21 dicembre 2006

"Seeing Clearly" by Bishop Chaput

This is a brilliant lecture given by Bishop Charles Chaput in California. It really ties together how so many of our country's, and the world's, problems are caused by lack of, or off-kilter, perspective. He exposes post-modern euphemisms for what they really are, attempts at oppressing Christian ideals, attempts to force relativism and secularism upon the world, and make people think it is somehow wrong to hold clear, non-negotiable convictions and stand up for them. The bishop attempts to put things back into perspective, so we can turn our society around... away love of self and towards loving God and loving others.


+ Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., 12.7.06
1st annual Orange County Prayer Breakfast Garden Grove, CA

Each year, as we move toward Christmas, a friend of mine puts together a list of his favorite Christmas songs. Every year it's the usual mix of Silent Night, The Shepherds' Carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem ­ things like that. But every year he also includes Dr. Elmo's great Christmas classic, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

The lyrics go like this:

Grandma got run over by a reindeer, Walking home from our house, Christmas Eve; You can say you don't believe in Santa, But as for me and Grandpa -- we believe.

I finally asked him why he puts this song on his list. He said, "For the pagans. A little belief is better than none at all."

I haven't been able to get this song out of my head ­ partly because it's so goofy, but also because it raises a couple of questions. Who really owns Christmas? The pagans? The Christians? Toys-R-Us? The ACLU? Why are we supposed to be happy this month? And what exactly are we celebrating?

Let me answer the questions this way.

The Louvre Museum in Paris holds about 35,000 pieces of art from the 14th to the 20th centuries. And one of the most beautiful collections in the Louvre is the paintings of the Middle Ages.

Medieval art is Christian art. One reason for that is obvious. The Church had the influence and the resources to pay for great art. Another reason is that the political leaders of that age shared that same Christian faith. So did the people. And so did the artists. As a result, paintings from the Middle Ages combine beauty, simplicity and faith in a very powerful way.

Most Medieval art tried to do two things: touch the heart with its beauty and teach the mind with its story. It opened a window on the Bible to people who couldn't read. The recurring scenes in Medieval art are events like the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of Christ, the Gift of the Magi, the Baptism in the Jordan , the Temptation in the Desert, Judas' Kiss, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The paintings had power not just because they were ways of teaching the faith. They had power because they connected the human condition with Christian hope and Christian purpose.

We're born, we grow, we suffer, we die. So do the people we love. Do our lives mean anything? And if they do, what do they mean? These are the questions that really matter to all of us. They mattered even more urgently to people with shorter life spans 700 years ago. Medieval art is about birth, growth, suffering, death and the hope of new life, all viewed through the person of Jesus Christ. It's about God. But it's also about us as human beings -- because Jesus Christ is not only God; he's also human.

When a Medieval artist painted Pilate showing a beaten and bloody Christ to the mob with the words ecce homo -- "behold the man" ­ he spoke to the suffering of every man and woman who viewed the painting. That's the genius of the Gospel and the art it inspires. Christian art is about the dignity of the human person loved and redeemed by God. It's about meaning.

Some of you may be thinking, if Medieval art was such a big deal, how come nobody does it anymore? That's a fair question. I have a one-word answer: perspective. It's an interesting word, "perspective." It comes from the Latin verb perspicere, which means," to see clearly."

In art, perspective is the technique of representing three-dimensional objects on a two- dimensional surface. Medieval painters didn't know how to do this.

Starting in the 14th century, painters began figuring out how to put depth of field in their work. They learned how to create the illusion of a round apple on a flat piece of canvas. It's basically a math problem with horizon lines and vanishing points.

Within a hundred years, every painter used the new perspective techniques in his work. Nobody painted the old way. And very soon nobody looked at or experienced a painting the same way. There was a different perspective.

Seven hundred years ago, a painter might take months or years to finish a scene like the Nativity. Seven hundred years later, a teenager of our time can do a three-dimensional, photo-realistic image of the same scene in a few hours with a free piece of software called Blender 3D. But their perspectives are not at all the same.

The word "perspective" has two different meanings. It's not just a technique in art. It also means our frame of reference. It's our basic way of looking at people, ideas and events. Our perspective not only shapes how we understand the world; it also reveals a lot about what we believe and who we choose to be.

Here's the point. As we finish 2006, we know a lot more than we did 700 years ago. We eat better. We live longer. We have nicer clothes. We own more stuff. But are we happier? Are we wiser? Do our lives have more beauty and harmony and meaning? Are we more humane with each other?

Our perspective on the world has changed in fundamental ways. But is the soul of modern life any deeper or holier? Given the wars and injustices of the last century, we'd better think very carefully before we answer.

I believe that Americans are a blessed people. Most of us believe in God. We go to church at higher rates than any other developed country. We still work hard. We still have a deep love of family and personal integrity. And most of the good things we have, we've labored honestly to earn.

Americans enjoy more freedom, more mobility, better education, better career choices and better medical care than any other country in history. We have more personal wealth. We have more leisure time. We have a society genuinely based on law that at least tries to ensure justice for everybody. And in science, technology, commerce and military power, the United States has no equal.

But Americans also have a growing inequality of wealth, education and opportunity. We face a decline of ideas and public service; growing moral ambiguity; a spirit of entitlement with rights exalted over responsibilities; a cult of personal consumption; and a civic vocabulary that seems to get more brutish and more confused every year.

This last point about our civic vocabulary is important. The language we use in public discourse matters. Words are like a paintbrush. They're a very powerful tool. They can form or deform the human conscience.

Words like "tolerance" and "consensus" are important democratic working principles. But they aren't Christian virtues, and they should never take priority over other words like charity, justice, faith and truth, either in our personal lives or in our public choices.

Here's another word: choice. Choice is usually a good thing. But it's never an end in itself. Choice is worthless ­ in fact, it's a form of idolatry ­ if all the choices are meaningless or bad.

Here's another word: pluralism. These days pluralism usually serves as a codeword for getting Christians to shut up in the public square out of some misguided sense of courtesy. But pluralism is just a demographic fact. It's not an ideology. And it's never a valid excuse for being quiet about our key moral convictions.

Here's another word: community. Community is more than a collection of persons. Community requires mutual respect, a shared future, and submission to each other's needs based on common beliefs and principles. It's not just an elegant name for an interest group. Talking about the "abortion-rights community" makes as much sense as talking about the "big tobacco community."

Here's another couple of words: the common good. The common good does not mean the sum of what most people want right now. The common good is that which constitutes the best source of justice and happiness for a community and its members in the light of truth. The common good is never served by killing the weakest members of a community. It's also not served when the appetites and behaviors of individual members get a license to undermine the life of the wider community.

Finally, let's take one more word: democracy. Democracy does not mean putting aside our religious and moral beliefs for the sake of public policy. In fact, it demands exactly the opposite. Democracy depends on people of character fighting for their beliefs in the public square ­ legally, ethically and non-violently, but forcefully and without apology. Democracy is not God. Only God is God. Even democracy stands under the judgment of God and God's truths about human purpose and dignity. The passengers in a car can democratically elect to go in the wrong direction. But they're still just as dead -- with or without a majority opinion -- when they go over a cliff.

The fallout from this confusion in the language of American life can be summed up in five trends: first, the rise of an unhealthy individualism among citizens; second, growing tribal warfare among interest groups; third, more and more cynicism toward public life and service; fourth, a decline in democratic involvement; and fifth, image over substance in public debate, which results in politics as a kind of cynical sound-bite management.

In recent years, some people in both political parties would like to blame the conflicts in American public life on religious believers. The argument goes like this. Religion is so powerful and so personal that whenever it enters public life in an organized way, it divides people. It repels. It polarizes. It oversimplifies complex issues. It creates bitterness. It invites extremism. And finally it violates the spirit of the Constitution by muddling up the separation of Church and state that keeps Americans from sliding into intolerance.

The same argument goes on to claim that, once they're free from the burden of religious interference, mature citizens and leaders can engage in reasoned discourse, putting aside superstition and private obsessions to choose the best course for the widest public. Because the state is above moral and religious tribalism, it can best guarantee the rights of everyone. Therefore a fully secularized public square would be the adulthood of the American Experiment.

That's the hype. Here's the reality.

First of all, key differences exist between public institutions which are simply non-sectarian, and today's secularist ideology. Everybody can live with the former. No Christian in his or her right mind should want to live with the latter. Whenever you hear loud fretting sparked by an irrational fear of an Established Church, somebody's trying to force religious believers and communities out of the public discussion of issues.

Second, the American Experiment -- more than any other modern state -- is the product of religiously shaped concepts and tradition. It can't survive for long without respecting the source of that tradition. A fully secularized public life would mean policy by the powerful for the powerful because no permanent principles can exist in a morally neutral vacuum.

