Thursday, July 31, 2008

Women's Head Veils (Mantillas) at Church


[ source ]

The January 2005 issue of This Rock ("Quick Questions") dealt with the issue of veils:
Q: Did the Vatican ever publish a document stating that women are not supposed to wear head veils to church anymore?

A: No. Women are free to wear a head covering to church if they so desire. It’s just not required.

The document Inter Insigniores [ link ] by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (October 15, 1976) stated that the 1917 Code of Canon Law (canon 1262.2) requiring women to wear veils on their heads was a custom of the period and that such ordinances "concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance." Thus the obligation "no longer has a normative value." But, as a sign of respect, women still are required to wear a veil when meeting the pope.
Here is the passage referred to above, from that document:
Another objection is based upon the transitory character that one claims to see today in some of the prescriptions of Saint Paul concerning women, and upon the difficulties that some aspects of his teaching raise in this regard. But it must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on the head (1 Cor 11:2-6); such requirements no longer have a normative value.
Colin B. Donovan, STL, gave a reply on this question at EWTN ("Head Coverings in Church").

The CHNI board had threads on the topic in April 2007 and May 2007.

What little I've said about this in the past amounted to an urging of Catholic women to (by all means) wear a veil if they want to do so, but not to impose any such obligation on others, since the Church does not do so at this time, or act as if they are more obedient or spiritually superior in so doing. Nor should women who don't wear it frown upon those who do (assuming the latter don't exhibit questionable attitudes just described).

I think they're beautiful and graceful-looking myself (particularly ones like that pictured above): like bridal veils. Insofar as the intention is as a sign of modesty and femininity and submission to God, that's great. On the other hand, my wife has never worn one to church. Live and let live. Worship and let worship.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Am I a "Protestantizing" Catholic Now Or Was I Formerly a "Catholicizing" Protestant?

This theme has come up several times. It is becoming almost a mantra: particularly in anti-Catholic Protestant and "traditionalist" Catholic circles (those two groups, oddly enough, often seem to have a great affinity in style, argument, and beliefs). Former Catholic Bill Cork recently enlisted it in a reply to my critique of his reasons for returning to Adventism (and I made a short reply). Anti-Catholic Steve Hays has tried (futilely) to make this case with regard to my own conversion. Scott Hahn (most unjustly) has been a particular target of this charge. Several "traditionalists" tried to make the "argument" in a recent forum thread that lambasted me because I defended Pope John Paul II's ecumenism (see my post in reply).

As a sub-theme, both Bill Cork and this group of "traditionalists" (as well as many anti-Catholics in the past) have claimed in particular that I have adopted a peculiarly Protestant method of quoting Bible proof texts for Catholic positions. They both assume that this is somehow "unCatholic" -- as if Protestants "own" the Bible or the practice of Bible interpretation, or exegesis. This is absurd.

In a delightful turn of events, Hugo Mendez, a former Adventist and now Catholic, basically defended me from this bum rap, in a post about the "war of words" between myself and Bill Cork:
Is Bill keen to suggest that Dave's (arguably, overstretched) reliance upon the Bible to vindicate the Catholic teaching [is] a very Protestant instinct (which requires a verse for every belief)? Or, does Bill['s] quick dichotomy of Bible and Church teaching (where both stand more or less independently) flow from yet another Protestant instinct or caricature? In his own words:
Many Catholic teachings have no other foundation than the Church’s claim to teach with authority: purgatory, Marian dogmas, saints, indulgences, the papacy, etc. These are not Bible doctrines.
In fact, the ancient fathers and theologians of the Catholic Church cited Biblical precedents or bases for all these doctrines. St. Damasus cited Matt 16:18 to defend papal authority sixteen centuries ago; the Latins and Greeks debated the significance of 1 Cor 3:15 to the question of purgatory six centuries ago; Pius IX's definition of the Immaculate Conception explored the meaning of Luke 1:28 two centuries ago, etc. In this light, Catholics have every reason to believe these doctrines have true biblical roots. Moreover, it becomes readily apparent that the PCA converts have pioneered almost none of the arguments they popularly present. (This is my difficulty: trying to distinguish the "rationalistic" arguments allegedly unique to modern Catholic converts from the arguments they have clearly inherited from previous generations. I find few unique contributions in their writings--not to their discredit, but to the credit of so many theologians in centuries past.)

One may dispute the legitimacy of certain textual interpretations used by Catholics. This is fair; I certainly do. Then again, the use of OT texts by the writers of Matthew, Romans, and Hebrews easily qualifies as "eisegetical" by the (perhaps, too) exacting principles of biblical studies today.
"Matt," the one fair-minded, non-insulting person in the recent "traditionalist" hit-piece, er, thread devoted to trashing my name, made a similar comment, referring to me:
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.
I defended myself and my method in my reply:

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. . . . 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.
The truly humorous irony in all this is that, here I am being blasted and pilloried as a supposed quasi-Protestant or some goofy "hybrid" infiltrating the Catholic Church, simply because I use biblical arguments. It is presupposed that because I do so, I must somehow be adopting the Protestant principle of sola Scriptura, which is a completely different thing from mere citation of the Bible and biblical argumentation.

