How to Read Mark's Gospel
We have no certainty about the author of The Gospel according to Mark. The epistles of Paul mention a Mark who was a co-worker and the cousin of Barnabas, but Mark or Marcus was a common name then. In The Acts of the Apostles there are mentions of a John Mark who was the son of a Jewish-Christian woman in Jerusalem, but his presumed gospel seems to find Judaism a foreign religion and his description of the geography of Palestine is frequently faulty so there’s cause for doubt. Hippolytus of Rome maintained that Mark the evangelist, Mark the cousin of Barnabas, and the John Mark who accompanied Paul in The Acts of the Apostles were the same man, one of the seventy disciples sent out by Jesus to proselytize. But Eusebius of Caesarea linked him to the apostle Peter as a companion and interpreter among the Greeks. Peter’s sermons, Eusebius claimed, became the basis for this gospel. It was said that a Mark founded and became bishop of the Church of Alexandria in 49 CE and the Coptic tradition states that he was martyred in 68. Yet, there is still no firm linkage to the gospel we have before us. Even the attribution “According to Mark” was not on the oldest gospel text we have. I imagine him as a serious, enthusiastic, extroverted young man, even initially an adolescent, who first heard the compelling stories of Peter about his Lord Jesus in some Greek locale, became a devoted disciple, and followed the apostle to Rome, where he also met Paul. He was wowed by both of them. There is so much that is headlong, hurried, panting, and overtly passionate in his narrative that it is impossible to think it the considered product of an older man or woman. Note how often he uses the words “Suddenly” or “Immediately.” The speed of development in his gospel bespeaks the vitality and impatience of youth. I imagine him accumulating the facts of the life of Jesus that Peter and Paul were sure of and collecting them in a narrative that he could speak aloud to listeners in whichever ecclesia he visited, probably those in and around Rome, and counting on his conviction, earnestness, and fervor to conquer any skepticism from his listeners. Characteristic of his good news is an amazing vividness of detail, as in the description of the insanity and convulsive struggles of the Gerasene demoniac. Compare Mark 5:1–20 with the scene in Matthew 8:28—9:1, where there are two madmen drunk with evil who “were so fierce that no one could pass that way.” That’s as full as the description gets. Whereas in Mark we hear of just one man with an unclean spirit whose fierceness is given particularity and the immediacy of drama. “He had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones” (5:3–5). Look at Luke 8:43–48 concerning the “woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.” There are many similarities to Mark’s portrayal in 5:25–34, but Luke “The Physician” considers the bleeding woman in a far more aloof, objective way and summarizes that “though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her.” Whereas Mark sympathizes with her frustration with medicine in noting “she was no better, but rather grew worse” (5:26). Mark also gives the scene greater intimacy by entering the mind of the afflicted woman and permitting her to state her intention: “She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his cloak, I will be made well’” (5:27–28). In his treatment of Jesus himself, Mark indicates emotions and interiority that are often missing from the other gospel accounts. Jesus meets a leper and is “moved with pity” (1:41). When he warns the cured leper not to speak of his healing to the priests, he does so “sternly” (1:43). In 6:6 Jesus is rejected by his former friends and neighbors in Nazareth and is “amazed at their unbelief.” Questioned by Pharisees in 8:11, Jesus’s exasperation is telegraphed by Mark saying, “he sighed deeply in his spirit.” And when he is asked by the rich man what he must do to inherit eternal life, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (10:21). Seemingly like Mark himself, Jesus is in a hurry, an urgency communicated by rapid shifts in scenes and continuing use of “and” as if only the conventions of grammar kept him from writing his gospel in one long sentence. It’s only as Mark nears the account of Jesus’s Passion that the pace slows down. His final day of betrayal, trials, and crucifixion is even given novelistic suspense by a conscientious notation of the hour when various events occurred. In meditating on this gospel, I once found myself dreaming that Jesus and I were on the banks of a brook. Jesus told me he had to cross it and enter Holy Week, for “I am my death.” I haven’t yet solved the meaning of that announcement, but it seems a sentiment shared by Mark. Another way in which he increases suspense can be seen in chapter 6. Jesus orders the Twelve to go out among the villages, tell the good news, cast out demons, and heal the sick (6:7–13). However, Mark interrupts that account with the famous story of Herod’s beheading of John the Baptist in 6:14–29, only to go back to the apostles who have returned from the villages and report “all that they had done and taught” (6:30). In biblical scholarship it’s called “the Markan sandwich”; in film it’s called “cross-cutting.” We see an activity, jump to another locale, and learn what’s happening simultaneously, then go back to the original event, either to contrast the separate narratives or to interpret them. In this case, Mark is foreshadowing the beheadings and crucifixions that would be visited on most of the persecuted apostles within forty years. Because this gospel seems to have been initially an oral narrative, Mark needed to repeat crucial words and phrases for the comprehension of his listening audience, to give them common purchase by echoing familiar Old Testament texts, to hint at future occurrences while also reminding them of things past, and to provide “asides” that educate a Gentile population about customs, geography, and vocabulary that would have been foreign to them. Essentially, he is a good teacher who simply and compellingly guides his students to his core proclamation: that there once was a man among them who was also the Son of God, and he was crucified but rose from the dead as a sign of the salvation that he promised all who had faith in him. As a fiction writer, I’m overwhelmed by the stunning artistry of this gospel, in the interweavings of his tapestry, with no thread frazzled or forgotten, no scene without vibrant color or meaning. Everything in this gospel is necessary, and as with the finest poetry one can find something new with each reading. I once worked in a parish’s pre-catechumenate where we coaxed those who were making their first hesitant steps toward entrance into the Church, often with no religious training in their background. I made the suggestion to one middle-aged man that he experience the gospel just as villagers did when the evangelist we call Mark proclaimed it: that he read the whole narrative in one sitting—it’s just thirty-five pages long in the Bible I use. I did not see that man again until one weekday Mass when the newly-minted Catholic rushed over to shake my hand and thank me for that introduction to Christianity. He was, as we say, blown away—not just by Mark’s powerful storytelling nor his wondrous assertions about Christ, but by the limerence he felt for Jesus and the way that emotion seemed reciprocated by genuine, holy, everlasting love. Such is the grace available to all who read this great gospel. EDITORIAL NOTE: This excerpt is adapted from the chapter "On the Gospel According to Mark" in Hotly in Pursuit of the Real: Notes Toward a Memoir (Eugene, Oregon: Slant Books, 2020), 33-37. Reprinted by permission of Slant Books,an imprint of Wipf & Stock.
