Friday, July 18, 2008

Pathetic RadCathR Feeding Frenzy Over My Defense of Pope St. John Paul II Kissing the Koran / "Calumny in the Blogosphere" (Fr. Orsi)

Some guy who goes by "StevusMagnus" (on a large "traditionalist" / radical Catholic reactionary forum) cited my second defense (see also the first). He was nice enough to at least present some of the actual reasoning in my paper, but alas, not intellectually confident enough to deign to interact with it. Instead it is virtually all mockery from him and his cronies.

Here is is a convenient run-down of insults and epithets thrown my way (I make a few replies, in blue and bracketed):
"Neo-Con Dave Armstrong"

"This man is on drugs. Either that, or he's possessed. It's unbelievable that there are "Catholics" defending apostasy and scandal. Does he have any articles defending the child molesting homosexual priests as well?"

"It's fascinating watching neo-cons contort and twist themselves into unending knots."

"This apologist is clueless about the Catholic faith. No surprise there."

"Quoting David Armstrong about anything is an utter waste of time. He is really "his own thing" even amongst the Neocaths, and he makes Mark Shea look completely sane, which is no small feat. Most Neocaths would do the most sane defense of the late Pontiff's actions, which is just to pretend as if it didn't happen. Sort of like the past fifty years of Church history. Plus, his website is totally unreadable."

"Armstrong? Armstrong? O ya I had a debate with him some years ago. A Protestant convert to the Novus Ordo. They can maintain their Protestant outlook while joining the church."

"That explains it." [i.e., being a convert]

"And of course the most disturbing thing about Mr. Armstrong is how seriously he takes his on-line persona. Many of the things that he writes border on delusions of grandeur, even though a lot of his books are self-published, and he has received no commission from the Church to do what he does. . . . I think that David Armstrong's defense of it is outright embarrassing, and such muddle-headedness should be called what it is."

"If he wants to debate someone who has actually done his homework regarding the Papacy of Pope John Paul II, and why he shouldn't be Canonized or labeled, 'The Great' I suggest he go here, instead of going apoplectic and doing the very things he accuses others of doing(which reminds me: for all his condemnation of the blogosphere,shouldn't he be reminded that he has his own blog? Or, is it just Traditionalist bloggers he has a beef with? Interesting...)"

"St. Augustine was a convert from Paganism. There are great Catholics that converted from other religions including Protestantism. The key word, though, is 'converted'."

"Yes, there are. But my point was that many (I'd be willing to say the majority) modern-day Protestant converts to Catholicism are Neo-Catholics, in my experiences anyway. Just an observation. I'm not saying there are no great Catholics who were once Protestant. I'm just not at all surprised that it turns out a Neo-Cath like Armstrong is a convert from Protestantism. "

"Armstrong's argument defending the kissing of the Koran is filled with rhetoric based on emotion instead of logic. . . . I don't have time to go through the rest of his sophistry. For one thing, it rambles all over the place from argument to argument. It takes the 'throw spaghetti to the wall' approach - give 100 reasons for why it was OK, and maybe one will stick. For another, because he is all over the place, nothing is argued to an obvious conclusion. It's just rambling. . . . I'm surprised a 'Biblical Catholic' like Armstrong doesn't get that. Or, then again, maybe I'm not."

"Well, the biggest problem is that ex-Protestants seem to have brought over the lay apologist. I don't mean someone arguing in the tavern with a Protestant - I mean people who do it for a living, or are so involved they spend as much time as they would if they were doing it for a living. People read their mind-fizzle instead of going to the source documents and the Church's commentary itself. What happens is that they learn the lay apologists opinions on things and think that is what the Church teaches when often it is not. Often times, the Church has no de fide statement on something, and we are allowed to differ in opinion. But these lay apologists often present their (usually erroneous) opinions with an air of authority. Then the cult of personality kicks in for some, and then it's good night, nurse. They have people believing nonsense like Prima Scriptura. We used to have Bishop Sheen, and now we have Hahn and Armstrong. Pre V2, post V2. See the difference?"

