Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Design Your Own Robot

But use this for good, not evil. Christians aren't supposed to be mad scientists.

Feast of the Visitation

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

I haven't yet visited Visitation/Shrine of Saint Ann parish in north Saint Louis. I don't know why this church has shrine status.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

In the Trash

After the annual Memorial Day Gypsy Caravan flea market (that's a "swap meet" to you Californians) in downtown Saint Louis, a vendor was unable to sell these books and threw them in the trash.

Check out the book on top.

Soldiers Memorial

Monument to fallen soldiers of Saint Louis, dedicated in 1945. The building to the background left is a museum, originally built in the memory of the Great War: the inscription reads "TO OUR SOLDIER DEAD".


Friday, May 26, 2006

The Philosophical Tradition of Classical Architecture, Part II, The Roots of the Tradition

Grand Tradition, Classical Architecture on the Web is devoted to the promotion of the Western tradition in the arts and architecture. This relatively new website includes articles, discussion boards, news, jobs postings, and a Classical architecture help desk.

Grand Tradition has published the second article in my series on the Western tradition: The Philosophical Tradition of Classical Architecture, Part II, The Roots of the Tradition. My intention with the series is to provide a good philosophical foundation for the practice of architecture in the Western tradition, via the thinking of the ancient Greeks and the Schoolmen. I'm neither interested in being critical of the past, nor am I seeking lost, secret wisdom: instead, I try to find the good, the true, and the beautiful in the tradition. I will contrast the tradition with modernism, and hope to show that the tradition is superior and more intellectually defensible. This series is not Roman Catholic, but rather, I hope that it will be small-c catholic, or universal.

Click for The Philosophical Tradition of Classical Architecture, Part I, an overview of the series.

From Part II:
The beginnings of art, architecture, and philosophy are lost in the mists of time; but to be human is to do these things. Everywhere in the world and in every era we can find objects of art, buildings, and writings of some sort, but in this course of study we limit our examination to the Western tradition as has been passed down to us through the ages. Although the roots of this tradition are lost, we do know that the Western tradition comes most directly from the Greeks, who wrote things down, and whose many writings exist to this day. And the Greeks studied in Egypt, so we should look there for roots of the tradition.
Egypt was "the happiest, healthiest, and most religious nation of the world", and greatly influenced the tradition:
The lessons of Egypt were not lost on the latter Greeks and Romans; these nations were not blessed with the natural stability of the Nile, but instead hoped to duplicate the success of Egypt by art instead of by nature. How can a society ensure happiness and stability? Obtaining the good of both individuals and of society is the great project of the Western tradition, and this goal is embodied in the Western arts tradition.
Next I describe the influence of Pythagoras, who started classical Western education in mathematics:
But Pythagoras was on to something new and more demonstrably true. His notion that nature was governed by numbers seems almost obvious now, especially to someone trained in the sciences or engineering. His studies of the musical scales and astronomy led him to believe that much of the cosmos could be described in terms of ratios of small numbers, and that certain ratios predominate: particularly those that have pleasing musical sounds. He thought that phenomena could be described by rhythm and cycles. While a stringed musical instrument can have an infinite number of possible lengths of strings, only certain ratios of lengths between strings sound harmonious; likewise, the orbits of the planets are not arbitrary, but have a simple harmonic ratio between them, and these, remarkably, are the same ratios that make harmonious music.

This is not a wild or mystical idea, nor is it just a coincidence; for modern engineers and scientists often use linear mathematics and harmonic analysis to approximate real-life systems. Systems that operate linearly [harmoniously] will be stable and predictable; and nonlinear systems will often settle down into linear systems via frictional losses. Harmonious physical systems are indeed 'pleasing', like music.
Next I describe some of the pleasing musical ratios found in the arts and nature:
An occultist may think that all of these ratios make up a kind of 'Sacred Geometry' appropriate only for mystical structures, while a skeptic may think that these ratios are merely changeable social convention, and that a modern artist should not be bound to them. I take the traditional view: there seems to be some geometric or mathematical necessity behind these ratios, pointing to the truth; we may not now understand why they are important, but we should take them very seriously.

The ancients did not know why certain ratios were desirable, but they certainly found evidence in nature and in mathematics that these ratios had a basic truth.
Grand Tradition

Church Tours during the Latin Liturgy Association Convention, July 14-16, 2006

The upcoming Latin Liturgy Association meeting will be held in Saint Louis, Missouri, on July 14th through 16th. Church tours will be included.

For a full agenda, see AMDG.

Convention Registration Form:
The April 15th deadline has been waived; call chapter president Regina Morris at 314-647-0475 for more information.

FRIDAY, 14 July 2006

Pre-convention Historic Church Tour (Separate registration required):
Bus depart Drury Inn-Union Station 9:00 a.m. (website, map)

Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (Old Cathedral) 9:15 a.m.—9:45 a.m. (website, website, map, photos, photos, photos)

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (New Cathedral) 10:00 a.m. —11:15 a.m. (website, website, map, photos, photos, photo)

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church: 11:30 a.m.—12:00 noon (website, map)

Holy Family (Log) Church [includes lunch] 12:30 p.m.—1:30 p.m. (website, map, history, photo)

Our Lady of the Holy Cross Church 2:00 p.m.—2:30 p.m. (website, map)

St. Joseph Shrine 3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (website, website, map, photo)

SATURDAY, 15 July 2006

8:00 9:30 a.m. Mass in Latin (1970 Missal) at St. John the Evangelist Church (website, map, photo, photo)

9:30-9:45 a.m. Shuttle buses to St. Francis de Sales Oratory (website, website, map, photo, photos, photos, photos)

4:20-4:45 p.m. Buses to St. Mary of Victories Church (website, website, map, photos)

SUNDAY, 16 JULY 2006

Optional trips

Old St. Ferdinand Shrine in Florissant (website, map, photos)

or Collection of the Western Jesuit Missions at the St. Louis University Art Museum (website, map)

or Black Madonna Shrine in Eureka, MO (website, map, photos)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fog over the Mississippi River

Photo taken September 30th, 2004

Google Trends

I just found a tool, Google Trends, that tracks Google searches over time. Here is an example, searching for "Pope Benedict XVI" in April 2005. As he was elected on April 19th, there are no records before that time. But I challenge anyone to find an anomolous trend, which would seem otherwise impossible!

Please note the #1 city in the world that searched for "Pope Benedict XVI"—Saint Louis!

NOTE: I did find an anomaly: SBC and AT&T announced their merger on January 30th, 2005. The Google search trend started three days earlier!

Upcoming events at the Oratory

Here are some upcoming special events at Saint Francis de Sales Oratory, in Saint Louis, Missouri:
  • Thursday, May 25th, 7:00 p.m.: Solemnity of the Ascension

  • Wednesday, May 31st, 7:00 p.m.: Marian Holy Hour to mark the end of May, with the St. Fidelis Choir

  • Friday, June 2nd, 7:00 p.m.: First Friday Solemn High Mass

  • Friday, June 23rd: Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Solemn High Mass, with Archbishop Burke preaching

  • Friday, July 7th, 7:00 p.m.: First Friday Solemn High Mass

  • Friday, July 14th-16th: Latin Liturgy Association convention

  • Sunday, July 16th, 10:00 a.m.: Pontifical High Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Burke

Regular Schedule
Low Mass at 8:00 a.m., seven days a week
Sunday, 10:00 a.m., High Mass
Holy Days of Obligation, 8:00 a.m., 12:10 p.m., and 7:00 p.m. (High Mass)
Confession, Sunday 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.
Eucharistic Adoration, Thursdays 7:00-8:00 p.m.
First Fridays, 7:00 p.m.