Friday Five 309
by Bill Coffin (@billcoffin) What Everyone Can Learn From Parents of Big Families Laura Vanderkam, New York Times Parenting U.S. Marriage and Divorce Rates by StateU.S. Census Bureau "Always On" Hi-Tech Work Culture Is Hitting Family Life, Says Report Jamie Doward, The Guardian Marriage and Family Therapy Saves Relationships Todd Goodman, Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center How Do Countries Fight Falling Birth Rates?BBC News
Why you should read St Augustine’s Confessions this year
Students still find the work deeply personal and contemporary because Augustine speaks from heart to heart
A Pro-Life Warrior and Every-day Hero
Dr. Rene Bullecer – HLI’s country director in the Philippines. Here is a hypothetical question for you: What would you do if your government said they would pay you to promote the Culture of Death? Well, this actually happened to someone I know very well. Let me introduce you to Dr. Rene Bullecer — HLI’s country director in the Philippines. He is a faithful Catholic and dedicated pro-life warrior just like you, and he knew what the secular response would do to his beloved homeland of the Philippines. He is a pro-life warrior and an HLI missionary. He is also saving the Philippines from the scourge of HIV/AIDS. Trained in HIV Medicine, Dr. Bullecer is one of the leading experts in the Philippines about the growing global HIV and AIDS crisis. One day, because he is a well-known expert in this field, the Filippino government offered him a job. However, the government asked him if he would promote NOT the Culture of Life but rather the Culture of Death. What did he say to his government? Well, I will let him answer that question. “In 1994, I was offered a job with the Department of Health as the Program Manager for HIV/AIDS Program. I rejected the offer despite the very high salary because I would be promoting condoms knowing that this is not effective in preventing the spread of HIV.” Dr. Bullecer did what any faithful Catholic would do. Inspired by his Catholic faith, Dr. Bullecer was inspired to promote the Culture of Life! Since he declined this job, Dr. Bullecer has been a Pro-Life warrior in his home country. Today he travels across the country and gave talks, seminars, symposia and organized a series of training on HIV Prevention. Often, he speaks to an audience of 500 lay leaders, sharing with them how to combat the anti-faith and anti-life agendas penetrating Filipino culture. Dr. Rene Bullecer, physician and head of HLI’s Filipino affiliate, is active every day of the week on media in the Philippines, esp. through our pro-life radio network Now my question to you is: How is God calling you to be a Pro-Life warrior in your community? Please leave your comment below to share with the HLI community. The post A Pro-Life Warrior and Every-day Hero appeared first on Human Life International.
The end of Iraqi Christianity?
Any further deterioration in relations between Iran and the West could lead to the end of Christianity in the region
Marxism Died in the East Because It Realized Itself in the West
The year 1989 is often viewed as the conclusion of the post-war period: in the long conflict Marxism has finally lost, while the Eastern countries are progressively taking their place in the unified world of freedom, well-being, consumption, democracy. Regarding this victory of the West, however, let us be careful: in the years immediately following 1945 the conflict was thought to be in terms of a struggle between Christian civilization and Marxism; later the opposition of democracy and totalitarianism became prevalent. It has also been said that in the post-war period the struggle between Fascism and anti-Fascism continued, at a different level. Supposedly, the present moment is when Communism is shedding the features it had in common with Fascism. Now, nothing of this is true. Marxism has fully realized itself, but disproving its premises and promises. It did not do so due to mistakes or to betrayal by its leaders, but by the necessity of its nature. It has not expressed the radical alternative between the thesis represented by capitalism and the antithesis represented by the proletariat, it has not been the creation of an entirely new humanity. Instead, historically, it represented the transition from one stage of the bourgeoisie to another, the ulterior and definitive stage. About it, in his important and original book, Marcello Veneziani cites St. Anselm’s ontological argument, according to which today’s Occidentalism presents itself as the Id quo maius cogitari nequit, that than which nothing greater can be conceived; and he refers to some exponents of the new liberalism, who aim to establish the insuperability of the current stage reached by the neo-bourgeois society, which they conceive as the final stage. Marxism has been the culture of the transition from the Christian-bourgeois society—of which we find the insuperable example in the work of Benedetto Croce—to the bourgeois society in its pure state. We could even say that Marxism represented the “transition to the worst” in the sense that, through Marxism, bourgeois society has shed every residual moral and religious sense, unburdening itself of all “impurities” that still tied it to traditional society, thus presenting itself as full materialism and full secularism. The West has realized everything of Marxism, except its messianic hope. “Socialism” Veneziani writes “has not inherited capitalist society, but has become included, entangled in capitalism itself; in many respects, it has been the intermediate stop on the journey from capitalism to neo-capitalism.” Veneziani notices that Western society realizes the essence of Marxism: “radical atheism and materialism, internationalism and universal non-belonging, the primacy of praxis and the death of philosophy, the domination of production and the universal manipulation of nature, technological Faustianism and equality that realizes itself as homogenization.” The new globalist liberalism, Veneziani observes, absorbs the lesson of Marxism, purifying it of all prophetic, gnostic and anti-modern slag, and of solidaristic suggestions. Therefore we can say that the West is Marxism’s full secularization, as well as its perfect realization. It is Capitalism that absorbs Communism, using it to erase religious sacredness and national sacredness, a goal it could not have reached in any other way. The element of Marxism, and of Socialism in general, that remains unexpressed, unrealized and betrayed in the neo-bourgeois and Occidentalist society is precisely what was “great” in Socialism: the denunciation of alienation and the hope, which was “religious” in its own way, to overcome it. This is what Veneziani emphasizes in his final pages, observing how alienation has established itself and is expanding in Western society. In fact—and allow me to recall an idea that I already presented in 1963—Western irreligion has pushed the process of alienation to its extreme consequences. The disappearance of religion has coincided with the reification of man. Thus, the exact opposite of what materialist thought had envisioned has taken place: the eclipse of religion has not brought about the end of alienation, but rather its expansion. The affluent society, as Galbraith called it, has succeeded in eliminating the dialectic tension of the revolution while succeeding in pushing alienation to the highest degree. Alienation coincides with de-humanization and, at the same time, with the loss of every common (and not just religious) framework of values; and these two processes, which are tightly intertwined, effect the reduction of the person to a thing that Veneziani describes in his book. Thus is born the gigantic process of alienation that Veneziani sketches effectively: “alienation as loss of one’s identity, alienation as estrangement from the environment in which one lives, alienation as communal dis-integration and bewilderment in Heidegger’s sense of the word, alienation as exploitation and thus expropriation of one’s work, alienation as commodification of man.” Therefore, Western society seems not just to elude Marx’s denunciation of alienation, but to disregard it altogether, to the point that alienation realizes itself most powerfully. Let us be careful, then, not to say that the Enlightenment has won against Marxism, and that today Marxism, purified of Asian despotism, is rejoining Enlightenment thought. Today’s Occidentalism has swept away even its own Enlightenment foundation and what used to be its highest expression, Kantian morality. In this regard, Veneziani observes that the original legitimation of the “Western project” lies in the Kantian practical imperative that says “treat humanity always as an end and never as a means.” However, Veneziani continues, if two centuries later we verify that founding project in light of its outcomes, “we must agree that the West is characterized by a complete instrumentalization of life, by a