Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ponzi Scheme

If I told you that true reality is that I could make you rich, young, immortal, famous, a genius, and capable of superhuman powers, what would you say? Awsome!  Do it! or Bull Sh!t.  Right? You'd probably (hopefully) say I was crazy, delusional, irrational or a liar. Would you even consider I could actually do this?  If so, I've also got some beachfront property in Arizona for ya!

Studies show that religious people can be happier people.  But, wouldn't you be happier if you thought some delusionally wonderful spiel? Tell me, if you really thought that you won the lottery, or were given a free awesome vacation, redeemable in a short while, wouldn't you be happier in the meantime? What if you came to the conclusion that it was all a big lie? You'd be pissed or at least a bit disappointed.  Now, what if you gave time, energy, savings, relationships for the lie? You'd be even angrier. Welcome to the ex-christian perspective.

Yes, believers can appear to be happier than non-believers.  But if that believer comes to realize that "all things DON'T work together for the good," or that "there ISN'T a reason for everything," or that when you die there won't be a heaven, it can be upsetting that you bought a bill of goods for so long.

The whole thing really is a Ponzi Scheme.  It was started long ago and continues on.  What is the benefit? The belief that all will be ok, that if we just believe - that God's got our back. But the dividends we receive are a portion of the very energy we put in.  Yes, good things can come.  But typically it's because we are putting good efforts.  Religious people are encouraged to choose to be hopeful, give to others, build relationships, forgive, believe in themselves.  Why?  Because Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, Whoeva, says we should. Well, newsflash, these things can be done on their own merit, aside from someone saying so. These things are goods in themselves, regardless of doctrine and supernatural posterings.

How do Madoff's victims feel? What if they chose to believe in the face of all the evidence? What if they were told that they must have faith in the face of all odds to receive their return? What if they were told that one day people will come and tell them that it is all a lie, but they must still believe. They must still give their money, or else they will loose it all. They must hold out till the end to receive their crown of victory. Sound familiar?

Oh sweet ignorant bliss in the face of all obvious b.s.


Matthew Malicki said...

The difficulty with religion (particularly Christianity) and the reason some people abandon its practice is, I think, because they never actually fully entered into it. I know many Catholics, for instance, who have left the Church but never actually believed, for instance, in some core Christian teaching (most probably because they were not taught better by their parents, catechist etc. or they themselves never fully invested themselves in the pursuit of truth for its own sake. Perhaps they do that 20 years down the line but, by then, Catholicism has, in their mind, already been "evaluated" because after all "I was raised Catholic - I know what it's all about.") In other words, they settled and didn't realize it.

Meanwhile, tremendous suffering comes to their life (often through their own fault or the fault of those close to them that they ought not to be close to i.e. unhealthy relationship) and they perhaps turn to religion for solace and solutions at the behest of some friend only to find out that religion, (Catholicism in this case), doesn't take their suffering away. It actually confirms it! Yes, there is consolation but there is still suffering!

I'd be interested to learn your particular story. Did you go through a process of study and came to the conclusion that "This can't be true?" I'd love to hear more!


AJL said...

Hey Matt, thanks for reading.

Most of my story can be found under a link at the top that says "the breakdown of my Christian faith" or something. Can't remember exactly what I called it.

I definitely embraced the full life. I knew it well. The goods and the bads. Read the that post and let me know if you have more questions. I am happy to share.

fRED said...


I am a reader of this blog, a former RC, now seeker/sojourner/agnostic/whatever, etc. I am responding to your comment because I see from your Profile that you have immersed yourself in a RC education and have aspirations for the priesthood.

I am certain that your comment was well intended and you are unaware of the pain and frustration inflicted by the positions you mentioned. I presume that you are rather young – 20s is my guess.

I agree in general with your observation about the ignorance of many on what it means to be RC. However, the implication that I perceive from your first paragraph is that either better education (catechism) or better effort could prevent separation from the RC Church. The implication is that the full truth was not CONsidered when the choice was made; I disagree.

While there are a myriad of reasons why people leave the RC church, my experience has been that any ignorance has kept them in the church LONGER than if they had more information.

