Archive for October, 2013


It is axiomatic in physics that opposite charges attract one another and like charges repel. If a human analog were in operation, then one would expect the extreme left wing and the extreme right wing in the Church to be hopelessly in love. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the disdain approaches rabid levels between the two. As is so often the case, the laws of nature are very much in force, though the appearance may suggest otherwise.

It isn’t that the extreme left and extreme right of the Catholic Church are different. It is the case that they are exactly alike. They are characterized by deep suspicion, hostility, anger, resentment, paranoia, disrespect for authority unless it reflects the image they behold in the mirror, arrogant usurpation of papal authority and prerogative, and a closed-mindedness that would make a jihadi proud.

It seems that the underlying spiritual and psychological pathology is exactly the same and that the outward manifestation is simply a preferred script: hyper-liberal or hyper-conservative— both of which are anarchy in drag.

Pride on parade.

Enter Pope Francis, who succeeds a Pope Benedict reviled on the left and even in the center for his reaching out to the SSPX, allowing priests to say mass in latin without seeking permission, and creating personal prelatures for Anglicans swimming the Tiber. For many on the extreme right, not even that was enough. Now comes the Jesuit pope from impoverished South America, giving voice to the social justice issues also espoused by Pope John Paul II, who moved the South-American clergy away from the Marxist liberation theology to a more centrist approach, condemning the excesses of capitalism and socialism in the process. Where John Paul was ignored on this, Francis has indicated that he will not be.

Many in the middle to right-of-center were so enthused by John Paul’s head-on clash with the culture of death that they tolerated his admonitions regarding social justice issues championed by the left. When Francis said that issues of homosexuality, abortion, fornication, etc… need not be mentioned all the time, pro-lifers became apoplectic. Those further to the right became near suicidal, and sales of Prozac jumped 30%.

When the pope then declared in his interview with the atheist, Scalfari, that youth unemployment and the loneliness of the elderly were the biggest issues facing the Church today, Americans who are right-of-center were stunned, then outraged, then disgusted. He obviously doesn’t get the issues here in the Northern Hemisphere, they say. There may be some truth in that.

However, the virulence of the reaction to Francis indicates what I have long maintained; The plight of the Church below the equator remains largely beyond the care or concern of most in the decadent north. So, how does one discern this pope’s perspective? Could it be that there is an ascending order of priorities, and that Francis has tapped into something causal that we cannot see here in America? Is there an underlying pathology that gives rise to the culture of death, a pathology we may not have considered before? That so many here on the right would respond so vehemently to the pope’s prism of social justice ought to be chilling upon reflection.

Perhaps the scriptures speak to these questions. Isaiah 58 comes to mind:

1 Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins.

2 They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God.

3 “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers.

4 Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high!

5 Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

6 This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;

7 Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.

8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;

10 If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday;

11 Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.

12 The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; “Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you, “Restorer of ruined homesteads.”

13 If you hold back your foot on the sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the sabbath a delight, and the LORD’S holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice–

14 Then you shall delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

This pope is a dangerous man, moreso than John Paul II. Whereas John Paul emerged from behind the Iron Curtain and cheered us with his efforts to bring down communism and his work at the restoration of traditional morality, Francis emerges from a different sort of tyranny. He brings with him a different set of challenges. For those of us who are married, pro-life, anti-culture of death, he is going to rattle our cage. What we are doing is not enough if it doesn’t involve the corporal works of mercy.


Enter the Rabbi.

Jesus spoke often of the corporal works of mercy, and tells us in Matthew 25 that we will be judged according to how well we saw Him in the least of our brothers. He tells us through John the Apostle that we cannot love the God whom we cannot see if we do not love the brother whom we can see.

He also assured His Apostles that He would send the Holy Spirit, who would lead THEM to all truth. It is vital to check who Jesus’ audience was when He spoke. It was at the Ascension that He gave the Apostles the power to forgive and to bind sin. It was at that same moment when He assured them of the Holy Spirit leading them to all truth. Now the question is whether we believe that the Holy Spirit guided the election of Francis.

That is a very big question indeed. I believe that the Holy Spirit blew through that conclave in a mighty way.