In actual fact, it is these critics who are conflating scriptural argument with sola Scriptura, and in so doing, show themselves to be far more influenced by the distinctively Protestant mindset than I am, or ever have been (since I highly valued Church history and the value, to some extent, of Christian tradition in my thirteen years as a committed evangelical Protestant: with a more or less traditional Anglican or Methodist perspective on Church history: which is precisely why Cardinal Newman was so key in my own conversion).

Yet they pride themselves for being so "unProtestant" and quintessentially Catholic. They have accepted Protestant false dichotomies and ways of thinking, while at the same time falsely accusing others (who know far more about the subject than they do) of doing what they are doing, in the very act of wrongly, densely characterizing others. I've also stated for years that Catholic "traditionalism" often shows the characteristics of selective Protestant private judgment and a liberal Catholic "cafeteria, pick-and-choose" mentality.

Good grief. As I write, there is on the front page of my blog (dated 19 July: just three days ago) a lengthy critique of the Protestant principle of private judgment: closely aligned to sola Scriptura. A similar paper (dated 15 July 2008) just went off my front page, but it's only a week old. I have scores of similar papers, and large portions of several books that are devoted to the same question (e.g., my book on the Church fathers devotes over a hundred pages to it: by far the longest chapter in the book). This criticisms is so wildly off the mark that I wrote about it today:

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. . . . It's . . . quite another [thing] 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.
Understanding the crucial Bible-Tradition-Church-Authority issue is Catholic Apologetics 0101. If I didn't understand that, I wouldn't be known or published at all today, and would have never been on national Catholic apologetic radio shows, talking about it.

On a broader level, per the title of this post, it is foolish to say such a thing about me, once one knows a bit about my past intellectual history. I wrote about this in a reply to Hugo Mendez''s post, referenced above:

You cited Bill Cork:
. . . the rationalistic, forensic style of apologetics that has its roots in the Reformed tradition and that has crept into Catholicism through converts from the fundamentalist Presbyterian Church in America.
The only problem with this, insofar as it is applied by insinuation to me, along with other convert-apologists, is that I was neither fundamentalist nor Presbyterian at any time. I was never a Calvinist. I was an Arminian as a Protestant, and am a Molinist (technically a Congruist) as a Catholic.

Moreover, in apologetics, the dominant style in Presbyterianism is presuppositionalism: something I have never held, and which I have vigorously critiqued, both as a Protestant and as a Catholic.

My own apologetic methodology is largely evidentialist (with, however, many elements from different schools: particularly the analogical reasoning of Cardinal Newman), which hearkens back to Catholicism and St. Thomas (I love, e.g., the cosmological argument and that basically goes back to Aquinas).

So, far from thinking like a Protestant and bringing that into Catholicism with me, it was much more the case that I had been thinking like a Catholic as a Protestant for years, and brought that with me into the Catholic Church. I was thinking more and more "Catholic" for years before actually becoming one.

That is patently obvious if one reads any of the several versions of my conversion story. How odd, then, to be accused of "Protestantizing" Catholicism: which has been a theme from both anti-Catholic Protestants and "traditionalist" Catholics.

That may be true of some few apologists, but not of me.
There you have it, folks. To paraphrase Mark Twain's hilarious comment about a rumor of his death: reports of my still being a Protestant are greatly exaggerated.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Aphorisms From G.K. Chesterton's Book Orthodoxy


Orthodoxy (New York: John Lane Co., 1908; see online version)


The main point here, however, is that this idea of a fundamental alteration in the standard is one of the things that make thought about the past or future simply impossible. (ch. 3)


Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them. (ch. 7)


The man who disliked vestments wore a pair of preposterous trousers. (ch. 6)

Animal Rights

We may eventually be bound not to disturb a man's mind even by argument; not to disturb the sleep of birds even by coughing.