From where you are now, you have years of RC culture influencing your mind. You obviously have CONformed your positions sufficiently to be on the road to priesthood. However, if you could wipe the slate clean and start from a purely objective perspective (w/o any previous influences) I suspect you would come to a different CONclusion about RC and Christianity. Try to imagine that you don’t know anything about Christianity or RC-ism and CONtemplate what it would take to convince you to become a RC/Christian.

Your 2nd paragraph alludes to a popular attraction to become Christian: an abundant life, that your Joy may be fulfilled, etc. As you indicate (also AJL but for different reasons) such reasoning is flawed and deficient.

One of the most horrible characteristics of Christianity (and especially RC-ism) is to blame the person for their suffering. You say that religion doesn’t take away suffering but only CONfirms it. If so, why would anyone want to be attracted to it? The answer is because of the con: CONform and surrender to Jesus now and you might end up enjoying a heavenly afterlife (but read the fine print [e.g., RCC] first-there are lots of waivers and exceptions that many are unaware of). The alternative is to suffer horribly FOREVER. Some choice! Only a Loving God could offer that (NOT).

I agree with AJL-RC/Christianity is a CON game. If you examine it objectively I am sure you will come to the same CONclusion. One does not need to subscribe to the Jesus-CON in order to love “God” and their neighbor.

Matthew Malicki said...

fRED -

You said I "am certain that your comment was well intended and you are unaware of the pain and frustration inflicted by the positions you mentioned"

Not sure what you mean. Also, why do you keep capitalizing the letters "CON" before certain words?
Accusing someone of being part of a CON religion isn't a very effective way of getting them to listen to your perspective, wouldn't you agree? Are you trying to be offensive?


I read your story and am interested in hearing more! So you grew up Baptist you said, then your parents got divorced (I was very sorry to read that..) and soon your life took a bad turn and you then embraced Christian faith which was a far cry better than the loneliness you had felt, then you liked a Catholic guy (loved the honesty) and decided to read up on the Catholic thing and after several years of honest effort you're not satisfied!

Please offer a correction in there if need be.

Would you say you were a full on 110% orthodox, daily Mass, stayin after Holy Communion for a thanksgiving, going to adoration whenever you could, lovin the Rosary kind of Catholic (that's kind of the image I get when I think of Franciscan U. lol I went there for a year, loved it!) Like, can you elaborate more on how you lived your Catholic faith?

Also, you mentioned the cenaclo community you were a part of, is this the same community which helps recovering substance abusers? Or a different one?


Anonymous said...


I will write more later, but wow... just wow... to be honest I am disappointed... You know I have suffered greatly in my life and well....

I guess my only thought is from a professor I had in grad school... It is never going to go perfect for warm soft bodies to work with cold hard facts... The Church is no different...

I believe you never had a true love affair with Jesus because if you did you would never leave Him... That is the prob with Steuby types I have met over the years who say they are "full in." They may be doing all the outward signs, but have no true relationship with Christ.

And that my friend is why you are lost.... IMHO


fRED said...

I am quite impressed with the arrogance of those who even suggest that those who chose to leave Christianity did so because they really didn't try hard enough, didn't give 110% or slag through the tedious rituals that they suggest Jesus requires of his lovers. I guess I missed those parts in the Gospels.

Jesus claims to be the Good Shepard who came to seek and save the lost. Jesus picked the Twelve-they didn't come to him. And when the going got tough, they bailed, denied him, and hid. And even when they heard reports that Jesus had been resurrected, they still doubted. So why do you get down on any one who becomes skeptical?

Love is supposed to be a big part of Christianity but so many so called Christians are just poseurs who think they are so righteous because they belong to the club. Well, your uppity attitude is one thing that clued me in that something was not right about being a Christian. When I took a close look, I saw that it was all a facade. I didn't see any Joy, the love glow of being with Jesus. Mostly I saw suffering and ignorance and sadness. No thank you!

I wish I had found out sooner so that I had not wasted so many years of my life chained to the yoke of RC-ism. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees.

Bill S said...

Great article and interesting comments. There is an enticing sense of joy that draws people to Catholicism. I have experience that joy and then the utter disappointment of realizing it is all a bunch of bs. The disappointment has made me depressed and my devout wife thinks that I am lost. She thinks Satan has control over me when all it really is is disappointment and anger at having been led down a path that is a dead end.

AJL said...

