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Showing posts from August, 2013

Why I believe--Part II (Faith)

The title of this blog comes from probably my favorite passages from the Hebrew Scriptures, from the story of Elijah the prophet.  As was his way, Elijah had made himself unpopular with the powers that be in the Kingdom of Israel (notably King Ahab and his wife, the original Jezebel), and had fled to Mount Horeb to escape the mob out to kill him.  Elijah had more or less given up on this whole being a prophet of God thing at this point, and tells God this in no uncertain terms.  To which, God says:

"Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by."  Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and we…

An Open Letter to Archbishop Myers of Newark

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Dear Archbishop Myers,

I know we have never met, so I think it would be appropriate to introduce myself.  My name is Mike Boyle, and I am a Catholic.  I don't live in your diocese, but I used to live in New Jersey, so I suppose I have some connection to what you are doing.  I also have friends who live in your former see of Peoria, so I have a connection there as well.

I came across the letter you wrote to the priests in your current diocese.  Your letter lashes out at unnamed media figures that have criticized you in connection with your handling a claim of sexual abuse involving Father Thomas Maloney.  While you don't name specific names, I suspect you are angry at this coverage in Commonweal magazine, plus likely the coverage in the Newark Star-Ledger.

In your letter, you say that some of your statements in your deposition (given in 2010 in connection with a lawsuit against the Peoria diocese stemming from that accusations Father Maloney sexually molested an eight year old …

Confessions of a Passive Homophobe

I can't remember for sure when I first became aware of the idea of homosexuality.  It may have been in Junior high, in the form of the incredibly archaic "Family Life" textbook we were given in 8th Grade at San Jose Catholic school.  It didn't say much, but it certainly said that it homosexuality was not OK.  And, for whatever reason, I just accepted that on face value.  Which is a little strange, really--I pushed back on a number of other ideas in that pseudo-sex ed textbook, such as abortion and birth control.  But, not this one.  I think, on some level, it was because homosexuality didn't make sense to me.  I couldn't relate.  Because I couldn't relate, it was easy and costless for me to accept the Church's natural law arguments about homosexuality.  Homosexuals are "intrinsically disordered" because our bodies are designed for procreation?  Sure, why not.  It's not like it would ever affect me in any way.

There were gay people in col…

Why I believe--Part I (First Principles)

If you read any article about religion on a general news website, it is inevitable that there will be a host of comments in the discussion section that are variations on the theme of "religion is stupid, and it would be better if all of these religious people either stop believing or go away."  Now, comment sections on websites are never a place to find respectful and informative discourse on anything, so this is not remotely surprising.  And, of course, you find similar trollish comments from religious conservatives of various flavors.

Still, the idea that religion is useless and only stupid people are believers is a prominent idea.  In one of the recent articles that I read (I believe it was one of Rachel Held Evans's posts of CNN), a commenter suggested that it would be helpful for believers to explain why they believe, in a way that goes beyond the unproductive "read the Bible and you will believe" polemics.

So, here's my attempt, split into a couple o…

The "Quest for the Historical Jesus" and other Pointless Activities

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Reza Aslan, whose work I was not previously aware of, has written a book entitled Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.  This book, and Mr. Aslan, has attracted attention as the result of an embarrassing interview conducted by Fox News, in which the interviewer attempted to confront Mr. Aslan with the revelation that he was a Muslim, a fact which was never in question and not particularly relevant to the topic at hand.  However, beyond the controversy, the book is yet another example of the "Quest for the Historical Jesus," which becomes a fashionable topic in the broader culture every few years or so.

I have not read Mr. Aslan's book, but I listened to an extended interview he did with Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks.  Mr. Aslan's thesis, at least based on the interview, is that Jesus must have been a political revolutionary (hence the title "Zealot") because he claimed to be the Messiah, and the Jewish people of Jesus's day interpreted the Me…

The Devil and Michael Boyle

For at least 15 years, and probably longer, I have suffered from depression.  I suppose I am fortunate, in that my depression is not as severe as it is for many people, at least based on some people's accounts that I have heard.  Nevertheless, I truly have it, and it has very real medical symptoms.  When the episodes hit, my appetite goes to nothing--I've gone a week eating only a couple of meals that I forced down through pure willpower.  I've had whole months where I would wake up every morning to prolonged bouts of nausea.  I know when I'm really in for it when, like clockwork, I suddenly snap awake at 3 or 4 in the morning, no matter how tired I am from the previous day's early rising.  So, I know that it is a real, physical condition.  And, fortunately for me, one that has proven responsive to antidepressants.

That's one, completely correct and descriptive way I have of understanding what is going on with me.  But it is not the only way.

People ask me if I…

I'm Having an Affair--No, Not that Kind of Affair

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I have a confession to make.  For all of my life, I have been a member of the Catholic Church.  Our relationship has certainly had its ups and downs.  I was once in the priesthood, then I wasn't.  I have been in parishes where I felt a strong connection to the church and to my fellow parishoners, and others where I felt I was going through the motions.  But, through it all, I have stuck with Catholicism.

Right after Easter this year, I felt a strong sense of disconnect from the church, despite the fact that I was very happy with the election of Pope Francis.  I'm not entirely sure the reasons behind this--that's something I hope to figure out in time.  But it was real, and it made it hard to go to church on Sundays.  It felt like I was stuck in neutral, without any way to go anywhere, let alone toward a destination.

For a couple of weeks, I didn't go to church at all.  I figured it was maybe time for a bit of space--a trial separation if you will.  That proved wholly …