The ultimate apotheosis would appear to be that of a man sitting quite still, nor daring to stir for fear of disturbing a fly, nor to eat for fear of incommoding a microbe. (ch. 7)


Complete anarchy would not merely make it impossible to have any discipline or fidelity; it would also make it impossible to have any fun. (ch. 7)


Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly. (ch. 7)


It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. (ch. 6)


The great and very obvious merit of the English aristocracy is that nobody could possibly take it seriously. (ch. 7)


But the materialist's world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. (ch. 2)

Authority, Religious

But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars. (ch. 3)


This is the intellectual abyss between Buddhism and Christianity; that for the Buddhist or Theosophist personality is the fall of man, for the Christian it is the purpose of God, the whole point of his cosmic idea. (ch. 8)

Celibacy and Virginity

In fact, the whole theory of the Church on virginity might be symbolized in the statement that white is a colour: not merely the absence of a colour. (ch. 6)


Stated baldly, charity certainly means one of two things -- pardoning unpardonable acts, or loving unlovable people. (ch. 6)


If a man says (for instance) that men have a conspiracy against him, you cannot dispute it except by saying that all the men deny that they are conspirators; which is exactly what conspirators would do. (ch. 2)


It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. (ch. 6)


Shakespeare is quite himself; it is only some of his critics who have discovered that he was somebody else. (ch. 2)

Cross, The

But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape. (ch. 2)

Dark Ages

And in history I found that Christianity, so far from belonging to the Dark Ages, was the one path across the Dark Ages that was not dark. (ch. 9)


Darwinism can be used to back up two mad moralities, but it cannot be used to back up a single sane one. (ch. 7)


But even the machinery of voting is profoundly Christian in this practical sense -- that it is an attempt to get at the opinion of those who would be too modest to offer it. (ch. 7)


It is absurd to say that you are especially advancing freedom when you only use free thought to destroy free will.

The determinist makes the theory of causation quite clear, and then finds that he cannot say "if you please" to the housemaid. (ch. 2)


Any one setting out to dispute anything ought always to begin by saying what he does not dispute. (ch. 1)

Dogma (Catholic)

Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground. (ch. 9)


The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. (ch. 2)


If evolution simply means that a positive thing called an ape turned very slowly into a positive thing called a man, then it is stingless for the most orthodox; for a personal God might just as well do things slowly as quickly, especially if, like the Christian God, he were outside time. (ch. 3)

Fairy Tales

The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. (ch. 2)

Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense.

Thus I have said that stories of magic alone can express my sense that life is not only a pleasure but a kind of eccentric privilege. (ch. 4)


If I vow to be faithful I must be cursed when I am unfaithful, or there is no fun in vowing. (ch. 7)


Greek heroes do not grin: but gargoyles do -- because they are Christian. (ch. 7)


But in Christian society we have always thought the gentleman a sort of joke, though I admit that in some great crusades and councils he earned the right to be called a practical joke. (ch. 7)


If our faith comments on government at all, its comment must be this -- that the man should rule who does not think that he can rule. (ch. 7)

Heresies and Heretics

To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom -- that would indeed have been simple.

To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame.

But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect. (ch. 6)


It is impossible without humility to enjoy anything -- even pride. (ch. 3)


I mean that having found the moral atmosphere of the Incarnation to be common sense, I then looked at the established intellectual arguments against the Incarnation and found them to be common nonsense. (ch. 9)

Jesus Christ

Really, if Jesus of Nazareth was not Christ, He must have been Antichrist.

For orthodox theology has specially insisted that Christ was not a being apart from God and man, like an elf, nor yet a being half human and half not, like a centaur, but both things at once and both things thoroughly, very man and very God. (ch. 6)

Judaism and Jews

In the same conversation a free-thinker, a friend of mine, blamed Christianity for despising Jews, and then despised it himself for being Jewish. (ch. 6)

Liberalism (Theological)

Almost every contemporary proposal to bring freedom into the church is simply a proposal to bring tyranny into the world.

It means freeing that peculiar set of dogmas loosely called scientific, dogmas of monism, of pantheism, or of Arianism, or of necessity.

For some inconceivable cause a "broad" or "liberal" clergyman always means a man who wishes at least to diminish the number of miracles; it never means a man who wishes to increase that number. (ch. 8)

Love (of Self)

A man may be said loosely to love himself, but he can hardly fall in love with himself, or, if he does, it must be a monotonous courtship. (ch. 8)


Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze.

The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason. (ch. 2)


Man was a statue of God walking about the garden. (ch. 6)

Man, Common

But there is something psychologically Christian about the idea of seeking for the opinion of the obscure rather than taking the obvious course of accepting the opinion of the prominent. (ch. 7)

Man, Smallness Of

It is quite futile to argue that man is small compared to the cosmos; for man was always small compared to the nearest tree. (ch. 4)


A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside him, that he forgets his own personal life. (ch. 5)


But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. (ch. 2)

But my belief that miracles have happened in human history is not a mystical belief at all; I believe in them upon human evidences as I do in the discovery of America.

The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.

The sceptic always takes one of the two positions; either an ordinary man need not be believed, or an extraordinary event must not be believed. (ch. 9)

Modernism and Modern Man

It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. (ch. 6)

The modern young man will never change his environment; for he will always change his mind. (ch. 7)


To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once. (ch. 4)


Morality did not begin by one man saying to another, "I will not hit you if you do not hit me"; there is no trace of such a transaction. (ch. 5)

Mystery and Mysticism

The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic.