reduction of man to a means.” This reification of man marks an inversion of the premises of Occidentalism, is the most obvious expression of an heterogenesis of ends. In truth, we can say that the features of today’s West confirm what the literature of crisis of the thirties had already predicted. But the [mindset of the] crisis is fated to merely foster the “culture of regret” which is fundamentally nostalgic, and which reaches its highest point in traditionalism. Traditionalism expresses the idea of an irreversible decline of the West, but its critique, precisely because of its complete opposition to the modern and bourgeois world, precludes itself from having any effective impact, is cut off, seems to have no influence on the world it intends to criticize, and seeks consolation in the chatter of archaic and decadent salons. A new world is rising, and we must adapt to it in order to push it in a better direction. Therefore, I think we have to agree with Veneziani’s statement that the limitation of the traditionalist critique of the West has been judging the West itself in light of premises that are not its own, by making an impossible comparison between a world shut inside his perfection, the world of tradition, and a world just as shut inside its damnation, the world of becoming. Conversely, “the most efficacious and most correct indictment of the West is the comparison between its promises and their realization.” Contrasting the civilization of being to the triumphant world of becoming means estranging ourselves rather than fighting; faced with this stark opposition, it is easy for the progressivist critique to liquidate rationalism by emphasizing that it opposes to the present a past which has irremediably passed away. The authentic traditionalist critique must follow another line, which investigates the reasons why the final result of the thought at the origins of Occidentalism not only differs from what its founders intended, but is the radical opposite. Speaking of the nostalgic attitude, in the chapter devoted to the passion of those who are defeated there is an astute observation about the inversion in outlook between Fascism and neo-Fascism: the former was sustained by a vitalistic optimism, and by an ideology based essentially on the cult of victory; the latter, on the contrary, expresses a pessimistic and crepuscular passion for those who are defeated, which inverts, then, the original spirit of Fascism. Such passion for the defeated seems to be more widespread today than one would think at first sight. Indeed, it is not always true that today the drive to make money and to succeed is totally dominant. To the contrary, fascination with lost causes has spread, as a backlash against the dominant mentality. The winners write history, it has been said, and not the defeated. Hence solidarity with the vanquished of history is born, as a reaction. In his survey of the critical trends against Occidentalism, Veneziani’s scope broadens to other non-nostalgic opposition movements that exist today. First, Socialism, which today faces the inescapable alternative between entering, or re-entering, the bourgeois “common home”—along the lines of liberal and secular Socialism—and attempting to rediscover the greatest and most “religious” element that lies at its origins, which puts in a critical stance against Occidentalism and neo-Capitalism. Secondly, environmentalism which, despite its efforts to the contrary, recovers its authenticity by recovering the past, and thus by criticizing modernity and its products, starting with capitalism. Veneziani identifies yet another opposition movement in the line of the “conservative revolution,” which has above all Martin Heidegger, Ernst Jünger, and Carl Schmitt as its great beginners, and the thinkers of the Nouvelle Droite as its epigones. Of these latter Veneziani highlights the merits, in his opinion, but also the limitations and inadequacies, which sometimes lead them to conform to the same secularist and immanentist perspectives of Western society that they still protest against with vigorous effectiveness. Fourthly, Veneziani dwells on the rise of national identities, and in general on the reawakening of communities and ethnicities, observing that this process goes against the cosmopolitanism of Western society. These pages devoted to the communitarian reawakening provide the context for the analysis of the “Italian case” and its meager sense of national, cultural and historical identity. An important moment in order to understand the current development of Occidentalism, and at the same time to identify the last critical attempt in the West, was the protest movement of 1968. To Veneziani, the historical result of the protest movement seems to fall, in the final analysis, within the “accellerated process of Westernization in the sense of rapid secularization of society”; therefore, he interprets the protest movement as a season that was eccentric but still internal to the unfolding of Occidentalism. In this sense I described 1968 as a decidedly intra-bourgeois revolution, in the sense that it marked the transition from the old to the new stage of the bourgeoisie. In fact, we can detect here an analogy with Marxism: what Marxism has been, from a philosophical standpoint, in a larger process—namely a transitory stage from capitalism to neo-capitalism—the protest movement has been, from a historical standpoint, and even from the standpoint of morals, during a more limited period. In this respect I agree with Veneziani when he deems Pasolini to be the author who revealed most starkly the intimate essence of the protest movement. Indeed, Pasolini said that in practice the protest movement helped the new power destroy the values of which neo-capitalist power wanted to rid itself: tradition, the religious sense, attachment to one’s roots, sense of authenticity, of the mystery, the organic bond with a community of men and values. Not coincidentally, Veneziani adds, “when those young people rid themselves of the ideological and political ‘superstructure’ of the revolutionary type, they became agents and functionaries of the consumeristic and bourgeois utilitarianism which then characterized them in the nineteen-eighties.” However, were those the only goals of the protest movement? Actually, the protest movement of 1968 “sang in two different registers.” One can be broadly identified with the Frankfurt School, expressed the rebellion against the technocratic and scientistic society, and was perhaps prevalent at the beginning of the protest movement. The other expressed itself in the opposition between revolutionary spirit and traditional spirit, and prevailed in the end. That opposition was precisely what originated the alliance between protesters and bourgeois radicalism, which marked the sunset of the protest movement itself. Its mistake, as Veneziani observes, was to identify the traditional values with the capitalist system which was, instead, their fiercest enemy. It thus contributed to breach “not the support systems and the alliances of capitalism, but the last constraints that held back the capitalist system.” Ultimately, in order to grasp the full meaning of Occidentalism and of its transitional stages—such as have been Marxism and, in some respects, the 1968 protest movement—we must go back to the idea of Revolution that has characterized the last two centuries. The idea of Revolution is the opposite of the idea of Providence. Indeed, the Revolution reckons that man can redeem himself through the liberation process. The idea of Providence, on the contrary, reckons that history is not entirely made by men, and instead something which does not belong to man, which is not decided by him, intervenes in its course and its outcomes. Now, contemporary society, and the present collapse of Communism, show the failure of the idea of Revolution, brought about by the inversion of its original premises. Conversely, they show the victory of the idea of Providence, in the sense of confirming that the path of history does not match entirely the will of men, and actually diverges from it to the point of producing the opposite of what they intend; thus confirming what Vico wrote about the “historical fact of Providence” which acts “without any human awareness or counsel, and oftentimes against the intentions of men.” Now that it is burning out, the revolutionary cycle is revealing itself to be not an irreversible process, as both the progressives and the traditionalists deemed it to be, but a reversible historical process, against which then one can fight. EDITORIAL NOTE: 30 December 2019 was the 30th anniversary of Augusto Del Noce's death. This essay was the last thing Del Noce wrote, about a week before his death. Its served as the foreword to Marcello Veneziani's book, La societa globale ei suoi nemici. Our special thanks goes out to Professor Carlo Lancelotti for translating this essay and obtaining permission from the Del Noce estate to reproduce it here.
