry in the Ozarks.

Looking up a hillside. Beyond the trees, hidden by the ridgetop, is a large housing development.

If the Platonic Form of the Ozarks could be seen with the body's eye, it might look something like this, with narrow roads, and ridge upon ridge of rolling hills.

The geographer may define the Ozarks as an ancient uplifted plateau with deeply entrenched rivers, one of the oldest in North America, that extends across most of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, with portions in Kansas, Oklahoma, and even southern Illinois. This geographic Ozarks extends even into Saint Louis County, with the Anitre Rise along Interstate 44 being its edge; or perhaps it even extends into western Kirkwood, with the picturesque Sugar Creek Valley and its early 1970s Contemporary-style homes favored by artists. It most certainly does not extend into the City of Saint Louis itself.

The demographer may define the Ozarks as an area of people of predominately Scots-Irish descent, who moved here in the early 19th century, who avoid large-town life, and who practice forms of conservative, Pentecostal Christianity.

But the Ozarks are often described by what they are not. A long-term resident of the Ozarks, the true Ozarks, would say that Springfield is not the Ozarks, nor is Branson, or even the small town of West Plains in Howell County; certainly nothing in Saint Louis County can be the Ozarks. And if that resident is completely honest, he would have to say that he does not live in the Ozarks either: the Ozarks is always somewhere else, a place of myth and legend. And after development, this area will no longer be a part of this Ozarks of the heart and imagination, for the Ozarks will be someplace else, but not here.

This is a spring, off of Hunter's Ford Road. Modern construction often hides these, with their outlet draining into a sewer pipe. The spiritual significance of springs is lost on the modern mind, and instead are a nuisance, spilling water where it is not wanted. Some moderns, strangely, may even look one of these and assume that the owner must have placed an electrical water pump inside, for how could water flow out of rock by itself?

Meramec River. This river is spring-fed and allows boating year-round. Only a little bit of commercial traffic still remains on this river. It once was used to haul iron, lead, and furs from the interior of the state

An old farm being dug up in Allenton Bottoms.

Clearance underway in Allenton Bottoms, on the floodplain of the Meramec River. It appears that they are digging a lake.

The floodplain of the old channel of the Meramec River. Here the river made a broad horseshoe bend, and the cutting of the river on the sides of the bend made the gap ever smaller, until the river jumped the gap, leaving thousands of acres dry. However, this land does flood, and the road was under water during the Great Flood of 1993.

The farm buildings in the background to the left sit on Lost Hill, a geographical term for a point of land that has been cut off from its parent ridge by stream erosion.

Rich farmland on the western edge of town.

This town is mostly poor, blighted, with some dirt roads, old construction, and few modern conveniences. But residents say that they will miss it very much. That speaks more than the result of any socioeconomic analysis.

Click here for a map.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Do you support stem cell research?

Look at this poll in the secular website: Do you support stem cell research?

Of course, the poll question is poorly written. If I answer "yes" I say the truth, for I support adult stem cell research. But since they may actually mean embryonic stell cell research, the kind that kills a human, I actually voted "no".

STLtoday can plausibly say that based on the "yes" votes, most people support clone-and-kill research. And just as plausibly, they can say that those who vote "no" are ignorant, since even traditional moralists agree that adult stem cell research is ethical. Maybe you shouldn't vote!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mother Warde

Carly Fiorina was not the first female CEO in the United States.

The Reverend Mother Mary Francis Xavier Warde
The Reverend Mother Mary Francis Xavier Warde has her beat by a century and a half.

She was one of the first seven Sisters to take vows in the then-new Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy in 1828. After founding several convents in Ireland, she left for the United States, where she founded schools, conducted prison ministries, and started the first hospital in Pittsburgh. Quickly following were foundations in Chicago, the Alleghanies, and Providence.

In Providence, a mob of "Know-Nothings" threatened to kill Mother Warde and her sisters, where she commanded her defenders to not fire on the rioters except in self-defence. As one of the rioters said, "We made our plans without reckoning the odds we shall have to contend with in the strong controlling force the presence of that nun commands. The only honourable course for us is to retreat from this ill-conceived fray. I, for one, shall not lift a hand to harm these ladies."

Mother Warde started religious communities in Hartford, New Haven, Newport, Rochester, Buffalo, a night school for child factory laborers in Manchester, and communites in Philadelphia, Maine, New Jersey, and California. She also opened orphanages and missions to the Indians in Maine, paid for by the U.S. government.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: "At the time of her golden jubilee in 1883 Mother Warde was the oldest Sister of Mercy living. Her salient characteristics were great purity of heart, earnestness of purpose, sincerity, and large-mindedness. She was exceedingly reserved, but sympathizing and compassionate towards others. Endowed with rare common-sense, she was an optimist in all things. In appearance she was of medium height, erect, and of commanding presence; her forehead was high, and her blue eyes deeply set."