Hey Matt, Yes I was full in. All the things you mentioned. Yes. The whole thing. Yes, Communita Cenacolo, is the one who is for drug addicts. I loved it (and hated it:). It's hard, but I learned a lot. I am very good friends with the couple that runs the houses in America. You can hear some of my original Christian music I wrote under the songs post. It's not that I "read up" on the Catholic thing. I WAS the Catholic thing. I lived it completely! I was satisfied for a very long time. My story tells what happened along the way to make me finally come to the conclusion that although it is a beautiful story, it's just not true. More questions? I am Totally fine to answer. That is why this blog is here, to share my experience.

AJL said...

Bill, SO sorry to hear your wife thinks that way. My husband did too for a while. A lot of communication and respect has come a long way for us.

Ted, is this Ted like "Ted and AnneMarie"? If so, we can talk more over the phone. I am very OFFENDED that you would suggest I had no "relationship" with Christ. I find that the HEIGHT of arrogance to suggest you have ANY insight into my private prayer life.

As I told my mother recently, "I had the most Loving, comforting, influencing, devoted, spiritual, REALISTIC relationship one can have with a delusion." I LOVED Jesus completely. The HARDEST thing I ever did was admit to myself he wasn't real. Period. I don't care who you are, you have NO right to claim otherwise. It's the truth.

People will believe whatever they want to get by. To face the scariness of life is tough. Having an all-knowing friend to help you out is a consolation. I cannot deny that. But, it doesn't make it real.

Matt, one more thing. As I have said in other posts, there are very REAL goods that come from religion. Check those out if you wish.

Matthew Malicki said...

The question that comes to my mind at this point is why is it that many people - tremendously intelligent, educated, knowing perhaps all the things you know about religion - would not be moved by your reasonings against belief in Christ?

What, for you, was the decisive factor or were there many?

Newman might say that, for him, there was not just one thing that convinced him of the truth of Catholicism but rather many convincing and converging points which, taken together, add up to too much evidence to rationally deny Catholicism's validity (this is a man who did NOT want to become Catholic and fought it tooth in nail but, in the end, he had to admit in all intellectual honesty "this is the truth." His autobiography "Apologia Pro Vita Sua" is a great read if you're interested.)

Or why can anti theistic philosophers like Antony Flew be led to accept the existence of a Supreme Being based on reason?

We can imagine many examples of people from all walks of life, I'm sure you know many yourself.

To put it simply, what do you know that they didn't know? What do you have that they didn't have? If you have something they didn't, are you sure you really have it?

Like Jean Paul Satre (sp?) might say he was very courageous for accepting the "cold hard reality" that there is no God. But, was he really courageous? What did he know/have that say Victor Frankl (cf. Man's Search for Meaning) or Dietrich Von Hildebrand or any educated believer didn't know/have?

What's your secret? How'd you figure it out? :)

(forgive my tongue in cheekness, I'm only doing so to make a point so please receive that as softly as I am in fact offering it!)


AJL said...

Hey Matthew. I appreciate your questions. Here's where I have come. A thousand people believing something based on faith does not make it so. A million, A billion people believing in what they hope is real, does not make it so. It is true, IF it is true.

I do not claim to understand all truths. I do not claim to know for CERTAIN that there is no God. I wish there really were. But, that doesn't make it true. Just because I want to believe.

I think that many great philosophers and thinkers, ministers and priests can cling to faith for one thing - it works for them. In the world of faith and religion, it works. The breakdown happens when we enter the real world.

Like I said to my husband today, "when I began working, I had no real skills. I had a bunch of ideas, and beliefs, but not much real world skill."

The Church tries to prove it's reasonability by "fides et ratio" faith AND reason. I have come to see them as not partners. Reason is opposed to faith. Reason seeks real answers. Faith assumes them.

Oh, how sweet and peaceful assuming we know the knower of all is! "He's got the whole world in his hands."

Look, I do NOT claim to know for sure. Have you heard of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Tea Pot that orbits Mars or something? Basically, the idea goes like this, You don't need to be convinced that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not real or that there is not Orbiting Tea Pot around Mars. Why? Because there is NO rational reason to believe such things. They aren't real.