Do You Need Empathy to Be a Good Foster Parent?
by Naomi Schaefer Riley (@NaomiSRiley) What does it take to be a foster parent? A 2018 investigation by the Boston Globe found that 2,000 Massachusetts foster families had stopped accepting foster kids into their homes in the previous five years. No doubt some of this falloff is because of the infuriating bureaucracy foster families face. And some of it is because they don’t get the proper support they need from family and friends. It’s also true, though, that some people are more temperamentally suited to the demands of foster parenting—demands such as, handling kids with severe behavioral challenges or who have been traumatized by other adults in their lives and have difficulty forming emotional attachments. In a recent article in The New Yorker about people who have genetic mutations that don’t allow them to feel physical pain, Ariel Levy profiled a middle-aged Scottish woman named Joanne Cameron, who not only doesn’t notice if her hand is burning or her foot is bleeding, but her “negative emotional range is limited to the kinds of bearable suffering one sees in a Nora Ephron movie.” Which is to say, Levy explains: When something bad happens, Cameron’s brain immediately searches for a way to ameliorate the situation, but it does not dwell on unhappiness. She inadvertently follows the creed of the Stoics (and of every twelve-step recovery program): Accept the things you cannot change. This seems to have given Cameron a special advantage during her 17 years as a special education teacher and as a foster parent to four children. As Levy recounts: “I had a Down-syndrome girl—who was actually quite high-functioning—and she would come in every morning and she’d walk up to me and spit in my face, and say, ‘I hate you, Jo Cameron! I hate you!’ And I’d stand there and say, ‘I don’t like being spat on, but I don’t hate you!’ ” Cameron told me, smiling. “Oh, I’ve had some very difficult students. I’ve been bitten; I’ve been spat on; I’ve been kicked!”... One of [the foster kids] stole all their vacation money from the cookie jar. “She did take things for the sake of taking them,” Cameron said pleasantly. “It took us years to catch up! When eight hundred pounds is gone from your vacation kitty, it takes a long time to recoup.” The vast majority of the population will never be able to limit their negative emotions to this extent. But there are some things we might be able to learn from her about how feeling pain—and even feeling someone else’s pain—may not necessarily give us a greater ability to care for others. In an article in the Wall Street Journal based on his book Against Empathy, Paul Bloom writes, “If we don’t empathize with others, don’t feel their pain, why would we care enough to help them? If the alternative to empathy is apathy, then perhaps we should stick with it, regardless of its flaws.” But then he argues that we can help others—indeed, we may be better able to do so—if we do not take on their pain as our own. He cites neuroscientists Tania Singer and Olga Klimecki in a 2014 article for the journal Current Biology: “In contrast to empathy, compassion does not mean sharing the suffering of the other: rather, it is characterized by feelings of warmth, concern and care for the other, as well as a strong motivation to improve the other’s well-being. Compassion is feeling for and not feeling with the other.” The question of how we can best help those in need—of what kinds of attitudes and temperaments are necessary to do so—is one that the late Gertrude Himmelfarb considered extensively in her work on the Victorians. In her great work “Poverty and Compassion,” Himmelfarb, who passed away a few weeks ago, wrote: “In its sentimental mode, compassion is an exercise in moral indignation, in feeling good rather than doing good…. In its unsentimental mode, compassion seeks above all to dogood, and this requires a stern sense of proportion, of reason and self-control.” To be “genuinely compassionate,” in the Victorians’ view, “was not to be selfless; it was only to be true to one’s ‘best self’ and the ‘common good’ that included one’s own good. This was not a heroic goal, not the aspiration of a saint or a martyr. But it was eminently moral and humane.” Indeed, to the extent that we think of foster parents and those in difficult “caring” professions as people who must completely empathize with and become indignant at the injustice felt by those they care for, we may turn these roles into those of martyrs and saints. That, in turn, will make them more difficult to fill. Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Millions of people in southern Africa facing food crisis
YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – For millions of people in the southern African nations of Zimbabwe and Zambia, the next few months will be critical. Both countries are facing a major food crisis – it is estimated 7.7 million people are affected in Zimbabwe and 1.7 million in Zambia. CAFOD – the international development agency of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales – says local Church emergency response experts are already in communities, identifying families in the greatest need. Crux spoke to Verity Johnson, CAFOD’s Country Representative for Zimbabwe, about what the aid agency is doing to help. Crux: CAFOD has launched a fund-raising appeal to help millions out of hunger in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Just how much money are you looking at? Johnson: CAFOD and Caritas in Zimbabwe have launched an appeal for $1 million to specifically respond to the crisis seeking to provide food for 17,000 people. In addition, we want to scale up our work providing water and farming inputs such as seeds to people who have lost everything so that they are able to re-build their lives. But there are great needs beyond the provision of food – people’s access to water and basic services have also been affected by the crisis and we seek to work with our local partners in responding to the underlying causes as well as the immediate crisis. What has been the response so far? This is a continuing crisis. In 2019 due to the huge generosity of the Catholic community we were able to respond to those affected by Cyclone Idai as well as adapt and launch programs to specifically mitigate against the oncoming drought. This work has had an enormous impact on local communities: In some areas the people we work with have managed to harvest despite the terrible drought as we have supported them with access to water for irrigation, but other areas are still in dire need. CAFOD and other agencies, including the United Nations, have been distributing food to those in greatest need but many more are still in need of assistance. Just how big is the problem of hunger in the two countries? Hunger is a huge problem – nearly 8 million people, half the population of Zimbabwe, do not have enough to eat. They do not have enough to meet their basic calorie requirements for the day. This leads to terrible suffering, sickness and disease as well as families taking desperate measures such as selling all their assets which means it will be much harder for them to recover in coming years. In Zambia the devastating effects of an extreme dry spell has withered crops, leaving more than 1.7 million people struggling to feed themselves. The United Nations expects that the 1.7 million people affected by hunger will rise to 2.3 million during the ‘lean season’ – which started in October and will go on until March 2020. Over the coming months, food insecurity is expected to worsen in 58 drought-affected districts in the southern and western parts of the country. What are the major drivers of the problem? Zimbabwe has suffered multiple shocks, extreme weather including cyclones, flooding and drought as well as an economic crisis. There has been massive inflation of food prices and shortages of many basic commodities, at the same time poor rainfall has seen harvests fail. The majority of people in Zimbabwe depend on rainfed agriculture but in recent years the rains have been poor and erratic, and people have not been able to grow enough to eat. Last year  was particularly bad. Southern Africa is warming at twice the global average and climate change is being felt harshly. This year’s harvest was 40 percent below the 5-year average and the country faces a cereal deficit of staple food [cornmeal] of over 700 thousand tons this year. Zambia has faced one of the poorest rainfall seasons in 2018-2019, which has left the southern and western parts of the country facing a severe drought. Crop production has been devastated and livestock have started to die from diseases. How would you describe the way the governments of the two countries have been handling the crisis? The government of Zimbabwe declared a national disaster around the food crisis last year. They have been working with aid agencies to support the response. Zambia has not yet declared a national emergency. What message would you give potential donors to convince them to donate? Families in Zimbabwe and Zambia work incredibly hard to live and thrive in a difficult environment; terrible drought and economic crisis have pushed millions over the brink. They now need outside help to get through this season and then to re-build their lives and livelihoods. On the ground, what are the affected populations telling you? We’re hearing from mothers who are not able to feed their children and who are going without themselves to put food on the table. Our local partners and aid experts have heard from women who are not able to breastfeed their babies as they are not eating enough themselves. People are desperate and have exhausted their ability to cope with the situation. Crux is dedicated to smart, wired and independent reporting on the Vatican and worldwide Catholic Church. That kind of reporting doesn’t come cheap, and we need your support. You can help Crux by giving a small amount monthly, or with a onetime gift. Please remember, Crux is a for-profit organization, so contributions are not tax-deductible.
