Thursday, January 9, 2020

“Why destroy their faith?”: What the Asian woman said to Pope Francis before he slapped her

Everyone has seen the video. On January 1st an Asian Catholic woman got hold of Pope Francis’ hand and made a desperate plea. The Holy Father did not appreciate his hand being yanked, and began slapping her hand to free himself.

The Catholic world immediately fell into a tussle adjudicating this event. Who was in the wrong—the Holy Father (who has since apologized for his impatience) or the zealous woman who wanted so desperately to communicate with him?

My own take is that both were in the wrong. And that the pope’s security detail was remiss. But this is not what concerns me here. Because for me, an American Catholic living in Asia, something has been glaringly missing from this story from the start. Namely: What was the woman’s plea?

Indeed, why has the Western Catholic press shown itself more or less indifferent to what this woman was saying? If the same thing happened with a Western man speaking unclearly, and the pope ended by slapping him, I believe a key part of the story would be finding out what the man’s message was. There would have been serious attempts from the start to interpret the man’s words. But with this Asian Catholic woman, hardly anyone is interested.

And let’s face it. The question is answerable. The audio recording is not that bad. To go by the woman’s demeanor, tone and body language, it is clear she is distraught. She is making a plea, and knows her behavior is confrontational. With so much Catholic academic expertise spread across the globe, we should be able to interpret her words, no?

I’ve spent some time on this, and may have partly solved the mystery. Some background: I’m a Mandarin speaker, with long experience listening to Chinese speakers’ communication in both English and Chinese. So I recognized right away that the woman is not speaking Chinese. She’s also not speaking Cantonese, the main language of Hong Kong. I’ve also verified with a Japanese linguist that it’s not Japanese, and (more or less) verified that it’s not Korean either.

In the end I concluded, and most others agree, that the woman is speaking heavily accented English. As is typical for many whose native language is Chinese, she’s not very clear on the consonants. Which presents the main challenge. But after listening repeatedly to various versions of the audio, some slowed down, I think I may have the basics.

And so: The woman crosses herself in preparation. Then she sees that the pope is turning away and will not in fact greet her. She seizes his hand and says:

Why destroy their faith? Why destroy the Chinese? [Look for] the Chinese [feelings]. [Talk] to me!

I’ve put the words I’m least confident of in brackets. And yes, it is very hard to follow her. Here is a link courtesy of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf with the audio at various speeds.

Why does this plea make sense? There are two levels. First, the dire situation of the Chinese Church.

Many Chinese Catholics, who have long remained faithful to our popes in defiance of communist authorities, have been thrown into despair over the Vatican’s recent “secret deal” with Beijing. They feel they’ve been thrown under the bus so that the Vatican can make diplomatic headway with Beijing, and they see this new Vatican diplomacy as part of a misguided and un-Catholic attempt to make the Church into something like a semi-religious United Nations. Perhaps the most serious spokesperson for China’s Catholics, Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen, fully agrees with this Catholic critique. Deeply hurt by Pope Francis’ policy toward China and by the personal rebuffs he has received, Cardinal Zen has just recently reached out to other cardinals.

Myself, as a China watcher and Catholic, I also have been horrified by the details of the Vatican’s pandering to China’s communists. Consider the seriously under-reported story of Francis’ envoy kowtowing to the human rights atrocity that is China’s organ harvesting business.

So the woman’s plea makes sense in this context of Vatican relations with China’s Catholics.

But what about linguistically? This is the second element that needs explaining.

Of course it is very common for those who haven’t mastered a second language to use phraseology typical of their native language. In this case, the English words spoken by the woman would seem strange to English speakers, but would reflect usages in Chinese. It’s what we call “Chinglish”.

Does my interpretation of her English speech match up with what a Chinese speaker might think/say in Chinese? I believe it does, more or less.

Here, again, is my transcription:

Why destroy their faith? Why destroy the Chinese? Look for the Chinese feelings. Talk to me!

And here is the Chinese that this English might represent:


I will go through the elements, sparing you as much as possible the actual Chinese.

1) “Why destroy their faith?” This seems self-evident. Yes, a betrayal from the pope himself—namely the very authority in whom generations of Chinese Catholics put their faith—becomes a serious reason for despair in the Church itself. Many Chinese Catholics now feel: “The pope is perversely siding with the communist authorities we have resisted for decades in the pope’s name!”

2) And of course “Why destroy the Chinese?” would imply: “Why allow the Chinese Church to be destroyed by communist goons? Why not show as much love for faithful Chinese Catholics as you show for faithful Western, Latin American, European Catholics?”

