Lettergate and the Limits of Prediction

The controversy over ‘Lettergate’ is an indicative one, wherein the Vatican Secretariat for Communication, Msgr. Dario Vigano (who has since been demoted, sort of, to third-in-command at said Curia) distorted the views of Pope Emeritus Benedict in his comments on a collection of Pope Francis’ ‘theology’, a compendium of theological works that have shaped the Pontiff. Even part of Pope Benedict’s letter were physically blurred out, so that no one could read the former pontiff’s clarifications, that he intended not to read the volumes, was critical of one anti-papal theologian in the collection, all in general putting his remarks into context.

Poor Pope Benedict; no wonder he wants to keep silent.

Embarrassing, yes, and even scandalous . The Church should avoid even the appearance of duplicity and connivance, in ‘blurring’ the truth in any way.  Let our yes be yes, and our no be no, for only the truth will set us free.

On a related note, while we’re on theological fake news, one diocese has apparently doctored a photo of a seminarian in a cassock, to make it look like he is wearing jeans, to attract, one might think, more seminarians. Not the way to go, one might also think. Young men can wear jeans anywhere, and need not enter a seminary to do so. Cassocks, on the other hand, look rather odd on anyone except priests, and future priests, and are quite fitting indeed.

Oh, how I long for the relatively clear and limpid days of yesteryear, and feel like re-writing the Beatles’ ballad on the day before today, when all our troubles seemed so far away.

And what of the oxymoron of artificial intelligence, especially the fiction of autonomous driving vehicles? No car can really ‘drive itself’, for reasons I discussed last year, and may re-post.  The Uber car that killed a pedestrian crossing the road the other day was unaware it had done so. No guilt. No repercussions. It just did not ‘see’ her, but then, the camera and sensors do not really ‘see’ anyway; they just respond inexorably and algorithmically to data. Reality is far too complex, multi-varied and changing to be left to algorithms, for something will always escape, go wrong, gang aft agley, as Burns wrote, which might be roughly translated from the auld Scotch as ‘get real ugly’

Then again, something also goes wrong with humans, but we can at least blame them for their lack of awareness, or outright stupidity. At the very least, their intellect can shift according to the shifting of reality, can make judgement calls, can, in a word, adapt, even transcend the ‘algorithm’ of the moment; they are not inexorable, proceeding ahead even if it makes little sense. At least most of the time.  Thing can again gang aft agley. The Austin bomber, who killed three people and injured a number more in apparently random attacks, the other day blew himself up as police closed in on his vehicle. He was ‘young, white, unemployed’ and, as the headlines like to add, homeschooled.  We know not his motives, but this is, again, a scandal.

Let us not pile up on those educated within the home, almost all of whom quite well adjusted, more religious and virtuous, and usually far better educated than their public school counterparts. God rest his soul and those of his victims, for even the best of things can go wrong, and liberum arbitrium, that whole ‘free will’ thing, will be a mystery until the end of time.

A blessed Passiontide to all.