2653 Ohio Avenue
Saint Louis, MO 63118


Acts 17

The reading for Mass yesderday—Acts 17:15, 22-18:1—is one of my favorites, and it greatly impressed me as a youth.
After Paul's escorts had taken him to Athens, they came away with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
Athens was then a part of the Roman Empire, but it was once a proud independent city-state, and for over four hundred years was a major university town, with famous schools started by Plato and Aristotle; the Roman elite would send their boys to Athens to get a good education.

Here the lectionary skips a number of lines, which are:
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he grew exasperated at the sight of the city full of idols.
Of course, Paul hated the idols, and there were thousands of them, but how did he treat the pagans? We have to read on....
So he debated in the synagogue with the Jews and with the worshipers, and daily in the public square with whoever happened to be there.

Even some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers engaged him in discussion. Some asked, "What is this scavenger trying to say?" Others said, "He sounds like a promoter of foreign deities," because he was preaching about 'Jesus' and 'Resurrection.'
At this time, the Jews were everywhere in the Empire, Christianity spread quickly through the synagogues, but the majority of the population were pagans.

The philosophy of Epicureanism advocated a refined withdrawal from society and politics, while refraining from childbearing and sexual relations, and promoted moderate enjoyment of good food, wine, and art. They believed that the gods lived lives of sublime refinement, and that they cared nothing for man, so they were practical atheists. When the Epicureans call Paul a 'scavenger', literally, seed-picker, they were accusing him of eclecticism, or the picking-and-choosing from one philosophy and another. As there was little political freedom, and the Empire controlled everything, this philosophy was popular with upper-class Romans who just wanted to get on with life without bother.

The Stoics believed in patriotism, self-control, virtue, and conformance of the soul to the natural law. Stoics were active in the world, and taught freedom from passion by controlling emotion. Stoics invented the concept of Logos, or universal reason, which became a Christian concept, see John 1. To the Stoics, Logos was God, whose providence extended throughout the cosmos in all details, and was an uncreated prime mover who shaped primordial matter. Like the Epicureans, they had a materialistic view of the cosmos, rejecting the spiritual realm of Socrates and Plato. Stoicism was also popular among the Roman upper class, and they advocated the creation of a cosmopolis, or universal city: this was seen as a justification for Roman conquest. When the Stoics accuse Paul of promoting foreign deities, they are confusing Paul's word for the Resurrection, 'Anastasia', as a name of a god.

The text continues:
They took him and led him to the Areopagus and said, "May we learn what this new teaching is that you speak of? For you bring some strange notions to our ears; we should like to know what these things mean." Now all the Athenians as well as the foreigners residing there used their time for nothing else but telling or hearing something new.
The Areopagus, or Hill of Ares (Mars) was the place of the trial of Socrates, who could not believe in any of the official gods of Athens, but who instead taught about the God, who was the source of all Good. He was the only person ever executed in Athens for this crime.

Like the Paris Left Bank or Cambridge, Massachusetts, Athens was full of scholars who did little but find out the latest theories. Here the lectionary picks up the story:
Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: "You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious.
The King James version substitutes 'superstitious' for 'religious', which kind of poisons the story, making Paul a bit less pastoral. The Greek says literally 'reverent to gods'.
For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, "To an Unknown God." What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.
"To an Unknown God"! While these altars were originally set up as placeholders, to placate any god which had been missed in their rituals, there was a later view of these as being altars to the One God, unknown to the pagan priests, but being known to the philosophers as the creator and the source of all good. In ancient Greece, the priests and philosophers were enemies. In Christendom, the priests are philosophers.
The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.
Paul here speaks directly to the Stoics, who would have found nothing wrong in these statements. Instead of condeming the Greeks as idolators, worthy of Hell, instead he praises their natural, rational religion as containing a part of the truth. That is good pastoralism.
For 'In him we live and move and have our being,' as even some of your poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring.'
Paul is quoting a Stoic here.
Since therefore we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divinity is like an image fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination. God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will 'judge the world with justice' through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead."
Here Paul says that God forgives their idolatries, due to ignorance, but the time is coming where we all will be judged. This idea of justice would have been appreciated by the Stoics.
When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, "We should like to hear you on this some other time." And so Paul left them. But some did join him, and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Court of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

After this he left Athens and went to Corinth.
Paul's preaching worked, especially with the Stoics. Paul seemed to make a distinction between true and false philosophy.

Dionysius the Areopagite is known to have been the first bishop of Athens, and traditionally is known as Denys, the first bishop of Paris. Writings attributed to him are, not surprisingly, deeply steeped in Athenian philosophy, although Catholics generally do not believe that he actually wrote them; while the Orthodox do. The writings of the (pseudo-) Dionysius contain the seeds of Christian mysticism and spirituality based on the philosophy of Socrates and his followers.

Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and orthodox Jews and Muslims tend to hold philosophy in high regard. The Catholic belief that truth cannot conflict with truth leads to a gentle handling of people like the Athenians. Paul hated their idols, but they didn't know any better, and they still had a glimmer of the truth, with their altars "To an Unknown God". So he approached them gently and spoke in a language that they could understand: that's pastoral. Paul could be severe with the Jews, because they should have known better. Paul knew that Christ was the Messiah of the Jews, but He was also the Savior that was hoped for by the Greeks. Christ came for all men, even those who knew of him only imperfectly.

And that altar that Paul saw, "To an Unknown God": Socrates was said to have made it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"The Boldest Hoax": a NOVA Program on the 'Piltdown Man' Fossils

As a teenager, I was a big fan of PBS's NOVA science series. I eventually lost interest when they started airing too many programs that were 'politically correct', and really weren't true science. That notwithstanding, I noticed that NOVA will air a program on the Piltdown Man hoax.

The Piltdown Man fossils were purportedly human-ape 'missing links' that were dug up in England in the early 1900s; in 1912, a largely-complete skull was presented, that featured a human-like cranium with an ape-like jaw. These and other fossils found nearby were eventually discovered to be hoaxes in 1953.

What makes this hoax compelling is that it took forty years to discover the forgery, and of the many notable people who were possibly involved in it. From the NOVA transcript:
The story begins in the early 1900s, in the rolling hills of Sussex, a rural county in southeast England. A laborer, digging at Barkham Manor near the village of Piltdown, unearthed a strange piece of skull. He's reported to have passed it on to Charles Dawson, a local amateur archaeologist. Dawson later claimed he noticed that the skull was extremely thick and appeared rather primitive. This would be the first in a series of discoveries at Piltdown.

They would transform and pervert scientists' understanding of the origins of man for decades. Charles Darwin's theory of evolution had been published just 50 years before, in 1859.

In his Origin of Species, Darwin presented evidence that all living things descended from a common ancestry. Through a process of mutation, adaptation, failure and success, he claimed that all life on earth today, including man, is the result of millions of years of evolution. It was a revolutionary idea.
When a new scientific theory develops, scientists go out seeking evidence that either supports or refutes the claim of the theory: for the theory of evolution, a 'missing link' was needed. Some were found, but none yet in England:
Then in Germany, quarrymen working in the Neander Valley, made a remarkable find: strange bones, skeletal remains that resembled humans, but not those of any living humans. The creature was named "Neanderthal" and Germany the birthplace of early man.