More Children Are Living in Intact Families
by Lyman Stone (@lymanstoneky) Nearly 4 in 10 children in America are not residing with their own two, married parents (biological or adoptive). This is according to the recently released 2018 American Community Survey, the largest annual social survey carried out in America. As recently as 1960, less than 2 in 10 children lived apart from two married parents, a reality which was approximately stable as far back as 1850. But while the present situation leaves many children bereft of the care, attention, and material benefits of a married household, it’s actually not as bad as it has been in the past: since 2014, the share of children living with two married parents has risen ever-so-slightly, from 61.8% to 62.3% in 2018, and data from early 2019 in the Current Population Survey suggest that 2019 will show further improvement. The period from 2011 to 2019 is the longest period of stability or improvement in children’s living situations since the 1950s. Where Do Kids Live? Using a variety of different data sources, including estimates from historic censuses, the American Community Survey, and the Current Population survey, it’s possible to derive estimates of how many children have been living in intact families all the way back to 1850.1 From 1850 to 1960, the share of kids living in married, two-parent families was about stable between 80 and 90%, or even rose slightly. To the extent there’s an increase, it is largely caused by a reduction in parental death rates, not changes in divorces and fertility behaviors. But then after the 1960s, there’s a precipitous decline in kids living with both parents. From 1960 to 2014, the share of kids living in intact families fell from 87% to 62%. But as this chart makes clear, the pace of decline has recently changed. Aside from a recessionary decline, it looks like the period since 2000 has seen rough stability in the share of kids living in stable, two-parent environments. That’s great news. Since 2014, there’s even been a tiny bit of an increase, the first real positive change seen since the 1950s. Not All Kids Experience the Same Trends However, these trends vary considerably by race. Because I use data from various samples, race-specific estimates can be fairly volatile, so I use simplified racial and ethnic definitions, and smooth year-over-year variation to enable easy comparison. Figure 2 below shows the share of kids living in intact families by major racial-ethnic group from 1870 to today. As can be seen, non-Hispanic white kids have considerably higher odds of living with two married parents than kids who are part of racial or ethnic minority groups. This has been true for as far back as data exists. The causes of this are debated. For example, slavery systematically dismantled black families for centuries, and black kids make up the majority of these children at least until the 1970s; likewise, high rates of incarceration disrupt “marriage markets” for many minority-majority communities. Alternatively, some, including me, have argued that specific features of the modern welfare state may have systematically punished minority families and discouraged marriage. But whatever the cause of these differences, it can be clearly seen that kids in minority racial and ethnic groups have always had lower odds of growing up with two married parents. In 1920, it seemed like parity was within reach, but after 1920, there’s a steady declining in the share of non-Hispanic black children growing up with two married parents. Since the 1990s, conditions for black families seem to have stabilized somewhat. Meanwhile, the “other” category has been fairly stable. Hispanics, traditionally, had fairly low rates of births out of wedlock. But while that’s changing, the growth in the number of Asian families is keeping the measure for “other kids” relatively stable. Given that racial classifications have varied over time, it’s difficult to meaningfully track racial or ethnic groups across a long-term horizon with any greater detail than provided here. But for recent years, when high-quality data from the American Community Survey is available, much more precise estimates can be made, showing that there are huge differences in family structure across racial and ethnic groups, as shown in Figure 3. Asian kids are by far the most likely to grow up with two married parents: from 2001 to 2018, a steady 80-85% of Asian children grew up in intact households. Whites come in second, while Hispanics and non-Hispanic other, and multiracial kids are essentially tied for third. At the other end of the spectrum, only about 40% of Native American kids grow up in married, two-parent households, and only about 30% of black kids. Because these values are very different, it’s hard to visually identify changes. Figure 4 shows the percentage point change since 2001 in the values shown in Figure 3. Since 2001, Asian, African-American, and multiracial kids have seen approximate stability in their odds of growing up with two married parents. Non-Hispanic whites have seen a modest decline (though some improvement in recent years). But for Hispanic and Native American kids, the odds of growing up in an intact family have fallen sharply. This is concerning, especially since these are also the groups that have seen the biggest declines in birth rates: they’re having fewer kids, and of the kids they are having, more are growing up without two parents. This speaks to considerable and growing challenges for Hispanic and Native American kids and families. Conclusion Overall, the decline in the share of kids growing up in married, two-parent households seems to have stopped for now, and there’s even been a modest recovery. But much of this change is purely compositional: Asian, Hispanic, and multiracial kids are growing as a share of children thanks to immigration and intermarriage, while African and Native American kids are not. As a result, the nationwide aggregate is improving. But among specific groups, the trends are less optimistic. Particularly for Hispanic and Native American kids, family conditions have deteriorated markedly over the last two decades. Lyman Stone is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and an Adjunct Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. 1. To identify children’s living situations, I use a variety of different measures from three different major data sources (decennial Censuses, the American Community Survey, and the Current Population Survey), all queried through the Integrated Public Use Microdata System. Different surveys have asked different questions in different years, so developing a consistent metric can be challenging. For example, from 2001-2018, I can use my preferred metric: children living in a “married-couple family household” or a “married couple sub-family within a household” who have an identifiable biological, adoptive, or step mother and father in the household. This metric would still include some families where children have experienced considerable instability, as it would include children living with one biological parent and a step-parent. However, this is probably a small share of these children, and would still reflect children growing up at least with a married mother and father figure who is physically present in the household. In 2018, by this metric, 62.3% of kids were living with two married parents. There are other data sources available. For example, the Current Population Survey asks parents to report their relationship to children in the household. By these metrics, in 2019, about 62.3% of children are living with two biological parents, and about 68.6% are living with two biological or adoptive parents. However, these metrics are only available back to 2007, and in 2019, the variable definitions changed to be more inclusive of same-sex households, causing a modest increase in estimates. But more importantly, this data does not track the marital status of parents, thus would include two unmarried biological parents living together. Furthermore, the Current Population Survey doesn’t sample all people: it is focused on the civilian, non-institutional population. Military families, or children in juvenile detention or other institutions, would be under-sampled or excluded. These kids may be uniquely likely to not have two resident parents, and thus the Current Population Survey probably overestimatesthe number of kids living with their parents. That said, while the American Community Survey only reaches back to 2001, and the Current Population Survey’s “self-reported parent type” variable only goes back to 2007, the Current Population Survey has other data on kids reaching back to the 1960s. Variable definitions have changed over time but, broadly speaking, we