No Catholic women deacons yet

2013 post screensot

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Almost eight years ago, in the early days of Francis’ pontificate, The Uncertaintist predicted that the Roman Catholic Church would ordain women as permanent deacons by the year 2020.

It’s 2021. That didn’t happen; I was wrong.

Some progress has been made since Francis became Pope. In 2016, he appointed a commission to study the service of women deacons in the early church. The group failed to reach a consensus. Its 2019 final report hasn’t been made public, but has circulated within the Vatican. In April 2020, the Pope appointed a second commission (link). Their work continues as of this writing

In January 2021, just a few days ago, Pope Francis on his own initiative made a one-word change in canon law that offers some sign of his continued personal interest in the problem. As a practical matter, it hastens the day when there could be women deacons who are ordained in his church on the same terms as men are ordained as permanent deacons today.

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Sator-rotas part 2: appreciating an ancient meme by ear

The previous installment (link) about the sator-rotas square

S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S

emphasized how the words of the famous diagram arrange themselves into a meaningful and nearly ordinary Latin sentence. That saying and the square it comes from might be composed together in tandem, step-by-step. Those steps, in turn, might serve as a recipe for composing other tight word squares. This dynamic relationship between form and content would plausibly appeal to literate Latin speakers, especially those interested in word play.

The memory of the sensible “word square recipe” saying has been obscure until now. Part of the reason is that a different and simple way to order the words competes for the analyst’s attention. The competing word orders are the rows or columns read in rank or file order. That is:

sator arepo tenet opera rotas

or:

rotas opera tenet arepo sator

Each of the rank-or-file sequences makes a linear palindrome which is a one-verse poem in its own right with an especially straightforward relationship to the poem’s subject, the tight sator-rotas square form. There are also some subtler correspondences as well. Much of the potential appeal of these verses doesn’t depend on a listener’s literacy, in Latin or otherwise.

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Sator-rotas: understanding an ancient viral meme

This year’s Hallowe’en posting proposes an original plausible interpretation for a famous but superficially nonsensical Latin phrase. The oldest extant examples of the text are about 2000 years old, graffiti from Pompeii, five words of five letters apiece, four of them ordinary Latin words, arranged in a word square:

R O T A S
O P E R A
T E N E T
A R E P O
S A T O R

Sometimes the square is found written in the reverse order (or if you prefer, rotated ninety degrees either left or right – the result is the same regardless):

S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S

Through the centuries since Pompeii, versions of the square have been placed in a variety of settings, from chambers hidden within Christian churches, in aged books of magic spells, and as a spirit medium’s chant in Tales from the Crypt on television.

Now, what could something like that mean?

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A lay critic’s bill of rights

WW II PosterProfessor James McGrath recently blogged about how academic consensus ought to influence the beliefs of lay people (link). Somebody had recommended to him a book about Moses authored by the non-academic history writer Dorothy Milne Murdock (also known as Acharya S). McGrath declined the recommendation, in part because:

Scholars across secular and religious institutions of learning are fallible human beings held accountable to one another. Their consensus, when they reach one, is more reliable than lone fallible human beings who deliberately avoid being held accountable to that community of experts.

Murdock mostly did “deliberately avoid being held accountable to that community of scholars.” I’d rather not defend her work.

Still, McGrath’s brush paints broad strokes. Every lay critic of the academy avoids accountability to the academy, that’s what a lay person is.

An outsider, even a lone outsider, enjoys warranted prerogatives to criticize the academy’s offerings. Perchance the academy might be even more reliable should lay people insist that scholars respect those prerogatives. Meanwhile, lay people surely ought to respect them among themselves.

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When Bart Ehrman pulled an Origen

Postal misprint“[T]here were no effective measures in Pliny’s province to deal with the outbreak of fires, and so villages were burning,” according to Bart Ehrman in his book Did Jesus Exist? (Chapter 2). His source for this ancient catastrophe? Ehrman says that Pliny the Younger discussed the fire problem in “Letter 10” of his correspondence. Ehrman mentions that source by name, “Letter 10,” twice in his telling the story of how Pliny wrote to the Emperor Trajan for permission to establish a fire brigade. In that same letter, Ehrman tells his readers, Pliny also mentioned Christians.

In reality, there is no “Letter 10” in Pliny’s correspondence that deals with fires or that mentions Christians. Nor were villages burning. However, something was spreading through the countryside according to Pliny, something contagious.

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Why Richard Carrier probably won’t win over the guild, summary

This is an overview of the recent three-part series. Links to the detailed individual posts are attached to the thumbnail pictures in the body of this post.

Was Jesus a real person who actually lived, or is he instead an ancient fictional or mythological character?

Dr. Richard Carrier votes fictional or mythological. Since 2014, his book, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason to Doubt has enjoyed popular success. However, the book was published by a university press specializing in biblical studies, addressed to academics in that field, “the guild.”

This series is not a review of On the Historicity. Here, the book’s premises and outlook will be a point of departure for a typical “Bayesian” analysis, but one that adapts the method to the subject matter and avoids numbers as measures of personal confidence in uncertain propositions.

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