But soon evidence of early man was being found in France and Spain as well. To their annoyance, the British had none.
Why was this important? In 1871 Charles Darwin published The Descent of Man which argued that some races of men were more highly evolved than others. Although he thought that all races were of the same species, it was natural that the more advanced races would soon eliminate their uncivilized competitors. Darwin's cousin and supporter, Francis Galton, started the eugenics movement, to help strengthen the race; the development of these ideas from mere description to actual policy led to Planned Parenthood and the Nazi extermination camps.

Victorians took a narrower view of race than we do nowadays: back then, they would speak of the British, Celtic, and Nordic races; so to the scientists of that era, it was critical for national pride that their own country's race was to be seen as the most highly evolved. These Enlightenment rationalists thought that the ideal State would be made up completely of members of one nation—or race—to the exclusion of others: all Germans would be in the State of Germany, and only Germans would be in that State, and likewise for France, England, and so forth. And the theory of evolution would predict, or even require, that these nation-states would compete with each other for evolutionary supremacy. So we end up with a positive feedback loop: the theory of evolution predicted that one race would be supreme, and the nation-states struggled for supremacy, with the strongest winning, which leads back to the theory of evolution. Enlightenment nationalism and evolution therefore go together.

If fossils of Modern Man appeared very early in Britain, then this could be proof that the British Race was the most highly evolved.

As the story goes, an amateur scientist, Charles Dawson, brought the fossils to Arthur Smith Woodward, head of the Geological department at the prestigious British Museum; together, they found more fossil fragments and reconstructed an ape-man skull. While this particular reconstruction of fragments was challenged—other scientists reconstructed copies of the fragments to make a more modern-looking specimen—no one suspected forgery, although many, primarily amateurs, suspected that this was a mixing of bones from two separate individuals. However, a second site, two miles from Piltdown, had other fragments, leading to a similar reconstruction; this strengthened the 'missing link' in Britain.

For a while, Piltdown was the most famous place in the world, and it proved that mankind came originally from England, and not from Africa, France, or Germany.

But in 1953, forgery was certain. All of the fossil fragments were chemically treated to appear old, teeth were filed to fit in the jawbone, and the jaw had a piece broken off so as to fit the cranium. The question remains as to who committed the forgery, when it was done, and who knew about it. Also, was this an elaborate prank that got out of hand?

Dawson and Woodward would most certainly be involved in the hoax, with the majority of evidence pointing to Dawson, who was an avid self-promoter who had a history of spectacular finds, many of which are now known to be hoaxes. Dawson died in 1916 and no more fossils were found after that time. Woodward is also implicated: he failed to do common chemical tests which would have shown the forgery, also, simple examination with a magnifying glass would have revealed that the bones had been filed and cut.

The writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is also implicated. That the creator of Sherlock Holmes, the detective and consummate scientist, could perpetrate a scientific hoax is at first unthinkable. However, Conan Doyle was also a spiritualist, and he was felt that he was attacked by the scientific establishment for these occult beliefs. The theory is that he started the hoax to "get back" at the scientists. The theory goes that he did not reveal the hoax due to the start of the First World War: he was hoping to influence Parliament on the war and did not want this matter to be revealed.

A clue to this may be found in Conan Doyle's novel The Lost World, published just before Piltdown. Here scientists discover prehistoric animals in remote Venezuela. The protagonist in the novel, modeled after Conan Doyle himself, wants a way to prove their discoveries; photographs may be dismissed as fakes, so instead they bring back bones; however he says, "if you know your business a bone can be as easily faked as a photograph".

Conan Doyle and Dawson were friends, moved in the same social circles, and the golf course where Conan Doyle played was adjacent to the Piltdown dig site. Also Conan Doyle was trying to get Dawson admitted to the Fellowship of the Royal Society, which he did get after finding Piltdown Man. He also gave the paleontologists the use of his car. Conan Doyle was also an avid collector of fossils and artifacts, who visited some of the places where forged Piltdown fossils are known to have come from. He also was an expert in the preservation of fossils, especially of the type preservation that was used on the Piltdown forgeries to make them look ancient. On the contrary, many think that Conan Doyle could not be implicated because unlike Dawson, he was a very decent man, and "considered a man of truth and integrity".

NOVA makes the claim that Conan Doyle, if he was involved with the hoax, did it as a joke against establishment science. However, the dirty little secret of the Enlightenment is the involvement between modern science and the occult. Conan Doyle, promoting both science and the occult arts, was not unique, especially among the Anglo-Americans. It's been said that the Enlightenment New Man would practice science by day and magic by night; and by magic, I don't mean stage-tricks, but instead the occult arts: what modern pagans call 'magick' (with a 'k' on the end) in order to distinguish the two. Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, and many others scientists to our current day had an interest in the occult. C. S. Lewis, in his book The Abolition of Man makes the point that both technology and magic are means for the control of nature, and that both of these subjects were developed during the Renaissance, a time of great religious decline.

Piltdown Man occurred during time when the eugenics movement and scientific race theory were developing, and this was paralleled by an occult race spirituality, often practiced by those who were implementing the new eugenic government policies. Margaret Sanger, founder of what is now known as Planned Parenthood, was a disciple of Theosophy, which pioneered this kind of race occultism. Eugenic spirituality was quite common among the elite of the day, having lost their Christian faith. According to this occult system, there evolved a number of race-souls, which were single souls shared by members of a race, and which could be considered a kind of immanent god. According to this mystical cult, the most highly evolved god was the nordic or aryan race-soul: due to interbreeding, the nordic race had weakened, which required eugenics to bring it back to its godlike glory. Of course, the question was open as to which northern European country had the purest aryan stock.

This situation could have encouraged the forgery, if only to push forward the racialist agenda, and too many prominent scientists were in favor of this movement. Communists were against this racialism, but they had hardly a good alternative. Of course, orthodox Christians and Jews were also against it, but we have the Separation of Church and State, as well as an entrenched Liberal religionism to prevent any effective opposition.

According the story of the Piltdown Man discovery, when Dawson brought the fossil to Smith Woodward of the British Museum, the latter insisted on absolute secrecy: and when they commenced joint excavations of the site, they were joined by none other than the French Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a paleontologist who had been friends with Charles Dawson for the past several years.

Teilhard de Chardin is also the theologian responsible for much of the thinking behind the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council. This document has been highly criticized by Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, as being overly naturalistic, unhistorical, too optimistic of progress and modernity, unbiblical, insufficiently cognizant of sin and its consequences, ignorant of the failures of conscience, and ultimately "is downright Pelagian". This document is responsible for inspiring much nonsense in the Church today, when it is not read in continuity with other teachings of the Church.

Teilhard de Chardin found the crucial missing piece of Piltdown Man that convinced many skeptics: a canine tooth that was ape-like in shape, but had human-like wear markings. This tooth was later also found to be a forgery: it was filed and painted. He also found an elephant tooth at the site, later found be radioactive and from Tunisia. Teeth from a species never found in England were also at the site. Another piece of evidence that casts doubt on Teilhard is a forged flint: he claims to have dug it out of undisturbed soil, which does not seem possible, and so implicates him in the forgery. The other fossils were found in disturbed gravel, which makes placing forgeries quite possible.