In denouncing Francis, we risk committing idolatry by placing such a premium on the portion of the Gospel we excel at following that we are willing to disparage the one whom Jesus has chosen as His Vicar on earth. Pride has created more spiritual idolators, worshipers of their own predilections, than the IRS and golf combined have created liars.

In dangerous and uncertain times we do especially well to avoid the pride so manifest on the extreme wings of the Church and allow ourselves to be led to all truth through the mechanism established by God Himself. The Summae are not the Summit.

I have no doubt that Francis will take us even higher, if we have the courage and humility to follow.

John Michael Talbot wrote a beautiful and powerful adaptation of Is. 58/Matt 25

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Cracked Eggs

Groucho Marx used to tell of a man who went to see a psychiatrist:

So you see, doctor, the problem is that my brother thinks he’s a chicken.

Well, have you told him he’s not a chicken?


Why not?

Because we need the eggs!

As the implosion of Western Civilization accelerates, the once unthinkable becomes part of mainstream medicine. In truth a book could be written on the mainstreaming of human perversion, and if such a book were to be written one its darkest chapters would be the transgendering of children with gender dysphoria. From the Daily Mail comes the story of an eleven-year old boy, adopted son of lesbian parents, who began transitioning hormonally to a “female” at age eight. Read the stomach-churning story here.

There are several dimensions of the story that are noteworthy, and while the lesbian angle could be further explored, there are doubtless many lesbian couples who would never countenance what this couple has done. That’s worth stressing at the outset, as the real villains in all of this are the psychologists and physicians at four hospitals in the U.S. who perform this mutilation of children. From the story:

San Francisco, right by Berkeley, is one of four cities in the United States with a hospital that has a program for transgender children. The University of California San Francisco is home to the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health. Children are seen at length by mental health professionals and then treated by pediatric endocrinologists. Others cities with youth programs are Boston, Seattle and Los Angeles.

Four hospitals that have specialty centers for mutilating children!

If that sounds surprising, it really shouldn’t be. It is the natural result of abandoning the idea that there is such a thing as natural moral law, objective truth, and clear limits to human behavior. It is the result of the American academy being filled to overflowing with radical professors who profess such nonsense in order to sell their perversions as serious scholarly work.

It is the result of so much more that anything less than a book would be to trivialize a very complex phenomenon, and yet it all boils down to something very simple:

Our doctors, the ones who spent four years in college, four years in medical school, four years of internship and residency training, two years of post-doctoral fellowship training, fourteen years of adulthood in training in all, are the ones who have caved. They look upon seriously deluded human beings and make comfortable livings playing along with their delusional pathology. The mental health professionals who have neither the time nor the inclination to engage the long-term work of healing the individuals who believe they are “really” the opposite gender locked in the wrong body sign off on a process that then leads to chemical mutilation at the hands of endocrinologists and surgical mutilation after that. The results are ghastly.

Reports indicate a suicide rate for transgendered individuals that stands at a staggering 41%. Many in the LGBT community attribute those numbers to discrimination and harassment in society. Another brother who needs the eggs.

What is considered harassment? Heterosexuals who don’t want transgendered individuals sharing rest rooms with them? Are women to blame when they don’t want a mutilated and deluded male in a dress sharing their rest rooms? Must all of society be forced to play along? Consider that in the city of San Francisco, such surgery is a part of employee medical benefits. Not only must the mentally and morally healthy surrender their private spaces, but must also pay for the mutilations in group health plans. Worse, the city will now pay for transgender surgery for all uninsured residents. The moral indignation of the rest of society gets the blame for the suicide rate in transgendered patients.

And what of protecting our children in all of this? From CBS News:

California on Monday became the first state to enshrine certain rights for transgender kindergarten-through-12th grade students in state law, requiring public schools to allow those students access to whichever restroom and locker room they want.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he had signed AB1266, which also will allow transgender students to choose whether they want to play boys’ or girls’ sports. The new law gives students the right “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities” based on their self-perception and regardless of their birth gender.

Supporters said it will help reduce bullying and discrimination against transgender students. It comes as the families of transgender students have been waging local battles with school districts across the country over what restrooms and locker rooms their children can use, disagreements that have sometimes landed in court.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU of California were among the bill’s supporters. Detractors, including some Republican lawmakers, said allowing students of one gender to use facilities intended for the other could invade the other students’ privacy…

…Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute, criticized the Legislature and governor for spreading “San Francisco values” throughout the state.