Finally, secularism isn't really morally neutral. It's actively destructive. It undermines community. It attacks the heart of what it means to be human. It rejects the sacred while posturing itself as neutral to the sacred. It ignores the most basic questions of social purpose and personal meaning by writing them off as private idiosyncrasies. It also just doesn't work -- in fact, by its nature it can't work -- as a life-giving principle for society. And despite its own propaganda, it's never been a natural, evolutionary, historical result of human progress.

Certain beliefs have always held Americans together as a people. Christianity and its Jewish roots have always provided the grounding for our most important national principles, like inalienable rights and equality under the law. But as a country, we're losing the Founders' perspective on the meaning of our shared public life. We have wealth and power and free time and choices and toys -- but we no longer see clearly who we are. Material things don't give us meaning. We're in danger of becoming the "men without chests" that C.S. Lewis talked about in The Abolition of Man: ­ people sapped of their heart, energy, courage and convictions by the machinery they helped to create. And if we can't find a way to heal that interior emptiness, then as an experiment in the best ideals of human freedom, America will fail.

I began by talking about Christmas. Who owns it? Why are we supposed to be happy? What are we really celebrating?

Good will, joy, peace, harmony, the giving of gifts ­ these are beautiful and holy things deeply linked to Christmas. But not to Santa Claus. And especially not to a politically correct, secular Santa Claus. Joy is not generic. Good will needs a reason. We don't suddenly become generous because the radio plays Jingle Bells.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus is the messiah of Israel , the only Son of God, the Word of God made flesh. We believe that He was born in poverty in Bethlehem in order to grow and preach God's kingdom, and suffer, die and rise from the dead all for the sake of our redemption, because God loves us. Christmas is a feast of love, but it's God's love first that makes it possible. Christmas begins our deliverance from sin and death. That's why St. Leo the Great called it the "birthday of joy." What begins in the stable ends in our salvation. That's why we celebrate Christmas, and it's the best and only reason the human heart needs.

Catholics observe these last few weeks every year before Christmas as the season of Advent. It's a time when the Church asks us to prepare our lives to receive Jesus the child at Christmas, and Jesus the king at the end of time. How can we best do that? The tradition of the Church tells us by vigil and by prayer.

The season of Advent is a vigil. The word "vigil" means to keep watch during normal sleeping hours, to pay attention when others are sleeping. It comes from a very old Indo-European word "weg", which means "be lively or active." So to keep vigil or to be vigilant does not mean passive waiting but active, restless waiting, expectant waiting for the Lord. It means paying attention to what is going on in the world around us, and not being asleep. It means acting, living out our mission to be God's agents in the world.

Every truly Christian life is a kind of martyrdom, because what martyr means is witness. That's our task -- a life of conscious, deliberate witness for Jesus Christ and our Catholic faith, in our families, our friendships, our business dealings and our public actions. When Jesus said, "make disciples of all nations," and "you will be my witnesses," He didn't mean the guy down the road. He was speaking to you and to me.

The Advent tradition of the Church is vigil and prayer.

There are two places in the New Testament ­ 1st Corinthians and Revelation ­ where we find a prayer in the Aramaic language, the Semitic dialect spoken by Jesus. Since this prayer is in Aramaic it must come from the very earliest days of the Church. The prayer is "Marana tha" and means "Lord, come!"

St. Augustinetells us that God is indebted to us, not because of anything we have done, but because of His promises. God always keeps His promises. So we call on Him to come again.

Our Advent prayer is "Lord, come!"

Lord, come ­ into our world!

Lord, come ­ into our lives!

Lord, come -- and purify our longings!

Lord, come ­ to free us from our compulsions and sins!

Lord, come ­ into our relationships!

Lord, come ­ into our work!

Lord, come ­ into our sufferings!

And into the darkness of our troubled world.

We speak these words ­ "Marana-tha" ­ with a real and confident urgency, not only for ourselves and our personal lives, but also for our Church and our nation.

Earlier I mentioned the power of perspective in painting, and the power of perspective in our lives. I hope the meaning of that word stays with you in the coming days of Advent - - perspicere, "to see clearly."

Twelve months ago, on Christmas Day, Pope Benedict XVI published his first encyclical. He called it Deus Caritas Est ­ "God is love." Here's a line from it that I want to share with you as I close: "The Christian program, the program of the Good Samaritan, the program of Jesus -- is `a heart which sees.' This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly" (31, b).

Being faithful to your spouse and family; defending the unborn child; helping the poor; visiting the sick; respecting the immigrant; protecting the dignity and meaning of marriage; working for justice; leading with character ­ this is the Christian program, the result of hearts which see.

What I ask God to give to you and to me, to our nation and to our Church this Christmas, is the one gift that really does matter: hearts that see, and see clearly.

God grant all of us a blessed Advent and a joyful Christmas.

18 dicembre 2006

Cannavaro named FIFA World Player of the Year

Cannavaro named FIFA World Player of the Year

ZURICH, Switzerland (Ticker) - Fabio Cannavaro capped off an impressive year Monday with yet another award.

The Italian star was proud to become the first defender to be named FIFA World Player of the Year after collecting the award at the annual gala ceremony in Zurich.

The accolade caps off an outstanding year for the Italy and Real Madrid centre-half, who captained his country to World Cup glory this summer and was presented with the Ballon D'Or for winning the European Footballer of the Year award in November.

He would have been able to add a Serie A winner's medal to his haul if not for the Italian match-fixing scandal, which saw his former club Juventus stripped of their title and relegated to Serie B.

Cannavaro, 33, received 498 votes from the panel of 165 international coaches and 165 international captains. Retired France international Zinedine Zidane finished second with 454 while Brazil and Barcelona forward Ronaldinho was third with 380.

"It is unusual for a defender to be sitting alongside Ronaldinho and Zinedine Zidane, who do marvellous things all season, so I saw it as a victory just to be here," Cannavaro said. "I think I have been very lucky this year because we won the World Cup and perhaps this has been very helpful for me to make it here tonight. "The competition was scary, it was so strong. After winning the World Cup and the European Footballer of the Year award, I do not think I could ask for anything more," Cannavaro said.

via Yahoo news

16 dicembre 2006

David Quinn pounds Richard Dawkins in debate.

Richard Dawkins is one of those militant atheists who basically thinks religion is a virus, religion should be outlawed, believers are complete morons whose civil liberties should be taken away... you get the point. And not coincidentally, Richard Dawkins has little to no grasp on actual theology, no more than some propagandistic talking points. Anyway, here he gets exposed in a debate, as reported by Zenit.

Are Believers Delusional? (Part 1)
Richard Dawkins vs. David Quinn

DUBLIN, Ireland, OCT. 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Differences over the existence of God, free will and the effect of religion on the world triggered a spirited debate recently on Irish public radio.

The debate between Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," and David Quinn, columnist at the Irish Independent, took place Oct. 9 on "The Tubridy Show." The show was hosted by Ryan Tubridy and broadcast on radio station RTE Radio 1.

Here is the first part of a transcription of the show.

* * *

Tubridy: Your most recent book is called "The God Delusion." Let's talk about the word delusion, just to put it into context. Why did you pick that word?

Dawkins: The word delusion means a falsehood which is widely believed, to me, and I think that is true of religion, it is remarkably widely believed.

It is as though almost all of the population, or a substantial proportion of the population, believe that they'd been abducted by aliens in flying saucers -- you'd call that a delusion. I think God is a similar delusion.

Tubridy: And would it be fair to say you equate God with, say, the imaginary friend, the bogeyman, or the fairies at the end of the garden?

Dawkins: Well, I think he is just as probable to exist, yes. And I do discuss all those things, especially the imaginary friend, which I think is an interesting psychological phenomenon in childhood. And that may possibly have something to do with the appeal of religion.

Tubridy: So take us through that a little bit, about the imaginary friend factor.

Dawkins: Many young children have an imaginary friend. Christopher Robin had Binker; a little girl who wrote to me had a little purple man. The girl with the little purple man actually saw him, she seemed to hallucinate him, and he appeared with a little tinkling bell, and he was very, very real to her, although in a sense she knew he wasn't real.

I suspect that something like that is going on with people who claim to have heard God, or seen God, or hear the voice of God.

Tubridy: And we're back to delusion again. Do you think that anyone who believes in God, anyone of any religion, is deluded? Is that the bottom line with your argument, Richard?

Dawkins: Well, there is a sophisticated form of religion. One form of it is Einstein's, which really wasn't religion at all.

Einstein used the word "God" a great deal, but he didn't mean a personal God, he didn't mean a being who could listen to your prayers or forgive your sins.

He just meant it as a kind of poetic way of describing the deep unknowns, the deep uncertainties of the root of the universe.