He was enthusiastically an evolutionist, and proposed a teleological (or goal-driven) form of evolution distinctly different from today's atheistic or Intelligent Design theories of evolution. His thesis was that intelligence and consciousness turn the biosphere into the noosphere, causing life to become self-aware; this consciousness eventually evolves, filling the entire universe, and its end, the Omega Point, is God. This naturalistic theory of divinity has affinities with the race-soul theory mentioned above, so I do not think it is a coincidence. His form of evolution theorized that many parallel, converging evolutionary tracks would be present in the fossil record; but he rarely mentioned the one fossil find that best fit his theory: Piltdown Man. He avoided Piltdown as much as possible during his life; some see this as his guilt, others say that he might of heard about the hoax in the confessional, and had to remain quiet about it. It seems, however, that the hoax fit in too well with his own thinking, and that he must have had guilt about any role he may have played in the scandal. Teilhard, now a guru of the New Age, seems clearly implicated.

Teilhard de Chardin died in 1955, and his writings, long suppressed by his superiors, were published, and his fame increased even more. After the hoax was announced in 1953, Teilhard de Chardin tried very hard to prove the innocence of Dawson and Smith Woodward: but if these men are innocent, then the evidence of forgery points directly to himself. Apparently Teilhard made some crucial blunders in his letters, which strongly conflict with the accepted story of the fossil finds: he had to know ahead of time about the fraud to have made these errors. The thinking of the day, however, tended to place the blame completely and solely on Dawson, who was long dead and otherwise untrustworthy.

Smith Woodward continued working on the Piltdown site for nearly twenty years after the last significant find there, so some think he was innocent. Some think that the hoax was created by rivals at the British Museum, who sought to discredit him. But this seems unlikely, because they waited until he was dead to expose the hoax, and could not benefit from his downfall.

It seems to me that the fraud was not a short-term joke, but rather a means to help push along a world-view held by many of the elite of that time period; it was done on purpose and was intended to fool as many people as possible for as long as possible. The evidence that the aryan race-soul was purest in England had great propaganda power. Certainly the British Museum was staffed with people who had the mixed scientific and occult worldview. The New Age movement claims to be totally in tune with the latest scientific theories, and evolution is just one of the theories; indeed the Theosophists were very pleased with the original Piltdown discovery. Also this type of discovery is positive for the heretical style of Catholicism being practiced by many today.

One of the final objects purported to be found at the Piltdown site, under a hedge, and taken very seriously by the scientists, was a cricket bat made of bone. How British!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Knights' Mexican Martyrs

Having recently been initiated into the Knights of Columbus, I did not know that being a member of that group could be so dangerous at times. There was extreme persecution of Catholics in Mexico during the revolution of the 1920s:
The 1920s brought a revolution to Mexico, along with the widespread persecution of Catholics.

Missionaries were expelled from the country, Catholic seminaries and schools were closed, and the Church was forbidden to own property. Priests and laymen were told to denounce Jesus and their faith in public; if they refused, they faced not just punishment but torture and death.

During this time of oppression and cruelty, the Knights of Columbus did not retreat in Mexico but grew dramatically, from 400 members in 1918 to 43 councils and 6,000 members just five years later. In the United States at the time, the Knights handed out five million pamphlets that described the brutality of the Mexican government toward Catholics. As a result, the Mexican government greatly feared and eventually outlawed the Order.

Thousands of men, many of whom were Knights, would not bow to these threats or renounce their faith, and they often paid with their lives. They took a stand when that was the most difficult thing they could do, and their courage and devotion have echoed down through the decades.

The Mexican constitution is said to be very progressive, with a strong separation of Church and State; so strong, that anything religious outside of a church building is regulated by law, and that ministers can take no stand on political measures. Many here in the United States would love to have these kinds of laws, and are threatening the loss of tax exemptions to churches in order to gain this kind of silence. Mexico, the second-largest Catholic nation, has been long ruled by a non-Catholic elite who impose secularization, and uphold plutarchy and socialism.

New Requiem to Premier in Saint Louis on May 28th, 2006

A new a cappella choral work will be performed at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Saint Louis, Missouri, on Sunday, May 28th, 2006, at 3:00 p.m.

From the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus website:
The culmination of this historic season is found in the world première of Requiem for St. Louis by our composer-in-residence, Sasha Johnson Manning. This large-scale work has been eight years in the making, and its completed performance has been eagerly anticipated by critics and audiences alike. To round off our 'golden jubilee' the Chorus also presents the three Fest- und Gedenksprüche, written for double choir by Johannes Brahms.


5020 Rhodes Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63109

Tickets are available at MetroTix and the price is $18 for adults and $16 for seniors and students.

Anglophile alert!

I met two charming ladies from Cheshire, England, who will be performing in the Sunday concert. Sasha Johnson Manning is a soprano and the composer of the Requiem, while Holly Marland is an alto.

Sasha showed me her score: it was long and complex, but with my feeble knowledge of music I was only able to see that the opening line, Requiem æternum was in Gregorian chant. Sasha said that this allows the tenor to "show off" at the start. These words start the Introitus of the traditional Funeral Mass (Missa pro defunctis) which is also used for All Soul's Day. However, she says that this is not intended for liturgical use.

Holly says that they are heard every weekday on the BBC's Anglican Daily Service. You can hear it online. Much of the music is quite good and some of it is traditional, as is some of the preaching. Years ago, I used to listen to the BBC regularly and found their Church of England broadcasts highly secularized and un-Christian, but these new broadcasts are starting to sound a bit Catholic!

Lyrics of the traditional Introit:
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,
Et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem
Exaudi orationem meam
Ad te omnis caro veniet.
Requiem aeternam dona defunctis, Domine.
Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine
Et lux perpetua eis.

Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon them
A hymn, O God, becometh Thee in Zion
And a vow shall be paid to thee in Jerusalem
Hear my prayer
All flesh shall come before you
Eternal rest give unto the dead, O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon them
Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Photos of Our Lady of the Pillar Church in Creve Coeur, Missouri

Here are photos of Our Lady of the Pillar Church in Creve Coeur, Missouri, located 13.5 miles west of downtown Saint Louis, Missouri. The parish is staffed by members of the Society of Mary, or the Marianists.

This colonial revival style was popular in the area until the early 1950s.

The Blessed Virgin Mary carrying the Christ Child, derived from the statue traditionally placed by the Apostle Saint James the Greater in Spain.

The interior of the church is reserved in detail, but beautifully executed with fine material and workmanship.

The church is located next door to Chaminade College Preparatory School, named after the founder of the Marianists, William Joseph Chaminade, a priest who managed to survive the French Revolution.

Parish website:

401 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
Creve Coeur, MO 63131

Friday, May 19, 2006

"Religious Liberals Gain New Visibility"

See the article: Religious Liberals Gain New Visibility
The religious left is back.

Long overshadowed by the Christian right, religious liberals across a wide swath of denominations are engaged today in their most intensive bout of political organizing and alliance-building since the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s, according to scholars, politicians and clergy members.
The terms "conservative" and "liberal" are political terms and should have no place in religious matters. "Orthodox" and "heterdox" are better terms. This is a carefully organized political action, and its base philosophical beliefs are far from traditional Christianity; although the same could be said for much of conservative religious activism.

Christ came to change the world, but often our political philosophies change the teachings of Christ.

