Friday, April 15, 2011

John Bugay and Pope Benedict XVI's Alleged "Pantheism": Even Fellow Anti-Catholics Know This is a Groundless Charge

By Dave Armstrong (4-15-11)

I've been criticizing for months now, anti-Catholic (and former Catholic) John Bugay's ridiculous charge that the Holy Father is a "pantheist" (one who believes that everything or "all" is "God"). It's not worthy of a full response, of course, so ludicrous is it; thus I simply noted it in passing: five months ago:

Right now, for example, on James Swan's site his blowhard "has no idea how profoundly ignorant he is" associate John Bugay is actually arguing with a straight face that Pope Benedict XVI is "pretty much a full-blown pantheist".

I mentioned it again recently (I believe, in a Facebook comment). But this passes for standard fare over on this anti-Catholic site. Thankfully, however, even over there, with their rock-bottom standards regarding fairness and adequate documentation toward or about the Catholic Church, and almost nonexistent logical acumen, some folks are finally starting to get it now, and to criticize Bugay (in public). Better late than never. It takes an anti-Catholic, apparently, five months to figure out what is patently, immediately obvious to any normal Christian observer of average intelligence and knowledge.

The Johnny-come-lately critics realize that this makes anti-Catholics look even more absurd than they already do (which is pretty tough to do: the "bar" being so extremely low already!), and that it's not helping their case. I'm not allowed to comment over there anymore (what else is new?), but it's gratifying to know that opinions I have expressed for months now are starting to be adopted there. Readers may be assured that the good folks at this anti-Catholic site have been aware of my criticisms because it is known that they keep track of my latest writings (since they are not infrequently cited -- minus my name, of course).

It's always fascinating to observe anti-Catholic civil wars, too. We haven't had this much fun since the entertaining endless battles at the old notorious "Reformed Catholicism" website.

Bugay's words will be in red, Ron DiGiacomo's in blue, Brigitte's in purple, and Matthew D. Schultz's in brown (anti-Catholics all). The following excerpts are taken from the post originally titled (later this was changed under internal pressure): The Devotional Life of the Modern Pantheist, Bishop Joseph Ratzinger, and combox underneath it.

* * * * *

As a follow-up to some comments in this thread, I would like to point out that I have previously (and extensively) both defined my use of the word "pantheism" in respect to Ratzinger. This post was a follow-on to a number of posts I've written about Ratzinger. . . . The definition that I gave came in this post:

Pope Starshine, Part 3

The definition is from Michael Horton's new Systematic Theology. Technically it is "panentheism", but I believe it can be used as a subset of "pantheism". . . .

Ratzinger: Resurrection of the Dead is only "symbolically" proclaimed in the Bible, 1

Ratzinger: Resurrection of the Dead is only "symbolically" proclaimed in the Bible, 2

The Pantheism of Roman Catholicism

Pope Starshine, Part 1

Pope Starshine, Part 2

The first post among those five were prompted by this post by a Reformed author in a Reformed publication, Banner of Truth:

Does the Pope Believe in the Resurrection?

I would also point to this post:

Called to Confusion

And note Ratzinger's use of the term "fusion of existences" in his 1991 work "Called to Communion"

I believe in all of these cases, the biblical doctrine of "Union with Christ" is not in evidence; rather, it is something different and all-encompassing in Ratzinger's citations of this "fusion of existences" and some of the other things I have cited at length. Ratzinger is named but the tendency extends to very much that goes by the name "Roman Catholic" these days. 

I can't imagine that Ratzinger ever thought that if God is omnipresent that he cannot be local too. And it’s doubtful that he denies the real presence doctrine of Rome. I would imagine that his point, maybe lost in the translation . . . I’m all for winning but not at any cost. Moreover, I'm not sure how pantheistic tendencies would lead to God not being localized. (4-14-11)

I take that merely to mean that our lives are to be living epistles - no more no less, but to try to get pantheism out of that is I think a bit unjust. Our words must be charitable and true, no matter who we're trying to take down. In light of this, let me revisit a recent sentiment of mine - that if we would just stick to substantial arguments against official doctrine, e.g., merit etc., then we need not fish around for cryptic quotes from recent popes, which in any case aren't dogma and binding. (4-14-11)