The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. (ch. 2)


There is no equality in nature; also there is no inequality in nature.

The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition: that Nature is our mother.

The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister.

To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved. (ch. 7)


They are, by the nature of the case, the hobbies of a few rich men.

We have a censorship by the press.

The chieftain chosen to be the friend of the people becomes the enemy of the people; the newspaper started to tell the truth now exists to prevent the truth being told. (ch. 7)


A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. (ch. 3)

Optimism and Optimists

Christianity was accused, at one and the same time, of being too optimistic about the universe and of being too pessimistic about the world. (ch. 5)

St. Francis, in praising all good, could be a more shouting optimist than Walt Whitman. (ch. 6)

Original Sin

Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. (ch. 2)

God had written, not so much a poem, but rather a play; a play he had planned as perfect, but which had necessarily been left to human actors and stage-managers, who had since made a great mess of it. (ch. 5)

If we wish to pull down the prosperous oppressor we cannot do it with the new doctrine of human perfectibility; we can do it with the old doctrine of Original Sin.

But Christianity preaches an obviously unattractive idea, such as original sin; but when we wait for its results, they are pathos and brotherhood, and a thunder of laughter and pity; for only with original sin we can at once pity the beggar and distrust the king. (ch. 9)


Here it is enough to notice that if some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness.

There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.

It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic.

The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable.

It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. (ch. 6)

There is only one thing that can never go past a certain point in its alliance with oppression -- and that is orthodoxy. (ch. 8)


There must be some good in the idea of non-resistance, for so many good men seem to enjoy being Quakers. (ch. 6)


The pantheist cannot wonder, for he cannot praise God or praise anything as really distinct from himself. (ch. 8)

Paradox (in Christianity)

The spirits of indignation and of charity took terrible and attractive forms, ranging from that monkish fierceness that scourged like a dog the first and greatest of the Plantagenets, to the sublime pity of St. Catherine, who, in the official shambles, kissed the bloody head of the criminal.

It is not a mixture like russet or purple; it is rather like a shot silk, for a shot silk is always at right angles, and is in the pattern of the cross.

Christianity was like a huge and ragged and romantic rock, which, though it sways on its pedestal at a touch, yet, because its exaggerated excrescences exactly balance each other, is enthroned there for a thousand years. (ch. 6)

Pessimism and Pessimists

The evil of the pessimist is, then, not that he chastises gods and men, but that he does not love what he chastises -- he has not this primary and supernatural loyalty to things. (ch. 5)

Insincere pessimism is a social accomplishment, rather agreeable than otherwise; and fortunately nearly all pessimism is insincere.

And it did for one wild moment cross my mind that, perhaps, those might not be the very best judges of the relation of religion to happiness who, by their own account, had neither one nor the other. (ch. 6)

Just as a microbe might feel proud of spreading a pestilence, so the pessimistic mouse might exult to think that he was renewing in the cat the torture of conscious existence. (ch. 7)


One "settles down" into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness.

It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. (ch. 7)

Progress and “Progressives”

An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another.

What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century. (ch. 5)

Some fall back simply on the clock: they talk as if mere passage through time brought some superiority; so that even a man of the first mental calibre carelessly uses the phrase that human morality is never up to date.

The only intelligible sense that progress or advance can have among men, is that we have a definite vision, and that we wish to make the whole world like that vision.

But it is clear that no political activity can be encouraged by saying that progress is natural and inevitable; that is not a reason for being active, but rather a reason for being lazy. (ch. 7)

Rationality and Reason

It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. (ch. 3)


For mere resignation has neither the gigantic levity of pleasure nor the superb intolerance of pain. (ch. 7)

Revelation (Book of)

And though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators. (ch. 2)

Revolution and Revolutionaries

For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it.

In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines.

By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything. (ch. 3)

Man will sometimes act slowly upon new ideas; but he will only act swiftly upon old ideas.

To the orthodox there must always be a case for revolution; for in the hearts of men God has been put under the feet of Satan.

They are really right to be always suspecting human institutions; they are right not to put their trust in princes nor in any child of man. (ch. 7)

Riches and Rich Men

Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich.

But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest -- if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this -- that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy.

For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable.

The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt.

But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor. (ch. 7)

Scientists and Scientism

He is a sentimentalist in this essential sense, that he is soaked and swept away by mere associations. (ch. 4)

Secularism and Secularists

The secularists have not wrecked divine things; but the secularists have wrecked secular things, if that is any comfort to them. (ch. 8)


In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment. (ch. 7)

Skepticism (Religious) / “Freethinkers”

If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, "Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction?

But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, "I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all."

But the new sceptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn.

As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. (ch. 3)

One rationalist had hardly done calling Christianity a nightmare before another began to call it a fool's paradise.

It looked not so much as if Christianity was bad enough to include any vices, but rather as if any stick was good enough to beat Christianity with.