Did you ever consider why Mother Angelica located her monastery in Birmingham, Alabama? The American South has few Catholics outside of isolated pockets. But she moved there in support of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She is considered by the Left to be an arch-conservative, but instead she should be considered orthodox. Without a solid standard of morality, how can you judge society? But if you fluidly change your standards then that cannot be orthodoxy. Numerous older so-called "conservative" clergy were active with civil rights and are quite happy with what they had done; but being orthodox, they didn't follow the protest movement into heresy with the sexual revolution, abortion, and the era of big socialist government. The civil rights movement, although problematical and highly divisive, was clearly orthodox, while heterodoxy gained the upper hand after the rejection of Humane Vitae.

Downtown Saint Louis at Dusk

Here is the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, popularly called the Old Cathedral, located in downtown Saint Louis, Missouri, near the banks of the Mississippi River. At one time, this church was surrounded by a decrepit, dangerous warehouse district which served the steamboat trade. This was the Cathedral church for half of the United States.

With the historic warehouses cleared, the Gateway Arch was put in their place, symbolizing Saint Louis as the point of departure for the American West. This was the last colonial city in North America, and was well-connected with the North, South, and East via the river highways; beyond here to the West, travel became rough and dangerous. Saint Louis is in the Mid-West: the West itself starts at the Fall Line, where the rivers of the Piedmont drop onto the Atlantic Coastal Plain, and that is very far to the American East. The Far West starts on the other side of the state across the Missouri River from Kansas City.

The Old Cathedral is surrounded on three sides by the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Don't park at the church when visiting the Arch, especially during Sunday Mass. You may find that the parishioners' cars will fill the lot and you won't be able to move your car.

Another view.

The Old Courthouse, located across Interstate 70 from the Arch. The highway runs here through what is called the "depressed section". There are plans to roof over this part of the road to allow people to walk the grounds of the memorial, while avoiding traffic.

Sunset over Francis Park

"Benedict XVI underscores urgent need for tenacious, lasting and shared efforts to promote social justice"

See the article: Benedict XVI underscores urgent need for tenacious, lasting and shared efforts to promote social justice
"The Church - as I wrote in the Encyclical 'Deus caritas est' - aims 'to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of those moral forces without which just structures are neither established nor prove effective in the long run.'

The pope concluded his message by calling them to "perform your 'direct duty to work for a just ordering of society,' because 'charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as social charity'."
Social Justice is a phrase that used to make my stomach turn, filling my mind with images of red Marxist banners, feminist witches, and angry shouting mobs, leading to extreme edicts being passed down by the Supreme Courts.

The words have been taken over by the Socialist Left, and have been twisted to a narrowed agenda.

Supporting trade unions are a part of social justice, but so is upholding private property rights. Relieving poverty is social justice, and so is opposition to abortion. The decision either to raise or to lower taxes can be social justice, based on pressing social need or as a relief from government oppression.

Justice, after all, is giving individuals their due. Social justice is giving individuals their due within society. Rather than being just a radical cause, social justice deals with all aspects of public life, and should be the concern of everyone.

The notion of justice as a virtue comes from the ancient Greek philosophers, while the concept of social justice comes from the Catholic Church, incorporating the Gospel. From the Wikipedia article on Social Justice:
The term "social justice" was coined by the Jesuit Luigi Taparelli in the 1840s, based on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas. He wrote extensively in his journal Civiltà Cattolica, engaging both capitalist and socialist theories from a Catholic natural law viewpoint. His basic premise was that the rival economic theories, based on subjective Cartesian thinking, undermined the unity of society present in Thomistic metaphysics; neither the liberal capitalists nor the communists concerned themselves with public moral philosophy. Pope Leo XIII, who studied under Taparelli, published in 1891 the encyclical, Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of the Working Classes), rejecting both socialism and capitalism, while defending labor unions and private property. He stated that society should be based on cooperation and not class conflict and competition. The encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (On the Restoration of Social Order) of 1931 by Pope Pius XI, encourages a living wage, subsidiarity, and teaches that social justice is a personal virtue: society can be just only if individuals are just.

Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) of 2006 teaches that social justice is the central concern of politics, and not of the church, which has charity as its central social concern. The laity has the specific responsibility of pursuing social justice in civil society. The church's active role in social justice should be to inform the debate, using reason and natural law, and also by providing moral and spiritual formation for those involved in politics.

The official Catholic doctrine on social justice can be found in the book Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, published in 2004 and updated in 2006, by the Pontifical Council Iustitia et Pax.
I feel that I can quote freely from this article section, because I wrote it.

The Church views social justice as a virtue—that is, a good habit—like courage and prudence. It is not an attribute of society or government, but instead of individuals that make up society.

In the Old Testament, God gives Moses his law, Who in the commonplace view, is dictating social justice by Divine Command. The traditional view, however, is that God is Good and only Wills as law what is Good. We need to follow the law not just because God demands it, but because God demands what is Good.

Quoting Bible verses to a nonbeliever is usually fruitless, so the Church uses reason to develop its doctrines of social life, for the truths of faith and of reason do not conflict, for they have the same source. The philosophical debate on social justice in the Western world began in Plato's Republic; in this book we have Socrates arguing that justice is an objective moral virtue, while the Sophist argument is that justice is determined by the strong against the weak.

This later argument, that justice is whatever the strong says is just, is the same argument given by proponents of unfettered capitalism and by the socialists. Both groups, often at each others' throats, share this same amoral intellectual basis. Both theories are materialistic, for they seek struggle and competition, whereas spiritual goods do not decrease when shared.

Catholic thinking follows the idea that justice is an objective virtue, that applies to all peoples in all times, and that any society's opinions of justice can be judged against these objective standards. The Catholic view of social justice comes from the Natural Law, which not only includes the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology, but also those of human nature, with the understanding that we humans are good, but flawed creatures, who have a purpose or end.

From this Natural Law theory, the Catholic view of social justice has these conclusions:
  • A society can't be just unless individuals are just. Individuals should be given a strong moral education and should be encouraged to do good and avoid evil. Government cannot replace morality.

  • The traditional family is the basic unit of government in society. The mutual love of a man and woman and their offspring is a natural nucleus for society. Bonds of kinship for most people are stronger and more natural than any ideology.

  • Private property is required for good order in society. Use of private property is rightly regulated by law, and can only be disposed of by law for the common good.

  • Everyone has equal objective value. Some, due to talents, wealth, or power, have greater responsibility.

  • Because of our status as creatures of God, who made us all, individuals should cooperate responsibly with others in society.

  • Because people are ontologically good, they can govern themselves and freely form associations.

  • Because man has a fallen nature, a society needs checks and balances, and must avoid concentration of power.

  • Because matter is inherently competitive, governance should be arranged so that naturally competing groups can instead deliberate differences without violent conflict or the use of force.

  • Governance should be local. If one particular leader becomes unjust, at least other groups in society are not directly harmed.

  • Positive law, that is, man-made law, must not conflict with natural law.

  • Stability and consensus are highly prized, this is encouraged by adhering to living tradition and long-held custom. Change comes from reason and deliberation, not through power.

European society before the 19th century, especially at the level of the peasantry, tended to be traditional, with very many societies, guilds, merchant associations, and other organizations, interacting with government, the Church, and business owners. Often dealings at local and regional levels were based on time-tested and generally accepted customs. This wasn't efficient, but it gave society a great stability. Under this order, it was not just individuals who had rights and duties, but intermediate organizations had rights and duties also: this is similar to our modern concept of the business corporation, but in the old order there were many other types of organizations that also had corporate governance. These older types of corporations were smaller and more numerous.