can use data on maternal and paternal co-residence as well as household family status to get a decent approximation of how many kids lived with their own married parents. As a sanity check for these annual values, we can also use the same definition that we used in the American Community Survey for children reported in the decennial censuses of 1900, 1910, and 1930-2000. These Census estimates closely match the Current Population Survey estimates before 1995, and thus the Current Population Survey estimates from the 1960s-1995 are probably pretty accurate. Before the 1960s, we can use the aforementioned Census estimates similar to the American Community Survey definition: children living in a married-couple household with two parents present are presumptively living in “intact” families. But we can actually go back before 1900, and even fill in the missing 1920 Census data. Census responses can link parents to “own children” (which generally means biological, adoptive, or step children of any age) residing in the same household. We don’t want to include adult children, and luckily there are pre-calculated variables for kids under age 5 provided, which should be a good proxy for kids overall. Using this data and comparing it to other data from 1970 and earlier, we can basically get a good approximation of how many kids lived with two “own parents” all the way back to 1850. The result can be seen in Figure 1.
San Antonio conference to focus on unity in time of polarization
NEW YORK — One hundred years ago, a young Italian woman was born into a family that would be plagued by poverty and the devastation of war. In the middle of it all, a religious experience transformed her life, leading her to form what would be known as the Focolare movement, dedicated to promoting peace and solidarity. This coming weekend in San Antonio, Texas, members of the movement, along with friends and potential new ones, will gather to mark the hundredth anniversary of its founder’s birth, with a focus on unity in a time of polarization. The conference, “A Hearth for the Human Family,” will have a focus on an economy for all, helping to further Pope Francis’s vision in an economy that can “give a soul to the economy of tomorrow.” On the eve of the conference, Crux spoke with organizers Amy Uelmen, Carlos Bajo, and Elizabeth Garlow about their hopes for the event. Crux: This conference is meant to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare. Simply put, why should she matter to American Catholics? Uelmen: Many are concerned about how divisions in the Church and in society block our capacity to offer a witness of how Christian love can help to heal the maladies of our times. The charism of unity, the gift that Chiara Lubich shared with the Church and the world, is a powerful medicine for these wounds. In a time of social fragmentation, the Focolare spirituality provides real tools for building concrete communities based on mutual love, across all kinds of religious, cultural, and political differences. In a time of rising anxiety and isolation, we try to create networks of support to help people find meaning in their lives, even in the midst of suffering and difficulties. Personally and professionally I have been inspired by Chiara’s vision of the unity of the human family and sustained by the practices that help me to make this vision a reality in my daily life. As an American, I appreciate both the broad horizon and the practical tools. Who will be participating in this gathering and how were they convened? And it’s not just for Catholics, right? Bajo: The event brings together grassroots community-builders, entrepreneurs, and academics from various disciplines. In all of our projects we try to bring the wisdom that emerges from putting the Gospel into practice together with reflection on that lived experience. We aim to keep young people out front, so that their questions and sense of urgency can bring driving energy to what we do together. And yes, people of different Christian denominations and of other religions, as well as those with non-religious convictions, are essential participants. We can’t even imagine our work without that creative dialogue and partnership. We’ll also take this occasion to launch our new Focolare Forum for Dialogue & Culture as a vehicle to give greater support, cohesion and continuity to our work together. Economics will take center stage at this gathering. What is the “Economy of Communion”? Garlow: Yes, the conference also embraces the longstanding annual gathering of the North American Economy of Communion Association. The EOC emerged in 1991, during Chiara Lubich’s visit to Brazil, as she pondered with local communities how to meet the basic material needs of community members. Reflecting together on John Paul II’s Centesimus annus, the idea emerged to encourage the formation of for-profit businesses that could generate opportunities for dignified work: (1) to directly support people in need; (2) for educational projects to help foster a “culture of giving”; and (3) for the continued development of the business. The EOC also helped to inform Pope Benedict’s Caritas in veritate reflections on “hybrid” business models. Over time, EOC participants have become increasingly attentive to how our work can align with environmental sustainability objectives. Additionally, we have partnered with university contacts to help inspire new business curricula and educational opportunities for students seeking alternative praxes in business and economics. Other projects include support for business incubators for young entrepreneurs in Africa and elsewhere. I was fortunate to be present in February 2017 when Pope Francis met with EOC participants for our 25th anniversary and he encouraged us to consider how our small but spirited endeavor could help to generate a more inclusive economy, and even to change “the rules of the game of the socio-economic system.” As I dedicate my professional time and efforts to the fields of social entrepreneurship and impact investing, Pope Francis’s words inspire me to continue to reach for new frontiers in order to foster authentic communion in the market. Pope Francis is heading to Assisi in March for another major economic summit. What’s the purpose of that trip and how is the Focolare movement involved? Garlow: Saint Francis of Assisi confronted severe social inequality by stripping himself of all worldly attachments, becoming poor with the poor, and in so doing, he also gave rise to a new vision of economic life. This March Pope Francis will build on this legacy by gathering with young economists and entrepreneurs in Assisi to “enter into a ‘covenant’ to change today’s economy and to give a soul to the economy of tomorrow.” The international EOC project is one of the official organizers of the event, together with the town and diocese of Assisi and the Serafico, in collaboration with the Franciscan Families of Assisi and Vatican Dicastery For Promoting Integral Human Development. Luigino Bruni, the director of the international EOC project is the chair of the content committee. Here in the U.S., events are being planned to bring together economists, entrepreneurs, theologians, consecrated religious, and many others for a robust conversation about our response to this call for a moral economy. Migration will also be a major topic of conversation. How does it factor in to an economy for all? Bajo: We recognize that the economic and political tensions are strong and not always easy to resolve. But in discussions marked by fear of the “other” and of losing one’s own identity, we hope to flip the script on how we think about social and economic inclusion. When we live genuine reciprocity – the capacity to value the contributions that everyone can bring into a society – then marginalized people are no longer reduced to just a burden. Reciprocity helps us to welcome each other as persons created in God’s image and to celebrate everyone’s gifts, and this moves us far beyond philanthropy into a life of “communion.” The conference program will feature not only examples of our response to the crisis at our southern border, but also how our Focolare communities in the U.S., Canada, and throughout the globe, are enriched by a migration experience where we welcome God’s invitation to care for each other as an expression of the unity of the human family. Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212 Crux is dedicated to smart, wired and independent reporting on the Vatican and worldwide Catholic Church. That kind of reporting doesn’t come cheap, and we need your support. You can help Crux by giving a small amount monthly, or with a onetime gift. Please remember, Crux is a for-profit organization, so contributions are not tax-deductible.