Then there are deists who believe in a kind of God, a kind of personal God who set the universe going, a sort of physicist God, but then did no more, and certainly doesn't listen to your thoughts, and has no personal interest in humans at all.

I don't think I would use a word like delusion for, certainly not for Einstein, and I don't think I would for a deist either. I think I'd reserve the word delusion for real theists, who actually think they talk to God and think God talks to them.

Tubridy: You have a very interesting description in "The God Delusion" of the Old Testament God. ... You described God as a "misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Dawkins: Well, that seems fair enough to me, yes.

Tubridy: There are those who would say that's a little over the top.

Dawkins: Read your Old Testament if you think that. Just read it. Read Leviticus, read Deuteronomy, read Judges, read Numbers, read Exodus.

Tubridy: And is it your contention that these elements of the God as described by yourself are what has not helped matters in terms of, say, global religion and the wars that go with it?

Dawkins: Well, not really because no serious theologian takes the Old Testament literally, anymore, so it isn't quite like that.

An awful lot of people think they take the Bible literally, but that can only be because they've never read it, because if they ever read it, they couldn't possibly take it literally.

But I do think people are a bit confused about where they get their morality from. A lot of people think they get their morality from the Bible because they can find a few good verses -- parts of the Ten Commandments are OK, parts of the Sermon on the Mount are OK -- so they think they get their morality from the Bible. But actually of course nobody gets their morality from the Bible; we get it from somewhere else.

And to the extent that we can find good bits from the Bible, we cherry-pick them, we pick and choose them, we choose the good verses from the Bible and we reject the bad.

Whatever criterion we use to choose the good verses and throw out the bad, that criterion is available to us anyway, whether we're religious or not. Why bother to pick verses, why not just go straight for the morality?

Tubridy: Do you think the people who believe in God and in religion generally, who you think have -- you use the analogy of the imaginary friend -- do you think that the people who believe in God and religion are a little bit dim?

Dawkins: No, because many of them clearly are highly educated and score highly on IQ tests and things.

Tubridy: Why do they believe in something you think doesn't exist?

Dawkins: Well I think people sometimes are remarkably adept at compartmentalizing their mind, separating their mind into two separate parts.

There are some people who even manage to combine being apparently perfectly good working scientists, with believing that the Book of Genesis is literally true, and that the world is only 6,000 years old. If you can perform that level of double-think, then you could do anything.

Tubridy: But they might say that they pity you because you don't believe what they think is fundamentally true.

Dawkins: Well, they might, but we'll have to argue it out by looking at the evidence. The great thing is to argue it by looking at evidence, not just to say, oh well this is my faith, there is no argument to be had, you can't argue with faith.

Tubridy: David Quinn, columnist at the Irish Independent, show us some evidence please.

Quinn: Well, I mean the first thing I'd say is that Richard Dawkins is doing what he commonly does, which is he's setting up straw men, so he puts God in the same -- he puts believing in God in the same -- category as believing in fairies.

Well, children stop believing in fairies when they stop being children, but they usually don't stop believing in God because belief in God, to my mind, is a much more rational proposition than believing in fairies or Santa Claus.

Tubridy: Do we have more proof that God exists than we do for fairies?

Quinn: I'll come to that in a second.

The second thing is that by compartmentalizing yourself, and he uses the examples of, well, you got intelligent people who somehow or other also believe the world is only 6,000 years old, and we have a young Earth, and they don't believe in evolution.

But again, that's a too stark an either-or. There are many people who believe in God, but also in evolution and believe the universe is 20 billion years old, and believe fully in Darwinian evolution, or whatever the case may be.

Now, in all arguments about the existence and nonexistence of God, often these things don't even get off the launch pad because the two people debating can't even agree on where the burden of proof rests. Does it rest with those who are trying to prove the existence of God? Or does it rest with those who are trying to disprove the existence of God?

But I suppose, if I bring this onto Richard Dawkins' turf, and we talk about the theory of evolution: The theory of evolution explains how matter, which we are all made from, organized itself into, for example, highly complex beings like Richard Dawkins and Ryan Tubridy, and other human beings. But what it doesn't explain, just to give one example, is how matter came into being in the first place.

That, in scientific terms, is a question that cannot be answered, and can only be answered, if it can be answered fully at all, by philosophers and theologians. It certainly can't be answered by science.

And the question of whether God exists or not, cannot be answered fully by science either. And commonly, and a common mistake that people can believe, is that the scientist who speaks about evolution with all the authority of science can also speak about the existence of God with all the authority of science -- and of course he can't.

The scientist speaking about the existence of God is actually engaging in philosophy or theology, but he certainly isn't bringing to it the authority of science per se.

Tubridy: Back to the first question, have you any evidence for me?

Quinn: Well I would say the existence of matter itself, I would say the existence of morality, myself and Richard Dawkins clearly have different understandings of the origins of morality, I would say free will.

If you're an atheist, logically speaking, you cannot believe in objective morality, you cannot believe in free will.

These are two things that the vast majority of humankind implicitly believe in. We believe for example that if a person carries out a bad action, we can call that person bad because we believe that they are freely choosing those actions. An atheist believes we are controlled completely by our genes and make no free actions at all.

Tubridy: What evidence do you have, Richard Dawkins, that you're right?

Dawkins: I certainly don't believe a word of that. I do not believe we are controlled wholly by our genes. Let me go back to the really important thing that Mr. Quinn says.

Quinn: How are we independent of our genes by your reckoning? What allows us to be independent of our genes? Where is this coming from?

Dawkins: Environment, for a start.

Quinn: But hang on, but that is also a product of, if you like, matter, OK?

Dawkins: Yes, but it's not genes.

Quinn: OK, what part of us allows us to have free will?

Dawkins: Free will is a very difficult philosophical question, and it is not one that has anything to do with religion, contrary to what Mr. Quinn says.

Quinn: It has an awful lot to do with religion, because if there is no God, there is no free will, because we are completely phenomena.

Dawkins: Who says there is no free will if there is no God? That is a ridiculous thing to say.

Quinn: William Provine for one, whom you quote in your book. I have a quote here from him. Other scientists as well believe the same thing, that everything that goes on in our heads is a product of genes, entity, environment and chemical reactions, that there is no room for free will.

And Richard, if you haven't got to grips with that, you seriously need to, because many of your colleagues have, and they deny outright the existence of free will, and they are hardened materialists like yourself.

Tubridy: OK, Richard Dawkins, your rebuke to that note if you wish.

Dawkins: I am not interested in free will. What I am interested in is the ridiculous suggestion that if science can't say where the origin of matter comes from, theology can.

The origin of matter is a very -- the origin of the whole universe -- is a very, very difficult question. It's one that scientists are working on, it's one that they hope, eventually, to solve.

Just as before Darwin , biology was a mystery, Darwin solved that; now cosmology is a mystery. The origin of the universe is a mystery, it's a mystery to everyone. Physicists are working on it, they have theories, but if science can't answer that question, then it's sure as hell theology can't either.

Quinn: Forgive me if I can come in here. It is a perfectly reasonable proposition to ask yourself, Where does matter come from? And it is perfectly reasonable as well to posit the answer: God created matter.

Dawkins: It is not reasonable.

Quinn: Many reasonable people believe this. It is quite a different category to say, "Look, we will study matter and we will ask how matter organizes itself in its particular forms," and come up with the answer: evolution.

It is quite another question to ask, Where does matter come from to begin with? And if you like, you must go outside of matter to answer that question, and then you're into philosophical and theological categories.

Dawkins: How can you possibly say God did it if you can't say where God came from?

Quinn: Because you must have an uncaused cause for anything at all to exist.

Now I see in your book, you come up with an argument against this that I frankly find to be bogus. You come up with the idea of a mathematical infinite regress.

But this does not apply to arguments about uncaused causes and unmoved movers, because we're not talking about math, we are talking about existence and existentiality. Nothing exists unless you have an uncaused cause, and that uncaused cause, and that unmoved mover, is by definition, God.

Dawkins: You just defined God as that. You just defined the problem out of existence. That's no solution to the problem. You just evaded it.

Quinn: You can't answer the question where matter comes from, you as an atheist.

Dawkins: I can't, but science is working on it. You can't answer it either.

Quinn: It won't come up with an answer. And you invoked a "mystery argument" that you accuse religious believers of doing all of the time. You invoke it for the very first and most fundamental question about reality. You do not know where matter came from.

Dawkins: I don't know, science is working on it. Science is a progressive thing that is working on it. You don't know, but you claim that you do.

Quinn: I claim to know the probable answer.

Tubridy: Can I suggest that the next question, it is quite appropriate, is on the role of religion in wars. When you think of the difficulty that it brings up on the local level, Mr. Dawkins, do you believe the world would be a safer place without religion?