The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas has 4,600 Sisters and owns one of the largest hospital systems in the United States. They own Saint John's Mercy Hospital in Saint Louis County, Missouri.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Compton Hill Water Tower

The Compton Hill Water Tower, located on Grand Avenue just south of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

This tower was completed in 1898 and was not for water storage, but instead is a standpipe. The giant steam pumps of the Victorian era produced tremendous water pressure during a part of the pumping cycle, and these standpipes moderated the flow. Modern turbine pumps produce an even flow of water. Of the six standpipe water towers remaining in the United States, three are in Saint Louis.

The tower was designed by legendary architect and furniture designer Harvey Ellis, who was known for his imaginative and romantic designs in the Romanesque and American Queen Anne styles. He was also a severe alcoholic, and eventually a Catholic convert, dying in 1904 at the age of 52.

I took this photo from Compton Hill, one of the highest points of the City and home to water storage tanks, hidden behind a decorative wall.

Click here for a history and for photos of the other towers:

Photos of Saint Louis University Medical Campus

Here is the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, on Grand Avenue in midtown Saint Louis, Missouri. It is owned by Saint Louis University, of the Society of Jesus. It is one of two major medical schools in Saint Louis, the other is Washington University. The first M.D. was awarded at the school in 1836; this is the oldest school of medicine west of the Mississippi River.

This school is located across a broad, shallow valley from the main SLU campus to the north; it originally was the valley of Mill Creek, and contained the upper reaches of a lake called Chouteau's Pond. In the early 1850s this polluted lake was drained due to a cholera epidemic, and soon the railroads filled the valley with tracks and sidings. It is the historical northern boundary of south Saint Louis. Rock Spring, once the source of Mill Creek, is located nearby, with its waters flowing into a sewer. Recently, a developer proposed to recreate this lake, surrounding it with housing, retail, and recreation areas.

The south side of the medical school. It features Gothic pointed arches and terra cotta symbols of medicine.

The main door to the medical school. Over the door is the University's seal, saying UNIVERSITAS SANCTI LUDOVICI.

The north side of the school. This structure was built in 1927, and has been heavily modified in the last eighty years, including the addition of a story.

A statue of Dr. Tom Dooley next to the medical school. The humanitarian work of this Catholic Saint Louis University graduate inspired President Kennedy to form the Peace Corps. Dooley has his supporters and detractors; some sought his canonization; others said he was a CIA spy.

A view of the school from the west, from across Grand Avenue.

Across Grand Avenue from the Medical School are the hospitals; to the left is Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, owned by the Sisters of Saint Mary; to the right is Saint Louis University Hospital; now privately owned by Tenet HealthSystem.

Archbishop Rigali and Pope John Paul II opposed the sale of the hospital to Tenet, which is an abortion provider. Typically under Canon Law all properties owned by a Catholic religious order in the jurisdiction of a bishop are under his control. Several Catholic religious organizations made bids to purchase it, but Tenet swayed political opinion by stating that they would provide about $5 million per year in tax dollars if the hospital lost it tax-exempt status. The Archdiocese lost its lawsuit in the secular courts. It is interesting that the "Separation of Church and State" only goes in one direction: the Church can have no say in secular matters, while the State can act with impunity.

The chapel of the hospital. I don't know what it looks like inside.

A sundial on the chapel; it is too late in the day, the sun was no longer shining on it.

The old Gothic entrance to the hospital. It is no longer accessible from the street. Saint Louis University Hospital was once called Firmin Desloge, named after a lead mining magnate. The hospital opened in 1933; at that same time the Sisters of Saint Mary opened an African-American infirmary.

The modern entrance to the hospital.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Scientists Meet in Saint Louis

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is holding its annual meeting in Saint Louis until February 20th. Some of the events are open to the public.