An Alternate History of Modern Science
A man [Galileo] is here revealed who possesses the passionate will, the intelligence, and the courage to stand up as the representative of rational thinking against the host of those who, relying on the ignorance of the people and the indolence of teachers in priest’s and scholar’s garb, maintain and defend their positions of authority. His unusual literary gift enables him to . . . overcome the anthropocentric and mythical thinking of his contemporaries and to lead them back to an objective and causal attitude toward the cosmos, an attitude which had become lost to humanity.—Albert Einstein Galileo was ordered to stop believing what he could see with his own two eyes.—Peter Sis We are all familiar with the story of the Copernican Revolution that gave birth to modern science, and of its great champion Galileo Galilei. In that story, Galileo, the heroic representative of rational thinking, stepped forth to fight for a modern scientific outlook against a host of ignoramuses who used Aristotle, religion, and their positions of authority to uphold old ideas and suppress the truth. But suppose that the Copernican Revolution had happened in a nobler and more edifying way. Let us use our imaginations to see what that might have looked like and what it would have meant for science. Imagine, then, a Copernican Revolution that featured scientific debate of the best kind. In this imagined revolution there would have been rational thinking and brilliant insight on both sides of the debate. This revolution would have showcased scientific process as it ought to be. In it, clever people on both sides would have honed ideas, pushed instruments to their limits, and engaged in fascinating scientific arguments about whether the Earth orbits around the Sun (heliocentrism) or if the Sun orbits around the Earth (geocentrism). In this imagined revolution, the supporters of a geocentric universe would not have relied upon lame arguments about how birds would be left behind by a moving Earth—as though not a one of them had ever poured a drink upon a moving ship. No, in this revolution, the brightest geocentrists would have used more sophisticated reasoning. If they were exceptionally clever, they might even have been able to figure out that on a rotating Earth there should be Coriolis forces, despite living two centuries before Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis discovered this effect. That is, they might have realized that the differing speeds of different points on a spinning globe would cause detectable effects more subtle than anything birds would notice, and that the failure to detect such effects could be used as an argument against the heliocentric theory. And they might also have been able to develop a geocentric model of the universe that conformed to the latest telescope observations better than the 1500-year-old model of Ptolemy. In our imagined revolution, the proponents of heliocentrism would have been equally sophisticated. They would have been defending heliocentric theories that were not quite our modern one, for they would have assumed the Sun to be the unique central body of the entire universe, not just of the solar system. But the most intelligent heliocentrists would have defended these theories with keen observations and impeccable logic. Both sides would have interpreted the available data persuasively to support their views. Lastly, let us imagine how science might have benefited from having that kind of Copernican Revolution in its history. Modern science would then have been able to point to a brilliant and fascinating scientific debate as its founding story. It would not be weighed down by a depressing tale of broad resistance to scientific truths and widespread refusal to acknowledge what plain observation revealed. We would not be in a position now where crackpots can claim the mantle of Galileo, declare that a benighted “establishment” is suppressing “the truth,” and launch movements that end up bringing back the measles. Instead, science would be buoyed up by a story that shows how the scientific enterprise has always featured vigorous, intelligent and informed debate in which the truth is not so readily suppressed. Now, stop imagining. What I have just described is the Copernican Revolution that actually occurred. Opponents of Copernicus’s theory did envision the Coriolis Effect! Frs. Giovanni Battista Riccioli and Francesco Maria Grimaldi, both Jesuits, described it in Riccioli’s Almagestum Novum of 1651. Fr. Claude Francis Milliet Dechales, also a Jesuit, produced diagrams and discussions of this effect that could serve in a modern textbook. These Jesuit priests were not describing an effect that they had observed, but an effect that they realized must occur on a rotating globe. They said that the fact that no such effect had ever been observed militated against any rotation of the Earth. They were well beyond crude claims that in a heliocentric universe birds would be left behind by a moving Earth. FIGURE 1. Illustrations of the Coriolis Effect from “Objectiones contra Copernicum” in Dechales’s Cursus seu Mundus Mathematicus (1674). Left: A cannon firing north at a castle. Because the cannon is moving eastward faster than the castle, due to the Earth’s rotation, the cannonball lands East of the castle. Right: The top of a tower moves faster than its bottom, owing to Earth’s rotation. So a ball released from the top (F), strikes the ground at L, rather than at the base of the tower I. Advocates for Copernicus’s theory did in fact argue for a heliocentric universe that bore little resemblance to any modern conception of it. Johannes Kepler described a heliocentric universe which consisted of one unique, tiny, brilliant, central body, the Sun, orbited by still tinier planets, all surrounded at vast distances by stars that were so immense that each star was larger than the Earth’s orbit, and vastly larger than the Sun. The largest of the stars, Kepler said, was larger than the orbit of Saturn, larger even than an entire geocentric universe! And he said that while the stars were gigantic, they were also dim—the combined light output of these monsters was as nothing compared to that of the Sun. These were not arbitrary assumptions on Kepler’s part. They were what heliocentrism logically required, given what 17th century observations seemed to show. Stars, as seen in the telescopes used at that time, did not appear to be mere points, but had discernable widths. It was not realized until centuries later that this was due to distortions produced by the telescopes themselves. From these apparent widths (or “angular widths”) and the great distances to the stars required by Copernicus’s theory and other heliocentric theories, it followed that the stars must be of enormous size compared to all the other astronomical bodies, including the Sun. The dimness of stars was implied by the fact that they failed to illuminate the night. One could not plead that their distance makes them dim, Kepler noted. This does not help at all, he said, because given their angular sizes, the further away they were assumed to be, the larger they would also have to be: “the greater their distance, the more does every single one of them outstrip the sun in diameter.” FIGURE 2. Left: Illustration of a star as seen through the kind of telescope used for stellar observations in the 17th century (from John F. W. Herschel’s 1828 