Starting with the rise of Absolutism in government, and ending with the Industrial Revolution, all of this changed. Central governments built vast conscript armies, the structure of society changed, and landowners dramatically raised rents on farms, driving men off of the land and into the cities for factory work, where conditions were harsh and constantly changing. The system of tradition and cooperation was now ended, and socialism filled the void. The demands of the capitalists, to be free of custom and tradition, for the sake of efficiency, led to the rise of communism, which wanted to take over the entirety of society with the elimination of all competing ideologies.

Most conservative Catholics, myself included, tend to be pro-business, but certainly we don't want complete economic freedom. Should pornography be made widely commercially available? Liberal capitalists say yes, while socialists say it ought to be shown in grade schools. The same goes with drugs like cocaine and heroin: Libertarians, both left and right leaning, say they should be freely available, for a price, while sellers of "nutritional supplements" often sell dangerous or useless drugs, putting the burden of safety and efficacy on the shoulders of consumers, who are the least able to judge these matters. Should property be taken by eminent domain for private purposes? These kind of freedoms can be easily shown to be objectively harmful and even immoral.

Likewise, we can't be satisfied with a society that wrests the power of education from parents, concentrates power at high levels, taxes exorbitantly, redefines the traditional definition of marriage, and reorganizes culture at will.

Ultimately, freedom is power, and those who claim freedom are actually seeking power. How freedom and power should be distributed in society is the central concern of social justice.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Stem Cell Initiative

I received a letter today from the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, seeking my support, and asking for my name and address.

This group is seeking to legalize research on human embryos, and they claim falsely that they oppose cloning; however, this is only true after they redefined the word 'cloning' to excluding bringing a child to term.

Adult stem cell research, which does not kill a human, is very successful in finding cures, and is supported locally by the St. Louis Center for Bioethics and Culture.

"St. Louis Catholic leaders raise money to honor Ritter"

See the article Report: St. Louis Catholic leaders raise money to honor Ritter from the St. Louis Business Journal.
Monsignor Richard Stika of the Archdiocese of St. Louis is fueling an effort to raise money in St. Louis to restore the childhood home of the late Cardinal Joseph Ritter.

Ritter's boyhood home in New Albany, Ind., was built in the late 19th century and is located next to his family's bakery. Ritter died in 1967 after becoming a cardinal in 1960.
Msgr. Stika, Episcopal Vicar of the Archdiocese, is a board member of the Cardinal Ritter Birthplace Foundation, which states:
The house saw a generation of Ritter children grow up to be three doctors, a nun, a businessman, and, of course, the youngest (and only Hoosier) Cardinal in Catholic church history.
[Note to Saint Louis readers—'Hoosier' here means someone from Indiana.]

The home is located in New Albany, Indiana, on the banks of the Ohio River, across from Louisville, Kentucky.

Ritter was Archbishop of Saint Louis from 1946 to 1967, and was made a Cardinal in 1961. (See Catholic-Hierarchy)

Ritter desegregated the Archdiocesan schools in 1947, against great opposition, seven years before this was mandated by the United States Supreme Court. Unlike the followers of scientific race theory, like Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, or her admirers, Cardinal Ritter accepted the Catholic doctrine that all races are true men, with the same aptitude for sanctity. Here he showed the virtue of liberality, required for sainthood, which unfortunately is often confused with the repugnant political ideology of liberalism.

A contemporary example of this difference in attitude is Cardinal Ritter College Prep. This new school, named in honor of the Cardinal and in keeping with his race legacy, is the first private high school built in the City of Saint Louis (or probably any urban American city) in fifty years. Even though the school has remarkably low entrance requirements—even 'F' students can be admitted—the school has a nearly 100% attendance, graduation, and college acceptance rate. However, excellent discipline is required. All students are required to take four years of mathematics, English, theology, and science. Training children to be virtuous adults is far superior than stagnating them as victims of oppression.

In 1956, the Archdiocese of Saint Louis lost territories to the new Dioceses of Jefferson City and Springfield-Cape Girardeau, both having large rural areas with low Catholic populations; these remain mission territories.

From the Ritter House website:
Without having the power to tax or having anything to sell, he managed to raise 125 million dollars in the 1950s for new construction in St. Louis. He oversaw the building of 42 new parishes, 16 high schools, and a Catholic teaching and research hospital for children.
Sadly, times of great wealth in the Church often turn out to be times of moral decline, as we have seen in Renaissance, and in the 1950s and 1960s. Cardinal Ritter was part of the reform wing of the Second Vatican Council, and is noted for being the first American bishop to say Mass in the vernacular.

The 1960s was a time of great hope within the Church. Nearly everyone thought that the Reformation would end and that the Church would grow tremendously. Instead, reform took a hellish turn; churches emptied, and millions lost their faith. Cardinal Ritter died before the "spirit" of Vatican II bore its poisonous fruit.

Knights of Columbus

I joined last night. Saint Francis de Sales Oratory is starting a new chapter.

Photo of Downtown Saint Louis, Missouri

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Spring Flowers

Courtesy of my parents.


More irises.

Fanciful glass sculptures at Missouri Botanical (Shaw's) Garden, in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Your Own Catapult

I've always wanted one. How about you? But where would I use it?

I knew of some kids who built a catapult that could shoot oranges half a mile. Every day, at noon, they would catapult an orange into a pond at a neighboring college campus. Crowds would wait every day to watch this mysterious orange fall from the sky.


Photo taken on Mother's Day.

"Teens swapping legal drugs at 'pharming' parties"

See this article: Teens swapping legal drugs at 'pharming' parties.
Not so long ago, kids raided their parents' liquor cabinet when they wanted a quick high.

Today, it's the medicine cabinet.

They're stocking up for "pharming parties," get-togethers sans parents where teens barter legal drugs and get high.
From 1992 to 2003, the numbers of younger teenagers who abuse prescription drugs have doubled. But lest we think that this new abuse is just limited to otherwise legal, but illicitly used, drugs:
Compared with the rest of their peers, teens who abuse prescription drugs are ...

-Twice as likely to use alcohol

-5 times likelier to use marijuana

-12 times likelier to use heroin

-15 times likelier to use Ecstasy

-21 times likelier to use cocaine
Not all of this is done illegally.
Indeed, some kids come by the drugs legally. Maybe they're taking Ritalin for attention deficit disorder or painkillers after losing their wisdom teeth or breaking a bone.
I've met teenagers who tell me that they abuse attention deficit drugs, and some seek out prescriptions even if they don't legitimately need it, or attempt to keep prescriptions long after they are no longer needed. Also, having ADD or ADHD is now seen as being fashionable.

The author of the story, however, is quick to place blame:
In our quick-fix world, kids see adults, who'd never touch an illegal drug, fill prescriptions to treat everything from physical pain to anxiety. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies via TV and magazines hype drugs that promise a happier, thinner, more energetic you, all by popping a pill.
This is an old excuse for drug abuse. I remember it being used in the 1960s: hippies would blame their marijuana use on their parents' use of Valium. This seems to be a use of the common "Tu Quoque" (Latin: 'you're another') fallacy, where someone blames an accuser of the same fault. While it does allege hypocrisy, it also serves to encourage that same behavior: if an authority does it, it must be right. This is the same type of argument used in the priestly sex-abuse crisis: the mainstream media simultaneously accuse Catholic priests of abuse while also pushing for greater sexual freedom and a lowering of the age of consent.

Too often modern society judges behavior merely by a narrow scientific analysis of consequences: "doing X increases the risk of Y by Z%", while avoiding any mention of what may be objectively right or wrong morally. We can be bogged down in quantitative analysis and statistics while never doing a proper moral analysis.