“The answer is not to force something this radical on every single grade in California,” she said.

She said the new law does not require students to prove they have a gender-identity issue, but rather requires school administrators to rely on students’ opinions of themselves. England also noted that there is no accurate way to gauge the effect of such policies because no uniform data on student or parent complaints is being collected. She predicted school districts will face lawsuits from parents of other children who feel their rights have been violated by the new law.

And so it goes. The forced “socialization” of our children as they are taught that reality is what anyone else on the fringes says it is, and the majority have no rights, that healthy revulsion is bigotry.

To be certain, it’s a complicated issue, and gender dysphoria is a many-tentacled monster. For a great insight by a man who had gender reassignment surgery and then reclaimed his male identity, and for his links to studies that indicate the failure rate in post-operative patient satisfaction, click here.

For now, we need to come to grips with the fact that four medical centers in our nation specialize in the short-term mutilation of gender-dysphoric children rather than long-term therapy for the most troubled of our little ones, that our schools are catering to the delusional thinking as well.

It’s a deadly game of dress-up for the patient, facilitated by clinicians and politicians who need the eggs.

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This post needs to be read within the context of two preceding posts:

Pope Francis: Rupture vs. Change

Pope Francis: Ongoing Fallout (Part I)

Building on what has been said in the first two posts, we continue with the fallout from the pope’s interview with atheist publisher Eugenio Scalfari.

If the pope’s refusal to take the bait on preaching specific moral norms didn’t make many tear their hair out in anger, then this little nugget has caused a near-revolt in certain quarters:

Pope Francis told me: “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don’t even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”

No mention of war, hunger, divorce, abortion, cohabitation, fornication, the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, gay marriage, etc… Now, if this isn’t the definition of the shallow, liberal, social worker, anti-magisterial Jesuit priest, what is? Right?!


Once again, Francis nails it, and consider for a moment that this blog for the past four years has not dealt with youth unemployment or the loneliness of the elderly. I have consecrated my doctorate to advancing the Culture of Life as articulated by Pope John Paul II. How then to reconcile this blog, my ministry, and my agreement with Pope Francis? The answer lies in the Broken Windows Theory utilized by New York’s former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani.

Simply stated, if a community tolerates broken windows and graffiti it will soon become afflicted with all manner of serious crimes. What we communicate by permitting defacing the facade of that which should be beautiful and noble is that we will tolerate assaults on all that is beautiful and noble within. Prosecuting and not tolerating the seemingly lesser crimes serves to prevent far more corrosive actions from ever occurring. Giuliani proved it worked, and converted one of the most dangerous and blighted cities in the world into one of the safest and cleanest cities in the world.

It is much the same with Francis’ broken windows. When through neglect we assault the beauty of our elderly, tearing at the great dignity that is their due, when we ignore the needs of our young, we break the windows of the House of God, allowing the winds of despair to blow through freely, and despair is what drives all of the issues this blog tackles which Francis didn’t mention. Despair blows in the rot that disintegrates the Church from within.

He is driving at root causes, and again, I invoke the seven years (’83-’90) in the 1980’s that I spent working at Covenant House in Times Square. I saw more prostitution among children, more drug addiction, more violence, more abortion, more despair than I really care to remember. When children feel that they have no hope for their future, no means of employment, no loving and mentoring adults in their lives, they become easy prey. And before Covenant House, I worked a weekend job (’80-’83) at a nursing home on Staten Island as an orderly, bathing, feeding, dressing, and changing the diapers of old men. Most of our nursing homes are great dumping grounds, warehouses for the elderly cast aside in their age and infirmity with no visitors, save an infrequent hour here and there from their many children and grandchildren.

One could argue rightly that this or that particular child rebelled against good parents, or this or that old person in the nursing home alienated their children through cruel and thoughtless parenting, and I’ve seen plenty of that to know that it’s true. However, Francis is pointing to phenomena that have become universal. They are phenomena perpetuated and tolerated by those of us who occupy that middle ground between youth and old age. His clarion call echoes that of Jesus in Matthew 25 in the Last Judgement:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous 16 will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Note that Jesus doesn’t mention adultery, fornication, abortion, etc. Perhaps neglect of the corporal works of mercy leads to all the rest.