Dawkins: Yes I do. I don't think religion is the only cause of war, very far from it. Neither the Second World War, nor the First World War were caused by religion, but I do think that religion is a major exacerbator, and especially in the world today, as a matter of fact.

Tubridy: OK, explain yourself.

Dawkins: Well, I think it's pretty obvious if you look at the Middle East, if you look at India and Pakistan , if you look at Northern Ireland , there are many, many places where the only basis for hostility that exists between rival factions who kill each other is religion.

Tubridy: Why do you take it upon yourself to preach, if you like, atheism -- and there's an interesting choice of words in some ways. You've been accused of being something like a fundamental atheist, if you like, the high priest of atheism. Why go about your business in such a way that you try to disprove these things? Why don't you just believe in it privately, for example?

Dawkins: Well, fundamentalist is not the right word. A fundamentalist is one who believes in a holy book, and thinks that everything in that holy book is true.

I am passionate about what I believe because I think there is evidence for it. And I think it's very different being passionate about evidence from being passionate about a holy book.

So, I do it because I care passionately about the truth. I really, really believe it's a big question, and it's an important question, whether there is a God at the root of the universe. I think it's a question that matters, and I think that we need to discuss it, and that's what I do.

Quinn: Ryan, if I can say, Richard has just come up with a definition of fundamentalism that suits him. He thinks that a fundamentalist is someone who has to believe in a holy book.

A fundamentalist is someone who firmly believes that they have got the truth, and hold that to an extreme extent, and become intolerant of those who hold to a different truth. Richard Dawkins has just outlined what he thinks the truth to be. It makes him intolerant of those who have religious beliefs.

Now in terms of the effect of religion upon the world, I mean at least Richard has rightly acknowledged that there are many causes of war and strife and ill will in the world, and he mentions World War I and World War II.

In his book he tries to get neatly off the hook of having atheism blamed, for example, for the atrocities carried out by Joseph Stalin, saying that these have nothing particularly to do with atheism.

Stalin, and many communists who were explicitly atheistic, took to view that religion was precisely the sort of malign and evil force that Richard Dawkins thinks it is, and they set out from that premise to, if you like, inflict upon religion, as sort of their own version of a final solution, they set to eradicate it from the earth through violence, and also through education that was explicitly anti-religious.

And under the Soviet Union, and in China , and under Pol Pot in Cambodia , explicit and violent efforts were made to suppress religion underground, religion was a wicked force and we have the truth, and our truth would not admit religion into the picture at all, because we believe religion to be an untruth. So atheism also can lead to fundamentalist violence, and did so in the last century.

Tubridy: Can we let Richard in here?

Dawkins: Stalin was a very, very bad man, and his persecution of religion was a very, very bad thing. End of story. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was an atheist.

We can't just compile lists of bad people who were atheists and lists of bad people who were religious. I am afraid that there were plenty on both sides.

Quinn: Yes, but Richard you are always compiling lists of bad religious people. You do it continually in all your books, and then you devote a paragraph to basically try to dissolve atheism of all blame for any atrocity throughout history. You cannot have it both ways.

Dawkins: I deny that.

Quinn: Of course you do it. Every time you are on a program, talking about religion, you bring up the atrocities committed in the name of religion, and then you try to minimize the atrocities committed by atheists because they were so anti-religious, and because they regarded it as a malign force, in much the same way as you do. You are trying to have it both ways.

Dawkins: Well, I simply deny that. I do think that there is some evil in faith, because faith is belief in something without evidence.

Quinn: But you see, that is not what faith is. You see, that is a caricature and a straw man, and it's so typical. That is not what faith is. You have faith that God does not exist.

Dawkins: What is faith?

Quinn: Wait a second. You have faith that God doesn't exist. You are a man of faith as well.

Dawkins: I do not. I've looked at the evidence.

Quinn: I've looked at the evidence too.

Dawkins: If somebody comes up with evidence that goes the other way, I'll be the first to change my mind.

Quinn: Well, I think the very existence of matter is evidence that God exists.

And by the way, remember, you're the man who has problems believing in free will, which you tried to very conveniently [push] to one side earlier.

Dawkins: I'm just not interested in free will, it's just not a big question for me.

Quinn: It's a vast question because we cannot be considered morally responsible beings unless we have free will. Otherwise we do everything because we are controlled by our genes or our environment. It's a vital question.

Las Iglesias orientales católicas tienen la tarea de promover el ecumenismo

Las Iglesias orientales católicas tienen la tarea de promover el ecumenismo
Afirma el Papa al recibir al patriarca de Alejandría de los coptos católicos

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO, viernes, 15 diciembre 2006 (ZENIT.org).- Las Iglesias orientales católicas tienen la tarea de promover la unidad entre los cristianos, en particular, con los ortodoxos, afirmó Benedicto XVI este viernes al recibir al patriarca de Alejandría de los coptos católicos.

Ha sido la primera vista de Su Beatitud Antonios Naguib, de 71 años, a la Santa Sede desde su elección, el 30 de marzo pasado.

En el discurso que el Papa le dirigió en francés, el obispo de Roma garantizó al patriarca «mi apoyo por la “tarea particular” que el Concilio ecuménico Vaticano II confió a las Iglesias orientales católicas: "hacer progresar la unidad de todos los cristianos, sobre todo de los cristianos orientales"».

Los copto-católicos de Egipto son unos 250.000, una pequeña minoría en un país de más 74 millones de habitantes, de los que el 94% son musulmanes y casi el 6% son copto-ortodoxos.

Por este motivo, el Papa subrayó el «papel importante» que desempeña ese patriarcado «en el diálogo interreligioso para desarrollar la fraternidad y la estima entre cristianos y musulmanes, y entre todos los hombres».

La Iglesia copta (conocida como ortodoxa) se quedó al margen de Roma después del Concilio de Calcedonia en el año 451. En 1741, un obispo copto en Jerusalén, se convirtió al catolicismo y fue nombrado por el Papa Benedicto XIV vicario apostólico de la pequeña comunidad de coptos (entonces eran unos dos mil) que habían entrado en la Iglesia católica por la predicación de los religiosos a partir del siglo XVII. En 1895, el Papa León XIII restableció el patriarcado copto-católico.

La Iglesia copto-católica está experimentando un florecimiento de vocaciones a la vida religiosa (tanto de mujeres como de hombres) y al sacerdocio (además de 200 sacerdotes, en Egipto hay 150 religiosos coptos). Dirige 170 instituciones educativas en las la mayor parte de los estudiantes son musulmanes.

Monseñor Antonios Naguib nació en 1935. Tras entrar en el Seminario de Maadi, en El Cairo, estudió teología en el Colegio Urbano de «Propaganda Fide» en Roma entre 1953 y 1958.

Ordenado sacerdote en 1960, tras un año de párroco en Minya, regresó a Roma para alcanzar la licencia en Teología (1962) y la licencia en Sagrada Escritura en el Instituto Pontificio Bíblico (1964).

Fue profesor de esta disciplina en el Seminario Patriarcal de Maadi hasta ser elegido obispo de Minya el 26 de julio 1977. Presentó la renuncia como obispo de Minya el 9 de septiembre de 2002 para pasar un período de descanso.

La Iglesia copta (tanto la ortodoxa, guiada por el Papa Shenouda III, como la católica) fue fundada por el santo mártir Marcos entre el año 40 y el año 60 d.C. en Alejandría, que entonces era un foco de cultura y de civilización, ciudad rica y cosmopolita.

14 dicembre 2006

For your listening pleasure

Stairway To Heaven by Rodrigo y Gabriela from the album Rodrigo y Gabriela

Stairway To Heaven
Rodrigo Y Gabriela

Album: Rodrigo Y Gabriela
Station: Rodrigo Y Gabriela Radio
Favorite Created on: December 14, 2006

What have I been doing for the past week?

Working on a long, long, long paper!!!

Actually, yesterday I spent 12 hours straight on it. Now, I think that no one in is interested in it, but what the heck, I will post it anyway...


One of my favourite errors occurred in an American war film, subtitled in French. One of the soldiers peers into the distance, and another says, “Tanks?” The subtitle reads, “Merci.” ~ Edwards, 1994

Over the last half-century, as the discipline of linguistics has exploded into numerous and often interrelated subfields, the study of second language acquisition has attracted a great deal of attention. Within this field, there are further divisions, including second language (L2) phonology, which will be treated here. It is well known that when learning a second language, unless one is very young, it is almost guaranteed that L2 speech will be accented. Some L2 sound structures pose problems for learners, while others are acquired with ease. Throughout the last fifty years many theories have been formulated in attempts to explain these phenomena, to predict it, and to improve the teaching of second languages. While innumerable studies fill vast bibliographies, this essay can only deal with some of the more salient ones, hoping to sketch out a general view of the advancements, improvements, and even failures in the field of second language phonology.