But if this mass of mad contradictions really existed, quakerish and bloodthirsty, too gorgeous and too thread-bare, austere, yet pandering preposterously to the lust of the eye, the enemy of women and their foolish refuge, a solemn pessimist and a silly optimist, if this evil existed, then there was in this evil something quite supreme and unique.

Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity that is sane and all its critics that are mad -- in various ways. (ch. 6)

Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the Church. (ch. 8)

The sceptic is too credulous; he believes in newspapers or even in encyclopedias.

It is we Christians who accept all actual evidence -- it is you rationalists who refuse actual evidence being constrained to do so by your creed.

The sceptic may truly be said to be topsy-turvy; for his feet are dancing upwards in idle ecstacies, while his brain is in the abyss. (ch. 9)

Spirit of the Age (Zeitgeist)

It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own. (O, ch. 6)


It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life.

A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything. (ch. 5)


I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller. (ch. 4)


It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time.

It is the democracy of the dead. (ch. 4)

I was always rushing out of my architectural study with plans for a new turret only to find it sitting up there in the sunlight, shining, and a thousand years old. (ch. 7)

Transcendence (of God)

By insisting specially on the transcendence of God we get wonder, curiosity, moral and political adventure, righteous indignation -- Christendom. (ch. 8)

Trinity and Trinitarianism

For to us Trinitarians (if I may say it with reverence) -- to us God Himself is a society. (ch. 8)


A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. (ch. 3)

But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts.

The very fact that the things are of different kinds increases the importance of the fact that they all point to one conclusion. (ch. 9)


How can I denounce a man for skinning cats, if he is only now what I may possibly become in drinking a glass of milk? (ch. 7)


Paganism declared that virtue was in a balance; Christianity declared it was in a conflict: the collision of two passions apparently opposite. (ch. 6)


There must be some good in the life of battle, for so many good men have enjoyed being soldiers. (ch. 6)

War (and Christianity)

The very people who reproached Christianity with the meekness and non-resistance of the monasteries were the very people who reproached it also with the violence and valour of the Crusades.

The Quakers (we were told) were the only characteristic Christians; and yet the massacres of Cromwell and Alva were characteristic Christian crimes. (ch. 6)


Exactly as complete free thought involves the doubting of thought itself, so the acceptation of mere "willing" really paralyzes the will.

So he who wills to reject nothing, wills the destruction of will; for will is not only the choice of something, but the rejection of almost everything. (ch. 3)


The same women who are ready to defend their men through thick and thin are (in their personal intercourse with the man) almost morbidly lucid about the thinness of his excuses or the thickness of his head.

A man's friend likes him but leaves him as he is: his wife loves him and is always trying to turn him into somebody else. (ch. 5)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Catholic Sources on Celtic Christianity and a Supposed "Celtic Church" Separate From Rome


Muiredach's Cross, Monasterboice

[ source ]

I don't recall ever having written on Celtic Christianity, myself, though I may have in passing, or have forgotten about something. I used to have some links on my old "England" and/or Anglican web pages (both now defunct), as I recall.

I think a lot of this thought that there was a separate entity: the "Celtic Church" in the British Isles, is essentially similar to the ecclesiological thought of Orthodoxy, and so can sometimes be dealt with in the same fashion, from a Catholic perspective.


"Celtic Coptic Anglicans? A Modern Myth to Dodge the Authority of Rome," Fr. Dwight Longenecker (This Rock, Nov. 2006)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Synod of Whitby" (664)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "The Anglo-Saxon Church"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "The Celtic Rite"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Ancient Diocese and Monastery of Lindisfarne"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "School of Iona"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "The Monastic School of Aran"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Scotland"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Ireland"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Archdiocese of Dublin"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Diocese of Ossory"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Welsh Church"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Glastonbury Abbey"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Diocese of Canterbury"


Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Alban" (d.c. 304)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Ninian" (d.c. 432)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Patrick" (c. 390-c. 460)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Brigid" (c. 452-525)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Brendan" (484-577)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Columba (Columcille)" (521-597)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Baithen of Iona" (536-c. 600)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Canice (Kenneth)" (c. 516-600)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. David" (d.c. 601)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Comgall" (c. 520-602)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Augustine of Canterbury" (d. 604)
"The Mission of St. Augustine of Canterbury to the English," Dr. Ghazwan Butrous.
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Columbanus" (543-615)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Kevin (Coemgen)" (d. 618)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Lawrence" (d. 619)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Mellitus" (d. 624)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Aedan of Ferns" (c. 550-632)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Edwin" (c. 586-633)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Cronan" (d. 640)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Aidan of Lindisfarne" (d. 642)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Oswald" (c. 605-642)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Paulinus" (d. 644)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Finan" (d. 661)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Cedd (Cedda)" (d. 664)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Ronan" (d. 665)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Ceatta (Chad)" (d. 672)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Colman" (c. 605-676)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Caedmon" (d.c. 670-680)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Eata" (d. 686)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Cuthbert" (c. 635-687)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Theodore, Abp. of Canterbury" (c. 602-690)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Adamnan" (c. 624-704)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Wilfrid" (634-709)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Adrian of Canterbury" (d. 710)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "The Venerable Bede" (c. 673-735)
Venerable Bede on the Conversion of England (Medieval Sourcebook)
Venerable Bede on the Synod of Whitby (Britannia Historical Documents)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Boniface (Winfrid)" (d.c. 755)