Perhaps Jesus and Francis are both getting at a spiritual version of broken windows. We can more easily tolerate war and its deprivations when the plight of the elderly, the homeless, the unemployed, the hopeless have become part of the normal background of our lives. If this sounds like some liberal ’70’s screed, it isn’t. The anger at this pope reveals the truly revolutionary effect Francis is having on the Church here in North America.

We have labored for over forty years under a false dichotomy of social justice and the corporal works of mercy. The anarchists (they really aren’t liberal) within the Church got caught up in Marxist and socialist theory and brought that into their view of ecclesiology. They took up several great social justice causes, such as workers’ rights (which Pope Leo XIII did as well), and women’s rights, and succeeded in contaminating them with the radioactive fallout of their hostility toward the Magisterium. Traditionalists took up the banner of the life issues (which are also social justice issues). Thus, social justice was artificially divided and the issues used as pawns in a proxy war between the traditionalists and the anarchists, with more moderate people of good will caught in the crossfire.

However, as Jesus points out in the criteria by which He will judge us, those issues had better be our issues while we have life and breath. If they aren’t our issues in life, they most certainly will be for eternity. Therefore, we on the orthodox side of the aisle need to reclaim those issues we have let slip away from us in the wake of Vatican II. That will necessitate a reintegration and recalibration of our own worldview and ecclesiastical worldview. This is the direction Francis has been leading in. At first, it will seem strange, as though seeing the world from within the opposition’s encampment, and that would be an accurate assessment. We are being led into the opposition’s encampment precisely because we need to heal and unify the Church, and because the opposition has nurtured that which we let slip away.

Imagine, common ground.

If we resist Francis every step of the way, then we usurp that role, that authority, that charism that belongs to Peter. If Francis says we don’t need to discuss matters of abortion, etc. all the time, he is right. I and others spend a great deal of time on these issues professionally because someone has to. That doesn’t leave too much time for the other great issues of the day, and I leave those issues to people who have been called to that work. (Also, the absolute number of unemployed young and cast-aside elderly eclipses the number of abortions, etc in dramatic fashion). However, in my own time I do make sure that I engage in all of those other issues championed on the left. They were very much the center of my life as a young man, and remain near to my heart. We can only do so much in a day, and each of us is called to specific tasks. This is true.

However, we need to stop throwing rocks at the pope who points out the Church’s broken windows.

For the sake of our own souls, we need to stop it now.

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Casting a Net Irrawaddy

The blows continue raining down on Francis over his interview with an atheist, and with an intense scorn that is simply breathtaking. This may take a few posts to cover in its entirety, but here goes…

In my last post I defended Francis:

He. Is. Peter.

This pope has barely begun to cast his net and he’s being derided over his every move. Take for example how he addressed questions pertaining to the need for adherence to universal moral norms:

I repeat it here. Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.


There is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor,Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good.


I repeat it here. Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them.

While this is hardly the stuff of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, whose mighty intellects rampaged across the Catholic landscape for more than three decades, this is a wily pastor who is skillful at the art of evangelization. His interviewer was laying traps, looking for the canned theological answer to destroy the pope on his own ground. Instead, the Holy Father laid a scriptural trap of his own. As Paul tells us in Romans 2:

All who sin outside the law will also perish without reference to it, and all who sin under the law will be judged in accordance with it.

For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified.

For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law.

They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend themon the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus.

But why not just launch into an eloquent papal missive? One word:


Evangelizing is not the same as catechizing, not one bit. Evangelizing requires building a relationship characterized by mutual respect and trust. Telling the sinner that he is a filthy mess might be clinically accurate, but the approach leaves much to be desired. Evangelization is most effective when we lead people to see the hand of God already at work within them, the law of God already writ large on their hearts, hearts that often are very responsive at an intuitive level to the demands of charity. They are, however, often wounded deeply.

One day in spiritual direction Fr. Benedict Groeschel and I were discussing atheists and he offered me the following. “I’ve never met an atheist that didn’t suffer a major wound with his father.” That rang true from my experience as well. So here is this man, this atheist in Rome, sitting with the Holy Father. What most impressed him? From the Washington Post:

In what is quickly becoming classic Pope Francis, the back story of the interview was dramatically simple. The leader of the largest church in the world apparently picked up the phone and called Scalfari, founder of La Repubblica, who had requested an interview.