Treatises on Physical Astronomy, Light and Sound). Right: Illustration, from Kepler’s 1618 Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae, of a small Sun (arrowed) surrounded by a universe of much larger stars. Kepler saw this heliocentric universe—with its giant dim stars, tiny brilliant Sun, and tinier planets—as elegant and revealing God at work. God’s power was on display in the creation of stars so immense. God’s care was on display in the creation of the tiny Earth and its inhabitants. Thus Kepler wrote: Where magnitude waxes, there perfection wanes, and nobility follows diminution in bulk. The sphere of the fixed stars according to Copernicus is certainly most large; but it is inert, no motion. The universe of the movables [the planets] is next. Now this—so much smaller, so much more divine—has accepted that so admirable, so well-ordered motion. Nevertheless, that place neither contains animating faculty, nor does it reason, nor does it run about. It goes, provided that it is moved. It has not developed, but it retains that impressed to it from the beginning. What it is not, it will never be. What it is, is not made by it—the same endures, as was built. He continues: Then comes this our little ball, the little cottage of us all, which we call the Earth: the womb of the growing, herself fashioned by a certain internal faculty. The architect of marvelous work, she kindles daily so many little living things from herself—plants, fishes, insects—as she easily may scorn the rest of the bulk in view of this her nobility. Lastly behold if you will the little bodies which we call the animals. What smaller than these is able to be imagined in comparison to the universe? But there now behold feeling, and voluntary motions—an infinite architecture of bodies. He closes with the following theological flourish: Behold if you will, among those, these fine bits of dust, which are called Men; to whom the Creator has granted such, that in a certain way they may beget themselves, clothe themselves, arm themselves, teach themselves an infinity of arts, and daily accomplish the good; in whom is the image of God; who are, in a certain way, lords of the whole bulk. And what is it to us, that the body of the universe has for itself a great breadth, while the soul lacks for one? We may learn well therefore the pleasure of the Creator, who is author both of the roughness of the large masses, and of the perfection of the smalls. Yet he glories not in bulk, but ennobles those that he has wished to be small. In the end, through these intervals from Earth to the Sun, from Sun to Saturn, from Saturn to the fixed stars, we may learn gradually to ascend toward recognizing the immensity of divine power. Kepler was hardly alone among heliocentrists in his views. He could not be. The case for giant stars in a Copernican cosmos was just too compelling. Other heliocentrists shared his view of the sizes of stars, and of their being an illustration of God’s power. Kepler even used the giant stars to argue that the sort of universe advocated by Giordano Bruno—in which the stars were other suns, orbited by other Earths—was not scientifically plausible. No careful astronomer could subscribe to Bruno’s ideas. Basic observations, measurements, and calculations showed that the stars were not suns, and Bruno’s ideas were absurd. Needless to say, geocentrists attacked the giant stars required by heliocentrism as themselves absurd. They saw them as inelegant, a great weakness of the Copernican theory. Geocentrists were unimpressed by heliocentrists invoking God’s power concerning the giant stars; that, said Riccioli, cannot satisfy the more prudent minds. No such weaknesses were to be found in the new hybrid geocentric theory (proposed by the great astronomer Tycho Brahe) that they supported. Tycho's theory was fully compatible with telescopic discoveries. In it, the Earth was orbited by the Moon, the Sun (which in turn was orbited by planets), and the stars. These stars were only a little more distant than, and little larger than, Saturn. The geocentric universe was elegantly compact, with all bodies in it commensurate in size. Thus in 1674 Robert Hooke referred to the star size issue as A grand objection alledged by divers of the great Anti-Copernicans with great vehemency and insulting; amongst which we may reckon [Riccioli], who would fain make the apparent Diameters of the Stars so big, as that the body of the Star should contain the great Orb [Earth’s orbit] many times, which would indeed swell the Stars to a magnitude vastly bigger then the Sun, thereby hoping to make it seem so improbable, as to be rejected by all parties. Is all this not fascinating? Even exciting? Here is a great scientific debate playing out! Even now, you are drawn in, wondering how the story ends, wondering how the arguments get resolved. Spoiler alert: they did finally get resolved in favor of heliocentrism when Newton came along decades after Galileo. This is a great story of science. It happens to be true; and as so often is the case, the truth is more interesting than the myth. This story can be found in the published writings of Riccioli, Dechales, Kepler, and others. One just has to know Latin, be familiar with the science being discussed, and have access to a large library of rare, 400 year-old books. Thanks to the digitization of many rare books, and to the internet, access is no longer a hurdle. That is why you are reading this now. This story also happens to be good for science, at a time when, thanks in large part to that same internet, the sorts of people who claim to know the Truth that the Establishment is suppressing are having an impact, once unimaginable, at science’s expense. Note that, in this story of the Copernican Revolution, machinations of the powerful Establishment play no leading role. This story of the Copernican Revolution does not provide much of a mantle for the crackpot or pseudoscientist to grasp when claiming that “They” are suppressing the truth. The real story of the Copernican Revolution is worth telling, not only because it is more interesting than the myth and better for science, but simply because it is true. This a story that needs to be told.  Not until the latter part of the 17th century would astronomers start to publish evidence that the appearance of stars, even when seen through a telescope, might be entirely spurious. In fact, the diffraction of light waves through the telescope’s aperture creates the globe-like appearance, greatly inflating the apparent sizes of stars (This is called the “Airy disk”). A full understanding of diffraction and the wave nature of light was not developed until the early 19th century.  It was realized in the time of Kepler and Galileo that in heliocentric theories the Earth’s motion around the Sun should cause annual variations in the appearance of the stars. One such effect is called “annual parallax.” Such an effect had not been observed (and would not be, until the early 19th century). The answer that Copernicus proposed for this lack of parallax was that the stars were so distant that Earth’s annual motion was insignificant compared to the distance to the stars. In geocentric models, by contrast, the Earth is assumed to be motionless and so no annual parallax is expected, and therefore the stars do not have to be assumed to be so far away. Consequently, in geocentric theories the stars could be assumed to be of a more “reasonable” size.