"Celtic Saints" (Among the Cloud of Irish Witnesses)
"Celtic Saints and the Early Church" (Celtic Twilight)
"Celtic Monasticism: History and Spirituality," Dr. Deborah Vess
"Celtic Church" (Infoplease)
Firth's Celtic Scotland and the Age of the Saints (website)
"Book of Kells" (Wikipedia) (c. 800)
"Anglo-Saxon Saints" (Wikipedia)
"Anglo-Saxon Christianity" (Wikipedia)
"Celtic Christianity" (Wikipedia)
It is easy to exaggerate the cohesiveness of the Celtic Christian communities. Scholars have long recognised that the term “Celtic Church” is simply inappropriate to describe Christianity among Celtic-speaking peoples, since this would imply a notion of unity, or a self-identifying entity, that simply did not exist.[4] As Patrick Wormald explained, “One of the common misconceptions is that there was a ‘Roman Church’ to which the ‘Celtic’ was nationally opposed.”[5] Celtic-speaking areas were part of Latin Christendom as a whole, wherein a significant degree of liturgical and structural variation existed, along with a collective veneration of the Bishop of Rome that was no less intense in Celtic areas.[6]
"Cornish Saints" (Wikipedia)
"Hilda of Whitby" (c. 614-680) (Wikipedia)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Comparative Soteriology: A Handy Chart

John Wesley: death-mask

See note
See note

All these belief-systems accept original sin and sola gratia: absolute necessity of God's grace to be saved and to have the results of the Fall overcome ("total inability"), and deny semi-Pelagianism: the doctrine that man can initiate salvation. Classic Arminians and Lutherans (along with Catholics) are often falsely accused of semi-Pelagianism because they believe in human free will. Lutherans also falsely accuse Catholics of same, in their confessions, because we deny imputed justification, refuse to formally separate justification and sanctification, and assert merit. Arminians and Lutherans posit a fall that is distinct from Catholicism and Calvinism, but closer to the latter. The main difference is that they would deny the notion that even good acts of an unregenerate person are evil, as Luther and Calvin taught. This is the strict definition of "total depravity" and relatively few brands of Christians hold it.









Luther denied this, but Lutheranism decided to follow the thought of Melanchthon and others back to a more Catholic understanding.




Thomist Catholics believe in unconditional election; Molinists and Congruists believe it is conditional only in the limited sense that God takes into account foreseen actions of man by means of Middle Knowledge. Man is still not causing his election even in Molinism and Congruism, because any good thing he does is always enabled by God in the first place. But it is ultimately a mystery why one man chooses to accept grace and another does not, within a paradigm of free will. All views boil down to how one relates God's sovereignty and providence to the free choices and free will of man: one of the most complicated questions in theology.














Some Arminians, such as some Methodists and Anglicans, accept baptismal regeneration.





"Reformed Baptists" practice adult "believer's" baptism; most Calvinists: such as Presbyterians and Reformed, baptize infants. Goups such as Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ; combine baptismal regeneration with a belief in adult baptism. Methodists and Anglicans baptize infants. Pentecostals generally believe in adult baptism.





Calvinists -- except for Reformed Baptists -- speak of sacraments, but in the end, their baptism and communion are mere signs of God's mystical presence, without actually accomplishing anything themselves, which is the usual definition of "sacrament": a physical means to obtain God's grace. Methodist and Anglicans can be sacramental to various degrees; some believe in the Real Presence. Lutherans are highly sacramental, but have only two sacraments. Confirmation for them is sort of "semi-sacramental". Catholicism and Orthodoxy alone retain the seven sacraments of historic Christianity, Sacred Tradition and the Bible.


I am a congruist, myself (a variation or modification of Molinism). Here are some of my papers, along these lines:

Confessional Lutheran, Arminian, and Melanchthonian Soteriology Compared (Are Philip Melanchthon and Arminians Semi-Pelagians?)

Lutheranism vs. Catholicism (Particularly Regarding Original Sin and Faith Alone, and Including Extensive Catholic Commentary on the Book of Concord)

A Primer on Semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism

Did the Council of Trent Teach That Man is Saved By His Own Works?