See the site:

Some of the lectures and exhibits include:

What Can the History of Islamic Science Teach Us About Science?
Prisons, Pulpits, and Poets: Disseminating Academic Research Beyond Academia
The History of Nature: Why Aren't We Teaching It in Our Schools?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Weighing the Risks and Benefits of Seafood Consumption
Astrobiology: Habitability On Other Worlds Around Stars Near and Far
Ethics of Neuroscience: Lack of Consciousness and Assessment of Personhood
Neuroscience of Ethics: Material Foundations of Moral Agency
Embryonic and Adult Stem Cells: Basic Science and Public Policy
Using Ontologies To Teach Computers Biology
"Race-Based" Therapeutics
Geosystems: Ancient Greenhouse Emissions and Hothouse Climates
Science and Engineering Challenges in Homeland Security and Disaster Response
Overcoming Gender Stereotypes: Girls in Science, Engineering, and Technology
Advancing Women in Science Through Institutional Transformation
Ancient Wisdom and Contemporary Science: Traditional Knowledge in the 21st Century
Human Autonomy in an Age of Active Aware Pervasive Computing
Science and the End of Poverty
Microbial Resistance: A Threat to Global Health
It Takes a Village: Partnering Schools with the Community To Raise Future Chiefs
Paradise Lost? The Changing Nature of Mathematical Proof
Tsunamis: Their Hydrodynamics and Impact on People
Future Potential of Biological Weapons: Science, Technology, and Policy
Ethics and Epidemiology in the Care of High-Risk Newborns
Science Under Attack
Engaging the Public on Controversial Science: Adapting Communication Strategies to the Media and the Audience
Constitutional Principles and Legal Strategies in the Creation and Evolution Debates
Orwell’s Wolf Is Back: Tracking Kids, Dogs, Old People, and Everybody In Between
AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion

What is discussed here may become public policy in the near future. Of concern is that many of these folks are atheists who do not share our worldview or morality. Politically, scientists tend to like really big government, centralized at the highest level possible, and they often promote the immoral theory of utilitarian "ethics".

Modern science was invented in Catholic universities in the Middle Ages by men who are now Saints, and whose feasts are universally celebrated in the General Roman Calendar. Forget what they say about the Galileo affair; the Church was just trying to avoid the "Mad Scientist"syndrome so common and acceptable today: just because you can do something doesn't make it morally right to actually do it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Philosophical Tradition of Classical Architecture. Part I, An Overview

Please see my new article over at Gregory Shue's Classical Architecture website
Vitruvius famously starts Book I, Chapter 1 of his Ten Books on Architecture with a brief overview of the education of an architect. He tells us that the required subjects are writing, drawing, geometry, optics, arithmetic, history, physics, natural and moral philosophy, music, law, physics, and astronomy. Many contemporary readers of Vitruvius are frustrated by what he leaves unsaid in his writings. However, he states that he is the authority in architecture itself, and does not claim to be an expert in any of those particular subjects: we can then forgive him for leaving gaps in our knowledge of the ancient world. I hope to be able to fill in a few of these gaps to provide a somewhat fuller picture of what an architect in ancient Greece or Rome knew, in particular by looking into the well-known writings of ancient teachers that formed the basis for the Greco-Roman educational system....

The field of Classical Architecture was until recently relegated to expensive coffee table books of historical structures, but now a few architects are making the bold move to make new structures in the Classical Tradition. "Grand Tradition" is an interactive website the promotes the new practice of this beautiful, meaningful architecture.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Drums of War

Today's headlines:
Ahmadinejad: Israel 'will be removed'
Diplomats Say Iran Starts Enrichment
US prepares military blitz against Iran's nuclear sites
'10,000 would die' in A-plant attack on Iran

American Democrats have been increasingly hawkish on Iran, hoping that a strong military image will help them in the 2008 elections, and the mainstream media is following this stance. Also, see this map of purported U.S. military bases around Iran:

I suspect that this long-term problem with Iran was a reason for the Iraq war: Saddam may have been a threat, but Iran is far more problematical, with a very large nuclear program and inflamatory threats from its leadership. President Bush included Iran in the "Axis of Evil". The U.S. now has land bases nearly surrounding the country. The nuclear threat from Iran is most likely more directed towards Israel, although the U.S. is not immune to attack by means other than missles.

Now might be a good time to review the official Church teachings on war. Excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, article on the Fifth Commandment.

2304 Respect for and development of human life require peace. Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. Peace is "the tranquility of order."97 Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity.98

2305 Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic "Prince of Peace." By the blood of his Cross, "in his own person he killed the hostility,"100 he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. "He is our peace."101 He has declared: "Blessed are the peacemakers."102

2306 Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death.103

Avoiding war

2307 The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.104

2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.

However, "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed."105

2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

- there must be serious prospects of success;

- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine.

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

2310 Public authorities, in this case, have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense

Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.106

2311 Public authorities should make equitable provision for those who for reasons of conscience refuse to bear arms; these are nonetheless obliged to serve the human community in some other way.107

2312 The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. "The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties."108

2313 Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely.

Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out. Thus the extermination of a people, nation, or ethnic minority must be condemned as a mortal sin. One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide.

2314 "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation."109 A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to commit such crimes.

2315 The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations;110 it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation.

2316 The production and the sale of arms affect the common good of nations and of the international community. Hence public authorities have the right and duty to regulate them. The short-term pursuit of private or collective interests cannot legitimate undertakings that promote violence and conflict among nations and compromise the international juridical order.

2317 Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war:
Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until Christ comes again; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished and these words will be fulfilled: "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."110

97 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei, 19, 13, 1: PL 41, 640. [City of God]
98 Cf. Isa 32:17; cf. GS 78 ## 1-2.
99 Isa 9:5.
100 Eph 2:16 J.B.; cf. Col 1:20-22.
101 Eph 2:14.
102 Mt 5:9.
103 Cf. GS 78 # 5. [GAUDIUM ET SPES]
104 Cf. GS 81 # 4.
105 GS 79 # 4.
106 Cf. GS 79 # 5.
107 Cf. GS 79 # 3.
108 GS 79 # 4.
109 GS 80 #3.
110 Cf. Paul VI, PP 53.
111 GS 78 # 6; cf. Isa 2:4

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Destroy the World From the Comfort of Your Own Home

An article (registration required) in the February 2006 Scientific American magazine describes a new class of subatomic particle accelerators that can fit on a tabletop. Traditionally, these devices are huge; sometimes miles in size, and cost billions. The new plasma accelerators are small and cheap. Particle accelerators make forms of matter that haven't existed since Creation, so there is always the theoretical possibility that one of these exotic new kinds of particle could be highly dangerous, to the point of threatening the world or even the Universe.

Is doing this kind of research a mortal sin?

They also have an article on Jackson Pollock paintings. A researcher has determined that Pollock's drip-paintings have a fractal structure that is consistent over a huge range of scales. A "fractal" is a complex geometric object that has an increasing amount of detail as you look closer: sea-coasts, for example, have a fractal structure. A self-similar fractal, like Pollock's paintings, have smaller patterns that reflect the pattern of larger details. This is similar to the finding that the Classical architectural orders have a self-similar fractal structure, as do the buildings of Louis Sullivan and his pupil Frank Lloyd Wright: see the article The Fractal Nature of the Architectural Orders. Music also has a self-similar fractal nature.

The same magazine has two articles, "Hit" Songs Unpredictable, Thanks to Peer Pressure, and Expectations Influence Sense of Taste. The first article states that aesthetic judgments are situational, while the second article states that sensations are subjective.

I'd rather see studies on how closely test subjects can make objective judgments in spite of subjective and situational factors; now that is classic science! Traditionally, aesthetic judgments are just one form of moral judgment; and moral judgments are influenced by objective, subjective, and situational factors. Right reasoning tries to eliminate the nonobjective factors. These new studies just show that people don't try to be intellectually virtuous.

I used to like Scientific American better than now; in fact the best issue for me was the very first issue I got back in about 1976. For a while, the magazine often had politicized articles on the Cold War, of the kind that encouraged capitulation to the Soviet Union, later it had political global warming articles. The modern magazine is more subjective and kind of dumbed down, and I miss the rarefied scientific attitude of the old magazine. The editors seem to have forgotten the old definition: "science is the virtue of conforming the intellect to the truth".

New Bible Translation

Jimmy Akin has a good discussion on a new Bible translation from Ignatius Press. See the article Revised Ignatius Bible.
"It is the *only* English language translation of the Bible updated specifically to correspond to Liturgiam Authenticam."


Here are some of the numerous problems of recent Bible translations, particularly those since the 1960s:

"Dumbing down". Biblical language is often complex, and there is a tendency to want to simplify passages. This is often a problem with youth Bibles. An extreme version of this tendency is to resort to general paraphrasing. Alternatively, people ought to be educated in difficult passages. It's the Bible: we should raise ourselves to it instead of dragging it down to us.

Popular idiom. Again, this is often seen in youth Bibles. This idiom changes so quickly that these Bibles seem comical within a few years. A bigger problem is that readers can get the wrong idea altogether, by assuming that Biblical personages have contemporary cultural attitudes. "Jesus was hanging with his homeboys back in the hood".

"Inclusive" language. This can be relatively benign, for example saying "brothers and sisters" instead of just "brothers". It can get heretical when "God the Father" is referred to as "god our mother and father", or even "goddess our mother". Actually only the traditional wording is "inclusive": "man" includes both males and females. "Inclusive" language is actually logically "exclusive".