Early L2 acquisition studies were heavily influenced the behaviorist philosophical basis which was popular at the time. Language was believed to be a set of habits, and the more different the L2 “habit,” the more difficult it would be to learn. The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH) approach was spearheaded by Lado (1957) who sums up the basic tenets of the model:
We assume that the student who comes into contact with a foreign language will find some features of it quite easy and others extremely difficult. Those elements that are similar to his native language will be simple for him, and those elements that are different will be difficult. (Lado, 1957, p.2)

We have ample evidence that when learning a foreign language we tend to transfer our entire language system in the process. (ibid, p. 11)

According to Lado, The CAH involves a hierarchy of difficulty, when contrasting differences in two languages, the lowest being “no difference,” and the highest being a situation in which two L1 allophones exist as two separate phonemes in the L2.
Later work by Stockwell and Bowen (1965) introduced more behaviorist terminology, with speech sounds in a given language described as either “optional,” “obligatory,” or “null.” They differed from Lado in that ,to them, the most difficult phonological acquisition in the L2 would be acquiring an L2 allophone that did not exist in the L1. At this point in time, the theories were not based on any empirical evidence. Later research, such as Suter (1976), suggested that the most difficult area of pronunciation was in suppressing L1 allophones that did not exist in the L2, followed , by the problems though to be most difficult by Lado and Stockwell & Bowen, respectively.

At first, the CAH claimed that all L2 errors could be predicted by contrasting the difference in the phonetics and phonologies of the two languages. As this position was tested, and failed, a weaker version was formed out of it, claiming to be able to explain all errors, and not necessarily be able to predict them.

In time, it was noticed that the CAH models not only made some wrong predictions, but even in the weakest forms could not explain certain L2 phenomena. Furthermore, CAH was not capable of predicting rate of acquisition, nor could it always distinguish, within an L2, exactly which sounds were more difficult to learn. For example, the French alveolar /t/ and uvular /R/ are different than the English /t/ and /r/. For a French speaker learning English (or vice versa), which sound would be easier to learn? The CAH could only say that they would both be difficult.

With the rise of Chomskian linguistics and the shift towards Universal Grammar (UG), the behaviorist-based CAH was seen by many as insufficient, and fell in prominence to new models of second language acquisition. These new models were principally based on the concepts of UG, typological universals, and the notion of markedness.

Greenberg (1957) collected data from many languages of the world, identifying tendencies, commonalities and impossibilities. Phonological features which are most common among the world’s languages were described as unmarked, and the more rare sounds and patterns were described as marked. Following this idea, unmarked sounds seem to be more natural to language, and were therefore assumed to be easier to learn than marked sounds. These patterns were called typological universals.

Items were rated on terms of markedness, on an implicational scale, from 1 to 5: 1 being completely unmarked and 5 being most marked. If a speaker’s native language contains a phoneme at level 3, it was then assumed that he or she can easily pronounce, or learn to produce phones at levels 1 and 2, but may have difficulty with sounds at levels 4 and 5.

An example of this would be nasal and oral vowels. A language may have oral vowels and no nasals, or it may have both. But no natural language has nasal vowels without oral vowels. In this instance, the oral vowels are unmarked, nasals are marked.

These relations form an accessibility hierarchy. If a language has nasal vowels, then it must also have oral vowels. If it has only oral vowels, then it may be difficult for a speaker to learn a L2 with nasal vowels. For a speaker coming from an L1 that makes use of both types of vowels, it would be expected that he or she can learn the orals and nasals of the L2 with little difficulty.

Eckman’s Markedness Differential Hypothesis (1977) incorporated, as the name suggests, universal markedness into measuring the level of difficulty of L2 phonological acquisition. MDH is an extension of CAH, adding that typological markedness must be incorporated into the theory as a measure of ‘difficulty,’ rather than positing L1/L2 contrast as the sole basis for difficulty. Additionally, the MDH claimed to explain the order of sound acquisition, and different levels of proficiency.

Essentially, the MDH states that less marked sounds are acquired before marked ones. The model made 3 basic claims regarding areas of difficulty a learner will have in the L2:

1. Those areas of the target language that differ from the native language and are more marked than the native language will be difficult.
2. The relative degree of difficulty in areas of difference of target language that are more marked than the native language will correspond to the relative degree of marked ness.
3. Those areas of the target language which are different from the native language but are not more marked than the native language will not be difficult. (Eckman, 1977, p. 321)

For example, voiced obstruents in final position are universally more marked than voiced obstruents in either initial or medial position. Korean has only voiceless obstruents. The MDH predicts that a native Korean speaker learning English (which employs voiced obstruents in all positions) would acquire the initial and medial obstruents first, because they are less marked universally. This prediction was tested and found to be nearly 100% accurate by Major and Faudree (1996).

However, there is a problem with relying on markedness as the determiner of difficulty of acquisition: many examples exist in which exactly the opposite is true. Oftentimes, because of perceptual similarity, an unmarked L2 sound which is similar to an unmarked L1 sound will be difficult to perceive and produce for the learner. The same learner may also be able to perceive and produce an L2 sound which is very dissimilar from anything in the L1, and more universally marked.

Therefore, other theoretical bases were introduced that sought to explain the difficulty in acquiring a second language without relying on markedness as the determining factor. Many have been proposed, and the common thread throughout is the focus on the similarity/dissimilarity dichotomy of L1/L2 speech sounds.

One example is the Crucial Similarity Measure developed by Wode (1976, 1978, 1983a) The CSM predicts that the closer the L2 sound to an L1 ‘equivalent,’ the more difficult is will be to master. For Wode, transfer from the L1 can only take place in cases where phoneme in the L2 meets a “specifiable similarity requirement.” In that case, the L1 sound transfers to the L2 inventory. Dissimilar sounds in the L2 are thought to be acquired through processes similar to L1 acquisition.

Empirical research has shown that perceptual similarity can be a serious detriment to the acquisition of L2 sounds. Kuhl et al. (1992) investigated the nature of first language acquisition and its effects on phonetic perception of infants at the age of 6 months. They hypothesized that within 6 months, "prototypes," or ideal representations of phones, are formed in the mind. Swedish and American infants were tested on their recognition of both native and foreign vowels /i/ and /y/. The same phonetic sounds, at equal distances from the hypothesized prototype centers, were perceived differently, either as a variation of the ideal /i/ or /y/ phone in the respective languages. This suggests that early on, prototypes "perceptually assimilate similar sounds," which already means that there will be a disadvantage in perceiving non-native speech sounds.

Sebastián-Gallés et al. (1999) tested highly proficient Catalan-Spanish bilinguals in their perception of Catalan phonemic contrasts not found in Spanish. They found that the Spanish dominant bilinguals performed worse than their Catalan-dominant counterparts, and hypothesized that L2 learners use their L1-tuned phonemic categories to "sieve" the acoustic input when listening to the L2. Although the Spanish dominant subjects of this study had intensive exposure to Catalan from age 4, and demonstrated a high pretrial ability to perceive Catalan phonemes, the results suggest that their L1 phonemic categories are so strong that categorial malleability is severely limited. Like Kuhl, they found that the acquisition and organization of L2 phonemic categories is strongly impacted by first language phonological constraints.

The Similarity Differential Rate Hypothesis (SDRH), as described by Major and Kim (1996), sought to correct problems of the MDH and SCH. One problem with the MDH was that it sought to predict everything based on markedness universals. Similarity was not considered, and the studies described above show that it cannot be ignored. For instance, in Sebastián-Gallés task, Spanish-dominant bilinguals could not consistently and accurately perceive even less marked Catalan sounds. The MDH, according to postulate (3) listed above, would predict the opposite result.

While not denying that markedness does indeed have some influence, Major and Kim explained that markedness will only affect the rates at which two L2 features identical in similarity are learned. Another difference is that the SDRH measures rate of acquisition, rather than difficulty of acquisition. A problem with theories that based themselves on “difficulty,” is that “difficulty” is almost impossible to define.

Major and Kim give the example of phonemes x and y. Assuming that x is more difficult to acquire than y, does this mean that y is acquired faster than x? Or does this mean that at any given time, x will be more difficult to pronounce than y? What if, ultimately, pronunciation of x is accented, and y has become native-like, yet x was acquired much faster? MDH is silent on this issue, it cannot explain why if x is actually acquired faster, it would be considered more difficult. Even if competence in using x is ultimately below competence in y, there may have been a time when y was so dissimilar to anything in the L1 that it was extremely difficult to even attempt to use? (An example of this could be a trilled R of Spanish, if an L1 English speaker takes quite some time to learn how to properly pronounce this.)