Soteriology and Creation (Man's Cooperation, Pelagianism, Nature and Grace) (vs. Peter J. Leithart)

1 Corinthians 3:9 and Man's Cooperation With God

Do Catholics Believe in Predestination?

Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart? (Does God Positively Ordain Evil?) (vs. an atheist)

A Dialogue on the Nature of God's Foreknowledge and Sovereignty
(vs. Dr. Alex Pruss)

Dialogue on Molinism (Speculations on How God Predestines) (vs. "JS")

Molinism, Middle Knowledge, and Predestination: Suarez, Congruism, and the Elegantly Ingenious Solution of Fr. William G. Most

Dialogue on Molinism and God's Mode of Predestination (+ Part II | Part III | Part IV) (vs. "JS")

Observations on Arminianism

Catholic Predestination (Ludwig Ott)

The Calvinist Doctrine of Total Depravity and Romans 3:10-11 ("None is Righteous . . . No One Seeks For God"): Reply to James White (+ Discussion)

Fallacious Calvinist Arguments For Total Depravity: Does Romans 1 Apply Universally to Fallen Man?

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.


Former Catholic, Now (Again) Adventist Bill Cork's Bad Reasons For Leaving Catholicism (Redux)

See his article, making reference to my critique of his "deconversion" from Catholicism (see also the blog discussion we had here).

Bill Cork defends himself at length against my observations, but then oddly concludes (with the strangest of logic):
At that time, I chose not to enter into a debate. I still choose not to do so. Because I still do not accept that form of apologetic. I had been posting many articles expressing my doubts before I took the step, and I posted more after the fact–those blog posts I compiled here. These articles aren’t exhaustive, but they document some of the questions I considered. Call them what you will–but I think it a stretch to call them “postmodernist mush.”
I don't. I gave my reasons why at the time. Cork doesn't want to interact with them. That's his choice. But, be that as it may, it is my job as an apologist to show how objections in general, and his particular objections to Catholicism fail, or that (in some cases) they apply to Protestants, too, so that it is a wash.

My articles are never intended only for the one person I am debating or critiquing (frankly I usually wouldn't bother and put in all the effort I do just for one person), but for all my readers. So whether Cork wants to "debate" my critique of his odyssey or not is a matter of little or no concern to me. If he doesn't, fine; if he does, better (because I think it is good for folks to interact with criticism).

My aim is to show that the reasoning for his move was and is insufficient, inadequate, and fallacious (which it assuredly is). If he wants to run down the Catholic Church publicly, then we who love the Catholic Church and accept her teachings have every right to defend the Church. Cork made all this public in the first place. If he's so concerned about not debating anyone then why did he blog about it at all? He could have simply made his move and shut up about it (i.e., publicly). But he didn't do that. He wanted and wants to get his point of view across. He just doesn't want to defend it when someone else disagrees with his reasoning. And that gets back to the postmodernist mentality that I critiqued in the first place . . .

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reflections on Christian Opposition to the Sin of Homosexual Acts

A Catholic psychologist wrote:
I think that, over the next 100 years or so, a lot of self-righteous people and self-righteous organizations (read religions) are going to be eating their words regarding homosexuality. This could develop into another proof that our energies should be spent on spreading the Gospel and not negative commentary on things we do not understand. For example, if we want to work beyond the spreading the Gospel; how about stopping abortion?
What is he trying to say? Does he want to assert that sodomy (a sin so great that an entire city was destroyed because of it) and a radical redefinition of marriage are perfectly fine and dandy and in harmony with 2000 years of received Christian Tradition? What is it he thinks we don't "understand"?

First of all, as a preliminary, those who want to explore a Catholic (and cordial, non-hostile to persons) treatment of the topic, may be interested in checking out one or more of my papers and dialogues:

Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?

Dialogue on Homosexuality

Dialogue With a Homosexual

St. Paul's Argument From Nature Against Homosexuality (Romans 1)

Dialogue With a Bisexual Agnostic on Homosexuality (+ Part II, which includes very extensive medical/scientific data)

Dialogue With a Bisexual Agnostic on Homosexuality, Round Two

Dialogue With an Atheist on Homosexuality
The implication of a remark like the one above is that those of us (entire religions, for heaven's sake!) who simply oppose homosexual acts as sinful and a radical revision of marriage and removal of procreation from the essence of sexuality, are self-righteous (and profoundly ignorant). We're gonna "eat our words". We're like Pharisees (renowned -- at least the corrupt among them, since Paul called himself one twice -- for their self-righteousness). How so?

The Church will supposedly eventually wake up and figure out that homosexuality is either 1) perfectly normal as a life-choice, or 2) merely an abnormality of genes rather than a sin, as Christianity has always taught? Psychology allegedly has far more insight than historic Christianity, with regard to homosexuality; it now has some knowledge to offer us about homosexuality that Catholicism has not understood for 2000 years and is need of knowing, courtesy of (generally speaking) massively secular psychology?

