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Friday, August 2

MACHINES AND MEN: After the intelligence failure that led to September 11 (which repeated many of the failures in the months prior to Pearl Harbor) security experts have promised that technology will make us safe. Retina scans, thumb print scans, smart ID cards, facial recognition devices, will all keep us safe.

Of course they wonęt. Technology has to be used by humans, and we are ultimately dependent on human beings to keep us safe. The New Yorker article "The Naked Face" (see July 31 blog) discusses how subtle facial signals can be read and interpreted by human beings. We park our cars in safe neighborhoods or watched garages and do not depend on anti-theft devices. At most such devices move the criminality to an unprotected neighbor.

The Charter that the bishops came out with in Dallas is similarly flawed. Ultimately human beings have to interpret the situation to protect both children and the church, and the same bishops who made such mistakes in prior cases are still in charge. They have tried to put the blame for mistakes on psychologists, but clearly something was wrong with the judgment that most bishops exercised. They show no signs of wanting to engage in self-reflection. The call for a Plenary Council has not been well received. Bishop Sullivan in Richmond is ignoring the lay review board he set up and behaving with the same arrogance as always.

They donęt want to face the question: is the rape of a minor an infamous offense that should permanently bar a man from the priesthood (and sexual intercourse with someone under the age of consent is statutory rape)? Most parents think it is; why donęt most priests and bishops? Why have the bishops shown such leniency to child molesters, and such harshness to priests who left to marry? Married priests are still priests, even if they canęt function as priests. Or is getting married more infamous than raping a child?

Is clericalism such a mind-set in the church that no offense by a priest against laymen is serious? I remember from medieval history class that the first sentence of the bull Clerici laicos was something like: Clerics and laity always hate each other. Do the clergy still see the laity (or at least the laity that protests clerical malfeasance) as the enemy? If so, the procedures set forth at Dallas will do no good. Human beings who are intelligent, prudent, alert to dangers, and of good will are the key and missing foundation for a church that is not the prey of pedophiles and con men.


10:09 AM


Wednesday, July 31

THE FACE: DOORWAY TO THE SOUL: CatholicŔminded Christians favor rituals and set prayers; Evangelical-minded Christians think these are insincere, that a prayer or action must come from the heart, and that set prayers and rites are dead. Johnson, good Anglican that he was, disapproved of the Presbyterian version of this attitude in his Journey to the Western Isles.

"The Naked Face" by Malcolm Gladwell in the August 5 New Yorker (not yet on their web site) explores the meaning of facial expressions. They are universal and largely involuntary. A trained or naturally intuitive person can detect a liar, and much else, by facial expressions.

When I worked as a federal investigator, we were trained to pick up verbal and facial clues of liars - nothing as subtle as the article discusses, but useful anyway. To practice we had a film and transcript of Ted Kennedy explaining what he did at Chappaquiddick. We were told to look for signs that he was lying. Most of us stopped at 100.

A current researcher (who was pro-Clinton) noticed that Clinton had characteristic facial expressions. The researcher contacted Clintonęs communications director and said, –Look, Clintonęs got this way of rolling his eyes along with a certain expression, and what it means is •I am a bad boy.ę I donęt think it is a good thing. I could teach him how not to do that in two or three hours.” Clinton refused. In any case the expression was revelatory.

I am always getting into trouble because of my facial expressions, I donęt suffer fools gladly, and even when I keep my mouth shut, my expression must give me away, because people get angry with me after they have said something stupid. They suspect it is stupid, and see by my face that I think it is extremely stupid.

However, returning to the Catholic-Evangelical disagreement, researchers have also discovered that facial expressions can create the corresponding emotions.

A researcher asked one group to remember a distressing situation, and monitored their heart beat, etc. They showed signs of stress. He then asked another group to make a facial expression of distress without thinking of anything. They showed the same physiological signs of distress as the first group.

One group held a pen tightly between their lips, which made it impossible to smile. They were shown cartoons. They were not amused. Another group held a pen in their mouths in such a way that they were forced to smile. They found the cartoons hilarious.

Pascal (I believe) advised someone who said he had trouble believing in Christianity to take holy water on entering a church, and that belief would follow. Our external actions tend to create the corresponding internal attitudes.

Catholics: You are right, actions create the emotions.

Protestants: You are right, the heart will out no matter how hard we try to conceal it.

However, if a person has decided something is right Ŕ that he should venerate God or love his wife - but for some reason doesnęt feel the emotions he ought to feel, he can perform the actions, bowing and kneeling, or kissing and bringing flowers. These actions tend to create the emotions, and are not insincere, because the will has made a decision based on the truth, and wants to bring the heart into conformity with realty. This is the definition of truth and truthfulness. So High Chuchmen are a little more right than Low Churchmen (who in any case often have their own unacknowledged rituals).


5:12 AM




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