3) “Look for … feelings.”: There are many expressions in Chinese which use a verbal formula similar to look for as roughly equivalent to search out or go and research. As regards “feelings” in this usage, a Chinese speaker would understand it as equivalent to what people really think. A common verbal formula in Chinese 覺得 means equally feel and think. Finally, in an authoritarian culture like that of China, there is a a lot of distance between What one says in public and What one feels/thinks. So the woman would mean something like: “Go and study Chinese Catholics’ deep thinking/feelings about what you have done!”

(But wait. Did I say “authoritarian”? Under Xi, China is quickly approaching totalitarian.)

3) “Talk to me!” At this point, the pope was already walking away. So it could of course be a call for him to return and engage in the conversation. But one meaning of the literal expression “Talk to me!” in Chinese is something like “Explain yourself!” Which is why in my tentative Chinese I’ve translated her words in that direction. Yes, there’s an extra syllable in her English phrase, which may make some think she is not saying “Talk to me!” but “Talk-a to me!” or “Talking to me!” On this question, note that it’s characteristic of Chinese speakers with rough English to add a vocalic sound to ending consonants. This is because Chinese words never end on hard consonants. (As an example, many Chinese speakers will pronounce my name “Eric” as something closer to “Erica”.)

That’s my best shot at making sense of this desperate woman’s words if indeed she is speaking English. I do think she is, and I do think I’m pretty clear on at least parts of her message. Yes, I may be proven wrong, but so far nobody has identified another language, and no other feasible English transcription has appeared.

As a Catholic living in Taiwan, a free and democratic nation of 23.5 million people repeatedly threatened by Beijing, I am especially troubled over the fate now faced by fellow Catholics in China. And I remain worried about Taiwan’s security and depressed by the prospect that the this pope may ultimately cut diplomatic ties with our flourishing Taiwanese democracy in order to pay respects to the brutal dictators in Beijing.

It is a deeply troubling time for the Church. If you are Catholic, I ask you to pray for China’s Catholics, who are facing some of the worst of it.

Eric Mader

Have some deadpan with your coffee. My Idiocy, Ltd. is now in print. Dryest humor in the west.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Surprise: Vatican Publishes New Lavender-Scented Bible Study

So far the Vatican's new study What Is Man? An Itinerary of Biblical Anthropology sounds like just what you'd expect.

At the request of Pope Francis, the Pontifical Biblical Commission has published a new book on the Bible and its multifaceted portrayal of humanity. To go by the reviews out to date, Pontifical Academy of Selective Obfuscation would be more like it.

Though I haven’t read their study, which is only available in Italian, reviews and translated texts available so far show all the fatal signs of the Lavender Hand. For one, this new effort at a biblical anthropology of course has to drag out the tired old rainbow argument that the crime of Sodom was only in the Sodomites’ "lack of hospitality".

But what, pray tell, is the evidence this was the Sodomites’ only crime? So far, whenever this claim has been advanced by scholars, I’ve mainly noted “We just think it’s best to focus on that” as an argument. That later biblical references to Sodom (a phrase or line here and there) don’t spell out the sexual element in the Sodomites’ offense does not seem all that relevant.

Based on the reports, what seems sorely lacking in this book, again, is a theme saner readers of earlier eras found everywhere in Scripture: the Majesty of God.

As one review points out:

The scholars also looked at the treatment of homosexuality in the Scriptures, noting that "the Bible does not speak of the erotic inclination toward a person of the same sex, but only of homosexual acts. And those are treated only in a few texts, which are different from one another in literary genre and importance."

Notice that? Our Vatican scholars have to insist that the Bible doesn’t speak of “the [homosexual] erotic inclination”. They’re somehow eager to quibble about “inclinations”, or at least open the door wide to those who do nothing but.

But honestly, what do “inclinations” matter? Of course we humans are inclined to sin. That is a given in the biblical understanding of man; it is almost obsessively repeated in text after text. For actual Christian readers, the Bible’s lack of “analysis” of homosexual inclinations is not really a lack. The biblical authors, inspired by the Spirit, understand that “inclination” is no excuse for our sinful acts. It does not enter into the equation of what man owes to God. The Majesty of God has rejected the act of sodomy as anathema. If one is “inclined” to it, so what? That inclination is to be rejected. Period. Scripture’s “lack of analysis” of the inclination behind this sin is by no means a loophole through which you can march with your rainbow flags.