[Yes, we also "used" to have G.K. Chesterton: lay apologist and convert. We "used to have Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman: convert, and Ronald Knox: convert, and Malcolm Muggeridge: convert, and Evelyn Waugh: convert, etc., etc., etc. You also had "in the old days" a lay cradle Catholic who was a major apologist: Frank Sheed. There are many key figures in the current apologetics movement who are cradle Catholics (and/or priests): e.g., Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, Fr. Pacwa, Fr. Stravinskas. So, nothing's really changed at all. There were always apologists in all these categories, and always will be]

"If he doesn't understand why people don't interact with his papers, then he should start by looking at his papers and asking himself why they're not engaging."

[I just recently engaged in several excellent dialogues with a mainstream "traditionalist" whose blog has been cited several times in this very thread. He has told me that he'd like to do more in the future, as would I. It is entirely possible, but rare. I have posted over 400 dialogues on my blog (probably close to 500 by now because I stopped counting a while back). Lots of folks are quite willing to dialogue with me. But love for dialogue is a rare thing itself: a phenomenon that has nothing to do with my relative merits or demerits as a debater and lover of constructive dialogue. These guys at Fish Eaters are the ones who don't do dialogues, as is evident in this thread -- where they had every chance to do so intelligently -- and in the fact that they are a bunch of back-slapping yes men. It's an exclusive "country club". No debate occurs because they all agree, pretty much. So it is passing strange for one of them to lecture me about how no one wants to dialogue with me, in light of all these manifest facts. They don't like me. I get that. It doesn't follow that everyone thinks I am the pompous blowhard that these nattering nabobs of negativism think I am. Nor do they even speak for all radical Catholic reactionaries (RadCathRs), let alone legitimate "traditionalists"]

Catholics should reject the premise that they have to defend their choices based on Scripture. When a Protestant says to me, "Where does it say that in Scripture?" I inform them that I reject Sola Scriptura at face value."

[We can defend Catholic views from Scripture -- as harmonious with Scripture -- precisely as the Church fathers always did (usually at first). But when confronted with the notion that all doctrines have to be found only in Scripture, and explicitly so, as the supposedly only infallible source, we reject that in no uncertain terms, and appeal to Tradition and apostolic succession and infallible councils and popes, also precisely as the fathers did. We can assert material sufficiency of Scripture without asserting sola Scriptura. This guy's fallacy is that he doesn't know enough about either thing to know that they are vastly different, epistemologically. He doesn't know what he doesn't know: a quality that is endemic in this thread]

"This is the problem with the Armstrong / Hahn approach."

[Thanks for the compliment of being compared in any way to Scott Hahn]

"They are trying to defend Catholicism through Scripture and in a sense that is often the wrong way to go about it because the end result is someone who still believes Scripture is the final word, and Scripture is only half the story."

[What I do does not presuppose sola Scriptura in the slightest. Protestants don't "own" Scripture, and we can give better arguments from the Bible than they give. I have two entire web pages devoted to scores of lengthy articles explaining all this: one about Bible and Tradition and the other that critiques sola Scriptura. I have a third web page about the Church (ecclesiology), with dozens more articles. I've written far more about this topic than anything else. It would surely come as an astonishing shock -- and an uproariously funny thought -- to my anti-Catholic friends to learn that I allegedly never defend Catholic Tradition. I've written a hundred times more on this question than this nitwit "critic" will ever write in his entire lifetime. Yet he sits there and lectures me about it with a straight face? Marvels never cease . . . see my paper: (((Dialogue on Whether Extensive Use of Biblical Arguments Reduces to a Quasi-Sola Scriptura Position?)))]

"Sola Scriptura is a heresy that is the root of countless other heresies. That mindset cannot exist in someone who is trying to fully embrace the Faith. It has to be left behind completely. The fact that it isn't by some people, the fact that some depend so heavily on Scripture to justify their Catholic faith rather than on Scripture and Tradition, is what in a large part causes the neo-Catholic movement today."

[This person thus proves that he has absolutely no clue what he is talking about. To imply that I and other apologists somehow wink at sola Scriptura, when I am constantly critiquing and refuting and lamenting it is about as dumb a thing as could conceivably be said about my apologetics. This person clearly knows less than nothing about my beliefs and my approach. This is stupider than all of the mere rank insults put together, because it is so anti-factual and utterly opposed to the actual truth of the matter. It's one thing to say in anger or baffled noncomprehension that a man is "possessed"; quite another to say of a baseball player that he knows nothing of running the bases or of a baker that he is completely unfamiliar with flour. The rank insult at least has passion and humorous value . . .]