The problem with these two competing hypothesis is plain: the notions of similarity and markedness are working against each other. Each has been shown by the various theories to be indicative of phonological problems that will arise in L2 acquisition. However, the theories are restricted in what they posit for the cause, they exclude each other, even Major and Kim (1996) admit this. A theory that can unify these attested linguistic phenomena, the effects of L1 similarity, marked universals, language transfer, UG, and similar ideas in their various nomenclatures was needed.

Optimality Theory
(Prince and Smolensky, 1993) is generally recognized as the first theory of language in which markedness is “explicitly and intrinsically” incorporated in the explanation of phonological phenomena. To appreciate the shift this represents in theories of L2 phonology, consider that Chomsky and Halle only mentioned markedness in the Epilogue of The Sound Pattern of English (1968)!
In Optimality Theory (OT), each language, or grammar, is comprised of unique constraint rankings. The two types of constraints are Faithfulness and Markedness.

Faithfulness refers to the relationship between the input and the output; it demands that the output not delete or epenthesize something from the input. Markedness concerns output only, it penalizes potential output candidates which contain marked structures. For example, in an English word set like /dark/ -> /dark.ness/, the affixation would seem to have Faithfulness as the highest ranked constraint. An output candidate which violated the faithfulness constraint would not be optimal, hence it is not part of the spoken or written language. With a word like /able/ -> /ability/, a markedness constraint would be the highest ranked, and the optimal output would be that which does not violate markedness. In turn, a faithfulness constraint is violated and the output is different than the input. (ablety is not a word). With “darkness,” an epenthesis or deletion would seem to be more damaging than the marked /rkn/ consonant cluster. Thus, the rankings of these constraints determine the final output of a word or sound.

OT marks a stark divergence from rule-based phonology, in that it allows constraints to be violated; in fact, it is common for constraints to be violated. The optimal output is the form which violates the lowest ranked constraints. On the other hand, rule-based phonology would regard as ill-formed an output which violates a rule. This has led to seemingly impossible questions as to how a particular phonological pattern can exist in a language, if it violates its rules. Either a highly complex series of rules and exceptions must be posed, or it is unexplainable. OT offers a much simpler and superior explanation in that constraint (or “rule”) violation poses no problem, it only means that that constraint had a lower ranking in the particular language.

With regard to language learning, an IL grammar is described by OT as dynamic combination of L1 constraints and L2 constraints. As the learner progresses, the grammar (or constraint rankings) become more like the L2 and less like the L1 (obviously this characterization applies only in cases of L1/L2 difference). OT is a valuable theory in which L2 errors can be analyzed, because in the process from input to output, it “processes” every candidate, and every potential output can be seen and the optimal one identified. It logically follows that, any output is potentially optimal if the constraints are re-ranked. In the case of L2 pronunciation errors, or even in accent shifts within the same language, OT can provide a clear explanation of what re-rankings must have occurred to produce this new, or peculiar, output result.
Hancin-Bhatt describes the sets of constraint rankings at play in a language learner’s IL:

1. The native language ranking, which account for ‘erroneous’ productions due to full transfer;
2. A hypothesized target language ranking, which accounts for accurate productions; as well as
3. Re-rankings between native and target rankings, which account for ‘erroneous’ productions that do not have an obvious link to the native or target grammar.

By assuming that these rankings compete in the developing grammar, we can account for the range of productions we see in L2 phonological acquisition. (Hancin-Bhatt, 2000, pp. 205-206)

Hancin-Bhatt (2000) studied the ways in which Thai learners of ESL dealt with codas. English allows any consonant to appear as a coda, while Thai only allows voiceless stops, nasals, and glides to appear in coda position. Therefore, a novice Thai learner of English would have no difficulty with saying “kit,” “kick,” or “Kim,” but “kid” would pose a problem. The result is usually a substitution with an allowable Thai coda phoneme which shares place of articulation. (“kid” pronounced as “kit,” “wig” pronounced as “wik.”) Additionally, Thai does not allow complex codas, so for a word like “script,” either the /p/ or /t/ is deleted. In her study, Hancin-Bhatt analyzes coda restrictions within the framework of OT, and postulates the constraint rankings that Thai employs in dealing with codas.

From these rankings, it is possible to predict the pronunciation patterns of a L1 Thai ESL learner. This involves which sounds and structures will be difficult to produce, which strategies the speaker will prefer to use in speaking these words (deletion, epenthesis, substitution, etc.), which substitutions are likely to vary, and in the case of words like "script," which sound is likely to be deleted. After tasks were performed and data analyzed, the results matched with the predictions generated within the framework of OT. In fact, Hancin-Bhatt was able to identify patterns of pronunciation improvement in the English L2 learning, and postulate different IL stages which clearly explain the data. These IL stages differ in that as they become more advanced, the sets of constraint rankings are being rearranged to conform to a more English-like L2 grammar.. Essentially, these interlanguage stages are a function of the learners re-ranking coda constraints in their IL. This sort of analysis holds enormous potential for pedagogical application; one can imagine that a detailed account of constraint rankings of IL stages between L1 Spanish and L2 English would be a tremendous asset to many, many ESL teachers.

Another study which highlights the value of OT is the investigation of interdental substitution in ESL presented by Lombardi (2003). The English [θ] is a highly marked sound, and does not exist in many languages. Because of its difficulty, L2 English learners often substitute it with another sound. It is well-attested that speakers of German and Japanese replace it with [s], while speakers of Russian and Thai replace it with [t]. The interesting question is why is there variation here, especially when these diverse L1s contain both [t] and [s]? Why would speakers of some languages choose [s] as a substitute, and others [t]?

In a rule-based phonology, according to Lombardi, this variation is "disturbing." Because the [θ] does not exist in these other L1s, there could be no L1 rule that drives an interdentals to change to anything else. An approach based solely on the concept of marked and unmarked universals would expect the interdental to be substituted with the stop [t], as stops are unmarked (they occur in 100% of known languages) and fricatives ([s]) are relatively more marked. In a rule-based framework, universals cannot be violated, yet we do see [s] as the substitute for L1 German and Japanese speakers. Furthermore, an approach based on similarity/dissimilarity would run into the same problems, as it would predict that a highly marked feature like [θ] may (1) be easier to learn, or (2) if substituted, it would be a consistent substitution by speakers of all L1s that possess the stop/fricative distinction. Again the explanation fails. Other explanations which have been proposed involve very complex arguments working within controversial theories, such as L2-specific pruning within the framework of an underspecification theory. OT seems to be the only phonological framework in which this difference can be clearly and simply explained.

As stated, OT offers a simple solution: speakers who substitute with an [s] operate within ILs that rank faithfulness to manner as the highest constraint , while those who use a [t] do so because their IL grammars place more priority on unmarked segments. Lombardi shows that languages which highly rank faithfulness to manner will view [s] as the optimal substitute. For speakers of these languages, a marked structure (fricative) is part of their L1 grammar. Phrased differently, this is a transfer of L1 rankings to the IL. Speakers from languages which possess no such explicit ranking will rely on the constraint rankings retained from the initial UG state, which would make the unmarked [t] the optimal choice.

Optimality Theory is not restricted to phonology, it is useful and quite successful in the areas of morphology and syntax as well. It seems that earlier theories of language were too narrow to be comprehensive. They employed inviolable rules, were based on somewhat exclusive philosophical bases, and seemed to treat languages as frozen in time. Optimality Theory is different in that it does not take an “all or nothing” approach, but rather a “both/and” approach when describing constraint hierarchies, violations, and optimal language output. In the specific area of L2 phonology, OT works with the notions of UG, L1 transfer, interlanguage progressions, markedness scales and universals, and appears to be the most comprehensive and capable theory of L2 phonological acquisition at this time.


That's all folks. If you have read this far, and are still awake, I am truly impressed!

04 dicembre 2006

Family and Divorce Statistics

Families Under Pressure
Marriage, Funding and Faith Intertwine

By Father John Flynn

WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC. 3, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Fewer stable married couples and more births outside marriage is the situation in the United States. Births out of wedlock reached 36.8% of the total last year, up by 1% compared with 2004, according to a Nov. 21 report from the National Center for Health Statistics, a federal agency.

About 4.1 million babies were born in the United States last year. More than 1.5 million of those were to unmarried women. The data showed that this time it is not teenage mothers who are responsible for the rise in births to single mothers, but women in their 20s.

In fact, the birthrate for teenagers declined 2% in 2005, and it is now 35% lower than its peak of 61.8 births per 1,000 women reached in 1991, the National Center for Health Statistics noted.

Earlier, a report by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that married couples account for only 49.7% of the population. This is down from 52% five years earlier, the New York Times noted Oct. 15. The newspaper said that the declining percentage of married couples is due to an increase in the numbers of adults spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners.