Inclination is an excuse for none of us. Myself, at the pub, I note a slightly drunken woman flirting with me, and she's my type. I’m certainly inclined to take her up on her flirting and leave with her. The inclination is there; it is fully “grounded in the human person,” as our scholars might say. Nonetheless, I know I am to reject this inclination, as contrary to God’s command. For me to engage in special pleading in this instance, as Pope Francis’ Vatican clearly wants to do with sodomy, would be to offend against the Majesty of God in the clarity of His revelation in Scripture. It would to put a secular liberal understanding of self in place of the Christian understanding.

And this is fundamental. Even to raise these issues of inclination in a Vatican study of biblical anthropology demonstrates that these men, Pontifical Commission or not, are post-Christian in their basic impulses. After poring over the whole of Scripture, they can’t even recognize its main theme: God’s Majesty. God’s Majesty as pre-eminent over any excuse-making we might get up to. God’s Majesty as declaring: No, you are not to defile yourself by sexual relations with others of your sex. God’s Majesty declaring that sodomy is, like idolatry, bestiality, human sacrifice, infanticide, an abomination.

“The contribution of science and the reflection of moral theologians,” which the writers claim are needed to further “investigate” homosexuality, are in fact not needed in the least. God’s will has been revealed through the Spirit. Sodomy, according to Scripture, is an abomination. Only men who have no respect for the Majesty of God would dare quibble.

Which is why I say, again: The Pontifical Biblical Commission seems to have become part of the post-Christian West. In any case, at least according to what we’ve seen so far, faithful Catholics would be wise to ignore their “new book”.


Steve Skojec at 1P5 reviews some of the discussion so far.

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Dear Catholics: On China and Demons in High Places

This is for all of you to ponder. It is not for the faint of heart. It concerns our Church and China.

First, it is known by medical and human rights authorities that China’s communist regime harvests organs from prisoners of conscience (arrested Uighurs, Falun Gong practitioners, Christians) in order to sell them to wealthy foreigners seeking transplants. The numbers are staggering, the profits are huge, and reports indicate that organs are often harvested from bound, live prisoners.

In recent years, China has claimed that such practices have ended, but those claims have been proven false by researchers in the US, France, and elsewhere. In a Forbes piece from last month, another new study is cited that found that “claims of reform are being supported by the ‘systematic falsification and manipulation of official organ transplant datasets in China.’” (Read the whole piece to get some idea of the nature of the coverup and how the datasets were debunked.)

The fact is that medical authorities across the globe know China’s horrific harvesting continues apace. Which is no surprise. The practice manages to terrorize religious believers in China even as it nets the perpetrators around $1 billion a year.

Now look what our current Church leadership is doing. Look what this Vatican official, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, was doing last week. From an article in the Global Times:

Pope Francis has love and confidence in China and China trusts Pope Francis, said a Vatican bishop during a conference held in China, noting that the next step for the two countries is to establish diplomatic relations, which is at the center of the Pope's heart.

Speaking at an organ donation and transplantation conference held in Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan Province over the weekend, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences said “Pope Francis has love and confidence in China; and China trusts Pope Francis.”

A Vatican bishop deigns to grace a Chinese “organ donation and transplantation” conference with his official presence.

I’m sorry, but this is demonic. There is no other word for it.

That the Vatican seeks relations with China is one thing. That our Church’s leadership would agree to give face to China for this “conference” is despicable. Even secular medical authorities from secular democratic nations would not appear at such a gruesome, utterly fake PR event.

How can our Church be involved in this?

There are many faithful Catholics who feel things are amiss, but would rather not look closely. If you are one such, I promise you, the more you research the men that have been promoted to the top by our current pope, the more you study their "theological" positions and goals, the more horrified you will become. (Bishop Sanchez Sorondo in 2018: “At this moment, the Chinese are the ones implementing Catholic social teaching best.”)

If Sanchez Sorondo's words last week are correct, it looks like our wise Argentines in the Vatican also intend eventually to cut long-standing diplomatic relations with democratic Taiwan in order to join forces with Xi’s China. Cardinal Zen in Hong Kong is right to be near despair over the betrayal of China’s Catholics.

Bishop Sanchez Sorondo in Kunming, China

If you have the stomach for it, I offer you another, more “tactile” article on what our Vatican bishop is cheerleading, from The New York Post: here.

Myself I am in mourning over the Church I joined five years ago. It is being led to very bad places, on many fronts—in its slow, carefully orchestrated betrayal of Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality; in its embrace of paganism at the last “Amazon Synod”; in the nonstop promotion of precisely those men who seek nothing so much as to abandon Catholic doctrine; in this gruesome appeasement of communist China.