The only difference with angels, demons, spirits, heaven, hell, and as sad as it is for me still to say, Jesus and Mary, is that a lot of people have bought it for a long time. People used to think the earth was flat. They thought Zeus was real. But ultimately... they aren't. Unless they are... but we have as much evidence for heaven as we have for Zeus.

They are, by all tests that we have, not there.

Richard Dawkins says something I find very compelling. Everyone is an A-Theist in some way. You don't believe in Zeus, Poseidon, Hindu Gods, whatever. Right? Why? Have you really examined them thoroughly? What makes you SO sure your aren't wrong? Because... you basic common sense. Well, Atheists just go one god further. They choose to live and think as if none of them are real.

Read my posts. They will tell you why. I know how strongly you want to believe. I really do.

Have you read any freethought books?

I love Victor Frankl BTW!

Matthew Malicki said...

I know its a lot, please forgive me! but I have to run and dont have time to edit, hopefully there's something here you can use for your journey! again, please know I intend to say all of this with much respect! I know I'm not perfect so if there are flaws please look passed them!)

A couple thoughts on your response (thank you, btw, for your frankness! -no not your Franklness bahaha.... ok moving on lol)

The "real world" you spoke of. Do you mean the typical day to day life that most people live in? Including their preuppositions about life? This I think has to be further examined. Of course the "real world" in the west is way different than in the east, or from the aborigones (sp?) or in backwoods China etc.

The real world, I would say, is what os objectively true. Ok, fair enough. The movie the Matrix I think is helpful in a discussion like this. Really, how many people are unplugged into actual reality? Even among the Billions of Christians, in my view, how many truly live "in the Spirit"? If Islam is correct, wow a lot of people got it wrong there, too! If Hinduism is correct, if Athiesm is correct etc.. But similiar to what you said about something being true, reality is reality simply because that's how it is.

So, if person A's religious views are in fact true (and he has many good reasons for holding them, but they also happen to be true) he is the one in the "real world" and not the rest of the world who live in the ""real world"" (double quote marks haha) So, what I mean is this : what do you mean by the "real world"? I mean St. Paul went out into the real world" and proclaimed the Gospel. He was largely successful, this wasn't a "breakdown" for him. He actually lived his faith. But many Christians don't, they begin to suffer and reject the cross so to speak because they really would prefer a painless existence. i know many who really began to be deeply "unplugged" or detached from the world (spirit of the world) and began to suffer because of this. They did not want to choose Christ because that means His cross, too. So they turned back, convincing themselves it was all a sham which is what a person would have to say in order to relieve themselves of the shame of feeling like a hypocrite. But we're all like this in some way, we compromise or call the truth a lie just so we can have a more comfortable life here. Hopefully as we grow spiritually, we learn to stop compromising and go "all in" like the Saints.

Next, I don't think faith and reason are opposed. Faith goes beyond reason. Do you really think that all that exists ought to be able to be encompassed by our finite use of reason? Children, as they grow, need to trust their parents that certain things are just true even if the child doesn't understand yet. That's faith in the parents' authority. As with God, there are some things that He simply could not possibly explain to us because of our limited minds but He promises that we will see things as He sees them in Heaven i.e. Wisdom (seeing as God sees) Like evil, why is that allowes by an all good God? mysteries we can only be silent before and contemplate them. but, it is eminently reasonable that in the order of creatures, there is inanimate material, then vegatative life, then animal/sensiate life, then man who is a step up with sensiate life and spiritual life (i.e. intellect and will), and if Aristotle through reason could get to a Prime Mover (God) then it makes sense for there to exist purely spiritual beings between that purely spiritual God and man who is a mixture of spiritual and material.

Or Plato, to my remembering, had an idea of a type of Trinity. The Divine Mind expresses itself through its Word and he had an idea of a Pneuma, I believe, a Spirit involved in all of that

Matthew Malicki said...

Anyway, I don't think "the faith" is against reason simply because Revelation claims to be beyond reason. It's reasonable that all the garbage in this world finds its origin in an original disruption of a created harmony. It's reasonable that free will really is real, it's free, and therefore really has the potential for bringing evil and its reasonable that a good God would respect these decisions all the while intending to bring a profoundly higher good out of it. Can I PROVE that by reason? Not completely, but as with Newman, its not just one thing its an avalanche of other evidence which all converge and say "while no piece of evidence alone proves the faith by reason if one takes them all together it would be unreasonable to deny the faith."