Extraneous materials. The official "New American Bible" is notorious for its introductions and footnotes, many of which are controversial, possibly heretical, or even just plain wrong. A recent youth Bible includes pagan prayers and other such non-Christian materials.

Translation of YHWH. Observant Jews do not pronounce the name of God, and instead traditionally translate this name as THE LORD. While this may be a kind of scrupulosity, in order to avoid using the Lord's name in vain, it may actually be a good practice, and it is as traditional as you can get. Some recent translations use the name, and it sounds rather strange.

Messianic interpretation. After World War II, many Jews lost their faith and thought that God had broken His covenant with them. The prophetic books of the Old Testament were then translated to imply that they were talking about the restoration of the secular State of Israel, instead of the coming of the Messiah, which is the traditional interpretation. This has found its way into some Christian Bibles.

Missing books. Luther is responsible for this. It's amazing how many Catholics use Protestant Bibles, and even many Catholic Bibles are Protestant translations. The Orthodox actually have some additional books in their Bibles, but these don't add any new theology (for Catholics, that is).

Secular political translations. These can be any type of bias from progressive to "health and wealth" interpretations, based on current political movements. This is typical of Enlightenment-era translations.

Bad scholarship. Many translations are based on interpretations suggested by modern scholarship. In particular, the founders of the Historical-Critical method hoped to produced a scientific interpretation of the Bible. However, if we define "science" in the traditional way of "conforming the intellect to reality", then these modern interpretations are not scientific, since the results of the scholarship depend on the biases of the scholars. So we end up with Marxist, Feminist, or Post-Structuralist Bibles that don't agree with each other.

In Japan, Justice Is Not Only Blind, It Holds a Stopwatch

See the article: In Japan, Justice Is Not Only Blind, It Holds a Stopwatch
Japan adopted the statute of limitations on murder during the Meiji Restoration when it was desperately trying to catch up with the West in the late 19th century. Convinced that it could not become a modern nation without Western laws, Japan first adopted France's legal system, then switched to the German model because France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War, said Morikazu Taguchi, a professor at Waseda University's law school in Tokyo.

"If it was said that advanced countries had it," Mr. Taguchi said, "it became an absolute must."
We have folks here on the Supreme Court who think that, too.

It was widely believed that Germany had the most enlightened, progressive, and liberal laws on the planet. Power there was centralized, society secularized, and military prowess emphasized. But within decades, both Germany and Japan were reduced to ashes.

Conservative and traditional is good. I've always had a higher regard for the old monarchies in Europe over their Modern republican counterparts. Extreme governmental changes inevitably lead to high bodycounts.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Secrets of the Code!

Scholars speculate that members of Opus Dei worship in this temple-like structure. Some say that they kneel before a stone containing fragments of the body of Mary Magdalene, who is mentioned in the Gnostic gospels.

I saw the new trailer for the notorious Da Vinci Code film last night. It looks like an exciting and entertaining piece of irreligion, conspiracy, and alternative history.

Not coincidentally, I received the following secret correspondence from a close friend at the Vatican, a monk in a Spanish religious order. Under no circumstances should anyone reveal this information.
Our little 'project' regarding the Da Vinci Code film must be considered a stunning success for the Church and for the Order. By carefully grooming numerous faithful Catholics in Hollywood for the last several years, we managed to infiltrate most aspects of the film production, from location scouting, financial management, casting, set construction, scripting, the soundtrack production, and even the final editing. While we managed to place associates in nearly all of the trades, we are most satisfied that one of the actresses, XXXXXXXXXXXX [name deleted for privacy], has been secretly a nun of the Order for the past seven years. Of our seventy-one associates in the production, only one was discovered to be a member of the Church.

While most viewers of the film will see it as an anti-Catholic, Post-Modern Feminist piece of propaganda, the hundreds of subliminal clues that we have placed in the film will have ultimately the opposite effect on viewers. These specially-placed clues and images, after some days, months, or even years, will give many viewers a strong desire to start a prayer life, have contrition for their sins, become obedient to the Magisterium, and to make Christ the center of their life.

An intelligent viewer can discern numerous clues that we have placed in the film. As a reward to the diligent, we have revealed some of the Church's closely-held secrets in code, including the real identity of the woman whom Christ considered greater than his Apostles, the verses removed from the Book of Daniel, and the secret that some of the true Popes actually lived in France and not in Rome. We have good reason to believe that the new Pope tacitly approves of these revelations.

Anyone who watches the film with the intent of confirming their anti-Church bias should be aware that unconsciously the opposite effect may occur.

Actually, the above is just a work of fiction. But it's based on scholarship. It could be true!