How are we Catholics to understand this ongoing chaos and disorder in our Church, that Church against which “the gates of Hell shall not prevail”?

I often suspect this current apostasy in our leaders is divine punishment for the Church’s many recent betrayals both of the faithful and of her mission (all the victims of clergy sexual abuse, all the coverups, all the relativism that grew out of Vatican II). If this reading is correct, what we are witnessing in Rome is akin to the punishment of Israel and Judah for their own apostasies, those betrayals bewailed by the Prophets, and which ended with the destruction of the two kingdoms. Israel and Judah too were given “blind” leaders, leaders who led them to ruin, because the people had for too long blinded themselves to God’s law.

Pray for Pope Francis? I would say rather: Pray that Pope Francis. Pray that God change his heart. Pray that our pope begin to uphold Church teaching. Pray that he recognize the clear evils that have crept in under his watch, and usually with his blessing.

And yes: Pray for Holy Mother Church. She will ultimately triumph.

And please: As a Catholic living in Asia, I ask you to pray for the Church in China. She has been betrayed by Rome. The many faithful there, who well understand what kind of regime they live under, remain in shock at this betrayal and the actions of men like Sanchez Sorondo. They sorely need your prayers.

Kyrie eleison.

Eric Mader

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Clowns and Idolaters: Last Month

Saturday afternoon, Oct. 26, 2019, the final day of the "Amazon Synod". The Pachamama idol surrounded by candles in the middle of Traspontina Church near the Vatican.


Fall finally arrives in Taipei. I wake up as if from a long fever.


Face it. Clowns have been getting a bad rap for a while. But with two installments of IT on the racks, and now Joker, it's pretty much game over for the clown as a dopey fellow who's fun to have at your kid's birthday party.

Are you listening, McDonald's?


A fashionable young woman stands next to me on the subway. I didn’t notice that five or six strands of her long black hair were caught in the strap of my shoulder bag, and as I’d stepped a few inches away from her, I began pulling her hair with the strap. But here’s the thing: She is mesmerized by her cell phone, and feeling her hair pulled, doesn’t even look to see who, or why, but merely leans her head toward the pull, eyes still glued on the tiny screen.

I stood a moment taking it in. She only turned to look when I began to untangle her hair from my bag. It was my stop.


I am not good enough to be a Catholic, and neither is the pope. The way we each lack the necessary goodness differs. My lack is the usual badness—sloth combined with selfishness; an undeveloped prayer life; fits of anger, etc. I do however believe Catholic teaching is true. As for this pope, it gets harder and harder to believe he believes.


As a child, for some reason, I got in the habit of writing most of the numerals from the bottom up. My teachers never corrected me, so I continued. I've now been writing numbers this way for nearly half a century. Sometimes people notice."Hey! What--? ... Write that again!"

This year I finally began writing the number 8 from the top down. But I persist in writing 2, 3, and 5 from the bottom up. And will.


St. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again?” (4:28)

* * *

My novel A Taipei Mutt is now in second edition. More bark, more bite.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

NBA to Change Name to CCBAA

LeBron "the Educated" James

In an effort to encourage its most important fan base, the National Basketball Association (NBA) will change its name to the CCBAA, effective beginning 2020. The league’s board of directors voted on the name change in a closed meeting Tuesday.

Announcement of the new name, which stands for “Communist Chinese Basketball Association in America,” was given a thumbs up by NBA star player LeBron James, who said the name would show the American league's appreciation for the enormous wads of money Chinese fans spend on overpriced shoes and jerseys and other dumb shit, like watching LeBron play.

“I think it’s a good change,” LeBron said. “I mean, if you is educated, you knows that nationalism is bad. And our old name had national in it. So that’s nationalism. The new name is neutral. Nobody gets hurt.”

Golden State Warriors Coach and Political Philosopher Steve Kerr also came out in favor of the new name.

“In China there are no guns, which are a human rights violation,” Kerr said. “There’s also no Constitution or freedom of assembly, which is good. These things only cause unrest in the streets and interrupt important games or damage shops that sell NBA products. The new name CCBAA will better represent our values.”

An online survey of American NBA fans found that most didn’t mind the name change, while 11% could find China on a map.