Nevertheless, Steve Watters, the director of young adults for Focus on the Family, told the New York Times that the trend of fewer married couples was more a reflection of delaying marriage than an outright rejection of it.

Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, was less optimistic. "The proportion of households that are married has declined from 76% in 1957 to below 50% now," he said in an article in the Nov. 5-11 issue of the National Catholic Register. "These are massive changes, and marriage as an institution is in decline."

But Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, argued that marriage is actually not in the minority. "While there is a clear and worrisome trend toward a decline in marriage in the U.S., the suggestion that marriage has become a minority institution is still false," she told the Register. A variety of experts point out that 85% to 90% of Americans will marry at some point in their lives.

Government support

Many organizations are involved in efforts to strengthen marriage, and they recently received a boost in federal funds. Last summer the U.S. Congress decided to set aside up to $100 million a year to promote marriage and $50 million a year to produce committed fathers, the Associated Press reported July 21.

The federal government has provided some money in the past to promote marriage, but it has only amounted to an average of about $14 million annually during the past four years, said Wade Horn, the assistant secretary for children and families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Helping couples value the institution of marriage is also of key importance according to a study by the Canadian government's statistical body, Statistics Canada. A June 28 report revealed that a key factor in a marriage's durability is the level of commitment to the institution.

In the study: "Till Death Do Us Part? The Risk of First and Second Marriage Dissolution," Statistics Canada analyzed data from the General Social Survey in 2001, as well as risk factors affecting the success or failure of a marriage. One key factor it found was the partners' commitment to marriage as a source of happiness.

In the case of a first marriage, some people were found to believe that the marital bond was not very important for their happiness. These people ran a risk of failure that was three times as high as that among people who deemed it very important.

In the case of subsequent marriages, this risk of failure was also nearly three times higher among people who felt marriage was not very important for their happiness.

Well over one-third of Canadian marriages will end in divorce before the couple celebrates their 30th anniversary, the report noted.

Role of faith

The study also found that marriage and having children tends to bring people back into the places of worship they may have neglected in their youth. A full 86% of those who at some stage of their lives have been married reported that they belonged to a religious faith. Of these, 42% had attended religious services at least once a month in the year preceding the survey. The corresponding rates for adults who have never married are 77% and 22%, respectively.

In turn, religious observance is associated with marital durability. People who attend religious services during the year have a 10% to 31% lower predicted risk of marital dissolution than those who do not attend at all.

The report also confirmed that "trying it out" by living together before marriage does not work. "Living common-law is also strongly associated with a first marital breakdown," commented the study. In fact, the risk is 50% higher among people who lived with their partner before the wedding than among those who did not.

Marriage, the report concluded, "still seems to possess an aura that elevates it above a simple living arrangement." Married couples generally have greater commitment and higher relationship quality than partners in common-law unions, "which suggests something about the transcendent nature of the marriage bond itself."

Divorce down

Earlier this year there was some good news for couples on the other side of the Atlantic. A report by the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics showed a decline of more than a quarter in the number of marriages ending in divorce, compared with the early 1990s.

The Sunday Times on April 2 reported that, in 2003, the number of couples divorcing in England and Wales after less than five years was 27,511, down from a high 10 years earlier of 37,252. Moreover, data for 2004 show that, for the third year running, more people got married. The number of weddings rose by 1% to 311,180.

The number of children, however, continues to decline, observed an article April 10 in the London-based Telegraph newspaper. The average family now has 1.3 children, compared with 2.4 only three decades ago.

The main reason cited by couples for the shrinking family size is financial. The data came from research among 2,428 adults. The study was commissioned by the Skipton Building Society.

The way British government welfare payments are structured also adds to financial pressures on the family, observed the British newspaper Independent on Nov. 26.

It recounted how a newly married couple who went to a job center for advice on benefits were told by a civil servant they would be better off if they split up. A couple gets 90.10 pounds ($175) a week in income support and single people 57.45 pounds ($112). The latter also get a higher rate of child support and dependent children and young person's benefits.

In the midst of these obstacles for families, Benedict XVI had words of encouragement for couples, in his Angelus message of Oct. 8. "Conscious of the grace they have received," said the Pope, "may Christian husbands and wives build a family open to life and capable of facing united the many complex challenges of our time."

"There is a need," he continued, "for families that do not let themselves be swept away by modern cultural currents inspired by hedonism and relativism, and which are ready instead to carry out their mission in the Church and in society with generous dedication." A task more difficult than ever.

Benedict XVI Bids Fond Farewell to Turkey

I'm very happy that the Holy Father had a great trip to Turkey. I was really worried for his safety... but I suppose that the prayers of millions of Catholics did some good here. I am intrigued by this secret proposal from Patriarch Bartholomew. I do not know what it can be, but the pope liked it, and that is a good sign.

Lastly, check the second to last paragraph... Pope Benedict has a great sense of humor. His "city" is a small village. :-)

Benedict XVI Bids Fond Farewell to Turkey

"I Am Leaving Part of My Heart in Istanbul"

ISTANBUL, Turkey, DEC. 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI, during the farewell ceremony at the close of his historic visit to Turkey, said: "I am leaving part of my heart in Istanbul, in this magnificent city."

The Pope today addressed Muammer Guler, the governor of Istanbul province, who, on behalf of the authorities, accompanied the Holy Father to the Turkish Airlines plane for his return to Rome.

"I believe that, for the Supreme Pastor of the Catholic Church, dialogue is a duty," Benedict XVI said to the governor at the Istanbul airport. "I thank the Lord for having been able to give a sign of this dialogue and of greater understanding between religions and cultures, in particular with Islam."

The Pontiff underlined that "Turkey is a bridge between Asia and Europe."

He continued: "I want to thank each and every Turkish authority for hosting me in the best possible way. I am leaving part of my heart here in Istanbul. I hope the bonding power of this city will continue forever."

The governor of Istanbul thanked the Pope personally for "his statements on Islam, which have made us happy," removing "too many bad interpretations."

"Truly European city"

The Holy Father clarified that although he "was unable to see everything in those jewels that are the [Blue] Mosque and St. Sophia [museum], they are engraved in me forever. My gratitude to Istanbul is profound."

"It has been a serene visit, thanks also to the cooperation of the people and I hope it will remain as sign of friendship between peoples and religions," said the Bishop of Rome.

Benedict XVI added that "Istanbul is a truly European city, a bridge between the West and Asia, to bring structures and organizations closer."

On learning that in 2010 the city will be the European capital of culture, the Pope said: "It truly deserves it" and explained with a smile that "his native city had requested that recognition, but was not granted it."

Governor Guler invited the Pope to return to Istanbul, and the Holy Father replied: "I am old and I don't know how much time the Lord will give me. We put everything in his hands."

03 dicembre 2006

Patriarch Bartholomew I on the Papal Visit

Patriarch Bartholomew I on the Papal Visit

Interview With Orthodox Church Leader

ISTANBUL, Turkey, DEC. 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople "is of incalculable value in the process of reconciliation," says Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I.

In this interview with the Italian newspaper Avvenire, the patriarch revealed that he made an unexpected ecumenical proposal to the Pope.

Q: What can you tell us about this journey?

Bartholomew I: Above all, I must say that I truly thank His Holiness for his visit to us on the feast day of St. Andrew. It is a truly very significant step forward in our relations, and undertaken in the framework of a journey which has made, on the whole, a contribution to interreligious dialogue which I think is truly important.

Q: You and the Pope have seen one another face to face several times, away from the cameras and journalists. What have you said to one another?

Bartholomew I: His Holiness showed his benevolence to the patriarchate and its problems; for this reason we are truly grateful to him.

It has been an opportunity to know one another better, including the cardinals of his entourage, with whom I think we have established a good friendship, and this also seems to me to be very important.

We can truly say that this Thursday we lived a historic day, under many aspects. Historic for ecumenical dialogue and, as we saw in the afternoon, historic for the relationship between cultures and religions. And, obviously, because of all this, historic also for our country.

Q: The addresses and common declaration you signed are "lofty" and compromising. Have you also spoken of the future?

Bartholomew I: In this respect, I can say that I spoke with His Holiness of something -- something that we could do. I presented him with a proposal which I cannot now elaborate on, as we await an official response, but I can say that His Holiness was very interested and that he received it favorably.

We hope it can be undertaken as it is directed to that ecumenical progress that, as we have affirmed and written in the common declaration, both of us are determined to pursue.

Q: Why are you so determined?

Bartholomew I: Unity is a precious responsibility, but at the same time a difficult one which must be assumed if it is not shared between brothers. The history of the last millennium is a painful "memory" of this reality.