Another problem is the excessive American faith in democracy. If everyone is doing it, it must be right. Truth is whatever the majority says is true. Radical democrats dare not condemn anything that is popular among the youth. But the mainstream media tend to emphasize trends such as this: what the 'cool kids' are doing in Los Angeles and Miami is soon broadcast nationwide, turning subculture behaviors into mainstream trends, so we have the artificial creation of democratic consensus.

I think that this new kind of drug abuse is actually encouraged by some.

Back when I was in 5th grade—around 1972—we had what was called "values education". This had nothing to do with teaching values in general, but instead was an intensive education in illegal drug use. They never told us right vs. wrong, nor did they argue within any type of moral system, but instead, the students—10 year olds—had to determine their own values and make their own choices regarding whether or not to use illegal drugs. Teachers and police officers told us both the benefits and the health consequences of drug use. I recall a number of my fellow students who ended up choosing the illegal drug lifestyle, based on this program. This type of education, "values clarification" has since been extended beyond drugs to also include sex and suicide, as free choices that young children have to decide for themselves.

Morally, everyone is, in fact, free, but this freedom should not be a policy. Imagine a program where every child is given lessons on using firearms, but are never told about the almost-inviolable and deadly serious "10 Commandments of Firearm Safety"; instead every child is told that they have to confidently choose for themselves what (or who) to shoot. Just because drugs, sex, and suicide seem to be private matters of personal preference, unlike firearms, some argue that it is OK for individuals to have subjective, self-made values regarding them. But it isn't true: drugs, sex, and suicide are matters of social justice, since they do, in fact, affect others, and often directly.

Children are strongly encouraged to decide these matters for themselves in order to break the moral development provided by parents and religion. They don't say this at school board meetings, but this is clear at higher levels: in trade journals, political forums, and founding philosophical works.

I see several reasons why this kind of drug abuse may be actually encouraged. Kids selling drugs at "pharming" parties clearly benefit, as do their suppliers, and ultimately the pharmaceutical companies, and also, as the above statistics show, illegal drug use is also greatly encouraged. But this does not directly address the reasons why this kind of behavior is not morally challenged. I see this as another form of "bread and circuses", an attempt to keep the population stupid, entertained, and in a mental, drug-induced stupor. Russia's vodka policy over the decades reflected this kind of social control: Lenin restricted production to encourage the revolution, Stalin encouraged production to keep people passive, and Gorbachev restricted production to encourage reform. There may also be a kind of Social Darwinism here, perhaps a cynical attempt to eliminate the stupid.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Eliminate the Poor

See this article, Clinton Pushed RU-486 in First Official Act, Report Shows:
( - Before being sworn in as president, Democrat Bill Clinton was told that he should "start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy and poor segment of the country." Clinton received the advice in a letter from an advocate for the abortion drug regimen RU-486, which the president promoted during his first official act in the White House, according to a new report.
This letter, written by the former husband of the pro-abortion attorney who argued Roe v. Wade, included:
"Our survival depends upon our developing a population where everyone contributes," he wrote. "We don't need more cannon fodder. We don't need more parishioners. We don't need more cheap labor. We don't need more babies."
We don't need more parishoners? Parishoners? And who goes to a parish? Hm.

"Our survival depends upon our developing a population where everyone contributes". How does the writer define "contribute"? it seems that in contemporary America you only "contribute" if you get a college education, earn a high wage, pay a large marginal tax rate, and buy the most expensive home that you can afford.

When ordered to turn over the wealth of the Church to the Roman Empire, St. Lawrence gathered the poor and sick, who were the true wealth of the Church.

Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, encouraged sterilization and abortion of the "human weeds" of society, which included the Irish, Italians, and Jews. All of these groups were very poor in the first part of the 20th century, but they managed to enter the middle class within a generation. Sanger hated charity and did not understand its purpose.

Traditionally, men have cultivated virtue in order to conform the soul to reality. Since the Renaissance, men have sought to conform reality to the desires of the soul via technology. Poverty is a problem and should be solved, but by what means? We should cultivate the man instead of controlling his nature.

Friday, May 12, 2006

"New Urbanism" Comes to Saint Charles, Missouri

Here are photos of New Town—Saint Charles, a new community being built in Saint Charles County, Missouri, which is based on the theory of "New Urbanism", which hopes to recreate a vibrant neighborhood life.

It is located about 28 highway miles northwest of downtown Saint Louis, Missouri, in Saint Charles County.

Here is a view of New Town from a distance. This community is being built on the very flat floodplain situated between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. This area is protected by high levees and drainage canals. Construction continues between the homes here and the camera. Click on any photo for a larger version.

The building design is somewhat traditional or "vernacular" in design. These homes, although obviously contemporary, still look vaguely familiar. They are reminiscent of old farm houses of the area, or are versions of the old French buildings found in the Soulard neighborhood of the City of Saint Louis or the Frenchtown neighborhood in Saint Charles. A major difference is that these buildings are largely of wood-frame construction, whereas the historical buildings are typically made of brick. However, it appears as though inspiration may come from Savannah, Georgia, and perhaps New Orleans, Louisiana.

These homes have a modestly classical design, which includes the use of symmetry and parts of the classical orders.

There is a giant obelisk guarding the entrance to New Town. I'm not sure that I like this. Click here for a Google search of the symbolism of obelisks to see what I mean. But even the Vatican has an obelisk in front of it, which doesn't make it right: they did lots of dumb things during the Renaissance. Savannah inspired this one. The developer intends to have additional civic structures and monuments.

A feature of New Urbanism is the use of a rectangular street grid. There is one critical break between New Urbanism as now practiced, and the traditional grid street plan: roundabouts and other methods are now used for slowing down traffic. Rectangular street grids predate the automobile, and are the most compact way of organizing buildings while still allowing easy transportation. However, since every street can be used for through-traffic, there was a great fear that huge numbers of children would be injured by automobiles. This led to what is now the standard suburban neighborhood design, pioneered by J. C. Nichols of Kansas City, with cul-de-sacs and streets that follow the topography of the land. This newer design led to a great decrease in traffic in residential areas.

A return to the street-grid needs additional methods to slow down the cars, so here we have a roundabout encircling the obelisk: in other places in this town, the street-grid is interrupted, especially near major pedestrian areas. Also, streets are kept very narrow and do allow on-street parking, which acts to slow down cars.

The town has lakes and canals, which are both scenic, and help promote drainage. In other subdivisions, storm water retention ponds, sometimes of ugly design, are constructed almost as an afterthought. These here are better, even though they are not decorative enough for me.

There are many factors that go into the New Urbanism, including energy efficiency and encouragement of community life. Compared to much suburban tract housing, these homes are smaller, with a more efficient blockier design. Also, the overhanging porches reduce solar heat gain in the summer. The town is laid out to encourage walking, to enhance community life and decrease automobile use. Businesses and entertainment is located within easy walking distance of the entire town, although in my opinion, they need to have more businesses here. Perhaps in the future.

However, jobs are lacking; there are no major employers within walking distance. The developer is trying to attract office and light industrial development nearby, as well as additional merchants.

Most of the homes in New Town have porches on the front, close to the street. The intent of this is to encourage social life in the neighborhood. From the 1930s until the 1980s, porches in the Saint Louis area tended to be either small or nonexistent, and homes were set farther back from the street for privacy, massive decorative plants, and noise isolation. Since the '80s, porch size has been increasing, until we have a full restoration of the 19th century porch size as we see here.