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Amazon Synod, 635 BC

The word of the Lord spoken through the prophet Jeremiah to apostate Israel and Judah:

Have you not brought this upon yourself
     by forsaking the Lord your God,
     while he led you in the way?
What then do you gain by going to Egypt,
     to drink the waters of the Nile?
Or what do you gain by going to Assyria,
     to drink the waters of the Euphrates?
Your wickedness will punish you,
     and your apostasies will convict you.
Know and see that it is evil and bitter
     for you to forsake the Lord your God;
     the fear of me is not in you,
     says the Lord of Hosts.

As a thief is shamed when caught,
     so the house of Israel shall be shamed—
they, their kings, their officials,
     their priests, and their prophets,
     who say to a tree, “You are my father”,
     and to a stone, “You gave me birth.”
For they have turned their back to me,
     and not their faces.

How lightly you gad about,
     changing your ways!
You shall be put to shame by Egypt,
     as you were put to shame by Assyria.
From there also you will come away
     with your hands and your head;
for the Lord has rejected those
     in whom you trust,
     and you will not prosper through them.

—Jeremiah 2:17-19; 26-27; 36-37 (7th c. BC)

Just change the rivers: Nile and Euphrates to Amazon. The “tree” and the “stone” are the same; the "gadding about" and the paganism, the same. It was and is apostasy.

The fear of the Lord is not in them. It has not been for some time.


Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Using Greta: Aussie Feminist Version

Guess this must be LIBERAL MEDIA FAIL #984,261. From an Australian site, regarding Greta Thunberg:

She doesn’t dress to attract men. She doesn’t charm or flirt or giggle or pout. She has a death stare. She is angry. She is here to say something, whether people want to hear it or not.

She’s challenging the power of middle-aged white men, and it upsets and threatens them. They’re used to giving their opinions and being listened to and being respected. They don’t quite understand where she’s appeared from and why she’s talking like she’s an equal, and they don’t like it.

Uh-huh. Where to start?

First, notice how this Australian journalist has projected her own insecurities and lame feminist persecution complex onto this 16-year-old girl. It’s pathetic. It’s laughable. I’d blush for her if I had any blushes left for these people. I don’t.

Second, as a middle-aged white man, allow me to point out a few things:

1) “She doesn’t dress to attract men. She doesn’t charm or flirt…”

I don’t care and didn’t notice how this girl Greta dresses. Quite differently from left-liberals, I don’t really like to see sexualized, flirty teens. For me, hypersexed kids are symptomatic of a failing civilization. Left-liberals like this Aussie writer and her friends are “sex positive”, which means they want to teach 3rd-graders how to use condoms and sex toys. Not me.

2) “middle-aged white men … it upsets and threatens them.”

Huh? Rather than feeling threatened by this girl, I feel SORRY for her. If she is smart, and she may well be, when she grows up she'll likely resent how her attention-starved parents and the media have used her. Until then, I feel it is Greta, and the millions of poor kids fed the climate hysteria she’s been fed, that are under psychological threat.

3) “[middle-aged white men are] used to giving their opinions and being listened to and being respected.”

I don’t “give opinions”. Instead I make arguments. I leave “giving opinions” to liberal Aussie writers and people like the ladies who appear on The View--i.e. people who assume that when they open their mouth worthwhile ideas come out SIMPLY BECAUSE THEIR MOUTH IS MOVING.

4) “They don’t quite understand where she’s appeared from…”

Come again? We know exactly where Greta has appeared from and why a microphone has been propped in front of her. We know and we are not mystified and we are not especially impressed.

5)—AND THIS ONE IS KEY— “They don’t understand … why she’s talking like she’s an equal.”

Sorry, but no 16-year-old can talk as an equal to educated adults. That this Aussie opinionator believe Greta is somehow an intellectual equal to adults only proves she herself has never grown up. If my own 16-year-old self were to appear from the past and begin lecturing me, now 53, I would rightly tell my 16-year-old self to take a hike. I’d say: “Listen. If you study hard, when you’re 22 you MIGHT have some interesting ideas. But even those ideas, by age 35 you’ll have dropped most of them. Unless you’re a nitwit. As for now, keep studying. You’re in no position to lecture your elders. There’s just far too much you don’t yet understand. Oh, and take out the garbage.”

I’d say this same thing to a boy or girl, black or white or Latino or Asian.

When is this plague of liberal blather going to end? What kind of moron publishes dreck like the above-quoted editorial?

Her name is Helen Vnuk. She’s a contributor on “News and Parenting”, of all things, for the Australian journal MamaMia. For shame.


Have some deadpan with your coffee. Check out Idiocy, Ltd. Dryest humor in the west.