Finally, Dawkins idea of everyone being an athiest in someway I find uncompelling because each "god" or belief system is seeking to fill a unique space. one can only consistently accept one of them. to have the truth means an exclusion of all that is false. so it's not necessary to investigate all the rest of the claimants to the title of "god." "well that's not fair, you didn't give the other belief systems a chance! you have to investigate them, too! what if hinduism or islam are the true religion or even the roman pantheon!?" i would say, not so, because once the intellect has seen the truth it can't NOT see it. it can deny that it sees it or it may not have ever actually seen it, but most likely, if someone who once saw 2 +2 = 4 and now they say "no, no one knows what 2 +2 =" well, that person may feel very very sincere but it doesn't change the fact that what they once "saw" is still seeable - they just are denying it.

The conscience may be utterly convinced, in other words, that it is living in integrity if it says" I no longer am sure that God exists" but it didn't just wake up one day and boom, radical change. no, there was a serious of events (maybe sins, maybe difficult arguments, maybe selfishness, intellectual pride, whatever) that, like water drops over time eroded the consciences ability to see clearly. so, while the conscience is indeed still acting, it doesn't have 20/20 vision.

Hence, why every child of God needs their Father to tell them what's really true. We may all (though probably many people aren't always acting in good will) try to act according to what our conscience really is seeing, but one conscience sees nature is god,, another conscience sees there is no god, another conscience sees Islam is true, another may have almost totally destroyed their conscience through sinful/inhuman acts, while another says "God, I know I can't possibly see, I know I'm blind. I simply beg you, and won't stop begging you, to show me what is the Truth." Because only a humble child can learn anything from its Father. If we're not like that we have no hope of ever seeing the Kingdom of Heaven - already among us and in our midst the whole time - because we'll remain blind by our own self will and "I'll do it myself."

We beg from the bottom of our heart for light and must be willing to follow wherever it leads - even if its back home after we've run away!

AJL said...

Hi Matt,

You're obviously in love with the faith right now. I know, I've been there. One thing I think is so clear is how many mental backflips are needed to accept a particular religion once our reason starts to question it.

It's happened since the dawn. We humans want to understand so badly. It's in our genes. I agree that I do not think our minds need to be able to actually comprehend something for it to be true. But I also don't think we get to make stuff up.

Matt, there are many others who are much more eloquent than I. If you are interested in these things for your sake, I encourage you to check out some online sources.

I always thought that it must all make sense and that I am just not getting it right because I am sinful, or imperfect. But, finally I can to accept that, yes, I am not perfect, but that doesn't make this stuff true.

I really want to respond to all of your thoughts, but I don't have time right now.

Just know, I really and truly, with all respect possible, think it's bologna. It really is a fairy tale. It really is NOT REAL.

By the real world, I mean real. Things you can see, touch, feel, test. Things based on evidence. Reality. What it is. What is REAL. if we can't come to conclusion on what is actually real, as in real, and what is imaginary or hoped, than.... we've seriously got problems. And I think we do.

Peace to you!

AJL said...

Quick thought,

your 2 + 2 analogy. That is the difference in science and reason vs. faith. If in science someone were to prove and be able to reproduce evidence that 2+2 really is something other than 4, then scientists would ACCEPT that. The problem with faith is that even when reality shows us that certains are VERY PROBABLY not TRUE, we keep trying to believe and just tell ourselves that we must not understand because we are only human.

If your standard is based on anything other than objective reality, how can you know it is true???

Have you heard of the Atheist Experience? It's a call in show and they deal with this a lot. They have tons of videos on youtube. They may seem crude, whatever... it's the arguments that I find compelling.


fRED said...


For someone who is "remaining in silence," you come across as pretty verbose. "Silence is a rhythm too" [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leOVkvGq8hs]. Check it out and pay attention to the words. I'd like to know what you think about it.

Have you ever studied the book by Brother Lawrence, "The Practice of the Presence of God"? [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Practice_of_the_Presence_of_God]. I think you would find it a blessing. Be a living witness is so much more effective than trying to convince others by argumentation.

Remember: each of us has a different soundtrack of our life.


Bill S said...