We are profoundly convinced that Benedict XVI's visit has incalculable value in this process of reconciliation, as, in addition, it has taken place at such a difficult time and in very delicate circumstances.

Without a doubt, with the help of God we are offered the opportunity to take a beneficial step forward in the process of reconciliation in our Churches. And perhaps, with the help of God, we will be given the opportunity to surmount some of the barriers of incomprehension among believers of different religions, in particular between Christians and Muslims.

Q: Earlier you also mentioned the importance of this for Turkey. Why?

Bartholomew I: Being at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, this city and this Church hold a truly unique position to foster a meeting among modern civilizations. In a certain sense, Istanbul is the perfect place to become a permanent center of dialogue between the different faiths and cultures.

"Be Proud to Be a Jew!" Pius XII Told Visitor in '41

There is some myth circulating that Pope Pius XII was an anti-semite, or a Nazi sympathizer... this myth continues to exist despite soooooo many facts to the contrary, including praise by both Albert Einstein and the New York Times that the pope was the only one on the continent actually standing up to Hitler. Anyway, here is some more news....

"Be Proud to Be a Jew!" Pius XII Told Visitor in '41

Incident Was Published in Palestine Post

ROME, DEC. 3, 2006 (Zenit.org).- An article published in 1944 by a young German Jew in the Palestine Post, the future Jerusalem Post, points up Pope Pius XII's appreciation for the "Chosen People."

The article was published April 28, 1944, on Page 6 and headlined "A Papal Audience in Wartime." It was signed by a "refugee"; a footnote states that the article's author arrived in Palestine on the ship Nyassa.

The writer recounts that in autumn of 1941 he was received in audience along with numerous other people by Pius XII.

When the young Jew approached the Pope, he revealed that he was born in Germany but was a Jew.

The Holy Father responded, "What can I do for you? Tell me, my son!"

The young Jew told Pius XII about a group of shipwrecked Jewish refugees, saved by Italian warships in the Aegean Sea, who were then starving in a prisoner of war camp on an island. The Pope listened carefully and showed concern about the physical and health conditions of the Jewish prisoners.

According to the article, Pius XII then said to him: "You have done well to come and tell me this. I have heard about it before. Come back tomorrow with a written report and give it to the secretary of state who is dealing with this question. But now for you, my son. You are a young Jew. I know what that means and I hope you will always be proud to be a Jew!"

Then, the author of the article wrote, the Pope raised his voice, so that everyone in the hall could hear it clearly: "My son, whether you are worthier than others only the Lord knows, but believe me, you are at least as worthy as every other human being that lives on our earth! And now, my Jewish friend, go with the protection of the Lord, and never forget, you must always be proud to be a Jew!"

Archival find

The author goes on to say that, after having uttered these words in a pleasant voice, Pius XII lifted his hands to give the usual blessing, but he stopped, smiled and touched the author's head with his fingers, and then lifted him from his kneeling position.

Pius XII uttered these words during an audience attended by cardinals, bishops -- and a group of German soldiers.

Details of this incident were discovered in an archive in Tel Aviv University by William Doino, contributor to the magazine Inside the Vatican, and author of an annotated bibliography on Pius XII, published in "The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII" (Lexington Books, 2004).

According to Doino, "This testimony is significant because it shows the attention and great love with which the Pontiff regarded the Jews, in addition to reaffirming the rejection of the Nazi racial theories that pointed to the Jews as the last of the earth."

On this matter, Doino will publish a full-scale commentary in an upcoming issue of Inside the Vatican magazine, in which, among other things, he will evaluate the importance of this testimony for Pius XII studies.

02 dicembre 2006

Is There No Room for Jesus in Chicago?

Story taken from: Concerned Women for America website

CWA Asks, “Is There No Room for Jesus in Chicago?”

Washington, D.C. –– In a blatantly discriminatory attempt to remove “Christ” from Christmas, the city of Chicago has threatened to drop its support of the 11th German-American festival, Christkindlmarket, unless the New Line Cinema movie, “The Nativity Story” is removed as an official sponsor of the festival. “The Nativity Story” is a depiction of the historical and factual event which Christmas celebrates, the birth of Jesus Christ. The movie opens nationwide on December 1.

The city of Chicago claims that having this movie sponsor their festival would “be insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market for its food and unique gifts.” Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office of Special Events acknowledged there is a nativity scene, but also said there will be representations of other faiths, including a Jewish menorah, all put up by private groups. She stressed that the city did not order organizers to drop the studio as a sponsor.

“This kind of PC nonsense is so over the top, you want to make sure it’s not an urban legend before you take it seriously,” said Jan LaRue, CWA’s Chief Counsel. “Have the inmates running the Chicago asylum not noticed the ‘Christ’ in ‘Christkindlmarket?’ If this kind of government influence over event organizers doesn’t violate the Illinois Human Rights Act, what does? Hopefully, saner minds will prevail after the good people of Chicago tell City Hall that this kind of anti-Christ intolerance has no place in their kind of town.”

Lanier Swann, CWA’s Director of Government Relations, said, “This entire scenario is so illogical that it would be humorous if it weren’t true. To say that a film about the meaning of Christmas could offend those attending an event based entirely on Christmas is simply astounding. How is it that a nativity scene centered on the Christ child is perfectly acceptable, yet the sponsorship of a film explaining such a scene isn’t? The ‘trend’ of being offended by the mere mention of Christ is so overdone that it is cliché.”

Christina Kounelias, an executive vice president with New Line Cinema, said the studio's plan to spend $12,000 in Chicago was part of an advertising campaign around the country. Kounelias said that as far as she knew, the Chicago festival was the only instance where the studio was turned down.

Christkindlmarket runs from Thanksgiving Day through Christmas Eve.

01 dicembre 2006

"Que sean uno"

El Papa busca superar con el patriarca armenio el cisma del año 451
Visita de oración del Papa en la catedral armenia apostólica de Estambul

ESTAMBUL, jueves, 30, noviembre 2006 (ZENIT.org).- El carácter ecuménico del viaje de Benedicto XVI a las Iglesias hermanas de Turquía se ha subrayado también este jueves con la visita de oración en la catedral armenia apostólica y el encuentro con Su Beatitud el Patriarca Mesrob II Mutafian.

Durante la celebración de la Palabra, tras el discurso del patriarca, el Papa tomó la palabra para constatar que «nuestro encuentro es mucho más que un simple gesto de cortesía ecuménica y de amistad».

«Es un signo de nuestra esperanza compartida en las promesas de Dios y de nuestro deseo de ver cumplida la oración que Jesús elevó por sus discípulos en la vigilia de su pasión y muerte: «Que sean uno. Como tú, Padre, en mí y yo en ti, que ellos también sean uno en nosotros, para que el mundo crea que tú me has enviado» (Juan 17,21).

«Por ello --dijo el Papa--, tenemos que seguir haciendo todo lo posible para curar las heridas de la separación y abreviar la reconstrucción de la unidad de los cristianos».

La Iglesia Apostólica Armenia quedó separada de Roma a partir del Concilio de Calcedonia, en el año 451, al que no pudo había podido participar a causa de la guerra.

Malentendidos a la hora de traducir los términos del Concilio, alterando así su comprensión conceptual, y la confrontación política con Bizancio, provocaron el cisma, si bien el «monofisismo» armenio se quedó siempre en un error puramente verbal.

El encuentro personal y la oración común, así como el descubrimiento de una lápida en lengua armena y turca en recuerdo de la visita de Pablo VI, de Juan Pablo II y, ahora, de Benedicto XVI, quisieron expresar el vínculo que existe entre la Iglesia armenia apostólica y la Iglesia católica.

Fue un momento de oración, en el que las secuencias rituales de este momento de oración fueron tomadas de varios elementos de la Celebración Eucarística de la Liturgia Armenia.

Antes de iniciar la procesión de entrada en la catedral, se presentaron al Santo Padre, según la tradición nacional armenia, el pan, la sal y el agua de rosas como símbolos de bienvenida y de buenos deseos.

Durante la entrada en la catedral de Benedicto XVI y Mesrob II, el coro entonó «Herasciapar Asdvadz» («Oh, Dios Maravilloso»), que recuerda la historia de la conversión del pueblo armenio al cristianismo por obra de San Gregorio el Iluminado, primera nación cristiana de la historia.

A los pies del altar se recitó una oración tras la cual el Papa y Su Beatitud ocuparon un lugar ante el sacro altar, desde donde fue solemnemente proclamado el Evangelio, llevado procesionalmente desde la entrada de la catedral.

El momento de oración en la catedral armenia apostólica expresó el gozo de la Iglesia Armenia Apostólica por la visita de Benedicto XVI.

A la salida de la catedral se descubrió la citada lápida -en forma de cruz armenia- conmemorativa de la visita de los tres romanos pontífices.