This time, they have a pope who's a pantheist and who embraces a time-honored Roman Catholic practice as "senseless". . . . But next time, they may get a pope who wants to, for example, extend the Trinity to include Mary, or to throw out some other time-honored Christian doctrine. It's all just rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship, to be sure. (4-14-11)

I read the German that someone provided, and all it is saying if you want to give a reason to go to church, don't make it this one, that God lives there (as if he were not anywhere else and you could not pray to him from another place also.) There is nothing pantheistic about the whole section. For interest sake, though, and to show how God's omnipresence is not thought of as pantheism, and how he is believed to be present in special way in the supper, I've dug up this quote from Brecht: Luther, Shaping and Defining the Reformation pp. 311, 312. (4-14-11)

. . . what I find interesting is that there is no rational way to impugn this pope on that quote in the manner in which John chose. John tends to jump the gun way too often. We should never read someone contrary to a way that is intelligible and orthodox in order to impugn. (4-15-11)

Let's assume John is wrong here (I don't know either way; I haven't followed this particular issue of pantheism in any detailed manner). There's no need to use this as an opportunity to take public shots at his overall apologetic and all but say that his motives are impure. There are going to be Catholic bloggers who will pick up on your comment and say, "See, even his Reformed brethren think he's a total hack." [Bingo!] Don't give our theological opponents unnecessary fuel for their slanderous apologetics machine. If you really have an issue with John's methodology, write a post critiquing it over at your blog, with supporting documentation and arguments, rather than throwing out something unsubstantiated, bordering on defamatory. (4-15-11)

[responding to the fool "Viisaus's" post] We're to strive to be logicians, not mind readers. Your post is simply an excuse to make anything out of something. (4-15-11)

That was uncalled for. (4-15-11)

Matthew, One can be a total hack, as you put it, and not have “impure” motives. I’m happy to affirm the former because that’s something I can observe. I cannot observe the latter. But to your main point, what’s worse – for Romanists to see that an epologist formulates terrible arguments without being taken to task by his fellow brothers, or for Protestants to look the other way when a brother makes ridiculous assertions? Recklessness is an embarrassment to Protestants. (4-15-11) [Amen!]

Ron, you have my email address. A public forum is not the place for such exercises.(4-15-11)

I'm not saying that you should look the other way. You see an error, fine, correct it, as I would do the same thing; I certainly thought your response to Trueman was a tediously dull exercise in sticking your head in the sand, and I had no problem engaging it over at your blog. The point here is that you made a broad characterization of John's entire apologetic without supporting documentation and arguments. If you think there's a systematic problem here, go demonstrate a systematic problem (or, if it has already been done, cite someone who has made such a demonstration). Go to your blog and do that, rather than taking unsupported shots at John. Go "put some meat on the bones," to paraphrase your standards.  (4-15-11)

I've touched base with Turretinfan -- I freely admit I am not Turretinfan -- and he suggested taking down this whole thread and reworking it. Contrary to what Ron has suggested, I have, on many occasions, asked Turretinfan (and others) to let me know when I'm saying something stupid. (4-15-11)

* * * 

If TAO ("Turretinfan" aka "The Anonymous One") is regarded as the Wise Man and standard of truth, this whole thing has gotten exponentially wackier and funnier than it already was! TAO is a virtual walking textbook example of dense, dopey, clueless illogic in theology, as I have shown time and again in many papers. But he is relatively smarter than Bugay, for sure. John Bugay is sort of the "Jack Chick" of present active anti-Catholics online. The more ignorant he is about some aspect of Catholicism, inevitably in that direct proportion he writes that much more about it (the present case being the most striking instance thus far). He picks up the "ultra-ridiculous clown" mantle abandoned by Eric Svendsen when he decided to forsake Internet anti-Catholic polemics altogether.