Once you do become an atheist, it becomes very easy to discern what is real and what is bs. Believers work so hard at justifying their faith and insisting it is compatible with reason. And most of the time it is anything but. Their explanations become sentimental, emotional, convoluted and anything else that they think will work.

AJL said...

completely agree bill

fRED said...

AJL- Thank you for your courage in sharing yourself via this blog. Thank you to all the commentors too who have taken the time to read and respond. Being able to read this blog and know that there are others who have similar views has been a real godsend (pun intended) to my sanity. A wonderful and joyous Thanksgiving to all.

AJL said...

Wow fRED, you are welcome! There are other blogs and news feeds much better than mine I am sure! Have you checked out the links page I put up recently? I really enjoy "The Friendly Atheist" blog. Also there are many at http://freethoughtblogs.com/

Thanks for contributing!

GOLGOTHA said...
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GOLGOTHA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fRED said...

Empty Activities

After seeing a notice in the local paper about upcoming holiday concerts, I checked out the website of the Anglican Church that is promoting these events. I found a lot of social, political, and arts oriented activities along with a standard worship service and children's education. But nothing for adults on faith education, Bible study, prayer, etc.

I also checked out the website for the church I attended during college (they have split from the RC diocese but still consider themselves Catholic). Again, I noticed lots of non-spiritual activities, mostly social service and arts oriented.

Finally, I browsed thru the website of a Catholic Workers group in my area. They apparently do a lot of Dorothy Day type stuff that looks pretty good.

All of the above activities are worthwhile and beneficial and involve loving one's neighbor. With the exception of a worship service, none require actually being a Christian. What does it mean to live a Christian life?

From what I saw this weekend, it would be rather easy for me to slip back into a RC Church or group merely for the social aspects. But that would be phony and hypocritical. I don't think I could stomach the Jesus infatuation filled cliches either.

The Pope's new document is really pissing off a lot of Trad Catholics. Too leftist for them. Ironically, the Left is getting is getting pretty interested in the Pope. Kind of reminds me of the Gospels.

But then we get back to the Jesus part. It's a mystery they say-Just believe. How? Why? How do you love an invisible "friend" that you can't see, can't hear, can't touch? At least when you talk to the wall you can see it and touch it.

Would it be different if I was deaf and dumb and blind? Would surrendering my senses (and my reason) make it easier to love Jesus? And if God/Yahweh is a jealous God, would He come after me if I followed Jesus more than God?

AJL said...

As far as empty activities, I think those things you mentioned are not empty at all. They are what life is all about, working together, relationships, etc. It really does real good. I still am involved with my Catholic friends because at this point they are the only ones I have who really are my friends and homeschool their kids. It's a give and take I think. I saw a saying recently that said, "If you can love the sinner but not the sin, can I hate the belief but not the believer?"


AJL said...

As far as empty activities, I think those things you mentioned are not empty at all. They are what life is all about, working together, relationships, etc. It really does real good. I still am involved with my Catholic friends because at this point they are the only ones I have who really are my friends and homeschool their kids. It's a give and take I think. I saw a saying recently that said, "If you can love the sinner but not the sin, can I hate the belief but not the believer?"


Matthew Malicki said...


Hey AJL! Have you seen this website? Thought you may appreciate it. Might :) haha

fRED said...

This is sort of a general comment rather than a specific reaction to the Ponzi Scheme post and accompanying discussion.

Recently, I listened to (2x) to an MP3 of a radio interview [http://radiowest.kuer.org/post/god-proof] about a new(er) book, "God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet" (June 2013).

What would it mean to prove the existence of God? What would it mean to you if you could?
"God in Proof" tells the story of those who’ve tried.

I listened twice because I found it fascinating and compelling. The author is a young, radical (leftist) RC but one who has a very broad perspective of religion and Christianity. One aspect (apparently) of the book, is the closeness between those who argue for God and those who argue against the existence of God. It sounded like it was non-judgmental and open to searching.

I recommend the podcast/MP3 (see above) to anyone interested in the debate about God. The author's website [http://www.therowboat.com] also has a lot of intriguing articles on the articles page.

Oh, AJL-you might find his political positions of interest. He apparently was quite involved with the "Occupy Wall Street" movement and I would guess that he has some sympathy for Pope Frank's exhortations.