"Remember, he's the same one who complained about all the insults hurled his way. Someone should ask him, 'Dave, what about your insults'? Hypocrisy, thy name is Dave Armstrong."
The only ray of light in all of this is "PrayforMallory" (Matt): a charitable person who actually was willing to come here and comment:
Of course, I would hope that if he came on this site, and posted, that we would actually answer his objections, and not be insulting the man. He does help the Church in a lot of ways. He's wrong about this and some other issues, though. Part of what made me initially apprehensive about coming over to tradition was that I was worried "trads" wouldn't be very welcoming.
Even Matt, however, does make one absolutely untrue statement about me:
. . . as a convert, I have to say, that a lot of it might be due to them just not knowing about tradition, or having access. . . . I think Mr. Armstrong's problem is that he doesn't want to look at the past 40 years as being in any way flawed.
To the contrary, I have stated for 17 years since I converted, that the modernist crisis is the greatest in the history of the Church, following my mentor, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., who stated this quite a lot. Here are examples from my blog:
All Councils caused upheavals. All Councils caused heretics to willingly remove themselves from the Church or rebel further. The Monophysites left after Chalcedon; the Old Catholics left after Vatican I; Protestant resistance hardened after Trent; the SSPX and kindred RadCathR spirits either leave, or are blatantly disobedient and unCatholic in various ways, after Vatican II. I don't blame the older Councils for the heresies which followed them chronologically; nor do I blame Vatican II for the present crisis. It is the lack of faith and spirit of disobedience and "cafeteria" mentality which characterizes dissidents, heretics, and schismatics on both the left and the right, then and now.

(30 July 1999)

No one I know denies the modernist crisis. I agree with [the late] Fr. [John A.] Hardon [S.J.] that it is the worst crisis in the history of the Church.

(7 October 2003)

Now, it's true that the Church (because of the huge liberal / modernist crisis that we have been dealing with for 50 years or so) was not vigilant enough to prevent practicing homosexuals from becoming ordained priests. But that has been strongly dealt with in the wake of the scandal.

(5 November 2007)

I knew there was a huge crisis of modernism and dissent when I came into the Church. My mentor Fr. John Hardon used to often say that modernism was the greatest crisis in the history of the Church, and the culmination of all heresies, and that we were right in the midst of it. It didn't hinder or stop me at all, because modernism or religious liberalism has not succeeded in changing any Catholic doctrines. . . . A crisis of bad catechesis is not a crisis of dogmatic theology in the Church herself.

Bottom line: liberal theology and disbelief and selective belief and ignorance is a widespread problem afflicting just about all brands of Christianity. The Catholic difference is that this crisis has not been allowed to change any traditional dogma or doctrine of the Church. That's why I am a Catholic: because I want apostolic, traditional, biblical Christianity, passed down pure and undefiled, and unaffected by the whims and fads and fancies of any given age or culture.

(18 February 2008)

I have always held, following my mentor Fr. John A. Hardon. S.J., that modernism is the greatest crisis in the history of the Church. . . . The disagreement comes not as to whether there is a crisis, but on its origins and solutions to the mess]

(13 May 2008)

Because of lousy catechesis (and lack of apologetics) for a generation and the modernist crisis: the greatest in the history of the Church. We differ on the origin and solution to the crisis, and where the problems lie.

(14 May 2008)
Matt also commented:
Of course I believe we're right on this thread. Being an SSPX sympathizer, I'd have to, but I believe we can reach those who disagree. They mean well, and given what goes on in the average Novus Ordo Parish, I frankly think their urge to be as legalistic as possible is admirable, given the circumstances. Unlike a lot of people on threads, he isn't afraid of arguing, and will actually address concerns. He's also an excellent and Orthodox Bible scholar. Ironically, his Biblical approach seems more Thomist than I bet we'd give him credit for. And also to his credit, he does go after leftist dissenters, unlike your average Novus Ordo cleric.

I'm going to try to tradvert him. It sounds like his parish priest is a pretty good priest. I bet he would say the TLM if Mr. Armstrong asked.
No need to. My parish cluster (headed by my pastor, Fr. Mark Borkowski), was the only one in the Detroit area that offered the Tridentine Mass before all were allowed to, and remains one of the few in the new situation since the Motu proprio. My parish, St. Joseph's, offers it once a month, and I attended one about seven weeks ago. Isn't it funny that I have been at such a parish for 17 years, if I am so supposedly "anti-traditional"? Our Pauline Mass (whether in English or Latin) is done impeccably, according to the rubrics all down the line, as I have discussed in recent posts. Also, as I stated several times in dialogue with a friendly "traditionalist," I've always favored universal access to the Tridentine Mass: let people worship as they please. I'm a liturgical conservative, by any measure.