Ron DiGiacomo is equally clueless in many ways, too. After all, he is also an anti-Catholic, and everyone with that view commits intellectual suicide by adopting viciously circular and indefensible premises and conclusions flowing from them (as I have shown many times; particularly in my long written debate with Bishop James White in 1995). He also deleted my comments from his blog (to join the long, illustrious list of anti-Catholic censors and thought police). So it is only a matter of degree in the end (how much error any given anti-Catholic adopts). But -- that said -- he is exactly correct about "Blowhard" Bugay. The latter doesn't have the slightest idea what he is talking about, but it never stops him, and he blows his flat, spit-filled bugle all day long . . . 

This will be really fun to observe as time goes on. DiGiacomo will either have to be banned from this site or Bugay will have to shut up or be shut up [Later note: Bugay indeed moved on to the Cryablogue site]. Either way, the folly of anti-Catholicism and its low standards will be revealed yet again (for the trillionth time) for what they are. We'll either watch a huge civil war and self-destruction (a la Luther and Zwingli), or, if Bugay ceases his nonsense, then the All-Knowing, All-Wise Grand Poobah of this anti-Catholic site where this nonsense was spewed will have admitted, in effect, that he was perfectly content to allow utter absurdity to be promulgated on his blog, for many months, before someone (i.e., besides myself) finally spoke out against it. He has already admitted that the Bugay pantheist posts do not reach a minimal level of seriousness that he thinks his posts about Luther do. Yet he was happy to allow several of them to be posted, for over six months now. Can I hear, "double standard"?

This is all very good for the cause of Catholicism and the pursuit of Truth and intelligent discourse in general.

* * * 

UPDATE: 4-16-11, 3;30 PM EST: Sure enough (with utter predictability), the illustrious blgmaster decided to pull the plug on the entire thread, so all of the above is now offline, in accordance with the moral cowardice of the folks who populate this site. No doubt they found out about this post of mine and decided to hide all the evidence. Fortunately I preserved this thread, so we can know about the dissent in the ranks of our esteemed anti-Catholic brethren in Christ.

A quick search of "pantheism" on the site reveals that Bugay's "pope is a pantheist" garbage is still posted, so nothing has really changed. They just want to hide the recent public fracas and cover up the agenda. Thanks for the entertainment, guys!



Dave Armstrong said...

I think Ron did the right thing here, but he is still a rabid anti-Catholic. I don't have anything against these people personally; only theologically. They are victims of their own false belief-system (anti-Catholicism).

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Dave,

Great post illustrating the difference between true apologetics and the propaganda Mr. Bugay labels as such.

When he writes articles like this one (thankfully deleted) I truly wonder how seriously Mr. Bugay ever examined his faith before he abandoned the Church that Christ founded. In the short time he wandered around in a Catholic seminary, I wonder if he had ever read Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical, Mysterium Fidei. Here is a itemized distillation of a portion of that text that touches upon the matters Mr. Bugay has labeled “pantheism”:

“All of us realize that there is more than one way in which Christ is present in His Church” [:]

A. “Christ is present in His Church when she prays, since He is the one who "prays for us and prays in us and to whom we pray: He prays for us as our priest, He prays in us as our head, He is prayed to by us as our God" [St. Augustine, On Psalm 85.1: PL 37.1081]; and He is the one who has promised, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them." [Mt 18.20] (MF 35)

B. “He is present in the Church as she performs her works of mercy, not just because whatever good we do to one of His least brethren we do to Christ Himself, [Mt 25.40] but also because Christ is the one who performs these works through the Church and who continually helps men with His divine love.” (MF 35)

C. “He is present in the Church as she moves along on her pilgrimage with a longing to reach the portals of eternal life, for He is the one who dwells in our hearts through faith, [Cf. Eph 3.17] and who instills charity in them through the Holy Spirit whom He gives to us.” [Cf. Rom 5.5. ] (MF 35)

D. “He is present in the Church as she preaches, since the Gospel which she proclaims is the word of God, and it is only in the name of Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, and by His authority and with His help that it is preached, so that there might be "one flock resting secure in one shepherd." [St. Augustine, Against the Letter ot Petiliani, III, 10.11; PL 43.353] (MF 36)

E. “He is present in His Church as she rules and governs the People of God, since her sacred power comes from Christ and since Christ, the "Shepherd of Shepherds," [St. Augustine, On Psalm 86.3; PL 37.1102] is present in the bishops who exercise that power, in keeping with the promise He made to the Apostles.” (MF 37)