There is a remarkable amount of pedestrian traffic and people being neighborly here.

Another advantage of New Urbanism is lower public and utility infrastructure cost.

The developer added nice touches, like the manhole covers, decorative trash cans and phone booths, and attractive hand railings and traffic barriers.

A common element of New Urbanism is the nondenominational chapel in the center of town. The irony behind nondenominationalism is that each new non-denom church ends up being a new denomination.

Is this going to be a Christian chapel? Or will it try to be more inclusive? How far does inclusiveness go? It's said that those who stand for nothing will fall for anything!

Earlier in American history, a new town or neighborhood would be founded by members of a single denomination, avoiding problems like this. We need to remember that "culture" comes from the word "cult", meaning religion. You can't build a solid community unless the people share basic values and culture. Even "multicultural" neighborhoods are unified by people who seek diversity and who also share the same political views.

Protestant denominationalism and American pluralism both encouraged, and then later necessitated, the car culture, and radical multiculturalism just makes it worse. People just want to be with those who are of their own kind, and if they can't live near them (because of job or schools, for example), then they have to drive there. This is particularly true with churches: most denominations are too small or too fluid to have a stable surrounding neighborhood of coreligionists. Also, there is much denomination-hopping, which again goes against any hope of creating a stable neighborhood around a nondenominational church.

I suspect that this chapel, if it ever gets built, will primarily be just for show.

The prototype examples of small urban towns are found throughout Catholic Europe, Latin America, and in American cities that have escaped urban renewal. A Catholic church is the center of the neighborhood, within easy walking distance of its parishoners, and has a vibrant community life, many merchants, and even nearby employment. Catholic culture encourages such stability, and I doubt that social engineering can reproduce it.

Moderately-priced townhomes. A feature of New Urbanism is a wide variety of home prices, from modest, inexpensive apartments, to mansions. They also hope to attract everyone from singles, young families, and senior citizens with disabilities. This goes against the more recent social-class exclusivity, and is perhaps more similar to urban living. What will be missing here, for the time being, is probably crushing poverty and chronic crime, as well as the wealthy elite; instead, this will have a broad middle class.

There are two big trends in architecture schools these days: Traditional building design makes up the right wing, and New Urbanism makes up the left wing. In a new development such as this, perhaps we see a synthesis of these two trends.

The developer owns a tree nursery and intends to plant trees along all of the roads.

Fountains on the current edge of town. Much new construction is going on behind them.

The Town Hall, located in the town's business district across from the amphitheater. I do not know the form of government of New Town. This appears to be just an assembly hall.

Kiosks across from the Town Hall. Behind them is the outdoor town amphitheater. These kiosks have sizable covered outdoor patios behind them. The Romans used their amphitheaters for blood sports, while the Medievals used them for Passion plays. According to the developer, this amphitheater has classical and popular music concerts, as well as performances for children.

A small market, with fresh flowers on the side. To its right is the post office and Town Hall.

Tolkien fan alert—here is the Prancing Pony.

The town colors. A limited, but nice, palette of colors to provide unity and diversity. I would suppose that homeowners will be strictly limited to using these paint colors via restrictive covenant.

Construction is still underway, but eventually these homes will face a park. I like the enclosed observation deck on top of the house on the right.

New Urbanism got its start in New York City. Robert Moses, the powerful public works director of that city, planned to demolish the Greenwich Village neighborhood to construct a highway. A huge outcry from residents cancelled the plan, and this led to scholarly studies of that neighborhood, leading eventually to New Urbanism.

New Urbanism is based on the modern philosophy of Existentialism, which was popular among the bohemians in Greenwich Village. It states that we create our own meaning of life through a variety of experiences. An Existentialist often feels alienated and lonely, conscious of his mortality, and seeks to find authenticity in his life. A New Urbanist community counteracts these tendencies by providing an active community life, with everyone living in authentically American buildings, and shopping at proprietor-operated stores, which are far more authentic than chain stores. A nondenominational church provides spiritual support, if needed, while not denying the individual the freedom to think as he desires.

Most homes have attached garages that face alleyways in the back. All of the homes have severely limited lawn and garden space surrounding them.

Old farms are beyond the edge of town, but not for long.

Developer website:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Kansas City Catholic

See the new blog Kansas City Catholic by Wolftracker, which, by the way, is an excellent pseudonym, if you remember that wolves kill sheep. Good commentary on National Catholic Reporter's recent hit piece on the return to Catholic tradition in Kansas City. Found via the Curmudgeon's Cave.
Both blogs above are from Kansas City. Just for amusement, here is a typical Kansas Citian's attitude about Saint Louis:
"Kansas City, not St. Louis, is the largest city in the state of Missouri, although admittedly the St. Louis metro area is larger, but this is because it includes older, and more established surrounding counties. Unlike St. Louis, Kansas City has been named in numerous surveys as one of the nation's most livable cities; and Kansas City recently ranked higher than St. Louis in Kiplinger's "Smart Places to Live" survey. Kansas City also has more affordable housing and lower business costs than St. Louis. And even if St. Louis calls itself the "Gateway to the West", Kansas City's Westport has much pioneer history also. Although St. Louis has more corporate headquarters, Kansas City is less dependent on smokestack industries. Kansas City is also a beautiful city, with its wide boulevards, and many fountains, while St. Louis has more of its beauty in decay. And although the Kansas City music scene is younger than St. Louis', it is clearly more authentic, especially in Jazz. Likewise, race relations are better in Kansas City than St. Louis."
Here is a typical Saint Louisan's attitude about Kansas City:
"Kansas City is in Missouri? Are you sure? I always thought it was in...Kansas."

Photos of Saint Francis Xavier (College) Church in Saint Louis, Missouri

Here are photos of Saint Francis Xavier Church, on the campus of Saint Louis University. Sometimes known as College Church, this parish is staffed by Jesuits and Redemptorists. Click on any photo for a larger version.

This Gothic Revival church is based on a 19th century Cathedral in Ireland.

During the school year, the church offers a well-attended 10 p.m. Sunday Mass.

The interior had been renovated in the 1980s according to the suggestions in the document "Environment and Art in Catholic Worship" published in 1978 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Fortunately, much nice architecture remains in the church and is photoworthy.

Like many churches based on this model, the form of worship here tends to be congregational and iconoclastic. Likewise, the Mass is seen more as a communal meal and less a sacrifice. The Mass itself shows the influence Evangelical Protestantism has had on the Church in recent decades. However, I was greatly moved by the hymn "Holy God We Praise Thy Name", beautifully sung by the choir; this traditional hymn was quite different than the modern music sung during the rest of the mass.

The high altar was retained by the renovation; the choir and musicians now are situated in the former sanctuary.

A detail of the altar.

One of the numerous side-altars in the church.

The tabernacle, located in the right transept.

A side-aisle, lined with confessionals. The sacrament was offered here before Mass.

A little window inside a former confessional. The Latin reads "seat of wisdom", a title of Mary: Christ, the logos, is Wisdom.

The side of the nave, showing the verticality of this church, and wonderful Gothic arches.

Another view of the arches.

The choir loft. Note the baptismal pool near the entrance, made during the renovation.

Father preaches the homily.

The side of this cathedral-sized church.

Students at the main door are enjoying Ted Drewe's frozen custard; the church offered this treat in honor of it being the last 10 p.m. Mass of this school year.