The sort of thing documented above (excepting Matt) is now standard modus operandi on much of the Internet: a herd mentality. Of the first nine persons who responded in this thread (and many more since are also anonymous, with just a few exceptions), not one of them provided his or her real name (I checked all the profiles). Yet they want to insult, safely behind the cloak of anonymity. This is what passes for "discourse" in much of blogland in our sad times. No attempt whatsoever to even understand my reasoning, let alone interact with it and have an adult conversation . . .

Fr. Michael P. Orsi has an excellent and searing article in Homiletic and Pastoral Review (June 2008), entitled "Calumny in the Blogosphere". Here are a few excerpts. Read it; ponder it. It wouldn't apply to most of my readers because we don't engage in such things on my blog, but perhaps you can spread the "news" of this article, and it can start to make somewhat of a difference on the Internet. Every thousand-mile journey starts with the first step:
An especially compelling element of blogging is the ability to project one’s ideas, observations and opinions with near-complete anonymity. It is common blogger practice to adopt an online persona—usually some cute name or title with relevance to the main focus of the blog. . . . the power to reach a wide audience while remaining in the shadows has proven a source of great temptation. All too many online commentators have been dazzled by this technology that magnifies personal identity and stokes the ego while providing a shield from the consequences of their words. Whole new avenues of calumny have been the result. . . .

Others recognize the evil in calumny, but see it as a compromise that must be made for the sake of a noble cause. They hope that by destroying an opponent’s reputation they will de-legitimize the position that opponent represents. . . .

Hiding out in cyberspace provides a certain emotional distance and avoids direct confrontation. This gives calumnious bloggers some distinct advantages over their victims. They can declare someone guilty without evidence, forcing them to defend themselves by having to disprove a negative. And they can be as outlandish and judgmental as they like while remaining shielded from the reactions and reproaches they would encounter in signed commentary or face-to-face debate. This contradicts the two foundational principles of American justice: (1) assumption of innocence until proof of guilt and (2) the right of the accused to face the accuser. But it tends to liberate bloggers from moral constraint by anesthetizing conscience.

There is a certain self-defeating aspect of calumnious blogging. The titillation of malicious gossip and the thrill of tearing down other human beings do have their limits. Insinuations and outrageous charges often provoke counterclaims that are just as wild. Mutual misquoting, distortion, hearsay and condemnation can spiral to heights of ridiculousness that strain credulity and eventually make readers lose interest. Even the element of anonymity can have counterproductive effects, highlighting the Kafkaesque unreality of the “kangaroo court” assembled in cyberspace. Readers can begin to suspect cowardice at work, or even to speculate about the psychological health of a blogger who will only comment from behind the mask of a fictitious name. . . .
I offer the following recommendations about points that should be made regarding blogging:

Pastors should speak on the Eighth Commandment and its corollary injunctions against calumny and detraction.

People should be warned that what they read on blogs is not necessarily true.

Any anonymous blog or unsigned response has the weight of an unsigned letter and so should be quickly dismissed.

A blog that is particularly vicious toward persons can be indicative of psychological illness, or simply an evil person, and is therefore suspect.

Any blog that is unedifying and demeaning to another person should not be read. It is the equivalent of pornography.

Responding to these calumnious blogs, even for defense of the individual or for clarification, only encourages the offender and prolongs the life of the calumny.

Those who suffer calumny on anonymous blogs are, for the most part, better off enduring it. Seeking to correct misrepresentations usually has the effect of keeping controversy alive and adding to its interest value.

While reading such blogs is damaging to its target (since it causes unwarranted negative speculation about another’s character), it also hurts the reader since it causes scandal, sowing pessimism and despondency.

Calumnious blogging is a serious offense against God’s law. Those who engage in it are jeopardizing their immortal souls and the souls of others.

For anyone to make a judgment concerning a person’s character based on what is read on a negative blog is to be a formal cooperator in the evil perpetrated by the blogger.


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