F. “Christ is present in His Church in a still more sublime manner as she offers the Sacrifice of the Mass in His name[.]” ... “On the matter of Christ's presence in the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, We would like very much to call what St. John Chrysostom, overcome with awe, had to say in such accurate and eloquent words: "I wish to add something that is clearly awe-inspiring, but do not be surprised or upset. What is this? It is the same offering, no matter who offers it, be it Peter or Paul. It is the same one that Christ gave to His disciples and the same one that priests now perform: the latter is in no way inferior to the former, for it is not men who sanctify the latter, but He who sanctified the former. For just as the words which God spoke are the same as those that the priest now pronounces, so too the offering is the same." [ From St. John Chrysostom’s Homily on the Second Epistle to Timothy 2.4; PG 62.612.] (MF 38)


Paul Hoffer said...


G. “He is present in her [the Church] as she administers the sacraments. No one is unaware that the sacraments are the actions of Christ who administers them through men. And so the sacraments are holy in themselves and they pour grace into the soul by the power of Christ, when they touch the body. The Highest Kind of Presence. (MF 38)

H. But there is another way in which Christ is present in His Church, a way that surpasses all the others. It is His presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is, for this reason, "a more consoling source of devotion, a lovelier object of contemplation and holier in what it contains" [Aegidius Romanus aka Giles of Rome, Theorems on the Body of Christ, theor. 50 (Venice, 1521), p. 127] than all the other sacraments; for it contains Christ Himself and it is "a kind of consummation of the spiritual life, and in a sense the goal of all the sacraments." [St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., IIIa, p. 73, a. 3, c.] (MF 38)

Thus according to Pope Paul VI, there are at least eight ways that Christ makes Himself present in His Church. Moreover, if Pope Benedict XVI is a pantheist for discussing how Christ is present in the Church, then Saint Matthew, Saint Paul, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, Aegidius/Giles and St. Thomas Aquinas must be pantheists too since they are all cited to by Pope Paul VI in the Encyclical as support for his teaching.

Saint Augustine and Saint Anselm both defined theology as faith seeking understanding. Since Mr. Bugay has no faith in the Catholic Church, I do not see how he can ever come to actually understand the teachings of the Church, let alone, critique them with any semblance of reasoned analysis. Given how far beyond the pale Mr. Bugay appears to be in his accusations against Pope Benedict XVI in this instance in furtherance of his particularly bellicose brand of Protestant jingoism, I, for one, am glad that Mr. Swan took the post down. It shows that Mr. Swan does exercise some standards. It’s too bad that he exercised them post-posting as opposed to pre-posting.

God bless!

Sean Patrick said...

We should be thankful that somebody finally had the wherewithal to tell John just how bad his 'pantheism' attempts look. If a Catholic tells him it is a bad argument than he can just ignore it but when somebody (several people) from his own team pull him aside and say, "Look John, this is stupid" than he has a harder time burying his head in the sand.

Although we should be glad that there are honest people who will pull him aside like that – I for one hope that he continues his prominent blogging. I don’t think a better unwitting apologist for the Catholic Church exists.

Alexander Greco said...

Exactly, I think the only reason why the post was deleted is because, as mentioned by Schultz, they would not want the appearance of there being a disagreement among their co-religionists. This quite simply is a matter of a lack of transparency and intellectual honesty. They are more concerned with building up points against the Church than they are in pondering the truth. What went wrong here is that Ron was embarrassed by what Bugay was saying, and he had the nerve to publicly distance himself from those wild accusations. I'm sure he has had a flood of emails attacking him and what he did. We on the other hand have no problem taking a public stand against what a fellow Catholic says when we might disagree with him.

Alexander Greco said...

To re-iterate, this has nothing to do with truth, otherwise, as mentioned by Dave the other pantheists posts would have also been removed. This has all to do with saving face after the perceived embarrassment of one Protestant against another. I for one thought that it was encouraging to see that they challenged each other's notions of what Catholicism is instead of recklessly joining any argument aimed at attacking Rome. Too bad it was short lived. Hopefully one day they will begin to take Truth seriously.