This is a very serious ethical topic in Christianity and the larger culture. Do psychologists who feel like this expect us to accept without argument their dogmatically expressed opinions that Christians are utterly ignorant about homosexuality, whereas modern psychology "gets it" and we will all eat our words 100 years from now?

I'd be happy to cordially debate anyone on homosexuality (I already have done this several times). Anyone can pull out all the stats and scientific studies and psychological expertise that they want. I respect that, but it's not infallible and should not be presented as such. I can also produce a ton of medical documentation of the tragic health effects of sodomy (it's already "out there" on my blog). If anyone wants to make some kind of argument along these lines, they're more than welcome to do so on my blog (and I will, of course, give a vigorous critique).

As to the present topic of homosexuality, Church teaching is very clear (in the Catechism of the Catholic Church):
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Catholics are not at liberty to disagree with this. The Catechism was promulgated under Pope John Paul II in 1992, accompanied by the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, which stated in part:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. . . .

Therefore, I ask all the Church's Pastors and the Christian faithful to receive this catechism in a spirit of communion and to use it assiduously in fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the faith and calling people to the Gospel life. This catechism is given to them that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms. It is also offered to all the faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge of the unfathomable riches of salvation (cf. Eph 3:8). It is meant to support ecumenical efforts that are moved by the holy desire for the unity of all Christians, showing carefully the content and wondrous harmony of the catholic faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, lastly, is offered to every individual who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3:15) and who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes.
As for opposition to homosexual radicalism being somehow antithetical to pro-life efforts, what do apples have to do with oranges, except for being in the same category (fruit)? What does opposition to one (serious) sin have to do with opposition to another? If I fight world hunger and the greed and corrupt governments, etc., that contribute to it, I can't also be a pro-life activist? If I join a group that shelters women who are beaten by their husbands, I can't also evangelize and do apologetics? I must say that I do not understand this reasoning.

It makes sense (to me, anyway, and maybe I'm nuts and don't understand language) only if one argues that homosexual acts and the drive to legalize same-sex "marriage" and custody of homosexual couples of children and so forth are such minor sins (if at all), that we need not waste our time and energy and resources to oppose them. Otherwise, it makes no sense to argue that "serious sin A must not be opposed, for the most part, because it is relatively less harmful to souls and to society than serious sin B".

I can understand choosing to spend one's time opposing abortion over against a campaign to reduce white lies or rudeness or jaywalking, because there seems to me to be a clear difference of degree of wrongfulness. I can't see, however, setting opposition to abortion over against opposition to the full societal movement to legitimize homosexuality, because the latter (that is, the acts involved) is also a very grave and disordered sin, just as abortion is. So now we categorize grave sins as those that should be opposed by Christians in society, and those which should be left to the private realm and unopposed, as if Christianity is libertarian, and grave sins don't have grave social consequences?

This mentality strikes me as similar to the one (held formerly by myself as a Protestant) that opposes abortion, but doesn't oppose contraception, which is the very prior acceptance and worldview particular opinion that leads in many ways to abortion (both philosophically and even legally), because it is anti-child and accepts the fallacious premise.

I want to emphasize as strongly as I can (because this issue always comes up): it is wrong and a serious sin to cruelly treat a homosexual person and not differentiate between the sin and the sinner: a human being who deserves and is entitled to love and consideration no matter what sin he has committed, or even defends. I'd venture to guess that not one in a hundred reading this would suggest that homosexuals should be treated poorly, over against, say, adulterers or those who have committed a robbery. That's not advocated among many serious Christians; particularly Catholics, though there is a significant minority of Christians who do adopt such abominable and unChristian attitudes.

Committed Christians get "wound up" over homosexuality, not out of a motive of hate or derision of someone merely because he or she is a bit different from them, but because homosexual acts are grave sins, that not only harm society in that the lifestyle presupposes many grave sins within it: sodomy, non-procreative sex, redefinition of marriage, etc., but is extremely harmful to those who practice it: morally and in terms of health (males far more so than females, because of the difference in the sexual acts and relative healthiness of them).

Such opposition is is not just confined to the Old Testament (as some mistakenly seem to think). St. Paul was very clear that homosexuality was serious sin, too, and against nature itself (see, e.g., Romans 1:24-27). Jesus makes reference to the sins of Sodom (and we know what those were) in Matt 10:15; 11:23-24; Mk 6:11; Lk 10:12; 17:28-30. St. Peter refers to it in 2 Peter 2:6-8; as does Jude 7, very explicitly, and Rev 11:8. So this is another red herring, as if opposition to sodomy is an outdated "Old Testament thing," made superfluous and thoroughly antiquated by the font of moral wisdom and profundity that is modern psychology (and I know a bit about that field, as I minored in the subject in college), that (so it is always reminding us) "knows better" than ancient Jewish and Christian received moral tradition.