“Why so surprised?” the pope asked Scalfari (after being patched through by a shaky secretary at the newspaper). “You wrote me a letter asking to meet me in person. I had the same wish, so I’m calling to fix an appointment. Let me look at my diary: I can’t do Wednesday, nor Monday; would Tuesday suit you?”

After they set the time, Scalfari said he wasn’t sure how to end the call and asked for an embrace by phone. “Of course, a hug from me too,” the pope told him. “Then we will do it in person, goodbye.”

That’s the stuff of evangelization. The simple, humble, loving gesture that leaves the wounded open to receiving love from the evangelist, and along with that love, the message of their true worth, their real dignity. Yes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Pius XII and Paul VI all spoke powerfully about human dignity, but Francis whispers that message softly, maintaining continuity with all who have gone before on the throne of Peter.

We won’t hear him clearly if we don’t stop this incessant carping about his style. He isn’t John Paul or Benedict, and he never will be. They explicated the issues, but we must translate them into a language that those in darkness can readily understand. We must understand that the atheist cannot digest red theological meat, and must be developed over time. And here is the real genius of the interview.

Francis is showing us how to evangelize the atheists and agnostics in this interview with this one man, without using him as a foil. In that moment, sitting with that man, the Holy Father answered the interviewer’s questions which arise from his life experiences. He was in that moment, with that man as though that man were the only one in the world. In so doing, Francis was the Vicar of Christ on Earth, Christ truly present to an old man scarred by war and its aftermath. An old man who melted when the Pope hugged him over the phone. A hug from not just any father, but the Holy Father.

This is the face of the New Evangelization.

In Part II, are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old really the greatest evils today? Click here.

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“That’s not what he really meant to say…”

These are increasingly common words spoken on behalf of Pope Francis.

Increasingly, Catholic bloggers are having to compile montages of quotes to show the strain of orthodox continuity in the Pope’s interviews. For many traditionalists, it is the frightful spectre of a Jesuit pope ascending the throne of Peter just in time to undo all of the damage control and growth wrought by John Paul and Benedict in the wake of Vatican II. Now, many fear, we stand to lose all that has been set aright. In this, many speak openly and disparigingly of the new pope, contempt dripping in a manner not unlike the leftists in their assessment of John Paul and Benedict.

Right or left, orthodox or progressive, it is all a manifestation of the same underlying spiritual illness…


Are we only to submit to papal authority when the mood, or mode suits us? Do we place stylistic predilection over our duty to respect and obedience to legitimate episcopal and papal authority? Is our faith on the orthodox side of the aisle so fragile that we get a case of the vapors at the least departure from our preferred norm? To be certain, this pope is dangerous. His style is that of…


He reaches out to sinners and dines with them.

He gives interviews to atheists.

He eschews the pomp and splendor that is his due for something very, very different.

He accords women unusual influence for his day.

He has reached beyond the broad parameters carved out by John Paul II, and has been warning us that great change is on the way.

In all of this, we must never, ever, EVER lose sight of this most central reality:

He. Is. Peter.

Unless the day comes where he breaks with defined teaching, he will have my respect and obedience, and I will keep any transient dyspeptic moments to myself.

Yes, there is great potential for misunderstanding when he speaks off the cuff, but ultimately, little room for harm. Those whose faith is well-informed and rock-solid cannot be rattled.

Those who ridiculed John Paul and Benedict may hear him when the truth is spoken in a different way. At worst, they will simply look for any justification to persist in their unbelief.

Those who are weak will need us to be Francis’ defenders, to explicate his teaching and show its continuity with all that has gone before. It is the Parable of the Sower.

Change is coming with this pope, much needed change. He comes from those people below the equator who have been largely invisible to us in the faithless north. He speaks for them, and from their experience of the Church. He was elected to effect the changes that Benedict saw as necessary, but was too infirm to effect.

The coin of the realm in all of this will be faith and obedience, especially from those of us who revere John Paul and Benedict, who count ourselves the orthodox backbone of the Church. This is no time for that backbone to become arthritic.

Francis is going to need every one of us.

I’m with Peter.

UPDATE: Ongoing Fallout from the interview analyzed here in Part I.

Read Part II here.

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